Price paid: $ 399
Sound — 10
I'm using an Ibanez AX30 (2 humbuckers), and a Randall VMax 30 amplifier. While the guitar's pickups offer a pretty hefty output, the amp gives a very clean, dry sound. This is mostly a good thing, since the POD lets you configure so many amp settings, and the more neutral a sound your amp provides, the better. The processor offers a lot of combinations of effects that can be noisy (such as a Treadplate amp & cabs with full gain on the distortion), but you can tweak these to get rid of the excess noise. And since there's so much to configure, you've got to work hard to get the sound you want. But unlike other processors, the POD lets you tweak as much as you need, and you CAN find that sweet spot with a little effort. The tones produced are very realistic, and sound great in any setting, be it the studio, practice room or on stage. You can get pretty much any guitarist's tone on this processor. It's especially easy to dial up the classic sounds of Joe Satriani, Slash, John Petrucci, Pat Metheny, Dimebag Darrell, Trey Anastasio, John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, etc. The vast array of effects at your disposal allow you to recreate any tone you fancy, and each stompbox/amp/cabinet is reproduced wonderfully.
Overall Impression — 10
I play hard rock/grunge/classic rock/jazz/blues, and this processor offers a wider variety of options to get fitting tones for each genre. I've been playing for 5 years now, and it's great to finally have real control over my sound. I'd definitely buy this again if I lost it. I love the realistic, professional tone, the huge number of options, the choice to turn effects on/off within a patch. The sound of this processor is IMO far superior to products by Boss, Behringer, and Zoom. Perhaps the best multi-effects processor available today.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I totally depend solely on my POD for my tone. It's got everything I need, and works brilliantly in every setting, every time. Once I got this, I've never thought about a backup. It's remarkable how sturdy this thing is. It's made of metal, and the buttons are large and can take a stomping.
Ease of Use — 9
Getting a great tone on the POD XT Live isn't a snap; this is in fact because the processor is so powerful. There are several parameters to configure, and each of them drastically affects the tone. It takes a while to get used to it, but after you've figured out your essentials (noise gate, compressor, EQ and reverb), you can keep those as standard and fiddle with the rest. However, if you've got a computer, it's dead easy; just plug in, and every setting is right there on screen. Tweak your head off! In the end, the effort and time are worth it. The manual is very well-written, with a smattering of humour, and great descriptions of the various amps and effects available. Reading it cover to cover once should clarify all your doubts. What's great is the first page, which is a quick start-up guide: great if you can't wait to stomp on it and hear what it sounds like! Also, it's best to use your POD XT Live with an internet-enabled computer, so as to be able to update the firmware regularly. I think we're on v3 right now, and they've added several new Wah effects and amps. It's really easy to update with the free software provided.