chuskey Posted March 19, 2016 Share Posted March 19, 2016 Had a fun time comparing a buddy of mine's AX8 today to my Helix! We've each only had our respective units for a very short amount of time so there are things about each we're still learning. However I've been a LONG TIME Line 6 user and he's been an Axe FX user for several years. So not completely new territory. Spoiler alert: If you can't get a good tone out of either one of these units, it's your fault. Plain and simple. It's not that your ears are that discerning, you just don't know what you're doing. Sorry, maybe guitar playing isn't your calling. With that out of the way let me move on. The signal path was Crate Powerblock into Friedman 2x12 with one Vintage 30 and one Creamback. It produced about as much "amp in the room" sound as you could ask for. All tones done on each unit were amp only with no speaker modelling. As a side note, also in the room was a Friedman Dirty Shirley with matching 1x12 cabinet, so there was a high end tube amp there for reference. Admittedly I felt like bringing a Line 6 product into a room with a Fractal product for a comparission put me as the underdog. From everything I've read online the Helix has the competition beat on features, but what about pure amp tone?I'm here to say that the Helix held it's own and then some. At no point did I feel like the Helix was a step behind the AX8. Just dialed up an amp and it sounded amazing right out of the gate. Something Line 6 has MASSIVELY struggled with in the past. I've owned literally every incarnation of Line 6's product line and this is the first time they've produced a product that doesn't demand a ton of tweaking to find the magic sweet spot. This opinion was echoed by my friend who is a long time Fractal user. So not just my opinion in a vacuum. As a Helix user I feel compelled to point out the positives of it in this comparison, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. Not to take anything away from the AX8, but this is where I'm coming from. I'll leave room for AX8 users, or my friend with the AX8, to chime in here. Here are the pluses for Helix:The UI: on the Helix it is far and away more advanced than on the AX8. I'm speaking in terms of the on unit UI and not the PC editor. The Helix Editor isn't out yet so no way to compare that. But for using each unit stand alone the Helix UI is hands down the winner. Everything is faster, easier, and more intuative. Assigning pedals and controllers, using pedal edit mode, etc. Not a knock on the AX8, just showing how much design effort went into the Helix UI. Flexibility and routing: Again, this is another area that Helix shines. If you can dream it up, you can route it in Helix. And do so very easily thanks to a very intuative UI. Want a signal path with 4 drives, 6 delays, and 3 reverbs? No problem with Helix. Plus the 4 physical send/receives give you loads of flexibility to incorporating outboard gear. Need to route your dry guitar signal one place, your wet guitar signal another, and the looper another? No problem. Ease of creating tones: I was surprised that my vote for this would go to Helix. As a long time Line 6 user I'm used to spending hours dialing in the perfect tone. With Helix things just work. We found that amps, and especially effects, were very quick on the Helix. Everything was more or less in place and ready to go. You just had to add it to the signal chain and make adjustments to suit your taste. Ease of use: When using this as a live unit I have to give the nod to Helix here. The scribble strips, with customize-able text, were gold. I know exactly what function each pedal is performing. Something that was a challenge on the HD500(X). Along with the very large color screen showing exactly what's going on it's a breeze to use this thing live. The AX8 takes a more basic approach, and is very workable, but not on the same level as Helix. Built in expression pedal: Having a built in expression pedal, with a toe switch, is a big deal. At least to me. With an external pedal I'm left to choose one function of the expression pedal instead of two. Overall tone: I felt like this could go either way. On this day I think our Helix presets were pretty rockin', but either unit can be tailored to do EXACTLY what you want. They both sound awesome. I can say with all honesty though that the Helix didn't give up an inch tone wise. Which surprised the both of us. BTW, the Friedman Dirty Shirley model on the AX8 was spot on and we both felt like bringing the "real" dirty shirley into the equation was pointless. The AX8 simply sounded as good or better than the real deal. Sorry tube snobs, but facts are facts Pluses for the AX8:It did sound really good! There's no denying that, nor any reason to. It's an awesome unit. Amp models: In terms of sheer number of amp models there isn't a contest between these two units. The AX8 far outpaces the Helix by a mile. However the question is how many amp models do you need? Maybe I'm playing devil's advocate here, but I don't find that I have trouble covering all the ground I need with Helix's selection. Totally a matter of opinion though. Much respect for the sheer amount of work Cliff has put into modelling this number of amps. If the amount of amp models is most important to you then there is no comparison. Form factor: This could go either way. Overall I'll take the Helix because of the built in expression pedal and increased number of ins/outs. But I do like the compactness of the AX8. The Helix is big and heavy. I'm a Helix owner so obviously you can tell that I am going to lean towards the Helix. Having said that I can say with COMPLETE honesty that the Helix really shined today when comparing the two. All things being equal I take the Helix all day long and don't regret the purchase for a minute. My buddy was even joking about buying one once he sold off some of his other gear Most importantly though is that fact that there are two INCREDIBLE units on the market for, given what they do, not a lot of money. It is an amazing time to be a guitar player. I've been playing way long enough to remember when it wasn't so. I remember playing through a Crate solid state amp.....wow how times have changed!!So as a community let's be thankful for the tools at our disposal. We live in a great time to be a musician and let's truly appreciate these miracle boxes that can be had for less than the cost of a Marshall half stack "back in the day". Or this day for that matter. Cheers! 17 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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