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Helix Vs. AX8

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Personally, I see this whole thing as Fractal, Line 6, Kemper, and Atomic together against the ill-informed masses who claim modeling sucks.

The videos make it look easy...too easy sometimes. Add a steaming pile of Instant Gratification Syndrome, and you're guaranteed to get get a bunch of folks who's wallets are $1500 lighter, wondering why they don't magically sprout Slash-esque curly hair and top-hat, just by opening the box...

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Personally, I see this whole thing as Fractal, Line 6, Kemper, and Atomic together against the ill-informed masses who claim modeling sucks.

Bingo!

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"Personally, I see this whole thing as Fractal, Line 6, Kemper, and Atomic together against the ill-informed masses who claim modeling sucks."

 

Agree 100%.  As I've posted on the forum before...  I have owned and own some great tube amps and was somewhat of a tube amp snob.

 

I've owned tons of modelers.  Up until AFTER my Helix purchase and evaluation, I owned AT THE SAME TIME an Axe FX II XL+ AND a Kemper Rack.

I merely grew tired of the rack plus a MIDI pedal live (space constraints, more crap to carry and hook up...)  Once I did a thorough evaluation of the Helix, I chose to let the other two go.  I did not hate them...  I got great tones and feel from BOTH...  I got great tones and feel from the Helix.

 

I chose Helix because it was just as good sounding in my humble opinion, and I wanted one less piece of gear and connections on stage.  PERIOD!

 

I really don't like to hear the bashing from any of the "big 3" modelers (and now the Atomic thingy)...  Having owned all but the Atomic pedal, I know what they are capable of.  In the hands of the right person, they are all equally capable of great touch sensitivity, volume rolloff accuracy, vibe, cleans, crunches, hard rock drive, metal, etc....

 

I am a reformed tube snob...  believe it or not, I can still make my Tonelab LE sing into two of my custom built tube amps for days... (old hybrid rig).

I play with another tube snob that is seriously considering converting to Helix.  I know another tube snob (reallllllyyyyy old school) that has complimented many of my tones and played into my rig.  It's not for him, but he finally admitted that if he didn't know what I was using, he'd swear I was not digital.

 

I firmly believe if you go into these things with a preconceived notion at all, you will most likely convince yourself that it's not going to work.

 

I kind of like the Lincoln Brewster situation... the guy could play through about anything he wanted to, but he's using POD... and supposedly received a very early release Helix from Line 6.

 

If Fractal is your thing...  use it...  they're great...  if Line 6 Helix or POD is your thing, use it!  Same for Kemper and Atomic, etc.

Digital is for real now.  However, I'm keeping some glass bottle driven toys in the house, too.  :)

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Maybe I'm missing something, but I've spent a fair amount of time over at the Fractal site, particularly the AX8 forum and I can't say I've seen all that many posts by Cliff himself. M@ maybe, but not Cliff.

Look in the Axe FX II section. He (when I was over there a lot) posted many times. Of course, we can split hairs on what is "many". 

 

"I've said it before, but we're big fans of what Cliff and co. have accomplished (and will continue to accomplish); a few Line 6ers own AxeFX themselves."

 

Good to know... And I agree about the ill-informed masses part....

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Isn't that what Ideascale is meant for? If only you want that feature (Ideascale will give a ballpark figure) they will prioritize out of that (given its possible to do)

 

Sure thats what its for. And I did add to that request in Ideascale doffe. But I figure that I can also ask the Product Manager a question here too, can't I? 

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Sure thats what its for. And I did add to that request in Ideascale doffe. But I figure that I can also ask the Product Manager a question here too, can't I?

 

But of course you can 😀

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Good. Im glad we agree on that Doffe. Here's the bottom line for me, and it go's kinda to what Glideman was saying and Phil was joking about. Buy what you want. Use what you want. The AX8 and Helix can only get better with time. But don't get butthurt over another company that out does or out shines you for a month or two, just because you are prideful of the place you work for, or the gear you play thru. Don't get mad at the player or customer for seeing the differences. CHANGE things. Make better, play better. I.E. Its not wrong AT ALL for Line 6 to have better ideas in the beginning than say Fractal Audio. But if Fractal then decides to puff up and get mad at the customers for saying and wanting something that Line 6 has done better on, thats where its all wrong headed. Your not a bad person just because you prefer the way Line 6 does business versus the way Fractal Audio does. Same thing in reverse is true for "ANY" company or person. Learning to listen to a better way is a rare talent and is a foreign concept for some, and I have fallen in to that trap myself from time to time. There is nothing wrong with other companies out gunning each other, or stating that fact on their forums. It provides motivation to do better. Theres Nothing wrong with competition, in other words. Thats a good thing and it only makes things better for us the guitar player. But please, don't hate a good idea just because you might not have thought of it first, generally speaking of course. As always YMMV....  :)

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"Personally, I see this whole thing as Fractal, Line 6, Kemper, and Atomic together against the ill-informed masses who claim modeling sucks."

 

Agree 100%.  As I've posted on the forum before...  I have owned and own some great tube amps and was somewhat of a tube amp snob.

 

I've owned tons of modelers.  Up until AFTER my Helix purchase and evaluation, I owned AT THE SAME TIME an Axe FX II XL+ AND a Kemper Rack.

I merely grew tired of the rack plus a MIDI pedal live (space constraints, more crap to carry and hook up...)  Once I did a thorough evaluation of the Helix, I chose to let the other two go.  I did not hate them...  I got great tones and feel from BOTH...  I got great tones and feel from the Helix.

 

 

 

I chose Helix because it was just as good sounding in my humble opinion, and I wanted one less piece of gear and connections on stage.  PERIOD!

 

I really don't like to hear the bashing from any of the "big 3" modelers (and now the Atomic thingy)...  Having owned all but the Atomic pedal, I know what they are capable of.  In the hands of the right person, they are all equally capable of great touch sensitivity, volume rolloff accuracy, vibe, cleans, crunches, hard rock drive, metal, etc....

 

I am a reformed tube snob...  believe it or not, I can still make my Tonelab LE sing into two of my custom built tube amps for days... (old hybrid rig).

I play with another tube snob that is seriously considering converting to Helix.  I know another tube snob (reallllllyyyyy old school) that has complimented many of my tones and played into my rig.  It's not for him, but he finally admitted that if he didn't know what I was using, he'd swear I was not digital.

 

I firmly believe if you go into these things with a preconceived notion at all, you will most likely convince yourself that it's not going to work.

 

I kind of like the Lincoln Brewster situation... the guy could play through about anything he wanted to, but he's using POD... and supposedly received a very early release Helix from Line 6.

 

If Fractal is your thing...  use it...  they're great...  if Line 6 Helix or POD is your thing, use it!  Same for Kemper and Atomic, etc.

Digital is for real now.  However, I'm keeping some glass bottle driven toys in the house, too.  :)

 

 

I got on the AX8 list last Nov. Since then, I've done quite a bit of research on Helix and AX8. I'm into simple, dial it up, and go. In this respect, I think the Helix will work best for me also. I have been using a KPA Rack/KR for the last 2 years, and I want to downsize. So 2 weeks ago I ordered an out of stock Helix. Today I got my invite for the AX8, and quite frankly, I'm not tech savvy enough to go down the Fractal "rabbit hole" of programming. Now I think I'll wait at least another 2 weeks for the Helix. UI sold me.

BTW, I heard Andy(L6 rep) at a GC seminar last week, and the Helix sounded amazing thru the 2 K12's on hand.

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LET ME JUS ADD SOME MORE SPICE IN THE RECIPE:

 

IT'S ALL THE SUME OF THE WHOLE GEAR YOU SOUND, NOT ONLY YOUR FX PROCESSOR

 

I'VE HAD AWESOME DIFFERENCES PLAYING THE SAME GUITAR, SAME SOUND BANK(IN A MODEST PODXT), SAME STRINGS, SAME PICK, SAME MONITOR/SPEAKER-CAB; AND JUST BY ADJUSTING THE PICKUP PROXIMITY FROM STRINGS YOU MAY HEAR A DIFFERENT ANIMAL ROARING

 

I THINK THAT'S WHY SOME MUSICIANS ARE HAPPIER WITH CERTAIN COMBINATIONS; SOME OF YOU MAY MIX YOUR FAVE STOMPS+AXE OR YOUR KEMPER PLUGGED INTO A POWER'S AMP+REAL CAB(NO MICS) I REMEMBER A VERY COOL FEATURE FUNCTION FROM POD XT FAMILY: YOU CHOOSE AN AMP MODEL AND A SPEAKER MODEL WITH NO MIC; DAMN!!! THAT WAS REALLY IN-FRONT-OF-YOUR-FACE ROARING MUSCULAR TONE... VERY REAL TO BE DIGITAL

 

CABLES ARE A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE OCEAN AS WELL IN HERE: MONSTER? BELDEN? SWITCHCRAFT? AWG?; SO AS PICKUPS... DIMARZIO DUNCAN KNUCKLE LOLLAR

 

AND SPEAKERS OR SYSTEMS: PA? REAL CAB? HYBRID CABS(YES, THOSE FOR P.A.+TWEETER AND MID/BASS DRIVERS-NO GUITAR SPEAKERS-NO FRFR INTENTION) FRFR? STUDIO MONITORS?

 

DON'T EVEN FORGET WHEN YOU RECORD A PROFESSIONAL ALBUM IT GOES AT THE END THRU THE MASTERING PROCESS AND THAT'S THE SUN SHINING ABOVE US; YOU'LL HEAR EVERYTHING!

 

THAT'S WHY I'M VERY INTERESTING IN LISTENING VERY SOON A SONG ON THE RADIO OR THE MTV PLAYED AND RECORDED WITH HELIX(DOUBT IT ONLY WITH HELIX!!!) BUT THAT'S ME...

 

ENJOY MUSIC, AND TRY TO MAKE IT THE BEST POSSIBLE!

 

HAVE FUN

 

CHEERZZ

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The speaker modeling is key and you took it out of the equation.  

 

Fractal has said over and over it is designed to be used direct.  If you took out the speaker modeling you took out the weakness of the Helix as some would argue, and the area the AX8 shines the most - so basically you just compared Helix and AX8 preamps with your amp's power amp and cab.

 

To me using an expensive unit like this with an amp proves nothing.  It has to stand on its own direct.

 

 

Agreed that Cab modeling is a critical component.

 

FWIW, I've owned the Kemper (used it for a good while), AXE-FX XLII+, and Helix.

 

Two things I didn't like about the Axe-FX:

  • Form factor (major step backward for me as Kemper is smaller/lighter and easier to tweak live)
  • Cab sim (many of the IRs are dark and "tubby" sounding to my ears)

That said, the Axe is deep... and you've got lots of parameters to dial in the sound.

 

I could use any of the three and be pretty happy with my sound.

I currently use the Helix... because the form-factor, super easy UI, and it sounds/responds good.

 

The bulk of my sounds come from two basic starting points.

  • Heavy Crunch (Bogner Ubershall model)
  • Piezo Acoustic (using an IR of Taylor acoustic for body resonance - sounds good with piezo equipped electrics)

Our regular sound guy is a good guitar player (and was an Axe user).

After hearing my live sound, he recently picked up a Helix.

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...The bulk of my sounds come from two basic starting points.

  • Heavy Crunch (Bogner Ubershall model)
  • Piezo Acoustic (using an IR of Taylor acoustic for body resonance - sounds good with piezo equipped electrics)

Our regular sound guy is a good guitar player (and was an Axe user).

After hearing my live sound, he recently picked up a Helix.

 

:D My sounds are all both electric and acoustic like this. For the money, you can NOT beat Helix. Axe FX II can do it, but at SO much more money.

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For the money, you can NOT beat Helix. Axe FX II can do it, but at SO much more money.

Even more so if  you want the full routing ReAmping features that the Helix provides, with the Axe FX II.  You will need a separate audio interface. So that adds even more to the cost of going with that route.

Gets into the range of double the cost of the Helix. While I truly think the Axe FX II is top class when it comes to modelers on sound quality... it is not twice as good sounding as the Helix, not even close.

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Just got my AX8 - now I'll be able to see what's up for myself.

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Well, I'll be able to see after I get off work...and mow the yard...and dinner with my wife.

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Well, I'll be able to see after I get off work...and mow the yard...and dinner with my wife.

Those speed bumps just keep forming in front of you don't they? lol

 

My significant other knows when my Helix comes in, I will not be reachable.  Hunger will just have to be induced by my "muse."

 

Hell, she will probably be in the studio with me to see what the hype is all about. Taking pictures as I unbox and whatnot.

 

As far as the yard goes, she does most of it. She enjoys it, finds it therapeutic.  I don't take that from her, not to mention I find it a time eater, and it doesn't do anything for me personally.

 

She will be happy when it comes in, so she doesn't have to hear "about it" anymore, just hear "it."

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Just got my AX8 invite to buy (went on the waiting list on 11/4/15).

Got me a Helix, sorry Fractal. I'll pass.

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Just got my AX8 invite to buy (went on the waiting list on 11/4/15).

Got me a Helix, sorry Fractal. I'll pass.

I passed today also,(11/1). I almost got it, to compare when I get my Helix, but I really don't want to tie up $3K. The Helix looks cool' though. I like all the scripts and colored lights.

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The scribble strips, the Expression pedal, all pluses.

And the fact that I've had the Helix for almost a month and am pretty adept at editing now.

Time to get back to playing and not splitting hairs about which box is better.

Like someone said a long time ago "Less ebay, more Mel Bay"!

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I've said it before, and I'll repeat it from the mountain tops.   You can't really go wrong with any of the latest units for sound.

 

However....  Line 6 has gone for the creature comforts and flexibility.  Of course like anything else, if you don't need/want those options, and many people simply do not need most of the options on the Helix, than again.. whatever unit they feel comfy with will work just fine.  

 

What's going to be interesting is what happens in the next couple of years.   Fractal and Kemper duking it out, based on their core audiences, wasn't really competition, it was just taking what they had to offer and making it a bit better with each version/update.  Line 6 has up'd the game not only with a different approach to "modeling" but with the interface for editing, the pedal board with controllers, the routing and lets not forget Variax integration and a reasonable price point.  All three players individually now have pressure to make sure they outshine the two.   

 

Will Line 6 come up with a profiler to create IR's for the Helix?  Will AxeFX come up with a "super controller" with expression pedals and multichannel I/O?  WIll Kemper adopt deeper component style modeling so the models not only sound like the original amps, but also act like the original amps?  

 

Yes indeedy it's a good time to be a guitar player.   

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Definitely a good time!

 

I keep finding myself playing for hours on a few different patch concoctions now than I do tweaking... I must be happier with my Helix than I was with my Axe II XL+ and my Kemper Rack. I loved them, too, though. Don't miss the separate midi/controller pedal anymore at all.

 

I guess Helix seems to satisfy all of my needs. Can't go wrong with any if them, though.

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Definitely a good time!

 

I keep finding myself playing for hours on a few different patch concoctions now than I do tweaking... I must be happier with my Helix than I was with my Axe II XL+ and my Kemper Rack. I loved them, too, though. Don't miss the separate midi/controller pedal anymore at all.

 

...

I have to agree, the built in expression pedal, all-in-one approach was my prime motivator for getting the Helix. I am on a constant quest to streamline my rig. That combined with the easy to use UI and plethora of input/output options are what have me using the Helix way more than the Axe-FX.

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I believe you and I are not "fan boys"either. Big fan of all of the new Big 3 brands... just prefer Helix due to great tone in my form factor and convenience ala Helix. :)

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I believe you and I are not "fan boys"either. Big fan of all of the new Big 3 brands... just prefer Helix due to great tone in my form factor and convenience ala Helix. :)

 

Absolutely agree with this...

Great sounds can be had from all three.

Helix UI and form-factor where huge factors for me.

Just so easy to change the sounds to what you need...

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If all three sound good and only are different in smaller details in this point, convenience becomes the most important point to me. Forgetting all routing options and coloured lights, and forgetting the big sharp screen,  just to know what will happen if i touch a footswitch in one of dozens of presets (scribble strips) for me is an huge advantage. I would whish that more devices with changable button functions would have this feature, such as cameras. This really makes live easier.

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If all three sound good and only are different in smaller details in this point, convenience becomes the most important point to me. Forgetting all routing options and coloured lights, and forgetting the big sharp screen, just to know what will happen if i touch a footswitch in one of dozens of presets (scribble strips) for me is an huge advantage. I would whish that more devices with changable button functions would have this feature, such as cameras. This really makes live easier.

Oh yeah, how could I forget scribble strips, any mixer or MFX that does not have them or some textual equivalent is not even on my radar any more! This is the difference between having to remember what some random numbered input (on a mixer) or footswitch (MFX) represents rather then having them meaningfully named, potentially across over a thousand presets. Scribble strips or something like them are destined to become the norm. No more having to remember that input #6 on my mixer is the rhythm guitarist or that footswitch #3 on my Helix is the "Teemah" distortion. Masking tape and magic marker, feh!

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Scribble strips has to be absolutely one of the greatest features of the Helix now that Line 6 emulation hangs well with the big boy toys. I don't know how I survived without them before. LoL!

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I'd have ordered those Ax8 invites and thrown them right on eBay for a quick $500-$600 profit.  What's the risk you have a return window.

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I demoed my AX8 this weekly and frankly the tones are blowing me away.  I like the size of the unit better too.  I'm going to ride this train for a while - I had the Helix since Oct anyways - I like to change it up.

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stoopid observation:

 

I remember some dude who made  a test PODHD vs Fractal AxefxII looong time ago, practically he made sound both units identical claiming it was just the price the difference; so imagine it! if PODHD was that close to AXEfxII, now Helix would be miles further from even line6 PODHD!!!

 

I can't find the videos, but it was a very popular topic during the PODHD years

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After owning Axe FX II XL+, Kemper, and Helix, I've been able to coax tones and feel I'm looking for from all three. Hence the Axe and Kemper being sold once I put the Helix through the ringer. I really think it all boils down to form factor, what effects you're looking to use, and some psychological "mine sounds better than yours" activity at this level of quality.

 

I haven't even begun to experiment completely with all the cab options and amp settings, and I've done a LOT of tweaking! There are tones left in the Helix that I still haven't begun to explore.

 

It will be a busy year, but the good problem with Helix is that I tweak something and then don't quit playing through that patch for an hour sometimes. In essence, it makes me want play more than tweak! :)

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It will be a busy year, but the good problem with Helix is that I tweak something and then don't quit playing through that patch for an hour sometimes. In essence, it makes me want play more than tweak! :)

Yep I just spent 5 hours with my new Helix rack, and I tweaked on a total of 4 patches. The rest was spent playing lol...

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Yep I just spent 5 hours with my new Helix rack, and I tweaked on a total of 4 patches. The rest was spent playing lol...

Oh you finally got it?  I will be ordering mine here in the very near future.

After you get some time with it post your impressions, if ya don't mind.  I would like to hear more from the Rack version users.

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i have both, axe fx and helix...helix is nice and has alot of potential (if line6 keeps on updating) but axe fx is far superior. it not only sounds better, but  there is also alot alot more experience and thought behind. how you can control everthing, turn on and off stuff, scenes....etc etc etc...goes on and on and on. people who dont have axe fx or are not really familiar with it cant understand. its hard to explain and way easier to show.

 

the only better side of helix is. more in and outputs, mic input and the editing on the unit is way easier and more fun...my 2cents...

 

still i think i will keep helix for a while and see how it developes. (even though axe fx has still way more frequent updates. i dont know if line6 will ever be able to catch up).

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I was looking at old posts out of curiosity. I would be interested in hearing the results of the original poster if this comparison was done today. The own both units. I actually find the line 6 amp models to now be on par with the AX8. In some cases better, some not so much. I have also found a number of people that hear them have a preconceived notion that AX is king and will not hear otherwise (I am sure it goes the other way at times but more prevalent for AX). It does take more time and tweaking on the Helix, but with time it's all there. I do think fractals stock IRS are a bit better, though Line 6 has decent ones. Ease of use there is no comparison for me Helix has it hands down. I can make a Helix patch that works in a few minutes. AX8 takes longer. It is fussier with memory and clips easy. It takes extra steps to adjust inputs and outputs or add a filter that prevent clipping. Do get me wrong. It isn't necessarily hard to do, just not as easy as the Helix. One plus to the AX8 are the clipping meters. It shows you where it is coming from. When you do clip the Helix it can be more difficult to track down. All in all, as the OP stated, you can't go wrong with either unit. With the updates on the Helix it should now be as easy live as well so it's all going to come down to preference.

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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. 

 

 

Man did I ever need to hear that today. I woke up with a case of "Bad Ears" or something, couldn't dial in anything, everything sounded awful; despite months of success and mind-blowing tones it only took one bad morning for me to start questioning the apparatus instead of the operator. Had a break, read this, went back to it, stuff is better now.

 

Great read, thanks for taking the time!

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Man did I ever need to hear that today. I woke up with a case of "Bad Ears" or something, couldn't dial in anything, everything sounded awful; despite months of success and mind-blowing tones it only took one bad morning for me to start questioning the apparatus instead of the operator. Had a break, read this, went back to it, stuff is better now.

 

Great read, thanks for taking the time!

 

Don't feel bad, I had one of those same days a week or so ago.

Not only that, but I was also troubleshooting something else on my guitar to make matters worse..

 

But I just got done doing a few recording takes with a separate guitar, and the tones I got from a Gilmour preset I downloaded sounded great just loading it up.  After a bit of further tweaking (not much really) it sounded even better.  It will more than likely be the tone I use to ReAmp that recording with perhaps after further dialing in with the mix playing, and my hands free from guitar. 

 

I have spent far more time with my single coil Tagliare with the Helix, than any other guitar of mine, even though I have 5, and 4 have humbuckers. So I can't really comment on the humbucker tones as much. But if I get comparable quality in tones from the Helix that I do with my Tagliare, then I will be more than satisfied. :)

I never had a modeler that did so well with single coil tones like this Helix does.

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Man did I ever need to hear that today. I woke up with a case of "Bad Ears" or something, couldn't dial in anything, everything sounded awful; despite months of success and mind-blowing tones it only took one bad morning for me to start questioning the apparatus instead of the operator. Had a break, read this, went back to it, stuff is better now.

 

Great read, thanks for taking the time!

It happens to all of us!  I'll get something dialed in and go to bed thinking it's the best thing I've ever done, and wake up the next morning and think it's total crap :)

 

BTW, I'm glad you took that line from the review in a good spirit.  A couple of people thought it was incredibly "arrogant" to say it that way.  

 

While I stand behind the thought of it, I intentionally worded it a little bit strongly, and a little tongue in cheek, because it was originally posted over on The Gear Page.  People tend to be a little more abrasive over there.  But really and truly both of these units are extremely capable of good tone.  I was just pointing out that it's not the unit's fault if the user can't get it/them to sound good.  

 

You are spot on that some times we have to step back and let our ears reset.  

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I was looking at old posts out of curiosity. I would be interested in hearing the results of the original poster if this comparison was done today. The own both units. I actually find the line 6 amp models to now be on par with the AX8. In some cases better, some not so much. I have also found a number of people that hear them have a preconceived notion that AX is king and will not hear otherwise (I am sure it goes the other way at times but more prevalent for AX). It does take more time and tweaking on the Helix, but with time it's all there. I do think fractals stock IRS are a bit better, though Line 6 has decent ones. Ease of use there is no comparison for me Helix has it hands down. I can make a Helix patch that works in a few minutes. AX8 takes longer. It is fussier with memory and clips easy. It takes extra steps to adjust inputs and outputs or add a filter that prevent clipping. Do get me wrong. It isn't necessarily hard to do, just not as easy as the Helix. One plus to the AX8 are the clipping meters. It shows you where it is coming from. When you do clip the Helix it can be more difficult to track down. All in all, as the OP stated, you can't go wrong with either unit. With the updates on the Helix it should now be as easy live as well so it's all going to come down to preference.

I haven't had the chance to compare them since the latest Helix firmware, but the patches I'm using having really changed any tonally.  With the new snapshots feature I feel like the only thing the AX8 had that the Helix was "missing" has been taken care of.  

 

I completely stand by my original opinion that for me Helix is the preferred unit of choice.  Tone wise they're in the same ballpark and as I said in the review if you can't get good tone from either something else is wrong :)

 

To me it did, and still does, come down to the feature set since both units sound great.

 

Helix has:

 

Better UI

Built in expression pedal with toe switch

Scribble strips

Better routing flexibility

Great sounding mic pre

Able to freely assign effect blocks as desired (not limited to a certain number of each effect)

USB recording interface (huge feature for my use)

 

I'm sure there's more, but that's what comes to mind off the top of my head.  

 

You really can't go wrong with ether, but I have to say that I still think Helix is the best on the market ;)

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