Jump to content
Tehzim

Things You Wish You Knew Before Buying Helix

Recommended Posts

I'm a prospective buyer of the Helix.  I'm planning to get it in a few months when I finally finish saving up.  I'm going to use it for live and recording (as an interface into a DAW, probably Reaper).  These are a few questions I still have after researching.

 

What things do you wish you had known about Helix before buying (e.g. routing, DSP memory, modeling, using external pedals, IRs etc).

 

What patches, IRs, etc do you recommend?  

 

What signal path do you use for recording (if you do it VIA USB into a DAW)?

 

What specific types of FX pedals or individual pedals (if any) are you keeping to use with helix?  Do overdrives work the same as on an amp?  Will it clip the signal or respond normally going into the Helix?

 

If I set the amps and cabs to sound like they are playing full tilt will they still sound that way at quiet volumes through headphones or the FR/FR?

 

I intend to use an ALTO TS212 FR/FR and a PC with USB for interface.  I'm mainly getting this as I'm living in a place that needs much lower volume than even my small amps can pull off.  The only modeling amp I ever had was a little 15w Peavey Vypyr.

 

Thanks again.  I've read quite a bit and watched some videos I just want to get the nuts and bolts before I finally pull the trigger.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have any regrets or anything I wish I had known beforehand.

The Helix sounded great in Oct. 2015 when I got one of the first shipments from Sweetwater...

And it has improved greatly since that time with new amp models.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First things first, I'm a happy Helixer and would be hard pressed to go back. As Robbie61 said, Helix was good when I got it and it's only gotten better since. Having said that, I'll try to touch on some of your specific questions.

Helix + Atomic CLR is my first modeling/FRFR rig, coming from a lifetime of tube amps. The biggest hurdle in my learning curve was realizing that this setup doesn't, and was not designed to, sound exactly like an amp-in-the-room. It sounds like an amp mic'd up. I wish I'd figured that out quicker. Not because it would have changed my mind on the Helix, but because it would have saved me a lot of time on figuring out how to dial in tones!

I highly recommend making your own patches, as that is the only way to learn the machine. And get acquainted with using the stock cabs before you plunge in into the IR rabbit hole. You'll ultimately be able to get more out of the IRs that way. I've got a collection of IRs from many of the major players and have to say that I have the best experiences with Ownhammers. The "OH" mixes in the summary folders of their collections are fantastic.

I go straight into my iMac and Logic via USB for recording, no problems.

I have a couple of my favorite fuzzes in the loops. I'm sure that clipping the Helix with an external device is probably possible, but I haven't experienced it. Also I use a Digitech Trio+ In conjunction with one of the loops.

Dialing in a JCM-800 or whathaveyou at meltdown will still sound the same at bedroom levels (taking the whole human hearing frequency response thing into account, of course), but it will not necessarily FEEL the same. In the same way that Panama over the speakers at the grocery store is not particularly moving, but Panama cranked on your car stereo will make your pulse pound. There's something about decibels...

Hope some of that helps!

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm happy with Helix. Keeping my Strymon El Capistan though, imo it's far better than tape delay in Helix.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What things do you wish you had known about Helix before buying (e.g. routing, DSP memory, modeling, using external pedals, IRs etc).

 

 

 

The things I wish I had known, or knew somewhat but learned better due to experience with the Helix:

 

-The target for dialing in patches is a polished, studio production sound...not a traditional stage amp sound.

 

-The most useful IR's are the ones that are the mixes of mics and placements, not the single mic versions.

 

- Often Helix native dual cab setups can perform as well if not better than many IRs once you understand the nuances of parameters such as mic distance and early reflections.

 

- Cab and IR High and Low cuts can be deceiving when dialing them in using a FRFR depending on your position relative to the speaker.  They will often be darker when recorded or live with a band.  You should give yourself adequate distance from the FRFR speaker to hear them more accurately.  Aggressive high cuts on cabs or IRs can result in less articulation and clarity in live band situations or in recordings.

 

- DO NOT be tempted to use global EQ to high and low cut patches.  High and low cuts should be tailored to the type of amp being used, the guitar being used, the cab, mics, and mic positions.

 

- Learning how to best use compressors, and deep parameters such as SAG and BIAS can greatly enhance your ability to fine tune patches.

 

- Chances are any patch you buy or download will have to be significantly modified to work with your specific guitar and pickups, so you may as well learn how to build patches on your own.

 

That's about all I can think of for now.  I'm sure there are others, but I'd hate to deprive you from learning things on your own  :P

 

 

What signal path do you use for recording (if you do it VIA USB into a DAW)?

 

 

In my case I just use the USB 1/2 from the Helix for my recording.  I have separate patches setup for guitar, keyboard, bass, and vocals.  I simply select the patch and arm the track I want to record.

 

 

If I set the amps and cabs to sound like they are playing full tilt will they still sound that way at quiet volumes through headphones or the FR/FR?

 

To some degree but the Fletcher-Munson effect will always be a player in how you perceive the sound due to the differences in how we hear certain frequencies at different volumes.  Actual live volume has no effect on a modeled patch.  Patches are only affected by the modeled amp master/channel volume setting.  Increasing/decreasing the Helix master volume doesn't affect the sound.  This is particularly true with most FRFR powered speakers as they are specifically designed to accurately reflect the source material across a large range of possible volumes.

What specific types of FX pedals or individual pedals (if any) are you keeping to use with helix?  Do overdrives work the same as on an amp?  Will it clip the signal or respond normally going into the Helix?

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I would have know how much better it sounds than my old HD500x.  I would have purchased it six months sooner.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I set the amps and cabs to sound like they are playing full tilt will they still sound that way at quiet volumes through headphones or the FR/FR?

 

It will sound as if you mic'ed a full tilt amp in a sound proof room and then walked into another room with a long cord and played the amp listening to the output through headphones or monitors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I had know that all of my tube amps and analog pedals would get lonely and unused. I keep thinking I need to sell a lot of stuff - but will probably just keep dusting it off...

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm extraordinarily happy with the Helix, and don't see anything anybody has said here so far that I disagree with.

 

My 2 cents would be to start with a "less is more" approach. Build some patches with NOTHING but an amp, and play around with just that one amp for a bit. Then add ONE pedal and get a sense of how to assign bypasses, etc.

 

It's also an excellent audio interface and if you are into custom MIDI stuff you can assign pedals to MIDI notes or CC's, then have them trigger actions or scripts in Reaper or another DAW. That's what I'm doing to control click tracks + coordinated lights/video for a Pink Floyd tribute. No separate foot controller necessary!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What things do you wish you had known about Helix before buying (e.g. routing, DSP memory, modeling, using external pedals, IRs etc).

Nothing.  I knew the capabilities of Helix when I bought it and it's delivered them plus much more due to the free updates.

 

What patches, IRs, etc do you recommend?  

There are a lot of great patches out there (Glenn DeLaune, Chris Beaver, Fremen, etc..) and I really enjoy all of them.  My favorites would probably be Glenn's Boutique Amp Packs and his HighGain Amp Patches.  I also recommend learning to use the stock cabs before going down the IR rabbit hole.

 

What specific types of FX pedals or individual pedals (if any) are you keeping to use with helix?  Do overdrives work the same as on an amp?  Will it clip the signal or respond normally going into the Helix?

The only pedals I use with Helix are a Trio+ and a BeatBuddy.

 

If I set the amps and cabs to sound like they are playing full tilt will they still sound that way at quiet volumes through headphones or the FR/FR?

For the most part; some minor EQ tweaks will help though.

 

I intend to use an ALTO TS212 FR/FR and a PC with USB for interface.  I'm mainly getting this as I'm living in a place that needs much lower volume than even my small amps can pull off.  The only modeling amp I ever had was a little 15w Peavey Vypyr.

One of the solutions I use, and more than any of my others, is a pair of Alto TS110A PA speakers.  They work great at any volume.

 

Thanks again.  I've read quite a bit and watched some videos I just want to get the nuts and bolts before I finally pull the trigger.

Good luck.  It's the best music related purchase I've ever made and I've been at it since 1985.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a prospective buyer of the Helix.  I'm planning to get it in a few months when I finally finish saving up.  I'm going to use it for live and recording (as an interface into a DAW, probably Reaper).  These are a few questions I still have after researching.

Helix is an excellent audio interface, and the addition of Helix Native at a good price will be a real plus for guitar recording. But where Helix really shines is live gigging because of the simplicity, flexibility, reliability, and ease of use. There are lots of other less expensive options for recording. I still mostly use a good audio interface (Focusrite Saffire Pro 40) and S-Gear for recording, never Helix. When Helix Native becomes available, I'll add that with S-Gear for additional guitar recording options.

 

What things do you wish you had known about Helix before buying (e.g. routing, DSP memory, modeling, using external pedals, IRs etc).

The biggest revealation for me was understanding the impact of mic choice, placement and hi and low cut on cab and IR models in order to warm up the tone. I highly recommend reading the manual, multiple times to get the most out of Helix.

 

What patches, IRs, etc do you recommend?

Treat Helix (and Variax) models just like you would a real amp. Choose the patches that fit the song. For IRs, start with IRs of speakers you know and like, or those used by performers you like. That is, start with the music and song, and pick the technology that helps you get there. Learn from professional experiences with traditional guitars, amps and cabinets.

 

What signal path do you use for recording (if you do it VIA USB into a DAW)?

I would recommend recording a dry input (USB 7 by default) and the Helix stereo output (USB 1/2 by default). This helps you commit to a tone turning tracking while at the same time providing the dry track for re-amping if something just didn't fit into the mix as you expected. Note that re-amping won't solve all problems because the tone you are monitoring while playing will inpact what you play. Also consider putting some sound in the room while recording guitar so the guitar itself can interact with the speakers.

 

What specific types of FX pedals or individual pedals (if any) are you keeping to use with helix?  Do overdrives work the same as on an amp?  Will it clip the signal or respond normally going into the Helix?

I've gone all digital with recording. No external pedals. Gain stage everything carefully, leaving plenty of headroom on the DAW channel input, mix busses and the master bus. Leave the final volume leveling to the mastering phase.

 

If I set the amps and cabs to sound like they are playing full tilt will they still sound that way at quiet volumes through headphones or the FR/FR?

See the recommendation above about having some sound in the room for the guitar to hear. But this is really a mix question. One rarely mixes in solo because your listeners can never do that, and changes that make something sound great in solo might not sound good at all in the mix. Typical issues are too much in the low mids, and overly wet effects. Re-amping is a good solution to these issues if you tracked with too much bass and too many effects. Note that many post-amp effects can be done in the DAW, not in Helix while tracking.

 

I intend to use an ALTO TS212 FR/FR and a PC with USB for interface.  I'm mainly getting this as I'm living in a place that needs much lower volume than even my small amps can pull off.  The only modeling amp I ever had was a little 15w Peavey Vypyr.

A TS212 (or two) is an excellent option for live stage volume, but probably not a great choice for a mix monitor.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Luv my Helix. That said...

 

The L-6 Link port on Helix does NOT have the control software abilities like the HD series does, even thou the "Trade Marked" name is "exactly" the same and it looks "exactly" the same. Yes, there are work around's but the functionality is way different even with those workarounds. Oh yes, and there is no tuner for the editor...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I would have know how much better it sounds than my old HD500x.  I would have purchased it six months sooner.

QFT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I would have known that the octave/pitch shifters were not polyphonic. I was under the impression (not sure why), that the pitch shifters were polyphonic and not monophonic. Which would have stopped me from getting one, as it was going to be the one system to get rid of all of my pedals. But now, I have to keep my Digitech Drop chained up to it through an effects loop. The Helix is so high tech already, why'd they have to put monophonic pitch shifters in there? Or at least have both? Is it because of CPU power?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No regrets at all. Maybe knowing the tuner was so unstable. I would have bought a little bigger case so a tuner pedal fit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a great pedal, but I wish I had known that when you want to copy a command assignment for a button from one patch to another, the label you've given the pedal is not copied with the assignment. For example, if I assign MIDI control change 35 to a button, and label it DIM SPOTS, the control change will copy but not the label.  

 

If you have to create the same assignment over 50 or 60 patches it gets extremely tedious.  Especially if each patch has multiple such assignments that are the same for each patch.  I know the argument will be made about starting out with a single template patch, which is obvious.  But that is no help to the player with 60 custom patches who learns he must create the same assignment in each of them.

 

Seems like a simple feature to add, and I hope to find it in the next update.

 

I also wish that Line 6 had not lied in its advertisements and web pages about the Helix working with the "Variax".  The truth is that if you have an older Variax, some things work, other things (such as special patch-based tunings) don't. If Line 6 currently made even one model of left handed Variax that would work fully with the Helix, I'd buy it.  But it's pretty clear they don't care to serve their left handed customers. 

 

But seriously, aside from the above distinct annoyances and false advertising, it's a really great pedal - the best I've ever used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I knew that if I had just bought the HELIX a year sooner I wouldn't have wasted so much time watching other videos.. 
 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the suggestions.  I may keep my Digitech Ricochet and Sub N Up then.  Much to research.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only thing I wish I knew before I bought is that the Ext Amp jack does not work with a lot of traditional tube amps (eg. Marshall, Fender )

 

Other than that Helix is an absolutely fantastic piece of hardware, and the software just gets better and better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only thing I wish I knew before I bought is that the Ext Amp jack does not work with a lot of traditional tube amps (eg. Marshall, Fender )

 

Other than that Helix is an absolutely fantastic piece of hardware, and the software just gets better and better.

Care to expand on that? I have had no trouble using my helix with tube amps. Been using with both AC30 and AC15 with no problems. Both using the Ext Amp jack and the left/mono 1/4" out jack.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm disappointed with the "non-guitar" tones. I mean I thought I could get something useful from the oscillators to get some synth tones similar to EHX special pedals (like mel-9 and similar). On the contrary, the current synth tones of the Helix are pretty useless, and also the pitch shifting is mediocre at best.

It's likely I could have given up getting the Helix if I had known this earlier.

 

BUT... it would have been a big mistake, because the Helix is really great as a modeler (both amps and effects).

And its on-board interface is fantastic, and as quick and useful as real pedals and amps; I even didn't expect this ease of use.

I don't care about its stock cabs, and I use some IRs that I already used before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Care to expand on that? I have had no trouble using my helix with tube amps. Been using with both AC30 and AC15 with no problems. Both using the Ext Amp jack and the left/mono 1/4" out jack.

 

 

That's great that you've been able to get Helix to work fine with your Vox amps.

Come to think of it I've never heard people mention problems with Vox amps so maybe they all work with Helix.   I'm assuming you're taking about a new AC30 amp with a true bypass FX loop rather than an original?

 

There are several threads here about troubles with Marshalls, Mesas etc. 

http://line6.com/support/topic/17868-ground-loop-in-4cm-when-connecting-the-ext-amp-jack-any-news/?do=findComment&comment=132325

http://line6.com/support/topic/16178-helix-4cm-amp-switch-mesa-v25-and-mesa-mini-rect-not-working

 

The problem is that if the amp follows a "classic" design you tend to get ground loops between Helix's EXT amp socket and the FX loops and guitar input, as Helix's EXT amp socket does not use relays for the switching which would avoid this problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dont think there were any surprises or major letdowns. I pretty much knew what i was getting.

 

No offense to those that believe this, but you are in no way going to achieve the kind of tones with helix cabs as you will IRs. Maybe can get pretty close with some of the cleaner stuff, but for distorted rock and heavy tones, helix cabs wont compare. In some cases they arent bad but it takes far too much fussing.

 

There is some overlap in sounds. Esp with the amps and verbs but for the most part im pretty happy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

-The target for dialing in patches is a polished, studio production sound...not a traditional stage amp sound.

 

-The most useful IR's are the ones that are the mixes of mics and placements, not the single mic versions.

 

- Often Helix native dual cab setups can perform as well if not better than many IRs once you understand the nuances of parameters such as mic distance and early reflections.

 

 

This is all ASSUMING the OP is going to use the helix this way. I personally use the Helix as an AMAZING pre-amp into a tube power amp (Peavey 50/50 with EL84's) and sometimes even into my other tube amp heads' FX returns.  (and then into a real cab)  Therefore I disable cab sims/IR's,  The results are heavenly.  And I retain my "need" for the REAL amp feel on stage  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's great that you've been able to get Helix to work fine with your Vox amps.

Come to think of it I've never heard people mention problems with Vox amps so maybe they all work with Helix.   I'm assuming you're taking about a new AC30 amp with a true bypass FX loop rather than an original?

 

There are several threads here about troubles with Marshalls, Mesas etc. 

http://line6.com/support/topic/17868-ground-loop-in-4cm-when-connecting-the-ext-amp-jack-any-news/?do=findComment&comment=132325

http://line6.com/support/topic/16178-helix-4cm-amp-switch-mesa-v25-and-mesa-mini-rect-not-working

 

The problem is that if the amp follows a "classic" design you tend to get ground loops between Helix's EXT amp socket and the FX loops and guitar input, as Helix's EXT amp socket does not use relays for the switching which would avoid this problem.

 

Hmm. I'm literally coming out of either the Ext Amp jack or the Left/Mono 1/4" jack right into the input of either the AC15 or the AC30. But those are the only guitar amps I have tried to far to be honest. Just throwing out my findings! Maybe it will help someone? I'm using the AC15CC1 combo amp right now and was using the AC30CH head a month ago or so with no issues.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×