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helix vs focusrite

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hi all,

 

I've been using focusrite saffire pro 14 for years now, it's a brilliant piece of equipment, stable drivers, pristine sound etc. I've done all kinds of stuff with it, daw recording, apmsims. When I got Helix and used it with my usual amp sims for the first time, I was blown away. The sound was SO MUCH clearer with Helix !! And now I am guessing if I was living in a bubble. Yes, ampsims with Saffire had some minor hiss but it was somewhat tolerable (yet I wouldn't gone live with that sound), but with Helix I can definitely bypass all the gates and denoizers whatsoever.

 

What do You think, is it really that big of a difference between these two, or might be something been wrong with my Saffire all along ? Yes, it's firewire, I am using fw to pci card, a cheap one, not the texasinstruments. Could it do much difference if changed ? What else can You suggest ? I am more than happy with Helix, it becomes really a centerpiece of my workflow, but I don't want to get rid of my Saffire, too, because it performs in DAW better than Helix and daw latency is much lower without artifacts. It's WIndows 8.1 machine x64, i5.

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I have a Saffire Pro 40 that I'm using with Helix Native and S-Gear. I think the major difference is that Helix guitar input was specifically designed for electric guitar. It has the right impedance and sufficient dynamic range. Saffire Pro 40 has an "Instrument" input that as greater than 1M Ohm input impedance, but its dynamic range is 109 dB compared to the 120 dB of Helix.

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BLUF: yes, I think it's a bubble, but it's great that you can discern the difference.

 

IMO, there are a LOT of better interface pres than the Focusrite stuff. I've only got an older Octopre, which is great, but the hi-z and mic pres on my RME UFX and on the Apogee One are much much better sounding to me. My old Yamaha I88x units were also much much better sounding.

 

But the Helix is so good that over never even bothered to compare.

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hi all,

 

I've been using focusrite saffire pro 14 for years now, it's a brilliant piece of equipment, stable drivers, pristine sound etc. I've done all kinds of stuff with it, daw recording, apmsims. When I got Helix and used it with my usual amp sims for the first time, I was blown away. The sound was SO MUCH clearer with Helix !! And now I am guessing if I was living in a bubble. Yes, ampsims with Saffire had some minor hiss but it was somewhat tolerable (yet I wouldn't gone live with that sound), but with Helix I can definitely bypass all the gates and denoizers whatsoever.

 

What do You think, is it really that big of a difference between these two, or might be something been wrong with my Saffire all along ? Yes, it's firewire, I am using fw to pci card, a cheap one, not the texasinstruments. Could it do much difference if changed ? What else can You suggest ? I am more than happy with Helix, it becomes really a centerpiece of my workflow, but I don't want to get rid of my Saffire, too, because it performs in DAW better than Helix and daw latency is much lower without artifacts. It's WIndows 8.1 machine x64, i5.

 

I have a Focusrite Scarlett that I actually purchased in anticipation of getting the Helix before the Helix was actually fully shipping.   While a lovely unit, at least for guitar, the Helix blows it away.  

 

And if I may...  when people do these comparison's of modelers, I think it's things like this that are soooo overlooked.  Not just the quality of the I/O for recording, but the fact that it even exists.  

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I have a Saffire Pro 40 that I'm using with Helix Native and S-Gear. I think the major difference is that Helix guitar input was specifically designed for electric guitar. It has the right impedance and sufficient dynamic range. Saffire Pro 40 has an "Instrument" input that as greater than 1M Ohm input impedance, but its dynamic range is 109 dB compared to the 120 dB of Helix.

 

I (probably) solved my incovenience with routing spdif from helix to saffire, this way I can use helix preamp and saffire latency advantage.

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IMO, there are a LOT of better interface pres than the Focusrite stuff. I've only got an older Octopre, which is great, but the hi-z and mic pres on my RME UFX and on the Apogee One are much much better sounding to me.

But the Helix is so good that over never even bothered to compare.

You know I tend to agree. The Pro 40 sounds dull to me too. I have an Apogee GiO which I think sounds better (but my ears aren't so good). Again I suspect its because the GiO's input is specifically designed for guitar, and its Apogee...

 

I wonder if mic pres are one thing, and Hi-Z inputs another. Maybe the Focusrite optimizes for the mic input and has some compromise for the instrument input. Hard to know.

 

I don't use my Helix for an input because its usually packed for gigs.

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I wonder how many of these issues are caused by interfaces whose instrument inputs aren't really instrument inputs...

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I wonder how many of these issues are caused by interfaces whose instrument inputs aren't really instrument inputs...

 

 

There's no doubt in my mind that the DI input (quality) affects results achieved with Helix Native.

 

Record a passive Fender bass (straight DI) thru a cheap DI box.  Sounds completely anemic...

Run the same bass thru a Neve Portico-II channel (just the preamp)... and it sounds great.

Both have Hi-Z inputs... but sound worlds apart.

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Likewise many might find Native unattractive (or not "ages ahead" of competition) with, say, scarlett pres

Now of course I could be wrong, but I don't think the developers had "winning a beauty contest" as their primary goal.

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I run my guitar into an aby box, one side to the Helix, one side to my 2nd gen Focusrite 18i20 set to Instrument.

Helix goes to one channel of my Alto TS210, Focusrite to the other channel. To record the Helix direct, I send the mono  XLR to the Focusrite too. Native should eliminate that need, unless I need to switch presets or turn fx on/off on the fly, and if they incorporate midi in Native (like all the other sims I use), I won't need to do that.

To A/B is as simple as pressing a button. I can't discern ANY difference in sound quality between the Helix hardware and Native. Either thru the Alto or my Rokit monitors. It's anything BUT muddy. Nor can I DETECT the additional 3.6ms that the Helix driver adds over the focusrite (16.7 vs 13.1).

As mentioned, I use a 2nd gen Focusrite 18i20 USB into a 7th gen i7 HP laptop with 16gb, Sonar Platinum DAW.

If you can't afford a UAD or RME, and you don't need the extra routing options (the 18i20 has all I need and more), stick with your Focusrite, it's terrific bang for the buck. At the same time, Helix is perfectly acceptable as an interface for us commoners.

As for the muddiness, look elsewhere, it's not the Focusrite.

 

BTW - the 2nd gen Focusrites addressed the Instrument input problems that previous versions had.

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On 8/26/2017 at 5:25 PM, rd2rk said:

I run my guitar into an aby box, one side to the Helix, one side to my 2nd gen Focusrite 18i20 set to Instrument.

Helix goes to one channel of my Alto TS210, Focusrite to the other channel. To record the Helix direct, I send the mono  XLR to the Focusrite too. Native should eliminate that need, unless I need to switch presets or turn fx on/off on the fly, and if they incorporate midi in Native (like all the other sims I use), I won't need to do that.

To A/B is as simple as pressing a button. I can't discern ANY difference in sound quality between the Helix hardware and Native. Either thru the Alto or my Rokit monitors. It's anything BUT muddy. Nor can I DETECT the additional 3.6ms that the Helix driver adds over the focusrite (16.7 vs 13.1).

As mentioned, I use a 2nd gen Focusrite 18i20 USB into a 7th gen i7 HP laptop with 16gb, Sonar Platinum DAW.

If you can't afford a UAD or RME, and you don't need the extra routing options (the 18i20 has all I need and more), stick with your Focusrite, it's terrific bang for the buck. At the same time, Helix is perfectly acceptable as an interface for us commoners.

As for the muddiness, look elsewhere, it's not the Focusrite.

 

BTW - the 2nd gen Focusrites addressed the Instrument input problems that previous versions had.

When connecting the helix to the focusrite, does the input need to be muted or unmuted? ( focusrite) thanks in advance 

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23 minutes ago, jorgealberto25 said:

When connecting the helix to the focusrite, does the input need to be muted or unmuted? ( focusrite) thanks in advance 

 

"MUTE" means NO SOUND so, no. You're using the Focusrite as your soundcard/interface to your DAW.

That's a very old quote. Currently I use a G10 wireless. The 1/4" out goes to Helix, the XLR to the 18i20 (clean/Native track).

Helix goes into the 18i20 via S/PDIF, but if your AI doesn't have S/PDIF use XLR Outs.

Set the Helix XLR outs to match the AI INPUTS - INST/INST; LINE/LINE; MIC/MIC.

Start with the AI INPUT Levels all the way down and increase as necessary for a good signal on your DAW track.

Be sure the track monitor button is OFF (or you'll get an echo) and monitor the Helix signal directly.

 

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2 hours ago, rd2rk said:

 

"MUTE" means NO SOUND so, no. You're using the Focusrite as your soundcard/interface to your DAW.

That's a very old quote. Currently I use a G10 wireless. The 1/4" out goes to Helix, the XLR to the 18i20 (clean/Native track).

Helix goes into the 18i20 via S/PDIF, but if your AI doesn't have S/PDIF use XLR Outs.

Set the Helix XLR outs to match the AI INPUTS - INST/INST; LINE/LINE; MIC/MIC.

Start with the AI INPUT Levels all the way down and increase as necessary for a good signal on your DAW track.

Be sure the track monitor button is OFF (or you'll get an echo) and monitor the Helix signal directly.

 

im just connecting the hx stomp straight to the focusrite. in focusrite control, in the hardware inputs it gives an option to mute. if a mute it, it sounds dull.

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16 minutes ago, jorgealberto25 said:

im just connecting the hx stomp straight to the focusrite. in focusrite control, in the hardware inputs it gives an option to mute. if a mute it, it sounds dull.

 

As always, you're not giving up the whole story.

 

If you're taking the 1/4" L/MONO OUT to the Input on whatever model Focusrite you're using, and the HXS Out is set to LINE and the Focusrite in is set to LINE and the Mix knob on the focusrite is full counterclockwise and the HXS Volume knob is full clockwise, then the Focusrite Hardware Outputs that your speakers are connected to should be linked directly to the Helix. If you MUTE the INPUTS in the software, you should get NO sound at all. But then, I don't know what Focusrite you're using, or what the SW UI might look like. It could be very different than that used with my 18i20.

 

How about a screenshot?

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27 minutes ago, rd2rk said:

 

As always, you're not giving up the whole story.

 

If you're taking the 1/4" L/MONO OUT to the Input on whatever model Focusrite you're using, and the HXS Out is set to LINE and the Focusrite in is set to LINE and the Mix knob on the focusrite is full counterclockwise and the HXS Volume knob is full clockwise, then the Focusrite Hardware Outputs that your speakers are connected to should be linked directly to the Helix. If you MUTE the INPUTS in the software, you should get NO sound at all. But then, I don't know what Focusrite you're using, or what the SW UI might look like. It could be very different than that used with my 18i20.

 

How about a screenshot?

sorry for bothering. i get two different sounds in reaper. one a little dull when using monitoring recording ON in reaper with the input of the focusrite muted. no sound if monitoring recording is off.

the second sound is brighter but with less bass when using monitoring recording Off on reaper with the input the focustire unmuted. no sound if monitoring recording is on. but i cant use other vst with it.

just want to know which one is correct setting to get the best of the helix. 

i have the input knob at 0 ( 6i6 second gen)  and helix stomp output knob at max

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On the front of your 6i6 is a BIG KNOB. That's the MIX knob of which I spoke.

FULL COUNTER CLOCKWISE, what you hear is JUST the Helix.

Full CLOCKWISE is just the DAW.

If you're playing/recording along with previously recorded tracks, set that knob for a pleasant mix, or set it in the middle and use Reaper's mixer for the mix.

When you're playing your guitar, set the Reaper Helix Track's "RECORD MONITORING" button OFF.

Don't worry about what sounds "better". You're always recording the sound that you're hearing with the "RECORD MONITORING" Button OFF, which is Helix DIRECT (no latency)

But if you leave it ("RECORD MONITORING" Button) ON you're hearing BOTH the Helix DIRECT, AND the Helix through Reaper and back out to your speakers WITH the Helix direct signal. This sounds like crap and adds latency that sounds like an echo.

 

Here's another way to think about it. Unless you're playing through a VST such as NATIVE, you DON"T want to hear your guitar through the DAW EXCEPT during playback of the recorded track.

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13 hours ago, rd2rk said:

On the front of your 6i6 is a BIG KNOB. That's the MIX knob of which I spoke.

FULL COUNTER CLOCKWISE, what you hear is JUST the Helix.

Full CLOCKWISE is just the DAW.

If you're playing/recording along with previously recorded tracks, set that knob for a pleasant mix, or set it in the middle and use Reaper's mixer for the mix.

When you're playing your guitar, set the Reaper Helix Track's "RECORD MONITORING" button OFF.

Don't worry about what sounds "better". You're always recording the sound that you're hearing with the "RECORD MONITORING" Button OFF, which is Helix DIRECT (no latency)

But if you leave it ("RECORD MONITORING" Button) ON you're hearing BOTH the Helix DIRECT, AND the Helix through Reaper and back out to your speakers WITH the Helix direct signal. This sounds like crap and adds latency that sounds like an echo.

 

Here's another way to think about it. Unless you're playing through a VST such as NATIVE, you DON"T want to hear your guitar through the DAW EXCEPT during playback of the recorded track.

ok makes sense monitor  off does sound better and leaving the focusrite input unmuted.  when i connect the guitar directly to the interface to play vsts i have to mute the input on focusrite control because if not ill here two sounds at the same time but with helix directly to interface i dont here that when the input is let unmuted. why is that? just curiosity

heres focusrite control idk if you have used it before

control.jpg

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When you're playing Helix>6i6>DAW with Record Monitoring OFF, You're hearing Helix Direct through the 6i6 - Input>Output. 

When you plug into the 6i6 direct to play with VSTs, you're hearing your guitar Direct through the 6i6, AND the VST through the Software Playback, thus two sounds.

Mute the Input in the Control SW so that you only hear the VST from the Software Playback.

 

IOW, it's the opposite of playing through Helix. When playing through Helix you WANT to hear the Helix DIRECT to avoid latency, so you DON'T mute the input in the Control SW, you DO turn OFF Record Monitoring in Reaper.

You Don't want to mute Software Playback because then you can't play along to recorded tracks.

 

When playing through VSTs you DON'T want to hear the Guitar DIRECT, so you mute the INPUT in the Control SW and turn ON Record Monitoring in Reaper on the VST track so that you DO hear the VST through Software Playback. 

 

 

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On 2/4/2020 at 1:49 PM, rd2rk said:

When you're playing Helix>6i6>DAW with Record Monitoring OFF, You're hearing Helix Direct through the 6i6 - Input>Output. 

When you plug into the 6i6 direct to play with VSTs, you're hearing your guitar Direct through the 6i6, AND the VST through the Software Playback, thus two sounds.

Mute the Input in the Control SW so that you only hear the VST from the Software Playback.

 

IOW, it's the opposite of playing through Helix. When playing through Helix you WANT to hear the Helix DIRECT to avoid latency, so you DON'T mute the input in the Control SW, you DO turn OFF Record Monitoring in Reaper.

You Don't want to mute Software Playback because then you can't play along to recorded tracks.

 

When playing through VSTs you DON'T want to hear the Guitar DIRECT, so you mute the INPUT in the Control SW and turn ON Record Monitoring in Reaper on the VST track so that you DO hear the VST through Software Playback. 

 

 

Thanks the explanation and your help makes sense now.

 

I don’t want to post something that I already solve but another curiosity lol. I noticed when reaper was using the focusrite as an audio interface, my recordings from the stomp  sounded dull and weak. so what I did on reaper I used the hx stomp as an audio interface to record and the computer was still using the focusrite so I can hear the playback. wow it sounded the same as what I was Playing and listening.  the outputs where still connected straight to the focusrite because I don’t want to use the stomp as an all audio interface. So why you think it improve?

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18 hours ago, jorgealberto25 said:

Thanks the explanation and your help makes sense now.

 

I don’t want to post something that I already solve but another curiosity lol. I noticed when reaper was using the focusrite as an audio interface, my recordings from the stomp  sounded dull and weak. so what I did on reaper I used the hx stomp as an audio interface to record and the computer was still using the focusrite so I can hear the playback. wow it sounded the same as what I was Playing and listening.  the outputs where still connected straight to the focusrite because I don’t want to use the stomp as an all audio interface. So why you think it improve?

 

When you're using HXS as your AI, you're recording a direct digital signal. That's one less AD/DA conversion, and the 6i6 preamp is out of the picture.

You can get a good recording from the 6i6, but you need to have it configured properly.

Stick with what works for now, and keep studying recording technique.

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Interesting - I only just saw this thread after responding somewhat to jorgealberto25 about his issues with getting a good Strat tone out of Stomp. I did suggest that he takes the Focusrite out of his chain but he said it did not resolve his general discontent.

 

Sometimes it's a bit like ploughing the sea.

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50 minutes ago, BBD_123 said:

Interesting - I only just saw this thread after responding somewhat to jorgealberto25 about his issues with getting a good Strat tone out of Stomp. I did suggest that he takes the Focusrite out of his chain but he said it did not resolve his general discontent.

 

Sometimes it's a bit like ploughing the sea.

 

I hear ya!

BUT...to be fair.....

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away....we plugged the amp into the wall, plugged the guitar into a CryBaby and a TS, popped a cassette into the Teac 4 track and pressed RECORD.

It was a simpler time, for sure.

These days there's so much tech available, for so little money, and so much to learn, it's hard for a beginner to know where to start.

To make it worse, every mfr/vendor makes it sound like it's all plug'n'play.

HAH!

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away....

  • Haha 2

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Wow! You could afford a TEAC? I had to make do with a FOSTEX. But I had an early start with modeling. I had a guitar processor at the time - a Digitech RP-10. All the digital fizz and artifacts you can imagine, and a user interface that would make you weep. Several years ago I managed to capture those old 4-track recordings into a modern day DAW. I now have wav files of all my early-90's recording (for what they're worth).

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Just now, silverhead said:

Wow! You could afford a TEAC? I had to make do with a FOSTEX. But I had an early start with modeling. I had a guitar processor at the time - a Digitech RP-10. All the digital fizz and artifacts you can imagine, and a user interface that would make you weep. Several years ago I managed to capture those old 4-track recordings into a modern day DAW. I now have wav files of all my early-90's recording (for what they're worth).

 

Actually, my first electric guitar (Danelectro) got played through an amp that looked like a smallish radio (probably was, without the tuner, NO FX) and recorded on a mini reel-to-reel.

I'm THAT old. I wish I had those early '60s recordings. Me playing Duane Eddy and The Ventures. (ANCIENT) History. 

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