Line 6 FBV Shortboard MkII – review
If you have a Line 6 Spider IV or Spider Valve MkII series amplifier you are going to be hard pressed taking full advantage of the power of the amp without some sort of foot controller. The Line 6 FBV Shortboard MkII foot controller is Line 6’s top of the line, Rolls Royce of the FBV series, and it will certainly give you complete control of almost everything your Line 6 amp can achieve when performing.
There are 13 foot-switches to change patches, effects within patches, set tap tempos, engage the built-in chromatic tuner, set and activate loops, boost volume, and more. There is also a full-sized volume/wah pedal which acts as a volume pedal, until you stomp down to activate the toe switch.
Line 6 have installed an over-sized back-lit LCD where you can read all of the patch information, and see the chromatic tuner when it is activated.
The FBV series foot controllers connect to your Line 6 FBV-compatible amp via a RJ-45 plug (Ethernet network cable type), which seems a little odd for music gear. Take into account that the Line 6 modelling gear runs pretty much like a computer though, and then it makes a bit more sense.
It’s pretty easy to understand what most of the foot-switches are for on the FBV Shortboard. There are 4 switches at the bottom of it labelled “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” which are obviously for switching through the patches in a bank. On the left hand side of the pedal there are up and down arrow labelled switches which are for selecting patch banks. Along the middle are four switches to turn on or off effects banks, and in the bottom right hand corner there is a switch for tap tempo controls and if you hold it down it will activate the built-in chromatic tuner. Up the top are two “Function” switches. Out of the box one will enable you to switch a pre-recorded loop on or off, and the other can give a volume boost for solos and the like. I’m sure they can be further programmed too. On the right hand side is the volume/wah pedal.
Effect switching is nice and quick, with no noticeable delay when switching the effects on and off. However, when switching patches there is a noticeable leg where the sound actually cuts out for a moment.This is a bit of a shame, as you may want to have the ability to switch patches during a song, but with the volume cut it’s probably not so useful.
A USB port is located on the back of the FBV Shortboard, which enables you to hook your amp up to your PC, download firmware updates, and manage patches and pedal settings via Line 6 software available on their website.
The build of the FBV Shortboard MkII is definitely high quality, where a sturdy metal chassis houses solid metal foot-switches and pedal. It all feels as though it could easily survive many rough gigs, and come out with only a few scratches on the chassis. The foot-switches and pedal have a nice solid feel when operating them, and don’t feel like they would wear out very quickly.
Operating your amp via the FBV Shortboard is fairly simple, but I do have a few problems with it. While the patch and effects switches are on separate lines on the board, and they are tiered, it is still extremely easy to accidentally hit the patch switches rather than the effects switches. If I have this problem while playing in my studio sitting down, it would be even more cumbersome if I were on stage performing. There is nothing worse than accidentally triggering the wrong effect or changing to the wrong patch during a song.
I believe at the very least that the effects switches should have been put on the bottom tier so there is less chance of changing patches while playing. The other option is re-engineering the Shortboard chassis, and making the tiers bigger higher so there is less chance of bumping the patch switches. Either way I think the best option would be to have the effects on the lower line at the end of the board.
Line 6 have FBV software for editing and saving patches on your PC. I was hoping that there may be a way through the software to change the default switch commands, but I was unable to locate that functionality. I Definitely think that a software update to add that ability would be worthwhile, but if it is already there I would love some instructions on how to make these changes.
I’d like to state though, that this might just be a problem for me. Many other users may have no difficulty at all with the layout.
The volume/wax pedal is a nice solid pedal which inspires confidence for those playing on stage. The toe-switch to activate the wah component is nice and solid, and operating the pedal has a nice smooth feel with a reasonable amount of resistance, ensuring that you shouldn’t overshoot your position on the pedals range unless you are being extremely overzealous with the amount of force you operate the pedal with.
The LCD screen is nice and easy to read for the most part. The only real issue I have with it is when using the chromatic tuner. The characters used to represent the traditional needle layout are a little too abstract, and make it a little hard to follow.
If you are looking to work on song writing, or just improvise some soloing over a riff the 14 second loop function is perfect for your needs. Hitting the “Function 2” switch activates the loop mode, and pressing the “Tap” button will start recording your guitar part. Hit the Tap switch again and the loop is done.
To add more parts to the loop all that needs to be done is hold down the Tap switch and let go when you are ready to record the next part, and press again when done. Any more layers and then it’s just rinse and repeat.
This is a fairly simple process, And stopping and wiping the loop isn’t too difficult either. Just hit the Tap switch to stop the loop, and press it again to activate, or hold down the Tap switch to clear it. You can even go back into your previously recorded loop after leaving the loop function by switching Function 2 back on and pressing the Tap switch.
Overall I believe that Line 6 have almost got it right with the FBV Shortboard MkII. It carries all of the functionality that you could want and need, and the build quality is second to none. If the Effects and bank switching controls had been reversed it would be perfect. Unfortunately the way the control board is currently laid out is just a bit awkward for stage use. If the volume didn’t drop out when switching patches you could probably switch between patches rather than turn effects on and off, and it would make up for the difficulties of cleanly switching effects. As it stands though, it’s just a little too much of a gamble.
Again, this may just be a problem for me. I’d highly recommend that any prospective buyers should not be put off by my statements, and actually go try the FBV Shortboard MkII themselves. You may find that it works perfectly for you.
A special thanks must go out to Alan at Jemsite, and Line 6 for sending me out the FBV Shortboard MkII. It was provided as part of Jemsite’s review program. My original Jemsite review can be found here.
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