Line 6 Spider V 30 Review
I am a musician and guitar teacher, and have been using Spider IV 15 amps for teaching guitar for seven years. They are good teaching/practice amps. They are easy to use, have four good sounding amp models, built in effects, and a low price. All good things for a musician/teacher teaching a wide variety of musical styles. So I was naturally interested when the Spider V 30 was released. Here is my review.
More Of Everything
The Sider V is more of everything. Instead of the four amp models on the Spider IV there are 78 amp models and 23 cabinet models. Instead of 6 effects, there are 101 effect models. And the Spider V series start at 30 watts instead of 15 watts on the Spider IV series. You also get a metronome, a LCD display, a tuner, drum loops, and a free app to control and edit everything from your tablet or phone. You also get a bigger hit to your wallet. The lowest cost version is $199. Double what Spider IV 15 typically costs.
Amp and Effects Models
Essentially the Spider V is the Line 6 AMPLIFI models and software in a different container which doesn’t require an app to control it. So if you are familiar with the AMPLIFI tones, you already know what to expect. I did play through every effect and amp model on its default setting and took notes. I originally planned to review every amp and effect but that would have made this review ridiculously long. Instead I will give you an overview and point out some of the highlights and weaknesses.
The Amp Models
Amps are divided into four categories: Clean, American, British, High Gain. There are also some acoustic amp models for when you want a little more volume from your acoustic guitar.
The Clean category include a tube preamp, a Roland Jazz Chorus, a retro practice style amp and some Line 6 originals. They run the gamut from very clean to muffled. Most have no breakup. They are clean. But the Line 6 Sparkle had mild breakup at high Drive settings and a nice raw sound.
The American category is mainly Fender amps. Tons of them. All based on different, specific models from 1958 through 1972. And they all sound pretty authentic tone wise. There are a few other models including Gibson, Boogie, Matchless, and Budda.
The British category covers the classics, Marshall, Vox, Orange, and Hiwatt. Marshall models far outnumber the rest with decades of different models. You get a trio of Vox amps and one orange and one Hiwatt. Everything you would expect tone-wise is here. From mild crunch to cranked stack to chimey Vox. If you like 60s or 70s music, its all there.
The High Gain category is just that. Nearly every flavor of high gain is represented. Marshall, Soldano, Mesa, Bogner, and Randall. There are simply tons of metal tones here. Oddly, the high gain tones seemed quite authentic, which is usually not the case with a small speaker practice amp.
I need to mention that the Cab models can have a huge effect on tone. By changing cabinets you can get even more tones.
Honestly, with some tweaking, you should be able to find several amp tones that you like. Don’t expect the experience of playing through a high end tube amp though. This is a budget modeling amp. Overall, the clean and high gain tones sound best to me. Getting good crunch tones takes more work.
The Effects Models
Effects are divided into Drives & Dynamics, Mods, Delays, and Filters/Synth/Pitch. They can be placed before or after (virtual effects loop) the amp. And it definitely makes a difference on some of the Mod and Delay effects. The analog models almost always sounded better to me before the amp. Including analog delays.
The Dynamics models are a variety of pedal compressors. I don’t like using compressors and prefer to control dynamics myself, but they are there if you like a squashed tone. The Drives models are a collection of 10 classic pedals from fuzz to metal. You get Fuzz Face, Big Muff, Tube Screamer, Ratt Distortion, Boss Metal, and some boutique stomp boxes. They are all in the ballpark tonally and all very useable.
The Mods are a vast collection of modulation effects. Every category is here. It is a mixed bag though. There are some weak, digital sounding effects, but also some surprisingly nice, warm sounding effects. The Flanger category is especially weak. The Univibe also had a very strong pulse and was particularly difficult to find a good setting for. And the Rotary effects weren’t very believable, although the Rotary Drum has a nice subtle effect that was good for adding some movement to your tone. And there are some great tremolos, good phasers, and some nice chorus models. There are some bad ones, but there is at least one good sounding model in every category.
The Delays cover everything from tape to analog to digital delays. The Tape Echo was too bright for a tape echo, but placing it before the amp and cutting the treble make it sound far better. The Deluxe Memory Man model gave me some nice flashbacks to when I owned on in the 1970s. It was fun to play with and didn’t have nearly as much noise as the original. There are also analog pedal delays and digital delays including reverse and ping pong delay. The Tube Echo sounded digital to me. But overall you get some very nice delays. It also has a Echo Platter model of a studio plate delay which sounds great when used as a reverb.
The Filters/Synth/Pitch category is full of novelty effects and other weirdness. You get a “talk box” effect that is sort of vocal-like but won’t put Peter Frampton out of business. Plus a lot of synth-like warbles, pulses, octaves, and other filter artifacts. I don’t find much use for them, but some might. There is an 8-bit synth effect that can make some cool Atari video game sounds.
Controlling The Amp
Usually, the more things you put in one box, the more difficult it becomes to use it. Line 6 has done a great job of offering way more features without making it much more difficult to use. The new layout is surprisingly good and fairly easy to use.
Basically, the Spider V is a preset based amp. There are 32 banks of 4 presets for a total of 128 possible presets. You can edit all 128 presets and you can move presets to any of the 128 slots. With so many preset slots available you will want to put the most frequently used ones in the first banks. You can also save presets in the included Spider Remote app as “My Tones.” You can upload presets to the Line 6 Cloud for others to use, and you can download presets that other users have uploaded. The banks come almost filled with presets made by Line 6. Many are very good, and some are named for the songs they work for. Of course, there are some you probably won’t like, but they are all editable and most are good starting points for tweaking to taste, and to work with your guitars.
There are five knobs that control the standard controls of the amp, and the effects. Two buttons let you choose whether the knobs control amp or effects settings. Colored labels above the knobs light up letting you know what the knob are controlling. In amp mode the knobs control, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Volume. In FX mode the knobs control Comp, FX1, FX2 , FX3, Reverb. The FX knobs can be assigned to different effects categories and are color coded. The setting are also shown on an LCD display so you can easily see what effects, parameters, and settings you are changing. When turning the FX knobs the amp sweeps through all the effects parameters giving you a surprisingly good range of effects setting from a single knob. If you want to go deeper into controlling individual effect parameters you can enter Edit mode for greater control. You have the option of single knob ease or deep editing.
Below the LCD display are three buttons and a knob (if you buy a higher wattage model you get another button for a looper.) One button turns on the metronome or drum loops. Both are good tools for practicing. Another button turns on Edit mode for editing all the settings and parameters of the current preset. And another button functions as a tap tempo button for effects and turns on/off a very nice tuner. The knob lets you scroll through the 128 presets and change parameters in Edit mode. Edit mode has a slight learning curve but it makes sense fairly quickly. Although it is far easier to use the Spider Remote app if you want to do some heavy editing.
There is also a Master volume knob to control the overall volume of the amp.
The Spider V looks much better than the Spider IV in my opinion. Although the knobs are plastic, they are black instead of chrome and the control panel looks sleeker and better designed. The grill cover is gray and provides a little contrast. And the logo is smaller and placed on the right side. It is just a more tasteful design. The construction is basically the same as the Spider IV but with better looking plastic hardware. Perfectly fine for a practice amp, which is what I consider this model to be.
The 30 watt model has an 8 inch speaker and a tweeter for acoustic guitar support. The tweeter also makes for better sounding music when you plug in your iPhone to play along with recordings.
The rear panel has inputs jacks for iOs devices (USB-C), and Mac/PC or Android devices (USC-B). There is also an 1/8” AUX/IN jack for hooking up a phone or CD player, etc. There is also a jack for an FVB 3 foot controller if you want foot control of the amp. The power switch and power cable jack are also located here. I wish the power switch and AUX/IN were located on the front, but it is a minor inconvenience I can live with.
When I first plugged my guitar in and tried some presets I was disappointed at how boxy and muffled the presets sounded. I expected presets to need some tweaking but most seemed to be quite muffled sounding. I think this partly the result of the closed back design of the amp. Boosting the presence helped most presets sound better (many presets had the presence set low.) So did cutting the bass and boosting treble. Boosting the High Shelf EQ with the parametric EQ is also a big help. You will probably need to do some tweaking to be satisfied with the presets.
The amp is pretty loud for 30 watts with a gradual taper to the Master volume control. However, the first 1/4 of the volume range is little flat sounding. It sounds much better after the knob hits 9 or 10 o’clock.
Spider Remote App
One of the best additions to the Spider V is the Spider Remote app which you can download for free. If you have a tablet or phone, it makes adjusting presets far easier than using the tiny LCD display. You simply connect your phone or tablet via a USB cable. The tablet version obviously shows more at the same time, but the phone app is very useable. Both make editing and moving presets around pretty easy. The software makes it easier to select presets also. A quick swipe or two is far faster than using a tiny knob to scroll through 128 presets. The app is not necessary, but it is a big time saver.
I did have issues with the app disconnecting from the amp occasionally. Requiring me to restart the app to regain the connection. Hopefully this will be remedied in an update. Another nice feature is the amp charged my iPad or iPhone while they were connected to the Spider V. How very thoughtful of you.
You can also hook the amp up to your computer for recording. Line 6 provides a copy of Cubase® LE for free. So it can act as an audio interface and recording software also if you are just starting out in recording.
Line 6 took a chance doubling the price of the entry level Spider amp. But considering the many improvements and sheer number of amp and effects models, I think it is justified. There is a lot of stuff here, but the new layout and software make it fairly easy to use. It does take a little time to learn all it can do and how the software works, but it is time well spent. While no experienced guitarist is going to think they are playing through a high end tube amp, there are very few amp tones you could want that it doesn’t provide a good simulation of. The presets that come with the amp are a little dull and boxy sounding to me, but I was able to make them far better with tweaks to the presence, parametric EQ, and tone controls. The effects won’t replace a pedalboard full of $300 pedals but this is a $200 practice amp. That is less than many single pedals cost.
This amp takes the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, but you don’t have to use it all. Still, you will have to spend some time finding and tweaking the tones you really want to use to make it work best for you. It would be a great first amp for a new guitar player, but can also work as a capable practice amp for any musician once they set it up with some good tones.
Spider V Tone Tips:
Many of the included presets are dull and muffled sounding to me. I think this is partly due to the the closed back design of the amp which makes it a little “boxy” sounding. Some things that help are boosting the Presence control on the amp models. Boosting the Treble and cutting the Bass can also help. And the most effective tools to fight the boxiness is the Parametric EQ. I found boosting the High Shelf Gain immediately helped most presets. Another not so obvious help is propping the amp upward to get the sound off the ground.