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I need advice for preforming live with Helix on cruise ship gig.


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I'm a guitarist currently using the Helix for a top 40 cover band gig on a cruise ship. I bought the Helix because I thought its stylistic versatility and relatively small size would make it ideal for the kinds of music I have to play as well as traveling. I've been a mainly a jazz guitarist for most of my life playing archtops through tube amps with little to no effects. For this reason I have little experience with multi effects boards of this kind or any digital amp modeling.

 

The majority of the playing I do on the cruise ship is in a dance lounge playing through a cheap marshal combo amp. 

 

I started playing here a month ago I quickly learned that I could not use any amp model blocks while plugging in to the front of the marshal amp because the sound was excruciatingly bright, harsh and unusable. If I plug the Helix into the effects loop in the back of the amp I can use amp models and they sound better, but after a month of trial I know my clean tone for rhythm guitar sounds better if I just rung straight though the helix with no amp models at all and get my sound from the marshal amp. 

 

So what I've been doing is plugging the helix directly into the front of the amp and using the helix only for reverb, delay, chorus, wah and other modulations ect. This is working pretty well for my clean rhythm tones and ambient effects. I'm still feeling kind of bad that I spent so much on this pedal and I'm only using it for a delay and reverb. 

 

The real problem is that i've still not been able to produce a reliable lead distortion sound for soloing and playing rhythm distortion parts. All of the distortion and overdrive blocks in the helix sound and feel terrible when plugging the helix into the front of the marshal amp. They become boomy, fuzzy and mushy sounding when I hit the E or A string and they also generally have this hard, stiff and sluggish response that make it impossible to play fluidly. I'm getting pretty frustrated and discouraged because I've been spending a lot of time every day over the past month tinkering with the helix and reading forums about how to optimize it. I now realize it's common knowledge that the Helix was not designed for use playing live straight into to guitar combo amps so its my fault for not researching more before I bought it. I'm feeling like I should have just spent the same amount of money on a pedal board with stomp boxes. I really want to get back to spending my free time practicing and studying bebop, harmony and musical things rather than spending hours a day trying to get a basic distortion sound to feel good.

 

So I would be really grateful to anyone who could give me their thoughts on how to get a good distortion sound from my helix playing through a marshal combo amp on stage. Thanks and I hoping to hear from someone.  

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Try this, it's called the 4cm (4 cable method):

 

Using shielded (instrument) cables, plug your guitar into the Helix. Take Helix Send 1 to the amp's Input. Take the amp's FX LOOP SEND to the Helix Return 1. Take the Helix LEFT(MONO) 1/4" OUT to the amp's FX LOOP Return.

 

Go to a new preset on the Helix. Insert an FX LOOP BLOCK set to FX LOOP 1. Put compressors, distortions, wah, BEFORE the FX LOOP BLOCK. Put your delay, reverb and other time based effects AFTER the FX LOOP BLOCK. 

 

If you want to try some Helix amps, put the amp/cab block after the FX LOOP BLOCK (before works too). With the FX LOOP set ON and the AMP BLOCK set OFF, assign both to one button. Now you have a choice of FX(distortion, wah)=>Marshall Preamp=>Helix delay/reverb=>Marshall Power Amp OR a straight Helix signal path thru FX(distortion, wah)=> Helix Amp=>Delay/Reverb=>Marshall Power Amp - at the touch of a button!

 

Don't expect it to sound perfect out of the gate. Even with identical Presets on the Helix, your Marshall is going to sound different than my Engl, but this is the right way to WIRE it for what you're doing.

 

NOTE: There's no right way to order effects. What a said above is the order most commonly recommended and the one I use (sometimes - more or less).

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Try this, it's called the 4cm (4 cable method):

 

Using shielded (instrument) cables, plug your guitar into the Helix. Take Helix Send 1 to the amp's Input. Take the amp's FX LOOP SEND to the Helix Return 1. Take the Helix LEFT(MONO) 1/4" OUT to the amp's FX LOOP Return.

 

Go to a new preset on the Helix. Insert an FX LOOP BLOCK set to FX LOOP 1. Put compressors, distortions, wah, BEFORE the FX LOOP BLOCK. Put your delay, reverb and other time based effects AFTER the FX LOOP BLOCK. 

 

If you want to try some Helix amps, put the amp/cab block after the FX LOOP BLOCK (before works too). With the FX LOOP set ON and the AMP BLOCK set OFF, assign both to one button. Now you have a choice of FX(distortion, wah)=>Marshall Preamp=>Helix delay/reverb=>Marshall Power Amp OR a straight Helix signal path thru FX(distortion, wah)=> Helix Amp=>Delay/Reverb=>Marshall Power Amp - at the touch of a button!

 

Don't expect it to sound perfect out of the gate. Even with identical Presets on the Helix, your Marshall is going to sound different than my Engl, but this is the right way to WIRE it for what you're doing.

 

NOTE: There's no right way to order effects. What a said above is the order most commonly recommended and the one I use (sometimes - more or less).

 

That all assumes that the Helix Ins/Outs are set to MULTI.

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Another option to consider might be to bypass the amp altogether and simply go direct to the PA and use the monitor system for your guitar on stage. This way you could use all of the facilities of the Helix as it's meant to be used. Sometimes the simplest approach is the best.

I agree. I would just go direct using the PA system on the ship if possible, if you want your own monitor for practice or stage, maybe bring a small light 8" or 10" powered PA speaker (might be a step up from the cheap Marshall combo) and use the full power of the Helix modeling along with the effects. Perhaps bring something like a Sansamp pedal maybe even the Tech 21 Fly as a backup. Unless you are on some giant cruise ship that should be all you need. I think you will enjoy the modeled amp's sounds through the PA speaker much more than the cheap Marshall combo and you will have time to get proficient with programming the Helix. Of course, I would spend some time getting things dialed in before the cruise.

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Last night after the band played and the club cleared out I went and setup the 4 cable method to give it a try. I didn't want to actually do the gig with 4CM until I was familiar with it, so I haven't tried it with the band yet but I heard how it generally sounded.

 

I noticed when I ran the time based effects (reverb, delay) into the fx loop they sounded more clear and pure which was good. It still seemed like the distortions were the same, when I go to the low register of the guitar I get this ridiculous 'farty', rumbling, non dynamic sound. The distortions do sound decent in the mid range of the guitar neck, but its important to point out that everything sounds alright when I'm playing alone but with the full band its a totally different story.

 

Rd2rk said I should run the distortions before the effects loop, sending them straight to the marshals preamp, as far as I understand this is what I had been doing before and it won't change my main problem, that being the sound of the harsh and 'boxy' sounding Helix distortion blocks.

 

What I've been doing with the band for the past few nights is setting up my Helix with 2 cables and using a 3rd cable to run my Ibanez Tube Screamer stomp box in front of the Helix. I just use the Helix for reverbs, delays, modulation effects and wah, when I need distortions to play a solo I kick on the Tube Sceamer stomp box and everything feels and sounds normal again and I can play happily. So I'm attributing my problem to the nature of the Helix distortions.

 

Maybe it's just the way the Helix sounds through the front of a guitar amp (again this is a cheap lollipop marshal combo) and it would be great through a PA or flat response speaker. But It seems really weird to me that this is such an expensive and prestigious piece of gear and when I'm presented with a totally normal scenario, a stage with a guitar amp, it's basically 90% unusable to me. The ship is in Europe right now and I'm going to give it another month of experimenting, but I might try to find a music store somewhere in Spain or France to buy my Helix used and I'll then buy or order an analog pedal setup because I'm going to be on this ship for most of this winter into the spring and I want to have a really reliable setup so I can focus the majority of my attention on musical things.  

 

I'm still really interested in hearing some insights so if anyone can tell me what they think, or if I'm clearly not understanding something please let me know. Again I am pretty much a gear noob because I've just been an vintage archtop obsessed jazz player for most of my life. 

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Last night after the band played and the club cleared out I went and setup the 4 cable method to give it a try. I didn't want to actually do the gig with 4CM until I was familiar with it, so I haven't tried it with the band yet but I heard how it generally sounded.

 

I noticed when I ran the time based effects (reverb, delay) into the fx loop they sounded more clear and pure which was good. It still seemed like the distortions were the same, when I go to the low register of the guitar I get this ridiculous 'farty', rumbling, non dynamic sound. The distortions do sound decent in the mid range of the guitar neck, but its important to point out that everything sounds alright when I'm playing alone but with the full band its a totally different story.

 

Rd2rk said I should run the distortions before the effects loop, sending them straight to the marshals preamp, as far as I understand this is what I had been doing before and it won't change my main problem, that being the sound of the harsh and 'boxy' sounding Helix distortion blocks.

 

What I've been doing with the band for the past few nights is setting up my Helix with 2 cables and using a 3rd cable to run my Ibanez Tube Screamer stomp box in front of the Helix. I just use the Helix for reverbs, delays, modulation effects and wah, when I need distortions to play a solo I kick on the Tube Sceamer stomp box and everything feels and sounds normal again and I can play happily. So I'm attributing my problem to the nature of the Helix distortions.

 

Maybe it's just the way the Helix sounds through the front of a guitar amp (again this is a cheap lollipop marshal combo) and it would be great through a PA or flat response speaker. But It seems really weird to me that this is such an expensive and prestigious piece of gear and when I'm presented with a totally normal scenario, a stage with a guitar amp, it's basically 90% unusable to me. The ship is in Europe right now and I'm going to give it another month of experimenting, but I might try to find a music store somewhere in Spain or France to buy my Helix used and I'll then buy or order an analog pedal setup because I'm going to be on this ship for most of this winter into the spring and I want to have a really reliable setup so I can focus the majority of my attention on musical things.  

 

I'm still really interested in hearing some insights so if anyone can tell me what they think, or if I'm clearly not understanding something please let me know. Again I am pretty much a gear noob because I've just been an vintage archtop obsessed jazz player for most of my life. 

 

I think your perspective is still very jaded by a traditional stage and amp setup as being something that needs to be preserved because it's something special.  In many ways the high end modeling environments were created in response to the limitations of such a scenario.  I don't know this for a fact, but if the general responses I see from Helix users in here and on other boards is indicative, I would say there are far more that have gone the route of the Helix either direct into a PA or into a FRFR rig and direct into a PA.  If you examine the outputs that come with the Helix it's obvious it was designed with that in mind.

 

There are certainly any number of ways you can try to preserve the amp environment, but the path of least resistance is clearly to go direct into a clean power amp and some form of full range speaker setup, because that is ultimately what the core of this system is designed for.  An analogy would be, if all you know is a hammer everything starts to look like a nail.  You might be surprised to find out how much more functional and useful the Helix is if you accept it as it is designed to be, an entirely new way of addressing live performance as many of us have done.

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DunedinDragon said:

 

I would say there are far more that have gone the route of the Helix either direct into a PA or into a FRFR rig and direct into a PA.  If you examine the outputs that come with the Helix it's obvious it was designed with that in mind.

 

-------------------------------------

 

This is the way to go - Helix to FRFR to FOH. I'm running into an Alto TS210 ($299), and it's scary how good it sounds! I haven't sold my Engl yet - I still can't see it as a nail :) , but it's time is coming.

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Last night after the band played and the club cleared out I went and setup the 4 cable method to give it a try. I didn't want to actually do the gig with 4CM until I was familiar with it, so I haven't tried it with the band yet but I heard how it generally sounded.

 

I noticed when I ran the time based effects (reverb, delay) into the fx loop they sounded more clear and pure which was good. It still seemed like the distortions were the same, when I go to the low register of the guitar I get this ridiculous 'farty', rumbling, non dynamic sound. The distortions do sound decent in the mid range of the guitar neck, but its important to point out that everything sounds alright when I'm playing alone but with the full band its a totally different story.

 

Rd2rk said I should run the distortions before the effects loop, sending them straight to the marshals preamp, as far as I understand this is what I had been doing before and it won't change my main problem, that being the sound of the harsh and 'boxy' sounding Helix distortion blocks.

 

What I've been doing with the band for the past few nights is setting up my Helix with 2 cables and using a 3rd cable to run my Ibanez Tube Screamer stomp box in front of the Helix. I just use the Helix for reverbs, delays, modulation effects and wah, when I need distortions to play a solo I kick on the Tube Sceamer stomp box and everything feels and sounds normal again and I can play happily. So I'm attributing my problem to the nature of the Helix distortions.

 

Maybe it's just the way the Helix sounds through the front of a guitar amp (again this is a cheap lollipop marshal combo) and it would be great through a PA or flat response speaker. But It seems really weird to me that this is such an expensive and prestigious piece of gear and when I'm presented with a totally normal scenario, a stage with a guitar amp, it's basically 90% unusable to me. The ship is in Europe right now and I'm going to give it another month of experimenting, but I might try to find a music store somewhere in Spain or France to buy my Helix used and I'll then buy or order an analog pedal setup because I'm going to be on this ship for most of this winter into the spring and I want to have a really reliable setup so I can focus the majority of my attention on musical things.

 

I'm still really interested in hearing some insights so if anyone can tell me what they think, or if I'm clearly not understanding something please let me know. Again I am pretty much a gear noob because I've just been an vintage archtop obsessed jazz player for most of my life.

 

I can't tell you what to do, but the drives in Helix sound wonderful — better than many analog pedals I've had.

 

Have you followed the manual about setting levels? Chosen the right output method? Try turning on the input pad and test that as well.

 

And if you run it in the loop with a Helix preamp and maybe power amp (but no cab) how does it then sound? A lot of players are using Helix with amps, and while it is limiting as far as the modeling of cabs go, you should definitely get great sounds of it — that is if the amp doesn't totally suck :)

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Hey you guys thanks again for this insight. I feel I'm definitely getting closer to locking down an approach that produces reliable and consistent results. 

 

The drummer/band leader is a great musician with drum machine-like time and contemporary sounding feels/grooves. His approach is to get the dance floor filled with people and keeping it raging by extending tunes with open solo sections. This means all night every night I get to do a substantial amount of soloing and improvising like I would on many gigs back home. This is why I need a lead tone that sounds and responds like an analog setup or tube amp. Again when I'm using the Tube Sceamer stomp box I feels at the very least like I'm playing an average piece of gear thats usable. When I use the Helix Screamer distortion block It sounds like the ships emergency alarm just went off.

 

If you all think a FRFR speaker to FOH will give me what I'm looking for I could order one or maybe find a store in one of the major cities to buy one. I've been thinking about this option and my pianist keeps emphasizing that I'd be doing myself a big disservice by trying to go cheap buy a cheap PA or FRFR speaker.

 

I'm pretty interested in this Alto TS210 ($299). THis is a FRFR? Do you play with it in a group setting?

 

If anyone could offer info about good brand or model options for a PA or FRFR I could definitely use the insight.

 

Thanks 

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I can't tell you what to do, but the drives in Helix sound wonderful — better than many analog pedals I've had.

 

Have you followed the manual about setting levels? Chosen the right output method? Try turning on the input pad and test that as well.

 

And if you run it in the loop with a Helix preamp and maybe power amp (but no cab) how does it then sound? A lot of players are using Helix with amps, and while it is limiting as far as the modeling of cabs go, you should definitely get great sounds of it — that is if the amp doesn't totally suck :)

Thanks, I'll try this. My attitude might be a little sour but I'll stay optimistic about it and keep trying. 

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I'm pretty interested in this Alto TS210 ($299). THis is a FRFR? Do you play with it in a group setting?

 

 

 

While I don't have a Helix yet... I do have a good amount of time under my belt with the HD500X and the TS110 (What the TS210 became.) I play in an original rock band with shades of classic. The TS110 has been fantastic... PLENTY loud and so easy to carry around.

 

Given the flexibility of the Helix's routing setup, doing FOH and monitoring off of the TS210 would be a great way to go. You can also set the Master Volume control to only adjust the volume being sent to the TS210 only, while sending a consistent level to the FOH.

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"I'm pretty interested in this Alto TS210 ($299). THis is a FRFR? Do you play with it in a group setting?"

 

I just got this rig, and I'm not currently in a band. I can only tell you that based on previous experience, in bands and with tube amps, the Alto is going to sound GREAT. It WILL be replacing my Engl AND my Warwick Bass amp (I may need to get the TS215 for that if I get into a LOUD band).

 

As for FRFR, there's no such thing, it's a myth. If it sounds good, use it! That said, the Alto doesn't seem to color the sound, it's very clear and clean. For more $ you could get something with DSP, EV or the Line6 L2m or L3m come to mind, I haven't tried either, the EV is $500 and the L6 is outrageous. Maybe they're better, but I'm totally happy with the Alto.

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So, something that may help you in considering the FRFR solution:
 

You mentioned earlier that you "need a lead tone that sounds and responds like an analog setup or tube amp". The important thing about running through the Helix is that you're going to be able to get a variety of different tube amp sounds, cleans or gainier amps and switch between them. At the moment, you've mentioned that the amp blocks are sounding terrible running through your amp, and that's because essentially what you're doing from an analog perspective is:

 

- Guitar -> Amp Head 1 -> Cabinet 1 -> Microphone -> Amp Head 2 -> Cabinet 2. If you did that in a real world context, it would sound terrible as well.

The FRFR solution will let you have something closer to Guitar -> Amp Head 1 -> Cabinet -> Microphone -> PA. That means that it will sound fundmanetal different to an "amp-in-the-room" sound, but not nescessarily in a bad way. It also means if you're not a fan of the distortions in the box, you can get that gainier lead sound from a gainier tube amp and still get the tube response.

I can't give you an all out solution here but if you do go down the FRFR route, then a potential signal chain could be:

Guitar Input -> EQ -> Valve Driver -> Soldano Amp block -> Jazz Rivet Amp Block -> Delay -> Cab/IR block -> Reverb

On Snapshot 1: Valve Driver + Soldano Block OFF, Jazz Rivet ON
On Snapshot 2: Valve Driver + Soldano Block ON, Jazz Rivet OFF

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Hey you guys thanks again for this insight. I feel I'm definitely getting closer to locking down an approach that produces reliable and consistent results. 

 

The drummer/band leader is a great musician with drum machine-like time and contemporary sounding feels/grooves. His approach is to get the dance floor filled with people and keeping it raging by extending tunes with open solo sections. This means all night every night I get to do a substantial amount of soloing and improvising like I would on many gigs back home. This is why I need a lead tone that sounds and responds like an analog setup or tube amp. Again when I'm using the Tube Sceamer stomp box I feels at the very least like I'm playing an average piece of gear thats usable. When I use the Helix Screamer distortion block It sounds like the ships emergency alarm just went off.

 

If you all think a FRFR speaker to FOH will give me what I'm looking for I could order one or maybe find a store in one of the major cities to buy one. I've been thinking about this option and my pianist keeps emphasizing that I'd be doing myself a big disservice by trying to go cheap buy a cheap PA or FRFR speaker.

 

I'm pretty interested in this Alto TS210 ($299). THis is a FRFR? Do you play with it in a group setting?

 

If anyone could offer info about good brand or model options for a PA or FRFR I could definitely use the insight.

 

Thanks 

 

There are a number of people that are using the TS210 series as it's a pretty decent speaker for the money.  The Line 6 stage source L2M's are pretty popular as well as are the Yamaha DXR series (which is what I have).  The Line 6 and Yamaha's tend to be a bit pricier, but are a bit more substantial and more representative of state-of-the-art design for live sound reinforcement applications and are many times used as front of house speakers for many bands.  The QSC line could be considered much the same.

 

The reality is, in live sound reinforcement applications which is what FRFR really represents, you honestly do get what you pay for generally.  I would also agree with your band leader in getting an upper end type of unit.  You can always dial out frequency ranges you don't need on an upper end unit, but you can't really dial in a lack of frequency response you might get in a lesser design.

 

I personally can't say enough about my DXR12's that I use on stage.  You do have to dial out some of the high end and low end in your patches, but I've found the DXR to be incredibly responsive in reflecting changes I apply to my patches.  It takes a bit of time to get the feel for how to use all the facilities (amps, cabinets, mic's, mic placement, Early reflection, SAG, BIAS, and EQ) that are in the Helix in order to dial in exactly the sound you want, but once you figure it out it's incredibly quick and easy to dial things in exactly as you're hearing them in your head.

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I have had excellent results running my Helix into the effects return of my Mesa 5-25 amp. The trick is to NOT USE the amp models and the cabinet models. DO use the preamp models.

 

I got a wonderful lead sound using the US Small Tweed preamp model. That can get a little flabby on the low strings if you push the gain too much. In that case try lowering the gain and adding some compression ahead of the amp model to get some sustain.

 

I found that using this method, the Tube Screamer model on the Helix sounded close to the sound of my old Tube Screamer.

 

One thing you will notice is that some of the preamp models will distort easily and some you have to turn way up to get any grind. The Divided Duo is an example of one that stays clean. For the cleaner preamps you will need to us an overdrive or distortion model before the preamp model for lead sounds.

 

I'm guessing the Marshall preamp models should get you sounds that are similar to or better than the sounds you got out of your Marshall amp without the Helix.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Jim

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Re low end flub, try lowering bass in the preamp, and/or with an EQ before it, then boosting it after if need be. I do that a lot, on many different models, keeps the low end much tighter but still full.

 

Since I'm FRFR, I can do the make-up low end boost after the amp and cab too, even more effective, but you can't do that if you're 4CM. Yet another reason to prefer FRFR :)

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I have had excellent results running my Helix into the effects return of my Mesa 5-25 amp. The trick is to NOT USE the amp models and the cabinet models. DO use the preamp models.

 

I got a wonderful lead sound using the US Small Tweed preamp model. That can get a little flabby on the low strings if you push the gain too much. In that case try lowering the gain and adding some compression ahead of the amp model to get some sustain.

 

I found that using this method, the Tube Screamer model on the Helix sounded close to the sound of my old Tube Screamer.

 

One thing you will notice is that some of the preamp models will distort easily and some you have to turn way up to get any grind. The Divided Duo is an example of one that stays clean. For the cleaner preamps you will need to us an overdrive or distortion model before the preamp model for lead sounds.

 

I'm guessing the Marshall preamp models should get you sounds that are similar to or better than the sounds you got out of your Marshall amp without the Helix.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Jim

 

I find the preamp models a bit dull sounding.

Against better judgement, i tried the full amp model (no cabs) and like the results better.

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Zooey, so you mean you put a an eq or/and a preamp before the fx loop block and then another preamp after the block? This is really interesting but kind of confusing to communicate in a forum. It would be so awesome if people shared pictures of there preset displays.

Sorry, not at my Helix, no pics, but you've got the general idea, except I didn't mean to add an extra preamp. (Though of course you could, anything goes, really.)

 

Not-a-picture of your current rig, I think:

Helix in > Helix send 1 > Marshall input > Marshall FX loop send > Helix return 1 > Helix out > Marshall FX loop return

 

That lets you use part of the Helix as a pre-processor for the Marshall preamp, and part of it as a post-processor. Everything you put before the Helix send is before the distortion in the Marshall preamp, and everything you put after the Helix return is after it.

 

What I was suggesting was cutting low end before the distortion to minimize flub, then boosting it back up after the distortion, if it turns out you want that.

 

In your signal flow, you'd put a low-cut EQ before the Helix send, to lessen flub. You can also try just lowering the bass control on the Marshall itself. Then, if there isn't enough low end by the time your pre-distortion low end cut has tightened things up to your liking, put a bass boost EQ after the Helix return. That's post all distortion, so it's just EQ, shouldn't add any mush (assuming the Marshall power amp isn't being overdriven).

 

Like this:

Helix in > Low cut EQ (or just lower the bass control in the Marshall) > Helix send 1 > Marshall input > Marshall FX loop send > Helix return 1 > Low boost EQ (optional) > Helix out > Marshall FX loop return

 

I usually go for parametric EQs for their flexibility, but use whatever you're comfortable with that gives you control over the frequencies you want to change. You may want an actual low cut (meaning a high-pass filter, cuts everything below some frequency), or a low frequency control of some sort set to cut, or both.

 

You also want to think about where other effects go in that chain. Distortion almost always goes before "the amp", like a real pedal would, so put those before the Helix send. In general I prefer delay and chorus effects after the distortion, otherwise they get really messy, but sometimes that mess is cool too. Compression sounds different pre- and post-distortion, but both are useful. My point isn't really "do this not that", but just to think about how those choices will affect your sound.

 

With 4CM wiring, you also have the option of using any of the Helix preamps instead of the Marshall, with or without the same low-cut-before-distortion-boost-after strategy. You can choose to do that in a preset-by-preset basis, or in each snapshot.

 

Make sense? I don't do 4CM myself, but lots of folks here do, so if you have questions, ask away :)

 

Lastly, personally and OT, I'd at least try an FRFR setup at some point if you can. Helix is fully capable of emulating power amps, cabs, speakers, and mics, so it's right at home with a speaker setup that just reproduces the tones it generates without coloration.

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1.   If I plug the Helix into the effects loop in the back of the amp I can use amp models and they sound better, but after a month of trial I know my clean tone for rhythm guitar sounds better if I just rung straight though the helix with no amp models at all and get my sound from the marshal amp. 

 

2.  So what I've been doing is plugging the helix directly into the front of the amp and using the helix only for reverb, delay, chorus, wah and other modulations ect. This is working pretty well for my clean rhythm tones and ambient effects. I'm still feeling kind of bad that I spent so much on this pedal and I'm only using it for a delay and reverb. 

 

Sorry I'm a little late to this, but I hope this helps.  This part of your original post is what caught me.

 

First... I envy your job.  I was offered a gig on a cruise ship out of Hawaii back in the 80's and I had to turn it down because I was in the Navy...  I also can only imagine the work involved with trying to learn new gear in somewhat of a bubble..   

 

So regarding above..  I will pass up on the best practices and go with "most common" practices.  Generally the only thing you put in front of a combo amp (in front of the preamp) is compression/distortion and/or wah type effects.  So any timebase effect like reverb, delay, chorus belongs after the pre-amp.   If you understand that premise, you understand why it didn't sound great, and really shouldn't sound great.

 

I would think SIMPLICITY is the key at this point.  This is what I would do.   I realize it takes longer to write it out than to actually do it, but I couldn't find less words....

 

So... that being said..  you mentioned you have a distortion stomp.  So here you have the perfect opportunity to test tonality. You could create a preset with only a distortion block...  Use the model of the one you have..  NOTHING ELSE.   Do an A/B test making like the Helix is a big stomp box with one effect.   You could get clever but frankly I would just use two cables.  One into the Helix, then from the Helix to the amp and just manually swap the cables to your stomp.   You should be able to get the helix model of the distortion to sound pretty close to just the stomp.  The reason I suggest this is not just to start with a "known" but also ensure the input/pad levels and output levels of the Helix are not messing up the gain structure.  As there are no level or overload indicators..  

 

Once you get the helix with that one distortion, to sound just like your stomp...  I would move forward.   If you can't get the helix to sound like that one stomp...  I'd stop right there.  I mean it might not be identical, but I should be darn close, and maybe even better.  Still might not be the sound you want, that's ok... we're looking for a starting point.  Helix = your distortion stomp.  If you can't get this far, there might be other issues.

 

Now moving on..

I see no reason you can't use your combo amp as either you stage sound, or just a monitor.  Granted the helix is designed to be used with an FRFR PA, but...  you can just as easily still send the XLR outs to the PA and use your amp for a monitor. 

 

So first...in the spirit of keeping things simple..  grab your headsets, on the helix find a amp/cab that is most similar to your Marshal combo and  put it after the distortion block.    You could always just mute the distortion block so you can see how close the model is to your combo amp.  Again.. you can just move the cables to A/B.    The reason for doing this again establish a baseline.  Trying to get the Helix (listening in headsets) to sound like the combo amp in the room.   

 

Once you get a nice sound out of the helix that resembles your current rig.. you'll want to change the amp/cab blocks to be a pre-amp block only.  You might scroll through the factory presets to find something as similar to your rig as possible and then get rid or bypass blocks that you don't need for this.     But ultimately, you want to end up with a preset that has your distortion block, and a pre-amp block and nothing else.    Now you have somewhat of a baseline and can plug the Helix back into the Effects Return of your combo.  The helix being used as a pre-amp and the Marshal is your amp/cab.  

 

I know this seems like an odd route to take, but it should give you something to work with and an understanding of gain structure as it relates to the Helix.  You might need to add an eq block after the pre-amp to reign in the helix to only outputing 150 hz to 8 Khz -ish into your Marshal amp/cab but...  you should be able to figure that out.

 

You should be able to get some pretty decent tones at this point.  You can add your chorus, reverb and such, but I would refrain from adding any AMP or CAB modeling, cause you are already using an AMP and a CAB.  

 

If this sound is good enough to play or monitor is up to you.  You could always add a 2nd path (there are a few options here) to split the signal so the "pre-amp" only path goes to your combo, and a full amp model goes to the PA.  

 

From here you could also maybe implement the 4 cable route... if the amp "can" sound good enough.... but there are SO MANY options in the Helix, that I would start with an attempt to mimic what you have first to ensure things like gain structure or who knows what else, isn't taking you off course before you even leave the harbor (see what I did there?)

 

Good luck... keep us posted.

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Hey you guys thanks again for this insight. I feel I'm definitely getting closer to locking down an approach that produces reliable and consistent results. 

 

The drummer/band leader is a great musician with drum machine-like time and contemporary sounding feels/grooves. His approach is to get the dance floor filled with people and keeping it raging by extending tunes with open solo sections. This means all night every night I get to do a substantial amount of soloing and improvising like I would on many gigs back home. This is why I need a lead tone that sounds and responds like an analog setup or tube amp. Again when I'm using the Tube Sceamer stomp box I feels at the very least like I'm playing an average piece of gear thats usable. When I use the Helix Screamer distortion block It sounds like the ships emergency alarm just went off.

 

If you all think a FRFR speaker to FOH will give me what I'm looking for I could order one or maybe find a store in one of the major cities to buy one. I've been thinking about this option and my pianist keeps emphasizing that I'd be doing myself a big disservice by trying to go cheap buy a cheap PA or FRFR speaker.

 

I'm pretty interested in this Alto TS210 ($299). THis is a FRFR? Do you play with it in a group setting?

 

If anyone could offer info about good brand or model options for a PA or FRFR I could definitely use the insight.

 

Thanks

 

I'm a working musician in Florida. I'm using Yamaha DXR 10 and it sounds perfect with Helix. It sounds very close to my excellent studio monitors. It's almost double the cost of the Alto, but I can assure you, it will not disappoint you. One great feature is that it has two EQ modes for use as a floor monitor and as a raised PA.

Assuming the room you're in has a PA that can handle your amplification needs, I would use it mainly as your monitor as a wedge in front or to the side. I actually have two of them (I also use them as mains for smaller gigs) and if the stage monitoring for the band is not comprehensive, I use one aimed across the stage for the rest of the band, and one for me.

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  • 6 months later...

Hi, I had same kind of experience as you with the Helix distortions. I bought my Helix last Christmas and run it 4CM through a Suhr Badger, the way I found to get the drives sounding fantastic was to just dial them right down on the gain and use 2 or 3  and stack them to achieve a 3 amp channel type effect.

Also as the above post mentions the Yamaha DXR10 is great I tried out the 10 and the 12 last week in my local store and was truly blown away as was everyone in the shop, it took me about 10 minutes to make a simple patch - minator- tubescreamer- matchless amp- 2x12 cab-simple delay - 63 spring reverb and it just killed it, even natural feedback was easy to achieve, I am now mad keen to get the DXR10and so my Suhr is now on Ebay. I think DXR would be a really great speaker/amp solution for you and would work well on the ship.

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I use two Line 6 L3M's in stereo on stands. They are a 3â€way, triâ€amped speaker system. For smaller venues they can fill the out the direct feed to the PA, for large venues I use one for side fill and one in front of the Helix in a monitor configuration. They not only reproduce the models faithfully, but the Helix can switch speaker programs in the L3M's that are saved with the patches. Very transparent and each L3m can produce 1400 watts.

 
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