You might think the Pod Pro is just a Pod in a rack, but there's a lot more to it than that.
Line 6 have finally realised that, for many studio musicians, the Pod was the right product in the wrong package, and have brought out a new 24‑bit Pod Pro that provides all the functionality of the original Pod within a 2U rack unit. But the improvements don't stop there — it also includes upgraded internal operating software, better A‑D/D‑A conversion and professional‑quality I/O. The software upgrade has also benefitted the original Pod, with Line 6 now selling a version 2.0 model, as well as offering a cheap upgrade for existing owners (see 'Pod Version 2.0' box).
The Pod Pro's sculpted front panel is of anodised aluminium in the familiar red. The controls mimic those found on the Pod, with the addition of input signal and clip LEDs, and two switches for managing the extra connectivity. However, the most important new hardware is to be found on the rear panel.
First off there's an unbalanced input jack for treating line‑level sources such as recorded guitar tracks, synths and samplers — one of the extra front‑panel switches selects between this and the front‑panel guitar input. Next up is another unbalanced jack providing an unprocessed guitar output, and stereo send and return jack sockets allowing you to use external effects loops.
There is a choice of processed outputs — balanced XLRs (with associated ground‑lift switch) and unbalanced jacks for analogue, and XLR and phono connectors for AES‑EBU and S/PDIF digital signals. Pod Pro can run at either 44.1kHz or 48kHz sampling rate, as well as sync'ing to its dedicated word clock input. The Ethernet socket for connecting compatible foot controllers (either the Floorboard or or the FB4) is the same as on the Pod, and a pair of MIDI sockets let you transfer patches and edit them remotely via Sound Diver, an updated version of which is also provided.
A switch to the left of the main outputs selects one of two output modes. In Live mode, the jack outputs are optimised for feeding on‑stage amps (there are four settings available), the XLR outputs feed mic levels to your PA, and the digital outputs carry the same signal as the jacks, though without any external effects returns. The Studio mode, on the other hand, feeds a recording output (using Line 6's speaker simulation and A.I.R. processing) to the jack and XLR outputs at ‑10dBv and +4dBu operating levels respectively, while providing the same signal (again minus external effects) to one channel of the stereo digital output — the other channel is a DI feed.
The new software increases the number of amp models from 28 to 32, with all now accessible directly from the front panel by holding down Tap. The speaker models may now be switched from the front panel in a similar way. Another neat facility allows you to specify default parameter settings for the each amp model and also for each different effects algorithm.
In order to facilitate patch swapping amongst their customers, Line 6 have also added a system known as Tone Transfer. You could already download patches from web, but now you can also transfer patches directly from any other Pod Pro, or any Pod v2 or Flextone Series II amplifier.
Finally, channel switching is now a little faster and smoother, because common settings between patches are retained rather than being reloaded. The tuner also tracks a little more positively, allowing faster use.
The Pod Pro's software improvements and sound — which seems to have a little extra clarity and 'air' compared to the Pod — will win it a lot of friends. However, the professional I/O hardware will be the main reason why people will buy it instead of its smaller sibling. Though more expensive than the Pod, I feel that the changes will be worth the extra cash to those of you who want to smoothly incorporate the Line 6 sound into a studio setup.
Line 6 seem keen to reward original purchasers of the Pod by making upgrade kits available at a very sensible price. Having unscrewed the bottom of the unit, the existing internal EPROM can be simply replaced with the new EPROM provided. However, doing this will erase your stored user sounds, so it's important to back these up before performing the upgrade if you don't want to lose them.
- More amp sounds.
- More front‑panel editability.
- Flexible new I/O and improved sound‑quality.
- Considerably more expensive than the original Pod.
The Pod Pro's new software makes hands‑on control of Line 6's physical modelling easier, and the extra rear‑panel socketry will be essential for those using it within professional studios where both analogue and digital outputs are required.
Pod Pro £499; Pod version 2.0 £279; upgrade kit for original Pod £39. All prices include VAT.