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How does the helix work??


Devin222
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Hey guys, I've been on the market for a new amp and came across these modellers like the helix.. now I don't quite understand how it works. I've Played guitar steadily for a few years and have gotten pretty good, i only ever owned a little fender mustang 1 and have outgrown it, I decided I would buy something like a peavey 6505mh (i play mostly metal) and a cab. But now that I see the helix I am back to step one. So what my question is how do these work? Do I need a full amp set up to run this? Or could I just buy a cab and use this as the head?? I mostly play at home and jam with buddies, no gigging.

 

Hopefully my question made sense? Haha

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Welcome.

 

Helix by itself will not power a cab; an amplification system is required (or headphones, but that doesn't fit your usage note above).

 

Generally speaking, the most agreed-upon course of action is to run Helix into a full range, flat response (FRFR) powered speaker setup - which is much like running direct into a mixer board, and out through the PA speakers.

This works properly for Helix and similar devices because it was made specifically to run direct in this fashion - the environment of amp(s), effects, speaker(s), microphone(s) and room ambience are all in the digital realm.

 

So, if you scan through the forums and examine threads discussing the use of FRFR speakers, that'll get you a load of information to ponder.

 

Spectacular results can be had using this method, and is a good bit easier to dial in than trying to 'neutralize' the inherent colorings of a guitar-oriented amplifier - seems a little counterintuitive, but it's entirely true; Helix will do the work of adding those colourings to your tastes.

 

(It's possible to run into a full amp in various ways (see 4CM, 7CM for ways of integrating Helix with amps) but I think in your scenario, you'd do better economically to pair a Helix with a decent FRFR solution).

 

Cheers.

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If you've been used to the Mustang amp, you already have some familiarity with modeling.  So that's good.  However Helix is quite a few steps beyond what you were using, so there will be a considerable learning curve.

 

As MonkeyXT points out, the Helix unit provides everything BUT the amp and speakers.  But it's designed so that it performs the same way in a recording scenario as it does in a live scenario.  The Helix contains all of the various effect, amp models, cabinet models, microphone models (for mic'ing the amp) and so forth.  It is, in effect, a modeled studio environment for constructing the signal chain that can be fed either into a DAW for recording, or directly into a PA.  Either way it provides a finished production sound.

 

When we talk about FRFR speakers (Full Range Flat Response), what we're talking about are the same type of speakers used in most PA systems.  These speakers are powered and contain their own amp and speakers and would typically be connected to a mixing board (which doesn't contain an amp).  You can use these speakers to connect directly to the Helix and get the same effect as you would were you to send the signal to a PA mixing board that would be connected to FRFR speakers.  In essence, what separates FRFR speakers from a traditional guitar amp and cabinet is they have a flat response across the entire frequency spectrum.  Guitar amps and cabs may have a full range of response across the frequency spectrum, but they favor certain areas of the frequency range which is relatively small compared the the full range of frequencies.

 

As MonkeyXT mentioned, some people do connect the Helix to a traditional amp and cabinet in various ways, but a given patch built to work directly into a recording DAW or into a PA or FRFR speaker will not sound the same due to the limitations of the traditional amp and speaker.  This introduces a problem in live playing where what you're hearing on stage will not be the same as what the audience is hearing through the PA.  This is one of the main reasons many of us opt to use FRFR speakers rather than a traditional amp and speakers.

 

First, it's a much simpler setup.  You route your signal directly into the speaker and set the volume, and you're done.  As compared to running various cables into different inputs to and from the traditional amp setup.

 

Once you gig with this setup, you already have a stage monitor (your FRFR speaker) and you simply route a separate cable directly to the PA mixing board (no actual mic's are used).

 

You know that the sound of the patch you built in the Helix will sound very close if not exactly the same through the PA and through your personal FRFR speaker.

 

Should you decide to record your guitar through a DAW at home, you shouldn't need to make any modifications to the patch, whereas with patches built to go through a traditional amp and cab will have to be mic'd to record the sound you're hearing, or you would need to modify the patch since recording, in essence, is a FRFR process.

 

The reason I wanted to lay this out in detail to you is that the Helix already represents a much more complex environment than you are used to and has a considerable learning curve.  The FRFR approach at least reduces some of that complexity.

 

In terms of FRFR type speakers, there are a couple of different variations.  As I mentioned before live powered PA speakers such as an Alto, or JBL, or Yamaha, or QSC are typical ones used for PA's.  Depending on the power and size you want they can range from around $250 up to $1000.  Additionally you can use studio monitors which are meant more for home studio recording setups, but can also be connected directly to the Helix.  These are typically bought in pairs and there are some very low end monitors, but I wouldn't recommend any that were cheaper than about $150 each ($300 for a pair) as you will generally get what you pay for in this area.

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I don't know if this has been mentioned but it helps to think of Helix and other modelers this way. It is NOT what you would hear if you were just standing next to and playing an amp in a room. It is a simulation of a mic'd amp in a studio and you are listening to it in a studio's control room through the control room's monitors with the amp in the other room.

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Thanks for the awesome replies guys, all the info is much appreciated. I must say I think I am sold on this thing.. I don't understand though, isn't a studio monitor essentially an frfr speaker? What's the difference and which would you recommend to be better for at home use/jamming with a couple buddies? Again, thanks.

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Thanks for the awesome replies guys, all the info is much appreciated. I must say I think I am sold on this thing.. I don't understand though, isn't a studio monitor essentially an frfr speaker? What's the difference and which would you recommend to be better for at home use/jamming with a couple buddies? Again, thanks.

Yes, actual studio monitors are FRFR. But there are also PA type FRFR. Which is what most mean when they say FRFR in these forums.

 

They are even making FRFR cabs these days. Some combo amps are "FRFR."

 

Home, or studio.... studio monitors will work great, provided you dont get the cheapest.

 

Studio monitors arent apt for LIVE performance. That is where the PA type, or amp shine.

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Thanks for the awesome replies guys, all the info is much appreciated. I must say I think I am sold on this thing.. I don't understand though, isn't a studio monitor essentially an frfr speaker? What's the difference and which would you recommend to be better for at home use/jamming with a couple buddies? Again, thanks.

 

Yes... studio monitors are basically FRFR. Depending on how loud they get, and their power handling... you could use them for jamming with buddies in a garage or practice space. I have a set of M-Audio BX8 monitors at home that would be plenty loud for a casual jam.

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Smaller reasonably priced Studio Monitors are ideal for near field ear level use. Their often uncovered speaker cones render them vulnerable to contact damage, and thus they're not the best for floor use or where they may get bumped, touched, etc. Otherwise, they can sound great!

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Awesome info guys! Now I know that this is not like a normal amp sound, but before this I was looking at purchasing a small lunchbox tube head with a 212 with vintage 30s. What do you guys think is going to give the best "amp in a room" feel. Like I said I play mostly metal so I'd really like to get that thump out of it. I was looking at the alto 212 and looks interesting but I also read in another forum that a 212 frfr speaker can get muddy sounding. Thoughts?

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What do you guys think is going to give the best "amp in a room" feel.

 

"amp in the room" is really just "guitar cab in the room" so if you wanted to use a modeler and get the amp in the room thing you'd need to disable the modeler's cab modeling, and run it into a neutral power amp and guitar cab of your choice. 

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