Within these last several years, Line 6 has become a de facto patron saint of budget guitar players around the world. With modeling amps becoming more and more affordable, Line 6 saw an angle which has ultimately brought them a lot of success. These days, if you need to move some air on a pretty tight budget, this is the brand you turn to. With that said, their lineup is not limited strictly to cheap amps. On the contrary, they offer a very extensive line of guitar effects tools. Some of them are mediocre, falling in line with Line 6’s policy which is somewhat based on affordable products.
However, there is another, very different side of Line 6 which many guitar players are not familiar with, especially the younger ones. This brand offers a very elite line of distortion modelers. One of those is going to be our subject today. The name of this particular model is Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler, and we are about to find out why it’s among the favorite tools of legends such as James Hetfield.
Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler Review
Modeling technology is sort of becoming the new norm in effects pedals. We’ve already had a stint with guitar effects processors, and we all know how that ended. Aside from a handful of models, most of them were simply not worth the effort. Line 6 has found a decent middle ground with their DM4 Distortion Modeler. Instead of trying to deliver a complete package of effects, they’ve decided to focus on distortions alone.
One thing about distortion pedals is that you have those who prefer this type of format, and those who would much rather use standalone, dedicated stompboxes. Preferably with a good heritage. Which side is going to prevail is something only time will tell. At the moment, neither camp can disprove the practical value models like the DM4 offer.
For the most part, Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler features their standard design which looks a lot like something you’d see built in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Some like this aesthetic, others down. The whole unit comes painted in a flat gold color, which makes the pedal stand out, especially in low light environments. Once you pull it out of the box, the whole thing feels very solid. Materials used for this build are pretty decent and will take a whole lot of abuse before anything gives way.
Line 6 used a set of quality components to put the DM4 Distortion Modeler together. With that said, switches and knobs could have probably been done a bit better. Speaking of controls, there are five knobs and four switches available. Starting from left to right, the first knob we see is the mode select knob. This is where you will find a bank of 32 different distortions, overdrives and fuzzes. Line 6 included mostly the highly popular pedals on this list, however there are some which can be considered obscure.
Next is a Drive knob which serves the same purpose as a Drive knob on any other distortion pedal. As you turn it clockwise, you will introduce more gain into the signal. Next three knobs represent a three band EQ. While it doesn’t offer the best range out there, this formidable EQ section is capable of a lot. Lastly, there is the Volume knob which is self-explanatory.
Four switches you see bellow the knobs control four different channel. You can use each of these to store one preset, that is easily recalled from the library by pressing the correct foot switch. This pedal comes with true bypass, so you don’t have to worry about signal pollution when you’re not using it. One of the less impressive solutions on DM4 is its power adapter. Unlike most pedals out there, DM4 Distortion Modeler uses a proprietary adapter. On the other hand, that is a small price to pay considering the type of performance you get.
Here’s where things get interesting. Most conservative guitar players will tell you that you will hardly ever squeeze out a good tone from these ‘Jack of all trades’ devices. And while there is a good amount of truth in that claim, the gap is becoming smaller and smaller. For example, you would never expect a legendary guitar player such as Hetfield to use something like this Line 6, yet he does. Is it all about the practicality of its design, or does the quality of its distortions play a role here? It’s both, to an extent. Line 6 definitely hit the nail on the head with few of the distortions they offer in this model.
They don’t sound artificial, as modeling distortions usually do. There is still some level of that organic vibe in there somewhere. DM4 Distortion Modeler is suitable for any genre of music spanning from light blues to full on death metal. Having four different channels readily available is pretty useful on its own, let alone if you’re able to save four different, custom made distortions in there. In the end, it all comes down to what you need and what type of rig you already have. If you rarely ever use a distortion pedal and your pedalboard is already full, you might want to look into some standalone Dist pedals. Otherwise, this Line 6 is a perfectly good solution.
One of the main reason why DM4 Distortion Modeler isn’t as popular among the general public is the fact that Line 6 has had some turbulent periods with their amps. Let’s just say that some have lost their trust in this brand. If that is the type of attitude you share as well, you might want to try and separate their amps from their pedals. When it comes to stompboxes, Line 6 is a name you can definitely trust.