Line 6 Spider Valve MkII 112 – review

Valve tone combined with modelling power.

Line 6 is a name unanimous with modelling technology, and with people using their gear in studios all over the world they are quite a big name in the music world. There are still plenty of musicians who disregard them though because they feel that when it comes to great tone, it can only come from “proper” valve amps and quality analogue stomp boxes.

So to go to the next level with their line-up Line 6 teamed up with famed amp guru Reinhold Bogner to create a true crossover of modern modelling technology with traditional valve amp tone. The result of this was the Line 6 Spider Valve series. I received the Mk II Spider Valve 112 to review, thanks to Line 6 and Jemsite.

The Spider Valve MkII 112 model is a 40 watt 1×12 combo which comes with 2 6L6 power tubes, and 2 12AX7 preamp tubes. Line 6 have fitted the MkII Spider Valve with 16 different amp models,  and a plethora of effects. I wont list them all here though.

Line 6 have certainly built a nice solid chassis and cabinet for the Spider Valve MkII. All materials and components appear to be of high quality that should withstand the rigours of jams, band rehearsals and gigs. You would only have to be as gentle with this as you would with any other valve amp.

I spent most of my time reviewing the Spider Valve MkII with my custom Ibanez style guitar, which has a thick Alder body, Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard, Gotoh licensed Floyd Rose tremolo, and an EMG 81-89 pickup combo.

The first thing people are going to want to know is if the Spider Valve gets that “proper” valve amp sound, i.e the wonderful compression and harmonics that valve amps are famous for. Well the answer is “yes”, but there are a few caveats.

If you are wanting to play a Spider Valve MkII at home without annoying the neighbours you are not going to be able to take advantage of the valve goodness. The presence knob can be adjusted to give the amp a bit more of a crisp feel, but it is still going to sound like there is a blanket over the speaker.

In order to make use of the 2 6L6 power tubes, and get the party started you really need to get this amp really loud. And I don’t mean “annoy the others in the house, and have the people next door wondering if you have the radio turned right up” loud, I mean the “so loud you are going to have the townsfolk at your door with pitchforks and burning torches” loud!

That’s right, this amp is not going to be the easiest to get those really sweet valve tones out of at home, it really is a stage ready combo, and even then it will have volume on tap. It is definitely usable at bedroom levels, but I don’t really know if one could justify the purchase if all they were doing was playing at home.

Ideally Line 6 should either fit an attenuator to the amp which allows the ability to drop the volume to acceptable levels while still getting the valves heated up, or even better, have the 1×12 combo’s wattage dropped to something a little more manageable. 15 watts would probably be great for home, but still have enough juice on tap to jam with buddies, and play gigs.

In saying that when you can get the amp cranked up, and have your patches set up you will find that the amp’s tuned three-quarter closed-back cabinet design and Celestion Vintage 30 speaker give you plenty of power and low end thump, whilst giving you the mids to have your guitar cut through the mix, and the highs to top it all off.

Talking about setting patches up, the Spider Valve can be a tricky beast to operate. Dialling in your basic amp tone isn’t too difficult, and thankfully Line 6 saw fit to add in a “Manual” mode which can be switched on so setting the amp tone, drive and channel volume is just like dialling in a regular amp. You have a wide array of classic amp models, and some Line 6 originals to choose from, so you be able to find at least one amp model that suits your tastes.

I didn’t want to focus on whether or not the models based on real amps sounded completely authentic to the real thing, but more if they sounded great by themselves.  I decided to try and dial in a selection of clean and dirty tones ranging from shimmering cleans to gritty classic rock tones, heavy chunk, and all out extreme metal gain. I was able to find an amp model that suited each of these types of tones to my satisfaction.

Setting up your effects will be a little bit trickier. There are three knobs to help you select effects types. They do not offer you much in the way of control just from the knobs themselves, just the ability to select whatever the three basic effects types are on each knob, and to adjust the intensity of the effect.

To really control the effects to their full potential you need to utilise the “Presets” knob. Once you press down on the knob, and follow the arrows on the LED screen you will be able to navigate the effects and amp settings using the Presets knob in conjunction with the four way arrow controller to its left.

Once you have got a grasp of how the amp models and effects work you will probably want to save some patches. Line 6 give you 128 user settings patches, which are broken up into banks of four. Saving a patch is easy enough, you scroll using the Presets knob to the number you want, and then hold down either the A, B, C, or D buttons. Once you do this the LED will show the patch name in quotes with a flashing cursor. Adjust the name if you want, and then hit the corresponding button you wish to save the patch to.

There is a fantastic collection off effects at your disposal with the Spider Valve. I find it very unlikely that a user would not be able to find the effects they are looking for. The only downside is that you cannot set up multiples of similar effects on the one patch (i.e. an analogue delay setting for solos, and a digital delay for atmospheric effects). Line 6 also saw fit to add in a noise gate and noise reduction capability for when you are running tonnes of gain, and you want to quiet down the amp noise when not playing, etc.

The quality of built in effects is quite reasonable. Tone snobs may find them a bit less dynamic than nice stomp box effects, but most will find them perfect for the job, especially seeing as purchasing all of the pedals the Spider Valve effects are mimicking would be an incredibly expensive task.

Another handy feature of the Spider Valve is the 14 second sound-on-sound looper function. Simple loops such as this can be really handy when you are writing new music, and are working on multiple guitar parts, or just wanting to practice solo improvisation over a riff. The issue though is that the looper function is really only useful if you have a foot controller to utilise it.

And on the subject of the foot controller, one glaring omission from the Spider Valve amp package is a foot controller to harness all of the Spider Valves power. Unfortunately you cannot really take full control of the amp without one. I really do believe that Line 6 should have provided at least a basic controller that could perhaps at least control the basics of the amp.

The Spider Valve can also be controlled from your computer via a USB cable using Line 6’s own software. You can modify your patches on an easy to operate pc interface, and back them up, or share with friends, or the Line 6 community. I really do believe that the USB functionality should have been built in to the amp itself though, seeing as a foot controller does not come with the amp.

Thankfully I was sent the top of the line FBV MkII Shortboard to test the Spider Valve with. It enables the user not just to control the patch banks, but also turn the associated effects on and off in each bank, set loops with the loop function, volume or wah pedal, and an inbuilt chromatic tuner. It also enables you to boost the volume for your solos by stepping on a function switch.

If you would like to use your existing stomp boxes, or even a different preamp or processor, Line 6 have added an effects loop of sorts to the Spider Valve for this very task. I tested out my AMT Electronics SS-20 2.5 channel valve preamp pedal in the loop, and found that the Line 6 power section complimented the AMT electronics unit nicely. It retained the great tones available from the SS-20, and provided plenty of stage volume, and headroom to spare for clean tones.

I also set up the pedals I typically have in the effects loop of my Blackstar HT-5 to see how the Spider Valve would cope with me just using it essentially as a single channel amp. It handled my pedals quite well, with them sounding pretty much just as they did through my regular rig.

Line 6 have also provided MIDI connectivity for using your own MIDI controllers, and an XLR output for direct connection for recording purposes, or direct to PA for live performances. Unfortunately I am unable to test these features.

Overall Line 6 and Reinhold Bogner have done a very commendable job of blending traditional valve amp tone with modern modelling technology. I found the Line 6 MkII Spider Valve 112 to be an extremely good amplifier for those who are after a wide array of tones. It’s perfect for stage use, but at home you are most probably not going to be able to turn the amp up loud enough to really take advantage of the Bogner designed valve section.

If you are someone who is after one or two amp tones and utilises very few effects the Spider Valve is probably a bit overkill for your application.

It is however the perfect amp for someone playing in a covers band who needs many different sounds as possible, but doesn’t want to lug around tonnes of gear to replicate the tones of the songs they are covering. It is also perfect for someone playing originals who wants a few different amp tones, and a large array of effects on tap.

If this sounds like you then you should really go try out the MkII Spider Valve as soon as possible.

A special thanks must go out to Alan at Jemsite, and Line 6 for sending me out the Spider Valve MkII 112. It was provided as part of Jemsite’s review program. My original Jemsite review can be found here.

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The following demo is a song I’ve been writing sans vocals called “Forget Everything You Heard”. All guitars recorded on the amber high gain amp model. Please excuse my occasional out of time playing and slightly missed chords. This is a basic demo I laid down to show the vocalist and new drummer the musical ideas I had for the song.

The guitar parts were recorded using an Audio Technica condenser microphone hooked up to a USB to XLR cable for direct to PC recording. The mic was on a slight angle, pointing to the centre of the speaker cone.

The only editing on the PC was adjusting the mix levels, no touching up has been done.

The intro shows the models versatility, with the guitar’s volume control rolled down for a slightly dirty tone. The digital delay effect is in use here.

The during the main riff in the beginning before the verse the left channel is using the Jet Flanger effect.

During the verse parts the right channel octave guitar part is using the sine chorus effect.

The tapped lead in the breakdown is the digital delay again.

The bass guitar in the song is not actually a bass guitar, but the guitar on the amber clean amp model with the pitch glide effect set to an octave down to simulate a bass guitar.

Forget Everything You Heard full.mp3

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