While modeling combos are getting more and more popular, they still really can’t compete with the versatility afforded by standalone profilers and modelers like the Kemper series, Axe FX, and of course, the Line 6 Helix range. The thing is, unless you have access to a PA or full front of house rig, you’re still going to need a way to convert your amp signal to sound.
The biggest issue facing guitarists using digital rigs (until recently) was the fact that the majority of speakers are built to sound a certain way by emphasizing certain frequencies. In an analog setup this is totally desirable, but when you’re using a digital simulation of a real amp, it won’t sound anywhere close to the real thing if you’re running it through traditional speakers. Enter the FRFR cabinet.
FRFR cabinets like the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus deliver a completely neutral response, adding no additional flavor to the output whatsoever. This results in the best possible tone from your modeling amp or profiler.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we spent some time with the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus to see how it fared!
Our good friends at Sweetwater were kind enough to provide us with a demo model of the Powercab, though as ever, they asked for no editorial input and our opinions in this review are entirely our own.
So does the PowerCab get you the “amp in the room” feeling that modeling amp users are chasing? Let’s find out.
Who is this for?
The Powercab 112 Plus is for anyone looking to amplify their modeler or profiling unit, be it a Kemper, Axe FX, Helix, or even a smaller unit like the HX Stomp. At this price point, it’s clear that it’s geared mostly towards gigging musicians, but it’s not just the price that gave us this indication – it’s also the gig ready volume it’s capable of putting out. The integrated 250 watt power amp also means there’s also a generous amount of headroom for pedal players.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus is probably the most handsome FRFR rig on the market at the moment in our humble opinion. Unlike the Headrush FRFR, the Powercab looks exactly like a traditional combo amp rather than a PA speaker, which is definitely a big part of the appeal.
It’s rated to 250 watts, which is more than enough for almost any conceivable gig situation, and despite the huge power, it weighs in at a pretty modest 33lb. There’s no way you could get this kind of power from a tube amp, or even a solid state unit while keeping the weight so low.
All of the connectivity and control features are situated at the back of the cabinet, which does help to keep the aesthetics sleek. Being the Plus model, our test unit did have USB interface capability in addition to the usual array of features from the standard Powercab, including combo XLR and TRS inputs, as well as MIDI in/out, XLR out, ground/low cut switches, and of course, the Line 6 Link in/out.
As you can probably infer from the model name, the Powercab 112 Plus has a single 12” speaker, which is the perfect pairing for this powerful unit. The main speaker was a collaboration between Line 6 and speaker powerhouse, Eminence, but there was also a 1” Celestion driver within the housing – an interesting amalgamation of brands!
Another feature the Plus boasts over the base model is the inclusion of a small LCD display. This makes switching between models much easier, and the illuminated knob means you can make quick adjustments in any lighting conditions.
Unlike standard FRFR PA style rigs, the Powercab 112 Plus actually features an array of settings. There’s a true flat output to give you the best possible representation of your modeler’s tone, there are 6 different speaker emulations based on some popular traditional speakers, and there is an IR mode for you to upload your own speaker impulse responses.
Performance / Sound
After having heard rumors about the standard Powercab 112 being a little difficult to navigate, we were definitely pleased to have the Plus. The LCD display made moving through the settings really easy, and made it abundantly clear which setting we had engaged at any given time.
We of course started in Flat mode and let rip with the Kemper. With flat mode engaged, the speaker emulation is completely disabled, so we got zero coloration from the Powercab. The authenticity of the profiles through this speaker was insane.
We got clear, crisp tones, and truly authentic sounds. If anybody tells you they can tell the difference between a profiler or modeler and a tube amp, make sure you ask them to try and tell you again when using a Powercab! We’ve had tons of high end tube amps through the doors at KGR, and to us, when you’ve got a speaker like this in the mix, all bets are off.
With the speaker emulations engaged we had a bit of fun trying to compare them with the equivalent IRs from our Kemper, and we were pleasantly surprised. In a mix there’s no way you’d be able to spot the difference between the emulations from the Powercab, IRs from a profiler or modeler, or the real thing. The emulated speakers are called Vintage, Green, Cream, Jarvis, Bayou, and Essex. From those names, it should be fairly obvious what each is trying to copy!
There were a further 128 slots for uploading our own IRs, which was nice to have, but truthfully, it’s not overly necessary these days. The vast majority of modelers, even cheap ones like the Donner Arena 2000 feature their own amp and speaker models, and even IR slots, and offer much more control over the settings on their interfaces.
As far as the overall playing experience was concerned, though, we really loved the Powercab. Not only was it physically like a regular amp, but in reality we found that the way it played gave us a pretty authentic feel, too. It moved vast quantities of air, and was incredibly loud, but gave us a ton of control at all volumes. The headroom was vast, but as we were able to dial in the tone almost entirely on the amp, this meant we still got some great sounds at lower volumes, too.
Final thoughts on the Line 6 PowerCab 112 Plus
Overall, the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus was a real joy to play, and will likely replace our venerable Headrush FRFR as our go to FRFR speaker rig for modeling amps. It looks fantastic, it’s beautifully made, and the array of features was far beyond what we’ve come to expect of active speakers of this type.
The sound quality was exceptional, and it really is gig ready right out of the box. If you’re enjoying the digital revolution and you’re looking to advance from plugging in through a DAW to play to audiences, we think this is the way to go.