I recently bought patches from three of the established vendors in this field:
1. Fremen - Starter Pack and free Marshal amp pack
2. MBritt - Patches 1 (32 patches, only current offering for Helix)
3. Glenn Delaune - Boutique amps volumes 1 and 2
Figured it might be useful to share a few observations.
Couple of caveats:
1. I know a few people are skeptical about the value or even wisdom of paying someone else to write your presets/patches but, for me, it makes sense. I'd had the Helix for a few weeks and was struggling to get really good tones out of it. The factory presets were (to my mind) terrible. The Fender twin one is okay but most drive sounds were 'distant', mushy or washed out. I realise the Helix is not meant to create the sound of a well mic'd amp rather than an 'amp in the room' tone but even with this, I was disappointed. I was certainly spending a lot more time tweaking tones than actually playing guitar. I only have a small amount of time to play each day so, as a result, the Helix was not being used. I'd even started to look at a used Kemper to replace it! Sad times :(
2. In my previous efforts, I'd downloaded an ownhammer IR pack and found this improved things a bit but I still wasn't happy. I'd also watched and followed a lot of online tutorials about creating patches and, while I'd enjoyed tweaking, I still wasn't playing.
3. Gear. I should add that I usually use the pedal with headphones. I use either Beyerdynamic DT770s or Superlux 681s. Both are, to my mind, very good sounding cans. I've also used the 'full range' input on my Vox adio amp. It yielded very similar results to the headphones tone wise. For guitar's, I've tried instruments with humbuckers, single coils and P90s.
4. I was impressed by patches from all three vendors, what follows are just a few observations of my own, many of which will be based around personal preference. In isolation, each patches pack had some standout strengths. Glenn, Michael and Fremen clearly know what they are doing.
Anyway, on to the actual review:
Fremen Starter Pack and freebie Marshal amp pack: These were the first packs I tried (based on other positive reviews). I was immediately impressed with the drive tones and surprised to find the acoustic simulator in there too. Fremen's use of Snapshots is also very thorough so you get immediately useable presets (plus a nice example on how they can/should be used generally). Amp tones are based mainly around the amp models you might expect (fender for fender, marshal for marshal etc) along with careful use of drive pedals and carefully matched IRs to finish the tone off. Appropriate effects are also included and some interesting signal path routing is used too (opened my eyes as to what is possible).
Blanket statement is that the tones are far more up front than the factory presets but still tend towards really well ic'd amp than 'amp in the room'. The drive tones are quite bright (strong mid/high focus) but not harsh and the higher the drive, generally the better the tone he has achieved. For me, the 'crunch' tones have a little less impact though and the clean tones are 'too clean'. Fremen's own comment is that he likes his cleans 'super clean' and he uses a few tricks to achieve this (careful use of compressors). In the starter pack at least this meant there were great drive tones and really clean cleans but a bit of a gap in between. I also found the clean tones to be a bit 'mid heavy' without any of the shine and shimmer that you get from a nice fender clean tone for example. This is personal preference thought, other people might really like this type of sound.
Perhaps there are better cleans and bluesy tones in the 'big pack' but I decided to try other vendors first.
Michael Britt, Helix preset pack 1: King of the Kemper, Michael Britt. Again, initial impression of these patches was really good. Similar to Fremen, the patches are based around candidate amp models with driver pedals and carefully chosen/custom(?) IRs used to get you MBritt's signature 'amp in the room' tone. Indeed, of the three sets of patches I tried, MBritts's are definitely the most 'present' and immediate which translates (especially with headphones) into a more realistic 'amp in the room' feel.
In terms of organisation, the pack makes less use of snapshots and each preset seems to have a slightly different structure. This is fine, but perhaps less intuitive than Fremen's approach.
A neat trick he uses on his clean tones is to use combinations of amps. For example his Fender tones use an obvious candidate Fender amp model for 'glassy tone' but then a less obvious clean amp is added in parallel to give a bit more body and focus. His ability to choose candidates for these combo presets is a big part of the value for me.
All told, a really nice collection of presets. Cleans are more to my taste than Fremen's and I learned a lot from seeing how he sets up his signal paths. If you have the Fremen patches and are happy with his cleans though, maybe you could pass on this set.
Glenn Delaune Boutique amps: I'll be up front, on balance these are possibly my favourite. Nice use of snapshots and well organised. Good selection of drive tones and the Volume 2 'clean pack' is just incredible for bluesy, low drive tones. Overall, a really nicely balanced tone (not too bright) and probably somewhere between MBritt and Fremen for 'room presence'.
The way he constructs his patches is also quite different to t the other guys. Glenn generally uses the Amp and Cab models from the Helix (the other guys do not use the Helix cabs) and then adds an IR after that to 'tone match' to the amp he is attempting to match. He has loads of youtube videos showing the success of this approach. To my ears, it works really well. The 'feel' and response to pick attack also seems to be particularly realistic. The only downside is that the IRs are very specific to the patch and probably don't work too well elsewhere. And, aside from adjusting the amp settings (tone, gain etc) the patches are probably less use for tweaking. That said, I'm very happy with this approach. I get a well set up tone which I can play with within the limitations of a normal amp. That works for me as it gets me actually playing guitar quicker.
An interesting side effect (I guess) of his approach is that he ends up using amp models that you might not expect. For example IIRC he uses the Roland Jazz model (super clean) and a drive pedal to create the Blackface amp. Disable the IR and it sounds pretty poor. With IR, fantastic. Forgive me if I have miss-remembered the specific preset here.
So, all told, any of these packs would probably be helpful if you want realistic tones in a hurry. The first two might be best as 'tutorials' and MBritt really brings the amp into the room. Fremen's cleans are super clean and his higher drive tones are great fun. As I've said though, I really like Glenn's preset packs. For whatever reason, they just seem to grab me and keep me playing and his selection of clean/light drive tones are just epic.
Having said that, there are presets from all packs that have made it into my 'shortlist' preset list and I'll probably get good use from all three vendors. If I had just one set, it'd be the clean pack (volume 2) from Glenn. After that, I reckon I'd be perfectly happy with any of the other packs to provide higher drive tones.
So, no definitive 'best vendor' but hopefully I've highlighted a few characteristics that might help people decide if they are looking at buying.