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Help me with my last debate before I'm buying the Helix.

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I'm really enthusiastic about the Helix for itself.

But but but, to manny people saying it's not in the same league as the Kemper and the AX8.

And in every comparison video on youtube the Helix loses(considering the majority of the comments and what the guy in the video himself saying).

On the second hand, I see many happy users of the Helix around the web.

So all the happy users, tell me what you think about all that, and if you are a user but not happy I would like to see what you have to say also.have to say also.

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Opinions are like A55holes... everyone has one.  I like the Chicago Bulls, you might like The Cavs?  I like milk chocolate, you like dark chocolate.. who cares what chocolate either of us like?!    

 

I've owned all 3 and here's my observations..  To say it's not in the same league as the Kemper/AXE FX doesn't mean jack sh1t really.  Comes down to how you use it.  Devin Townsend uses all 3!! 

 

Kemper  =  amazing for what it is, but not the most user friendly.  The profiles can be good but that depends on how good the actual profile is. THIS ALSO DEPENDS on if whether you rely on profiles for your core sound/core tone..  

 

Axe FX/AX8  =  fractal still lead the way in terms of amp/cab sims. They are better.  But how much better is the question?  Comes down to how well you can dial in a patch and make it sound awesome. 

 

Helix floor  =  love it.  Sold my first and now I'm on my second and it's staying this time.  The easy of use, the ability to dial in patches and make adjustments on the fly is what makes this a stand-out. From that point of view it cannot be beaten.  The Helix has to be the ultimate gigging tool.  

 

With regards to the AX8  vs  Helix theory.  Sure, the AX8 has that edge given that it's had MANY firmware updates over its journey and the Helix has had minimal in comparison, however imagine you and I played in the same band, and we're both guitarists.  Doesn't matter whether we play hi-gain/low-gain/blues/clean etc etc.. Do you think people in the crowd will really be able to say "oh that guy's AX8 totally kick's that other guy's Helix..."  No chance. NO CHANCE.  Same with the Kemper.  I've had 2 Kempers and am in no hurry for a third.  As a player that plays in a gigging band, it's important for me to have a seamless and easy to setup rig that gives me everything I need.  Both the Helix and AX8 do that for me.  But, my Helix integrates and works better with my 2 amps than my AX8 does.. Is this starting to make sense or help?! 

 

Ultimately, it also comes down to how you intend to use it.  The Helix, in my experience, integrates incredibly well with other gear/amps etc which is important to me.  It has the built-in exp pedal that other modellers don't offer (that I'm aware of).  It's so damn easy to use and that alone is a huge standout feature.  With the Fractals, you could spend HOURS tweaking things which is fine, but you eventually spend less time playing..  <_<

 

My suggestion.. sure, watch the clips but take the opinions with a pinch of salt.  If I were you, I would work out what is important to you, work out how you think you will use it, then base your decisions on that.  That's what I would do. 

 

Good luck

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have a look at a video i just posted.. the current guitarist in king crimson, Jakko Jakszik is giving a run through on how he loves and uses helix, it may sway you 😉

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The fact is, the difference between the three different units in terms of sound is marginal at best to most ears.  The question really comes down to one thing if this is your first modeler/profiler...how much are you willing into invest in learning any of these three units?  That is the single biggest issue I've seen on all of them because all 3 are highly complex environments that require an intellectual investment from their owners in order to really pay off.  This is probably the core reason behind many people choosing the Helix, because the learning curve is less steep and there are a TON of users that can offer advise and support.

 

As iamgeorge says, the audience doesn't know the difference, so it's ultimately up to you as to how much time you want to spend turning the system into something useful to your situation?

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I don't own a kemper or an ax8.   But, I have owned a ton of tube amps and other equipment.   I just sold my prized tube amp - a Mesa JP-2C.  It took me a while, but I finally became convinced that Helix will do everything I need - and more.

 

I've seen some of the comparison videos - and I can say without a doubt that most of these are people quickly setting up a patch or preset and while some of them sound pretty good, most aren't showing off the depth you can go with Helix.   What finally sold my Mesa was the fact that my drummer was moving out of state, and we needed a quick way to record a few songs we had been working on for the next guy to learn - we were also rehearsing for his last show.   I brought the Helix to rehearsal along with two StageSource l3t speakers and a laptop - got the drummer to use his electric kit and I was able to use the Helix as a recording interface.  It provided a guitar amp, bass rig, vocal effects and gave me a midi interface to trigger superior drummer with the electric kit.   Simultaneously!   

 

When I  decided to downscale my equipment I was torn between selling the stagesource speakers or the JP-2C.  I needed an extra influx of cash and seeing my band won't be gigging much anymore, I finally decided to part with the Mesa and make the Helix work.   Up until that point, for live gigs, the helix was only used in 4 cable method to the JP-2C.   I decided that the Helix and the FRFR speakers would suffice and maybe I lose some sound quality, but I gain a ton of versatility.

 

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  I haven't lost and sound quality.   I've been really taking a lot of time with the Helix and I've dialed in some of the best tone I've ever had.   I experimented with the stagesource speakers (another very versatile piece of equipment from Line 6)  in different modes, and without a doubt I'm not missing a beat switching over.   I was going to integrate some of my pedals into the mix, but I've found I don't need to.   The crazy thing is, I've only scratched the surface of this - I've only dialed in 2 patches so far - both "2 channel" amps.   Whether Kemper or AX8 sounds better is a moot point to me now.  The Helix sounds just as good as my tube amps did, and that's something I didn't think I'd be saying.

 

 

For the price point of a Helix, it's about the best value I've run across.  Yes, I did add $2200 worth of FRFR speakers for backline - but there are much cheaper options if you need to gig live.   If you don't need all the extra IO routing, the LT is even a better value.  I may pick one up just to have a backup if I ever need it.   

 

I loved that JP-2C.  I never thought I would part with it.  I've owned some great amps over the years from Marshall, Fender, Mesa and even Blackstar.    I'm not saying I'll never look back - but it's hard to justify keeping a bunch of tube amps around in my current situation.   Also - Line 6 hasn't sat still with Helix.  They've had some incremental firmware updates, and then a couple monstrous updates.   The Mark IV patches have been a godsend - as well as snapshots.   It's crazy to think there is better - this has given me everything I need so far.

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The one you know how to program best will be the best sounding. Period.

You can learn any of them.

 

If you need extraordinary ease of use right out of the box, Helix can NOT be beat.

 

If you know you'll always use a computer to edit, then AXE stuff is wonderful, too, as their editor is simply amazing.

 

If you are only going to use stock patches or buy patches and are not going to learn to program, it might not matter. imho, you'll never get the most out of any of them that way.

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If you ever want to consider a Variax guitar, Helix would be the logical choice.

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I should remind you - you are asking this question on a Line 6 Helix forum - so you are going to get a lot of positive feedback on the Helix.

 

The same would be true on a Kemper or Fractal forum from their respective user bases.   

 

What I would suggest is procuring a Helix or Helix LT from a source like Sweetwater where you have 30 days to return it if it doesn't suit your needs.  You pay the shipping back, but it isn't real expensive with the Helix - not compared to shipping back a big amp or guitar.  I don't think you'd be disappointed though.  If cost isn't a concern then I'm sure, like Peter said, any of these options will work for you. 

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If you ever want to consider a Variax guitar, Helix would be the logical choice.

 

I've been considering getting the JTV-89F - my only thing is live I'm fond of using wireless, and that would defeat a lot of the Variax features with Helix.

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A friend of mine who plays Broadway musicals had a Fractal Axe FX. He was interested when I got my Helix and came over for an A/B "shootout." He brought his powered monitor and we compared amp models with the same settings. There were differences, but they were pretty subtle, like there was a little more gain or treble on one than the other (with identical settings). When he left, I had the impression that he preferred his Fractal, though he had to admit Helix had a much better user interface. Two weeks later, he bought a Helix and put his Fractal up on eBay.

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A friend of mine who plays Broadway musicals had a Fractal Axe FX. He was interested when I got my Helix and came over for an A/B "shootout." He brought his powered monitor and we compared amp models with the same settings. There were differences, but they were pretty subtle, like there was a little more gain or treble on one than the other (with identical settings). When he left, I had the impression that he preferred his Fractal, though he had to admit Helix had a much better user interface. Two weeks later, he bought a Helix and put his Fractal up on eBay.

 

 

This is a great story.

 

However, I have 2 friends who went the other way, but one of them has bought a Helix again and is keeping both that and his Axe for now.

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I suspect most of these "my friend got A and sold his B" stories has more to do with the compulsion to buy gear than a significant difference in functionality.  Musicians are infamous for thinking gear will turn them into the next guitar god.  It is easier than practicing.....

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But but but, to manny people saying it's not in the same league as the Kemper and the AX8.

 

That fishin hook was sharp and it almost got me too (as it did several here).  ;) Please tell the guys on the other forums to play what they want to. I kinda like Helix and unless something big happens to what's already out there, I for one have no need to go back.

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I suspect most of these "my friend got A and sold his B" stories has more to do with the compulsion to buy gear than a significant difference in functionality.  Musicians are infamous for thinking gear will turn them into the next guitar god.  It is easier than practicing.....

 

Well suspect what you want to. The guy in my little story is the first call guitar player for musical theater gigs in Chicago and makes a 6 figure income doing it. He has no interest in becoming a guitar god; he's just looking for the best tools for the job he does.

 

And in my experience with hundreds of musicians I know, the search for the most ideal gear has nothing to do with avoiding practice. I've been though a whole bunch of gear over the past 40 years myself and never had the notion that any of it would make up for practice. Actually I do the vast majority of my practicing unplugged; keeps me honest. 

 

The compulsion to buy gear simply comes with the territory, whether you're a novice or a pro. As the technology continues to evolve, musicians will tend to want to evolve with it.

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I can't really add too much to the comments above. I came from a Kemper to a Helix. The bottom line is, if you've never used a modeler before none of them may sound good to you. I didnt care for the Kemper when I first got it. However when I sold it 5 years later, I absolutely loved it. It took me 2 days to bond with the Helix. At first I was disappointed, but now I think it's awesome. I would suggest not paying too much attention to comparison videos. Just go try one out if you're able to.

 

I think all of the units mentioned are incredible units. You just have to pick the one that has the work flow you need. Fractal has awesome FX and nice modeling. Kemper has great raw guitar tones but not much in the way of routing or fx. Helix has a combination of all of the above. Honestly I really don't think you could go wrong with any of them if you're use to modeling.

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The bottom line is, if you've never used a modeler before none of them may sound good to you.

 

 

And that to me is just another he said she said "global warming" misconception depending on your experiences with amp tone. Helix "OUT OF THE BOX" sounded damn nice to me, and I've had lots and lots of amps/cabs. One thing (there were just a few things) I hated about the Axe FX II was that yes, it could sound great, after 6 months of tweaking. In other words and from my experiences, all modelers are not the same (in every aspect as stated) and should not be lumped in the same pile. Use the EAR for tones and not the Mark 1 eyeball.

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When I switched to the Helix I was ALREADY beyond pleased with my guitar tone.  I ordered a Rivera M100 and a pair of C112 cabs loaded with EVM12L speakers directly from Rivera in 1990.  That rig replaced my Mesa/Boogie MKIV rig (which I was grossly unsatisfied with).  I used and gigged various Rivera heads (M60, M100, S120) with those C112 cabs exclusively for 25 years.  Never felt the deep desire to gig anything else, though I did do an East Coast run with a Marshall rig once.

 

Why do I bring that up?

 

Simple.  I was already satisfied with my tone.  My need from the Helix was different than what most people are after.  I wanted/needed MY tone in a portable package. I do some fly date every now and then and I have always been unhappy with the provided rigs.  There are NEVER close to what I used - especially when it came to cabs/speakers.  Last fly date I did, I requested a Helix.  I brought my laptop (which I do anyway) and my patches on a flash drive.  At the venue, I attached the laptop and loaded my "rig" on to the Helix.  BAM!  Everything I needed - my amp, my cabs, all my effects - not to mention my "set list" and snapshots were there in a matter of a couple of minutes.  NO compromise. 

 

For local and road shows all I pack is a 4-space rack (I have a Helix rack), an EVZLX12P, and a Columbia diaper bag that holds my Helix control, wireless packs, and other little items.  It takes VERY little space during travel, and loads into the venue in two trips (counting carrying the guitar).  It takes less than three minutes to set up and I only have one wire running to the front of the stage.  My tone is ALWAYS complimented and sound guys LOVE the ease of "mixing" me.  They give me an XLR, I plug in the direct box (I use a DI connected to the 1/4" outs) and they bring up the volume.  DONE.

 

When I first ordered the Helix I was expecting to return it.  NOBODY models Rivera amps.  I didn't think I'd find my sound in there.  I spent a couple hours scrolling through the models and listening for a certain mid frequency that I like.  I found something close with the Essex 15 model.  I spent a day working that amp with different cab blocks and IRs that I bought.  I found a sound VERY close to my EVM cabs using a "dual cab" block.  My choice?  The Silver Bell 2x12 with the Greenback 20 4x12.  That combo with the AC15 model got me close to the basic tone of my Riveras.  Getting the right gain was a bit difficult, but I found what I needed using the OCD model combined with the Red Squeeze compressor.

 

It has been over a year now that I have been using ONLY the Helix rig.  I haven't looked back.  I sold two of the three Riveras, a couple of vintage Marshall heads, my entire vintage Fender collection - '58 Bassman (original), '63 Tremolux set, '65 Bassman set, '66 Deluxe Reverb, '73 Twin Reverb.  I sold all my cabs except for a 2x10 Rivera cab.  I kept my S120 head and 2x10 for nostalgic reasons - and in case I go do a blues jam or something....

 

The Helix was SO easy to use that within 10 minutes I was building my own patch.  The user interface is exquisite.  The sounds are awesome.  COULD I split hairs about some models not being EXACTLY like the real amp - especially the tweed Bassman model?  Sure...I had one.  But how many people have had one or even used one?  The model is 90% there - and I am sure the variance in those old tweed amps was pretty high, so while the model sounded nothing like mine I bet it sounds like the one Line 6 used to create the model.

 

Recently I tried a Fractal Axe Ultra with the intent to replace my Helix.  While I will admit that if I bought it and worked with it I could probably get it where I have my Helix, I found it to be very complicated to use.  After a couple hours with it I couldn't create a patch that put a smile on my face.  Remember, my goal with the Helix (and the Axe-Fx had I bought it) was to recreate MY sound with models.  In that regard, the Helix hit the target in a comfortable period of time (and lets be realistic, it took two sessions).

 

Not sure if that'll really help you, but it's my story.  Good luck deciding!!

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They are pretty much identical.  The Fractal has more of the "modeling" features you may look for, but honestly...do you need THAT many cabs and amps?  The Helix sounds just as good.  The Helix will always have more longevity because of the massive amounts of Line 6 followers/customers.  

 

For me...  I make no money playing, but listening to pros using it with my headphones and Bose L2, I can't tell a difference in the models and real amps... (I majored in music in college).

 

From Youtube's compressed videos, they are going to make them sound unrealistic.  To me, the Fractal has a hair more bass, and less highs.  The Helix has less bass, more sweep, and more highs/presence.  (The Ax8 guys dial in their sound because they love it...they use the stock Helix so their opinion is 'better.')  

 

For me, again....I chose the Helix because of the ease of use and volume/expression pedals being built in.  I swell a lot!  I don't wah much, but I like the option to be there when I feel like shaping the sound.  The purpose of buying is to make my job easier...

 

When a drummer, bass player, singer(s), other guitarists join in....nobody can tell the difference between the two/three brands...   I doubt they could, or even care, if you asked them to during a live set!

 

Good Luck!

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I've been considering getting the JTV-89F - my only thing is live I'm fond of using wireless, and that would defeat a lot of the Variax features with Helix.

Depends which features.  Obviously anything that needs a vdi connection, such as patch changing, using the volume and tone controls as controllers, combining the magnetic pickups and models.

 

However, on the fly detunes, quick switch between models are still easily done in a live environment with a wireless.  I used all of my variax's (I have a JTV 59 and JTV89F 89F is the main guitar now) wirelessly until I got into my prog band where I started using the VDI extensively due to multiple (up 4 different guitar models) changes per song starting with an HD500 and now Helix, but that's just my preference in that band.  The VDI interface is quite useful depending what you want to do, but there are still advantages to a Variax that don't require it and would be applicable to the other units also.

 

I have not had experience with any of the AXE systems or Kemper only because I have been more than satisfied with the Helix and had no reason to look further.

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One more Variax advantage not yet mentioned. The ability to have both the magnetic pickups and modeled guitars playing together in one patch. Acoustic 12 string with mag pickups for example. Each with their own signal path.

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One more Variax advantage not yet mentioned. The ability to have both the magnetic pickups and modeled guitars playing together in one patch. Acoustic 12 string with mag pickups for example. Each with their own signal path.

 

 

Yup, here's a video with HD 500 and Variax JTV and nothing else.

 

You can do even more with Helix, but I've never had a JTV and Helix at the same time.

 

Oops, here's the link.

 

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Depends which features.  Obviously anything that needs a vdi connection, such as patch changing, using the volume and tone controls as controllers, combining the magnetic pickups and models.

 

However, on the fly detunes, quick switch between models are still easily done in a live environment with a wireless.  I used all of my variax's (I have a JTV 59 and JTV89F 89F is the main guitar now) wirelessly until I got into my prog band where I started using the VDI extensively due to multiple (up 4 different guitar models) changes per song starting with an HD500 and now Helix, but that's just my preference in that band.  The VDI interface is quite useful depending what you want to do, but there are still advantages to a Variax that don't require it and would be applicable to the other units also.

 

I have not had experience with any of the AXE systems or Kemper only because I have been more than satisfied with the Helix and had no reason to look further.

 

Probably the most alluring feature would be able to take a guitar with a Floyd Rose and easily do different tunings with it.  Not sure if I would need to do that through patches or whether I could do that on the fly with just the guitar.   To me that's the holy grail of guitar - I wouldn't have to bring 3 or 4 guitars with me to every show and keep swapping them out.  I've given up on buying guitars with floating bridges for live performances.  I'm just a weekend warrior - so I can't justify having a guitar for every situation - one or two that I can accomplish them all looks more appealing to me.

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Brue58ski/Peter Hamm you are certainly correct but this requires the VDI which the OP preferred wireless.  But, and I am not sure, you could leave the VDI tethered to Helix for specific songs and tether to the Variax when needed, while still using the wireless.  I will try this later to verify that the VDI doesn't "block" the quarter inch guitar input while tethered to the Helix.

 

Sheehanje you are definitely correct on that advantage.  The Variax can either store a custom tuning per patch, use the "tuning" knob to adjust tuning or store a custom tuning (or it can be stored via within a Helix patch).  The only time you need the VDI in this case is when you are editing via workbench (or forcing variax changes via Helix).  And it is the same advantage for a hard tail piece.  The custom tuning was one of the original reasons I was drawn to Variax.  I was doing a one man show doing Goo Goo Dolls, Creed, Rush etc that all required custom tunings for various songs, and I just got tired of bringing multiple guitars.

 

 

And another advantage to the Variax that we all missed is absence of pickup noise when using the models!  I recently joined a punk band where I was using a new epiphone onstage with a high gain amp model in the helix and I had to keep turning down the guitar between songs.  I need to play with some noise gates to see if I can help mitigate this.

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Depends which features.  Obviously anything that needs a vdi connection, such as patch changing, using the volume and tone controls as controllers, combining the magnetic pickups and models.

 

However, on the fly detunes, quick switch between models are still easily done in a live environment with a wireless.  I used all of my variax's (I have a JTV 59 and JTV89F 89F is the main guitar now) wirelessly until I got into my prog band where I started using the VDI extensively due to multiple (up 4 different guitar models) changes per song starting with an HD500 and now Helix, but that's just my preference in that band.  The VDI interface is quite useful depending what you want to do, but there are still advantages to a Variax that don't require it and would be applicable to the other units also.

 

I have not had experience with any of the AXE systems or Kemper only because I have been more than satisfied with the Helix and had no reason to look further.

 

I'm actually going ahead with the purchase - I figure Sweetwater will give me 30 days to know if I made a mistake.

 

Is there any way to tell manufacture date of a Variax by serial number?

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I'm actually going ahead with the purchase - I figure Sweetwater will give me 30 days to know if I made a mistake.

 

Is there any way to tell manufacture date of a Variax by serial number?

The 89F has only been around 4 years (I got mine in April of 2013 one of the first batches).  What specifically are you worried about?

 

 

Let us know how it works out for you.

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Brue58ski/Peter Hamm you are certainly correct but this requires the VDI which the OP preferred wireless.  But, and I am not sure, you could leave the VDI tethered to Helix for specific songs and tether to the Variax when needed, while still using the wireless.  I will try this later to verify that the VDI doesn't "block" the quarter inch guitar input while tethered to the Helix.

 

He had mentioned that a reason he wouldn't do the Variax was because he wanted to go wireless. I took that to mean he knew about the VDI. Yes you could have a wireless connected at the same time your Variax is via VDI.

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The 89F has only been around 4 years (I got mine in April of 2013 one of the first batches).  What specifically are you worried about?

 

 

Let us know how it works out for you.

 

Specifically - I don't want to get a guitar that has been sitting in a warehouse for 3 years lol.    I don't think Sweetwater would do that, but hey, you never know.

 

I purchased it - I see the alternate tuning thing is easy to deal with on the guitar.  I'm selling off the rest of my old equipment to help offset the cost of the variax.  Looks like I'll be almost 100% Line 6 soon - other than my Gibson SG - that's going nowhere.

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Brue58ski/Peter Hamm you are certainly correct but this requires the VDI which the OP preferred wireless.  

 

 

maybe the incredible possibilities will encourage him to ditch the wireless to do cool things.

 

One thing I did with JTV (but never recorded) that was equally cool was sent the Mags through one amp (les paul sound) and the models through a totally different amp (12-string rick through a different amp). That was SO COOL I wish I could afford to get a JTV again.

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Specifically - I don't want to get a guitar that has been sitting in a warehouse for 3 years lol.    I don't think Sweetwater would do that, but hey, you never know.

 

I purchased it - I see the alternate tuning thing is easy to deal with on the guitar.  I'm selling off the rest of my old equipment to help offset the cost of the variax.  Looks like I'll be almost 100% Line 6 soon - other than my Gibson SG - that's going nowhere.

 

The bottom line is make sure it works perfectly. I had to go through 3 89Fs before I got a good one. Sweetwater and Line 6 were very good about it in this regard. Interestingly enough, my guitar before my Variax stage was an SG and part of the reason for my love of the 89F is it's the same color as my SG.

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I have a Kemper and now a Helix.

 

I've only just got the helix, but the ease of use is winning me over.

 

I would say the Kemper is a bit more organic, it sounds exactly like the amp it profiled, but the Helix has a more high definition sound to it, which is where the difference lies. It's a little more obviously digital. Only because it's so crisp and stuff. You may think that's a good thing, but real miked amps in a studio sound a bit different, they're a little bit duller, they aren't as vibrant. But it's all very minor stuff and no one will ever notice. Ultimately it sounds amazing, but it's not as close to what a miked amp sounds like, it's more high def. Its a good thing in it's own right.

 

I'll probably keep only one of the two, I'm thinking about keeping the helix due to ease of use and how great it sounds with ownhammer IRs.

 

But then again, I may keep both. :D

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I'm really enthusiastic about the Helix for itself.
But but but, to manny people saying it's not in the same league as the Kemper and the AX8.
And in every comparison video on youtube the Helix loses(considering the majority of the comments and what the guy in the video himself saying).
On the second hand, I see many happy users of the Helix around the web.
So all the happy users, tell me what you think about all that, and if you are a user but not happy I would like to see what you have to say also.have to say also.

 

 

You're going to read lots of thoughtful opinions here, but my best advice would be to IGNORE what "people are saying....". I know that sounds contradictory on a public forum where we specifically try to share perspectives and opinions, but once you make a decision for you.....what "they" say is irrelevant. 

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Opinions are like A55holes... everyone has one.  I like the Chicago Bulls, you might like The Cavs?  I like milk chocolate, you like dark chocolate.. who cares what chocolate either of us like?!    

 

I've owned all 3 and here's my observations..  To say it's not in the same league as the Kemper/AXE FX doesn't mean jack sh1t really.  Comes down to how you use it.  Devin Townsend uses all 3!! 

 

Kemper  =  amazing for what it is, but not the most user friendly.  The profiles can be good but that depends on how good the actual profile is. THIS ALSO DEPENDS on if whether you rely on profiles for your core sound/core tone..  

 

Axe FX/AX8  =  fractal still lead the way in terms of amp/cab sims. They are better.  But how much better is the question?  Comes down to how well you can dial in a patch and make it sound awesome. 

 

Helix floor  =  love it.  Sold my first and now I'm on my second and it's staying this time.  The easy of use, the ability to dial in patches and make adjustments on the fly is what makes this a stand-out. From that point of view it cannot be beaten.  The Helix has to be the ultimate gigging tool.  

 

With regards to the AX8  vs  Helix theory.  Sure, the AX8 has that edge given that it's had MANY firmware updates over its journey and the Helix has had minimal in comparison, however imagine you and I played in the same band, and we're both guitarists.  Doesn't matter whether we play hi-gain/low-gain/blues/clean etc etc.. Do you think people in the crowd will really be able to say "oh that guy's AX8 totally kick's that other guy's Helix..."  No chance. NO CHANCE.  Same with the Kemper.  I've had 2 Kempers and am in no hurry for a third.  As a player that plays in a gigging band, it's important for me to have a seamless and easy to setup rig that gives me everything I need.  Both the Helix and AX8 do that for me.  But, my Helix integrates and works better with my 2 amps than my AX8 does.. Is this starting to make sense or help?! 

 

Ultimately, it also comes down to how you intend to use it.  The Helix, in my experience, integrates incredibly well with other gear/amps etc which is important to me.  It has the built-in exp pedal that other modellers don't offer (that I'm aware of).  It's so damn easy to use and that alone is a huge standout feature.  With the Fractals, you could spend HOURS tweaking things which is fine, but you eventually spend less time playing..  <_<

 

My suggestion.. sure, watch the clips but take the opinions with a pinch of salt.  If I were you, I would work out what is important to you, work out how you think you will use it, then base your decisions on that.  That's what I would do. 

 

Good luck

Great answer.

I want them all really lol .

However.. I am pretty darn happy with the Helix.. so I've saved about 4K so far. 

So far I spend the extra dough on a nice Jackson 7 string and going to get a set of powered monitors and try Helix stand alone.

It's pretty darn sweet.. I don't feel like I am missing anything really but I haven't tried Frax or Kemps.

And I might add.. the interface, and versatility is what sold me on it. The amps are good.. some are superb.

I feel it's a litte more blues friendly but I can get some brutal high gain tomes te more I experiment the more I dig it. 

I say pull the plug and get one or the other you have a trial period to check it out. But beware.. I had 30 days to try Helix and it took most of them before I was convinced. 

I'm not taking it back. Ever. 

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I'm really enthusiastic about the Helix for itself.
But but but, to manny people saying it's not in the same league as the Kemper and the AX8.
And in every comparison video on youtube the Helix loses(considering the majority of the comments and what the guy in the video himself saying).
On the second hand, I see many happy users of the Helix around the web.
So all the happy users, tell me what you think about all that, and if you are a user but not happy I would like to see what you have to say also.have to say also.

 

 

 

Check out the Thorn demo. He really breaks it down well. I love the ease of use, and ability to modify quickly, and the 3rd party support.

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I'll take the comparison one step further.  So many people ignor RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB !!!

 

Tonally to the Audience, it's unlikely someone could tell the difference between any of these units if they were all setup to their optimal settings, but they all have jobs they are better at than others.

 

Kemper  =  If you have a tone you are trying to achieve, maybe a few, and you don't want to drag your huge rig all over...  Perfect solution.    As example, I have a friend that has a great tone.  He plays originals and some covers of course, but he always has HIS tone.   Another example might be someone like Howard Leese, or Billy Gibbons.  They essentially are guitar-into-amp guys, with minimal if any effects.  A Helix or Ave FX is a waste to them.

Axe FX/AX8  =  You need a lot of high end effects, you likely play with AMPS/CABS on the stage and you don't need to use specific outboard gear.  Maybe your tech is doing the switching for you even.  Maybe you have a studio and have many guitar players from many genre's.   Also, consider how often you might "tweak things" on stage.  If you do Open Mic's and Jam with lots of bands or do a lot of Session work, you might consider the Helix instead as routing in external gear or adding effects on the fly is much easier.   If you have a more fixed setlist that you mostly sortof at least stick to the tunes...  Maybe Axe FX is for you.  

Helix floor  =  Bang for Bucks..  If you do a lot of different types of gigs.  Like maybe you have a band or two you play with, you teach, you record, you do session work, you have ALL the tools you need at your disposal without the use of a computer.   If you are touring, not only is your gear load minimal, you can also adapt to nearly every stage plot.  IEM's, Real monitors, XLR, 1/4", recording...   Big point on recording...  built in interface that you have WITH YOU.   If you have a laptop you can laydown tracks and re-amp etc etc.. while on a bus or in a hotel room.  Expression pedal included...   edits on the fly easy... 

 

Regarding the YouTube videos...  remember that it's unlikely except for a few folks to be an expert on all three models to know all of the nuances to get the best from them.  Also keep in mind, Helix is essentially new.   And really... until the 2.0 update (snapshots and some of the amp models) wasn't really ready for prime time.  Now some well respected musicians are just finishing up tours where they used the Helix.  

Also, worth considering, if you ever have any thoughts of a Variax...   

I'm biased, because the Helix is the right tool for me.  I had a friend over recently to see what he thought of the tone.  The same one mentioned above.  He liked the tone.   But it would be a total waste for him...   He uses one, maybe two pedals, and has one tone.  He'd have one preset and that's it   He's better off with a Kemper if anything.

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so I just recently went through the same struggle as the OP... this is just my opinion, and where I landed... I play at home, church, and live jams... 

I didn't really consider the kemper.. it's way more $$ and it's main trick is the amps... if you want to keep your current pedals, and have all the amps in the world, and money is no concern... get the kemper. if you like a ton of amps, that aren't quite as great as the kemper, but use a lot more effects... maybe the axe-FXII is for you... my budget was in the sub $1500 category

 

so I had to consider the atomic amplifire 12, AX8, and helix (and LT) I hung out on all 3 communities (lurking) and tried all 3... and decided the Helix LT was right for me- I didn't need the extra routing options, because the LT already had so many, and scribble strips didn't interest me that much... but it left $$ in my budget for PA speakers and other things I needed to make the giant leap from tube amps and pedals to ONE unit

 

up front: ALL of them are great. you cannot "lose"

 

TONE:

I'll kinda echo what the others here said... the difference in tone can be tweaked to the point they are almost indistinguishable... the tone is DAMN close. the AX8 might have more effect/amp options, and the atomic has much less... but bottom line, if you can't get a good tone out of any of them, it's not the fault of the unit. all 3 have great tone... I do think you want to keep pedals with the amplifire too.. the effects choices are just not as robust. but it does have great amp models.

 

Updates:

fractal is the one with the best record for updates... so far. but helix is a newer product, and seems to be trying to catch up, and they seem poised to continue the line a long time. if you go to the atomic forum, people are very discouraged by the lack of updates and support.. now that they got the fireboxx released maybe it will get better? IDK

 

user interface:

THIS is what separates the units. the AX8 and amplifire really HAS to have a PC/MAC connected all the time. otherwise that on-unit display will cause you to go cross-eyed... on the helix, on the other hand, I can sit down with an idea in mind, and a blank patch, and within a half hour I have a usable patch(it may take some tweaking, still, but at that point it's quite usable) and I'm talking 1/2 hour for a "complicated" patch that would be impossible without modelling... that may not seem impressive... but I never owned a modeller before this one, so to be able to dial in something so good, so quick, is a GIANT leap. it is so powerful and flexible... your imagination is the real limit.

 

more:

the ax8 has limited output options compared to the helix. the USB is for editing and firmware, it's not a DAW, or re-ampable... the ax8 even needs extra hardware to use headphones

neither of the other 2 have an expression pedal built in

the helix can also do things to control your real amps(as mentioned above), I don't believe the ax8 can do that at all, and I know the amplifire can't.

 

the only way I can see recommending the ax8 over the helix is if you already have everything you could possibly need (speakers, DAW interface, etc, etc, etc) in an axe-FXII and need a floor unit instead... sorry... the tone is close,maybe even a slight advantage to the ax8 on tone...  but the interface and "other" abilities is just not close at all, IMO

 

and I cant think of an honest reason to choose the amplifire12... the tones are good, but a lot fewer options, you probably already have better effects(mod/delay/reverb) than the AA12 and a whole lot fewer abilities... and questionable future/support... it  IS cheaper though. so you get a lot of extra dough to spend, and it works nicely in an existing pedalboard.

 

untangible: community: line6 might get ripped by trolls in the youtube channels, but they have a strong, community, and a great way to share patches. fractal's community also seems good, albeit smaller... and the AA community is smaller still, and disgruntled... it might get some improvements soon, IDK  the line 6 community seems more respectful to those who choose 'something else'... the other communities seem almost cliquish... if you didn't choose their option, you are wrong :D I'll reiterate what I started with... there is no wrong... you win, no matter what you choose... I don't like the attitude that "my option is superior"... they are all viable. it was a tough choice... but I know, for me, I made the right choice... I didn't give up any tones, and I gained a lot of other options without adding more hardware than I wanted to add.

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Enough has been said. I will only add that the list of Pro Helix users continues to grow (Doobie Brothers guitarist uses Helix and a Variax Standard). I sold my AX8 today.

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I'm a fan of both the Helix and the Axe-Fx, in fact lucky or daft enough to own both. Ideally i'd like a blend of both units ! like most of us strange people, I'm are never satisfied ;)

 

Line 6 Rack Pro's  4 Fx Loops

                              User interface, it really is a no-brainer

                              Those lovely capacitive footswitches

 

                    Cons  Not enough Expression Pedal support, I use all 4 on my Axe-Fx and sometimes have them do 2 functions at the same time

                               Actually more of a faff to dial in a tone that sits in the mix, not sure quite why, I shall keep digging, its probably me  ;)

                              

 

Axe-Fx Pro's         4 Expression pedals, a must if you are a tinkerer like me and a closet Belew and Torn freak

                              More Amp and Fx tweaks if you go deeper into the editor

                              Easier to dial in a Core Tone that sits in a mix, for me that is

 

                    Cons  That damned Fan, 3 fans later and it still bugs the hell out of me

                               User Interface is arcane at the best of times, especially if you aren't blessed with good eyesight, it needs the Computer hook up tbh   

 

When it all comes down to it, its a personal preference, the pricing and availability of the Helix make it a much more attractive proposition and I'll happily defend either unit as they are both amazing bits of kit and worth every penny.

We could go on for ages about comparisons etc, its the age old Strat v Les Paul debate, they are just tools, albeit very expensive ones, find what works for you and enjoy it :)

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