Line 6 POD Farm 2

September 1, 2010

Line6_Podfarm-01THE NAME “POD FARM” RECALLS AMP Farm and POD; the former was the first guitar amp modeling software widely adopted by professionals, the latter the kidney bean shaped hardware that helped spread the use of virtual amps and effects far and wide. The fact that Line 6’s Amp Farm works exclusively with the high-end Pro Tools TDM system left the software field open for other developers like Native Instruments (Guitar Rig) and IK Multimedia (AmpliTube) to service users of native powered DAWs. Those who employ Steinberg’s Cubase, Ableton Live, Pro Tools LE or M-Powered, and the like weren’t courted by Line 6 until the 2008 release of POD Farm.

I had a chance to evaluate the original version when it first came out. It was no surprise that the amps and effects sounded great and felt natural to play; for a decade its daddy, Amp Farm, has been employed on blockbuster movie soundtracks and platinum hits. Tone and touch notwithstanding, I perceived some obvious shortcomings: no MIDI control, heavy limitations on the number of effects that could be loaded into a chain (i.e. no combining fuzz with distortion), and amazingly—no tuner. I am pleased to say that POD Farm 2 addresses all of these issues, and adds some other features sure to increase interest.

POD Farm 2 ($139 retail) comes with 18 guitar amps, 24 cabs, five bass amps and cabs, 29 effects, and six mic preamps; the reviewed Platinum version ($419 retail) has 78 guitar amps, 28 bass amps, and 97 effects, fully justifying the extra ducats.

To use the software’s standalone mode you must purchase the version that authorizes with a Line 6 POD Studio, TonePort or GuitarPort device as a dongle; you can then also use it plug-in style with any audio interface as long as you also connect the Line 6 hardware. If you purchase the iLok version, POD Farm will not work in standalone mode—even if you use a Line 6 hardware interface.

Line6_Podfarm-02POD Farm 2 is easier on CPU than Guitar Rig or AmpliTube. While those products do offer reduced fidelity modes to bring the CPU usage way down, POD Farm— like Waves’ GTR—prefers the energy conserving option of loading individual “elements” containing a single aspect of the software, such as amps, distortions, modulators, tuner, etc. I mixed a record recently where this would have come in handy. We had to load the entire original POD Farm package just to use its spring reverb on a track. With version 2 we could have loaded just the reverb and saved beaucoup de CPU. In fact, I found that I could load as many as four elements, including CPU hungry delay and reverb, before reaching the usage level of the full software.

There are no new effects in POD Farm 2, but it is a pleasure to now drag and drop the multitude of existing sound modules into almost any desired order. The GUI’s “Lazy Susan” method of amp and effect selection looks cool, but the amps are grouped alphabetically by Line 6 name rather than collecting all the similar amps or effects next to each other, and the model you seek can whip by before you can stop the rotation. I preferred using the drop-down menu where, though still alphabetized, more choices are visible at once.

Setting up a dual chain of a slightly broken up Orange-style amp and a raspy Marshall emulation enhanced POD Farm 2’s already big single-amp sound, particularly when using the new mixer’s panning and delay to offset them. The mixer and a virtual A/B/Y box, which can be controlled by MIDI, handle dual routing. The software’s MIDI learn feature made it easy to use a Line 6 FBV MkII Shortboard controller to switch stompboxes on, control volume and wah effects, or modify almost any other parameter.

POD Farm 2 eliminates the major weaknesses of the initial release, letting the software’s realistic sound and feel propel it into the front lines of go-to amp and effects modelers. Those of us with native DAWs can now benefit from the excellent amp and effect modeling that Pro Tools TDM owners have enjoyed for years.

KUDOS Warm natural sound and realistic feel. CPU saving “elements.”

CONCERNS GUI a little awkward.

CONTACT Line 6, (818) 575-3600; line6.com

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