Line 6 wrote the book on modelling and gave the world's guitarists a revolution in sounds with its Pod range. The company's later move into applying that technology to amplification may not have been as hugely successful, but Line 6 is a very smart company and it's not too proud to call-in outside help when it thinks it needs it. Just as it has done with guitar guru James Tyler - and I've reviewed a Tyler Variax guitar elsewhere in this issue - it called in the renowned amp specialist Reinhold Bogner to help with its amps. Bogner applied his traditional valve amp genius to Line 6's modelling wizardry and the result, the Spider range, became an industry phenomenon, with over 1 million sold - and still selling!
But there's a big difference between an amp that will satisfy a beginner, or a semi-pro, or a home recording user and one that will satisfy a professional, so Line 6 called Bogner back and this time, the teamwork resulted in what's intended to be a flagship product - the DT range.
We had both the head and 50 Watt combo versions in from Line 6 for this issue. Because Yes's Steve How is using a Variax guitar and Line 6 amps and we wanted to look in some detail at his current choices of gear, we matched our review guitar with the DT head but as most of us will choose a combo these days, it's the DT50 2x12 combo version that we're reviewing here.
At first glance the DT50 amplifier looks like a traditional twin channel valve/tube amp with two identical, switchable, channels comprising drive, bass, middle, treble, presence, reverb and volume. The amp makes use of two EL34 power amp tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes and includes two different Celestion speakers - a Vintage 30 and a G12H90.
Facilities include an effects loop, with a level control on the back of the amp, plus the familiar Line 6 digital connection, for connecting other Line 6 products. At the far right end of the control panel we have the power amp stage controls, which affect the way in which the power tubes work, with a class A and class A/B switch, and a Pentode and Triode switch. We also have the master volume, which is a global control for both of the channels. If you pull this control out you will enter a lower volume mode. Set thus, the digital side of the amp takes over more than the analogue side to produce your tone, and as you turn the volume up, the analogue side then takes over more than the digital side.
It's an interesting way to mix analogue and digital processing to produce its tones and the digital side of things comes into play even further when you get to the DT50's four voicings, which are described as USA clean, British crunch, British chime, and Modern high gain. This section makes use of analogue component switching as well as digital signal processing, or DSP. When each voicing is selected, the HD modelling adjusts to create the desired selected sound. The analogue side of the amp, meanwhile, reconfigures to mirror a traditional amp set up for that sound; pretty impressive stuff!
On top of this we can select between class A and class A/B, reconfiguring the power amp section, Class A is more responsive and breaks up quicker, while class A/B offers more head room and is more powerful. You can also select between Pentode and Triode changing the operation of the power tubes, with Pentode being big, loud and bright, while Triode is lower in volume and more vintage sounding. You can mix and match any combination and as you can see and hear in our video demo, customise your amp into many different configurations. Both the class A and class A/B and Pentode and Triode controls adjust analogue components and are completely independent of the DSP.
Frankly, trying to put all this down in written words is a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately, we have a video that might help...!
In use the amp responded just like a traditional boutique amp, producing glassy clean tones, and warm, thick, vintage British crunch, to full throttle high gain modern lead tones. I have to admit I was surprised at how good this amp is, as my previous experiences of modelling amps has been that they can tend to be a little flat and one dimensional. This, on the other hand, really is a great amplifier and Line 6 really seems to have got it right, with the correct blend of analogue and DSP.
On top of all this, the amp has a great look, with a vintage grill cloth, thick vinyl covering, and a leather handle. The amp feels expensive and well made. In my opinion it would stage up to any live or studio situation.