Around the turn of the millennium, the Line 6 Pod (a.k.a., the “kidney bean”) revolutionized guitar effects. Whether you were in a garage band or in the studio, the desktop effects unit was an essential piece of kit. That’s a tough act to follow, yet somehow Line 6 kept the innovation coming with the ToneCore series.
If you’re a Line 6 aficionado, you’ll know that following on the heels of the Pod the company hit another homerun with their DL series of floor-based effects modelers. Hands down, the biggest success in the lineup was the DL4 Delay, which remains in active production more than two decades after its original release. In a way, the ToneCore line had both some great pedigree in the Pod and DL series yet also had some huge shoes to fill.
Like any pedal lineup, there’s bound to be a mixed reception. There are the instant faves and the regrettable mistakes. Yet there are many reasons why the ToneCore roster reached well ahead of its time and deserves a places in stompbox stardom.
Here’s a top five list of how Line 6 was ahead of the curve with ToneCore.
Number one: They brought dsp (“digital signal processing”) to the masses through the Developers Kit. If you’ve seen ToneCore pedals, you’ll know they all have a bold signature color atop a brushed metal enclosure. Yet to encourage players and tinkerers to develop their own sounds using the basic dsp platform of the ToneCore series, Line 6 released a dull gray pedal that included basic info on how to unlock the backdoor of the software to begin creating your own sounds. In fact, some early boutique pedal makers cut their teeth on this platform, such as Red Panda.
Number two: They ventured into an exchangeable cartridge system for versatility. Whether you realized it or not, the ToneCore series is module-based. The controls are essentially a cartridge (think 8-bit Nintendo) that can be removed and dropped into any ToneCore chassis. This meant you could swap out sounds on the fly and cultivate a collection of effects without having to buy an entirely new pedal.
Number three: They pioneered tap tempo in a simple stomp box format. The Line 6 Echo Park pedal packs a huge delay punch and offers up essentially the same range of delay sounds as its big brother, the DL4. Yet unlike the DL4, it has a single footswitch. Line 6, however, was one of the earliest companies to innovate the footswitch so it also doubled as a tap tempo switch.
Number four: They pressed into fresh territory with forward-thinking algorithms. While there are stellar sounds to be had on almost all offerings of the ToneCore catalogue, the Verbzilla is one of my personal favorites. The reverbs found within range from classic to otherworldly, with the “Cave” setting leaving you feeling as if you’ve lost yourself somewhere in between. While today we’re used to complex ambient settings on digital pedals, Line 6 was already thinking in this direction decades ago by layering combos of reverb and delay within the Verbzilla.
Number five: They were gutsy enough to include the Uber Metal in the lineup. Don’t get me wrong, there are a long list of reasons why the ToneCore line was ahead of its time, but there are also a number of reasons why it was time bound. In a market where nearly every pedal maker had a stompbox with “metal” in the title, Line 6 had to try and satisfy the masses. While the Uber Metal isn’t exactly a cult classic, it shows the company was walking that fine line of pressing ahead yet knowing their audience.