At first glance the Line6 Pocket Pod Express is very cute, stylish, and shiny. Almost toy-like. It’s the smallest and most basic of the Pod lineup and is designed to be simple, easy to use and portable but it’s looks can be deceiving, for they hide quite an exceptional sounding and flexible piece of kit that’s an absolute must-have for any practicing guitarist.
Without needing to consult the manual, or look further than the front of the Pocket Pod Express for usage instructions, I loaded it up with the 4 AAA batteries supplied and plugged in my guitar. As with many active guitars/basses, plugging in your guitar is the ‘on’ switch so you’ve got to remember to unplug after you’re done or you’ll drain the batteries. Unlike such instruments, the Pocket Pod Express is adorned with a red indicator light that helps remind you to do so. That said, the batteries didn’t run out on me during my lengthy testing session. Batteries are one side of the Pocket Pod Express’s portability, it’s also got a belt clip if you’re inclined to wander about the house playing or simply want to keep everything tidy if you prefer to stand and play rather than sit.
If batteries aren’t your thing (and, let’s face it, AAA batteries are a crime toward humanity) then the Pocket Pod Express will also run from a mains adaptor, although this will restrict the level of your enthusiastic guitar posing.
Everything is very easy to use, the controls are simple with a satisfying weight to them that just makes you feel like you’re using something that’s not quite a much of a toy as it looks. Twisting each individual control triggers different effects and levels, and there are 3 controls available. These allow you to pick from Clean, Twang, Crunch, Rock and Metal gain/distortion effects, either Chorus, Tremolo or Flange effects and Delay, Spring or Hall reverb/delay effects, letting you play anything from a clean and mellow unaffected melody to an impressive-sounding metal lead. The combinations of secondary effects are limited, so you cannot have chorus and flange at the same time, but the number of possible combinations for a device this small and portable is quite impressive.
The sound quality is excellent and the noise you can get out of your guitar straight into your headphones is phenomenal, far, far beyond the quality and variety of a simple practice amp. This makes the Pocket Pod Express an exceptionally fun toy for aspiring guitarists. If you’re a partner frequently assaulted with the noise from such a practice amp, then consider the Pocket Pod Express and a good pair of headphones as a sound birthday or Christmas present for your musically-inclined other half.
If excellent sound and laughable ease of use aren’t enough for you, then it might interest you to know (if you haven’t guessed by the pictures) that the Pocket Pod Express also comes with an integrated guitar tuner. Dedicated LEDs let you know if you’re too far on the sharp or flat side of the note you’re trying to hit, this is not quite as nifty as the “analogue” needle you get on most tuners, but still functional and a lot less fuss than unplugging your guitar, digging up your tuner, plugging it in… you get the point.
My main gripes with the Pocket Pod Express are that you cannot control the level of effects, only their depth of effect, so the flange or echo might be sound a bit too strong against the clean guitar. Likewise the excellent feature that allows you to plug in an MP3 player and play along is great, however, the volume is ‘twitchy’ and is difficult to level up against the MP3 player. Of course, this is a minor flaw as you can adjust the volume of your MP3 player to suit, but this can be a nuisance to do repeatedly when switching between clean/distorted effects.
I really cannot recommend the Pocket Pod Express enough as an excellent practice tool. You can comfortably sit in your room playing along to songs through headphones without disturbing the peace and sound every-bit like you’re standing in front of an awesome speaker stack. It also works a treat with a Bass guitar, too.
The Pocket Pod Express really is rather good! (Good enough for a coveted Really Rather Good Award, perhaps? -Ed) Although neither I, nor Line 6, accept any responsibility for carpet related injuries caused by over-enthusiastic power slides.