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4cm or FRFR?


tmntshredder
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I've had the Helix for a few months now, and I have been running it 4cm with my 5150 III. I am getting lots of great tones out of it this way, but I am now on the fence about ditching the amp and buying a quality FRFR. My hang ups are the awkwardness of not having an actual amp and not knowing what to expect tone wise from one of these speakers. I know the convenience benefits of eliminating the amp, but I need to know if an FRFR is going to make the Helix sound better than my current set up. I will gladly continue to transport my amp and have the benefits of both it and the Helix if 4cm tones are comparable to FRFR tones. However, if an FRFR is going to open up the Helix and make it even better than it is now, then I would probably sell the amp. Anybody have any advice?

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I was running the Helix via 4CM into an Egnater Tweaker 40. I did love the sound, but decided for simplicity sake to invest in a Line 6 L2T. i have since sold the Tweaker and am extremely happy with the sounds of the FRFR. It is great to know exactly what is being sent to FOH. I am still thinking about getting a 5150 though, but TheHelixChannel and Glen Delaune have some 5150 patches that are phenominal.

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To me, an amp and cab will never let you hear what the Helix is really doing and what it really sounds like. All of its myriad combinations of excellently modeled amps and cabs will be masked by the natural coloration of your amp. I think it keeps you from using the Helix to its full sonic potential. Find someone with a really good set of headphones you can borrow. Better yet, a pair of powered speakers.

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To me, an amp and cab will never let you hear what the Helix is really doing and what it really sounds like. All of its myriad combinations of excellently modeled amps and cabs will be masked by the natural coloration of your amp. I think it keeps you from using the Helix to its full sonic potential. Find someone with a really good set of headphones you can borrow. Better yet, a pair of powered speakers.

I have some powered speakers and hooked it up to one of them a couple of weeks ago. It didn't sound good to me, but they are cheap speakers (Harbingers). I've considered trading one of them off for an Alto TS or Mackie Thump to test the waters, but I wonder about the experience that I would even have with one of these. I would much rather just spend the money and be done, but I'd have to sell my amp for that purchase. That's my dilemma.

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I have some powered speakers and hooked it up to one of them a couple of weeks ago. It didn't sound good to me, but they are cheap speakers (Harbingers). I've considered trading one of them off for an Alto TS or Mackie Thump to test the waters, but I wonder about the experience that I would even have with one of these. I would much rather just spend the money and be done, but I'd have to sell my amp for that purchase. That's my dilemma.

If you've had it set up to play through your amp, you'll have to readjust your patches to make them sound the way you like them on PA speakers. Cheap or expensive.

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If you've had it set up to play through your amp, you'll have to readjust your patches to make them sound the way you like them on PA speakers. Cheap or expensive.

Yes, I was using patches set up for PA speakers. I tried Glen DeLaune's, several of the factory, an some of my own.

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Well, if you're expecting it to sound like an amp next to you, it won't. It's designed to sound like a properly miked amp in a room - like you would do in the studio. If you're totally addicted to the feel of an amp next to you, then you have to use the amp with the Helix. But that also means that an awful lot of its capabilities will never be used.

 

I got over the amp thing when all the gigs I played required far more flexibility than any amp could provide.

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And as with everything else and esp. with guitar preamps and FRFR speakers, you get what you pay for in most cases. Thats not to say that a good guitar player can make a cheap guitar sound good, cause they can. But you get the point I hope...  ;)

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I've had the Helix for a few months now, and I have been running it 4cm with my 5150 III. I am getting lots of great tones out of it this way, but I am now on the fence about ditching the amp and buying a quality FRFR. My hang ups are the awkwardness of not having an actual amp and not knowing what to expect tone wise from one of these speakers. I know the convenience benefits of eliminating the amp, but I need to know if an FRFR is going to make the Helix sound better than my current set up....Anybody have any advice?

Yes, but you're probably not gonna like it. No one can answer this for you. FRFR fans will tell you to go for it. Those who've tried it, and found that is not for them, go back to their amps. Whether or not you'll decide that FRFR makes the tones you're currently geting sound better to you, can only be answered by one person. People get great results with both methods. "Better" is in the ear of the beholder...the only thing I can tell you with 100% certainty is that plugging in the patches you're currently using to any FRFR speaker will sound VERY different than they do through your amp. Quite possibly very awful, initially. That doesn't mean they can't be tweaked to sound fantastic, but you may find that you'll almost be starting at square one. FRFR is a different animal, and requires a different approach.

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FRFR works with nearly the same air movement brought by a good powered speaker (like the Yamaha DBR12 or DXR12) but you might need a stand, to bring the speaker in position (used as a wedge-monitor might sound strange, cause you learned the sound coming from behind you). And you should choose a 12" and nothing less. I get it running this way (with a POD HD) and I'm totally satisfied.

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Thank you guys for all of the replies! I think maybe what I need to do is go with something that I can pick up for a relatively low cost before I make the decision to ditch the amp. Hopefully that will give me an idea of what I can expect from something more expensive.

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Thank you guys for all of the replies! I think maybe what I need to do is go with something that I can pick up for a relatively low cost before I make the decision to ditch the amp. Hopefully that will give me an idea of what I can expect from something more expensive.

 

Wrong IMHO. Low cost usually means low quality sound tone wise, and you will get the wrong impressions. A better idea would be to find a person with a good quality (Atomic CLRs or Line 6 L2m/L3T etc) FRFR setup, and go listen. Then and only then will you know if that sound is what you want in your setup.

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Thank you guys for all of the replies! I think maybe what I need to do is go with something that I can pick up for a relatively low cost before I make the decision to ditch the amp. Hopefully that will give me an idea of what I can expect from something more expensive.

Hers the rub, though...every box you plug into, FRFR or otherwise, is gonna sound different. And not all FRFR is created equal, especially with the stuff on the lower end of the price spectrum. Just because the specs say 20-20,000 Hz, doesn't guarantee a flat response...true FRFR is expensive, just is. If you've got money to burn, fine...otherwise, this is just gonna cost you an extra few hundred bucks if you're gonna turn around an upgrade again, a month later.

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Go and find a used Superlux SF12A which sounds similar to my Yamaha DBR12 (maybe a little bit more like a amp-tone (maybe because of the higher weight)). You should get this baby used around 150-200 USD.

This has IMO a very good price/ sound relation.

 

http://www.customaudiodesigns.co.uk/audio/sf12a.htm

http://www.superlux.com.tw/upload/function.product.info/346e201e-71d0-4d61-90b0-0e74824b767c/ss_SF12A_en_web.pdf

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I really like running the Helix through my Alto TS110a, which cost me $200 new.  I think it's one of the best 'bang for your buck' options out there. I've heard great stuff about their 12" version as well.

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I really like running the Helix through my Alto TS110a, which cost me $200 new. I think it's one of the best 'bang for your buck' options out there. I've heard great stuff about their 12" version as well.

The Alto TS112 was one of the lower cost options that I was considering. I have a pair of Harbinger V2112's, but the Helix sounds awful through them. In fact, it's so bad that I wouldn't even consider practicing with it. The Alto is in the same price range, but I've read a lot of good things about it. Good to hear that you like yours.

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I'm new and don't know how to start a "new" discussion so I guess I'll post my question here about my new HD500X. I have a Carvin V3 100 watt 2x12 combo amp (too heavy for me to take anywhere!) and just bought a Yamaha G100-112 series lll amp because it is an extremely clean amp and I can actually pick it up. They both have effects loops in the back (the Carvin has both a set of parallel and series effects loops and the Yamaha amp has an effects loop with a send volume knob and return volume knob. I can't for the life of me figure out how to use the amps controls, as soon as I plug in the Pod the only thing that controls the volume is the Pod. None of the volume or tone controls on the amps have any effect on anything. The Yamaha "send" knob on back (I think that's the one I turned) does change the volume but no other knobs on the amp will have any effect. I am using the 4 cable method. Do I have to just run the Pod directly into the amp input on front to use the amp controls? Thanks to anyone who can direct me to a solution.

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New here.  I am running my Helix through Alto TS115a speakers.  Fantastic tone.  No reluctance to go apples at all with these. 

 

Did you compare the 115 to the 112 or the 110? Just curious as I've seen that a lot of guys have the 110's.

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If you really love your guitar amp, then you should probably stick with it. You can use Helix two ways with a guitar amp - as a digital pedalboard into the front of the amp, or using 4CM. Using the latter you probably won't use any amp models, neither would use cab or speaker IR models. So you would be under-utilizing Helix, but that might be fine.

 

The biggest motivation for FRFR is flexibility, and the ability to play multiple instruments, especially acoustic guitar - which will never work well into a guitar amp. 

 

So to me its more what you want to achieve then it is specifically the tone. I suspect that any of these approaches will produce good and useful tone even though they might be different. Different is probably neither good or bad in this case, just different.

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If you really love your guitar amp, then you should probably stick with it. You can use Helix two ways with a guitar amp - as a digital pedalboard into the front of the amp, or using 4CM. Using the latter you probably won't use any amp models, neither would use cab or speaker IR models. So you would be under-utilizing Helix, but that might be fine.

 

The biggest motivation for FRFR is flexibility, and the ability to play multiple instruments, especially acoustic guitar - which will never work well into a guitar amp. 

 

So to me its more what you want to achieve then it is specifically the tone. I suspect that any of these approaches will produce good and useful tone even though they might be different. Different is probably neither good or bad in this case, just different.

 

I really do love my amp, but like everyone else, I hate moving it. The idea of carrying everything or almost everything in one trip is extremely appealing. To answer your question, I want the best sounding, most versatile rig that I can have. I'm not worried about playing multiple instruments through it, as I probably would rarely if ever run an acoustic through it anyway. I play in a couple of cover bands, so versatility is very important to me. I simply want the amp models to sound the best that they possibly can...whether it's through my amp or an FRFR.

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I simply want the amp models to sound the best that they possibly can...whether it's through my amp or an FRFR.

And you'll eventually get just that no matter which way you choose to go...just a matter of putting the time in. Either method is prefectly valid...it boils down to personal preference.

 

But no amount of guessing, or filtering through others' experiences will help you figure out which choice will ultimately work better for you. We can all rattle on for a week about our rigs, and you won't get any closer to a decision. Sooner or later you'll have to drop some coin on a powered FRFR speaker of some sort, and A/B it with your amp.

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I really do love my amp, but like everyone else, I hate moving it. The idea of carrying everything or almost everything in one trip is extremely appealing. To answer your question, I want the best sounding, most versatile rig that I can have. I'm not worried about playing multiple instruments through it, as I probably would rarely if ever run an acoustic through it anyway. I play in a couple of cover bands, so versatility is very important to me. I simply want the amp models to sound the best that they possibly can...whether it's through my amp or an FRFR.

 

There is also always the option of going directly to the mixer and using your vocal monitor for your guitar/Helix. No guitar amp or FRFR. I have been doing this for a couple of years (even before purchasing the Helix) and I do admit that I miss the air and punch coming from behind me from a nice cab, however, the convenience, fewer possible points of failure, and most of all, the ease of just carrying in guitar and MFX unit has been awesome. Every once in a while I still bring an amp or an FRFR but it is the exception for me now.

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There's no doubt making the transition to a FRFR rig is scary.  I made the decision back in December to do it and am really just now getting to the point of being able to get the clear benefits of the setup.  I can't imagine going back to a traditional amp setup at this point because I know what I would lose.  But it takes some time and an open mind to adjust to the differences.  Here are some lessons learned from my transition.

 

Will you get the same feel as you get from an amp?  No.  Most of this is due to the difference of how FRFR works in comparison to a guitar amp cabinet.  You hear a lot of people talk about the loss of moving air.  That's true.  Guitar cabinets are pretty rudimentary acoustically in comparison to FRFR speakers.  Guitar speakers lose a lot of energy by radiating sound in a broad pattern as compared to FRFR speakers which tend to tightly manage the direction of the sound.  The benefit is that the dropoff of that sound over distance is much less with FRFR.  The on-stage effect is that it cuts through the mix much better with less volume.

 

Will your existing patches need some adjustment?  Absolutely.  Guitar amps to my ear sound mushy in comparison to the clarity and articulation provided by FRFR.  Again it's a function of very different designs.  Basically a guitar amp sends everything through one speaker or several of the same speakers.  Higher end FRFR systems have separate speakers to handle different frequencies and typically use DSP and drivers to better manage the frequency range response of the cabinet.  For a guitar player this means much greater articulation and clarity in everything you play.  But because of these differences you'll no doubt have to change the EQ, presence, and possibly things like the bias of your patch to better match up with the tone your wanting.  You'll probably also have to work on your technique a bit more as FRFR speakers are very accurate and sloppy technique that was covered up by traditional amp mushiness will no longer be covered up.

 

One last note or lesson learned.  If you go with an FRFR keep a good sound meter on hand when you're creating/modifying patches as a last step to normalize the volume between patches.  The human ear has a lot of problems accurately assessing volume.  With the clarity and projection of a FRFR system this can be very deceiving and your patches can end up wildly different in terms of perceived volume.  Using a sound meter to adjust your final volume to a consistent level fixes this problem.

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Went FRFR, just sold my last tube amp....not missing the tube amps one bit....finding the right/best FRFR system for you is, IMHO, the biggest challenge.   I took the money from selling off my amps and stepped up to a Mission Engineering Gemini 2 Studio Edition.  The Gemini and Helix are the BEST decision I ever made on gear.  Can use this combo in the studio or live and the Gemini lets the Helix flat sing.  Run backing tracks from my tablet through the Gemini via its Bluetooth interface and have a Line 6 G70 wireless hooked into the Helix. Have two cables in my entire rig now, G70 receiver to the Helix and the Helix to the Gemini via a dual XLR to TRS stereo (that's it)....simple, easy to tear down/setup, plenty of power, sounds killer.  Looked at the L3 and L2 speaker options but by the time I bought two for stereo the dollars were pretty much the same as the Gemini 2 plus I would end up with multiple pieces and cables which I didn't want,  The Gemini was designed from the ground up to be used with modelers like the Helix, so it's not a PA system but rather a instrument system....that may or may not make a difference to everyone's ear, but it does to mine.  Good luck!!

 

http://missionengineering.com/?product=gemini-2-studio-edition

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For a guitar player this means much greater articulation and clarity in everything you play. But because of these differences you'll no doubt have to change the EQ, presence, and possibly things like the bias of your patch to better match up with the tone your wanting. You'll probably also have to work on your technique a bit more as FRFR speakers are very accurate and sloppy technique that was covered up by traditional amp mushiness will no longer be covered up.

 

Lol....Amen. To the OP: FRFR does kinda mean that you have to make a concerted effort to not suck. ;)

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Ideally Helix with a good FRFR will faithfully reproduce the amp and cabinet models in a performance context similar to what the original amps and speakers would do - assuming the amount of air moved and positioning are quite similar. Don't expect a pair of EON610s to do what 8 12" speakers will do, even at the same power levels.

 

FRFRs don't really make the total guitar signal chain that much more articulate - they're just reproducing the output of the amp and cab models. This is where articulation is established. A bad FRFR can remove clarity, but a good one won't add anything that's not already coming from the amp and cab models.

 

What a FRFR can do is provide the ability to reproduce many amp and cab models for lots of different applications, not just one electric guitar tone. This may or may not be useful depending on different performer needs.

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I've messed around with both. 4CM to both a DT25 head/cab (great, underrated little hybrid amp) and my favorite tube amp combo of all time, the Boogie Mark V through a 1x12 closed-back. It works as expected and once you dial in your levels/tones everything sounds fantastic. However, what I have found is that when I want to use amp models in the Helix there is a troublesome amount of tweaking involved to get things fired up and sounding great through what I'm calling a "mismatched pre/power" combination. Can you get great sounds? Yes. It just takes work - but you are always going to be playing a frankenstein combination of preamps and power sections. At first I didn't care since I started using the Helix exclusively as an FX unit, but lately I'm loving the new Matchless amp models and I've always been a fan of the SLO100 models from the DT25 (the Helix ones sound even better). So I started monkeying around and I found a solution that is finally allowing me to sleep at night (and get some bad-lollipop guitar sounds):

 

I hooked everything up with what I call the "five-cable" method. I isolate my Mark V's preamp using send/return 1 on the Helix (send to the Mark V input, return from the Mark V send). I isolate the power amp using a Cabclone and Helix send/return 2 (send to the Mark V return, return from the Cabclone). This also allows me to effectively "simulate" the FX loop on the Mark V by placing FX between the pre- and power-amp S/R blocks. Depending on what output you use on the Cabclone you can optionally defeat the Cabclone's cabinet emulation and use a cab sim in the Helix (and there are some great-sounding combinations in there). Either way sounds great and gives virtually unlimited "tonal possibilities." Everything sounds REALLY good through my cans and studio monitors. At home I also use the Mission Gemini via the 1/4" outs and it sounds amazing as well - particularly if you dial the "cab bias" knob up to about 75% to get closer to the subjective "amp in the room" sound. Make sure levels are matched in the global settings and remember that any balanced audio you bring back to the Helix sounds best through some kind of a Reamp-type solution.

 

This setup allows me to capture the best of both worlds - the Mark V sound is beyond reproach and I still have the great Helix models available without a bunch of re-patching. You lose the real-life guitar cabinet - which is not a big deal for me since the available loadbox/cab modeling solutions like the Cabclone and Two-Notes sound like the real thing (mic'd up); I'm also getting spooled up to make some IRs of my favorite cabinets. I'm now used to hearing the same sound in the live room and through monitors/foldback - took me about two minutes to get used to it. You could also bring the cab back into the equation if needed for certain patches, but I haven't wanted it yet (and I'm a self-confessed guitar amp snob/geek). Although I don't play live, if I did, I would bring the Helix, the Mark V head, and MAYBE the Gemini (if the performance dictated a traditional backline). I'd give the stereo balanced outputs to the FOH. If I was gigging out a lot I'd build up a pedalboard, snake, and breakout box rig to make stage connections and setup flexible and easy. I already use the Voodoo control switcher to run the Mark V and it could easily be incorporated into a live rig. 

 

I have also tried this same setup at with the DT25 (via the DT25 cab sim output) and it sounds really good as well.

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Ideally Helix with a good FRFR will faithfully reproduce the amp and cabinet models in a performance context similar to what the original amps and speakers would do - assuming the amount of air moved and positioning are quite similar. Don't expect a pair of EON610s to do what 8 12" speakers will do, even at the same power levels.

 

FRFRs don't really make the total guitar signal chain that much more articulate - they're just reproducing the output of the amp and cab models. This is where articulation is established. A bad FRFR can remove clarity, but a good one won't add anything that's not already coming from the amp and cab models.

 

What a FRFR can do is provide the ability to reproduce many amp and cab models for lots of different applications, not just one electric guitar tone. This may or may not be useful depending on different performer needs.

 

All true! I think many of us grew up on the "warm" sound of tube amps with Celestion speakers and the like which have a mid bump and a steep cutoff in the frequency spectrum at both the low end and especially the high end at about 5khz.  The "clarity" and frequency response of an FRFR or PA speaker can sound boomy or brittle without significant EQ adjustments. I struggle not only to retain the warmth of my analog equipment but also to reeducate my ears to new less "muted" sounds more balanced across a wider frequency range. My goal is usually to get a warm sound that also retains its sparkle and bite but does not exhaust my listeners' ears. It is easy to cross the line from cutting through the mix to icepick, that is where getting the right EQ really makes digital modeling shine.

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FRFR setups aren't ADDING articulation and clarity, they're only revealing what a less well-engineered cabinet/speaker arrangement is physically unable to reproduce.  If that were not the case then playing an MP3 recording through a guitar cabinet would sound just as good as if it were being played through a set of studio monitors.

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FRFR setups aren't ADDING articulation and clarity, they're only revealing what a less well-engineered cabinet/speaker arrangement is physically unable to reproduce.  If that were not the case then playing an MP3 recording through a guitar cabinet would sound just as good as if it were being played through a set of studio monitors.

 

Another way to put it and a good point! Many analog/tube guitar amp pre and power sections would have the same EQ challenges if they were not being pumped through guitar cabinets designed with limited and tailored frequency responses.

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...

I hooked everything up with what I call the "five-cable" method. I isolate my Mark V's preamp using send/return 1 on the Helix (send to the Mark V input, return from the Mark V send). I isolate the power amp using a Cabclone and Helix send/return 2 (send to the Mark V return, return from the Cabclone). This also allows me to effectively "simulate" the FX loop on the Mark V by placing FX between the pre- and power-amp S/R blocks. Depending on what output you use on the Cabclone you can optionally defeat the Cabclone's cabinet emulation and use a cab sim in the Helix (and there are some great-sounding combinations in there). Either way sounds great and gives virtually unlimited "tonal possibilities." Everything sounds REALLY good through my cans and studio monitors. At home I also use the Mission Gemini via the 1/4" outs and it sounds amazing as well - particularly if you dial the "cab bias" knob up to about 75% to get closer to the subjective "amp in the room" sound. Make sure levels are matched in the global settings and remember that any balanced audio you bring back to the Helix sounds best through some kind of a Reamp-type solution.

 

...

 

This is a very cool use of the Cabclone!

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Yes, I was using patches set up for PA speakers. I tried Glen DeLaune's, several of the factory, an some of my own.

Well you've got 3 problems here. You've tried:

 

1)patches created by someone else, with different guitars, rig, etc, which are NEVER going to sound exactly as they do in the demo video or sound clip you heard, no matter what they're designed to be played through. They just won't...it amazes me that anyone pays for these "custom patches". For proof I refer you to ANYTHING on Customtone...try a few. Or a few dozen, and tell me how close you think the author got to the stated goal for that tone. Most of the time, it's so far off, its comical. And it's not because the guy who made the patch is deaf, stupid, or crazy. It's because he has his guitars, amp, and fingers, and you've got yours. Expecting the same tone to come out on both ends, with a million variables, and only one common denominator (Helix), is nuts. It simply ain't happening. With this or any other modeler

 

2)Factory presets, which are a crap shoot for the same reason as #1.

 

3) You're own patches that you dialed in through a traditional guitar amp.

 

You can't explore FRFR this way, unless you're looking for an easy way to hate it, and go back to your amp(s)...which you might end up doing anyway, and that's OK. But these 3 "tests" are virtually guaranteed to be disappointing, and turn you off from the whole concept. Creating your own patches, with your own guitars, through whatever FRFR speaker you end up trying....and LOTS AND LOTS of TIME....is the only way you'll know of it will work for you. Yes, it's tedious. Yes, you'll get annoyed...eventually you'll figure out if it's for you or not. But there are no short cuts.

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3) You're own patches that you dialed in through a traditional guitar amp.

 

You can't explore FRFR this way, unless you're looking for an easy way to hate it, and go back to your amp(s)...which you might end up doing anyway, and that's OK. But these 3 "tests" are virtually guaranteed to be disappointing, and turn you off from the whole concept. Creating your own patches, with your own guitars, through whatever FRFR speaker you end up trying....and LOTS AND LOTS of TIME....is the only way you'll know of it will work for you. Yes, it's tedious. Yes, you'll get annoyed...eventually you'll figure out if it's for you or not. But there are no short cuts.

No, I was not using patches that I dialed in with my amp. These were patches that I created while using a powered speaker (Harbinger V2112). I didn't exactly buy the speaker for this purpose, so I'm sure that it's a very poor representation. It sounded awful nonetheless.
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Did you compare the 115 to the 112 or the 110? Just curious as I've seen that a lot of guys have the 110's.

I got the opportunity to try it through the TS112 and the new TS212 this week.  Just as nice as the TS115, slightly brighter and less bottom end, as expected, but definitely nice.  I particularly bonded well with the TS212, but it is the same price as the TS116 here.   I may look at one as a stage monitor, as I use the TS115s as mains in some venues.  I am also considering just going in-ear.  But the TS212 and 112 are great sounding packages with the Helix.  Again, due to the small size and light weight, a good option for going amp less. 

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I got the opportunity to try it through the TS112 and the new TS212 this week. Just as nice as the TS115, slightly brighter and less bottom end, as expected, but definitely nice. I particularly bonded well with the TS212, but it is the same price as the TS116 here. I may look at one as a stage monitor, as I use the TS115s as mains in some venues. I am also considering just going in-ear. But the TS212 and 112 are great sounding packages with the Helix. Again, due to the small size and light weight, a good option for going amp less.

Thanks for the info...very helpful!

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  • 2 years later...

Hi all...I have been using my helix frfr and it sounds awesome...i previously used an engl amp and 4x12s (still have them wont sell them) which sound second to none in their own right...however i now use 1 laney lrf and 2x laney irt-x's in a w/d/w scenario and wow...blows you away...at gigs i cant even turn up to half way its amazingly loud....worth investing in these....just another option....lrf behind as you would with normal amp/speakers and irt-x's i put on poles either side of the lrf...works brilliantly.

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