02 Jul Line 6 Pod HD500x vs. Ground Control Pro as a MIDI Foot Controller
I’ve had the Ground Control Pro for a few years now. Since my last band dissolved a few years ago, it’s mainly been sitting in a pedalboard case going unused. But now that I’m starting to get involved in a new project, I needed something to control my guitar amp and effects live.
I’ve been using Amplitube primarily for the past few years for home recording, and although I have used it to play out, I wanted a physical setup (guitar amp and something for effects). So I picked up the Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 36 (which actually has MIDI capability built-in) and for effects, I decided to go with the Line 6 POD HD500x pedalboard. This effects board has all the effects I’ll need.
Both units, the Ground Control Pro (GCP) and the POD HD500x can be used as standalone MIDI foot controllers. I actually used to use the GCP to control a POD HD PRO (which is essentially the rack version of the 500x) in my old band. I would run the HD PRO into a power amp and from the power amp into a guitar cabinet. I then used the GCP to change presets.
Although I like the GCP (it’s built like a tank), I’ll likely be getting rid of it soon since I don’t need both units. So I figured I’d do a comparison of the two units first. Of course, the GCP doesn’t have built-in effects, so I’ll be comparing the MIDI functionality and the features of the two when it comes to using each as a MIDI foot controller. So hopefully, this post will help you make a decision if you’re looking for something to control your amp and/or effects.
So without rambling anymore, let’s get to it:
Build Quality of the Ground Control Pro & Line 6 HD500x
Honestly, both units are built very well. Both are made from metal and the GCP especially is very hefty. It certainly feels road ready and feels like it can stand up to some abuse.
The 500x is build solid too, though. It features upgraded pedal switches over the previous 500 model.
Features of the GCP & 500x
Now, it’s a little hard to compare the two units because of course, one has built-in effecst while the other is simply a MIDI controller.
The GCP has a power input, one MIDI IN and one MIDI OUT, and two 1/4″ inputs for expression pedals. These input jacks allow you to connect an expression pedal to control things like volume or panning, a Wah pedal, or other variables of an effect (like delay time or feedback amount). With the GCP, you can connect two expression pedals of your choosing. Examples would include the Ernieball Ball Volume Pedal or the Boss FV-500H.
The problem I found with using expression pedals with the GCP is that you’re limited in the way you activate them. If you have one expression pedal plugged into one of the inputs on the GCP, in order to use it, you either need to have the effect you want to control on all the time (that would mean having the effect turned on in all your presets that you want to use with the expression pedal) or use one of the pedal switches to activate the effect and then move to the expression pedal.
Both of these scenarios pose a problem when using a Wah effect. Of course, you don’t want a Wah effect turned on all the time as it will distort your sound. But, also needing to hit a switch on the pedalboard and then move your foot to the expression pedal to control the wah causes you to have to do a foot dance when you want to use a Wah effect.
The workaround for this is to use something like the Mission Engineering SP-1. This expression pedal has a switch for turning on the pedal, much like a real Wah pedal. To use it with the GCP, you need to use both pedal inputs. One input is to switch the pedal on or off while the other is used to transfer the value of the pedal position.
This works but then you can only use one expression pedal with the GCP.
The 500x comes with an expression pedal built into the pedal board.
The pedal has a button to activate and switch between two pedals (the pedal can basically be used as two separate pedals). If you want to use your own expression pedal, there is an input jack on the 500x for this purpose. This pedal would then take the place of the Expression 2 pedal.
This is nice because you don’t have to spend extra money on an expression pedal if you don’t want to.
This pedal works great and I actually prefer this setup to the GCP.
Now let’s talk about programming the two units…
Programming the Units
The GCP is a fairly complex controller that can be used to control multiple devices. You can actually control up to 8 devices with the GCP. Programming the unit can be a challenge and is a bit more robust. The unit is built to be programmed on the controller only. There is no program by Voodoo Labs (the manufacturer of the GCP) to program presets on your computer.
There is a website that will allow you to program presets, but I personally haven’t used it so I can speak to its use.
However, while programming on the unit can be a bit time consuming, you have plenty of options for different setups. You can control up to 8 devices and name each on the GCP so you know which is what, you can decide whether you’d like to turn the Expression Pedal 1 and 2 on per each preset, and you can change the speed of scrolling through presets.
You can also decide whether you like to use 10 switches to call presets or to use the bottom 4 to call presets and the top 8 for pedal switches.
For example, you can elect to have the top 8 pedal switches to be used to turn on or off an effect on a given preset. You can then elect to have these switches turn the effect on or off at the hit of the switch or by hitting and holding the switch. For instance, you could hit the switch and keep your foot on the switch to keep an effect on, then once you lift your foot the effect would turn off.
Lastly, Voodoo Labs also makes the GCX Switcher which is a rackmount piece of gear that allows you to use physical pedals with the GCP. With this setup, you could use your favorite pedals with MIDI to turn on or off a group of pedals with a preset.
So there is plenty of flexibility for different setups with the GCP.
The 500x has both the option to program the unit on the actual pedal board itself or to use software. This makes editing presets much easier.
To assign MIDI on the foot controller itself, you would push and hold the “MOVE” button until the MIDI Assign screen comes up:
Here, you can set each of the footswitches and their MIDI assignment. You can elect to use CC or Program Changes. So you could use each footswitch to change a preset on another device using a Program Change.
Setting this up is easier on the computer, however. Especially if you have a lot of presets to create. The Line 6 HD500x has software called “Edit” that you can use to edit presets.
You’ll see in the screenshots below, that there is a tab titled “Controllers” where you can set MIDI assignment.
Here, you can set whether you’d like to use CC messages:
Or, Program Change messages:
You can also set the expression foot pedal to control an effect variable if you like:
In conclusion, as much as I like the GCP (and it’s served me well the past few years), I actually think the 500x is a better choice even if just used strictly as a MIDI Foot Controller. Throw in the added effects and the value is even higher.
While the GCP is built like a tank and is relatively easy to use, the 500x offers more flexibility and the ability to edit presets on the computer is huge. It really saves a lot of time and offers so much more flexibility.