It shouldn’t be surprising at this point that Line 6 makes great-sounding digital modeling devices. The company has been in the modeling game longer than anyone else and has consistently pushed the envelope for realistic tone, more and better effects, and excellent price points. Those attributes sum up the Spider V 120 MkII perfectly. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone cramming more into a 1x12 combo, much less selling it for $429. I checked it out with a PRS Silver Sky, a Gibson Les Paul and, to get a feel for how the Spider handles low end, a MusicMan Jason Richardson seven-string.
The first thing I noticed when I plugged in was that most of the presets - many of which are crafted by 65 Amps tonemeister Dan Boul - are relatively dry. This surprised me, because too many modeling products are afflicted with overblown, cloying, “music store” patches that are drowning in modulation and reverb. It gave me a chance to really hear how the amp sounds and decide what I liked. If I wanted to gussy up those tones, it was easy to do by hitting the FX button on the front panel, which switches the knobs from controlling Amp settings, like drive and EQ, to FX settings. Initially, that means accessing levels for comp, delay, mod and reverb, but you can tweak other parameters too. You can access all amp and effects settings in the Edit menu on the amp, or use the free Spider V Edit application for Mac, PC, iOS and Android.
I found a great Marshall-style sound called Brown and threw on a touch of delay and reverb. Two minutes in and I had a tone that could cover a ton of ground. The PRS’s single-coils were bluesy and clear, the Les Paul upped the dirt factor into big arena-rock territory, and the MusicMan’s onboard 20dB boost took things over the top with full, singing sustain. Every guitar sounded different - which I don’t take the least bit for granted with modelers - and every one cleaned up nicely when I rolled its volume knob down. You could pretty much do a whole gig on this one tone, especially if you had some sort of boost to kick in. Okay Spidey, you’ve got my attention.
The Spider V’s clean tones are really cool. Many of them have a startling amount of headroom. The Sparkle Clean preset remained clean no matter how high I cranked the drive control. I was able to elicit just a hint of grind with the MusicMan’s bridge humbucker and boost engaged. If you need a more SRV-style semi-clean tone, there are plenty of options for that, but if you want pristine disco, funk, or prog-metal cleans, you’ve got ’em.
One of the Spider’s big selling features is that it is wireless ready. All you need is a Line 6 Relay transmitter and you’re free to roam the stage. Plug it in, pair it to the amp, and the onboard receiver will start receiving and you can start meandering.
The Spider V doesn’t have MIDI, so if you want to access more than one sound, you’ll need a Line 6 foot controller. Attach an FBV3 to the proprietary jack and you will see the true potential of this rig. You can not only call up any preset with just a click or two or three (depending on how many banks you need to jump), but you also get instant stompbox-style control over the effects in each preset. An FBV is a definite must if you want to harness all the arachnoid power of this amp.
And there’s more. The Spider V comes with practice tools, like a metronome and full drum patterns. You can alter the tempo of the metronome, but not the drum loops, which is a little bit of a bummer, but it’s still an added value. Speaking of loops, there is a 60-second looper function on the Spider, but you’ll need the FBV to make the most of it.
Lots of modeling amps promise the world and come up short in the sonic realm. This amp does not do that. The tones that I like, and there are many, I like a lot, and I would have no problem using them on a gig or a recording. The ones I don’t care for just sound a little boxy and one-dimensional to my ears, but that’s okay. I can get clean, crunch and lead patches that would get me through any show. As we’ve come to expect from Line 6, the Spider’s effects are quite good, with the delays, reverbs and choruses sounding particularly hip. This amp is also really loud. I’m positive it could hold its own on a big stage with a pounding drummer. That’s a key point, because the Spider V, like almost every modeling device, in my opinion, won’t really do its thing unless you crank it a bit. At low volumes, it’s pleasant but not quite as cool or believable. When it’s loud, all the nuances come through. I can lighten up on my attack a bit and really explore the subtleties. The tones become much more interactive and deeper.
When you factor in the price point, this is just an astounding product, even given the fact that you’ll probably have to buy the foot controller to gig with it. Everyone needs to decide for themselves if an amp sounds and feels right to them, and that’s a very personal thing. But from the standpoint of tone, price, volume and flexibility, the Spider V 120 MkII is tough to beat. Well played, Line 6.
Spider V 120 Mk II
PRICE $429 street
CONTROLS Drive, bass, mid, treble, volume (Amp side); comp, FX1, FX2, FX3, reverb (FX side); master volume
SWITCHES Loop on/off, play/pause; preset select; edit; tap/tuner; home button
INS/OUTS 1/4" instrument input, iPhone/iPod USB port, Mac/PC/Android port, 1/8" aux in, XRL outs (x2), 1/4" speaker outs (x2)
POWER 120 watts
WEIGHT 30.4 lbs
KUDOS Tons of options. Musical and useable presets. Huge bang for the buck