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First steps with the Helix seem a bit disappointing


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Hey guys 'n girls,


so yesterday after work i came home with full motivation to get the Helix where I wanted it to be.

So i sat down hook it with my Studio monitors and started from scratch.


After one hour i had a pretty good base and started experimenting with different amp models.

A hour or two later i already had a really pleasant sounding preset.


I switched back to the factory presets and was shocked how thin and weak they sounded.

This is not about ranting about the factory presets but after switching back to my own preset I

know why i was disappointed in the first place now I have a pretty good idea what this system is capable of.


I didn't even worked on my preset for a couple of hours because I was just playing with it and it was so much fun.

Compared to my old half digital half analog rig this sounds SO MUCH BETTER and defined its awesome.

The Helix is indeed a pretty good sounding system once you get it where you want it to be.


And I already tried IRs and have to say that my current preset is still using the Helix cabs.

IRs may sound a bit more realistic while the build in cabs still sound pretty pleasing once dialed in.


I'm sure that once I fully grasp the system capabilities I'm able to recreate the sounds I love.


I have a valve amp in my room but thats an old buddy with a messed up volume pot. So the amp

can only be loud af or even louder.


So far i have good hopes.

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Hello guys thanks for your productive comments on this.


I guess my biggest problem so far was that i didn't quite understand the philosophy behind helix.

Helix is more the perfect representation of a clinical environment. While i was expecting a real life

representation. Helix is more the studio approach while i want more the backyard sound style ;)


I'm now at the point where i understand that i have to put a lot more afford into this then i was expecting.


Its not my sound setup that leads to my frustration.

I'm using Prodipe Pro 8 aktive studio monitors. Which may not be the best but they do their job.

And i also tried my Beyerdynamic dt 990 pro headphones direct into the system.



Both sound thin but thats not necessarily a bad thing because thats whats needed for recording.


I was expecting this as you said "amp in the room feel" and there the frustration began.

I started building my own presets and got good results but i understand that i have no idea what I'm doing.


First I need to learn how the signal chain works and where i need to put each component to get a decent result.

Then I have to put a lot of work into tweaking the sound characteristic.

And I need to get creative to get this realistic life environment sound scenario.


What I want is this dirty, grungy and absolutely not clinical sound and that will require some work to achieve.


In the next few day i will sit on my lollipop and try to understand the signal chain and work hard to get some sounds I am

looking for and I'm excited of what i can achieve with the system.


So thank you guys for not bashing me for talking bad about your favorite toy ^^

If you're used to the "amp in the room", give your ears time to adjust to the "mic in the room" sound. I play live shows and there is very little chance I will ever go back to a real amp. 



What kind of music are you looking to play? 

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I tend to play Ambient/Metal hybrid kinda music.


Like Devin Townsend the John Petrucci sound is what i idolize so im lookin for big sound stages.

Lots of effects hand in hand witch powerful mid crunch and high gain lead drives.


So far i think the Helix is the only system that can provide all in need.

The Kemper isn't a usefull tool for that purpose and the AX8 isn't as versatile as the Helix.


I think if the Helix doesn't provide me everything i need no other system will.

And im already getting used to the mic'ed typ of sound and i start to like it.

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Hi ZSchneidi,

Welcome to the forum!

Everything is subjective of course, but there are many, many people who believe Helix is indeed the best-sounding system out there. As your playback system is easily 50% of your tone, a Kemper or Fractal product (or whatever you've heard rumored to sound the best) is also going to also sound thin through those same hi-fi speakers. The sonic difference between top-tier modelers is never glaringly obvious, even to golden-ear engineers and first-call session guitarists, so if something sounds radically off, don't always assume it's Helix:

  • Modelers (including Kemper, Fractal, Amplifire, POD, and Helix) represent the mic'ed, recorded sound of an amp, not the experience of actually standing in front of a real amp, pointed at the back of your knees. This is not a limitation of modeling; it's a limitation of the laws of physics—you can't emulate the sound of a speaker without recording the speaker with a mic (which affects the sound), a cable (which affects the sound), a mic pre (which affects the sound), an A/D converter (which affects the sound), the acoustics of the room (which affect the sound), and some sort of speaker system to hear it all (which is at least FIFTY PERCENT of the sound!). Studio musicians and professionals used to in-ears or stage monitors gravitate to modelers with ease; musicians accustomed to a real amp generally have a harder time—and this is totally fine. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with connecting Helix to your real amp, either as a pedalboard or in 4-Cable Method. Later you can try out a decent, flat-ish PA speaker (like those mentioned by others above) to see if a fullish-range system is enough to scratch that amp-in-the-room itch
  • The notion that modelers sound "digital" is a misnomer. Here's the Helix listening challenge; a few people can reliably call out which is Helix and which is the amp, but zero indicators are based on any sort of digital artifact. If a Helix, Kemper, or Fractal model or profile sounds digital, the "digitalness" would have been present in the original tube amp or effect that was modeled (like how harsh and cold a real Plexi can sound on record, especially when cranked)
  • Modelers almost always require some setup and knowledge of gain staging. An amp is easy—you just plug in and go. Modelers are at the mercy of whatever you plug it into. Nine times out of ten, your speaker system is the weak link. Barring that, setting input and output levels is key. DunedinDragon's post above is a good starting point
  • If you have a decent pair of high-impedance headphones connected directly to the back of Helix, they'll be a much better gauge of how recorded tracks sound through Helix
  • Helix has a high-quality 8-in/8-out audio interface built in; depending on your needs, you may not need to connect it to your Focusrite at all
  • All presets suck. They'll always sound sub-par unless your guitar, playback system, hearing, playing style, and musical tastes are all similar to the person who made the preset

There are many, many people who don't require IRs to get the most out of the system. However, the real practical advantages of IRs are two-fold:

  • Many IRs are made up of multiple mics through tube mic pres and other outboard that impart a bit of juju—that is, they purposely color the sound of the actual cabinet. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's different from Helix's cabs, which were designed to be extremely transparent and accurate
  • The sheer number of IRs almost guarantees you'll find exactly what you're looking for. It's the difference between dating in a small town and dating in LA. (But much like dating in LA, finding the right IR can be a huge, time-consuming effort!)

It's also important to note that Helix's own cabs are IRs.


Don't give up, and there are tons of people both here and on Chad Boston's Helix Users Group Facebook page that can help you along the way. Good luck!

Great post @Digital_Igloo! Very informative and helpful.

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