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Microphone Month 2

HANDS ON REVIEW: Line 6 M13

As a guitarist, there is a truism I live by: you can never have too many effects processors and pedals. The problem is dealing with all those boxes, power supplies, and little cables. Like many of you, I’ve assembled a pedalboard with all my favorites and gig necessities. I’ll be modest and say it rocks! But it’s also fairly large and heavy. And it’s not programmable; I can’t easily change the order of the effects and so on. The tone is awesome, and the utility is good, but not great. But, I believe I’ve found the solution: the Line 6 M13, a stompbox modeler/pedalboard that offers a ton of great sounds in a convenient package.

The M13 can be thought of as four effects boxes in one pedalboard, each of which can have three presets – these are controlled by 12 footswitches, and each effects box also has an LCD screen and six knobs for real-time control. You can store 12 “scenes,” each of which contains the settings for the four effects boxes as well as other setup information. There are no amp, speaker, or microphone models here; the M13 is focused entirely on pedals. It’s ideal if you already have an amp that works well for you, but you need to add effects.

As for effects choices, Line 6 has loaded the M13 with 80 models drawn from the company’s very popular line of stompboxes. There are distortions and overdrives from the DM4, delays from the DL4 and the Echo Pro, modulation effects from the MM4, filters and wahs from the FM4, and reverbs from the Octoverb and the Verbzilla. You can load whatever effects you want into each M13 effects “box.” There’s also a built-in looper with half-speed and reverse playback and control over the overall looper level and overdub levels.

The whole thing is housed in a sleek metal enclosure. There are mono and stereo inputs and outputs, MIDI in and out, two expression pedal inputs, and a stereo send/return external effects loop. That’s it – beautifully simple.

You can choose to use the M13 as a straight-ahead pedalboard. Step on one of the three buttons for an effects box and choose a preset for the effect you want. Step on another to change the preset. Reach down to tweak a control for the effect. It’s very similar to using a pedalboard made up of separate pedals. There are no menus, no nested parameter pages, and very few rarely accessed hidden commands (basic setup stuff). There’s not even a “Save” command – the unit is constantly saving any changes you make. But, you still have the option to call up a new scene, which I used to change the effects I had loaded for a new song.

If you’re familiar with Line 6’s stompboxes, then you know that the models sound great. I A/B’d some of the models against pedals in my collection, and I was able to easily dial in very similar (if not identical) tones without problem. My “go to” scene was a wah, an overdrive (with three presets for different gain levels), a chorus, and a delay (with three presets for different delay times) – I used a second scene to substitute a second overdrive for the wah so that I could cascade overdrives. I can easily get through an entire gig with either setup. But it’s sure nice to be able to load up other effects when you need them.

For a “grab it and go” solution, the M13 is almost impossible to beat. It sounds great, is dead-simple to operate, and has plenty of sounds to cover virtually any musical situation. It’s a no-brainer to add one to your rig, just for those quick gigs and rehearsals where you don’t want to haul a big, heavy pedalboard. But, don’t think of it as a “substitute” for a “real” board. The M13 offers far more capability than most boards and sounds as good as a collection of separate pedals, if not better.

If you don’t have a pedalboard, then the M13 is a great effects solution. But, what if you’re like me and already have a fully loaded ‘board? Am I giving up my current pedalboard, with all my separate stompbox favorites? No, it’s staying put. But the M13 has joined it. I use each where it works best – and sometimes I even use them together for over-the-top flexibility. It’s truly best of both worlds!

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