Jump to content
hideout

Black Lion Audio mods for the Helix??!!

Recommended Posts

Description

 

We are offering the following modifications for the Helix:

Helix Premium Mod ($495)

  • – Guitar In: signal path cap and op-amp upgrades
  • – Mic In: signal path cap upgrade, phantom power filtration, preamp chip power filtration
  • – Sends: op-amp upgrades, D/A converter decoupling
  • – Returns: op-amp and signal path cap upgrades, A/D converter decoupling
  • – A/D/A Converter: premium power decoupling
  • – Headphones: multiple stage op-amp and signal path cap upgrades
  • – Outputs: multiple stage op-amp and signal path cap upgrades

Helix LT Premium Mod ($395)

  • – Same as regular Helix, but no microphone upgrades, no signal path caps on Returns, and no dedicated D/A chips

Get ready to hear your Helix like never before!

 

 

 

 

Well... they charge a lot for that. I do not know if it's worth it, but I'd also like to hear the opinion of someone who has tried it.


 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My opinion is that after reading all they have to say about what they do my reaction is, "so what?".  What's in it for me at $500?  Given that's the price I paid for a HD500X and I knew all the great benefits I would have with it, I still can't cite a single, objective benefit I might get from this investment...other than negating my warranty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a $500 solution desperately in search of a problem... besides, if I get super-bored one day and decide to void my warranty, I'll just do it for free with a hammer.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Without some high-quality sound clips of each "mod" I have no reason to believe there will be much of a noticeable difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, gunpointmetal said:

Without some high-quality sound clips of each "mod" I have no reason to believe there will be much of a noticeable difference.

 

lol... indeed. Some sort of evidence would be nice. So far all we've got is  "This is awesome, trust us. That'll be $500, please". ;)

 

Side note... for anybody seriously considering this, I've got a boatload of really high quality, low mileage cans of used air that I'm letting go for $350 apiece, with free shipping!  It's a steal... don't be left out! When they're gone, they're gone... at least until I breathe into some more empty cans. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At best, the mods will improve signal to noise ratio. Anyone complaining about the noise floor on their Helix? Not me.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i believe that power supplies for AD-converters, better OP amps, caps ... can make a audible difference on HiFi stuff  - experienced this after modding a Behringer DCX i used in the old days as digital crossover for my loudspeakers. The DCX seemed to be good in the digital range but rather poor (in HiFi sense) on the analog side.

If it make sense for a device as the Helix? - difficult to say. If it's worth 500 bucks? Not without a clear evidence.

There's so much low-Fi in guitars, amps and effects  - that's part of the system ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm running a Black Lion upgraded MOTU interface - the difference there was subtle but noticeable.  Based on that experience, would I do it again?  Probably not - as I say, subtle.  Not sure that there'd be a big enough difference modding a Helix - and to what end?  Let's be honest, guitar amplification is hardly based on high fidelity reproduction - that's what makes it what it is.

 

If anybody goes for it - please post before and after samples....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While this may be worth-while for many interfaces. However, with Helix I don't know if the benefit would be worth even half of that. I honestly doubt most of us would even notice the difference... Especially for the price they are asking.

 

That said, I would still be interested in comparison clips.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Working for a living as an Electronic Engineer and after reading these potential improvements for the Helix (and other stuff from other vendors) I understand that most probably EE's designing Helix did a stupidly wrong job providing the wrong OPAMPs and decoupling / coupling capacitors or power supply filters to take the most of out of relatively good (relatively expensive) converters.

 

Not only this. Also EEs from the other companies listed also chose really bad components around their converters and DSPs, when they could have got all the potential performance from them. This must be a generalized case of really bad engineering.

 

Add that these claims are not supported with measurements or numbers, showing how bad existing designs are, and how badly an improper supply decoupling degrades the ADC performance of the Helix. And therefore how many dBs of performance they can recover by substituting the side components so improperly chosen. Just to quantify how well spent is the cost of the mods!

 

In short... I think I am entitled to be at least a bit skeptical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One baseline angle on the value of these mods would be a listing of what the existing op-amps are, and what they'd be replaced with. That's pretty black and white, and there aren't 80 gazillion likely possibilities, proprietary wizardry, or unknown factors to evaluate. Chances are the factory parts are standard mass-produced stuff that's inherently not too expensive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a carvin 727 I’d offer up in a contest if anyone could reliably abx between a modded and unmoderated one at a rate greater than chance

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I probably wouldn't buy any of the following mods either, due to as has been pointed out they would most likely void the warranty, and would almost certainly cause future firmware updates to fail or have issues. There are those who will dislike many of these options anwyay. Some of them are more in the realm of a firmware than hardware mod (think UNO/Behringer chip) and put a few of these together and they might triple the price of the Helix but I think they would make a bigger difference offering mods such as:

 

  • Additional impedance adjustable guitar inputs for acoustic/electric
  • USB port for additional preset and IR storage, backup save/restore, as well as loop saving on a USB memory stick.  Would love to see this as an option.
  • DSP chip upgrades or additions
  • Mod to allow any existing footswitch to be used for any function
  • One sustained press on a footswitch takes you directly into foot editing mode for that effect (like the Headrush)
  • A more sophisticated setlist management system (also already on the Headrush)
  • Built in wireless (I prefer an external wireless but I know some folks would want this, especially if they made a wireless that worked with Variax guitars)
  • Touch screen capability
  • Compatibility upgrades for older Variax guitar models
  • Compatibility upgrades for certain Line6 amps like the DT series
  • Direct settings management of the new Powercab speakers from the Helix (I could see this coming anyway from Line6 at some point)
  • Multiple global EQs or guitar profiles and the ability to bypass cabs and/or amps globally
  • Additional External Amp and/or CV output
  • Enhanced looper with more memory (would go well with the USB port idea above for saving loops)
  • Plugin engine to allow onboard plugins to be looped into Helix signal path
  • Coffee maker, fog machine, and fondue pot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, ricstudioc said:

I'm running a Black Lion upgraded MOTU interface - the difference there was subtle but noticeable.  Based on that experience, would I do it again?  Probably not - as I say, subtle.  Not sure that there'd be a big enough difference modding a Helix - and to what end?  Let's be honest, guitar amplification is hardly based on high fidelity reproduction - that's what makes it what it is.

 

If anybody goes for it - please post before and after samples....

 

In the case  Of some motus and some behringer gear, though the claims were about audio, the BLA stuff actually made the gear more reliable. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a healthy dose of skepticism but... at this point in time, I really think that all we are left with are subtleties. That’s all we really have left because a lot of audio products have gotten really really good.  I just don’t think there are many “night and day” types of differences anymore, especially when it comes to modelers of the Helix and Fractal’s caliber. I’m thinking that there might actually be some value to this mod. I just don’t expect it to be an immediately noticeable difference. I don’t think that’s possible anymore.  I mean, if you listen to a $200 mic preamp and a $2000 one, is there an immediately noticeable night and day difference? Of this I am very highly doubtful. Same goes for the sonic difference between a Lundahl and a Cinemag audio transformer.  I’m not saying that there is no difference. I’m saying that it takes experience and knowledge to hear the difference. That is where the value can begin to be decided.  For me, high quality mic pres don’t really reveal their advantages until you hear what they’re doing in the context of a mix. And even then it is extremely subtle. 

 

   I think that what this mod has to offer will undoubtedly be subtle and I think that’s to be expected. Using better op amps in the Helix’s A/D and D/A converters will simply give the modeling engine a better “raw material” to work with and it’ll be a matter of whether or not you like the final output.  There’s no guarantee that you will. This holds true for tube amp mods, guitar mods (especially pickup swaps - even when the change in sound is dramatic), basically this applies to any modifications done to any audio equipment.

 

Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances. 

 

As for the cost, I think doing these kinds of mods is delicate work and cannot be done cheaply. The parts may not be all that expensive but the work requires quite a bit of skill and I am not one to dismiss that kind of skill. Just as I would never dismiss the skills and work required to become a good musician. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But then again, there’s this...

 

351A9FDD-8F8C-4D9E-A6A9-E832E37EAFDB.jpeg

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, hideout said:

I have a healthy dose of skepticism but... at this point in time, I really think that all we are left with are subtleties. That’s all we really have left because a lot of audio products have gotten really really good.  I just don’t think there are many “night and day” types of differences anymore, especially when it comes to modelers of the Helix and Fractal’s caliber. I’m thinking that there might actually be some value to this mod. I just don’t expect it to be an immediately noticeable difference. I don’t think that’s possible anymore.  I mean, if you listen to a $200 mic preamp and a $2000 one, is there an immediately noticeable night and day difference? Of this I am very highly doubtful. Same goes for the sonic difference between a Lundahl and a Cinemag audio transformer.  I’m not saying that there is no difference. I’m saying that it takes experience and knowledge to hear the difference. That is where the value can begin to be decided.  For me, high quality mic pres don’t really reveal their advantages until you hear what they’re doing in the context of a mix. And even then it is extremely subtle. 

 

   I think that what this mod has to offer will undoubtedly be subtle and I think that’s to be expected. Using better op amps in the Helix’s A/D and D/A converters will simply give the modeling engine a better “raw material” to work with and it’ll be a matter of whether or not you like the final output.  There’s no guarantee that you will. This holds true for tube amp mods, guitar mods (especially pickup swaps - even when the change in sound is dramatic), basically this applies to any modifications done to any audio equipment.

 

Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances. 

 

As for the cost, I think doing these kinds of mods is delicate work and cannot be done cheaply. The parts may not be all that expensive but the work requires quite a bit of skill and I am not one to dismiss that kind of skill. Just as I would never dismiss the skills and work required to become a good musician. 

 

How many "subtleties" are there in a "night and day"? ;)

 

I think these sorts of unquantifiable and wholly subjective "upgrades" have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies...if you spend a bunch of money, you'll WANT to hear a difference, so you do. Golden Eared types will no doubt disagree, but to add 33% to the cost of the unit...I'd need more than wishful thinking and a voided warranty for it to be worth it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would tend to think maybe part of the cost is an 'insurance' that if something goes wrong during the mod that they have something to contribute to a replacement Helix if it is bricked in their error. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

How many "subtleties" are there in a "night and day"? ;)

 

I think these sorts of unquantifiable and wholly subjective "upgrades" have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies...if you spend a bunch of money, you'll WANT to hear a difference, so you do. Golden Eared types will no doubt disagree, but to add 33% to the cost of the unit...I'd need more than wishful thinking and a voided warranty for it to be worth it. 

 

The same justification could be used on the Helix over the cost of a Pod. I know plenty who can’t really tell the difference and wonder why you’d pay the extra for a Helix. 

Again I’ll bring up the example of the difference between a $200 mic preamp and one that costs $2000 or more. The difference is in the parts used as well as the design but the basic principle and function is the same for both. Are you saying that the Neves, Langevins and DW Fearns aren’t worth their prices?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, hideout said:

 

The same justification could be used on the Helix over the cost of a Pod. I know plenty who can’t really tell the difference and wonder why you’d pay the extra for a Helix. 

Again I’ll bring up the example of the difference between a $200 mic preamp and one that costs $2000 or more. The difference is in the parts used as well as the design but the basic principle and function is the same for both. Are you saying that the Neves, Langevins and DW Fearns aren’t worth their prices?

 

Yes, there are lots of things out there in the wild that are comically overvalued... a guitar that Hendrix torched on stage sold for £280,000. A six figure price tag for what is now a guitar-shaped heap of carbon...but it was "worth it" to somebody. I'd sooner pluck my own eyeballs out, but I digress. 

 

Since nothing that we're discussing can be quantified or proven, it all boils down to opinions, preferences, and how much cash you've got on hand. It's amazing how much more things are suddenly "worth" when you've got money, lol...yet I'm sure there are things that I'd spend money on that you'd think were ridiculous, and vice versa.  Who's "right"? Nobody. 

 

But as far as the Helix vs. POD thing goes...functionally,  there's a whole lot more to the Helix than the sounds themselves. The ease of use compared to the POD, snapshots, the fact that useable tones are much easier to achieve quickly, all the routing options, etc etc...I'd have paid a premium just for the functionality alone, even if the modeling was identical to the POD...hell, I'm still using a couple of the legacy FX. But again, I'm sure there are those who wouldn't agree. Different strokes...

 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is capitalism. They will find plenty of "spec sheet rangers" out there that think they NEED this and spend $500 all day long. I am an electrical engineer too, but I say MEH. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jbuhajla said:

That is capitalism. They will find plenty of "spec sheet rangers" out there that think they NEED this and spend $500 all day long. I am an electrical engineer too, but I say MEH. 

 

spec sheet rangers... lmao

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This idea has got to be one for the "cork sniffers" out there!

If Line 6 had installed these supposedly superior op-amps, caps and filters, would we all have gleefully spent an extra $500 on a Helix?

Would we have noticed a difference?

Would we be happier? 

Nah, I don't think so, as that would be getting close to Fractal pricing territory and I can't see an advantage there. I guess most of us are happy with what the Line 6 team put together at a price we can live with.

Now we just need to wait to see if Spikey will ask if these Black Lion guys can do a third party upgrade on the Helix tuner.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

But as far as the Helix vs. POD thing goes...functionally,  there's a whole lot more to the Helix than the sounds themselves. The ease of use compared to the POD, snapshots, the fact that useable tones are much easier to achieve quickly, all the routing options, etc etc...I'd have paid a premium just for the functionality alone, even if the modeling was identical to the POD...hell, I'm still using a couple of the legacy FX. But again, I'm sure there are those who wouldn't agree. Different strokes...

 

 

And then some! So crazy many levels of functionality difference there. Forget any sound differences, though the HD500 does have workarounds for some of the extreme basics that many other Line 6 devices can't handle, such as the proper dual output path for guitar amp vs PA system simultaneously, the Helix covers this by design

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/29/2018 at 2:20 AM, DunedinDragon said:

My opinion is that after reading all they have to say about what they do my reaction is, "so what?".  What's in it for me at $500?  Given that's the price I paid for a HD500X and I knew all the great benefits I would have with it, I still can't cite a single, objective benefit I might get from this investment...other than negating my warranty.

 

You'd get a higher quality signal path. Whether or not that makes a difference in your setup is an entirely different thing. 

I compared a MOTU audio interface with the BLA mod vs. the same model without and I was pretty surprised at the difference. They do really good work. 

All that said, if you wanted to stuff $500 into the Helix, you're probably better off doing it before the input or after the output. 

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm pretty happy with how my Helix sounds.  I haven't really thought about the signal quality since I've gotten it.  These mods will probably improve something, but I feel like the production of these units at this point are decent quality, for my needs at least.  Any issues I have with the Helix now could probably be solved with a firmware update.  I think I'll save myself some money . . . 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm happy with the Helix's modeling, but ever since I got it I've been a little disappointed with the dry signal path. Let's be honest, there's a lot of I/O and processing power in there for the price point, I wouldn't be surprised if they had to cut a few corners.

 

I probably won't spend $500 on the BLA mod, but I'm not going to knock it. They have a good reputation, and it probably does make a difference.

  • Upvote 1

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

×