Pod Express Review

Published March 23, 2024

Helix Tones Move Down-Market and Become Accessible to a Wider Audience

The new Pod Express is a throwback of sorts to the original POD, released 25 years ago. It’s easy to understand why the original POD was such a massive hit for Line 6. Technology reached a point where a guitar player could tote along a small device that emulated a slew of classic amplifiers, plus an array of Line 6 creations that were meant to not only evoke classic amps but even improve their sound. The original POD also contained a large selection of effects and a spring reverb emulation. Suddenly every guitarist had access to software “models” of classic tones in a package that fit in their backpack.

Fast forwarding 25 years, the story has changed dramatically. Amp modeling and capture technology is commonplace and available in many formats, from Mac and PC open-source software to inexpensive Boss pedals, all the way to ultra high-end rack systems used by touring professionals.

Line 6 released Helix in 2015 as a floorboard-sized powerhouse as the successor to the POD HD series. Helix was able to load multiple amplifier and cab emulations into a single preset, along with an encyclopedia of effects containing everything from vintage pedals to original Line 6 creations.

As Helix nears 10 years on the market, Line 6 has shown the ability to bring their latest modeling technology to lower price points by surgically culling features and delivering tones in smaller and more affordable packages. The HX Stomp brought Helix to pedalboards in a compact package. The Pod Go brought a more complete package to the guitar player, with a larger footprint that contained an expression pedal, but a simplified signal path with fewer power-user tone options.

In many ways Pod Express is a throwback to the original 25-year-old POD. It is simple to operate and understand once you get the hang of the “alt” button (also a throwback to the original POD’s controls for Presence, for example). In Pod Express, the miniaturization of Helix is close to its end point, unless Line 6 ever decides to take on even smaller form factors to compete with the likes of Katana Go or the Fender Mustang Micro.

The tones are there in Pod Express, period. You can take this pedal into a studio and create professional recordings, much like the original POD allowed a quarter century ago, but with the fidelity and nuance of Line 6’s flagship technology. The 7 included amps are terrific, although I would have liked a raspy Fender Deluxe in the mix. The effects are stellar, a “best of” compilation of Helix modulation effects, delays and reverbs. The effects are in gorgeous spacial stereo and have simple one-knob controls.

There’s a TRS footswitch expansion input which allows either a 2-button external footswitch or an expression pedal for Volume. There is no wah capability.

The pedal can store presets, and the mechanism for recalling them is clever as it makes good use of the LEDs surrounding the center amp knob.

At $179, Pod Express is priced within reach of almost any guitarist. The unit is ultra-portable and can be powered by 3 AA batteries, which is very convenient.

It’s easy to recommend the Pod Express to any guitarist, either as a backup for a main rig, as a headphone solution, or as a standalone unit on your desktop for recording, since the unit functions as an audio interface into a Mac, PC or iOS device.

Things we love:
  • Compact size
  • Flagship Helix tone
  • Ease of use
  • USB Interface capability
  • Battery operation
Know before you buy:
  • Cannot power the device from USB-C
  • Plastic housing is not meant to be battered on the road
  • You'll need the manual to operate more advanced control and preset features
  • Power supply not included (but batteries are)
  • No IR loading capabilities, but included cab models are terrific

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