Gear Thoughts: Line 6 DL4

This article is part of The Month Of Delay at the Real World Worship blog. All throughout the month of March we will be looking at different aspects of the delay effect in worship music.

Editor’s Note: Normally, I wouldn’t do a write up on a piece of gear that I’ve never played. Even if I have played or used something, if I haven’t had enough time with it I won’t review it because I really want to know what I’m talking about. But since we are in the Month of Delay, I’m making exception and writing down thoughts on delay pedals that I’ve only played a few times or have only heard YouTube demos of, so please take these for what they are.

LINE 6

I hate Line 6. One of these days I’ll sit down and write out fully why this is so, but for now, it’s fair enough just to say that I do. This isn’t news to anyone who has read this blog for any length of time. What might surprise you is that I don’t hate everything Line 6 has ever made. I don’t hate the DL4. It was actually the 1st delay pedal I ever owned. I got a lot of use out of it and I really enjoyed the creativity it allowed me. That’s not to say I would buy it again. It died on me out of the blue and I choose to go a different route in replacing it.

Normally I would write an actual review of a pedal that I owned for several years, but it’s been several years since I owned it and I didn’t think I could do it justice, so you get my thoughts instead.

WHY DO PEOPLE LOVE IT?

The DL4 is to Coldplay what the EHX Deluxe Memory Man is to U2. At the time of it’s release it was THE gold standard in digital delay pedals and since we were all eager to work Coldplay sounds into worship back in the early 2000’s, a lot of us bought “the big green delay machine”. It gives you all the options from digital, tape, analog, etc with all the features like presets, tap tempo and looping. It’s probably tied with the Boss DD-20 for being the most common delay pedal on P&W boards. (At least the selfies that get posted on Instagram).

WHAT PROBLEMS DO I SEE WITH IT?

The DL4 was the gold standard when it was released, but that was 10 years ago and Line 6 has done next to nothing to update the pedal or to fix it’s known issues. This stems in part (if not fully) from what Line 6 is as a company, which gives you a picture of why I hate them. They figured out that they would make the most money making other types of gear, which is fair enough, but then they keep making poor quality pedals and no one seems to care.

The DL4 uses poor quality on/off and TT switches that are notorious for breaking. Bands that tour with them have said in interviews that they bring extras or frequently have to stop in the local Guitar Center to replace them. JHS does mods to repair these physical issues but will no longer mod used DL4’s because too many people have spent the money on the mod only to have the digital or power section (which has nothing to do with JHS or any other builders work) fail a few months later. That’s what happened to my DL4 and at that point you’re pretty much SOL.

The final problem is real-estate. The pedal is big and bulky with a large footprint. If you are tight for pedal space, the DL4 is not for you.

HOW WOULD YOU USE IT IN A WORSHIP SETTING?

The same way you would use any other delay pedal. (See Why we use delay HERE)

SHOULD I BUY IT?

If you have the DL4 on your pedalboard, I wouldn’t make any changes. If it’s working for you, then why change it. If you want some of the specific features, especially in the looping settings that only the DL4 has, then that’s fair, only get a modded one from JHS.

Otherwise, the Line 6 DL4 was revolutionary in it’s day, but has now become the same as every other delay in it’s price range. You’ll get more out of a TC Flashback X4 or Nova Delay. I would even recommend the DD-20 or regular Flashback over the DL4 new. The build quality issues and lack of innovation trump any pluses the DL4 has. If you buy something else, the chances are that it’ll last longer.

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