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Helix at my high school band reunion


zooey
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Oddly enough, one of the bands I was in in high school just had a reunion, 45 years after most of us had last seen each other. (Yes I'm that old!) I played professionally for decades after we all graduated, then did a long time as a sound guy, and I've been playing quite a lot lately, but haven't played WITH anyone since the last band I was a player in, a really long time ago.

 

I used my Helix and two Alesis Alpha 112 "1000 Wat" FRFRs for the reunion, and short story, it was awesome.

 

It felt organic, funky, responsive, and powerful, great sounds doing super clean, semi-clean, driven, or pretty pushed. Between my weirdo guitar wiring (76 unique coil combinations from 3 humbuckers!) and just 3 Helix presets with snaps and stomps, there was plenty of variety, covered everything I wanted to do very appropriately. Many compliments from band members and "audience" (wives, GFs, and long-time friends of the band).

 

I really couldn't have been happier tone-wise. It felt like me, like home, 'nuff said.

 

I could stop there, but here's some random observations, for the benefit of whoever...

 

 

Our rigs were behind us like traditional back-line. When we first started, people thought the guitar wasn't loud enough when it sounded right to me, so I moved the speakers further back away from me, which was much better.

 

My presets were programmed through the same speakers i was using, and that worked out well. I brightened up one snapshot a little as soon as I heard it in context, and turned up the delay mix in another where it was kind of featured, but everything else was good where I'd left it.

 

My Helix logistics were only medium great, but it wasn't really a show, so I had some time between songs and it was fine. There wasn't anything super tricky or complex I needed to do, but OTOH, I wasn't that familiar with either using Helix live, or the songs. I made notes beforehand on which pickup combos and Helix setups to use for each song, mostly stayed with those, but not completely.

 

I had two presets set up for snapshots, and one that wasn't, both styles were workable. They all had different drive levels and a collection of stomps available. I mostly used snapshots as-is, but for one song I toggled a stomp and a boost stomp during the song. For another, it worked really well to turn on a couple of different stomps in each of two snapshots before the song started, and have them just be there when I went to those snaps. Took a minute to set that up before the song, but from there it was instant and easy and just the sounds I wanted.

 

I was standing pretty much in the stereo sweet spot for my cabs, and as cool as that stuff is in my small quiet studio, in a live band context, I think it really doesn't matter much.

 

 

One thing that was a surprise was the lack of headroom in the 112s, which had their Signal Limit lights on a fair amount when I went round back to look. Guitar was loud enough, and I didn't hear any gross limiting or clipping, but 1000 Watts sounds like you wouldn't want to be in the same county with it cranked, and in practice, I probably used pretty much all there was in two of them.

 

Band wasn't that loud either -- bass, pretty light-handed drummer, two horns, singer, keys on one day out of two, and me on guitar. Vocals and horns were mic'd, nothing else, and the PA was pointed back at us, not trying to really cover the room. Music was mostly stuff we did back then - Paul Butterfield, early BS&T, Electric Flag, James Brown, early Steve Miller, etc, nothing super hard or heavy, but definitely not cocktail lounge at all. Everybody brought earplugs, but nobody used them, with no aftereffects, at least for me.

 

OTOH, it was a pretty big room in one guy's barn, about 180' x 90', wood floor, high ceiling, really nice sounding, but that's a lot of cubic feet, whether you mean to fill it or not.

 

 

Score: Helix +1000. I'm happy.

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The helix is great isnt it?

 

As for the Alesis clipping, page 3 of the manual says it all.    The clipping led monitors the input signal.   All it means is the signal from the helix is too high.  Nothing to do with the output of the monitors.  Just turn down the helix a little and turn up the monitor volume to compensate. 

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Hah, foo on me if that's all it was. Makes sense, I did have my Helix output way higher than I ever had before, and it does seem like that much power should be able to get louder than I'd ever want to be anywhere near, big barn or not.

 

So there isn't any way to know if the output is actually clipping then?

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Finally had a chance to set my rig back up, and quick testing says that the Signal Limit light on the 112s is POST the input level control, so I apparently was genuinely out of headroom. I wish the light just meant that the input level was too hot, meaning I could turn down Helix's output and turn up the level control on the 112s, but it appears that's not the case, it's measuring the total post-input-control signal level.

 

Either we really were incredibly loud (no), or that huge barn required a lot of juice, or the 112s don't really put out the sorts of levels they're spec'd to, or some combination of those. OTOH, if there hadn't been a limit light, I would have just been happy with the sounds.

 

Some day, I'd like to try a CLR or some other higher-end FRFR, see how that compares.

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The only thing that occurs to me is how you may have had your 112's placed on the stage.  If you had them down on the floor in a traditional floor monitor way, you would probably be losing a lot of sound energy into the large upper space of the barn that would normally get reflected back to the audience in a more typical room.  I always keep my FRFR speaker as a floor monitor in a normal backline arrangement which is fine for myself and the band, but that's because we always send instruments and voices through the PA so I don't need to project into the audience.  In the situation you describe I might have chosen to use a couple of speaker stands so the energy would be more directed into the audience space.

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The only thing that occurs to me is how you may have had your 112's placed on the stage.  If you had them down on the floor in a traditional floor monitor way, you would probably be losing a lot of sound energy into the large upper space of the barn that would normally get reflected back to the audience in a more typical room.  I always keep my FRFR speaker as a floor monitor in a normal backline arrangement which is fine for myself and the band, but that's because we always send instruments and voices through the PA so I don't need to project into the audience.  In the situation you describe I might have chosen to use a couple of speaker stands so the energy would be more directed into the audience space.

Speakers were on stands, the short Yorkville ones that were posted about a here a while ago. Top of the cabs was a little below the top of my head I'd say, just about where I'd want them.

 

They were behind me, like typical back line, not so much to fill the room, we just thought we'd be more comfortable that way. As I said, people initially thought I was too quiet when it sounded good to me, so I moved them back some, ended up standing roughly 10' away, maybe a bit more.

 

Thing is, the drummer really wasn't wailing at all, quite the opposite, so I'm surprised at all this. One guy's son sat in for a while before the real drummer got there the second day (was actually his kit we were using, he hasn't used it in years), and he was louder, but still nowhere near as loud as some I played with back in the day. The 112s kept up with that too, but they must have been limiting quite a bit if the lights were already on with the quieter guy.

 

You really would think 2000 Watts worth of FRFR would be enough for anyone, but maybe not. I'm sure it's 2000 Specsheet Watts, not real ones, but still. I'm not into crazy volume, honest, so this is just weird. Wonder how CLRs or some such higher-class unit would have done.

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That really is odd that you would be clipping unless the wattage rating is way off.

 

I run my DXR12 (rated at 1100watts) about half volume and my master volume on the Helix is also at 1/2.  All of my patches are normalized using a sound meter to 80db at those settings.  I never come close to clipping even it I bump up my Helix to 60 or 65%.  I don't think I could stand to be in front of it at that level for long, and that's just with a single DXR12.  Certainly no one ever complains they can't hear me.

 

I did notice that the Yamaha specifically states it can produce an SPL maximum of 132db whereas there's no such specification on the 112's, so it makes me wonder if there's not some loss of actual SPL in the Alesis.  Either that or maybe some of your patches are at a high output level and causing the clipping.

 

Have you tried using a sound meter to measure SPL?  Wattage really isn't the final say in what a speaker produces, but SPL is really the only thing that matters because that's what you and your audience and bandmates hear.

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Here's the GS thread I saw before I bought mine; post #3 has some info (supposedly) from the distributor InMusic:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/live-sound/934066-alesis-alpha-active-speakers-improved-version-alto-truesonic.html

 

According to that, the 112s are an upgraded version of the Altos, with slightly better specs, and I think that info matches their respective spec sheets.

 

None of that means jack in the real world though.

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