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Plugin vs Hardware - My Test

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Just spent a good hour doing an A/B test with my monitors in my studio. 

USA Strat - Lead Pickup Only

Went back and forth using JUST the Factory Essex A15 Sim. Both my rack and the plugin had the same articulations dialed in for every variable. 

No question there is a difference between the two. Obviously an opinion as to "what" sounded different - but there was a definite distinction between the plugin and the Rack. To me, the rack sounded a bit more "rounded" for lack of a better word. 

Why? Dont know. Not complaining - just an observation. Please chime in as to your tests!! Would really like to hear your thoughts. When I get some time - I will soundcloud them for you. 

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Are you using a different interface when you use Native?

 

If you send the same dry track, as in a dry recorded exactly the same way, to Native and to the hardware, there should be no difference.

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Are you using a different interface when you use Native?

 

If you send the same dry track, as in a dry recorded exactly the same way, to Native and to the hardware, there should be no difference.

Yes - using the Helix rack as interface for guitars only.

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I'd like to add my own Test Recording:

 

https://soundcloud.com/hedon09/helix-native-vs-helix-lt-high-gain

 

It's my first comparison of the Line 6 Helix Plugin and the Line 6 Helix LT with my Standard High Gain Patch

 

Tubescreamer > Noise Gate > Mark IV > IR Block with an Ownhammer Mesa 412 Impulse > a little Parametric EQ

 

1. Helix Native (Recording Chain: Hagström Fantomen > Two Notes Torpedo Reload > Presonus Studio68 XLR In > Presonus Studio One > Line 6 Helix Native)

 

2. Helix LT (Recording Chain: Hagström Fantomen > Helix LT > Presonus Studio68 SPDIF In > Presonus Studio One)

 

3. Helix LT Left + Helix Native Right

 

No Post EQ added. Both Native and LT used exactly the same Patch and IR. To me they sound, apart from slight playing differences, exactly the same.

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There are more dynamics in the lower frequencies in the hardedware unit. I guess it has to do with the resistance, signal path and D/A conversion. But there is a persivable difference sonic wise for sure.

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When I first got native, what I did was this :

I recorded a track on two channels simultaneously, one dry and one processed by the Helix Rack. I then added Helix Native on the dry track, with exactly the same preset loaded.

 

I couldn't hear a difference at all.

 

If you're doing AB tests, make sure the source material is the same (I saw someone mention a difference in playing... not sure which method the OP used).

Also make sure that you're using the same interface for output to your speakers (whether it's the Helix or a different interface), because the DA conversion has to be the same.

 

I suppose that it's possible that your DAW makes it sound a little different though. I don't know what type of magic DAWs do under the hood, but if for instance the volume of the track that it's sending to native is slightly different, that could impact the sound. 

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When I first got native, what I did was this :

I recorded a track on two channels simultaneously, one dry and one processed by the Helix Rack. I then added Helix Native on the dry track, with exactly the same preset loaded.

 

I couldn't hear a difference at all.

 

If you're doing AB tests, make sure the source material is the same (I saw someone mention a difference in playing... not sure which method the OP used).

Also make sure that you're using the same interface for output to your speakers (whether it's the Helix or a different interface), because the DA conversion has to be the same.

 

I suppose that it's possible that your DAW makes it sound a little different though. I don't know what type of magic DAWs do under the hood, but if for instance the volume of the track that it's sending to native is slightly different, that could impact the sound. 

I'm with you on this.  I was curious about this a while back because Native seemed to sound the same but I wanted to know.  I copied some presets out of my Helix rack and put them and the same IRs in Native and did some recording.  Maybe some spectral analysis could find a difference but sure can't hear any the way I tested, which is admittedly very simple.

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I just did the same test...

 

A/B'd between my:

 

Guitar > Helix Rack > Studio Monitors

 

vs.

 

Guitar > Audient iD14 > DAW > Helix Native > Out to Same Monitors

 

There is a noticeable difference. It sound punchier and response with more bass (especially with palm mutes and chords).

 

Note this is with live playing...

 

However, when recording a track from the Helix Rack to my DAW, and the same track from my iD14 to my DAW (w/ the Native plug), there is no sound difference at all.

 

I think the hardware of the Helix Rack is doing something to interact with the guitar that my iD14 is not, resulting in differences in dynamics when playing live...

 

Is the Helix Rack "Loading the pickups"?? I thought I read this somewhere... anyone know what this means? Maybe that's what it's doing...

 

Obviously, the Rack unit sounds better playing live. It's a bit fuller, and punchier in the low end. But this is to be expected because it's a hardware unit that's designed for playing guitar (iD 14 is an all-around interface with no special interaction w/ the guitar)

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I just did the same test...

 

A/B'd between my:

 

Guitar > Helix Rack > Studio Monitors

 

vs.

 

Guitar > Audient iD14 > DAW > Helix Native > Out to Same Monitors

 

There is a noticeable difference. It sound punchier and response with more bass (especially with palm mutes and chords).

 

Note this is with live playing...

 

However, when recording a track from the Helix Rack to my DAW, and the same track from my iD14 to my DAW (w/ the Native plug), there is no sound difference at all.

 

I think the hardware of the Helix Rack is doing something to interact with the guitar that my iD14 is not, resulting in differences in dynamics when playing live...

 

Is the Helix Rack "Loading the pickups"?? I thought I read this somewhere... anyone know what this means? Maybe that's what it's doing...

 

Obviously, the Rack unit sounds better playing live. It's a bit fuller, and punchier in the low end. But this is to be expected because it's a hardware unit that's designed for playing guitar (iD 14 is an all-around interface with no special interaction w/ the guitar)

I'm not replying because I disagree, but rather because it's an interesting topic!  What you did is interesting, but as a scientist, you introduced some extra variables in this test that might affect the comparison.  It seems your experience is that your Audient iD14 and DAW don't color the sound at all.  Over the years I read posts, reviews, etc., stating that audio interfaces do affect the sound.  I don't know.  I use a studio 192 audio interface and Studio One 3 DAW (both Presonus) and if they color the sound, I like the color!  By "playing live" I guess you mean speakers vs. headphones?  Again, I'm not disagreeing with you or doubting you!  I'm just interested.

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If you do a proper A/B (remove all variables except the hardware vs the plugin) using Helix hardware as the audio interface into HxN, and adjusting levels properly, you'll find that the resulting audio is, indeed, identical and will cancel out (nulls) if you reverse the phase of one of the comparisons. 

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Nulls to zero? On different DSPs? Complete Zero, Null, Nothing? Sounds incredible! I always thought different processors would give slighty different solutions.

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Do your CD's sound different on your various computers and stereo systems (speakers out of the equation). 1's and 0's. At matching sample and bit rates, quality processors are surprisingly similar ... some are just faster!

 

You can repeat the experiment. Use a simple Helix patch with no stereo effects (which will most likely present phase or timing differences). Use the Helix hardware as your audio interface. Run the same raw guitar track through both and capture them in your DAW. Carefully align the audio files so peaks are perfectly aligned (no easy feat, so zoom or use alignment plugin). Reverse the phase of one. You should be able to achieve complete cancellation (or at least align them close enough so you hear the summed dB drop consistently low enough to be assured the files are identical).

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