Line6 M5 Stompbox Modeller – Review

Late to the Party!

This review is rather behind the beat so to speak, but I only recently took any notice of its existence. Before I had heard of the Line6 M series, but couldn’t tell you what versions existed – I just thought that it was a huge unit with loads of footswitches (having see pictures in passing of the M13).

Browsing the forums for some information of other I ended up on the path of discovering the Line6 M5, which is loaded with all the Line6 effect models, but in a smaller box, allowing just one effect at a time. It was still way bigger than any pedal I had entertained putting on my nano board, both in physical size and in current draw (it draws about 350mA).

What got me interested was the fact that it sounded like a groovy bit of gear to have in my recording rig. It could sit in the inserts of my Onyx audio interface and I could use all sorts of effects during tracking, including the Tube Comp compressor model. Wow, a poor man’s LA2A. All other effects would be a bonus and handy if I ever wanted some unusual tone bending options when recording.

Checking Ebay, it was not long before I had snagged myself one for a bargain price and I was off and running. I haven’t recorded anything with it yet, but It has ended up on my nano board and performed admirably on stage already.

I have managed to modify my board layout to accommodate the M5 and I am now very grateful for the use of a tap-tempo footswitch – something I have come to realise is essential for me when using delay and modulation.

So I think I’ve already covered the application part of this review, so onto the juicy stuff…

Ease of Use

Very intuitive. First of all, it takes no time to understand how to actually manipulate the patches, select them and save them. The downside for me is the way you have to access the preset list. Press both switches simultaneously (why couldn’t they just make the unit narrower and by default bring the switches closer together). Also, stepping through the presets is a little fiddly when trying to do it quickly on stage. The buttons function as up & down to navigate through the list, but on-the-fly, it’s easy to go in the wrong direction and end up frantically stepping until you find your chosen preset.

It’s not a big deal though. I saved my most used presets together: A few going up from 1 and a few going down from 24 (there are 24 in total).

Sounds

This is very subjective of course, but I would imagine most working musicians who require a fully featured, but simple delay to be very satisfied with the sound of the delay models. Maybe a Strymon is of a higher-quality sound, but when playing rock ‘n’ roll I wonder how necessary a Strymon Timeline really is. For me it’s not necessary and for the money I’d say the Line6 models, especially the “Analog Echo” (Deluxe Memory Man I believe) are great. Rhythmic delays are easy to do with the subdivision setting. I have a straight 1/4 note delay, a dotted 1/8 and a straight 1/8 note, which covers everything from quick echos, through rhythmic soundscapes to long trailing delays for leads. For a slap-type echo I actually use one of the reverb models called “Echo”.

The modulations are pretty good, the best to my ears being the optical tremolo and the Rotary Drum (nails that Rolling Stones’ “Let it Loose” sound) and with the rotary speed on slow, it creates a superb chorus effect.  The “Script Phase” (MXR Phase 90) model is good too. I have a Mooer Ninety Orange phaser, which is a Phase 90 model. This is pretty much the same sound as the Mooer on the “modern” setting to my ears.

The pitch glider (used for octave down) is great for single note funky lead lines and riffs as is the Tron up (an envelope filter). Now we’re getting into effects that I am not likely to use much if at all live, but it’s good to know I can cover some interesting ground if I’m playing with a funk band.

Contrary to what a lot of reviewers say, I actually like the wah models, my favourite being “Chrome” (Vox Wah), but I don’t really use it because I already have a dedicated wah on my board. If I were able to separate the signal path order of the M5’s wah and the other effects I use I would probably use it because my current wah (Hotone Soul Press) can be switched for use as an expression pedal, so it would still serve as a wah and also for other expression-pedal changes that I have programmed into my delays and mods (things like mix,repeats, intensity etc)

One thing I was disappointed by: Why can’t the subdivision parameter on the delays be affected by the expression pedal. I do play a song occasionally where I’d like to easy switch between a rhythmic delay and a straight one, with a swipe of the expression pedal it would be so easy, but unfortunately, just not possible. Oh well, there are still plenty of boxes ticked for me to keep using the Line6 M5 for now.

I haven’t really spent much time with the distortion or compressor models because I already have my trusty, mini pedals taking care of all my gain needs. From what I’ve played with already, I liked the Big Muff model (although I never really get on that well with fuzz) and the Tube overdrive model is very nice sounding too. I will probably attempt to find a good use for one of the EQ models for some application or other.

Summary

All in all a very good value unit. If you want lots of available effects on your board, but don’t need them all available at the same time then the M5 is a great option. It does many cool things and for a pretty good price. If you are more interested in a selection of delays or modulation only then I would probably recommend the pedals below, which I haven’t tested yet, but hope to do so in the near future.

 Cheaper, Possible Alternatives to the Line6 M5

nux-mod-force nux-time-force donner-white-wizard donner-black-arts
UPDATE
I am awaiting the arrival of a Tech21 MIDI Moose footswitch to directly select presets on the fly – 5 presets directly available – and also a footswitch to emulate the two extreme positions of an expression pedal in order to have 2 instantly selectable settings for each preset too. That will surely be using the M5 to its fullest potential, so it looks like it’ll require a slightly bigger pedalboard. It looks like I may end up playing a “synth” solo at my next gig after all!

4 Replies to “Line6 M5 Stompbox Modeller – Review”

  1. Hi. Have you tried using the Soul Press as an expression with the M5? I am thinking of buying one exclusively as an expression with my M9, but I’m not sure if it is compatible.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Christian. yes it did work when I had it. However, once it developed the problem with the pot (I assume it was the pot), it didn’t work properly, resulting in erratic changes to the effects parameters.

      If it’s working as normal though it’ll work fine with the M5, plug ‘n’ play.

    1. Hi.
      Yes I believe you can use the soul press for that purpose. The Soul Press can be set to work as an expression pedal, so yes.
      I can’t remember, but I think I tried it out myself when I had both and if I recall correctly it worked. I didn’t find the M5 very good with the expression pedal for some of the effects though. For example: For octave pitching I wasn’t able to go a full octave down and up from bottom to top of the expression pedal sweep. It was always a little bit off on wither end, which was a bit of a pain.

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