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Helix latency versus a tube amp

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I'm a sound noob so go easy on me. Played a line 6 processed amp for many years now, including Helix for the past year. Tonight went over and plugged into my friends Marshall. Had a hard time playing for awhile as it seemed like all my note timing was off with my fingers. Had read on here that using a processed digital amp like a Helix, you have a latency that your brain/fingers adjust for and that latency isn't there with a pure tube amp.

 

Accurate or no?

 

And if accurate, do any of you who use the Helix as your pedal board via a four cable method with a tube amp experience this?

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To my knowledge, there is no audio latency to speak of within Helix audio output itself. When I hit the string I hear the note just as I do on my other amps. I've used the 4 cable method as well with no noticeable latency, and I would know because I also play midi keys and software synths so I am very aware of 10ms and lower timing issues. My question is were you listening to yourself thru some kind of DAW, or from the speaker itself?

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There's always going to be some latency with anything digital, but the total throughput latency of the Helix is very minor - like around 1ms. It would go up a little if you're using any of the FX loops, but still, 6 or 7ms is probably at the lower end of the spectrum that you could even notice. It's certainly not enough to throw off your timing. What you heard tonight was probably more just the experience of playing though a different amp and hearing yourself differently.

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There's always going to be some latency with anything digital, but the total throughput latency of the Helix is very minor - like around 1ms. It would go up a little if you're using any of the FX loops, but still, 6 or 7ms is probably at the lower end of the spectrum that you could even notice. It's certainly not enough to throw off your timing. What you heard tonight was probably more just the experience of playing though a different amp and hearing yourself differently.

This is probably true. I'm used to that heavy processed sound versus playing straight amp and no pedals.

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Was it a big Marshall?  Those things move a lot of air - 4x12 cab?  It's the kick in the guts those things can do in a limited space that some old timers find hard to give up - but it is also that kick that makes you too loud in most environments - they were originally designed for a time when sound direct from the stage was the way we did it!

That's not latency or lack of - that's huge transients!

By time a 100w Marshall stack is up and singing, its excruciatingly loud.  Spilling into all the mics but a great experience, but really a dinosaur even in many big shows (excluding something like AC/DC!) 

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Was it a big Marshall?  Those things move a lot of air - 4x12 cab?  

 

Was a combo but point taken. As I keep thinking this through I'm coming to the conclusion that the slight delay pedals I'm usually using with all my Helix patches are the issue here. I usually have something in the 200-300ms department working much of the time for a bigger sound. And thinking I'm so used to playing with that versus just a basic tube amp w/no effects.

 

That said, my friend and I had a bit of debate on it. He likes his straight clear sound. But on a lot of leads it feels like you need that extra layer something like Helix wraps into a neat package.

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Helix feels instant to me. I have an EV ETX 12P, I think the manual states a dsp latency of 2ms. With the combination I think i feel a barely perceptible lag on very fast runs, but my brain seems to cancel it out within 20 secs of playing.

I thought much the same trying a Spider Valve II and separately a G30 wireless, again only momentarily perceptible.

I could imagine if you were using wireless, Helix with several send/return blocks, a monitor with additional dsp latency and some distance it would become quite ghastly.

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We can certainly make a difference between physical (acoustic) properties and the corresponding (psycho-acoustic) experience(s).

In other words: Measuring sound vs. feeling sound;  (physical) sound production vs. sound experience

(or hearing, which is a psychological phenomenon, too - you hear with your ears and brain!).

This is not trivial...

 

But - what about this setup:

19740616_1884.jpg

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Everything has latency even the analog world. Every 1 ft of space between you and the speakr is 1ms. Same for every 1 ft of cable length if I remember correctly.

 

Tube amps have this as well.

 

Even pianos, no electronics... takes an average of 8ms from the time you press a key till you hear a note. The time increases ever so slightly towards the high, or bass notes, as they are further from your ears as a player than the middle is.

 

The 1ms to 3ms you get from the helix will add to it, but I highly doubt that is your problem, even if it is a latency issue.

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Everything has latency even the analog world. Every 1 ft of space between you and the speakr is 1ms. Same for every 1 ft of cable length if I remember correctly. Tube amps have this as well.<Snip>
Unless you are using air compression hoses for your cables, one foot of electrical cable does not impart any noticable lethargy! 
 
Electricity moves at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per Second
Sound moves at 767 miles per Hour; a crawl by comparison. 
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You are quite right Musiclaw.

I was wrong about the cable length mattering when it comes to latency. I thought I might have been which is why I included the (if I remember correctly) lol which I didn't remember correctly on cable length. But the rest is all accurate.

 

Thanks for the correction, and picking up the slack for me there. I did have a bit of a brain fart.

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Makes me think back about high school stage band. Our keyboardist playing a Fender Rhodes swore she could hear a delay between when she hit a key and when the sound came out of the Fender Twin.

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We can certainly make a difference between physical (acoustic) properties and the corresponding (psycho-acoustic) experience(s).

In other words: Measuring sound vs. feeling sound;  (physical) sound production vs. sound experience

(or hearing, which is a psychological phenomenon, too - you hear with your ears and brain!).

This is not trivial...

 

But - what about this setup:

19740616_1884.jpg

A sound system made possible by the distribution of millions of tabs of acid.....(well done Mr. Owsley)

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Without an Oscope capture, you won't be able to detect 1 ms of latency. A normal human ear can not perceive that even in the best of situations. We are not talking 1 mile distance away from the speaker here. As normal a few feet away you won't hear 1 ms of latency unless of course,  you have spidey senses or a big S on yer shirt... 

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Everything has latency even the analog world. Every 1 ft of space between you and the speakr is 1ms. Same for every 1 ft of cable length...

If this were true, a 20 ft cable would be nearly unusable. A few ms is imperceptible, even for those who claim to have "Princess and the Pea" levels of sensitivity. But 20ms or more and you're starting to get into slap-back delay territory. If cables did this to us all, nobody would be able to play in time, ever.

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If cables did this to us all, nobody would be able to play in time, ever. 

 

 

Hey maybe thats why some of todays music..... errr, nevermind. 

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Unless you are using air compression hoses for your cables, one foot of electrical cable does not impart any noticable lethargy! 
 
Electricity moves at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per Second
Sound moves at 767 miles per Hour; a crawl by comparison. 

 

 

So does sound traveling @ 767 miles per hour convert to 0.213056 miles per second?

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So does sound traveling @ 767 miles per hour convert to 0.213056 miles per second?

 

767 MPH divided by 60 minutes = 12.78, divided again by 60 seconds is indeed .21305 miles per second...  

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767 MPH divided by 60 minutes = 12.78, divided again by 60 seconds is indeed .21305 miles per second...  

 

B) Thanks for the breakdown!

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If this were true, a 20 ft cable would be nearly unusable. A few ms is imperceptible, even for those who claim to have "Princess and the Pea" levels of sensitivity. But 20ms or more and you're starting to get into slap-back delay territory. If cables did this to us all, nobody would be able to play in time, ever.

Haha yea, I had a dumb moment about the cable I was even questioning myself when I wrote it. I was wrong, I even addressed that above. However, the rest is sound... pun intended.

 

I agree a few ms is imperceptible. It was the point I was making about the piano, and the 8ms average for auditory feedback to reach the ears. 

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1ft of wire is 1ns, so it's close. Only the next letter in the alphabet and a factor of a million.

I would say close enough for rock-n-roll. ;)

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Everything would be better if we played underwater....The speed of sound doubles under water to over 1400 miles per sec....In solids it more than doubles again (over 5000 miles per sec in solid Iron)...density is everything. One thing I noticed when I was touring as a FOH engineer is that outdoor shows always have the best sound when it's a drizzly day with 100% humidity near sea level...It was really obvious to me when flying between gigs with the same rig. Really amazing how much difference it makes.

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Just did a little Googling to confirm - I think we all agree that the cable speed was wrong, but it looks like sound does indeed move... well, 1.12533 feet every millisecond. So yeah, about 1ms of delay every foot away from the source. That's conveniently easy to remember and definitely explains why some wireless users complain about wireless systems "adding delay" when they move farther away from the amp. No, it's just that 50 feet from the amp is 50ms of delay, which is definitely noticeable.

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Not quite apples to apples comparing perception of in-box latency to delay caused by time of flight through the air.  In the latter case, there are acoustic cues that your brain can use to help compensate.  That's why you can be 20 feet from a speaker and play just fine but if you introduce 20ms of latency playing through headphones, things don't feel right.

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Not quite apples to apples comparing perception of in-box latency to delay caused by time of flight through the air.  In the latter case, there are acoustic cues that your brain can use to help compensate.  That's why you can be 20 feet from a speaker and play just fine but if you introduce 20ms of latency playing through headphones, things don't feel right.

Not comparing, speaking in addition to.

Audio engineer, or mixing engineers already takes this into account when setting up their studios. 

 

Having guitarists even be aware of this, would be an improvement.

The distance from speakers is added on top of everything else. Other than being able to hear clearly, its one of the main reasons to use IEMs, or floor monitors close to them in live environments. 

 

 

Just did a little Googling to confirm - I think we all agree that the cable speed was wrong, but it looks like sound does indeed move... well, 1.12533 feet every millisecond. So yeah, about 1ms of delay every foot away from the source. That's conveniently easy to remember and definitely explains why some wireless users complain about wireless systems "adding delay" when they move farther away from the amp. No, it's just that 50 feet from the amp is 50ms of delay, which is definitely noticeable.

 

 

 

Yeah the cable distance thing was just me having a dumb moment, but I can at least admit to it. However, yes the 1ms per foot of space does matter for sound to travel. Its also one reason that Concerts on DVD, or Bluray where camera quickly moves from the back of the arena, to the stage, that there is some lip-sync issues.

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I also an experiencing a latency anomaly.

 

I run my guitar into a 1 in 2 outs box. 

 

I use 1 of the outs to go to input a on my interface.

 

I use the other to go to the helix. I go out of the helix to input b on my interface. 

 

i create 2 tracks in my daw.


Set the input on track 1 to interface input a (dry).
Set the input on track 2 to interface input b (wet via helix).

 

I hit record.

 

I play a bit. Leaving gaps in between samples of playing. 

 

I hit stop. 

 

I zoom in on the waveforms. The one coming from the helix is starting further down the timeline than the dry one. 

 

Which i guess means The helix is slowing down my signal. 

 

I tried this because i was trying a new amp out and when running into both simultaneously it sounded like i was hearing the amp first. Then the helix.

 

this experiment feels like it confirms this.

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45 minutes ago, jabziz said:

I also an experiencing a latency anomaly.

 

I run my guitar into a 1 in 2 outs box. 

 

I use 1 of the outs to go to input a on my interface.

 

I use the other to go to the helix. I go out of the helix to input b on my interface. 

 

i create 2 tracks in my daw.


Set the input on track 1 to interface input a (dry).
Set the input on track 2 to interface input b (wet via helix).

 

I hit record.

 

I play a bit. Leaving gaps in between samples of playing. 

 

I hit stop. 

 

I zoom in on the waveforms. The one coming from the helix is starting further down the timeline than the dry one. 

 

Which i guess means The helix is slowing down my signal. 

 

I tried this because i was trying a new amp out and when running into both simultaneously it sounded like i was hearing the amp first. Then the helix.

 

this experiment feels like it confirms this.

 

That’s exactly what you’d expect. Any digital processor is going to have some amount of latency. You’re running your signal through another round of AD/DA when you run it through the Helix, so there will be a little more latency.

 

If you want to record a set guitar track you’d be much better off using the Helix as your audio interface. You can send a dry track directly from the Helix’s USB audio connection,

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If i were recording i could go direct and use helix native. Or reamp via helix. I’m with you. 

 

Because id have a non-delayed signal.

 

but what if i were playing live? And the other guitarist is using a mic’d amp.

 

The helix player would need to play “sooner” than the mic’d amp player, to be sync’d up. 

 

Correct?

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4 minutes ago, jabziz said:

If i were recording i could go direct and use helix native. Or reamp via helix. I’m with you. 

 

Because id have a non-delayed signal.

 

but what if i were playing live? And the other guitarist is using a mic’d amp.

 

The helix player would need to play “sooner” than the mic’d amp player, to be sync’d up. 

 

Correct?

 

No... The latency through the Helix is less than 2ms. It’s not anything that would be noticed by anyone.

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1 hour ago, jabziz said:

I wish i hadn’t noticed.

 

I really don’t believe you’re hearing 2ms latency. It’s more likely that you’re hearing some sort of phasing or comb filtering. 

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That 2ms of latency is the same that you would experience by moving a few feet further away from your amp. An absolute non-issue for your band mates or your audience. 

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4 hours ago, jabziz said:

I tried this because i was trying a new amp out and when running into both simultaneously it sounded like i was hearing the amp first. Then the helix.

 

This is the phenomenon when one is louder than the other. I suspect the amp is simply louder than the method you are monitoring the helix. 

 

4 hours ago, jabziz said:

i create 2 tracks in my daw.


Set the input on track 1 to interface input a (dry).
Set the input on track 2 to interface input b (wet via helix).

 

If you are comparing the Helix to an Amp then It's a flawed experiment until you know what the amp is doing.

  • Try the same thing, but replace the Helix with an AMP and MIC for track 2. 
  • Then do it again... ignoring the dry input and just recording the AMP/Mic in Track 1, and the Helix in Track 2. 

In all of the experiments don't just "look" at the distance between the tracks.... measure them. The distance will be skewed by zoom levels, a proper measurement will tell you precisely how many "ms" you are experiencing regardless of zoom levels. Don't be fooled by your eyes! 

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13 hours ago, jabziz said:

I also an experiencing a latency anomaly.

....

Which i guess means The helix is slowing down my signal. 

.....

this experiment feels like it confirms this.

 

I think you are fooling yourself with this. I have to agree with the comment from “phil_m”, when he says that this “anomaly” is due to a second round of AD/DA conversion. Use Helix as your interface and it will deliver both wet and dry signals to your DAW simultaneously.

 

As for playing live with another guitar player (and without going into the speed of sound) the comment from “Verne Bunsen” is correct - a delay of 2ms on stage is going to be imperceptible.

 

Also, the additional points made by “codamedia” are relevant and maybe you should check the suggested experiment and have another look at the resulting waveform.

 

As you have already mentioned you wish you hadn’t noticed. I think you are making more of it than you should, but that’s just my opinion.

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I appreciate the feedback. Thank you.

 

i’m wondering if there is something else going on. If 2ms is imperceptible then perhaps what i’m hearing is more than 2%. 

 

Im monitoring the helix through a line 6 powercab. Somebody i mentioned this to said xlr is known to have latency vs 1/4”. I hadnt heard of that. So i guess ill try that too but i have my doubts. And ill try the recommendation of replacing the dry with the mic’d amp in my previous experiment and see how that goes. My concern with this isn't recording. For what its worth I don't want this to be happening. This doesn't benefit me in anyway that i can think of. Ive been playing through the helix for a while now. Ive used it live. Prior to that i used the boss gt-100. With a traditional half stack (4 cable method) live and then eventually just direct. I never noticed anything like this before. 

 

The ad/da conversion affecting time and all that is understandable.  I have some audio in my background. Math says it’ll be a bit behind. If i hadn't heard anything i wouldn't have gone looking. 

 

Something else i thought of trying is a test where i play along with something and track my guitar a handful of takes with a mic’d amp. And then a second batch of takes with the output on the powercab or helix. Or mic’d powercab And then see how those sound.  Do i hear any delay. Worth a shot. 

 

Then again perhaps when i plug in next i wont hear a difference. 

 

Thanks again for the ideas and explanations.

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55 minutes ago, jabziz said:

I appreciate the feedback. Thank you.

 

i’m wondering if there is something else going on. If 2ms is imperceptible then perhaps what i’m hearing is more than 2%. 

 

Im monitoring the helix through a line 6 powercab. Somebody i mentioned this to said xlr is known to have latency vs 1/4”. I hadnt heard of that. So i guess ill try that too but i have my doubts. And ill try the recommendation of replacing the dry with the mic’d amp in my previous experiment and see how that goes. My concern with this isn't recording. For what its worth I don't want this to be happening. This doesn't benefit me in anyway that i can think of. Ive been playing through the helix for a while now. Ive used it live. Prior to that i used the boss gt-100. With a traditional half stack (4 cable method) live and then eventually just direct. I never noticed anything like this before. 

 

The ad/da conversion affecting time and all that is understandable.  I have some audio in my background. Math says it’ll be a bit behind. If i hadn't heard anything i wouldn't have gone looking. 

 

Something else i thought of trying is a test where i play along with something and track my guitar a handful of takes with a mic’d amp. And then a second batch of takes with the output on the powercab or helix. Or mic’d powercab And then see how those sound.  Do i hear any delay. Worth a shot. 

 

Then again perhaps when i plug in next i wont hear a difference. 

 

Thanks again for the ideas and explanations.

 

Hi,

 

I’m starting to think that something else is going on here. For example, it appears that you’re now thinking that the Helix to P/Cab XLR link could be an issue, because someone told you that XLR compared to 1/4” Jack is “known” to have latency. Yeah, right! If there is any latency it would be immeasurable, you have more chance of electromagnetic interference.

 

You say that you have had your Helix for a while and beside recording you have used it live, therefore I have to ask if this “latency” has only recently started to occur? If it is a new issue and the delay is having a detrimental effect, on both live and recording, I would suggest that you have the unit checked out by a Line 6 tech person. Any other suggestions are not going to be any good because anyone on here who may be able to help is in the situation of NOT being able to hear what you are hearing. It’s obviously an annoyance to you, but we have no real terms of reference - it’s like working in the dark.

 

Raise a ticket with Customer Support and have it checked out.

 

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3 hours ago, datacommando said:

 

I think you are fooling yourself with this. I have to agree with the comment from “phil_m”, when he says that this “anomaly” is due to a second round of AD/DA conversion. Use Helix as your interface and it will deliver both wet and dry signals to your DAW simultaneously.

 

As for playing live with another guitar player (and without going into the speed of sound) the comment from “Verne Bunsen” is correct - a delay of 2ms on stage is going to be imperceptible.

 

 

+1...

 

2ms of latency is nothing, and as for playing live with another guitarist...the best two players on earth will never be in perfect sync down to the millisecond. That simply doesn't happen...we are not machines. 

 

Hell, you'd have a hard time double- tracking the same part yourself, and getting the wave forms to line up precisely. If you zoom in close enough, there will always be slight discrepancies. In fact, that's why we layer rhythm tracks in the first place... the incremental timing differences and the ever-so-slight chorused effect it provides are what makes multiple stacked guitar tracks sound huge. And if that's not enough to convince anyone, there's always the time honored cheat of recording to 2 tracks simultaneously and putting a 10-20ms delay on one of them to fake a double-tracked part. If that works (and it does), then nobody's hearing 2ms...

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          “Raise a ticket with Customer Support and have it checked out.

 

If these other things to check out don't solve it, I certainly will. 

 

If anyone else is trying to help, keep in mind I’m not saying i can hear a 2ms delay. I’m saying that i can split my guitar, go into 2 rigs, and to my ears the sound is coming out at different times. 

 

Based on what some of you are saying this must be a delay of more than 2ms.

 

That being said, it sounds like that isn’t normal. I’m taking from these posts that normal latency of a device like this vs an amp shouldn't be audible. I’m fine with that. I prefer it actually. Between my investments in the LT and Powercab Plus, i’d like it to work out. :) 

 

someone pointed out that this wasnt a problem until recently.  It wasnt until recently that i had another example playing at the same time. This may have been an issue all along. Ill also be the first to say the band i was in probably wasnt tight enough to point it out. :)

 

 

 

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