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guitarman871

High Gain Amp Model Feedback

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Hello Helix users!

 

First time post for me.  I wanted to give some feedback on amp models I have encountered.  Maybe some of you can relate!

 

For reference, here's my current setup:

 

ESP Eclipse (EMG 81/60)

 

Signal chain:  Guitar --- ISP Decimator ProRack G (pre) --- Helix --- ISP Decimator ProRack G (post) --- Mesa Boogie Stereo 2:50 Power amp --- 4x12 Stereo Cab (Celestion V30s)

 

For my setup here, I am primarily using the preamp models, so the majority of my feedback here is surrounding them, though I feel the full amp models are reflected in a very similar way.  

 

Topic 1:  The Cali IV Lead Gain/Drive - I'll preface this by saying I am a current Mark V owner, and have played various other Mesa Boogie Mark Series amplifiers.  The gain saturation I am able to achieve from the real amplifiers is far more than the model is capable of.  Seeking that Hetfield chug tone, I should conceivably be able to go straight from the guitar into a Mark IV and have all the gain necessary to get that tone, without having to put an overdrive in front of it (especially with active pickups).  Overdrives, even with the tone control all the way down make the sound just a bit more tinny and thin.  I have a good work-around right now, putting the Minotaur pedal in front with very low gain/tone, and turning the Lead Gain and Drive all the way up in the preamp model.  Also, I've EQ-ed the crap out of it.  To get that sharp bite I'm looking for, for boogies it's common that you must turn the bass control down, and adjust accordingly in the post EQ, which I've done.  However, the Cali IV Lead model (in my humble opinion) should have loads more gain available to it that would be on par with say the "Line 6 Electrik" model.  I'll finish this by saying that despite this one criticism, the Cali IV model sounds and acts SPOT ON to a Mark IV.  Really impressed with it overall.  And for anyone wanting to achieve that signature Boogie Hetfield tone (I would say the best representation of what I'm talking about is the song "Breadfan"), here's basically how I did it:

 

Minotaur Pedal - Gain 1, Tone, 1, Level 6

Cali IV Lead - Lead Gain 10, Lead Drive 10, Bass 0, Mid 5, Treble 8, Master 3, Five Band EQ is all flat, except for 750hz at -8.0, and 2200hz at +2.0

Parametric EQ - 80hz +12.0, 240hz -5.0, 795hz -8.0

 

Everyone knows that taking out 750-800hz will get that scooped sound, but adding on that, if you dial down the 240hz range, it sculps the deeper bass to emerge ever more prominently, resulting in a very thunderous thump for all of your galloping desires.  Also, the overall tone is still maintained very full, as only very specific frequency ranges are tweaked.  Just my experience.

 

Topic 2:  All High Gain Models Are Muddy - After playing around with most of the high gain models, I've come to realize that I'm really only satisfied with the Cali IV (as mentioned above), and the Line 6 Electrik models.  Reason being, on all of the other ones, to include the Rectifier, JCM800, 5150, and Soldano Lead, the higher the gain is turned up, the more muddy the bottom end turns into.  Now, I own a Dual Rec, and have played on a JCM800 and 5150, and know that the bottom end of those amps is as sharp as a knife.  I am aware as well that the Master control in these amp models has a direct effect on the tone of the amps.  However, no matter where I have it set on any of them, it turns to muck when the gain goes up.  I have also experimented with using amp blocks instead of preamp blocks and found there is little difference in regards to this specific issue.  Granted, with the setup I have described above, it makes sense to use the preamp models, but at low/night time volume levels, the amp blocks sound good through my poweramp and cab as well.

 

I really look forward to any comments the community would like to share about my topics, as well as any feedback the Line 6 staff/techs may feel compelled to share.

 

Thanks! 

 

Mike

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Wow....you may be the first person I've ever seen who describes the bottom end of 5150s, JCM800s, and Dual Recs (!) "as sharp as a knife". I've used all three in the past, and they ALL needed a boost pedal in front for tight, percussive tones. ESPECIALLY the Recto, but the 5150 is a close second. 

 

Most high gain amps do get muddier as you turn gain up. That's authentic behavior. The most modern ones like the Archon, or ENGL amps or Randall Thrasher/Satan amps are voiced to be pretty tight without one. Some like the Driftwood Purple Nightmare or Misha Mansoor's new Peavey Invective have a boost circuit built in (switchable) the gain channel circuit. 

 

But for the most part....high gain amps get tightness from boosts in front with gain low so that you can drive the preamp without overcompressing. 

 

Anyway, that's how you should have your high gain amps set up on Helix as well. Put an overdrive (The Compulsive Drive/OCD is my favorite) in front with Gain low, Level cranked and Tone to taste.

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Guitarman871,

You've obviously brought a lot of knowledge and experience with you, which I always enjoy. Welcome to the forum.

Having never played through an actual Mesa amp myslef, I'm only familiar with the various Line 6 iterations of the Dual Rectifier I've used (Flextone III, HD500, Helix), Triple Rectifier (Flextone III), and the three Mark IV models on the Helix. There were also a couple of high gain amps in software like Mobile POD that I think were based on Mesas (Cali Crunch and Treadplate?). Despite my lack of hands-on experience, I do feel similarly to what you expressed, especially in your Topic 2.

Topic 1: I sort of agree with you about gain saturation from the Mark IV. I like to have a preset with fat, drawn out sustain -- think of the long chords on the verses of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Often I feel like I can get just under the amount of saturation I want, but when I tweak the gain just a hair, it goes way too far and sounds more like distortion than drive/gain.

What struck me about your comment though, was that you have both the Gain and Drive settings at 10 and Master at 3. I'm usually toward the reverse of this. However, I've had good results with a simple EQ or Parametric EQ in front of the amp with a slight boost to either Mids or Treble and a moderate boost in the overall Level. I feel like this pushes the preamp without having to rely on turning the Gain as far up, but doesn't leave it as muddy as in your Topic 2. There would also be a Deluxe Compressor or LA Studio Compressor at the front of the signal chain at pretty much the default settings.

Topic 2: I run into this as well. My initial observation is that other models, like the Archon Lead, handle the low end much more tightly. Have you tried blending the Mark IV with one of these models to try and get the best of both worlds, so to speak? For example, if you put the Mark IV on path 1A and the Archon on path 1B, you could split the signal between them either by some percentage of volume or using the frequency crossover to send the lows to the Archon and the highs to the Mark IV. You might also just set an EQ in front of each one and adjust accordingly. I haven't experimented much with this, but it might be possible, and someone else may have tried it who might chime in.

Also, have you experimented with the cab/mic settings. There is such a world of difference between the different mic models, that I always hesitate to say, "This amp sounds like ___." Many like using IRs and don't use the cab models at all. I use either depending on what I'm going for. Of course this won't help you much in your main setup with the external power amp and cab, but it's worth mentioning.

That last thought I have on this is using an EQ at the end of your signal chain to boost treble/high mids or decrease bass.

There are so many videos and audio clips of guys who have gotten a variety great high gain tones from the Helix that I know it is definitely possible. Since metal isn't my primary style, I haven't stressed too much about it. And like you said, even with these apparent shortcomings, the models are still really great, and there always seems to be a good workaround to fix any major tone issues.

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With respect, not in my experience.  With a dual rec, if you're on Ch. 3 Modern, with the tube bias set as "silicon diode" playing on a guitar with EMGs, look out.  It's got bite, very, very tight low end.  EMGs usually tighten up everything, but I just don't have that experience here.

 

That's why most high gain amps are good with EMG's on their own, without the use of a dirt pedal that takes away from the warmth and makes the sound tinny.

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With respect, not in my experience.  With a dual rec, if you're on Ch. 3 Modern, with the tube bias set as "silicon diode" playing on a guitar with EMGs, look out.  It's got bite, very, very tight low end.  EMGs usually tighten up everything, but I just don't have that experience here.

 

That's why most high gain amps are good with EMG's on their own, without the use of a dirt pedal that takes away from the warmth and makes the sound tinny.

 

 I believe the rectifire model was modeled while set to "tube rectifier" and not to "silicone diode".  So it sounds looser and more rounded than I am used to hearing a dual rec.

 

For boosting physical amps, I never liked the Maxon or TS 808s because they take away a lot of bottom end and the TS has a nasally mid range character that doesn't always work for me.  I started using the MXR GT-OD or the MXR Custom Badass Modified OD.  I now use one or the other in front of Helix, and it's working very nicely.

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In my experience, I wouldn't try palm mutes with EMG 81s into a 5150 without an overdrive to filter the bottom end. It's pretty much the opposite of tight, with massive volume increases relative to typical playing. I can't comment on "warmth vs tinniness" though; I deliberately like a bit of 'bite' to my sound and the overdrive adds that.

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Wow....you may be the first person I've ever seen who describes the bottom end of 5150s, JCM800s, and Dual Recs (!) "as sharp as a knife". I've used all three in the past, and they ALL needed a boost pedal in front for tight, percussive tones. ESPECIALLY the Recto, but the 5150 is a close second. 

 

Most high gain amps do get muddier as you turn gain up. 

I'm a few years out on playing a tube amp, but this how I remember it, having played through all of those at one point or another. Higher gain = Muddier Output pretty much universally.

As far as the gain on tap in the Cali V model, I have no issues getting it to grind fine with my EMG-equipped guitars, but there 808x/909 pickups which might be a little "hotter" than what you're running. The ENGL and PRS models can be very tight even without an OD, but that modern metal tone is almost ALWAYS a low-gain OD with the tone boosted into a high-gain amp with the gain lowered for clarity. 

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What has helped me get a tighter tone when using the high gain models is to run the Red Squeeze compressor first in the chain.  I ran one in front of my Rivera tube amps too.  My settings are:

 

Sensitivity:  1.9 - 2.1

Mix: 72%

Output stays at +5.4 (or whatever it actually is when you pull up the model)

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Also try lower sag, hum, and ripple, like maybe as low as 0, and higher bias, as high as 10, and high bias-x. (Sorry for the typo, phone, fixed.)

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What has helped me get a tighter tone when using the high gain models is to run the Red Squeeze compressor first in the chain.  I ran one in front of my Rivera tube amps too.  My settings are:

 

Sensitivity:  1.9 - 2.1

Mix: 72%

Output stays at +5.4 (or whatever it actually is when you pull up the model)

the 3 band compressor is pretty handy for tightening the bottom end and leaving the rest of the frequency band alone if you don't want to effect mids and highs. 

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Also try lower sag, hum, and ripple, like maybe as low as 0, and higher bias, as high as 10, and high bias-x. (Sorry for the typo, phone, fixed.)

 

This. I own a Dual Rec Roadster and have played it through a few different cabs and the dual rec model, particularly through an IR, is just about bang on. It's a bit fizzier in the high end, noticeable in certain types of playing (and probably a result of digital artifacts), but otherwise I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and my actual dual rec, at least when recorded. In the room will obviously be different and depend highly on your gear. If you are using just the preamp models, keep in mind that sag is generally a factor of power tubes, so you will be completely missing that portion. You'll want to use the full amp model (without the cab) to really get the full effect.

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i dont think there are any digital artifacts as such.. probably you just need to filter the highs a bit to recreate the sound you expect

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I owned a Mark V, and more recently a JP-2C.  I just sold the JP-2C - as I'm now confident in my Helix going through 2 StageSource L3T's.   I'm not having issue with high gain tone at all.   While I'm not using the preamp models, I use a full amp model without cabinet emulation (I found using StageSource in Electric Guitar mode gets me closest to a real amp sound on stage).   

 

I do use a TS808 modeler in front of the Cali IV model - I've always used one with the JP-2C, even though it has more gain on tap then I ever need.   Something about slamming the input still opens up the amp more then I can do even if I dime the gain (which I don't).   I've actually found the Mark IV sound in the Helix closer to a Mark IIC+ --  which is fine with me, and hence my decision to sell off the JP-2C.

 

I've given up on the "this model needs to act exactly like the actual amp" and has adopted a "make it work even if it isn't real world correct".   Once I got over that barrier, the Helix became a lot more useful.   The only stumbling block I am having now is making the Helix behave like a 2 or 3 channel amp - once I add a second amp in the mix, everything else I try to add gets dimmed out.  I assume because I'm hitting some DSP limit?   It didn't happen in older firmware - and there is probably a workaround for it as I have patches that have way more then what I'm trying to accomplish.  I would never have 2 amps running simultaneously in a patch, so it's a patch editor problem rather than an applied DSP issue.

 

Anyways, I digress.   I'm not sure if the Mark IV model has less gain then the actual Mark IV model they used to build it with.  Gotta remember that there are a lot of variations in Mesa Amps under a particular line, and even model.   The Mark V and it's offspring also have the ultra high gain "Extreme" mode, switchable simulcast, pentode/triode switching, etc.  It's basically 9 amps in one - but even more if you consider all the variation in wattage and tube settings you can achieve.   The Mark V to me was hours and hours of fiddling before I found useable tones - and no way to save those if I wanted to try something different.    I'm getting to be an old fart, and while I still like fiddling and tweaking, Helix just simplifies that for me.   I can't believe I moved into the modelling world after a 25+ year love affair with tube amps.   But, like I said, once I threw out what I thought I knew - and just started dialing in the sound with my ears (and not how I thought things should look), things worked out for me.

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Sheehanje,

 

If you're looking to creat a single Helix patch to make the Mark IV behave like a multichannel amp, may I suggest you hunt down the Mark IV Helix patch video on YouTube done by Nic Cutroneo.

 

He builds in clean, crunch, high gain and lead snapshots into a single patch. Good stuff, and he gives it away freely.

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... The only stumbling block I am having now is making the Helix behave like a 2 or 3 channel amp - once I add a second amp in the mix, everything else I try to add gets dimmed out. I assume because I'm hitting some DSP limit? It didn't happen in older firmware - and there is probably a workaround for it as I have patches that have way more then what I'm trying to accomplish. I would never have 2 amps running simultaneously in a patch, so it's a patch editor problem rather than an applied DSP issue.

 

...

Not sure this is the issue but are you using both paths for your preset? If not you are only utilizing half the DSP available and this can lead to dimmed blocks. Take a look at the Super Serial (X2) template. When setting up multiple amp blocks you often need to spread them across a Super Serial routing scheme to utilize all the DSP as well as get around the hard coded limitations of how many amp blocks and IRs are permitted per path.

 

From the Helix manual:

"That said, there are some rules governing the number of certain types of blocks you can add to a preset:

Amp+Cab, Amp, or Preamp blocks Any combination, up to four (two per path)

Cab blocks (includes Amp+Cab blocks) Up to four (two per path; Cab > Dual blocks are considered two)

Impulse Response blocks Up to four 1024-point IRs (two per path) or two 2048-point IRs (one per path)

Looper block One"

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Not sure this is the issue but are you using both paths for your preset? If not you are only utilizing half the DSP available and this can lead to dimmed blocks. Take a look at the Super Serial (X2) template. When setting up multiple amp blocks you often need to spread them across a Super Serial routing scheme to utilize all the DSP as well as get around the hard coded limitations of how many amp blocks and IRs are permitted per path.

 

From the Helix manual:

"That said, there are some rules governing the number of certain types of blocks you can add to a preset:

Amp+Cab, Amp, or Preamp blocks Any combination, up to four (two per path)

Cab blocks (includes Amp+Cab blocks) Up to four (two per path; Cab > Dual blocks are considered two)

Impulse Response blocks Up to four 1024-point IRs (two per path) or two 2048-point IRs (one per path)

Looper block One"

Thanks- I will look into it. I've only used helix either as a recording interface or 4cm into an amp so far. So all new territory for me.

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I have a Cali IV Lead preset on my custom tone page in my sig that goes from clean to mean in 4 snaps:

 

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i dont think there are any digital artifacts as such.. probably you just need to filter the highs a bit to recreate the sound you expect

 

I filter them pretty aggressively as is, not just in that they are turned down quite a bit on the amp model but also with the IR block filter. That's not the issue. It's just a bit of fizziness that isn't there on the real amp. I've noticed this on some of the clean settings of other amps, too. It's almost like a bit of "digital clipping." The Archon models are one of the few that don't exhibit that, likely due to the fact that they are higher DSP models. However, in a mix and especially live no one else would notice anyway. I only notice because I mostly practice with headphones.

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With respect, not in my experience.  With a dual rec, if you're on Ch. 3 Modern, with the tube bias set as "silicon diode" playing on a guitar with EMGs, look out.  It's got bite, very, very tight low end.  EMGs usually tighten up everything, but I just don't have that experience here.

 

That's why most high gain amps are good with EMG's on their own, without the use of a dirt pedal that takes away from the warmth and makes the sound tinny.

I thought the same thing. My dual rectifier will crush with no pedals at all. 

I have to add distortion pedals, EQ, if not compressors, more EQ now.. it's maddening.

And I haven't even tried to play it live yet  

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I don't use any pedal models in front of the dual rec model for any of my patches. I've always thought pedals ruin the tone, so I don't use them on the real dual rec or the model. Works fine for me...

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