My evil coworker Eric, who knows all too well the way my mind works and my pocketbook empties, sent me a link a few weeks ago to some info about the then-forthcoming Amplifi from Line 6. He was thinking of getting one, but he realized I would likely compulsively buy one, so he could get the skinny on it from me before he ordered his.
Indeed, the next time Guitar Center sent me a coupon, I ordered one up.
I had been thinking of getting some decent bluetooth speakers for my living room, as the iMac to Apple TV to amplifier to nice speakers has been giving me fits (sound dropouts, the Apple TV needs to have the TV on to “wake up,” I can never find the Apple TV remote). Since I had planned to spend ca. $200 on some Bose speakers, the 350 I was to pay for the Amplifi was really more like 150, so, heck, I was practically getting it for free.
(you see why, in spite of a decent salary, I am always broke)
So, the bluetooth speaker feature of the amp was appealing. I am such a crappy guitar player, that I really didn’t need a new amp. My little Fender Champ is just fine, thanks. On the other hand, I don’t have a clue how to go from a cool jazz sound to some jangle for my Rickenbacker, and I’d rather actually play the guitar in the eveing rather than spending 4 hours twisting knobs to figure it out. Thus, the idea that I could pick a song I like, let the Line 6 iOS app analyze it and send those settings directly to the amp sounded like just the ticket for me.
After two days with the amp, I told Eric not to bother. Maybe version 2
Now a month later, I have a bit more appreciation for the device and its potential, but I’m still not crazy for it.
So, when you unbox the thing, the first thing to note is that it really is pretty cool looking. Simple design, with the knobs tastefully recessed. The second is that the instructions are about 2 pages long and basically useless.
It is all about the app, my friends, and therein lies the rub. The app is powerful, but the interface is just not quite ready for primetime
Once you download the app and create a Line 6 account (you can’t do anything without a Line 6 account), you give the app permission to access your music on your iPad or iPhone. If you have (foolishly) signed up for Apple’s cloud service for your music, you probably don’t have that many songs actually on the device, but you may have 20,000 in the cloud. The Amplifi app shows them all, with no way to search or skip down the alphabet. So if you want to load up the Zombies, scroll away half of your life. You can set the app to only show the songs actually on the device, but, again, if you only have 5 songs on the device at a time, that is not very helpful. Okay, yeah, if you actually PLAN how you are going to use the iPad for your guitar session, you can make a playlist and download the songs you need, but who plans just messing around?
Once you choose the song, the app pretty quickly finds some settings in the cloud and transfers them immediately to your amp
You can even go in and make a bunch of tweaks to the sound, including a whole host of different amp models. Of course knob twisting is exactly what I don’t want to do, but since I don’t know a Marshall from a Vox, I have enjoyed this feature just for learning purposes. When you find one you like or make some changes to a preexising one, you can save it locally, or upload your new sounds to the Line 6 cloud.
But what if you don’t want to match something in your library, but you know you want a surf tone? There is surely a search field in the main menu—
Um. Err. I know I saw one somewhere…
SO, you have to choose a song–any song– to get the “now playing” window to open (no, you can’t do that directly from the sidebar/main menu). Then if you look closely, you can type a search into the field in the upperish right. It might look like it will do a search relative to what is playing, but I searched “Ventures” from this window and got just the array of sounds I wanted.
(The helpful purple pencil was my addition)
The software hasn’t crashed on me, and I’ve started enjoying messing around with different sounds, but the UI needs some smoothing out.
Other reviewers have complained about the paucity of preset stores on the device (4), but once I figured out I could store many more in my tones library in the app, that didn’t bother me. I still haven’t figured out how to assign one of the four buttons to a tone setting from the app, though, so I am absolutely app dependent for using the Amplifi.
And what about that whole bluetooth-speaker thing? The sound is great, though, at a distance of about 15 feet from my computer, I am experiencing some dropouts (I am beginning to suspect my new iMac). There are some other small gotchas. First, I like to use my iOS device to operate iTunes on my computer with the Remote app. The Remote app doesn’t seem to like connecting to my computer when the computer is connecting via bluetooth to the Amplifi (I can think of no reason for this; the app works via wifi). Also, every time I want to connect the iMac to the Amplifi I have to reset the connection–push the bluetooth button on the amp, run back to the computer and select the Amplifi. If the computer goes to sleep or I decide to play my guitar for a bit via the Amplifi and associate it with my iPad, the next time I wake the computer to play through the amp, I have to do a physical reconnect.
It makes sense that the amplifi will only connect to one device at a time, but in my perfect couch potato world, I would like to be able to control the amp volume with my phone and change songs in my iTunes library with the remote app, but the magic isn’t happening.
Finally, the name is dumb. Try finding out more information about this amp by searching “Line 6 Amplifi” and you will get links to every damned Line 6 amplifier, and then some.
This review was very helpful in getting me started with the amp
– Posted from my iPad.