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Newb needs help...Considering the Helix vs Helix LT


Geolondon
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Hi Everyone, 

I've stumbled into amp modeling just recently, and am enamored by the whole concept and quality of these devices.   I'm now considering the Helix or the Helix LT.   I've looked at loads of YouTube videos on the Helix  (and the Kemper and the Fractal and others) and am finding the Helix systems hit the right spot in terms of interface and overall quality. 

 

Now...I've been a bedroom guitarist for decades and have done some home studio recording (which I enjoy).  I have a pretty basic setup (a Macbook Pro/ FocusRite Scarlett 2i4/ a Neumann TLM102 mic/Garageband).  Having met a very good female singer recently, we've discussed taking her songs and playing live and also doing some home studio stuff.   It's mainly acoustic based, but I also want to incorporate electric guitars into the whole songwriting going forward.  

 

I checked out both Helix units at a guitar store and I liked the scribble strips on the full version vs the LT.   But I know very little about what inputs and outputs I would need for a live show.  I just have zero experience performing live and little knowledge about what works with what.  I would want,  I think, room to add more than just two guitars and two mics.   But I don't even know for sure if either Helix unit accommodates 2 mics.   I think there's just one mic input on the Helix  and none on the Helix LT am I right?  

 

I guess my questions are this:  1) Are the scribble strips all that important or are they mainly nice-to-have? I seem to like them. Is it easy to navigate the Helix LT without them?   2)  Do you find that if you do have the full Helix, that you don't use it to its full capabilities in terms of inputs/outputs?  In other words, is there a lot of unit real estate that goes unused and will always go unused? Or do you feel that you still want those capabilities "just in case"? 

 

I realise these are very newb questions, but I'm finding that, generally speaking,  the salespeople at the retail stores I've been to really don't know many of the ins and outs of these systems.   I'm just trying to soak up as much in these forums as I can.  

 

Any advice or enlightenment is appreciated. 

 

Thank you. 

 

Geo

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I think the added money considering what you get is worth it. Like you I was looking at the LT first. It has the same tones in it which is ultimately the important thing to me. After having the Helix though the scribble strips make things so easy in a live setting. Now I'm sure plenty of guys out there are getting along more than just fine with the LT in a live situation. I'm an older guy (48) so being able to see the snapshot modes and effects (color coded even) just really helps me keep a handle on things. Plus if I ever need more ins and outs I have them. Honestly though you can't go wrong with either. If you think long term (say keeping the unit for over 5 years) the extra money for the Helix just isn't that much. Let us know what you decide and why!

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While the Helix can handle a mic, I'd probably suggest you should process the mics outside of the Helix, at least until you get your feet wet.  It'll be enough for you to manage your guitar and presets through it.  Not that it's hard, it's just easier to keep it simple.

 

When you say you are going to play out, what does that mean?  Are you going to book gigs at coffee houses, clubs, stadiums?  Will there be a house PA system, or will you need to bring your own PA gear?  What kind of guitar are you playing, acoustic, electric?  What is she playing?  Will she maybe play with a keyboard, too?

 

What are you planning on playing through/monitoring through?

 

If you get something like a StageSource L2t (I got one used from Guitar Center myself for $500), it has a built in mixer with 2 mic/line channels, and a third line in/out channel in the back as well as a pair of RCA input jacks and an L6 Link in/out.  One of the mic/line channels has an acoustic simulator capability.  Both Mic line channels have EQ as well as separate Reverb and Mod effects.  I haven't figured out the Mod effect yet, but the reverb is ok.

 

So you could plug your Helix into the L6 Link, her mic and acoustic into the two mic/line channels.  If you need a mic, you could use your Helix.  Then with one speaker you've got your whole system, maybe add an L2m later to get a little more spread or for stereo.

 

Either that, or you could get both an FRFR/PA and a small 4 channel mixer like a Behringer or something, put both your mics into that, and maybe her acoustic (you didn't say what she would be playing), maybe it might have built in effects for the vocals and guitar (or at least have get one with a send/return for the channels so you could add outboard effects to your mixer channels), plug that into your PA as well as your Helix into the PA, and you're good to go.

 

If the house has a PA, the L2t could be used as either a monitor for you or in the back line, she would be all set for mics and inputs (she may want to bring a DI).

 

Point is, I highly recommend something like an L2t or two for you guys (an L2m is an L2t without the built in mixer, and has only the Line in and L6 Link connections, and is a little cheaper, might be useful if you get a separate mixer, though I still suggest the L2t just because).  It can get really loud and is a good quality PA/monitor.  There are other FRFR/PA choices on the market as well such as the Altos 210/212's I think they are and Yamaha DXR10's that are very popular.

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You're also going to want to start collecting things like XLR and balanced 1/4 in cables for connecting to PA's and mixers and stuff in a variety of lengths (20/30/50 ft for the XLR for instance, maybe 6 of them or so to start, two for your helix a couple for mics, instrument cables for the guitars, mics, mic stands, music stands, ipod/tablet stands (it's nice to have the ipod for reference, tabs, lyrics, etc.... as your song vocabulary grows)....

 

Don't worry too much about it.  As you play out, you'll figure out what you need, what works, what doesn't work.

 

Oh, and probably a couple of stools for sittin'

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As far as Helix vs LT? I dunno, me, I think the added functionality is well worth the added cost.  Again, I got mine from GC "used" for $1200... it still had all its packaging and plastic and didn't really look like it had been opened.  It sounds like this is a long term business investment for you; another $200 - $500 is nothing over the course of a year or two; eat at home a little more often and save some money that way ;)

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While the Helix can handle a mic, I'd probably suggest you should process the mics outside of the Helix, at least until you get your feet wet.  It'll be enough for you to manage your guitar and presets through it.  Not that it's hard, it's just easier to keep it simple.

 

When you say you are going to play out, what does that mean?  Are you going to book gigs at coffee houses, clubs, stadiums?  Will there be a house PA system, or will you need to bring your own PA gear?  What kind of guitar are you playing, acoustic, electric?  What is she playing?  Will she maybe play with a keyboard, too?

 

What are you planning on playing through/monitoring through?

 

If you get something like a StageSource L2t (I got one used from Guitar Center myself for $500), it has a built in mixer with 2 mic/line channels, and a third line in/out channel in the back as well as a pair of RCA input jacks and an L6 Link in/out.  One of the mic/line channels has an acoustic simulator capability.  Both Mic line channels have EQ as well as separate Reverb and Mod effects.  I haven't figured out the Mod effect yet, but the reverb is ok.

 

So you could plug your Helix into the L6 Link, her mic and acoustic into the two mic/line channels.  If you need a mic, you could use your Helix.  Then with one speaker you've got your whole system, maybe add an L2m later to get a little more spread or for stereo.

 

Either that, or you could get both an FRFR/PA and a small 4 channel mixer like a Behringer or something, put both your mics into that, and maybe her acoustic (you didn't say what she would be playing), maybe it might have built in effects for the vocals and guitar (or at least have get one with a send/return for the channels so you could add outboard effects to your mixer channels), plug that into your PA as well as your Helix into the PA, and you're good to go.

 

If the house has a PA, the L2t could be used as either a monitor for you or in the back line, she would be all set for mics and inputs (she may want to bring a DI).

 

Point is, I highly recommend something like an L2t or two for you guys (an L2m is an L2t without the built in mixer, and has only the Line in and L6 Link connections, and is a little cheaper, might be useful if you get a separate mixer, though I still suggest the L2t just because).  It can get really loud and is a good quality PA/monitor.  There are other FRFR/PA choices on the market as well such as the Altos 210/212's I think they are and Yamaha DXR10's that are very popular.

 

 

 

As for monitoring.. yes, I'm glad you mentioned the Yamaha DXR10.  I was actually thinking of the cheaper DBR10 for this application, but maybe there's a reason to use the DXR10?  Oh, I just checked out the L2t...wow, that thing is nice but quite expensive--might have to think about that one.  I've also got a Schertler Jam150 acoustic amp that I could, I think, use for monitoring.  For playing "out", I mean small pubs and coffee houses...that sort of thing.   She's primarily an acoustic guitar player and what I'd term a "pro" singer in the sense she's produced a CD or two and has done some proper televised stage performances.  She doesn't make a living at it per se.    I've been looking at mixers as well lately and some people have recommended the Allen & Heath ZED10FX.   Again though, I don't even have any experience with any of these things so I'm doing all I can do get educated.  This is one big learning curve for me, but I'm getting there.   I've made friends recently with a guy who runs a studio, produces, etc.. and he's been helpful in the short discussions we've had on this topic, but nothing in depth so far.  

 

I'm kind of curious as well, after having read a number of the threads on this forum, how everyone here is so knowledgeable.. I mean, the technical expertise seems off the charts.  Are a lot of members here engineers?  Just saying.  

 

Right now, based on this thread so far, I'm leaning towards the full Helix model.  

 

Geo 

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I personally use the DXR12s...one at home for dialing in tones and practicing and one at our rehearsal space for live gigs.  It's a very capable speaker and would serve your purposes well.  My situation is a bit more extensive as I play in a 7 piece band and use it as my stage monitor, but I suspect in your situation you could get by with just a single speaker along with a small 4 channel mixer to do everything you would need to do as a duo.  Personally I think that makes more sense than to try to send everything through the Helix.  It could be done, but it would be much harder to manage everything I would think.

 

There are a few other differences between the LT and the full Helix such as no separate headphone volume knob on the LT and fewer stomp buttons, but I'm not sure any of those things would necessarily impede you.  The one area that could be important are the additional inputs (send and receive) which could come in handy were you to want to add something like a keyboard that you might want to route through the Helix and take advantage of some of the effects.

 

Bottom line, the full Helix has enough added capabilities it might just be safer to go that route since you never know where you're going to end up.  At least you'll have the capabilities should you need it in the future and it's not that much more.

 

As far as the knowledge base here, actually there are quite a few of us that come from engineering type fields, but I don't think that's really where the knowledge comes from.  I think it's more likely that it comes from 20 to 50 years of experience being gear-heads....   :lol:

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Dunedindragon and others, 

 

I personally use the DXR12s...one at home for dialing in tones and practicing and one at our rehearsal space for live gigs.  It's a very capable speaker and would serve your purposes well.  My situation is a bit more extensive as I play in a 7 piece band and use it as my stage monitor, but I suspect in your situation you could get by with just a single speaker along with a small 4 channel mixer to do everything you would need to do as a duo.  Personally I think that makes more sense than to try to send everything through the Helix.  It could be done, but it would be much harder to manage everything I would think.

 

There are a few other differences between the LT and the full Helix such as no separate headphone volume knob on the LT and fewer stomp buttons, but I'm not sure any of those things would necessarily impede you.  The one area that could be important are the additional inputs (send and receive) which could come in handy were you to want to add something like a keyboard that you might want to route through the Helix and take advantage of some of the effects.

 

Bottom line, the full Helix has enough added capabilities it might just be safer to go that route since you never know where you're going to end up.  At least you'll have the capabilities should you need it in the future and it's not that much more.

 

As far as the knowledge base here, actually there are quite a few of us that come from engineering type fields, but I don't think that's really where the knowledge comes from.  I think it's more likely that it comes from 20 to 50 years of experience being gear-heads....   :lol:

 

 

Great advice.  Thank you Dunedindragon, and to all who have replied.  I'll very likely go with the full Helix floor unit, a mixer, and a maybe a DXR.  Looking forward to this. 

 

Cheers, 

Geo

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SCRIBBLE STRIPS !

 

WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY FOR THAT ALONE.

 

The visual feedback makes it worth it.

 

Personally I don't think a device ought to count as a HELIX without scribble strips.   Cut out other features - inputs/outputs etc

even the swell.  But without the Scribble strips you lose so much benefit.

 

IMO

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Meh, scribble strips don't mean much. You can see your patches in view mode on the LCD screen anyways. The LT version sounds just as good as the full version, because it is exactly the same as the full version, minus a few things that only the early adopters will try to convince you you really need. Get the LT, you'll be amazed and happy you did.

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I run my Helix Floor through two DXR10 and it sounds phenomenal! If you do not need the higher power nor three inputs the DXR10 provide, the lower priced DBR10 are also very good! They sound nearly identical to the DXR10. And, they are still covered by Yamaha's Seven Year Manufacturer Warranty.

 

Until you begin playing gigs, a pair of Studio Monitors, such as JBL LSR305 or JBL LSR308 are also very cost effective options.

 

For your use, the Full Helix Floor will give you one Mic XLR In and associated PreAmp, with switchable 48v Phantom Power, an AuxIn Guitar (suitable for an Acoustic Electric), plus Four FX Sends and Returns, one of which could serve as Input for another Vocal Mic with the Mic PreAmp Block in the signal chain.

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