Line 6 Vetta

Line 6 Vetta – Brief Article

Byline: Emile Menasche

EVER SINCE MODELING AMPS were introduced in the 1990s, they’ve elicited a mixture of praise and skepticism from the guitar-buying public. Supporters point to advantages such as sonic versatility, easy setup, the ability to store settings for later recall, and lower cost relative to performance. Detractors complain that despite their power, digital amps lack soul.

With the introduction of the Vetta, Line 6 tackles the power-versus-soul issue by offering plenty of both. With its ability to model two amps at a time, emulate a load of classic stompboxes and cabinets, add in an impressive array of effects, and route a guitar signal in any number of ways, the Vetta may be the most advanced guitar amp ever built. It offers an improved feel over earlier Line 6 modeling amps, giving you more of that elusive connection between your soul, your hands, and your audience. I tested the 100W stereo combo with the 212S-CB (2×12) extension cabinet. Line 6 also makes the Vetta HD, a 200W stereo head designed to be mated with Line 6’s 412S-T and 412S-B 4×12 cabinets.

AMP LAND

The Vetta’s impressive array of amp models – 46 in all – include the expected (Fender, Marshall, Mesa/Boogie, and Vox), the unexpected (Budda, Gibson, Gretsch, Hiwatt, Matchless, Roland, Silvertone, Soldano, and Supro), and a number of Line 6’s own creations that borrow elements from various amps to create new sounds. Overall, the menu is like that of a great diner: you can find anything you want, and the portions are huge. Fortunately, unlike that at your local greasy spoon, the quality of the cooking here is superb.

For dessert, you get a complete array of cabinet models. Among the 28 options are 1×6; 1×8; 1 and 4×10; and 1, 2, and 4×12 configurations. There’s even a quirky take on the battery-powered Fender Mini Twin and an option called No Cab Tuning, which defeats the cabinet modeling altogether. You can freely mix and match amps with cabinets, so if you’ve ever wondered what a Marshall Plexi would sound like through a small plastic speaker, your time has come.

TONE SHAPING

One critical aspect of any amp is the way the controls influence the tone and gain structure. With modeling amps, there’s always a question of how true to the original the controls should be. The Vetta handles this very elegantly: each amp model has a gain and tone structure that corresponds to that of the original. If the amp being modeled had bass, treble, and midrange knobs, so does the Vetta model. In cases in which the original amp had a more minimal EQ setup, the Vetta model mirrors it but also gives you additional “postamp” EQ controls. For example, the Vetta’s Fender Deluxe model has bass and treble controls just like on the original but adds postamp midrange and presence controls. That way you can enhance the sound of the Deluxe without altering its basic character. Smart.

EFFECTS AND ROUTING

Unless you’re the purest of purists, your ideal rig consists of more than an amp and a cabinet; effects of all varieties play an important role in shaping your tone. This is one area where older Line 6 amps lagged behind some of the competition. The Vetta – taking advantage of the technology used in Line 6’s standalone effects modelers – represents a great step (or stomp) forward. The arsenal includes modeled stompboxes as well as “rack effects.”

You get stomp and rack compressors; a variety of classic overdrive and distortion boxes (my favorites include the Tube Screamer, Octavia, and Big Muff Pi); vintage and modern modulation effects (rich vintage chorus and phase, Uni-Vibe, and modern variants); a host of vintage analog and tape delays and some useful modern delays; a versatile tremolo section that can do Fender and Vox-type emulations; Graphic EQ; Pitch Shift; and a selection of reverbs (including some convincing vintage springs). The effects sound good, and each model has a complete set of controls. As with the amp models, these controls mirror the originals, with some enhancements. There’s also a nice wah and a utilitarian volume pedal (both available only when you use the optional FBV foot controller [$599.99]).

Another of the Vetta’s smart features is the flexibility it gives you in assigning the effects for each channel. You can route stompboxes, for example, to both amps, to individual amps, or to combinations thereof. You could have a distortion effect feed both amps in a two-amp configuration and then split the signal and feed separate stompbox delays to each amp. You could also route three distortion boxes in series to both amps or use chorus on one and phase on another. You get the idea. Traditionalists will like the way spatial effects can be assigned before the preamp (as they could with an old-fashioned pedalboard). The postamp effects allow similar routing flexibility, including serial, parallel, and combinations thereof.

PRESETS AND OPERATION

The Vetta offers two sets of memory locations: user and factory. Each contains 64 presets (called channels) organized in banks of four. You can recall presets through the front panel, MIDI, or the optional FBV foot controller. The foot controller, which isn’t cheap, is really essential if you want to get the most out of the Vetta onstage.

Most of the Vetta’s presets are composite sounds that combine two amp models. You have total freedom in how you combine amps. Any two amps can be mated, and some of the best channels are built with pairs of the same (or similar) amps. Each channel includes all the elements of a sound: amps, cabinets, stompbox and rack-style effects, pedal and footswitch assignments, and so on.

Thanks to a generous display and control set, the Vetta is very easy to operate (see Fig. 1). Most parameters are only a button push or two away, and you can see graphically which controls are active and how they’re assigned for every edit. One complaint: because stompbox slots can be assigned a number of different models, you don’t always know which specific model is assigned when you recall a preset: are you going to get a Tube Screamer, a Memory Man, or a Dyna Comp when you step on Stomp Box 1? It would be nice to be able to see that from the FBV controller. As it stands, you just need to remember.

Overall, the Vetta does what few guitar products do: treat guitarists as intelligent beings. Though deep and complex, its interface is easy to use without being dumbed down. The excellent owner’s manual doesn’t hurt, either.

VETTING THE VETTA

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Vetta’s impressive feature set (for example, it has extensive mic emulation and direct recording features), and already I’m out of space. This amp does just about everything other than buy beer and tell the bassist to turn down.

The most important feature for any amp is tone. The Vetta gets higher marks than any digital amp I’ve tested (and there have been many). It’s responsive to attack and dynamics, it can cut through a dense stage mix, and it sounds natural with a variety of guitars. Some of the presets did sound a little bright at high volume, but that was easily adjusted using the global bass and treble controls.

I’m always a little dubious about the relevance of “faithful” modeling; what’s most important is how well the sound matches your style. By letting you combine various amps to create distinct sounds, Line 6 is pointing to the future of digital amps: sound that’s limited only by your imagination.

Emile Menasche continues on his quest for a digitally modeled Barcalounger.

VETTA SPECS

Audio Inputs (1) [fraction one-quarter]” guitar; (1) [fraction one-quarter]” TRS stereo effects return

Audio Outputs (2) unbalanced [fraction one-quarter]” direct/wide; (2) XLR balanced direct/wide; (1) [fraction one-quarter]” TRS stereo effects send; (1) [fraction one-quarter]” TRS headphone

Speaker Connections (4); switchable 4, 8, or 16A[fraction three-quarters]; stereo and mono available

Controller Input (1) RJ-45 jack for foot controller

MIDI In, Out

Amp Models (46)

Maximum Simultaneous Amp Models (2)

Cabinet Models (28)

Effects Models (44)

Presets 128 (64 user; 64 factory)

Power Section 100W stereo

Speakers (2) 12″ Celestion Custom Design

Dimensions 29.0″ (W) x 20.0″ (H) x 10.1″ (D)

Weight 65 lb.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Line 6

Vetta Digital modeling guitar amp $2,399.99

Onstage Ratings

PROS: Rich and powerful feature set. Excellent-sounding amp, cabinet, and effect models. Easy operation. Excellent manual.

CONS: Costly. Optional FBV foot controller necessary to take full advantage of features onstage. FBV doesn’t display current stompbox selection.

Contact: Line 6 tel. (805) 379-8900 e-mail info@line6.com Web www.line6.com

To hear audio examples from the Vetta, go to www.onstagemag.com and click on ONLINEEXTRAS

COPYRIGHT 2002 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group