The first time I saw the Line6 GuitarPort, I was confused by what it was, as well as skeptical about what it could actually do based on its simple appearance. My curiosity however, got the better of me, so I decided to take an in depth look at it, specifically, its functionality and features pertaining to my computer-based recording setup.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t really expecting much given the low MSRP of $229.99 US after all, I have played through many of today’s new amp and effect modelers, and have learned that you generally get what you pay for. In any case, I was quite surprised at what I found out about the unit. First, it isn’t merely a guitar modeler and recording interface; it is a totally intuitive, interactive guitar processing, practice and teaching system for guitarists of any skill level.
For those of you who really don’t have an aptitude for computers, you will be pleased to know that the GuitarPort software was simple to install. Currently, available only for PC, the GuitarPort installation went a little something like this: 1) before connecting the GuitarPort hardware, insert CD into drive and follow the directions to install. 2) After install, plug unit into computer, plug guitar into unit, and play the hell out of it! Of course, Line 6 has provided a more comprehensive set of installation instructions in the form of an online tutorial in case you are a little nervous about the lack of detail in my description. Additionally, you will want to make sure that your computer meets the basic requirements for use with GuitarPort. For more information on these specific requirements, you can visit http://www.guitarport.com/support.html.
In terms of physical features, the GuitarPort is simple in that it has one ¼” input for your guitar on the front of the unit, one 1/8” stereo input to receive signal from your computer’s sound card, one 1/8” stereo output for speakers or headphones, right and left RCA speaker outs, the USB connector for connecting to your computer, and one huge knob on top of the unit, which acts as a master control for the volume output.
Upon opening the GuitarPort software on my computer, I was very impressed with the graphical user environment. After a quick scan of the possible selections, I was intrigued by the ‘Tones’ tab. When I selected the tab, I was excited to find that I could actually search the Line 6 database for my favorite guitarist, and then load some of that guitarist’s most famous tones. I of course chose Alex Lifeson of Rush. When I performed the search, I found a number of different settings from some of Rush’s most famous songs, which I promptly loaded up and played riffs from.
After over-indulging myself with Rush tones, I took a quick look at the other features, which include selections for Guitar Port Online; a digital tuner interface; Artists and Gear, which examines famous guitarists’ setups and their biographies, as well as a Tracks section which allows the user to participate in online guitar ‘lessons’ that walk the player through specific song passages, and breaks them down step by step for easy learning. In addition, the Tracks section offers full songs that a guitarist can download and play along with using the guitar tone from the original recording – or a VERY close approximation thereof.
Although it is not free to use GuitarPort Online, the $7.99 monthly fee is well worth it when you take into account that you receive access to everything I discussed above and much more.
From a basic technical perspective, GuitarPort offers ten of Line 6’s most popular amplifier models from classic Marshalls, Voxes and Rolands, as well as some screaming sounds from Line 6. After I had a chance to play through many of the sounds, I was pleased to find most of them usable, with the possible exception of some of the fuzz sounds, which struck me as a little bit too heavy and hard to control, but of course, that is just my preference.
After going through the sounds, I decided to try the unit out as a recording interface, and opted for the “Like Heaven” preset, because I am a huge fan of Roland’s JC 120, and have actually owned one for some time. Since I have been a home recording enthusiast for years, I have had much experience with direct box type guitar interfaces, but hadn’t found anything that I was too thrilled about up to this point; therefore I was still skeptical about this unit.
My skepticism was laid to rest soon after starting up my multi-tracking software.
To provide a little background, I use Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Audio, which allows me to record any number of tracks simultaneously. In any case, Vegas allows the user to create either a stereo track, or a right or left mono track. Usually, I will select a mono track, but this time I decided to record using the stereo setting to hear what kind of spread the GuitarPort put out.
Needless to say, I was very impressed at the sound.
Generally, when recording guitar tracks for songs, I will usually lay right and left mono tracks for the basic parts, and then to beef up the guitar sound, I will usually overlay the same guitar tracks again. When I listened back to the single stereo track recording however, I was blown away by the very thick and swirling guitar sound the GuitarPort had achieved. I was also amazed that without any external compression, or effects, the track sounded incredible in the context of the song.
In any case, I ended up recording a couple more tunes to see just how some of the other sounds would record, so for the next song I used the ‘Brown Sound’ setting, which is modeled after Edward Van Halen’s Marshall Plexi tone. Although the tone was not a dead ringer for EVH’s sound, it was admirably close. The difference in large part is probably due to my severe lack of technical chops, so I am sure that someone with a good amount of talent in that category could approximate the sound a lot closer. Overall, the sound also recorded very well, and I found myself duly impressed with the finished product.
To sum it up, I was skeptical at first about GuitarPort, but after delving into the features a bit, I was very impressed at the solid range of tones and effects the unit offered, as well as the intuitive online features that GuitarPort Online affords players. So, taking into account its superb performance, features and easy-to-use interface, I think the Guitar Port deserves a solid 9 of 10 points.
For more information about Line6 products, please visit www.line6.com.