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The rumors started popping up a while ago - the digital modeling experts at Line 6 were up to something with tube amp guru/boutique genius Reinhold Bogner – something revolutionary. When the curtain was pulled aside it revealed a new series of amps called Spider Valve, which take Line 6’s breakthrough modeling technology and tie it to those magical glowing glass bottles, creating a synergy of sound where the whole equals much more than the sum of its parts.

The Spider Valve series combines twelve Line 6 amp models rebuilt from the ground up to fully integrate with a Bogner-designed power section featuring a pair of 12AX7 and dual 6L6/5881 tubes for the creamy, warm, responsive feel and direct impact for which great tube amps are known.

With street prices starting under $700, these amps are a great way to get the live tube tone that you’ve always dreamed of and the juicy recorded tone that you need all in one package.

We wanted to know more about these new amps and how they were developed, so we sent Guitar Center VP of Advertising, Glen Peiser and Creative Director of Advertising, Joey Brasler to talk to Line 6 founder, Marcus Ryle, Reinhold Bogner, and Darrell Smith, head of amp development for Line 6 and started off by asking about what led up to the decision to build this amp


GC
We're here at Line 6 headquarters with Marcus Ryle, Reinhold Bogner, Darrell Smith and Barry Mitchell. Question one, fellers: Line 6...

Reinhold Bogner
I don't know the answer.

GC
You'll have your questions, Reinhold. Line 6 is the leader in digital products for guitar…

Marcus Ryle
Thank you.

GC
… you guys figured out how to model what tubes do. What led up to the decision to build a tube-powered amplifier?

Marcus Ryle
Well, I think the first thing is: what modeling is about is tone, and that's been our pursuit for the past dozen years – every aspect of tone - the tubes, the other analog circuitry, the digital circuitry, and so on… effects, speakers, microphones. But, in a guitar amp, there's another factor involved, which is the delivery of that tone. And, if you are recording, or playing at soft levels, or you are able to capture your sound, your tone that you want accurately and play it through a PA or through a nice powered solid-state amp and get the tone you want, that's fine. Those are all different ways you can deliver that tone, but a tube amplifier has a particular response and feel for the musician – for the guitar player – that it does a little differently that what a solid-state amp does. There's incredible peak power in a tube amp, and response and feel that may not make a difference to the listener in the audience – certainly won't make a difference if you're really listening to it through a PA –but for the guitarist, who is looking for that kind of feel, nothing can deliver that like a real tube amplifier. So, we're not about modeling, or about digital, or about tubes. We're about tone – the pursuit of tone – and we're about trying to give musicians the very best tools they can have to do the music they do, so we didn't see any problem with saying, “Hey, well, what if we can give guitar players the response and impact that a tube power amp does with tubes?” That's okay, too. So the very next step, of course, is why not go to one of the leading experts in how to do that well, because we all know there's plenty of tube amps out there and they don't all sound great. And that led us to Reinhold Bogner. Too long an answer?

GC
No. Perfect. Line 6 has been building amps that have been in use by players and big artists for, what, 12 years?

Marcus Ryle
Yup, 12 years.

GC
Is the idea of building a tube amp in addition to…

Marcus Ryle
It's in addition to. I mean, Line 6 is about choices. It's not just choices in tone, it's choices in how you want to deliver that tone. There're plenty of professional artists in touring bands who don't use guitar amps at all anymore. They use a PODxt Live plugged right into the PA, in-ear monitors, have no stage volume, and for them, that's the ideal setup. There's nothing going on onstage and they can completely control what they do. Solid-state amplifiers, there's tons of advantages in what those can deliver, and we've gone out of our way to make our solid-state amps sound better, we feel, than a typical solid-state amp – have sufficient power and design to have it do what it does best, and for many players, especially in the high-gain sounds, seems as though they may even prefer a solid-state amp. A lot of players like what a tube amp does, and they've very good reason to, because it's a great way to deliver tone. so, this is about choices. Now you have even more choices of how to get your tone.

GC
The first tube-powered amps from Line 6 are Spiders. Why?

Darrell Smith
Interesting. I'll field that one. Well, first of all, Spider connects to our customers. It is the easiest Line 6 amplifier to approach. And it's really the amp that's boiled down to the essentials of what makes modeling – the kind of versatility and flexibility that many players appreciate about modeling. All the essential stuff is there. So, while we could have gone with other systems, this way was what we thought was the right way to kind of dip the toe in the pool – really invite valve players who are coming from a one or two-channel situation to come and taste what modeling can do for them using our cleanest approach, we feel. The other thing, too, is that from a technology perspective, the modeling technology that goes into Spider has produced the Spider III series, which by all accounts has been quite successful, and for a certain kind of player it's response and tone is quite great. So, I felt that by showing all the technology that we'd put into Spider III to Reinhold and sort of letting him develop a valve system that would complement and support and draw the best out of that, and give it all the attributes of a great vintage valve amp, like sag, and the complexity of distortion thanks to cascading tube stages, and all of the great shit that he puts into his design. That, on top of the Spider [front end], has netted us something that's beyond… just about every artist who's come and played it – it's beyond their expectations. And it also gives us a path for us to continue to go down and look at new technologies and other ways [to do things] and pursue other products at a later date. So, for us it was just the right blend of easy to use, the right palette of tones, and it gets us to a very great price point, it creates a great value situation for our customers, too.

Marcus Ryle
It's important to note that while it is based on the Spider platform, it's much more than just saying “Well, slap a Spider with a Bogner tube amp” because there was a great deal of cooperation involved for these two halves to really work together well, so the models were tweaked to best fit with this system, and Reinhold spent many late nights tweaking his circuitry as well as working with sound design to get the best possible combination from the two platforms.

GC
Let's dig a little deeper into it. How did you come to choose Reinhold over others? Were others considered? Tell that story.

Reinhold Bogner
Lawyers. Lots of lawyers (laughter).

GC
Well, first, lets get the Line 6 perceptions. We have questions that key to all these things, so if we can get the Line 6 perspective on how you chose Reinhold, then we have some questions for Reinhold separately.

Marcus Ryle
From my perspective, it was serendipitous. I mean, there are people out there who have committed their lives to designing great tube amps, right? Some of those folks are also extremely religious about tube amps. And I would say that, to an extreme, some people are really more about tubes than they are about tone – than they are about what it means to the musician, and so on.
So, to start, before we knew Reinhold, what we knew of were these incredible amplifiers. You know, there were Line 6 employees that owned Bogner amps, swore by 'em – just these amazing sounding amplifiers, right? So when we were working on the Vetta and we were trying to do a whole new generation of modeling amps, we thought, “Boy, it would really be great to model some Bogners as well – they're amazing sounding amps.” And Reinhold actually lent us some amps and showed such amazing openness and awareness of technology and advances – sharing this pursuit of tone – that he seemed to immediately get why we do the things that we do. That it's not a slap in the face to tube amps, it's actually our attempt to provide as much respect as possible to the heritage of all this great tone. To meet Reinhold and realize he was so open about technology was really exciting. Step forward several years, when we started thinking about pursuing something like this, not only was Reinhold a first choice, you know, the top of our list of who we'd like to work with to do this, but we found that when we talked with our Line 6 folks and Europe and elsewhere and asked, "if we could partner with a great tube designer, what do you think would be really good for us to partner with?" and it was universal. They said, "Well, if you could work with Reinhold, that would be amazing. That just sounds like a great combination." So, you know, everything aligned – having one of the greatest tube designers, having him be a great guy, having him be open to technology and wanting to explore where things could go further in combining these worlds – we just couldn't have asked for more.

Darrell Smith
I'll add just a couple more little bits and pieces. We did speak to a number of folks, and like Marcus said, there's plenty of other guys out there. I mean, Reinhold has, I think, cut through a lot of the bullshit of the industry, right? He’s brought design where others really just cloaked themselves in mystery – "You can never know why it is that my stuff sounds good and I'm gonna goop it" or whatever – and Reinhold, from my perspective, takes a craftsmanship/design approach, uses his ears, and gets the right result. For us, as an engineering driven company, it's a much more compatible approach than working with somebody who just says: "Here it is!" and then, if it wasn't right, would go, “well…”

Reinhold Bogner
What do you mean it isn't right?

Darrell Smith
Yeah, "What do you mean it isn't right?" (laughter) So that was an important component to me, that he had a reputation for making, you know, a circuit board layout amp sound amazing, whereas a ton of the industry still wants to argue that it's gotta be cotton wrapped wires or something, right? If you design it right, you can make it sound right, and that was a huge thing. Frankly, you know, there's market dynamics, as Marcus has said. I think Bogner is a brand name that has equal weight in Europe as well as in the U.S. and being that we're a global company, that was important. So, I think, in retrospect, it's hard to say that there was even a second choice, because any other choice could have been a disaster. I'm personally just feeling pleased with the outcome, and more than that, how we got there – the relationship of getting there was tremendous. And now, I think, Reinhold needs to answer the same question, and we'll see if he says the same thing. (laughter)

GC
Reinhold, why did you do it?

Reinhold Bogner
Why did I do it? Well, I mean for me it was a nice challenge in the first place – it was inspiring to work on something new. I've felt for many years now that since anybody who chooses can open up an amp shop and get parts now online, and of which… you know, when I started you had to really research for yourself, [things like] how the transformers are made, what makes the difference, and nowadays you can just order pretty much everything by numbers. So, it's kind of like the design of the tube amplifier hasn't done much in the last five years. So I felt like this is a new challenge, a new way of approaching the tone quest for getting the player a different palette, or like a different color. I'm not saying it's going to replace everything, but it definitely has advantages, which I saw after have friends play PODs at home and like that. I was surprised a lot of times at how good the stuff actually sounded on recordings. A lot of times I wouldn't know the difference, you know, if they didn't tell me this was recorded with a POD. I wouldn't say, "Hey, this sounds like crap" or something. I was amazed. I know that there was definitely potential in the modeling. I didn't have too much experience with it myself. I mean, I had a POD and I used it for recording, but I had limited experience with it. I saw the potential of it and I was surprised, amazed actually, by how far it had gotten. I thought this was a nice step in a new direction, you know, in bringing something new to the customer, like great flexibility, great tone, great price point, and so that was the amazing thing – the inspiring thing for me. The main thing was that it was an inspiring product or idea. That was the main driving force, then, because I was really bored. (laughter) It's like the guitar market is very conservative and I've tried to do really different designs, visually and sound-wise, and I've felt like they were not really appreciated. The bass player market seems to be a little more open to outlandish ideas, so I was a little bit… disappointed, you know, and I thought that this was a great way of maybe bringing something to the market that might get accepted and actually trying to do something new. Like trying to accomplish great tone in a different way.

GC
The Bogner amps are always backordered, so I wouldn't think you'd be disappointed by the sales of the amps. Maybe just by the acceptance of your new ideas. Is that what you're saying?

Reinhold Bogner
Well, yeah, what I'm saying is that I'd like to go even further. Bogner amps, I keep them, not by choice, but let's say by experience, of what I did in the past. I figure that if you go too futuristic or too extreme one direction, the amp might not sell. People are pretty conservative, not just sound-wise, but looks-wise – everything, you know? And that's kind of… I like new things. I like to try new things, different things.

GC
How do you think the high-end community that sells and plays your Bogner amps will view the new partnership?

Reinhold Bogner
Oh, there's going to be the tube-sniffing (laughter). They're probably going to sell their Bogners (laughter). I don't know. It's hard to say. I think there's going to be some guys who are going to say, like, "You're a whore. You sold yourself. How could you do this?" And there are some that are going to appreciate it, you know? I mean, you have to see what do you get in this price bracket? What is the competition? You know you cannot compare a Dumble to a Line 6 Spider. It makes no sense. What do you get for a grand or something, you know? I think that it is very definitely a very valuable addition to what is already in the market. It does some things nothing else will do. And that's why I think it's totally justified and anybody who has an objective view of the thing has to admit that. Of course, there will be always people who have this opinion, "There's no tube, there's no dadada, it can't be good." But most people, let's face it, most people don't step up to the challenge and do a blindfolded test. You tell me. You sit down. You tell me if this is tube or not, it's this or this or this. Most people don't have the guts to do that because they know they can't hear it. We know that. I know that with so many artists, even famous players, you sit down with them and it's "Oh no, I don't like this" so you go around and you show them some stuff, change it for 20 minutes, three hours – "Now I like it. This is great." It's like how we're starting, you know? (laughter) So I know that a lot of people can be deceived. I mean, even I can be deceived a lot of times. You know you wake up one morning and it sounds great, next day not. It's very subjective, but the truth is that most people talk too much and write too many messages on the message boards and they don't play enough and they don't listen enough. That's what I have to say to that.

Marcus Ryle
Amen. (laughter)

Reinhold Bogner
Hand-wired, whatever. I'm not putting hand-wired stuff down, you can make it sound great, but you can make it sound crappy, same as PC board stuff. But in the end, many of those ways can lead to great tone – modeling, hand-soldered, PC board. If it's done right, they all have advantages and disadvantages, you know, but there's definitely musical outcomes you can accomplish with any of those. They're going to be different. I not saying a PC board sounds exactly like a hand-wired amp, but, I mean, what's the point? They'll all sound slightly different but it will be a musical coloration. Who wants to have blue all day long? You need some red, you need some pink. So now we offer the pink (laughter). I have to say, there is some advantage for some of the high-gain stuff, which I'm known for a lot, the signal to noise ratio is much better on a digital amp. You don't have as much fizz going on in high-gain, you know, that's a huge advantage. Besides, of course, flexibility, which is really hard to do. To reach this kind of flexibility is almost impossible to do in the analog domain. You’d have to find a warehouse and fill it up with electronics to accomplish anything like this kind of palette of tones.

Marcus Ryle
Can I add two things to your original...

Reinhold Bogner
No, you can't. I have the final word.

GC
It's in the contract.

Marcus Ryle
To people that own great Bogner amps, the first thing I'd say is that nothing that's happened here changes at all how great your amp sounds. If you're happy with your Bogner amp – if you're happy with whatever amp you own – that's great. If you want to pursue some new tones – you want to go further – that's why we develop new products, but my hat's off to Reinhold for wanting to be able to continue to explore and expand. And a bunch of people, you know, got upset when Bob Dylan went electric, too, you know? But what he was doing is, he was evolving. He's going to continue to change and do things, not just do the same thing, forever, right? And some people might get upset when people want to continue to do new things and expand and grow, but I think the majority of the people are going to be the beneficiaries of it, because we can continue to grow together and expand the tonal horizon and what's available for musicians.

Reinhold Bogner
I think it's the future. I mean, to be realistic, the modeling is already very good. It's going to get better in the future. The technology's moving so fast. Tubes are going to get harder to get, they're a pain in the ass, you know (laughter). You have to change them and… I think if you’re realistic about it, 5-10 years from now, I mean, it's going to be the way to go. There will be always somebody who will have a tube amp, like vintage cars, of course. But the majority of musicians, just for the serviceability and reasons like this, I mean, you have to be blind to not see it, I think. Because it's not a question about whether you can get great tone or not, anymore. It's more like… Yeah, let's go on. (laughter)

GC
Your answers are leading us to the next question, as if by magic. Please explain more about the architecture of the new amps.

Darrell Smith
There's two ways to look at it. I'll give you both and you can kind of choose which one you want and roll it. One way is to think of it is that traditionally this kind of outcome has been found by taking something like a PODxt Live and jacking it into the front of, say, a Hot Rod Deluxe and what's happening in that situation is the digital modeler is providing all the tone and variety. It's going in to the front end of the Deluxe, which has got a valve buffer, tone stacks, phase splitter, and away you go. The tone stack of the Hot Rod, or pretty much any clean channel, is something that we've gone to great extent to guess what it's doing and undo that, because it's tone-shaping our modeling in a way that takes it away from its full potential to really generate a range of tone.
So we've done a bunch of studies on the top 50 amps over the years, and got suggestions and settings from our customers that can set some parameters, that kind of fixes some eq with some more eq. But the more you try and try and fix problems with more eq, the more distance you create from a direct connection with that sound. So, one of the ways to think about this is that it’s a very similar configuration to a modeling front end that's providing the variety of tone and flexibility, but into a complete valve amp with the tone stack removed, so we're not fighting and trying to compensate for something. I mean, that's really how we approached the project, but I think we got something more than that. What ended up evolving is Reinhold would go through the sort of revisions that would just pull more life out of it, right? You'd get this far and there'd be like an apparition of what it could be, and then he'd go back and solder some shit up, and he'd come back and it would come into better focus. I think where we landed is that we ended up stripping back the modeling in a lot of ways so that it focuses on shaping the tone, nailing the tone stack, shaping the kind of character of the distortion and sort of the gain, and then we handed it off to Reinhold and he kinda takes care of the second half of the preamp, which in my mind is the cascading distortion, the interaction – it hits the phase splitter, hits the power amp, the sag, all the kind of feel, the chaos, what's genius about a vintage valve amp – he's kind of handling that, and that's one part preamp, one part power amp. So unlike having a sort of a generic tube amp, and it's just doing its thing, making it louder, we've developed a sort of a symbiotic relationship where the models are completely voiced and designed with Reinhold’s amplifier in mind, and, working with Jeff, our sound designer, we went through many different cuts at it. Well, we would do some stuff and we would lose the love – we would lose all that Reinhold had done – and we had to go back to the drawing board and draw that out again, and just found this delicate balance where we're getting the variety of tone that somebody might expect, but very much getting the kind of character and depth of tone that you'd only get from great valve amp design.

GC
Reinhold, what were some of the challenges of nailing the two together?

Reinhold Bogner
Well, it's kind of like a chicken and an egg thing, you know? You don't have the chicken and then you don't have the egg. It was like you can't start with the tube amp, and you can't start with the modeling, actually you have to start both amps at the same time, and then see what the shortcoming is, adjust one, readjust the other one, etc… (laughter). We couldn't just start with the POD, let's say, and add the perfect power amp, it was like, first let's see what's the limitation of the modeling or what's the limitation of the tube amp, and how can we keep delivering great clean tone and great high-gain tone at the same time without changing a whole lot, switching back and forth. So that was the real challenge, trying to find the musical balance, that didn't challenge the BOM [bill of materials] (laughter), to keep the price point, you know, and deliver this kind of broad palette of tones. Adjusting from one side to the other, back and forth, that was the challenge, I think, because we didn't have one thing to tell us "this is what it is" and then you just have to add this, like you set the intervals to the same time. It was quite challenging sometimes because you didn't know what to go by. There was no fixed thing.

GC
I can also imagine the difficulty, with all the different sounds and settings, having them sound equally great, individually.

Reinhold Bogner
Yeah, you know, in a versatile amp like this, the problem you run into is the balance. It's like if you play a real Fender Champ right next to a 100-watt Marshall stack, you go, like, "What?" So now you expect the Spider Valve to have all those things in there, and you switch between them all and in some way you don't want to have one model sound like a telephone, but in reality, it actually sounds like a telephone and the levels will be quite different. So you have to sometimes make a little bit of a compromise, so that when you switch between the sounds it doesn't go like "What? Is something wrong with it?" It's just because you come from a huge thing to a little thing. So that was somewhat challenging to find a balance that's still true to the model, but also gives you somewhat of a feel of not being totally divorced, like when you switch your sound. Which in reality should you do it, the experience would be more like that. Right? Like when you switch from your little Silvertone to your 100 watt Marshall stack, it would be quite... (laughs).

Marcus Ryle
That's another key to the whole Spider platform is it's not about trying to say, "does this model sound exactly like this specific year vintage amp model?" First and foremost, it's "does every model sound great? Is it great and fun to play?" And we have this great variety that evokes the musicality of why you might choose a particular amp or style to begin with, but the end result for every one of the models is "Is this really great sounding? Does it feel great?”

Reinhold Bogner
“Is it inspiring?”

Marcus Ryle Is it inspiring? Yeah.

Reinhold Bogner
Does it make you want to write a song with it. That's what it is, really. You know, at the end of the day, that's what counts.
Marcus Ryle
Another component of tone is the back and forth that Reinhold talked about. You know we've got the model of the tone, the great tube amp to shape and deliver that tone, but there's also the speakers, and having the three of them all work in concert, together. When Reinhold liked how well the Vintage 30s really complemented this particular setup, even though they're really more expensive speakers than you typically find in any amps in these price points, you know, we heard it and played it, and we realized that's really what the product needed.

Reinhold Bogner
Yeah, we didn't want to have a weak link in it.

Marcus Ryle
So there's great specifically chosen components – specific tubes, specific speakers in the Vintage 30s, and the careful crafting of the models and the circuitry to make the perfect blend.

GC
What tubes did you guys select?

Reinhold Bogner
We chose 6L6 military grade, it's called 5881 from Sovtek – first of all, it sounds good. It is readily available so, you know, if you need a replacement tube you can pretty much get it anywhere in the world, and it has a great track record of being very reliable. Since it's military grade, it's really long-lasting and delivers great tone at the same time, so that's what's there. The reliability was first… and the tone, you know those two decisions driving the choice of the tubes.

GC
Reinhold, describe the difference between your design process, when you design your own amps, and the team process.

Reinhold Bogner
Oh my god (laughter). Well, it was a complete upside down experience I would say. First of all, when I design a Bogner, I usually don't communicate with anybody, really, except myself. Here, there's a bunch of people, and on a weekly basis you have to have meetings and share ideas, and there's many departments involved, so everybody has to know what’s new and stuff. That was totally new to me. And, of course, there were very set parameters on this project, which I usually don't have. I usually go very free, just design a new great product, and just play with stuff until I find something I feel like, "oh, this is something new" or “this is interesting” and I don't really have a set goal most of the time. Usually something develops, I find something, like, "This is interesting. Could it sell? Is there a need for this?" Because sometimes you find something that's interesting but it's "who cares", you know? So I usually find something, and if it's marketable, I'll pursue it, but it changes many, many times. Usually if I have an idea of starting a certain project it ends up being something totally else in my line of amps. Where here it was very much set, like, "this is what it has to be." And there's of course, the whole team experience – manufacturing on a big scale brings advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages are that certain custom parts could be made which maybe I could not afford for my own line. But, yeah, it was quite shocking at times and exciting at times. It was a great learning experience, but it was challenging at times because I come from such a different approach.

GC
Have you collaborated with other companies in the past?

Reinhold Bogner
Yes. (silence)

GC
Care to share any of that?

Reinhold Bogner
Well, some are known and some I don't want to mention for many reasons.

GC
Okay. So can we talk about the amps a little bit more, like the actual lines?

Darrell Smith
Sure. The easiest way to explain it, I've found, is that it's a twelve-channel valve amp. I haven't done the count with Reinhold, but I think that if we actually tried to do all these channels in valves, we'd probably need another sixteen or so 12AX7s and hundreds of passive components. So by using the modeling front-end to focus on the parts that we did, we radically simplify and clean up and make something of this capability far more reliable. And so, basically, you've got a complete range of tone, going right from custom clean channels which are more focused on sparkly, open cleans that when you really dig into them will start to break up a little bit – give you a bit of mid-push. On each of the six channels, there are actually two variations, so the “back” clean is dialed back even more to really be dialed in for someone with a pedalboard: it's the smallest amount of character of any of the models – it's the most open. The "Twang" models are inspired by Fenders, the front one being a model of Twin, the back one being a a model of a wide-panel tweed Deluxe, so on the wide-panel, if you dime the Mid knob, you get that kind of bark – that AM radio sound that Reinhold was talking about earlier. The “Blues” amps – the front one is loosely based on a JTM45, so it's got thick, creamy bottom-end that just sort of farts out when you dig into it, but if you're throwing down a little Hendrix, it's just genius. Behind there is a model of an AC30 non-top boost, and that is a particularly successful model on the amp. I would say it goes far beyond expectations for an amp loaded with Vintage 30s, to get that kind of tone out of it. We're very happy with where that landed. The “Crunches” are both kind of British based, the front one being loosely based on the Super Bass, which was a bit of a tweak on a Super Lead. It's got a little more bottom end. The back guy is sort of our own creation, but in the space of 50-watt JMPs and 100-watt JMPs. So a little more gain, you know, it takes you right to sort of the AC/DC kind of sound you'd expect there. The “Metals” are, again, our own take on these different genres. The front “Metal” gives you the percussiveness you’d find in a Dual Rectifier with a little more Marshall-y push in the mids, so it's not quite as scoopy. The back “Metal” gets into more of a Soldano space – a little more band-pass, a little easier to play with some tremendous variety there. The “Insanes” are kind of the shred channels. They're the ones that kids tend to gravitate to, so we basically made the kid-Insane amber and adult-Insane blue. So you can go from Dimebag to Dream Theater just by turning that knob from orange to blue. And, of course, every channel has a completely unique configuration of drive, bass, mid, and treble that's native to that particular channel.
So all of that stuff is happening. Of course you have the channel volume, because on a multi-channel amp you need to be able to level all your different channels to the same output level. We've built in Spider-style effects, which we have called SmartFX in the past. So basically it gives you access to seven different effects and a fairly wide range of possibility without really getting too tweaky about it, you know? Tap tempo, tuner's built-in, reverb, some of the effects are chorus, phaser, tremolo, delay, tape echo, and the Line 6 sweep echo, because that's a fun sound. So that's the basic functionality of the product. What's new to this kind of thing is a true presence control. Our presence is in the feedback circuitry of the power amp and affects the way it's behaving. So that's something that's common on many valve amps, but implemented here particularly effectively. On top of all this, we've got the ability to store 36 channels – 36 user snapshots of the entire front panel – not the entire, but the models, eq and effects part of the front panel, as well as quick access to four sounds, which, for most people really gets them the core stuff. And then we've brought the best of the Spider library artist and song based presets on here, so there's over 300 presets written by gigging, touring and session players. This is another product where the presets were pretty much written by high-end artists that were a joy to work with and just jumped on and wanted to be a part of what we were doing. So, the presets were written by the people, for the people, and we took care of getting the modeling right. Around the back, we've got a pair of 12AX7s that we mentioned earlier, one of them providing some cascading love and the other one our phase splitter. We've got Sovtek 6L6/5881VXTs hanging out the back giving you 40 watts, both on the 2x12 and 1x12. Reinhold's built in some great little protection circuitry for us. There's a resistor in there that protects you in the event that you get drunk and forget to plug in your cabinet. By the time you sober up, a resistor will blow up and you'll have an amp minus one little resistor as opposed to minus an output transformer. We also fused the output valves, so if one of them gives up the ghost, it also won't take out the output transformer. From Line 6, you've got an FBV jack that gives you access to all our FBV foot controllers, right from 2-channel up to many, many channel, direct access to the effects, the whole nine yards. You've got a POD 2 style direct out, which is useful both on stage and, at home, you can actually drop the amp into standby – the valves are warm, but not passing audio – and you can just go right into your DAW, or your recorder, or whatever and get a POD 2 kind of experience out of the back. Of course, live on stage, that's a great direct out. And then, finally, we've got a preamp out which is the modeler out)/power amp in, which is in front of all of the valve stuff, and you can use it as a pseudo-effects loop, you can use that to cascade amps together, or you can also use the power amp in to jack in a PODxt Live and use this as your valve amp for your PODxt Live if you're a hardcore PODxt Live guy. Celestion Vintage 30, which is a big step up for us at Line 6 to get to a really great, road-proven speaker. And also, at these price points, there's really not a lot of other competition out there with Vintage 30s. We're pleased to offer a Reinhold Bogner designed amplifier, Vintage 30, and twelve channels for a mere hundred bucks more than some of our big competitors.

GC
Can you give us some of the pricing on the different amps?

Darrell Smith
I'd be happy to. The 1x12 lands at $699, the 2x12 at $829, and the head, $799? Yeah, $799. I'm already on to the next stuff, so I've really had the palette cleansed.

Darrell Smith
There are also slant and straight 4x12 cabinets– which is really exciting. So the 4x12s are all new and redesigned, loaded with Vintage 30s, as well, and they land at $699, too. So, basically, for two hundred bucks less than a Marshall 1960AV, you can get a Line 6 Vintage 30 loaded cabinet. Sounds pretty decent, you know?

Marcus Ryle
That you can partner with a 100-watt Bogner-powered head…

Darrell Smith
It's a great rig – a 100-watt tube half stack for $1499.

GC
So, will any other stuff in the Line 6 catalog going to benefit from some of this new technology?

Darrell Smith
You'd have to turn that recorder off.

GC
(Laughter)

Marcus Ryle
No, we think we're done. There's nothing more to do (laughter).

Darrell Smith
Like Reinhold said, by the time we get anything else out, tubes will be gone, anyway. (laughter)

GC
So this is a one-off, is what you're saying. (laughter)

Marcus Ryle
Obviously there's plenty of stuff to explore. I think the pursuit of tone is never done, so… I'm sure Reinhold intends to continue doing things. We intend to continue doing things.

Reinhold Bogner
I'm not sleepy. (laughter)

Darrell Smith
And ideally, we'll also do some more things together.

Reinhold Bogner
Yeah.

GC
That's great to hear.

GC
Well, let’s take that one forward. Given what we're hearing here about these new Line 6 tube-powered amps, what's the next frontier for all-digital amps with solid-state power sections? Or do you feel that the hybrid with the tube power amp section will be the future?

Darrell Smith
I'll tell you. It simply is this. As Marcus was saying earlier, it's clear that there remain preferences in the market. I think that there remains a pro-level, discerning customer who, in some situations, sees that solid-state offers him advantages, and for that guy, many of them love Vetta and many of them have found HD-147 or old Flextone HD IIs or whatever, and they swear by those amps, and by no means do I want to abandon those guys. However, there's that mid-gain, that sort of sweet sound that valve amps do so well, and that is the part of the market where we've known for some time that we really want to go to work on, amping up our game in that area, and for that customer, working with Reinhold on this amazing design has gotten us a lot closer to that place, a lot further down that road. So I think it will remain a two-pronged approach. Different strokes for different folks, you know? By no means are we planning on abandoning solid-state.

Marcus Ryle
What this does is… You know, for years, there were two types of amps, right? It was tube and solid state. Actually, for the first 25 or 30 years, there were tube amps. Then solid-state came around and you had tube and solid-state amps and there are advantages and disadvantages of both. What we've done now is taken that pie, so to speak, those two halves and sliced them again into fourths because now what you have is modeling amps as a whole other breed, and you can have modeling amps with solid-state power amps and now modeling amps with true tube power amps, which, frankly, has never been done before. I mean, hybrid is an appropriate name for it, but unfortunately, hybrid has been associated with other things people have done. There have been tube preamps with solid-state amps. There've been one-watt tube amps that then get amplified by solid-state amps to try and emulate what a tube power amp is, but there isn't an amp out there that's a true tube power amp with a modeling front end. So now there's a choice, and like I said before, this really is about choices. Solid-state, you know, the equivalent solid-state in modeling features has advantages like being a little less expensive, you never have to worry about replacing tubes, and it is a different type of sonic character. In the end, people shouldn't worry about fashion, or glass, or bits, or digital, or analog. They should use their ears and play what they like. Some people like to play Strats and some people like to play Les Pauls. One isn't right or wrong. So we're trying to give people the choices. They really do deliver different things and you need to experience it for yourself and decide what's best for you.

GC
So, do you foresee Line 6 doing an all tube amp that maybe just has digital effects?

Darrell Smith
I don't know if it really makes sense for Line 6 to do an all-tube amp. I mean, Line 6 stands for versatility, variety, and I think what would end up happening if we tried to do that, you'd get something that had 80 tubes and 500 switches and it would just be unruly. It just wouldn't make any sense. So I think that we'll stick to what we do best, which also is another equation of this, part of this we haven't talked about, you know, we could have slapped a tube amp on the back of one of our amps. It's not like it's a big secret, you know, there's schematics all over the web, right? We could have ordered up some transformers and slapped it together and rolled it out, and frankly we really felt that as Line 6, we want to stand for variety of tone, great quality tone, and our core competency is on the digital side. Bringing analog mojo, bringing the valve mojo – the non-linearity, all that kind of love, and sorting that out in the digital realm – that's what we do. So when it came to wanting to do something with a tube amp, then it made perfect sense that we would go and find somebody who was as passionate about valves as we were about digital signal processing. So this is a marriage made in heaven or hell, depending on your perspective, but it's rock and roll and both are equally valid.

Reinhold Bogner
I will still make tube amps.

Darrell Smith
Heck yeah!

Reinhold Bogner
I'm not giving up. Not yet.

GC
You know when you're giving an interview, questions get answered sometimes that lead into other questions you have. I'm sure, knowing Line 6, that you've done some comps and some thinking about how these amps will do versus other top brand, high-quality, low-cost, all-tube amps produced in China or Korea.
How do you think Spider Valve will do in the market against well-branded Chinese amps in similar price points?

Marcus Ryle
First off, where an amp is made shouldn't be a factor unless it's made poorly, sounds bad, is using inferior parts, all kinds of things like that, but you can make amplifiers, if you know about quality control and know how to design and are involving the right parts from wherever you have to get them, and in this particular case it means parts from all over the world.

Reinhold Bogner
Germany, Finland, America.

Darrell Smith
Wisconsin.

Marcus Ryle
Russia… China happens to be where the amps are assembled. We get some economy out of manufacturing in China and manufacturing in higher volume than a typical tube amplifier of this caliber gets manufactured, so that we can make it very affordable. Our personal belief is: this is an amp that's in a different class than any of those other amps in the price point, regardless of where they're built. All somebody has to do is plug in and listen, and play it and hear it, because, really, the price of these amps is really just this extra, added benefit. A lot of the artists who have come and played it, they get blown away by how it sounds, how it feels and then they're completely shocked when they hear about the price, because, to many people, it doesn't even make sense how affordable it is for what it sounds like. So you shouldn't compare amps based on what their price is. This price point will just help more people to be able to afford great tone. But you listen with your ears, and what it sounds like – that'll tell you what its real value is.

Darrell Smith
I'll just add that, on the spectrum of from how cheap can we make it to how great could we make it – with an approach that makes sense to get to this kind of price point – we took the top end. I mean, Reinhold's got Sprague orange drops and Rima caps and all sorts of little touches that generally are reserved for more expensive products. Sovtek valves, Vintage 30s – we took the approach of "let's get the right outcome, let's not just get a cheap amp. Let's not just go and try and make something cheap that says tubes because the market doesn't know anyway, and as long as it's got tubes in it they'll roll." We went for something that really sounded great. We went and found a partner in China that had valve amp experience, so it's like they just woke up one morning and we sent them some glass parts that said "Handle With Care". They know what they're doing – they've done this before. We took a very particular approach. Every component is chosen, not because we can get it cheap, but because it was the right thing to do within the outcome we were out for, so we ended up with a product that I think will exceed a lot of people's expectations at this price point. The market is also changing. American culture, everything is made overseas now, and one of the things I'm reminded of sometimes when I go to a high-end furniture place is, yeah, coffee tables actually cost $800. It just hasn't ever crossed my mind because I go to Ikea and I'm used to paying $100 for a coffee table. But a real coffee table costs $800 and I think, as musicians, we're all a little broke – a little hard up for cash – and if you're out there slogging out – a gigging guy – this becomes a chance to get a really great sounding amp with tremendous features and a lot of design and love gone into it at a price that's actually reasonable.

Marcus Ryle
One of the key differences, at the risk of us going long on this question, is that there aren't any other tube amps that offer this kind of versatility, with these effects and so on. If someone finds an affordable tube amp they love the sound of, and it's the one sound they want, they should buy it. There's nothing wrong with that at all. But this is really a different choice from those because here you really can find your tone with a much wider palette at you disposal than your typical tube amp in that price point.

Darrell Smith
And hey, if you change your mind next week or you find yourself playing in an emo band this week, and everybody dates the singer and you all break up and now you're in a metal band because you're all pissed off the next week, you just turn the knob when you get together, you know?

Reinhold Bogner
It gives you a certain amount of stability in life. (laughter)

Darrell Smith
It's the one thing that can survive your twenties.

GC
The Spider Valve amps seem to have been a less guarded secret than some Line 6 products in the past. Why?

Marcus Ryle
Okay, This was talked about earlier than release date. That's true.

GC
Right.

Marcus Ryle
From our perspective, it was something that was a very closely guarded secret through much of the discussions about how we might do this, what it might be, and all of the early development. Like with anything new we do, we want to make sure we've got something we're real excited about and see some results in the outcome before we want to just go tell the world what we're doing.

GC
Reinhold leaked it, didn't he?

Marcus Ryle
(laughs) No, he was tight-lipped. But once we had gotten over the initial design stuff and we're in the prototype stage, as Darrell said, we wanted to bring in artists, we wanted to involve other people, and it is going to start leaking out at some point, and as that started to happen, our marketing group also decided to have some fun with it as well, and be able to put some little teaser clues on the website and stuff like that. It was something that was fun to get excited about and something we wanted to share with the world.

Reinhold Bogner
I don't know about the leaking because I had an employee come to me a few weeks ago and say, "Hey Reinhold, you know I work for Guitar Center and Line 6 just came by and showed me a prototype of something and it said 'designed by Reinhold Bogner' and I said, Hey, I know that guy." I don't know about the leaking.

Darrell Smith
To the world, the leak started about a month ago, just after we got back from a German dealer trip and a couple of our German dealers...

Reinhold Bogner
Can't trust those guys. (laughter)

GC
We're really excited about this amp.

Reinhold Bogner
It's going to be nice business. (laughter)

GC
Care to share any poop about other upcoming products? (long silence)

GC
Never mind.

Reinhold Bogner
There's a new soft drink coming. (laughter)

GC
How about Guitar Hero?

Marcus Ryle
What about it?

GC
You're in the Guitar Hero video game.

Marcus Ryle
We're in Guitar Hero, indeed.

GC
We're in Guitar Hero!

Marcus Ryle
Yeah, isn't that fun?

GC
So, have we got any more to say about the Spider Valve?

Marcus Ryle
Joey likes it.

GC (Joey Brasler)
I like it. I love it!

Marcus Ryle
(laughs) That's all that needs to be said.

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