NAD: Line 6 Catalyst 60

Clifdawg

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So I posted earlier that I'm now Marshall-less, and here I am on a Marshall forum, posting about a portable digital amplifier, so clearly I enjoyed the punishment and wanted more (nah, you guys were pretty cool about it). But hey, maybe you're interested in this amp! I was, so I got one.

First things first - this is a legitimately good-looking amp. It's about the size of a Blues Junior or a DSL20. It's a lightweight, open-back MDF combo. I think the text on the panel isn't totally white - maybe a slight gold tint to it? Could just be the light but it looks really classy. Handle has nice chrome caps on the end; rubber handle feels sturdy and snaps flat when not in use. Easy to carry, too - about 25 pounds.

Turn it on and - well, it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect a Katana competitor to be - somehow very simple and yet curiously obtuse all at the same time. There's no good way to make an amp have a million sounds in it with the control scheme of a typical two-channel tube amp - someone should tell both Boss and Line 6...

But does it sound good? I only got it into the 1/2-watt mode because that's the living situation I'm currently in, but I think, used as "just an amp," the Line 6 really excels here. I plugged up my Epiphone Les Paul Special with P90s because it would cover a lot of tonal ground and really, there's not a bad sound to be found. The Katana suffers from everything sounding exactly like the Katana - very mid-focused and boxy, although punchy and powerful - even if using external pedals or modelers. The Catalyst sounds like it provides a lot more lows and highs, and more importantly, none of the models sound like a recording of another amp - it actually sounds like the amp itself is creating the sound. That's huge, in my opinion.

Another surprising thing is that, while inexpensive amps tend to focus on providing huge super-cleans and tight high gain metal, the Catalyst really lives in the low-to-mid gain category. Yes, there's the "clean," which is clean all the way through the gain knob, and yes, there's the "high gain," which provides all the chugs you want, but "Boutique, Chime, Crunch, and Dynamic" all provide varying degrees of gain that go from "just on the edge of breakup" to "smooth, saturated crunch." Of those, I really kinda dig the "chime" and "dynamic" settings the best. Also, each has a "boost" that's tailored specifically to the amp model, but the only one I really liked was the boost for the Dynamic setting. All you plexi fans out there (which is probably all of you) would probably much prefer this to the much boxier and gainier Katana.

Is it all sunshine and roses? Nope. In fact, I already identified one extremely disappointing issue - there's just the slightest delay between swapping channels. I don't know if it's a DSP issue and I must clarify I'm using a standard 2-button footswitch instead of the Catalyst-branded one (because they were out of stock), but it's just a typical TRS two-button switch, so I doubt that has anything at all to do with it. Also, let's be frank - the effects section on this thing is horrendous. It has 6 delays, 6 modulations, 6 pitch shifters, and 6 reverbs on board, all of which are accessed by various button and knob combinations so convoluted that you might as well be inputting cheat codes from NES games on it. The funny thing is that the effects largely sound fantastic, so to bury them in inscrutable two-handed button mashings and knob twistings is either in direct violation of the Catalyst's supposed design ethos or else is a seriously missed opportunity to make something intuitive-yet-powerful. Seriously, Line 6 - go buy a Blackstar ID:Core series amp and play with the effects section for ten seconds and go back to the drawing table with the Catalyst.

Neither of these issues really deters me, because while the switching delay is a major bummer, I plan to use this with my NUX MG30 for effects, so that part is not an issue. Also, let's just take a moment to appreciate that a 300-dollar amp has this much I&O. Cab and mic simulated XLR out with ground/lift switch. FX Loop with a return jack that can be swapped to "power amp in" so the master volume will work with a modeler plugged in. Aux in, headphone out, USB out. You have to jump to the 100 or 200 to get full MIDI control, if that's something you're into.

All in all, I'm excited to dive further into it. It's really pretty ideal for my current living situation, and the sounds are genuinely great. I love Yamaha products, and it seems that they've really got Line 6 on a path for success. If they could just work out the switching delay and the stupid effects section or ditch it entirely, it'd be darn near perfect. Not bad for a cheap amp that you can actually buy right now. :dude:
 

Bull Rock

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Hey man, I have a little blackstar idcore 10. It's fantastic, literally. It's volume is only good for like talking level but it's tone is stellar in all.modes. I'm thinking about grabbing the newish silverline which is the new render of thr ID series when one comes up local used. I bet the 100 watt 2x12 would be awesome. I put up a shabby montrose cover in the cellar using the little I'd core. Sounds great in the mix.
 

Bull Rock

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And HNAD!

Honestly tubes are great and I love the hellbilly Dt50 but unless it's wound out in a band setting I go for the idcore at home mostly. I really don't care What name or tubes no tubes...if it sounds good that's all that matters.
 

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