Review: Line 6 Catalyst guitar amps

Lyrics by Peter Hodgson

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Some digital amps aim to make you forget you’re even playing a digital amp. Others seem to want to make you think of nothing else, constantly reminding you of their endless modeling possibilities. The Line 6 Catalyst seems to fall into both categories. It’s not overloaded with more amp models than you’ll ever use, but if you dig a little below the surface you’ll find that it can do a lot more than it first appears.

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The Catalyst series is made up of three amps: the Catalyst 60 and Catalyst 100 are 60- and 100-watt combos each with a single 12-inch speaker, while the Catalyst 200 is a 200-watt, 2×12 combo . The line is quite affordable despite using technology from the primo HX line, and the idea is not to give you a Helix modeler in an amp, but to present six carefully selected and original-voiced channels (Clean , Boutique, Chime, Crunch, Dynamic, and Hi Gain) and each amp has its own switchable boost specially designed to get the most out of it.

The layout of the controls is fairly standard: there are knobs for bass, mid, treble, presence, gain and master volume, as well as controls for the amp and effects sections, as well as a tempo button that also serves as a tuner. Any digital amp worth its salt also has built-in effects, and the Catalyst has a lot more than the control panel suggests: there’s a dedicated reverb section with six reverb types (Spring, Hall, Chamber, Plate and two Line 6 originals) plus six delays, six modulations and six pitch effects, adjacent to but separate from the reverb.

For delay, the options are Simple Delay, Vintage Delay, Transistor Tape, Adriatic Delay, Dual Delay, and Ducking Delay. The modulation options are PlastiChorus, Optical Trem, Script Mod Phaser, Gray Flanger, Ubiquitous Vibe and Rotary. And the pitch options are Bass Octaver, Growler, Pitch Harmony, Pitch Shift, Tycoctavia Fuzz and Synth String. There’s also a noise gate and – understand – switchable artificial hum if you find yourself missing the idiosyncrasies of tube amps.

There’s an XLR output with three selectable booth emulations and a whole bunch of virtual mic options, and you can access a whole bunch of settings on your desktop by connecting via USB and running the Catalyst Edit software, where you’ll find controls for sag, bias, advanced effects editing (including selection of pre- or post-preamp slots for effect and reverb blocks). And there’s power scaling, allowing you to switch between multiple power amp output levels to suit your environment.

Two amp types and their settings can be saved as presets A and B, and switched between using the Catalyst’s A/B switch or a footswitch (and you can save up to six A /B).

There’s also MIDI control and an effects loop, the return socket of which can be configured either as a loop return or as a power amp input for use as a powered speaker. (You could probably have a lot of fun using a pair of Catalysts as powered speakers in a wet/dry/wet rig too).

Alright, so that’s the features, how it goes ring?

Cared for. It sounds very good. That is to say, it’s extremely responsive to your playing dynamics and you’ll find it a very satisfying playing experience in that respect, but sonically it’s more like hearing a guitar sound fully mastered. , rather than the way a tube amp usually needs it. more sophistication at the mixer to sound that way. It’s as if your sound emerges completely ready to sit in a mix, tight in the low end, not too shrill in the high end, and that’s really great. But hey, if you want more of a tube amp experience, selectable hum is there in the Catalyst Edit software!

Catalyst seems to lean towards clean, cutting edge amps, with only Crunch and of course Hi Gain covering your distortion needs. But there’s so much flexibility hidden in this digital brain that you’ll be able to dial in whatever you need, especially from the highly adaptable Hi Gain channel. I plugged in my headless 7-string Kiesel Vader and was immediately impressed with the clarity and punch of the low notes and chords, and the dynamic sensitivity of the main tones.

The closest sound I can compare him to is Australian progressive virtuoso Plini; these sounds beautifully rich in the mids and smooth in the highs that follow perfectly. Clean, dirt-edge sounds are also perfectly adaptable and responsive to changes in pick attack, neck phrasing, and pickup selection, and the Dynamic Channel is even more boutique-friendly than the Boutique Channel. This amp is equally user-friendly with my Strat, Les Paul, and my 12-string electric Tele, and if you’re a blues or country player, you’ll especially like the cutting edge tones.

And all this at a very affordable price. And with 60, 100, and 200 watt options, there’s a catalyst for every situation. The 200 is the most flexible as it can hit bigger gig levels as well as sensible volumes at home, while the 60 is more of a home amp that can handle a rehearsal or a jam but then that XLR output the makes it useful for live situations too.

Go to line 6 for more information. For local inquiries, contact Yamaha Music Australia.

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