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dbosko

Helix sounds harsh

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Playing through headphones everything sounds harsh.

Playing through Sunn half-stack using 4 cable method sounds harsh.

Playing through Onyx mixer into Rockit studio monitors and sub sounds harsh.

 

I realize that there are a bunch of people on the forums here saying you always have to use a massive high cut and a bit of low as well to get it sounding good.

I guess now I know why. But, is it supposed to be this way?

 

I think this also explains why all the Helix vs whatever comparisons on youtube seem to have all the others sounds warmer and rounder.

 

I would like to see those comparisons redone with a bunch of high cut because it definitely sounds better after that than what people seem to be showing.

 

I bought the HD500 years ago, used it a couple times, and put it back in the box because of the same shrillness. I still have it, brand new in the box. I'm determined to figure this thing out this time though.

 

Is this a bug, a special Helix feature, or am I still doing something wrong? (although it does sound good with a cut down to 2 or 3K, just not sure if that is how it is supposed to sound or the best it can)

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Well all of the stock cabs are shot with no high or low cut filters applied. For commercially available IRs, and ones that come built-in with other units, those are baked-in the IR. So, no, there's nothing unusual about having to use high cut filters with the on-board cabs. Although, setting it down that to 2 or 3K is much lower than I ever set mine. I guess I personally tend to like guitar tones that are little brighter just because I feel they tend to cut through the mix a little better, at least in the type of music I play. But, anyway, I don't think there's any sort of inherent harshness in the Helix modeling. It's just Line 6 gives users the options to set these sorts of filters the way they see fit.

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Fair enough... it's just that my eyes see this scary high-cut number, my ears tell me I like it, my brain starts thinking these two things shouldn't go together.

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The issue is not with the Helix, but rather with the playback mechanisms.  Typical guitar cabinets have a big range but the vast majority of the sound comes from a very limited frequency range due to the nature of the speakers and not having a compression driver.  Because of this you very often have to limit very low ranges and high ranges on full range speakers to limit their response in a fashion similar to a guitar cabinet.

 

I'll add, however, that's not always the case depending on which guitar, amp model you're using and the setting for the cabinet/IR and mics.  Very often I don't have to even touch the high cut with certain guitars, amps, and IR's...but it varies with how I set up things in my signal path.

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That much hi-cut seems unusual to me too, but if it sounds good to you then that's all that matters. We all have different tastes and different ears.

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When I get home from work I'll try putting the studio pre at the beginning and at the end of the chain and see if that rounds stuff out a bit. I read that here somewhere.

 

Of course, no matter what, I will never click down to the bridge pickup of a strat, that is a place I'm not prepared to go just yet.   :)

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There may be a relatively simple explaination for the need for that high-cut we all seem to apply. Let's assume for a moment that Helix faithfully reproduces the sound of a guitar speaker captured with an IR (either a commercial IR, one you created yourself, or one used in a Line6 cab model). Recall from some of my previous posts that initially I didn't think that was the case, that the IR block was too bright. But with further testing, I believe Helix does indeed process IRs properly/accurately, and that the vendors creating IRs are properly capturing the dynamic frequency response of the speakers. There must be something else going on that requires that high cut.

 

Here's a possibility: A guitar speaker is by nature very directional. If you're listening to it behind you and pointing at the back of your legs, or you're in the audience and a bit off axis, it will sound pretty warm because the high frequencies are in a fairly narrow beam and get absorbed quickly.

 

But if you put your ear down next to the speaker, or position it in front of you pointed directly at you, or if you're in the audience and are looking directly at that guitar speaker, I guarantee it will be VERY bright, uncomfortably bright. This is often called the ice-pick of guitar tone.

 

That's essentially what's happening with Helix and cab models and IRs. The mics are usually pretty close to cap, cap-edge, or only slightly off access so they can pick up everything the speaker is capable of producing. So the mic is going to pick up that very bright tone. If you reproduce that in a FRFR like a typical higher end PA speaker, then the horn on that speaker is going to disperse those high frequencies a lot wider both horizontally and vertically than a guitar speaker will.

 

So the FRFR is going to sound a lot brighter to you simply because your virtual position relative to the modeled cabinet is a lot closer to the narrow dispersion cone of that original guitar speaker.

 

I think its very reasonable for us to have to compensate for that as part of the full signal chain from guitar string to our ears in the context of the models and the FRFR and I no longer worry about the value of that high-cut. I just listen for the tone I'm looking for.

 

I actually think it is good that the IRs and cab models are overly bright, possibly simply because of better dispersion of the high frequencies that we usually wouldn't hear. Its a lot easier to remove these high frequencies with a low-pass/high-cut filter than it is to recreate them if they're not there. So don't worry about the high-cut value, expect to have to use high-cut on many IRs, and just get the tone you want.

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When I get home from work I'll try putting the studio pre at the beginning and at the end of the chain and see if that rounds stuff out a bit. I read that here somewhere.

 

Of course, no matter what, I will never click down to the bridge pickup of a strat, that is a place I'm not prepared to go just yet.   :)

 

The other thing I'd mention is that I don't think the slopes on the high and low cut filters in the cab block are all that steep, so even if you have the high cut set to a low level, there's still a good bit of high end getting through it seems. It's not like you're just chopping it all off. You're just de-emphasizing it... So don't be too worried about what the number is.

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OK - the Helix is modelling each part of the chain very well as far as I can tell.

So why the high and low cut.

Well, let's start at the end! If you go into a recording studio with an amp and put a quality mic on it, the studio engineer never just puts that straight into the mix - it's always EQ'd.

Why? Because a microphone in front of a speaker does not sound like we expect a guitar to sound. Our ears have a different response to a mic. We never put our ear to the speaker either!

So naturally you need to EQ that sound. All the great guitar sounds are the engineer first adjusting the sound so that it's sounding more like the sound in the room, and then tweaking that sound to sit in the mix. Then they add subtle or less subtle effects from chorus to delay/reverb to enhance the aural spread of the sound in the sound field. It's that combined sound we hear on a recording and is really where all the classic guitar sounds have always come from - guitar-amp-speaker-mic/mics-EQ-post mic effects-mix.

That's your Helix. It's not an amp - it is the simulation of that chain.

Whether a cab simulation or an IR has any built in EQ is a different issue as with mic placement while recording the IR. Close micing will need more taming. That's how it's always been. So what and how much EQ you need post the mic is specific to each rig/sound creation chain.

And finally, there are no rules - but it helps to understand what is happening.

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You could pretty reasonably argue that this isn't a science experiment, it's a musical instrument, so the built in cabs should sound closer to what people typically want to hear without fairly radical processing, that's also not the default. What's the purpose of that not being the case?

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Fair enough... it's just that my eyes see this scary high-cut number, my ears tell me I like it, my brain starts thinking these two things shouldn't go together.

 

 

Try dialing in a Boogie some time.   :)

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Using a pair of good headphones, studio monitors or decent FRFR speakers with a good cab simulation after the amp should not sound harsh. Is it just Line 6 products that sound that way to you are other guitar processors as well? I'm asking for a specific reason. I'm sure this will not fit well in being polite and jovial and so Iup front I mean no offense, but perhaps it's more the ear, than the gear? I only say that because it's not the first piece of gear that has affected you in this way, although it is just Line 6. Or is it? No offense, but this isn't usually what people hear from Helix. 

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You guys are awesome, thank you. It's becoming clearer how to approach this. I think some of these well thought out explanations of what us new guys are hearing should be pinned right up front.

 

I kept wavering from "this isn't right" to "this is how it is supposed to be" and back again. What you all are saying makes sense so I'm back in the "this is how it is supposed to be" camp.

 

I'm switching back to the KRKs now to get back to "pure" Helix, and I'll go from there. I'll noodle with the dials a bit and post a clip later tonight and see what ya'll think.

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Using a pair of good headphones, studio monitors or decent FRFR speakers with a good cab simulation after the amp should not sound harsh. Is it just Line 6 products that sound that way to you are other guitar processors as well? I'm asking for a specific reason. I'm sure this will not fit well in being polite and jovial and so Iup front I mean no offense, but perhaps it's more the ear, than the gear? I only say that because it's not the first piece of gear that has affected you in this way, although it is just Line 6. Or is it? No offense, but this isn't usually what people hear from Helix. 

It doesn't seem like there are a lot of "the Helix is too dark" threads out there.  :)

 

I don't have a lot of experience with modelers except that I do have an HD500 that I never used because of the same reason. From what it sounds like, I just don't know what the approach is to these things. It does seem like the comparison clips on youtube should cut the highs a bit though compared to the others.

 

edit: I tried it on DT770 80ohm. Not sure if that matters.

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It doesn't seem like there are a lot of "the Helix is too dark" threads out there.  :)

 

I don't have a lot of experience with modelers except that I do have an HD500 that I never used because of the same reason. From what it sounds like, I just don't know what the approach is to these things. It does seem like the comparison clips on youtube should cut the highs a bit though compared to the others.

 

edit: I tried it on DT770 80ohm. Not sure if that matters.

 

 

My Helix doesn't sound too great through my 80ohm 770s, either.  The headphone amp in the Helix doesn't always play well with lower impedance headphones.  FWIW, I generally have my high cut somewhere around 5K-7KHz on the Helix, but I often cut even lower than that on my tube amps when recording them (4KHz is pretty common for me).

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To the original poster.

 

Few things I've noticed that may help.

 

I think you like myself, have an affinity towards the "amp in the room" tone. It's basically how an amp sounds , non-direct... in a room, loud... with no other instruments.

Put a microphone I front and it doesn't sound like that... on any amp!

Grab your old amp and dial in a familiar tone... then get down and sit right in front of it with your ear 1 inch away... notice it sounds a little harsh ;) ;)

 

For a while I haven't been amazingly happy with my direct tones going into the desk/studio.

My problem was, I'd get the tone sounding how I want. Record it to some programmed drums and find out I'd have to eq the recorded guitar all over the place, to get it to sit right. The result wouldn't sound good to be honest.

 

I had a brainwave and decided to try "re amping" with the helix. It struck because I have to make minor alterations and can't really be the judge until the other instruments are there... and also can't play at the same time as tinker.

 

So I wrote a few sections, programmed the drums (using big beats that use the full frequency spectrum) and played along till I wrote something I could play well with my current settings.

 

Although at first it was tricky, I soon got in the swing of things. I had to mute the drums while I set the "sag" and "bias's"... but I got there so much quicker.

 

It was so easy, I actually wound up throwing in a handful of other amps too so now I have something to choose from when the tone gets ... boring (as anyone whose played the same amp for a while, gets!)

 

I strongly recommend doing something like this.

 

I hear what you mean about more rounded bottoms on the competition... but as an engineer, I'd scoop that muddy crap outta the mix for sure, to make room for other instruments.

Current settings:

Typically I use a high cut at 10khz.

Low cut at 60hz.

Sometimes going as far as 120hz if it's a particularly bassy amp (doom for example)

I use (what I thought) to be a well rounded IR.

Lastly, a small -1.5dB, wide Q cut at 5kHz... using a parametric EQ.

 

I should really host some of my presets...

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Thanks willsmythe37,

 

I kinda know what you mean. With, the little bit of recording I've done, I found if I stand two mics at a height of 6 feet spread about 12 inches apart 6 feet away and pointed down at a screaming amp I'd get the sound I hear when I play. Go figure  :)

 

I just recorded 6 minutes of Mama Kin looped into Cubase direct as I switched through 25 amps up to the plexies turning a 7.5K cut on and off. For some, it was too much for others not enough. I noticed it really just gets rid of the fizzies mostly but the effect is definitely exaggerated at volume in the room. Now I need to figure out how to "round it out."

 

https://soundcloud.com/david-bosko/helix-hicut-onoff-25amps

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Using a pair of good headphones, studio monitors or decent FRFR speakers with a good cab simulation after the amp should not sound harsh. Is it just Line 6 products that sound that way to you are other guitar processors as well? I'm asking for a specific reason. I'm sure this will not fit well in being polite and jovial and so Iup front I mean no offense, but perhaps it's more the ear, than the gear? I only say that because it's not the first piece of gear that has affected you in this way, although it is just Line 6. Or is it? No offense, but this isn't usually what people hear from Helix. 

These old ears are indeed not that great, I have what's called shooter's notch around 4K. But that's for low volume stuff and may not effect electric guitar all that much.

 

I disagree with your first statement. If you listen to a guitar cabinet with your ear 1" away from the speaker cone, its going to sound harsh. Listening to Helix with a cab model or IR with an SM57 positioned at cap, 1" away through headphones will sound quite a bit like listening to the cabinet with your ear in the speaker. That's not going to sound like an amp in the room, ever.

 

An amp in the room sounds like it does because of the room reflections and where you are in the room relative to the speaker. If you're not listening to the speaker pretty directly, then there's going to be significant high loss because of the directionality of the guitar speakers. 

 

So we might think of that high-cut a lot of us tend to put on cab models and IRs as taming that direct capture of the speaker to make it sound more like where we might be hearing it in the room. I'm not at all surprised that would require some high cut.

 

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Just speaking in general ams. Of course your right on the disagree in specifics. 

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Here are some of my observations I've made over a period of time regarding the harshness issue.

 

One key point is with FRFR speakers.  The traditional powered speakers require a certain amount of distance from them in order to get an accurate feel for the sound.  Often the harshness when standing 4 feet away dissipates at 5 or 6 feet.  That makes sense given the size of the horn and the design of the speaker and that these speakers aren't meant to be positioned in close proximity to the listener.  These speakers are designed for long projections so it takes a certain amount of distance before the horn and the speaker blend correctly.  I don't get the same effect from my Yamaha HS7 studio monitors as I have them positioned correctly all the time and they're not designed specifically for long distance projection.

 

What is very true to my ears is that stock cabinets will always be more harsh than IR's.  I can reduce some of that harshness by pushing the mic out further from the cab, but it's not the same as IR's which allow you to move the mic further away from the cone or off-axis.  My experience in mic'ing actual cabinets tells me that mic positioning is far more critical to getting the sound you want than is distance.  If there's any specific deficiency in the Helix design I'd say it's the handling of mic's on the stock cabinet.  It's simply not flexible enough.

 

For me harshness depends a lot on the type of guitar and pickup.  A preset that sounds quite harsh for a Strat or Tele will sound just about perfect for a Gretch hollow body.

 

Often I can completely mitigate the harshness simply by combining cabinets and mixing them together rather than using a high cut.

 

What phil_m mentioned about the high cut parameter on cabinets appears to be absolutely spot-on.  A high cut on a cabinet of 3.8khz is very different than an EQ high cut of 3.8khz and indicates the slope of the high cut on the cabinets is much less steep than that of the EQ.

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I always had my tube amps pointed at my face, on stage, laying on the monitor, so I surely am more used to hearing higher frequencies, but a good habit, in music recording, is to have more and then cut it off, rather than cutting something you may need later in a mix.

 

That said, there's another factor you may want to consider: some amps have master set way too high, and power amp distortion is usually less pleasant than preamp distortion.. even when I could, I'd never record an amp at full master volume, and that is the same for Helix models. Try backing down the master and raise the channel volume (which is the representation of the mixer fader) and some of the harshness should be tamed.

After that, just go for the sound you like better, and notice that may not be the same for every song.

With modelers like Helix you get to be in control of the sound post amp, which is usually the FOH or recording engineer's business.

It may seem overwhelming, at first, but it's a good thing to have control of the sound you're producing, in the end.

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With modelers like Helix you get to be in control of the sound post amp, which is usually the FOH or recording engineer's business.

It may seem overwhelming, at first, but it's a good thing to have control of the sound you're producing, in the end.

 

The last thing in the world I would want to do is depend on a FOH guy to get my tone right.  Not only does he not know the tone I'm shooting for, but the tools they typically have available for live sound are way too primitive to be terribly precise or accurate.

 

I'll send you a finished tone.  Keep my channel EQ flat, gain stage it appropriately, and leave it alone I say....

 

And this is coming from a guy who IS a FOH guy.....

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Yep, my point exactly. But I'm a producer as well, and have worked with top technicians worldwide, and they need you to know what you want. That's a crucial part of today's musician job. Sound is the new Harmony and has become more and more a structural part of arrangement and production.

And Helix is a perfect platform to do your homework

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The last thing in the world I would want to do is depend on a FOH guy to get my tone right.

 

 

Ummm unless that FOH guy is the same guy that did SRV...  :P

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I have an A30 preset I made for my PRS S2 that I love. It's got the right amount of chime and brightness, while being full and thick. My IRs high cut is set at around 5k.

 

Plug in my strat with 500k pots and hot pickups and I'm rolling the cut down to about 2k to get it to sound right.

 

The important thing is that it sounds right.

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I have an A30 preset I made for my PRS S2 that I love. It's got the right amount of chime and brightness, while being full and thick. My IRs high cut is set at around 5k.

 

Plug in my strat with 500k pots and hot pickups and I'm rolling the cut down to about 2k to get it to sound right.

 

The important thing is that it sounds right.

Thanks Alex, I'll give some of those a go tonight. My clip above was just straight amp+cabs of course. And, instead of using the cab cut I added a high-cut block to switch on and off.

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but the tools they typically have available for live sound are way too primitive to be terribly precise or accurate.

 

 

How many 31-band EQs you got your board? ;-) 

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How many 31-band EQs you got your board? ;-) 

 

I can't imagine many FOH systems have a 31-band EQ dedicated to the electric guitar...

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I have an A30 preset I made for my PRS S2 that I love. It's got the right amount of chime and brightness, while being full and thick. My IRs high cut is set at around 5k.

 

Plug in my strat with 500k pots and hot pickups and I'm rolling the cut down to about 2k to get it to sound right.

 

The important thing is that it sounds right.

This right here is what many struggle with initially...getting past the "I shouldn't have to do this to get things to sound right" phase. Especially when the only real response is "Well, ya kinda do. Suck it up." ;)

 

It's a rude awakening sometimes...

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It's sort of been said above, but not quite directly... Remember, too, that how the guitar sounds in a band mix is very different to how it sounds in the bedroom all by itself.

 

I agree with the other comment that I'd rather have everything available and eq to taste, than to have to figure out a way to get signal back out that isn't there.

 

I also agree that I wish the Helix cab mics had a lateral adjustment as well.  That's a huge loss to me.  Maybe someday.  I think there's an ideascale out there for it.

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This right here is what many struggle with initially...getting past the "I shouldn't have to do this to get things to sound right" phase. Especially when the only real response is "Well, ya kinda do. Suck it up." ;)

 

It's a rude awakening sometimes...

For me, it isn't so much an "I shouldn't have to," it's more of a, "How the hell does this doomahicky work?"

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The vast majority of Guitar Amp Cab Speakers are designed with a dramaticly steep attenuation (roll off) above 4 or 5kHz.

 

Connect a guitar amp's output (correctly) to an FRFR speaker (active or passive as the case may be) and it's gonna sound harsh and nasty too!

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The vast majority of Guitar Amp Cab Speakers are designed with a dramaticly steep attenuation (roll off) above 4 or 5kHz.

 

Connect a guitar amp's output (correctly) to an FRFR speaker (active or passive as the case may be) and it's gonna sound harsh and nasty too!

Yeah, but that's the function of the cab or IR, to emulate that response. What's the point of the built in cabs not doing​ that without additional processing that's not the default?

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Yeah, but that's the function of the cab or IR, to emulate that response. What's the point of the built in cabs not doing​ that without additional processing that's not the default?

 

In my experience they do to some degree or another.  Remember there's a mic and mic placement involved.  Certain IR's pretty much eliminate the harshness with the right mic and placed further out from the cone.  It also appears to be true that what sounds somewhat harsh playing live through my DXR12, sounds perfect when recorded and played through my HS7's.  This tells me that some of the artifacts I'm hearing are mostly likely directly related to audible differences in speakers built for long projection and those built for filling a room with sound.  I suspect if I was able to move far enough away from my DXR12's in the room I'm in I wouldn't notice the harshness nearly as much because the horn and the main speaker would blend together better.  I get the same effect when I play pre-recorded music through the PA if I stand too close to the speakers, so that tells me my guess may be pretty accurate.

 

Personally I'm not bothered too much by it.  Over time I've learned what to listen for and how much I need to cut to get the sound I want coming out of the PA.  And that cut will vary based on the guitar I'm using, the amp model, and the IR's (cabinets, mics, and mic placements).  In some cases I simply don't need any cuts after I've EQ'd my patch.  It may be slightly more harsh, but in practice/performance it's pretty much spot-on.

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...It may be slightly more harsh, but in practice/performance it's pretty much spot-on.

Great point.

I spent most of my playing life in the bedroom. I was never in a proper band. A few years ago at 43 to present, i finally get to experience a "real" band. Big eye opener is the difference in tone from bedroom to band. I found when tone was perfect alone, it gets lost in a band, then volume up to compensate and muddy sounding band. Slight harsh IME = cut through mix so less volume needed. Happy me, happy vocal, happy audience.

 

OP probably already knows this, but for anyone else reading this thread.

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So none of the people hearing this play in a band context?

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So none of the people hearing this play in a band context?

 

I think it's simply more obvious or prominent when practicing by yourself, but it's a lot less prominent in a band context for sure.  Not missing, just less prominent.  A lot of the harshness is in the detail of the tone which probably gets washed out a bit more by the full range of sounds in a band.

 

In some ways I think many people may confuse articulation with harshness.  Harshness to me is when certain frequencies stand out and are annoying.  In a lot of cases where people may be used to traditional guitar cabinets, the articulation between the different strings and the pick attack are often more muted simply due to the nature of the frequency response profile of the speaker and cabinet.  That type of thing can easily be adjusted through the bias parameter.  Personally, I like the articulation.

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FWIW ...... and Ive done a lot  [ too much :)  A/B'ing ]  the  Hi Cut  [and Lo Cut]  in the Helix Cab / IR  block need "fine tuning" ....... the slopes are  relatively-flat ..... in my Axe XL, you can chose between a  6db slope or a 12 db slope ....... %99.99  of the time  for  %99.99  of all IRs,  the 6 db slope is perfect.

 

Ive run  [looped]  the  Axe into the Helix and the Helix in to the Axe  and without exception, the same IR in the Helix needs a much "stronger"  /  "bigger"  hi / lo  cut ..... this is time consuming  and it means I have to run a Post-IR  EQ  to  re-compensate for the  "slopes" ...... this seems like it would be an easy fix .. ?  hopefully it is addressed in  2.20  or very soon thereafter.

 

My workaround   [ post IR /  post Cab block eq  ]  isnt hard or anything, but it should not be necessary ..... how hard could it be to introduce a 6db or 12 db slope   ? 

 

Ben

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I think it's simply more obvious or prominent when practicing by yourself, but it's a lot less prominent in a band context for sure.  Not missing, just less prominent.  A lot of the harshness is in the detail of the tone which probably gets washed out a bit more by the full range of sounds in a band.

 

In some ways I think many people may confuse articulation with harshness.  Harshness to me is when certain frequencies stand out and are annoying.  In a lot of cases where people may be used to traditional guitar cabinets, the articulation between the different strings and the pick attack are often more muted simply due to the nature of the frequency response profile of the speaker and cabinet.  That type of thing can easily be adjusted through the bias parameter.  Personally, I like the articulation.

 

I think a lot of these things are purely subjective... One person would call a tone bright, the other would call the same thing harsh. Someone might call another tone warm and full, but another person might think it's dull and muddy. I mean, I hear demos all the time where a person loves the tone, but to me it sounds like nothing special or even annoying. Heck, sometimes I'll go back to tones I created and listen to them with fresh ears, and I'll be like, "what was I thinking?"... Really is more of an art than a science, imo.

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