Every time I sit down at my crowded little desk to write I am accompanied faithfully by one of my oldest and most prized possessions. When I was around 12 years old I was given my first electric guitar package for a birthday. While the cable, strap, picks, pitch pipe and even the axe itself have all fallen foul of the intervening years, my first ten-watt practice amp remains plugged into the wall at all times. Although practically worthless as amps go, it has always been my go-to for quick access to ideas or a cheeky shred before leaving the house. I’ve even used its terribly low headroom to record a number of times as it lends a ferocious amount of colour to guitar, bass and snare alike. Loosed of many of the trimmings of its more powerful counterparts yet not at all limited in doing so, the Line 6 Spider V 20 seems custom built for exactly this purpose.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, practice amps are a grossly underrated yet doggedly useful part of everyday musical life. Long gone are the days when you were limited to a cookie cutter squawk box in the search for something to plonk scales and modes through. Line 6 employs a team of engineers and designers who seem to be experts at packing as many options as possible into one convenient housing and for the most part this is what the company as a whole is known for. Like them or lump them, they have lead the charge in digital imitations for just about as long as that has been an idea worth pursuing. As such it makes absolute sense that the smallest amp in their flagship Spider V range sounds the way it does, worthy of a place amongst its bigger siblings.
As I said above, it is essentially a diet version of the rest of the Spider menu. Where the others have over a hundred presets on board, the V 20 has 16 plus three stomp box models opening up each palette, and at 20-watts RMS it is more than enough to fill your bedroom stadium. It is compatible with the Spider V Remote app just like the others, operating on both Android and Apple iOS platforms, and can even be used as a recording interface via the Cubase LE DAW included in the housing.
All of this adds up to a pretty powerful little unit, not to mention the extensive and undeniably versatile Line 6 catalogue of models that it cherry picks its tonality from. The 8” speaker has a little bit of a limitation in that you’re not going to be able to hear too much sub bass rumbling your gizzards, but it is more than equipped to handle every riff in your library should you find time in your busy schedule to tear into it.
I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader, and pretend that the Spider V 20 is the be all and end all of tone mining perfection. I am, however, going to admit to you that I had a hell of a lot of fun mucking around with the thing in much the same way as I used to 100 years ago when I was 12. I even managed to remember the intro solo to ‘Sanitarium’, a vintage favourite. If teenage me had this much choice on tap I probably never would’ve finished my homework.
Hits and Misses
Just enough preset and adjustable trickery on tap to help you forget it is a practice amp
The obvious limitations of size