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Moon_Raven

Use amp or go directly to speakers?

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Hello,

 

I have been using Helix for 7-8 months and have listened to myself primarily through headphones. I have also been recording stuff using Helix. Now I want to start using it in studios and gigs and I am unsure whether to plug in Helix directly into speakers or to go into the guitar amp input?

 

I also don't know how does this affect the presets I've been using. My presets all use a combo amp + cab block, which I guess I should change if I actually use a real amp?

 

Thanks in advance :)

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My personal opinion is to bypass an "real amp" entirely and go to a Full Range, Flat Response (FRFR) setup... a.k.a a self-powered PA speaker. This is going to get you the closest to what you've been hearing in your headphones. There are a number out there depending on how much you want to spend. But I think this is really the best route to go with the Helix.

 

YMMV.

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You can do either, or both. However, none of your presets created using headphones will sound the same through speakers and especially through a guitar amp. 

 

Do some research on 4 cable method with Helix and also wet/dry/wet methods (4 cable method with a guitar amp AND two FRFR speakers)

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In his really excellent Helix demo, Pete Thorn discusses and demonstrates the different routing options available. It might help you to figure out what is best for your needs.

 

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What works great for me might not for you.

Play in a loud band? going to a conventional guitar amp with guitar speaker might be best. Disable built-in Cabs for this.

Play on a "silent stage" like a church, using the built-in cabs and going FRFR or IEM is almost always best.

Just playing at home for personal enjoyment. Whatever you like best.

recording? imho, ALWAYS best to use the built-in cabs and studio monitors.

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A lot of this comes down to how many of the Helix features you want to use and are important to you.

 

Basically to take advantage of all of the features you need some form of neutral output that won't add additional coloration to the sound.  That's why so many people choose to go direct to the PA or use a full range flat response stage monitor in a live environment.

 

There are other options as well all of which place certain limitations constraints on the features in the Helix.  Going through a traditional amp either 4CM or effect loop input will still allow you to use most of the features, but the amp cabinet will add it's own coloration to the sound as it's not a flat response style speaker, so you would lose the capability to employ different cabinets and mics and mic placements without some added coloration from the cabinet.  Some people even go direct into the amp and purely use the Helix as an effects board, so it really depends on how much of the Helix capabilities you want to employ in your live environment.

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Thank you very much for the replies!

 

In fact I have researched a bit about 4CM and FRFR. 4CM seems too complicated when I just want to plug in and play without too much setting up on gigs. Same goes for 4CM with both amps and speakers. On the other hand, if I have understood correctly, FRFR means going directly to powered speakers. When I tried that, I sounded kind of 'muddy', probably because I have used presets designed for headphones. I guess I will have to have a copy of all presets and modify it for playing loud?

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Thank you very much for the replies!

 

When I tried that, I sounded kind of 'muddy', probably because I have used presets designed for headphones. I guess I will have to have a copy of all presets and modify it for playing loud?

Yes copy and modify them for FRFR. Generally speaking, you can set your low cuts on the cab block to around 120Hz and High cuts anywhere from 5-7kHz and that will get you pretty far. 

 

If you are using a powered speaker in a floor wedge configuration, you will get the bass coupling effect from the proximity to the floor. Some speakers have a "monitor mode" switch that will decrease the bass response to help fix that. If not, you will have to cut some more bass response from your preset somewhere. 

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I prefer FRFR for majority of my use although I do tend to edit a bank of patches with all the same and familiar stomp pedals but no amp/cab modeling for those situations when I arrive on a gig and there's guitar amp backline.  

 

Majority of FRFR "amps" reproduce most of what is heard through headphones.  However, the main drawback using any "single channel" mono FRFR system is that the reverbs in Helix will never sound exactly as intended.  The Spring isn't too bad mono but all the Helix reverbs being stereo kinda leaves something to be desired, IMO...  

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I went back on forth on this for ages....was using the Helix via 4CM method with my EVH amps for a while. But finally decided to go full FRFR with some L2T speakers and it just made things so much easier. I can use headphones and still have pretty much the same tone/sound (mind you using good studio headphones) and have all the versatility I need for any recording or gigging situation. It was a hard transition but like I said worth it.

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If you’re a professional guitarist with your own distinct tone, you’re going to want to stick with your guitar amp and cabinet as these are the core source of your tone. Helix in this case provide a convenient and flexible effects platform either front of the amp, or 4CM.

 

If on the other hand you want to have lots of different tones in order to cover other guitarists, then Helix into a FRFR is the best approach as it gives the flexibility for lots of amp and cab/IR models.

 

If you’re in between these - i.e., an amateur but having your own distinct style and tone, then Helix can be a great platform for conveniently delivering that tone. This is where I tend to sit. I use Helix as a convenient platform for building my preferred tone. I use FRFR because that maximizes the convenience. But I tend to use Helix like you would a typical pedalboard and guitar amp. That is, I use pretty much one patch for everything with stomp and snapshots to control effects in that patch. The I focus on the guitar and what I play to provide different sounds.

 

Helix provides the hardware and software routing flexibility to support any of these approaches.

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Yes copy and modify them for FRFR. Generally speaking, you can set your low cuts on the cab block to around 120Hz and High cuts anywhere from 5-7kHz and that will get you pretty far. 

 

If you are using a powered speaker in a floor wedge configuration, you will get the bass coupling effect from the proximity to the floor. Some speakers have a "monitor mode" switch that will decrease the bass response to help fix that. If not, you will have to cut some more bass response from your preset somewhere. 

Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely try those EQ cuts!

 

 

I prefer FRFR for majority of my use although I do tend to edit a bank of patches with all the same and familiar stomp pedals but no amp/cab modeling for those situations when I arrive on a gig and there's guitar amp backline.  

 

Majority of FRFR "amps" reproduce most of what is heard through headphones.  However, the main drawback using any "single channel" mono FRFR system is that the reverbs in Helix will never sound exactly as intended.  The Spring isn't too bad mono but all the Helix reverbs being stereo kinda leaves something to be desired, IMO...  

And what do you think about going stereo to FRFR?

 

 

 

I went back on forth on this for ages....was using the Helix via 4CM method with my EVH amps for a while. But finally decided to go full FRFR with some L2T speakers and it just made things so much easier. I can use headphones and still have pretty much the same tone/sound (mind you using good studio headphones) and have all the versatility I need for any recording or gigging situation. It was a hard transition but like I said worth it.

And did that versatility come with a cost of reduced tone quality compared to 4CM setup?

 

 

 

If you’re a professional guitarist with your own distinct tone, you’re going to want to stick with your guitar amp and cabinet as these are the core source of your tone. Helix in this case provide a convenient and flexible effects platform either front of the amp, or 4CM. 

 

If on the other hand you want to have lots of different tones in order to cover other guitarists, then Helix into a FRFR is the best approach as it gives the flexibility for lots of amp and cab/IR models.

 

If you’re in between these - i.e., an amateur but having your own distinct style and tone, then Helix can be a great platform for conveniently delivering that tone. This is where I tend to sit. I use Helix as a convenient platform for building my preferred tone. I use FRFR because that maximizes the convenience. But I tend to use Helix like you would a typical pedalboard and guitar amp. That is, I use pretty much one patch for everything with stomp and snapshots to control effects in that patch. The I focus on the guitar and what I play to provide different sounds. 

 

Helix provides the hardware and software routing flexibility to support any of these approaches. 

Thanks for sharing the experience! I also tend to lie somewhere in between. I also tend to use the Helix just as you do - I have 3-4 main setups which I occasionally tweak and upgrade. And the convenience is the reason that's nudging me to go towards the FRFR setup, I am just afraid of tones losing some 'edge' when played through FRFR.

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Q.And did that versatility come with a cost of reduced tone quality compared to 4CM setup?

 

A. Nothing lost at all. In fact the guys were just saying the other night at rehearsal how killer the rig sounded and they can't believe it isn't really an amp. I have been really happy with it and don't miss my amps at all.

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And what do you think about going stereo to FRFR?

 

Stereo's ideal IMO.  At least ALL the reverbs become more useable and if looking for truly deep chorus, ping-pong delays or mind altering wobbly tremolo, stereo FTW.  

 

It's one of those things while editing presets I pay attention to.  As mentioned, I'll make duplicate "stomp" (no amp modeling) presets for use with guitar amps as well as "mono effects" presets for mono FRFR situations.  And of course, the "Cadillac setup" of stereo presets for those Gucci gigs with stereo inputs to FOH/MON.  

 

Basically 3 versions of presets covers majority of output situations that come my way.  

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When I first connected my Helix directly to a powered speaker via xlr, I was not happy at all. I lost clarity, and the tones were just "ok." So, I brought my mixer that we use for live gigs home, and ran the xlr to a channel on the mixer, connected the same powered speaker to the mixer , and it sounded awesome. I'm not sure why this is the case, but this is what I use for gigs now. We have powered monitors for our stage sound, so I don't have a separate amp of any kind for my guitar on stage. My Marshall and Fender tube amps stay home.

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When I first connected my Helix directly to a powered speaker via xlr, I was not happy at all. I lost clarity, and the tones were just "ok." So, I brought my mixer that we use for live gigs home, and ran the xlr to a channel on the mixer, connected the same powered speaker to the mixer , and it sounded awesome. I'm not sure why this is the case, but this is what I use for gigs now. We have powered monitors for our stage sound, so I don't have a separate amp of any kind for my guitar on stage. My Marshall and Fender tube amps stay home.

 

Something is off on that mixer. The EQ is messed up, the lo cut is out of control, or phantom power is on. Probably that last thing.

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What works great for me might not for you.

Play in a loud band? going to a conventional guitar amp with guitar speaker might be best. Disable built-in Cabs for this.

Play on a "silent stage" like a church, using the built-in cabs and going FRFR or IEM is almost always best.

Just playing at home for personal enjoyment. Whatever you like best.

recording? imho, ALWAYS best to use the built-in cabs and studio monitors.

This is pretty much your answer.

 

Though I will add if your playing at home, and still want a "real amp" then get one with lower wattage!   No need to pay for extra wattage that you won't use. 

 

I personally do not play live, I am a studio only guy. I don't have any more guitar amps. I have Helix Rack, Control, Helix Native, and Event BAS 20/20 FRFR studio monitors. These monitors have more volume than any engineer, or guitarist would ever need in a studio, they are loud!  Matter of fact way too loud for my room, I have them turned almost all the way down.  However, I do plan on moving to Colorado (I have to get out of the bible-belt, and the concentrated South) within the next decade. I plan to have a larger space for my studio when I do, so the monitors (if they last that long, and they should) will fill out nicely in.

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Something is off on that mixer. The EQ is messed up, the lo cut is out of control, or phantom power is on. Probably that last thing.

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??? Helix sounds great through the mixer. My unpleasant tones were occurring when I tried to run directly into a powered speaker via xlr.

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Thank you very much for the replies!

 

In fact I have researched a bit about 4CM and FRFR. 4CM seems too complicated when I just want to plug in and play without too much setting up on gigs. Same goes for 4CM with both amps and speakers. On the other hand, if I have understood correctly, FRFR means going directly to powered speakers. When I tried that, I sounded kind of 'muddy', probably because I have used presets designed for headphones. I guess I will have to have a copy of all presets and modify it for playing loud?

 

The main key is going to be, to set up your presets, do it at gig volume.  One of the things I ran into is, playing in the context of a band is one thing when playing loud.  But when I play that loud myself at home by myself out of context, eek, it scares me! haha :)

 

Regarding volume, I recently did a gig where I used my 2 L2 stage source speakers as the PA for vocals and my Helix.  They had no problem keeping up with a guitarist with a Marshall and a double stack of 4x12's.  Volume on the L2's was only a little over half.  In another band, My Alto TS210 had no problem keeping up with another cranked Marshall punk band and drums in a garage.

 

??? Helix sounds great through the mixer. My unpleasant tones were occurring when I tried to run directly into a powered speaker via xlr.

 

I'm imagining you were going through a mic pre on the board, which likely softened/affected the tone a little.  How were the EQ's on the channel set?  What is the board?  Did you try 1/4 into the powered speaker?  What was the powered speaker? 

So many variables, it's really hard to make any judgement on what is different for you.  When you say it "lacked clarity", can you describe it better?

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Yes copy and modify them for FRFR. Generally speaking, you can set your low cuts on the cab block to around 120Hz and High cuts anywhere from 5-7kHz and that will get you pretty far. 

 

If you are using a powered speaker in a floor wedge configuration, you will get the bass coupling effect from the proximity to the floor. Some speakers have a "monitor mode" switch that will decrease the bass response to help fix that. If not, you will have to cut some more bass response from your preset somewhere. 

 

I initially created all of my presets with the headphone jack and in-ear monitors. When I got an FRFR powered speaker, I did this exactly; tweaked them for the speaker. I was told by someone here that it's best to just start from scratch with the speaker, but with some time and patience, I got those patches sounding pretty great eventually. If you get a powered speaker that doesn't have "monitor mode" you'll need to get a mounting pole or an amp stand to avoid floor coupling. And as has been said, be sure to tweak at the approximate volume you'll be using at a live gig. Venues can vary wildly; that's what the global EQ is for.

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Isn't high cut on 5-7 khz quite harsh?

 

It's dependent on several things; the guitar, the amp and cab models (or third party IRs), the mic models, etc. For me, there's no approximate EQ that works universally for all presets; some of my high and low cuts are drastic and some are subtle. It's simply a matter of turning knobs until it sounds good. A full range speaker is what it says; guitar amp cabs are not full range. I never used anything but the tone knobs on tube amps before I entered the digital domain.

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Isn't high cut on 5-7 khz quite harsh?

My amp models are set up to be pretty bright and I use Fender T and S guitars with single coils. 5-7kHz is not harsh at all. Just takes a bit of the edge off while leaving the chime. 

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??? Helix sounds great through the mixer. My unpleasant tones were occurring when I tried to run directly into a powered speaker via xlr.

 

Sounds like you have the XLR out set to mic level from the Helix; the mixer is looking for that; the powered speaker wants line level.

You could plug Helix back into the powered speaker, and test the setting on Helix for line vs mic level on the XLR output?

 

Also, check your global EQ setting. 

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Sounds like you have the XLR out set to mic level from the Helix; the mixer is looking for that; the powered speaker wants line level.

You could plug Helix back into the powered speaker, and test the setting on Helix for line vs mic level on the XLR output?

 

Also, check your global EQ setting.

Thanks. I’ll check the line/mic settings...

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Hello,

 

I have been using Helix for 7-8 months and have listened to myself primarily through headphones. I have also been recording stuff using Helix. Now I want to start using it in studios and gigs and I am unsure whether to plug in Helix directly into speakers or to go into the guitar amp input?

 

I also don't know how does this affect the presets I've been using. My presets all use a combo amp + cab block, which I guess I should change if I actually use a real amp?

 

Thanks in advance :)

If some how you can go to a store and try it I would check out the Seymour Duncan Powerstage170 or 700.Im using the 170 with a blackstar 212 and I love the way it sounds also god forbid  the helix goes out I can use the pedals I still own to play thru the Powerstage.Unlike an amp imo it mimics the sounds better than an amp.I tried it thru my blackstar ht60 and peavey delta blues,4cm way.I also own mackie thumps12 and it sound good thru those but i like it more thru the Duncan.   

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Thanks. I’ll check the line/mic settings...

This. You will get a LOT more volume with XLR outs set to line level. 

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