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JonWillis

Newbie.... Idiot?

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Hi all, Im new to line 6, the Helix and the digital world when it comes to using it to amplify guitars. Keep that in mind when reading my post!

 

Got my Helix the other day, plugged into my studio monitors, all very excited to hear what this device can do... result was awful. Completely disappointed, confused and totally unimpressed. I couldn't believe this was the same unit that I had read so much about... all the glowing reviews brilliant and positive sounding youtube videos.

 

In short, for me, I just thought this thing sounds generally, well... crap. Flicking through the presets made me just think  - what is this all about?!... some of the sounds are just weird and plain silly (effects heavy nonsense), others just sounded like the same old digital crap I have heard for so long now. I thought this was supposed to be different!? Some sounds are "OK", pretty passable copies of guitar sounds that you would appreciate and like, but even they are nothing special at all. Can't see a difference from all the digital stuff I have dabbled with then binned in the past - apart from more complicated options. I was saddest most about the total lack of feel. I have read the sentiment of matching the feel as playing through a valve amp. This really confused me. Not even close. Yes the patches clean up as you roll the guitar volume down... big deal. There is so much more to valve "feel" than that. There is zero interaction between your fingers the strings and the sound you hear (to me!) so its totally cold flat and uninspiring to play. 

 

I realise I'm in the minority on this one. Coming from valve amps and an old school sound aesthetic perhaps this technology is just a step to far for me. Beyond me. Or maybe its only good for hi gain million notes a second music where feel doesn't really come into it. 

 

Very disheartening so before I give up and send it back I wanted to ask for help as all the people that like it versus seemingly very very few who don't must mean its me not the units fault. Could there be factors at play that I don't know about that are making this unit sound/feel less than it should??? After a while trying to understand the unit I plugged into my little Yamaha THR practice amp and revelled in its excellent response and tone that seemed heightened after playing through the Helix.

 

Any help or words of wisdom would be appreciated by this dense luddite! 

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Welcome to the forums!

 

Your sound also depends on your instrument and monitoring system, what is your setup? What kind of tone are you willing to achieve.

 

If you're having a valve amp background, you might want to rethink how'll you rebuild your patches. Until today, your sound was generated in one specific amp with one specific cabinet model, loaded with one specific speaker type. Now you have few hundred options + impulse responses so it's very confusing at the first time, also to mention that your tone will only sound great if plugged into a fullrange speaker. New gear, new logic.

 

I had a Diezel D-moll with Mesa 4x12 OS cab and I still don't feel like Helix is unresponsive or bad sounding, but setting my tone, took several weeks and months.

 

Check out these talented musicians how they use Helix, do your research, than start building your patches again :)

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/gtr111/videos

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sonic+drive+studios+HELIX

 

 

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Don't use presets to judge the tonal quality. Some are good, but most have exaggerated effects. Like the above poster said, check out the "How to Create a Great Tone" series on Jason Sadites' YouTube channel. Start with the first one and go in order. This might seem like a PITA, and may be thinking "what do I have to do all this work for? I just want to play and this is a waste of time". It is a brief time investment, and soon you will get noticeably better at getting good sounds.

 

How to Create a Great Tone Pt 1

 

 

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Probably the best starting place is to get a bit more information about your setup such as the type of guitar and the type of studio monitors and such.  All of that can make a difference in the results you want to achieve.  Bear in mind the vast majority of the presets that come with the Helix are primarily demonstrations of various capabilities and may not be applicable to what you're after.  But you probably need to first decide what your main purpose is for the Helix i.e. home recording, live performance, or just playing at home or jamming.  This will factor into the type of setup you want to pursue.

 

In general there are two different types of setups people tend to use.  Most of us likely use full range powered speakers of some sort whether they be studio monitors, live powered speakers such as an Alto, Yamaha, or QSC or specialized amps such as the Line 6 Powercab.  But a lot of people prefer to use more traditional amps and use either a 4 cable method (4CM) or simply use the power amp and cab of their traditional amp by sending the Helix into an effects return or some bypass of the preamp and tone stack.  The important factor here is that these two different methods will generally require different approaches to how your presets are designed and built.

 

In the case of full range speakers such as studio monitors you generally use the full range of blocks in your signal chain such as an amp, a cabinet or IR, a mic and mic placement and of course various effects.  When using an traditional amp setup you typically only use a preamp block and effects possibly combined with a separate signal chain that includes an amp, cab, and mic that would be routed to a PA (which is treated the same as a full range powered speaker setup).  The important thing about full range powered speaker setups is that the frequency response profile is quite a bit wider than what you would normally get in a traditional amp and cabinet setup, so you'd likely want to make some adjustments using high and low cuts to confine the response so as not to be as shrill or boomy.  This can also be adjusted using different cabinet or IR setups with different mics and mic placements.

 

The real bottom line with the Helix or any high end modeler is that building presets has far more in common with working in a studio environment than simply plugging into an amp and playing.  Not everyone is comfortable with this paradigm, but if you can adapt you can get stunningly higher fidelity in your live playing with greater articulation and clarity than would be possible with a traditional amp setup.  But a great starting point is to go and watch some of Jason Sadites videos as mentioned previously as he goes through how to build presets in great detail and does a great job of educating people on how to get the most out of the Helix.

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First,  forget the factory presets... most are useless, as they are on every similar device I've ever owned... one could write a PhD thesis on this phenomenon, but let's put that aside for the moment...

 

The biggest problem most have when they're new to modeling is the tendency to treat the device the same as you would an amp... in short,  you can't do that,  lol.  It's not an amp, and you can't approach it the same way... especially if you're monitoring through FRFR studio monitors as opposed to a guitar amp/cab, or combo. Just fiddling with an amp model's  basic tone controls as you would on its real world counterpart will be insufficient... you will have many more parameters to think about and tweak. 

 

You have to think of it as if you were in a studio, micing a cabinet next door,  and listening through the monitors in the control room, as that is exactly the set-up which is being modeled. Since you're not hearing the amp directly, mic choice and placement is critical. Same goes for  those modeled parameters in Helix. 

 

Furthermore, the frequency response of FRFR monitors is far wider and flatter than that of a typical guitar speaker. As a result, fizzy  highs and muddy/ boomy lows are a common complaint. Additional EQ, specifically high and low cuts, will be essential, and will vary depending on the amp model in use, and the overall sound you're after. 100-120 Hz on the low end,  and starting around 6KHz (sometimes lower) for the highs, are common "ballpark" places at which to start.

 

There can be a steep learning curve at the beginning,  but the sounds are in there, but it will take time. A couple or three days with it won't cut it.  

 

Try watching some of the YouTube tutorials mentioned above...Jason Sadites videos are excellent and should get you started.

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It's not gonna work. You should probably just send it to me and I'll take care of it. 

 

In seriousness, though, when you play through studio monitors or an FRFR rig you have to keep in mind that you're modeling what is basically an entire recording chain, so the "feel" you get is comparable to recording with your amp in another room, mic'ed up, and played back through the monitors in the control room. In that situation you're interaction between the amp and guitar are also limited, and I feel the signal chains reflect that feel/lack of it. Some people will just never connect with playing guitar that way, as the visceral interaction of a guitar speaker in the room is part of how they play and is necessary for proper enjoyment. Before you give up on the modeling (which many feel is excellent) try running it into the return of a regular amp or a power amp/cab and see how it "feels". Maybe the whole "studio tone in a box" thing doesn't work for you and your enjoyment. But if there is one thing I know, whether its Helix, Axe FX, Kemper, or even cheaper/older modelers...if it doesn't SOUND good, its rarely, if ever, the gear's fault.

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What everybody else said...

 

When I first plugged in my Helix - it sounded disappointing too! But not anymore. Playing dynamics are spot on using the JTM45, Trem and Plexi models typically at middling settings, not  dialled to melt. Main guitar has low-wind boutique PAF clones and Hx captures every nuance.

 

There is a learning curve, but the payoff is as advertised. I may be perverse, but I actively enjoy tinkering with Hx and mining ever-better tones out of the thing. It's a gift that keeps on giving and no mistake.

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Plugging into a preset that doesn't sound like crap, whether one of the presets on the Helix, or the Custom tone site, or purchased from someone you've seen on the net - without a pretty good deal of tweaking - is like winning the lottery.  It's been my experience that the Helix (and other digital modeling interfaces) is way more sensitive to varying pickup outputs than traditional amp setups.  I pretty much have to have a different version of a preset for every guitar I own.   That said, I'm currently in the process of selling practically everything else I own except for a small pedalboard and one amp so guests can play when visiting.  I can assure you, you haven't spent a 3 place decimal fraction of the time and trouble learning to work with your new Helix as you have with your analog system.  Don't give up so easily.  They are not the same in their initial approach.  Lastly, I don't know what kind of monitors your using, but you may also need to back up your Helix with something else, or trying 4 cable method with your amp (the latter of which I find to be counter-intuitive for my purpose).

 

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Along with all of the prior advice, make certain to consider your input levels: as an EMG user, I had much better results after adding input padding and lowering the impedance.

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Jon - I could have said virtually the identical things when I first got my Helix in early 2017.  I agree with everyone else and simply encourage you to take a little time before you give up.  Maybe the Helix isn't for everyone, but I went from where you are to it being the most critical piece of equipment I have.  I looked back at my early posts and I'd say it took me about two weeks of being on this forum and watching videos, experimenting, etc., to get a tone I loved.  And I can say that my tone evolved significantly over the next 6 months and now still evolves, just a little slower.

 

 

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Just  checking but did you select amp/cab and not just amp when creating your presets. I only ask because you say you are brand spanking new to this.

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Jason Sadites' Helix tutorials really helped me in getting better sounds.  There are lots of gems in all his videos that would not have occurred to me otherwise and changed the way I think when I create new patches.  I definitely wouldn't give up based off of what the factory presets are showing.

 

Hope it works out for you.

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I playthough a Line6 Firehawk 1500 amp and I can say it feels fine and sounds fantastic.

Just like having an amp in the room. Of course, ther IS an ampp in the room!

 

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If you've put all of the effort you are willing to put into it to get a good sound and don't like it, send 'er back.  There are literally thousands of combinations of digital amps/preamps/effects/speakers, outboard generation of sounds, guitars, outboard gear when using the Helix.  Possibly - inside that giant mountain of choices - the sound/feel you like is there.  But, life's short.  If you're unwilling to dig that much, and like what you already have, goodonya'!

 

Line 6 is fine with it, considering you're happy with one of their other products - a Yamaha modeling amp.

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