I’VE BEEN USING THE M9’S MORE BUFFED-OUT sibling, the M13, as a solution for gigs that require quick set up and break down for a few months (see the review in the January 2009 GP). It’s a cool tool that lets me plug in a volume pedal and a wah, run the output cable to an amp, and be ready to make noise in less than five minutes. The 9.5-lb M13 will devour 13"x11.5" of floor and transport space, however, while the compact M9 can actually fit into the front pocket of your guitar gig bag (it’s just 10.5"x7" and weighs three lbs).
There are some compromises between the mighty mini and its larger counterpart, of course. The M13 offers 100 effects in any order, four effects units with three available models per unit, four simultaneous effects, mono/ stereo effects sends, four colorful displays, and 48 scenes. The M9 delivers 75 effects, three effects units with two available models per unit, three simultaneous effects, one display, and 24 scenes. Both provide a 28-second looper, universal tap tempo, two expression pedal inputs, mono and stereo inputs and outputs, MIDI In/Out, true bypass, and bountiful menus of distortion, overdrive, delay, modulation, filter, compression, and reverb. The main decision factors for those who applaud the M9/M13 concept will likely involve pricing and portability, with the M9 looking darn groovy if you want a lot of effects power in an itty bitty, tanktough chassis.
Onstage, it’s obviously more fun to track stompbox changes on the M13’s four LCDs, but if you’re not a carny obsessed with lines of colored lights, the single LCD on the M9 alerts you just fine when you click to another effect or scene (such as distortion+delay+ tremolo). The sturdy buttons are easy to toe— even if you sport those always stylish Doc Martens—and I never experienced any missed buttons (a miracle for someone as clumsy as I am) or failures to launch (due to a broken or gritty switch).
Effects quality is a subjective thing, of course, but—except for one exception—I was delighted with the M9. And, as the effects are modeled from stompboxes, the parameter controls are just right for tweaking tones on the fly. You don’t get a smorgasbord of options— just about five or six of the obvious “musthaves” such as (depending on the effect selected) Gain, Drive, Treble, Bass, Mids, Feedback, and so on. Easy. Another cool feature is that the M9 automatically remembers the last parameter adjustment, so you don’t have to worry about saving your tweaks.
My favorite effects are the delays (analog, digital, tube, tape), Opto Tremolo, Script Phaser, Jet Flanger, Analog Chorus, Boost Comp, and Seeker. All of those models sounded ballsy and vibey through the front end of several amps, including an Egnater Rebel-20, a Marshall JVM 210H, a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, and a Club Amplifiers Classic. I was less enthused with the distortion and overdrive models as they tended to sound a bit thin and diffused. They worked just fine—and sounded pretty good on the gig recordings—but I always found myself wanting either a rounder, warmer, grittier, or more organic tone. I often went with a fuzz model to spice up the weirder solos, or used the Boost Comp to get a more natural lead tone by pumping up the amp. So, actually, there’s really nothing to complain about—however you choose to use it, the M9 delivers the goods.
(818) 575-3600; line6.com MODEL M9
PRICE $599 retail/$399 street
EXPRESSION PEDAL No (two jacks available)
TAP TEMPO Yes
EFFECTS LOOP No
LOOPING FUNCTION Yes
STEREO OPERATION Yes
BUILT-IN TUNER Yes
KUDOS Gig tough. Tons of effects options. Super portable.
CONCERNS Distortions and overdrives could be more organic sounding
Read the other reviews in this roundup: