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Helix S/PDIF Out Loses Sync Too Often


monkeymanx
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For some reason the Helix S/PDIF output keeps dropping and coming back in. The drop is only a second or so. It is the only device that I have had drop out using S/PDIF. I have seen others with the same issue as well. I believe the clock must just drop or something as the clock source is actually the Helix. Any clue if this is going to be remedied with an update at some point? Thanks.

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It happenned to me as well. Somebody mentionned the sample rate in Global Settings (last in INS/OUTS) for some other issue and since its beside an SPDIF setings I assumed it was related to the rate between the HELIX and the audio interface. I reduced it to 48 kHz and it did not happend after that. As of now I used the USB so it migth be just a coincidence ...

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Actually I had quite some problems with this spdif (dropout, weard noises, one time a geting louder and louder and louder distortion.., so I had to cut my monitors urgently :-( ) Just went back to record directly via the analogue in on my Motu Ultralite, or by using the Helix USB! Both work very well.

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Glad I'm not the only one. I don't have an AES input to try on my interface though but I think that works similarly with clock source etc... I wonder if that has issues like the SPDIF connection does. I guess if I want to go digital I could just record via USB for the time being.

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For some reason the Helix S/PDIF output keeps dropping and coming back in. The drop is only a second or so. It is the only device that I have had drop out using S/PDIF. I have seen others with the same issue as well. I believe the clock must just drop or something as the clock source is actually the Helix. Any clue if this is going to be remedied with an update at some point? Thanks.

 

I suggest opening up a ticket with customer support, they may be able to help you resolve the issue. 

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I suppose I could open up a ticket. I wonder if it is because the Helix operates at 48Khz and I set the S/PDIF output to 44.1Khz (which is an option in the global settings). You have the ability to output S/PDIF at either 44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96 Khz. When I hook up via USB to record it is locked at 48 Khz. So, maybe it has something to do with the up or down converting the digital audio. Are others getting drop outs if set to 48 Khz?

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I can also confirm intermittent dropouts after using running the Helix into my DAW for a fair length of time - 30 minutes or so. It would be great to add this to a bug list for the Helix software developers to tackle. Here's some more information on my setup for debugging

 

Line 6 Helix SPDIF Out (clock master) to Focusrite Clarett 8Pre (clock slave)

OSX 10.11.13

Logic Pro X

Recorded in 96k and 44.1k, issue arises in both

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Yeah, mine does this all the time as well, I've got the Mhz synced with my sound card at 48, I'm using a high quality gold cable and still it loses sync a lot.

 

If my cat is in the room and touches me.... that's an instant out.

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I hope this problem is a software problem and not hardware. If it's hardware, it's probably not fixable for current owners. I wonder if Line 6 did any sort of environmental and noise testing on Helix, ESD, EMI, humidity, temperature, etc.

 

Like Gawwuf, I can also induce a dropout if I turn on a fluorescent light. I can get sound back by just unplugging and replugging the cable from Helix.

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 When I hook up via USB to record it is locked at 48 Khz. So, maybe it has something to do with the up or down converting the digital audio. 

Not sure what you are using the SPDIF option for, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Helix converts all IRs to 48hz, so if youre using an IR maybe its worth checking to see if you run into the same hang ups with a native cab.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Not sure if they actually fixed this but with the latest firmware I just played via SPDIF for 1/2 hour with zero drop outs. It did appear to be a clocking issue which should not have been a problem. I should get more time to play around this weekend to confirm it can stay synced for extended periods of time.

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Hmmm... That sucks. I am doing some work on a project this weekend so that will give me a longer test period.

 

Honestly though, between SPDIF and balanced outputs there is not noticeable sound difference to me but everything should work.

 

USB would be alright if they built a proper mixer for the inputs and outputs. As it stands now though, USB isn't really that great as far as mixer (volume) flexibility. I get it though, it isn't an interface. It is a guitar processor which is excels at in my opinion.

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Something worth considering is a ground loop problem. With analog you can hear the hum/buzz and can tell immediately that something is wrong. With SP/DIF it may seem fine, but occasionally drop out.

 

Ground issues arise due to either an improper ground or an alternative ground.

 

One simple thing to try is to use an XLR or 1/4" cable to connect the two devices (while also connecting the sp/dif cable). This should provide a good ground. No need to actually use that extra line for audio, just have the physical connection in place. Then check whether the problem still exists on the digital sp/dif connection. If the digital signal is still dropping then you can also listen to the analog line for ground noises if you suspect a typical ground loop. If the analog line is quiet AND the sp/dif is still dropping, then the digital interconnect cable might still be at issue.

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For me, I haven't noticed any difference with 1.10.0 for length or frequency of dropouts. It's pretty much the same as all other firmwares.

 

I wonder if this is something Line 6 is able to fix and if they had an uh-oh moment yet. Surely they must know about it and are able to reproduce it by now. It's gotta be near the top of their bug list. Plus, if it's a software problem, it doesn't seem like it would be something extremely difficult to fix. Makes this output kinda useless for anything other than monitoring.

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Something worth considering is a ground loop problem. With analog you can hear the hum/buzz and can tell immediately that something is wrong. With SP/DIF it may seem fine, but occasionally drop out.

 

Ground issues arise due to either an improper ground or an alternative ground.

 

One simple thing to try is to use an XLR or 1/4" cable to connect the two devices (while also connecting the sp/dif cable). This should provide a good ground. No need to actually use that extra line for audio, just have the physical connection in place. Then check whether the problem still exists on the digital sp/dif connection. If the digital signal is still dropping then you can also listen to the analog line for ground noises if you suspect a typical ground loop. If the analog line is quiet AND the sp/dif is still dropping, then the digital interconnect cable might still be at issue.

 

It's has to be something with Helix because before Helix, I used an HD500, then HD500X, with their spdif outputs. Never once encountered a dropout. The equipment used outside of all three devices is exactly the same, including cables and power sources.

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I wonder if the AES output does it. I don't have an interface that accepts that type of digital connection though to test. I'm pretty sure AES is the pro level SPDIF type connection.

 

I thought about that too, but I'd have to buy a converter to make the output optical. Not cheap and not worth it.

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It's has to be something with Helix because before Helix, I used an HD500, then HD500X, with their spdif outputs. Never once encountered a dropout. The equipment used outside of all three devices is exactly the same, including cables and power sources.

 

The HD500 and 500X used an ungrounded switch mode plug pack. The Helix has a proper earth connection through the IEC power connector.

 

If you connect using the analog interconnects do you hear ground noise?

 

When you say turning on a fluorescent light causes a dropout (and someone mentioned touching their cat has a similar effect), it really does point to some kind of grounding problem (or other hardware signal related issue).

 

The hard part about diagnosing ground 'loops' in digital interfaces is that you can't 'hear' hum/buzz in the conventional sense. The issue manifests indirectly as dropouts, ticks, and loss of sync. Solutions are similar to solving analog ground problems. (Note, if you use a transformer isolator it must be designed for digital as the bandwidth is much greater than analog baseband audio.)

 

Also, make sure you're using 75 Ohm coax for the sp/dif. Depending on the cable length, circuit design, termination, and signal levels, just using a standard audio cable (or 50 Ohm coax) may cause a marginal connection to degrade to the point where it starts to drop out.

 

This really doesn't sound like a firmware/software issue.

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I use proper cabling. It is definitely an issue with the Helix currently. I too had a HD 500X and no issue with SPDIF. Also had an Axe FX II with no issue via SPDIF. Somebody said it before, seems like a intermittent clocking issue.

 

Analog line works great though. No extra noise or buzzing. I just prefer not going through an extra stage of conversion.

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The HD500 and 500X used an ungrounded switch mode plug pack. The Helix has a proper earth connection through the IEC power connector.

 

If you connect using the analog interconnects do you hear ground noise?

 

When you say turning on a fluorescent light causes a dropout (and someone mentioned touching their cat has a similar effect), it really does point to some kind of grounding problem (or other hardware signal related issue).

 

The hard part about diagnosing ground 'loops' in digital interfaces is that you can't 'hear' hum/buzz in the conventional sense. The issue manifests indirectly as dropouts, ticks, and loss of sync. Solutions are similar to solving analog ground problems. (Note, if you use a transformer isolator it must be designed for digital as the bandwidth is much greater than analog baseband audio.)

 

Also, make sure you're using 75 Ohm coax for the sp/dif. Depending on the cable length, circuit design, termination, and signal levels, just using a standard audio cable (or 50 Ohm coax) may cause a marginal connection to degrade to the point where it starts to drop out.

 

This really doesn't sound like a firmware/software issue.

 

I have tried the XLR and 1/4" in the past and they worked fine. No hum or anything else unwanted.

 

About your other suggestion of checking the spdif for dropouts with an analog connection present. I have also tried that when I first got Helix, not for the purpose of checking for dropouts, but just making sure everything appeared to work. So I did have both outputs connected for a while and can recall dropouts on spdif.

 

Definitely using a 75 Ohm coax as well.

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I use proper cabling. It is definitely an issue with the Helix currently. I too had a HD 500X and no issue with SPDIF. Also had an Axe FX II with no issue via SPDIF. Somebody said it before, seems like a intermittent clocking issue.

 

Analog line works great though. No extra noise or buzzing. I just prefer not going through an extra stage of conversion.

 

 

The sp/dif 'ground' isn't actually grounded on the Helix, it may or may not be galvanically isolated. And may or may not be able to deal with significant ground differentials. It is important that both pieces of equipment are otherwise grounded.

 

Have you tried using the sp/dif while the analog lines are connected (the XLR is best as it's definitely directly connected to the chassis ground inside the Helix)?

 

Intermittent clock issues are incredibly rare with sp/dif, not impossible if the design has been botched, but unlikely unless the engineers have gone out of their way to fail. And 'turning on a fluorescent light' or 'touching a cat' is all about external noise being injected into the signal line. Also, clock drift issues tend to manifest with periodic orders of seconds or quicker, not minutes, and are usually quite regular.

 

It'd be nice to see a proper circuit block diagram or a full schematic of Helix's external interfaces, as that would make it much easier to come up with proper solutions to all these interconnect related issues. The circuit topology of the output makes a huge difference to the solution, and not knowing means wasting a lot of time trying to determine the underlying issue (even if the Helix isn't actually the device at fault). Unfortunately, I've never seen any detailed circuit info come out of Line6 for any of their products, so it's unlikely they'll start now. Sadly, it is rare these days to find a tech company that provides detailed technical service/repair manuals for their products.

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What is the result of the support tickets. I presume each has opened one but here is the big BUTT

Who wants to send their unit off for repair??

Would'nt want to be without it and risk a long wait while the cause is isolated.

I use my HD via s/pdif all the time for recording and it is rock solid.

The prob is not just additional AD DA conversion it is also additional pre amp unless your lucky enough to have a line input on your interface. Use that meantime.

 

Not sure if related or not but in the interest of getting the s/pdif sorted there is a quote from another Topic "removing rubber feet" where he mentions using a Radial due to noise. Might be connected

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  • 7 months later...

Experiencing the same issue with SPDIF dropping out 2-3 seconds once every 20-30 minutes.

 

It has been 8 months since the last post. Anyone find a fix?

 

I am running the most current Helix firmware (2.10), connected to a Universal Apollo 8 interface.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm having a somewhat similar issue. Worked fine yesterday, now my Fireface400 isn't seeing the Helix at all. Puzzling. Fireface sending and receiving fine to other devices via SPDIF. I'm on 2.11. I'll update the OS, but I doubt it will help.

clock sync? Slave Fireface to Helix. Just a thought, i do not own a Fireface400.

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clock sync? Slave Fireface to Helix. Just a thought, i do not own a Fireface400.

Issue was fixed by replacing the RCAs I was using. Then I switched back to the original RCAs and everything was fine. I'm guessing I lost clock sync somehow and just the act of unplugging and replugging fixed it. 

 

The Fireface is bulletproof(seriously, RME's drivers are the best in the business), so I'm blaming the Helix for the time being. Hopefully it doesn't lose sync again.

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Issue was fixed by replacing the RCAs I was using. Then I switched back to the original RCAs and everything was fine. I'm guessing I lost clock sync somehow and just the act of unplugging and replugging fixed it. 

 

The Fireface is bulletproof(seriously, RME's drivers are the best in the business), so I'm blaming the Helix for the time being. Hopefully it doesn't lose sync again.

 

In my case, I sometimes (rarely) lose all audio from Helix's spdif output. No idea if it's caused by a sync loss or something external to Helix that might be triggering a sync loss, but as you mention here, the act of unplugging and replugging the cable on the spdif output fixes it.

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Wow, people having issues really need to say exactly how they are hooking up and what equipment you are using.  It doesn't do any good to complain without exact details of how you are using it and what you expect.  I have had my Helix hooked up to my Focusrite 6i6 using s/pdif, the 6i6 hooked up to my PC  by USB, the Helix hooked up to the PC by USB, my Helix hooked up to an L2t by XLR, and my amp by 1/4 (all this at the same time), and recorded for hours on Mixcraft 7 in multiple sessions without a single hiccup.  All items are hooked into the same strip. No Midi in use.  One guitar is plugged into the helix by 1/4" jack, and a Variax connected by VDI, so I can easily switch between the two on a song by song basis.

 

The only way anyone is going to be able to help is if they know exactly how you have it hooked up.  They also need to know how you are using it.  Otherwise, nobody is going to have a clue how to help you.  Your issues could be happening anywhere in your chain.

 

I'm not saying you're not having issues, just asking how we could possibly help without knowing the chain.

 

(P.S. Is it true all the people having issues are using macs?)

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Not that I know about. I think it's probably a hardware problem that can't be fixed. :(

 

 

I am coming to the same conclusion, a hardware issue affecting certain Helix units. Described previously, S/PDIF sound cuts out 2-3 seconds once every 20-30 minutes. Firmware is current (2.12) and using different cables and S/PDIF syncing and slaving methods has not fixed the issue. I have submitted a support ticket to Line 6.
 
  • Audio connection: Helix S/PDIF OUT -> Monoprice S/PDIF RG-6/U 75ohm coaxial RCA cable -> UA Apollo 8 S/PDIF IN for audio
  • Non-audio connection: Helix USB -> iMac macOS Sierra 10.12.3 (for Helix Editor / Line 6 Updater)
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I never opened a support ticket for this because I guess I don't care enough about it as I only use this output for monitoring. Currently I have:
 
6" 75ohm coaxial (I think from monoprice) to one of these, then an optical cable (I think one from Amazon) that goes to a Soundblaster X-FI Titanium (the one with the front panel thingamabob) with an optical input, which is connected to my headphones/speakers. Certainly far from a good system, but it works well enough for monitoring.

 

I can sometimes induce an audio drop out, the kind that requires me to unplug and replug the coaxial cable from Helix, by turning on a florescent light, or sometimes by just touching Helix, such as placing my foot (wearing sneakers) on the expression pedal. Before I had Helix, I used this same setup on a POD HD500 and HD500X with none of the 2-3 second audio dropouts, ever. I did, however, still occasionally get the unplug/replug variety, but only when turning on the florescent light.

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It is possible that there is ground noise on the SPDIF line that would otherwise be audible as a buzz or hum if the connection was analog. This is why TOSLINK (optical) exists. It is possible to transformer isolate an SPDIF line, but I've never tried as I've always used SPDIF/TOSLINK adapters when I did a lot of work with digital audio and ADAT.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have submitted a support ticket to Line 6.

 

 
In response to a Helix hardware warranty claim I heard back from Will in Line 6 support... 
 
On 02/06/2017, Will states, "We have located this bug and will have a fix for this as soon as we can. It probably won't be on the recently announced 2.20 firmware update, but likely the next one." Line 6 denied the warranty claim based on this. The reply seemed suspect given if it were a firmware bug all Helix users would be experiencing S/PDIF dropouts...
 
To clarify, I followed up asking, "So to repeat back — this is a known firmware issue that affects all Line 6 Helix units?" Today, Will replied, "Yes, it is not hardware related, but a bug in the firmware that we will have a fix for soon."
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