Destroy the tubes! No, not the Eighties pop band that brought us such classics as “Talk to ya Later” and “She’s a Beauty.” You know, those hot pieces of glass in the back of amplifiers that some people think you need to produce a great guitar tone.
Well, those people clearly don’t include the engineers at Line 6, who continue to design amplifiers that use digital processing to emulate the sounds of classic tube amps.
Their argument runs that most folks are happy to use digital processing, and more and more guitarists are enjoying the cheap flexibility of recording in the digital domain. Furthermore, we are happy to listen to CDs, use samplers, download music from the Internet—all digital. So why not a fully digital amplifier that includes models of the world’s favorite amps along with an array of powerful effects (and absolutely no tubes)?
Why The Line 6 Flextone Guitar Amplifier?
The Flextone is rated at 60-watts with two different 100-watt stereo versions also available. The open-back combo design is familiar, with a single Line 6 12-inch speaker, top-mounted controls and a retro look. The control panel has most of the features you’d expect to see—master volume, drive, treble, mid, bass, reverb—but the exciting stuff happens with the two rotary selectors. The first allows you to choose from 16 different amp models, including Roland JC-120, Fender Blackface, Marshall Plexi, Soldano SLO and some of Line 6’s own concoctions. The second control offers a variety of effects in different combinations, such as chorus, flanging, delay, and tremolo. So, you choose your amp, tweak the sound to taste, add your effects and then save it in one of the four-channel selections. It’s really a breeze; unlike some digital amps, the controls are very self-explanatory, and the comprehensive but lighthearted manual keeps you out of trouble.
Does The Line 6 Flextone Guitar Amplifier Sound Good?
The real question, of course, is, “Does it sound like the amps it’s designed to emulate?” Amazingly enough, the answer is yes. The modeling is very believable, despite a touch of high-end frizzle on a couple of the sounds. Pitted against a class A/B tweed amp, the sound of the Flextone’s Bassman model definitely held its own.
The other models are equally impressive and capture the distinct voicings associated with legends like Vox and Marshall. High-gain tones really fry, without that swiftness normally associated with digital amps. The clean sounds, probably the most contentious area for such a design, handle the range from jazz to country with a confident swagger. Add to that a fat fistful of studio-quality effects and you’ve got an amplifier capable of dialing up virtually any sound you can imagine.
Line 6 Flextone Guitar Amplifier Floor Board
The optional Floor Board controller that we tested with the Flextone is also worth a mention. At a hundred bucks, it’s a good value just for the volume pedal, excellent wah effects, and built-in tuner. You also get a road-ready foot controller that lets you hop through everything the amp has to offer, including the delay tap-tempo feature.
The Line 6 Flextone Guitar Amplifier End Line
While Eric Johnson probably won’t hock his favorite Plexi in favor of this digital mimic, most players will buy these convincing tones.