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musiclover7

Observations - Day 5 - The good and not so good.

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Just in case anyone is following some of my posts, the first unit I received only worked for a few hours before I had to return it defective, which is why my initial post is dated 2 weeks back, and this here post is titled day 5.

Anyways, the first night I spent with the helix upon return, was one for the books. Me, a set of headphones, helix, and my electric guitar, playing together until 3am, and I wanted to keep on going. What a crazy ride. I was not, and still am not a huge fan of the amps/cabs, but that's me. I should mention, I am like a 93% clean player. I want clear, warm, juicy, leo fender from the 60's tone as my base. On top of that, I like rich verb, delay, vibrato, phaser, octave, and I love the fact that helix includes a model of the Mutron envelope filter... but most of the amps seem too gritty for my taste, even the fender twin model. Just sounds a bit too tight to be useable even at low gain. I have an old Fender Twin from the 60's that I run my electric rig into, and the model in the helix does not come close, but then again, it was probably modeled after a more modern twin. In any case, after playing around with the amp models more and more over the days, I have concluded they were not designed for customers like me, and I am good with that. Likewise, the presets were not created for a player like me, and I am equally cool with that. Everyone needs to rock in their own way. I am looking for a solid ecosystem of pristine sounding effects/tones that I can add to my on stage toolbelt.

The 2.0 update has been very solid. The tuner now is fine enough to be useful. Snapshots are a win. Over all, I love the design of this thing, the ease of use, the amount of customizability. I have played through quite a few all in one multi-effect solutions from Boss, Digitech, TC elec, Zoom, in the past... Each is unique in their approach to constructing an effect chain, each with their bucket list of things that they do well and not so well. This is my first line 6 product, and I really like the helix ecosystem.

So what don't I like? With so much to like, why am I sitting here day 5 wondering whether I should hang onto this thing or return it?

It's not an easy answer cuz it's not a point blank thing... It's elusive. I love the way the helix sounds in my headphones, and it could be an awesome tool this way, when it comes to recording, but I am live player. When I am plugged into my amp, engaging effects, etc., over all things begin to sound a bit 'over-processed'. The pure fender tone that I have learned to lean on over the years, begins to muddle. There are ways to fix it. Mix settings on effects can be dialed back. I have definitely achieved some killer tones. It is a nutshell feeling though, like by default, this thing is trying to process the heck out of my tone and take it up through the ceiling, raise the roof with it if you will. This is all fine and good at times, but it seems like a lot of the default effect settings are more aggressive than I would prefer, and there is no way to permanently scale them back.  Another reason why I think this thing was designed primarily for the "Rockers", maybe not as much for the "Groovers" (The presets kind of hint at this as well), and yet it has a Mutron, so go figure.

Last night I plugged my acoustic guitar into the helix, and ran the output into my lovely Fishman loudbox performer. More of the mystery unfolded. For those who have not had the pleasure, these Fishman amps are amazing acoustic amps. They are tubeless, but with the inclusion of a little tweeter, you get this ultra pristine tone with killer sparkly overtone, and it just sounds acoustic. It reacts to every finger picking nuance. I had my guitar plugged direct into my Ravenlabs pmb1 Blender/preamp, which has a dedicated effect send and return. I love this thing for acoustic guitars, but also wind up using it in my electric band because of the way it effects tone. You can turn up the effects send all the way and hear the Helix in full glory, and you can turn it down all the way, and here just you guitar. I was going back and forth comparing. Here is a link to the RL Blender if interested.
https://reverb.com/item/982380-raven-labs-pmb-1-2000-red
Anyways, I can tell you that with zero effects engaged on the Helix, just running clean into it with the effect send fully engaged, I am losing considerable tone. I was not expecting true bypass, but I also wasn't expecting what I'm getting. It just goes flat. I tried playing with global eq, instrument/line, pad, etc, but no joy. What was lost, cannot be found. Now, with an electric guitar, you engage compression and move forward. For the avg player, it might even be an improvement. But with my acoustic, a tone/sound which I know so well, it's enough of a game changer to be game over. When I disengaged the effect loop to helix and played just my acoustic, I was actually relieved to hear and feel the guitar as I have known it.

"So, oh well, not for my acoustic rig then. Lets keep working on the electric rig"... I tell myself. I have managed to get some great tones with this thing, and I bet over time, I can get it to do everything I am after as far as my electric rig is concerned. This is probably true. But still, it's not sitting well with me. I didn't pay $500 bucks for this thing. I paid $1500. At that price tag, I did not expect my acoustic guitar to go flat. I have used 500 dollar all in one solutions, and yeah, they were not this good, but were they $1,000 shy of being this good. I don't think so. Good thing I have a few more weeks to play and contemplate... cuz this is not an easy decision.

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If you're experiencing that significant of a tone loss going into the amp's effects return, I wonder if it's not some sort of impedance mismatch. I use my Helix for my acoustic and mandolin, and I've used various outputs, and have never had an issue with things sounding flat. If anything, I have much more clarity in the high end now.

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See.. That is what I was hoping for! I was hoping for, if anything, improved tone. And yeah, I will be the first to admit that it could all boil down to user error, but I was up late enough with it last night trying different things, that I really don't think so. Still, the impedence suggestion intrigues me. I don't know what I should try to tweak to counter that though. Over all, my acoustic has this 'air' about it when plugged into the fishman amp, and I can't put it into words. I just know, that it is not there when I bring in the helix.

 

I will also add, that I get definite hiss when I engage the helix. It stays even when the effect loop is turned fully off, but it goes away as soon as I turn off the helix. Gotta be something in the electricity, but I literally drove a 4 foot metal rod into the ground the other day outside my place, and I am still getting it. ayech!

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Which input are you plugging the acoustic into.

It should never be plugged into "Guitar" input. That's for an electric guitar only.

If you have an active preamp on it, it should go into Aux.

If it's passive, you should probably have it go into Return 1 (or 2, 3, or 4) and then you will need to use the vintage tube pre and/or one of the many fine Acoustic IRs out there, and you might find that you are delighted. I am.

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Holy shmoley! I am at work now, but can'T wait to get home and give that a shot. My acoustic has active pickups, and I have been running into the guitar in. Will try it on the aux asap..

 

Do you happen to have a link to one of those acoustic IR's.

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Holy shmoley! I am at work now, but can'T wait to get home and give that a shot. My acoustic has active pickups, and I have been running into the guitar in. Will try it on the aux asap..

 

Do you happen to have a link to one of those acoustic IR's.

 

Well, what I've learned is this.

 

Electric guitar and bass sound best through Guitar in.

 

Acoustic guitar with active pickups sounds good through Aux in, just as good through a return, or with a DI through the mic input (totally unnecessary step, though, imho).

 

Acoustic guitar signal with passive piezo or a Fishman PowerBridge MUST be connected to a return for best results. Mic input also works well for this, but is an unnecessary step.

 

So, yeah, try the active input.

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I am struggling with this still.

 

For now, I am engaging no effects, running from my Cordoba GK Studio straight into the aux in of the helix, out the 1/4 mono to my amp.  I play for a bit with the helix, then a bit without. I am bypassing the RavenLabs pmb1 at this time, just in case the effects send on that unit is a factor.

 

Interestingly enough, it is even more pronounced now without the pmb1.  Not only is there a big difference in over all db, but when I add gain to the helix output to make up for it, it does not bring back the smooth airy feeling that I get when I just run straight into the amp.  I wish I had an easy means of sharing what I am talking about here, but my recording options are slim atm.

 

Still trying though...

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It is definitely much improved through return 1, vs guitar in, or Aux in.  It is really close.  Almost true bypass, though not quite. There is still a subtle change, and it is not an improvement to my ear.  Still, definitely usable.  Thanks for the help!

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So what don't I like? With so much to like, why am I sitting here day 5 wondering whether I should hang onto this thing or return it?

 

So I guess you've decided after all it might be worth keeping then? 

 

Just didn't want to read half a book here...  :P

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Yes.. it is definitely usable.  Also.. just discovered that if you start your loop in half speed when engaging the looper, you actually can get a 2 min long loop rather than just 1.  Hot dog!  Revelation after revelation this evening.

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I didnt like the sound of my acoustic through the Helix until I found an acoustic IR to use. I am using a Taylor 314ce IR and it sounds awesome with my Ibanez acoustic. I also use the XLR in instead of 1/4".

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That's cool. I have found that using the effect returns is giving me the best results. I got deep with the eq as well. I have tried to fuss with impulse responses, but have not been able to figure them out. The ones I downloaded contain a folder with like 30 wav files. I am not sure if I am supposed to load them all up separate or what. I will give the taylor a shot.

 

There is still a bit of a change running acoustic into helix, even through the effect return. However, it is way less noticable, and once in, you can doctor the sound a bit with effects, and improve it. I don'T need much with my acoustic guitar. My main thought was to maybe get a decent lead snapshot to kick on here and there, and also maybe run my vocal into the helix, and get some compression, maybe chorus, subtle harmonizer on my voice for acoustic gigs.

 

I have given this a shot and am semi into it. I am learning. Compression for me is still a mystery. I know what it is supposed to be for, and what it does according to the paper. My ears hear conflicting thing's though. So I find myself recording a loop before all the effecta, and then spending the next 10 min or so moving knobs around until I get what sounds like a good tone. Then I bypass everything and compare.

 

I think it would be great if some additional effects were added that were geared for the acoustic guitar. The compressors in the helix don't seem to really blend well with my acoustic, but then again, I don't know too much about how to use them. I really wish we had some sort of guide or manual entry for each effect, with a little snippet about the effect, what it aims to achieve/purpose (or maybe just something unique about it), and then a breakdown of what all the settings are for. I find myself doing a fair amount of guessing in some cases.... like the scale option on chorus, or sensitivity..

 

Anyways, I am in way better shape today, than I was a few days back and am feeling encouraged. My plan is to switch back over to the zoom g5 in a few days and see how that treats me. I'll make up my mind on the helix then. Side note, I have played for like 4-6 hours a day now for like 7-8 straight days, which I have not done since when i was studying jazz in college.

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as far as compressor on acoustic, try the studio one, then back off the mix knob untill you just hear the sound start to fatten up a bit.. also i usually only use a mild ratio of 2:1

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