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Can you use two guitars or guitar/bass at the same time?


TheHYPO
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Forgive me if this is somewhere obvious. I've been searching the web and FAQs for a long time and I can't seem to find a straightforward answer to this particular question. Back when I had a PodXT and the X3, one of the cool features they were touting was that you could run two gutiars through it at the same time with two different modelling chains. I thought this was cool feature so that if I ever had a friend over, they could just plug into the pod and benefit from it. I never ended up getting another pod, but I'm loving what I hear about the Helix.

 

So I'll ask straight up. Can you plug two different guitars (or a guitar and bass) to the Helix and use them simultaneously? I am pretty sure from what I've read that if one is a Variax, the answer is yes because of the separate Variax input, but I'm talking about regular 1/4" passive pickup guitars/basses.

 

If the answer is yes, followup questions:

 

how is it done? Via the guitar input and aux inputs (I read one vague comment about the aux input not being "the same" type of input as a guitar input which implied maybe you couldn't use it for a for a second guitar, but it wasn't clear enough to answer the question). If you can do it via aux in (or another input) there any difference in the quality/capability of the two inputs?

 

Are you able to assign presets independently to the two instruments or do your presets have to be pre-designed for two inputs (in other words, is it like preset 1A is a Fender Twin for the guitar-in port and a Mesa Boogie for the aux-in port, or is it like guitar-in can be set to preset 1A and aux-in can be set to 3B?). If you have to predesignate the presets for two guitars, given the massive customization available on Helix, I assume you can split the footswitches between the two instruments?

 

At the end of the day, my goal is not to use a Helix regularly for two people on stage or even at home, but it would be a nice feature to have in the back pocket. I could also imagine uses for it like pulling an Alex Lifeson or Ritchie Sambora -style mid-song guitar switch without having to also worry about unplugging.

 

That brings me to the secondary question - If two at once is NOT possible, in the alternative, is it possible to have two guitars plugged in but only using one at once (I would imagine if you can do this, you could also do them at the same time, but if for some reason you can, I'll ask the question). This would still be convenient for a few reasons such as shows where I have a bass and a guitar, I wouldn't have to constantly unplug and replug; I could just have one in each input and switch presets.

 

Thanks in advance for any answers that come.

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You can set up multiple inputs and/or outputs easily on the Helix for up to four instruments/voices. You can either use each route for a different instrument or actually use the same route for two instruments by dragging both the split and the merge blocks down and then setting the input/output blocks accordingly. Use the send/return loops for additional inputs and outputs if you require them.

 

Take a look at the template in the Templates setlist 04B 'Gtr+Vox+Bas+Keys' for an example of how to set this up.

 

Note: You could probably set up even more than four instruments on the Helix by using the send/return loops but that just seems excessive.

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The answer to this question has multiple facets. The first is physical inputs. Helix only has one Hi-Z guitar input, so the main, or lead guitar with passive pickups needs to use this input. The Aux and four effects returns can be used for other instrument inputs, and work well with instruments that have Lo-Z outputs, or guitars with active pickups. There's also the mic, Variax and SPID/IF inputs that can support other instruments.

 

The next facet is the patch. Helix has two paths: 1 and 2, and each path can be split into 1A and 1B or 2A and 2B. Each of these four paths can have its own input and output, as well as effect blocks. So you can independently process up to four instruments with Helix - subject to block and DSP limits. Paths 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B can only have 8 blocks. And you're likely to run out of DSP if you try to make those paths very complicated. Then there are issues with the number of footswitches that would be able to control all those blocks with all those instruments.

 

It's pretty practical to support two instruments with Helix. I do it all the time during rehearsal with electric guitar and bass into the same FRFR cabinet. Acoustic guitar and vocal is another common pattern.

 

But much more common is to have multiple instruments connect to Helix, but use different patches for each instrument and only play them one at a time. I have an acoustic band I play in where I play mandolin, acoustic guitar (Variax 700 acoustic), and electric guitar. This is very convenient and makes it very easy to change instruments.

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Thank you both for the detailed answers.

 

amsdenj, you indicate that other than the main guitar input, the others "work well" with active pickups. That said, you also indicate that you use a mandolin and electric guitar (plus the variax) - I assume all plugged in to different inputs. Does the mandolin or electric have an active pickup or will the aux in "suffice" (but not be ideal) for passive pickups?

 

Similarly, does the 04B template HonestOpinion mentioned (Gtr+Vox+Bas+Keys) contemplate a bass with an active pickup?

 

If I had two passive electric guitars, am I understanding that it wouldn't work very well with Helix (at least from the perspective of the 2nd guitar (not going into Guitar-In) not sounding very good)?

 

Thanks,

 

Edit: Or on second thought, am I understanding correctly that the FX returns can be set to high-impedance and used for a second passive pickup instrument?

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...

 

Similarly, does the 04B template HonestOpinion mentioned (Gtr+Vox+Bas+Keys) contemplate a bass with an active pickup?

 

..

 

Edit: Or on second thought, am I understanding correctly that the FX returns can be set to high-impedance and used for a second passive pickup instrument?

 

I don't think the 04B template anticipates an active bass per se but since the impedance value for the 'Aux' input is 10kOhms it is perfect for an active instrument. Just set the inputs to your requirements. The 'Guitar' input impedance can be set to Auto or set manually so it would be a good choice for plugging in your passive guitar. 

 

I don't think two passive guitars would necessarily be a problem although a separate splitter box into the 'Guitar' input on the Helix might be the best way to go. The Aux input is 10kOhms so certainly not an ideal choice for a passive guitar but I think one of the returns in the send/return loops could potentially be used. I think some people have used it that way. An input block can be set to a return on a send/return loop although they are more intended for keys, drum machines, and other similar line level instruments. I know it has been used for guitar by others although again probably not an ideal choice.  Btw, a Variax is a lot of fun with the Helix as well and the inputs can be selected for it.

 

Note: There is also a 'Guitar In Pad' setting in the Global settings.

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If  you have multiple passive electric guitars to connect, use an active or passive direct box that presents a high-Z load on your guitar and lower-Z output to any of the other Helix inputs. 

 

For mandolin, i found the lower-Z Helix Aux input tends to tame the somewhat bright sound you would otherwise get from a mandolin with K&K piezo picks glued to the inside of the top.

 

Rolloff caused by an impedance mis-match with bass probably won't cause much problem either since you usually don't need the bass to be that bright.

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All the answers here pretty much answer your question...

 

I'm just adding in that yes, it's hard enough switching guitars during a set, and, given I don't have my own roadies (haha), I hate even more having to switch plugs from one guitar to another.  RIght now, I've got my Tokai Les Paul on Guitar-in, and a JTV-69 on VDI input, and I just turn the volume to zero on the guitar I'm not using and can quickly switch back and forth.

 

What's cool about having the JTV is I can switch tunings at the touch of a knob.  Currently, I pretty much only use drop-d and 1/2 step, but the ease of use is amazing.  I haven't gotten an acoustic sound I like yet out of it, but that's me, I've seen lots of others who love the acoustic sound they get.

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  • 6 months later...

All good questions and great answers. Of course, you can solve the impedance problems with passive pickups with buffered pedals, meaning even tuner pedals. Not ideal, but a solid way to haven4 instruments modeled with the helix.

Hey I have a strymon mobius that has buffering options in it, how would I use that to strengthen my signal from my passive pickups for my second guitar in? Wouldn't a buffer have the opposite affect of boosting the signal? My helix arrives tomorrow and I was hoping to be able to play two guitars with passive pickups at once through it. Could someone provide a link to a product that would help with this? Appreciate it! I'm really excited for my helix I just wanted to try and get this issue resolved. 

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By the way, is everyone still loving the helix? Got any tips for a beginner user? I've got a les paul studio I'll be using, should I be switching the settings on the helix to sounds good with a les paul? It seems like humbuckers and single coils might require different settings. Line 6 seems to have really great forums dedicated to it so that is a great help. 

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  • 1 year later...

Does anyone already tested the guitar into FX RETURN instead of using the front INPUT?

The idea of having a cable going to the front of the rack is just annoying...  Thanks guys!

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2 minutes ago, rsan said:

Does anyone already tested the guitar into FX RETURN instead of using the front INPUT?

The idea of having a cable going to the front of the rack is just annoying...  Thanks guys!

 

It will work fine. You just lose the variable impedance circuitry with the Return, which doesn't really make a difference if you have anything else between your guitar and the input.

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  • 2 years later...

My use case is me using Variax, daughter a squier mini. 

 

Currently in FHFX it works but we share all the settings. I've got her an overdrive in front of the FHFX, and by selecting my model on Variax we can have different gain. But we still share modulation, reverb, delay.

 

On Helix will I be able to have two completely separate chains, with foot switches as well? Can I be running an acoustic Variax chain and her using a normal amp setup?

 

Don't need tons, a few (delay, mod) would do it, but having even more variables we can split would be nice.

And each having our own switches makes a difference.

 

Lastly, can I save all that as a snapshot so whenever I play with her it's one simple selection?

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On 8/1/2020 at 5:50 AM, firehawkkwah said:

On Helix will I be able to have two completely separate chains, with foot switches as well? Can I be running an acoustic Variax chain and her using a normal amp setup?

 

Don't need tons, a few (delay, mod) would do it, but having even more variables we can split would be nice.

And each having our own switches makes a difference.

 

Lastly, can I save all that as a snapshot so whenever I play with her it's one simple selection?

 

Simple answer is yes.  You can have two independent paths on a Helix floor, each with their own FX, amps etc.  The footswitches can be assigned to whatever, and this can all be saved as one or more presets, also with snapshots within the presets.  People sometimes, along with a guitar on one path, use a second path for vox, bass, harmonica or another guitar.

 

EDIT: I haven't tried this one but, to get an idea of basic setup, here is a video with a preset that has guitar and vocals processed on two paths.

 

 

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