Line 6 has done wonderful things with its HX sound design; just take a look at the Helix line of multi effects and amp modelling pedal technology that has attracted touring pros and enthusiasts alike. So the prospect of taking some of that HX magic and streamlining it into guitar amps with the new Line 6 Catalyst line is exciting to us.
As with the Helix family, there's multiple models as access points so players don't get priced out. And there's not an LCD screen in sight.
The new Catalyst series of combo amps looks like its balancing the kind of control layout traditional amp users are familiar with alongside its modelling technology; control knobs rather than menu screens. Could this become the massively popular Boss Katana's range's serious competition?
The series comprises the Catalyst 200 2x12, Catalyst 100 and Catalyst 60 1x12 combo. All dual-channel amps with the 60 aimed at home use, recording and small venues.
With reverb being the most crucial effect onboard an amp, Line 6 has responded with six types drawing from the impressive HX roster: Spring, Hall, Chamber, Plate, and two new Line 6 original reverbs 'that provide shimmering spatial effects'.
There are also six types of Delay, Modulation, and Pitch effects to select too. All using acclaimed Line 6 HX and Legacy effects. There's also tap tempo for the time-based effects using the amps' Tap/Tuner button.
“Our mission was to provide a new twist on the traditional 2-channel amplifier,” says Rick Gagliano, Line 6 Product Manager. “Our award-winning sound design team created six original amp voicings, any two of which may be loaded simultaneously and instantly switched between. And, of course, we also included a nice selection of Line 6 reverbs and other effects to sweeten the package.”
And this idea of combining HX essentials with amps could be a sweet proposition indeed. But those six original amp models that Gagliano refers to will be the essential test of how well these amps connect with players.
Again, these were created using the HX sound design Helix users will be familiar with. Line 6 states that these amplifier types range from 'pristine clean to classic crunch to modern high-gain' – as we'd expect. What's especially promising is each model includes a switchable Boost designed specifically to complement the individual amp type. Useful.
Any two of these amp types can be saved to an Catalyst combo's A and B presets, with players able to switch between them on the amp's A/B switch or an optional LFS2 footswitch (sold separately). Up to six A/B amplifier combos can be saved into the amp's memory for rapid recall.
Onboard controls include the familar Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Gain, and Master volume knobs. The dedicated Boost and Reverb sections have their own controls, alongside Effects level. No menu screens required for any of that.
Around the back, Catalyst amps offer an effects loop, Power Amp inputs for bypassing the preamp and using the amps as powered speakers for your modelling unit.
In addition, there's XLR direct output for recording and connecting to the soundboard live, MIDI In on the Catalyst 200 and 100 only, and a 4/4-channel audio interface, MIDI, with Mac/PC connectivity via USB.
A power attenuator also provides a choice of half-power, 0.5-watts, or Mute. There's also headphone and aux inputs but no Bluetooth.
Line 6's commitment to software experience and ongoing firmware updates for its Helix line has consistently impressed us, and we're hoping the Catalyst Edit application for desktop and mobile devices continues that great work. Players will be able to go deeper with editing the amplifier and effects parameters and reassigning the second button of the SFS2 footswitch if they purchase one.
The Catalyst range is available now with SRPs as follows: Catalyst 60: £342 / $299, Catalyst 100: £465 / $399, Catalyst 200: £603 / $499 and LFS2 footswitch: £44.