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Helix vs AX8 comparison...maybe


chuskey
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So I'm trying to work out a time with a buddy of mine this week who has an AX8 to get together and do some A/B comparisons.  No specific game plan at this point so I thought I'd see if there was anything in particular that folks want to hear compared.  With so many variables such as comparable amp models, cabs, IR's, etc there's a lot of ways we could go with it.  

 

So you guys let me know if there's something specific you'd like to hear compared.  To keep things simple whatever tones I capture will be recorded direct, without micing a real cab.  

 

Right now it looks like I will be able to make time this week to do this, as long as work doesn't throw me any major curve balls between now and then :)

 

 

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While there's "wrong" with comparing two units, these "shoot-outs" lead nowhere. They're fruitless attempts to establish some sort of objective truth to that which is inherently subjective.

 

They are both good units, and in the right hands...I'm gonna say that again, because it bears repeating, because as far as I'm concerned, the user is the single biggest variable, no matter what piece of gear is being used....in the right hands, either one can be made to sound fantastic. They can also both be made to sound screechingly awful if you don't know what you're doing.

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I'd like to see and end to these fruitless attempts to establish some sort of objective truth to that which is inherently subjective. These "shoot-outs" lead nowhere.

 

They are both good units, and in the right hands...I'm gonna say that again, because it bears repeating....in the right hands, either one can be made to sound fantastic.

 

While that's true, there's also nothing wrong at all with a little fun competition/comparison, where the ultimate goal is not winning.

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I'd like to see and end to these fruitless attempts to establish some sort of objective truth to that which is inherently subjective. These "shoot-outs" lead nowhere.

 

They are both good units, and in the right hands...I'm gonna say that again, because it bears repeating....in the right hands, either one can be made to sound fantastic.

They are both good units.  I did this type of thing months ago when he and I both got these units.  In that thread that was the first thing I stated.  If you can't get a good tone out of either unit, the unit isn't the problem.  

 

I'm not looking to establish which one is "better" because that's pointless.  I love my Helix, he loves his AX8, it isn't a competition.  

 

It was just fun last time my buddy and I got together and jammed with both units.  I also thought it might be fun for people who are interested in hearing how similar/different these units sound.  That's why I titled this thread a "comparison" not a "shoot out".  

 

If you don't like these types of threads don't read them.  

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I don't know about anyone else but I'm really pretty sick of this constant comparison of modelers.  I own a Helix.  I have no desire to chase after something better.  I'd rather spend my time and energy using it than endless cycles subjectively comparing the nuances of two modelers that has been done already hundreds if not thousands of time.

 

Do people really have all that much extra time to invest in this kind of fluff?  I don't, and I'm RETIRED!!!

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I see nothing wrong with comparisons. I was at a point where I couldn't decide between the two units so I looked up every comparison I could to try and learn as much as I could. I didn't care who "won" or paid much attention to people's own biased opinions other than factual statements.

 

Don't like? Don't read. Information is optional.

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Aye-Aye, Cap'n! I shall darken this thread no more... ;)

Rereading my reply it came off like a smart a$$ comment.  Sorry about that.  

 

Wow, I've never posted a thread in this forum that got so much reaction so quickly.  Usually this forum is a bit slower to respond.  Must have hit a nerve :)

 

So just a couple of thoughts:

 

  • Again, this isn't a "which one is better thread"
  • This is just a good excuse for my buddy and I to get together and play guitar.  Which we do maybe 2-3 times a year.  Playing around with gear when we do get together is fun.  We enjoy it.  Simple as that.  
  • I'm not a gear reviewer and don't spend hours of my life doing gear shoot outs.  If I have free time for music I like to work on writing, recording, and performing music.  
  • thought hearing some comparisons might be of some interest to others here on the forum.  Maybe I was wrong
  • I have zero interest in starting arguments over "mine is better than yours".  
  • If I do get the time to do this and post results, the second it devolves into a bunch of arguing I'm deleting the thread.
  • In my opinion if you own either one of these you own a great unit.

That's pretty much it.  This was just something fun my buddy and I were planning and I didn't have any intentions of ruffling feathers over it.  

 

I haven't read any of the other Helix Vs AX8 threads on here, because like others on this thread have said, I don't have any interest in them.  So maybe there's been a ton of arguing about this on this forum that I'm just unaware of.  If so I get why some of you guys are saying you're sick of "these types" of threads.  I assure that's not what this is.  

 

This was just meant to be a fun little comparison.

 

Peace :)

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I think the thread is worthwhile in the spirit which you intend it. But you're right - it can be a sensitive topic around here! :lol:

 

I would also like to see and hear some comparative results. Nothing definitive or objective about it - just some fun.

 

But I also encourage you, as thread owner, to intervene as required to keep it on track by discouraging those who might want to turn it into a competition.

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I think the thread is worthwhile in the spirit which you intend it. But you're right - it can be a sensitive topic around here! :lol:

 

I would also like to see and hear some comparative results. Nothing definitive or objective about it - just some fun.

 

But I also encourage you, as thread owner, to intervene as required to keep it on track by discouraging those who might want to turn it into a competition.

Don't worry, I'll lock it down in a minute if it gets out of hand :)

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Certainly the existence of competing products influenced Line 6 in the development of Helix. But comparison threads in various public forums had just about zero influence I suspect, and that's what we're talking about here.

 

I think Ideascale had much more influence.

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I'd like to see a comparison about the amp models dynamic response to the touch and guitar volume settings

I'll be sure to make some audio examples of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.  

 

I've found the Helix to be extremely sensitive to both touch and volume knob roll off.  I'm sure the AX8 will be as well.  I'll post what I find :)

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A couple of months ago, a buddy (who's the first call Broadway show/musical theater guitar player here in Chicago) found out that I got a Helix and he was interested in comparing it with his Fractal Audio Axe-FX II. He brought a powered FRFR speaker (I didn't have one at the time). We A/Bd some of the same models using the same speaker sims, set to the same tone/drive/volume settings. There were subtle differences, like one would break up more with identical drive settings... stuff like that. But actually, I was pleasantly surprised at how similar they sounded. 

 

When he left, I had the impression that he favored his Fractal, though he readily admitted that Helix had a much more manageable UI. A month later, I found out that he bought a Helix and put his Fractal up for sale.

 

Let's not get all sensitive about this; it stands to reason that along with Kemper, these are products that are bound to be compared to one another... and each has their pros and cons. Of course they're competing with each other; a lot of Line 6 devotees jumped ship when Fractal came out. Then Line 6 had to get competitive and learn some stuff from Fractal. And shortly after Helix came out, Fractal introduced their AX8, at a very similar price. Sometimes competition is healthy; either way, we win!

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if the fractals sound are 1000% times better than great but i cant personally hear any difference.

 

So my decision come down to a couple factors,the main one being the footswitch layout on the ax8.................jesus it looks terrible,mite be great in principle but playing on a dark stage with specific cues etc it just looks cluttered.......now the helix wins hands down.

 

Another factor was no dual amp capability, i used to use single amps but now i use dual,it sounds so thick and full and gives you the opportunity to kinda create your own custom blend,i use a dual rectifier head in real life so i based my direct sound on that but also added the bogner uber model with sag,ripple bias etc maxed to give the top end of the sound alot of sizzle but the recto holds the bottom end and crunch......you cant do that on the ax8!!!!

 

only my opinion obviously,i think the axe fx2 probably kills the helix with the amount of parameters that can be adjust on amp models but lets face it half of us dont know what any of that stuff does lol

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Spent the afternoon today at my buddy’s house with the Helix and AX8.  Also on hand was a Friedman Dirty Shirley with 1x12 (greenback I think), and Friedman Small box with 2x12 (V30’s I believe).  Had a great time jamming!  It was gear heaven J  I did record some clips, but honestly we spent most of the time just jamming and having fun so I didn’t record too much.  But as soon as I have time to go through the audio I’ll post some. 

 

For amplifying the Helix and AX8 we alternated between an EHX 44 Magnum through the Friedman cabinets and a pair of Alto TS212A powered speakers.  Obviously with the Freidman cabs we disabled the cab block on the Helix/AX8.

 

Here’s the bottom line:  both units sound amazing.  Not to mention those Friedman amps weren’t too shabby either J

 

If you can’t find your sound with Helix then AX8 probably isn’t going to rock your world.  If you can’t get your tone with an AX8 then the Helix isn’t going to be Earth shattering.  One isn’t head and shoulders above the other, despite what certain fanboys may lead you to believe.  Tonally they were very close. If you hear comments like “the Helix sounded like crap, but the AX8 was in a whole other leagueâ€, or vice versa one of two things is happening:  You’re hearing someone’s personal bias, or you’re hearing someone who for whatever reason didn’t know how to tweak one of the units.  Tonally they were VERY close. 

 

For some reason a lot of people feel the need for their favorite to be head and shoulders above the competition usually at the expense of putting down the competition, but that’s another discussion all together.   

 

Put another way I grew up playing in the early 90’s and owned all kinds of tube amps:  Marshall, Fender, Ampeg, Laney, Rivera, Sovtek, etc.  Both the Helix and AX8 sound better than any tube amp I’m owned in real life.  It just comes down to how you amplify them and how you tweak them.  You can make the world’s best tube amp sound bad too if you set it up wrong. 

 

I’ve said this before, and will say it again, at least for me personally features and form factor come in as the deciding factors when comparing Helix and AX9.  If you like the smaller footprint and are accustom to the Fractal product line the AX8 is great.  If you will get use out of the extra bells and whistles then Helix is the perfect fit. 

 

The differences have been debated ad nauseam so I don’t really have anything to add.

 

So here are a couple of observations that I found interesting. 

 

The combination of the EHX 44 Magnum and either of the Friedman cabinets was awesome!!  With the Friedman head still sitting on top of the cabinet I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t playing through the amp itself.  It sounded and responded just like the “real†amp.  And I’m speaking of both the Helix and AX8.  If I were going to play out in a rock band and needed a stage amp I would do a 44 magnum and a good 1x12 or 2x12 any day of the week.  Sounds amazing.  Stunning.  Considering that both of those Friedman heads have a MAP price of $2700, the fact that the Helix and AX8 both kept up with them was a great testimony to both Fractal and Line 6.  We used Plexi models on both units to get tones in the same ball park as the Friedman amps. It’s a matter of taste, but I personally preferred the digital units to the real amps.  But it was close.

 

Guitar cab vs FRFR.  Next we switched over to the Alto’s.  They had good volume, but did struggle to get the same punchiness of the guitar cabs.  Although once you got them close to the same volume as the guitar cabs they did move some air.  I would say that the guitar cabs “felt†better more than they “sounded†better if that makes any sense.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was giving up much and would happily gig with the Alto’s.  Especially if I needed acoustic tones as well.  But, and maybe it was purely an emotional response, playing through the guitar cabs was a more fun experience.  Can’t say enough good about the 44 magnum.  Awesome little unit and super effective. 

 

The new Litigator model on Helix is off the charts!!  We compared it to the ODS model on the AX8 and eventually I’ll get around to posting the clips, but man Line 6 knocked it out of the park with that model. Instant SRV with a Strat, but was also really crunchy and great with a Les Paul.   

 

I don’t remember which one, but one of the Cameron models on the AX8 totally nailed the Appetite For Destruction tone.  It was awesome.  I didn’t have the time this afternoon to try and mimic that on Helix, but I’m sure I could get close.  Just wanted to say that Fractal did a really good job on that one. 

 

At the end of the day we had a great time jamming with some amazing gear and it was all smiles the whole time.  So grateful to get to play with equipment that sounds this good.  It’s hard to really come away with anything negative to say about anything we played today. 

 

I personally recommend picking the unit that best fits your needs.  For instance for me having the Helix be an audio interface, more flexible routing options, scribble strips, Variax integration, built in expression pedal, etc put the Helix over the top for me.  Others may differ and find the AX8 fits their needs better, and that’s great!

 

Bottom line: both of these units are winners!  Get out and use them to make some music J

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