« Line6 scores a direct hit with the M13--this is Stomp Box Heaven!!! »Published on 08/18/12 at 11:57
The words "Bonehead Simple" are actually printed on the M13 box and I think that about says it all. I received the M13 with the updated 2.01 software on-board. The one thing you DO have to watch out for is that it could be perceived as OVERLY bonehead simple. During one of my trial sessions, I couldn't figure out why sound was coming out of my amp but nothing was happening on the M13. That's because the M13 is truly "true bypass" and it simply wasn't powered on. So you know that if your M13 dies mid-gig, your signal will still get to your amp. Excellent!!
This is a great (relatively) little unit. The beauty of the M13 lies in its simplicity and flexibility. It takes about 10 seconds to memorize the color coding for the different types of effects, but hours to go through the settings and different models. There are two different modes of operation: Standard mode and Scene mode. Scene mode works like any other MIDI patch--you call up the patch and it brings up the pre-configured models in the pre-configured order and with the pre-configured levels. In scene mode you have access to the active models in each bank and you can toggle them on and off individually.
In standard mode you have access to 12 different stomp boxes'four banks with three options in each position. The payoff is no cables and no re-wiring. When you call up a model, the stomp box is activated with the last settings already pre-programmed. There is a global option to either save all settings automatically or not. I suggest leaving it on as that is really the purpose of the M13. I haven't yet found a need to have the settings NOT automatically saved. Without the auto-save enabled, any called-up model will accept the position of the knobs as-is' most likely undesirable.
When I started writing this review, I liked working in standard mode over the Scenes, although in truth the 'Standard' mode is really just a 'scratch pad' scene. Unless you have a special need for a high number of different sounds, you can get a great deal out of standard mode. I have my 'Scratch Pad' M13 scene set up in the following configuration:
Bank 1: A. Screamer, B. Blue Comp Treble C. Line6 Drive
Bank 2: A. Line6 Distortion, B. Heavy Distortion, C. Dimension
Bank 3: A. Noise Gate, B. Dual Phaser, C. Tri-Chorus
Bank 4: A. Stereo Delay, B. Noise Gate, C. Echo
Notice that I have the Noise Gate in two different positions and weaker distortions in front of heavier distortions. This allows me to either run the Screamer or Comp for a little boost of my amp's preamp or the Bank B distortion. Having the Noise Gate in Banks 3 AND 4 allows me to either put the gate at the end of the signal if running in 2-cable mode, or after the distortion effects in 4-cable mode so that the modulation effects are super-clean. In the latter configuration, the modulation effects really shine through the mix. With this configuration, I can get punishing distortion out of the M13, juice the front end of my amp, or get wonderful multi-dimensional clean tones. After learning about the flexibility of the M13 and how to better leverage scenes, a whole new world opened up to my tonal 'mad science.'
It's like having 12 stomp boxes at your disposal at a time, 12 sets of 12 stomp boxes, and you can activate any of them in their pre-defined position' NO WIRING!!! The only thing you can't do is have more than four boxes active at any one time, one from each bank. (You can only have one 'A', one 'B', one 'C', one 'D' on at a time). Pressing the foot switch activates the effect. Pressing another button in the same bank activates that effect and deactivates the previous one. Pressing the button of the active effect toggles it on/off. There is a dedicated button to activate the looper, a button to activate Scene mode, and holding the looper button activates the on-board tuner. The tuner is one of the most sensitive I have encountered.
After running the M13 straight into the front of the amps, I configured the M13 to have the effects loop in between banks 2 and 3. This one of the other beautiful features of the M13: you can place the effects loop wherever you want as opposed to being locked into one configuration.
Line6 characteristically doesn't include a ton of literature with their products because just about all of their product information is downloadable from the web. While I appreciate their commitment to green initiatives this doesn't help much when you're at the gig and there's no internet connection and you REALLY need some help from a manual. Still, the unit is easy enough to figure out that you only need the manuals for the really intricate operations.
I played this modeler with the following guitars:
VOS '58 and '59 Gibson Custom Les Paul guitars with Burstbucker 1 and 2 models
Gibson Raw Power Les Paul with '57 Classic pickups
Ibanez JEM 7VSBL with stock Dimarzio Evolution pickups installed
Ibanez RG550MXXDY with Dimarzio Super 3 Bridge, Evolution Middle, and Evolution Neck
Ibanez RGR4 with Dimarzio Crunch Lab Bridge and LiquiFire Neck
Epiphone Les Paul Standard with Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P-90's
PRS SE Semi-hollow with stock pickups
Squier Telecaster with Dimarzio Air Norton T bridge and Area T Neck
B.C. Rick Mockingbird Neck-Thru with Dimarzio Super Distortion bridge and Super 2 Neck
Squier Strat with Dimarzio VV Solo bridge, VV '54 middle, and VV Heavy Blues neck.
I played the M13 through the following amps:
Marshall JVM410H head and Crate Blue VooDoo stereo 4 x 12 with Jensen 60's
Marshall HAZE 40w 1 x 12 combo
Marshall Class 5 1 x 10 combo
Marshall Vintage Modern 50-watt head and a Carvin mono 4 x 12 with Celestion Heritage 30's
Mesa Boogie 1 x 12 Mark V combo
Marshall DSL100MLB full stack.
Marshall Vintage Modern 50-watt head and a Carvin mono 4 x 12 with Celestion Heritage 30's + Hughes & Kettner TriAmp MK II and a Carvin mono 4 x 12 with Celestion Vintage 30's in stereo.
The M13 ended up sounding the best with the Marshall HAZE 40 so I used that as my basis for sound. Hooking up the M13 with the 4-cable method opened up a whole new dimension to the tone. The distortions were tighter and the clean tones were, well, cleaner since I could just run the clean (standard) channel preamp valves of the HAZE. One of my favorite models in the M13 is the model of the old BOSS Dimension C. If you tinker with the different switch combinations on the Dimension C you can get everything from light Chorus to Phase to some unique sounds. I highly recommend using this effect to add a unique ambience to your sound. The Blue Comp + Treble model is nice for cleaning up the darker overtones of the EL34 power valves and really focuses the tone when engaged. Using the Screamer model adds a nice compressed boost to just about anything after without adding too much gain. I didn't have much use for any of the 'Purple' category models, but I play pretty straight-ahead rock, so your mileage may vary. The quality of the models is so good I encourage you to at least try them. There are only a few reverb models in there, but the ones that ARE there are all I could want or need in a reverb including 100-200 millisecond echo model. You can get lost in the delays, especially in the Scene dedicated to them.
One of the things I found odd about the M13 is that the EQ models were in the preamp (yellow) category, making them somewhat hard to locate at first. Also, putting them in that category limits the number of EQ/Overdrive/Distortion combinations you can create, but I suppose they had to put them somewhere.
Even though there is a Noise Gate pedal model, there is also a master noise gate that is accessible from the main Setup screen, so if you can live with just the overall noise reduction of the M13 you can save pedal spots.
The M13 nailed everything. Usually, when you are working with a complex unit like the M13 you'll find something where you're relatively unimpressed. While there are effects in the M13 that I would probably never use, there was no effect that I tried where I thought the model simply didn't pass muster. Line6 really took the time to get all of the models right and it shows when you hit the strings. I found all of the tones easy to work with and great-sounding. You know you've got a good product on your hands when you come across an effect that you've never really been a fan of, but the implementation in the Line6 M13 wins you over.
So what's the verdict? It really depends on what you're after. I've read a lot of material that compares the M13 to other Multi-Effects like the BOSS GT-10 or Line6 POD X3 Live. At first, the difference seems pretty obvious... Units like the GT-10 and X3 Live have amp and cabinet models in them and have the ability to emulate both and amp and add effects, where the M13 just adds effects (no amp modeling here), so one would be led to think that the M13 needs to be run into/with an amp, whereas the others can just be run straight to the board or recording console. Well, I got to thinking about it. Let's say for example I just want to use the M13 in 2-cable mode right into the front of my, um, 1968 Plexi. No problem, right? Well, what's the difference between running the M13 into a 'real' Plexi and running the M13 into the POD Farm model of a Plexi? Turns out not very much--you have to tweak the levels a bit, but I found that I could run the M13 in front of my Line6 KB37 and then into POD Farm and with minimal adjustment of levels I got the same results as running into a 'real' amp. How cool is that? I initially figured to get the M13 recorded I would have to turn on an amp and mic a cabinet. Not so. Just wire it in front of your amp modeling software of choice, tweak it to taste and you're good to go.
My biggest issue with the M13 as noted previously is that the MIDI implementation on the M13 isn't the most straightforward or "plug-and-play" like most other units that factory default to OMNI/ON so that they just work right out of the box. If the MIDI implementation were as easy to work with as other comparable units the M13 would have scored perfectly.
Bottom line, not only is the M13 a great stomp box modeler on its own, providing you with an arsenal of stomp boxes that would cost you thousands to collect and would be a nightmare wiring up the signal chain, Line6 has done it all for you in an affordable, flexible package that works for both live performance, live recording, or in front of your DAW. If there's a sound you're looking for that you can't coax out of the M13, well, there are always drums, right?