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MakeItShredNo1

Helix direct and pedals

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So, I'm pretty sold on a Helix.  I've been wanting one for a long time and I'm getting close to being able to pull the trigger.  But I have a question that I haven't been able to find.  
How well does the helix take distortion pedals when not using an amp?  

I've seen a fair bit of info about incorporating pedals into a 4cm rig, and that looks awesome - and indeed, I have a use for that.  But some gigs I have to go direct, or I can't have a live amp on stage.  

I've owned and gigged for years with a HD500, and it does not take dirt pedals well.  I very nearly returned a couple of very nice pedals because I didn't like the sound, because I was doing a bunch of no-amp gigs and hadn't thought to run the pedals through a tube amp.  

 

So, how does the helix amp models handle distortion pedals (not as boost/overdrive, but as actual distortion into clean amp sound)?

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I haven't tried it with straight up distortion pedals yet (I don't own any), but the way the amp models interact with all of the physical overdrive pedals I have is light years ahead of where the HD500 was.  I usually do use them as boosts, but the the MXR "Custom Badass Modified OD" (M77) you can get a good amount of gain that the new amp models handle very well.  

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In my experience it handles overdrive perfectly. Way better that the HD500.

I own a Lex Bos tube drive (which is absolutely killer) and on the HD it only sounded good in front of one or two amp models.

It sounded absolutely crap in front of the Twin model for instance.

On Helix, in front of the Twin it sounds wonderful. In fact it sounds great in front of all clean amps and many dirty ones.

I think that would be the same with real amps

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I've not used "real" dirt pedals with my Helix amps.

 

But I have used Helix dirt pedals with both Helix amps and my Tube amp in 4cm.  I have some presets set so that the Helix is dialled in to mimic the core tone on the amp very closely.

 

I have found that the when I switch on the dirt pedals for solo boosts, the Helix amp models do not respond identically to how my tube amp does, but I suppose that is unlikely!  They don't sound bad at all.. just have a slightly different tonal balance really..

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Hm.  I was kind of afraid of that.  It might come down to making patches that are all-Helix for the no-amp gigs, and separate patches for use with the amp - instead of just modifying the with-amp patches to use a full amp+cab model in Helix.  

Side note - I may make a separate thread for this, but does anyone have experience using a real preamp (either from an amp or a rackmout pre) to "tube-ify" a Helix model.  For example:

Gtr- Helix - FX loop - rackmout pre set clean - FX return - Helix amp model

 

I've heard of some people using a ART mic pre to warm up some modelers, but that is relatively flat, and of course a guitar preamp would modify the tone, even if left "everything at noon."  I've messed around with the idea with my HD500 and got mixed results - pedals before the preamp sound better, but the overall sound is a little boxy (could probably EQ it out, but haven't gotten that far).  

 

Also, if it is of any consequence, I'm not using traditional "distortion" pedals like a Boss DS or tube screamer - I'm using amp-like pedals, specifically the Bogner Red and possibly the Flux Five (to stave off my jonesing for a Mark V:25 after I drop the coin on a Helix).  

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I've had good luck with different boutique and non-boutique gain boxes, both amp like and ultra gain/fuzz boxes, going into the Hiwatt dr103 model prepped for a really clean tone.  The Hiwatt is the only one i have spent a considerable amount of time with as I use a DR103 in a band situation, so i havent seen a point in moving away from what i like; big, loud, clean, and british.

This is using headphones.  I haven't tried this DI into a PA yet. 

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I've had good results running dirt boxes in the fx loops of the Helix. I haven't tried running them before the Helix though. I've used a Bogner Wessex, Red House Mint Drive and J Rockett The Dude and all have sounded like themselves to my ears. I do like some of the modeled dirt boxes on Helix, but still prefer the sound of my own dirt boxes on some of my patches. On a few patches I've found that running my own dirt box sounds a bit harsh, and I've been able to tweak the send and return of that particular loop to actually make it sound and feel great. Helix is so flexible! 

I play exclusively direct and through headphones/in-ears.

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