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My thoughts and impressions of the MX5 after a weekend of use coming from 5 months of Line 6 Helix LT use.
I really enjoy how the Helix sounds first and foremost. It is well documented as one of the best in its class and the HX modelling certainly is some of the best, whether it is the Helix floor/rack, LT, stomp or even Pod Go. For me, the main turn off, as primarily a home player, was its overall usability. That’s not to say it was particularly difficult, it just had moments where it wasn’t intuitive, and if you don’t use HX Edit on a computer or laptop, can be a bit of a faff to build rigs from the ground up. Of course with enough perseverance you can get the hang of it on the board but generally, HX Edit was my go to way of creating rigs.
It’s size also didn’t really suit as a home user with kids, it’s a large unit and on the odd occasion I did take it out for jam sessions, it’s very bulky and whilst more portable than a traditional amplifier, was still just a large unit to take out for a couple hours.
The solution was obvious, as someone who really enjoys the HX modelling, the general interface of Line 6, and who didn’t need all the various long effects chains and routing of the bigger Helix models, the Pod Go was surely the ideal replacement. Compact, lightweight, uses HX modelling, easier to use on the unit itself but still has a edit app on Windows. A bit more straightforward for a home user like me. It’s limited on DSP but you kind of have to expect that on a cheaper unit, shoudn’t be an issue. Easy, sorted, right?
I had never really given a thought to Headrush until I was researching FX units whilst waiting on the funds from the sale of my Helix. I came across the GigBoard and thought, hey sounds cool, like the idea of the touch screen and such, bit disappointing that it doesn’t have an expression pedal and I left it there, as at £500, was also considerably more expensive than the Pod Go which was £360 at a few places but generally around £420.
A week or so later, HeadRush announce the MX5, and then the next day, it releases. It took my attention straight away, a compact unit, with a touchscreen, expression pedal, good I/O on the back for a user like me, and, crucially in the fight against the Pod Go, the full DSP that the GigBoard and the PedalBoard both enjoy. Sounds too good to be truealmost, especially as it weighs in at virtually the same price as the Pod Go (£429 at time of writing). Well my mind was made, despite having never experienced a HeadRush product, I went with my gut, drove to PMT Norwich after work and purchased 1 of the 2 they had in for launch. First MX5 buyer in the UK? Quite possibly.
So, what convinced me? Why the MX5 over the Pod Go that I had comfortably decided on a few weeks prior.
Firstly, as mentioned, it can utilise the same DSP as the bigger HeadRush products, this is a huge advantage over the Pod Go which is quite limited in its signal path and DSP. Giving you effectively 4 customisable blocks as things like the amp, cab, EQ, wah, volume and FX loop are part of the chain and can’t be altered. Now fair enough, for most people, 4 blocks is fine, an overdrive/distortion, modulation, reverb and delay and you’re good. But there are times when I need more than that, not to mention, the DSP hungry stuff can still be limited as soon as you choose something. With the MX5, I have been able to create surprisingly complex paths without hitting the DSP limit. There’s 11 blocks, assume that 2 will be your amp and cab, that leaves 9 for everything else. I could create a dual amp and cab rig, with every block full, using some quite DSP heavy items such as ambient reverb, fancy delay, and a multitude of other effects to max out the blocks, and even as I put the 11th one in, it still wasn’t limiting what I could put in (other than a 3rd amp/cab). So the MX5 completely beats the Pod Go when it comes to this aspect.
Another thing with this signal path thing, they both have loopers, however, the Pod Go requires you to use one of your blocks for the looper, whereas the MX5 has what I would call an ‘always on’ looper, it is always there, you can use it in any rig and even switch between rigs while looping. This isn’t possible on the Pod Go unless you create a set list of your own rigs that all have a looper and even then it can still trip out. This is a huge plus point for the MX5, particularly for those who like to use loopers.