The thriving amp and cabinet modeling industry shows no signs of slowing down, with more and more guitarists (and bassists) mothballing their heavy and bulky rigs for lightweight and portable digital setups. At least one major player, Kemper, offers an elegant powered head setup, but most of the other high-end modelers, such as Fractal and Line 6’s Helix, require some means of amplifying for anyone who wants to push air onstage. That’s where the Line 6 Powercabs come in. These powered 1x12 cabinets are designed to give guitarists not just volume on a gig, but also some clever options as to what that volume sounds like and how it’s delivered.
The Powercab 112 Plus on review here ($799 street) is the more full-featured sibling of the straightforward Powercab 112 ($599 street). It rocks a 1x12 speaker with a 1" compression driver that fires directly through the center pole piece of the 12" woofer, so you can capture both sound sources if you choose to mic the cab, and it delivers 250 watts into 8Ω. If you want the most basic application, simply plug your modeler into the 1/4" input jack and choose Flat (if you’re using your modeler’s cabinet emulations) or one of the six onboard speaker types (if you’ve defeated the cabinet emulations in your modeler). That’s what I initially did with a Kemper Profiler and it worked seamlessly. I had no problem doing a rehearsal and a gig using both the Kemper’s speaker sims and the Powercab’s. Bam. Done.
If, however, you want to explore more choices, the Powercab 112 Plus affords you lots of flexibility. You get Input 2, which can take a signal from a mixer or play backing tracks from an mp3 player. There is also a digital AES/EBU for even lower-latency connection from any modeler that supports that. There’s MIDI connectivity for both program change and continuous controller info, and a USB port for advanced editing options or connecting to a DAW. As for outputs, you can route the Powercab’s signal through the XLR out (with several choices of microphone modeling) or via USB for direct recording applications.
Most of us really just care about how this cab sounds, though, and it sounds fabulous. I A/B’ed my powered Kemper through a 1x12 cab and the Powercab, and while both applications sounded great, the Powercab provides more detail and dimension. Some of that could be due to the fact that the Powercab sounds brighter overall, thanks to the 1" compression driver. But I also discovered that for some Kemper profiles that bug me a little because they’re a little edgy or dark, I could always find a speaker model in the Powercab to bring out the best in them: taming highs, rounding off jagged edges, or tightening lows. It’s a very musical way of tone chasing that goes way beyond EQ. This makes a case for not only using the Powercab’s speaker models, but matching those sims to individual presets and changing them via MIDI.
In addition to the great sound, the Powercab’s feel is right on the money. Line 6 wanted to deliver the “amp in the room” experience that can be elusive with digital gear and they really nailed it. That’s what the six speaker models are designed to do. You can, however, use the six impulse responses that the Plus comes with (or import additional third-party IRs) to get the more-produced sound of a miked speaker if you want. I personally didn’t like the IRs nearly as much as the speaker sims, but this is a feature that a lot of players will appreciate.
The Powercab 112 Plus is a very well-thought out piece of gear that addresses a need in the industry and should sway players who think that modeling rigs don’t sound or feel like “real” amps. It’s lightweight, loud, and good looking. If you don’t need all the connectivity and IR capability, you can save $200 and get the Powercab 112, but to me the added features make the Plus worth it. Well done!
KUDOS Great speaker models. Smart cosmetics. Impressive flexibility.