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don_kalaf

Helix LT with Sennheiser HD 600

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Hi all!

Short introduction: I own Helix LT and I love it to bits. I am, what you could probably call an average guitar player nowadays. I started playing 3 years ago, so I am relatively inexperienced. I play every day for my own pleasure, mostly blues and funk, and I do not gig. After I got helix I sold my tube amps and pedals (this is another typical thing about me, I think I know more about gear than actual playing the instrument, damn you YouTube!;-) ). Helix takes 10x less space, and my 'studio'/room does not transform into a sauna, as it was while playing tube amps.  I play through JBL LSR305 studio monitors, but I have to admit that although the sound is great, it does not feel like playing with an amp in a room. What convinced me to sell all my analog gear, was how good the Helix works with my headphones (Sennheiser HD 600), plugged directly into the Helix. I can play along songs, and backing tracks without any hassle, it sounds great, and I get good warm feeling when I hear myself playing alongside SRV or BB King. Playing through headphones feels really liberating, because I do not have to worry about disturbing my wife and my neighbours, I do not feel self-conscious about my playing, and I practice much more.     

 

Now, to the topic. I did not have any problems with setting up my Helix with two JBLs LSR305. For me, it sounds close enough to the tube Marshall and Fender amps that I sold. However, initially I had a lot of problems with setting up Helix with my Sennheiser HD 600 headphones. There was only a single CustomTone patch that worked for me with the headphones, called SRV Sauce. After close examination it turned out that it was because it was set up so that; 50% signal went through a guitar cabinet simulation, and 50% went through a loop that bypasses it. I love a clean blackface sound with a lot of treble, and I used to set up my Fender amp with treble at 8-10 and bass at 1-3. I found that for me; mixing a direct signal from the amp model in Helix, with the signal passing through the cabinet simulation; is the most important setting, that makes playing through Sennheiser HD 600 really natural and amp-like. This is mostly for clean/crunchy sounds (not for high gain), with low output vintage style pickups (both single coils and humbuckers). It sound much more natural, and amp-like, than when I pass 100% signal through the cabinet simulation, which sounds very muddy. 

 

My question is: is this because the headphone amplifier inside the Helix and my headphones work as kind of a cabinet? From what I understand Sennheiser HD 600 are not real monitors and they colour the sound. Or is this method more similar to what Nile Rodgers did with plugging straight into a desk?       

 

Sorry for the long post.

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On 9/14/2018 at 9:49 AM, don_kalaf said:

I understand Sennheiser HD 600 are not real monitors and they colour the sound

 

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/sennheiser-hd600

"If you are looking for a headphone capable of reference-quality monitoring and the open-backed characteristics are acceptable to you, then you will struggle to find anything better than the HD600"

If mixing some raw amp tone with the speaker cabs works for you, then good for you!  But the HD600s shouldn't be a factor - they're as close to reference monitors in headphone form as you're likely to get.  I've had a pair for nearly 20 years - I trust them absolutely.

 

Steve

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Have to concur.  The headphones aren’t likely the issue, so is it a matter of hearing your speakers in your room?  Room tone isn’t something you’re going to get out of the Helix because it’s intended to reproduce the mic’ed amp - not the sound of the amp in a specific listening environment.

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6 hours ago, arkieboy said:

 

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/sennheiser-hd600

"If you are looking for a headphone capable of reference-quality monitoring and the open-backed characteristics are acceptable to you, then you will struggle to find anything better than the HD600"

If mixing some raw amp tone with the speaker cabs works for you, then good for you!  But the HD600s shouldn't be a factor - they're as close to reference monitors in headphone form as you're likely to get.  I've had a pair for nearly 20 years - I trust them absolutely.

 

Steve

First of all, thank you for you replies.

I would like this to be more of a 'I am interested in what is happening' thread, rather than 'I have a problem'  thread. Off course this is all subjective, as always when discussing sound, especially given my inexperiece.

 

Maybe I should rephrase: to me and with my equipment, headphones colour the sound in a way that makes them less similar to a real cabinet, than studio monitors are with the same set up.  It could be due to a 'room sound vs headphones' issue, but it seems to me that, it is more due to compression and EQ of high mid and treble frequencies. 

 

I was wondering, if partially bypassing the cabinet simulation, is mostly affecting EQ, or is it much more complicated? My ears tell me that, amongst other things, there is some dynamic compression happening in the cabinet simulation, which makes them react differently at different gain levels, which makes sense. When I increase gain, the high frequencies become overpowering in the bypassed signal. But with a low gain or a light crunch it sound spot on. Maybe all the sound processing in the cabinet simulations is too strong for my ears with the headphones. But for some reason that is not the case with the studio monitors. Different IRs seem to have a similar effect, although sometimes to a lesser extent. 

 

I have been playing with multiple setting and IRs, following online tutorials and my ears, but mixing the signal still gives me the most amp-like sound (usually around 70-80% of a cabinet in a signal path) with my headphones. For a lack of a better word I would say that the sound feels more 'alive', when mixing in the bypassed signal. It is very likely that this is only me and my OCD, which is useful at my work, but becomes expensive issue with my hobbies.

It would be interesting to know what headphones were used by Line6 dev team during the product development phase.     

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Well it's pretty unlikely the Line 6 dev team will chime in with their headphone choice since modeling isn't really a headphone kind of thing.  It's a signal measurement on a circuit and a mathematical simulation calculation kind of thing, which is not an audio based process until it's finally QA'd.  You may be confusing modeling with sampling which are very different processes.  They may or may not use headphones in the final QA of the modeling development and maybe someone from the product side might be able to chime in about what they've seen in dev, but don't count on it.  I'm with what previous posters said...you have some very honest and accurate headphones, so what the Helix produces they will accurately reflect.  But your problem may be in what you're expecting to hear based on what you're comparing it to.

 

EQ is definitely affected in a number of ways by the cabinet/mic simulation as it is in real life with a real amp, cabinet and mic in the real world.  Microphones can have a certain limiter aspect to them simply to prevent a signal overload, but that's pretty subtle.  EQ, on the other hand is affected more prominently based on the type of mic, the placement of the mic relative to the speaker on the cabinet, cabinet resonance and room acoustic interaction, and finally the speakers being used in the cabinet which have their own unique frequency response characteristics.  All of these thing are simulated with both Helix cabs and IRs.  The type of mic can also have a significant affect on the signal as all mics have their own response characteristics.  That's why the most accurate captures tend to be with multiple mic mixes on a cabinet that combine various mics with different responses.  A popular example of that would be combining a Royer R-121 ribbon mic with a Sennheiser MD-421 dynamic mic.

 

As to why you prefer a mix of the raw amp signal with a cab, only you can answer that question.  But I suspect it's because you're comparing apples and oranges.  With a fully formed signal chain consisting of an amp and cab/IR, the only viable real world comparison is to either a studio recorded guitar and amp, or a live PA performance of a mic'd cabinet.  To get an accurate representation of a guitar amp setup in a room you would need to remove the cabinet and mic from the signal chain in the Helix and go directly from the output of the Helix into a simple power amp through an actual guitar cabinet.  That removes the EQ and limits imposed by the microphone on the cabinet.  Once you mic that cabinet for either recording or live performance through a PA, you're right back to all the sonic characteristics of a fully formed Helix signal chain.  One other thing that comes into play when making these type of audible comparisons is the Fletcher-Munson effect which deals with how the human ear translates sound at different volume levels.

 

What I can tell you in my personal experience of playing guitar for 5 decades and working both as a musician and live/studio recording engineer is I've totally abandoned traditional amps and no longer make any type of comparisons to a traditional amp in the room.  When I dial in my patches I only compare them to what I hear on professionally recorded guitars as that's what I want my audience to hear when I play.

  • Thanks 1

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40 minutes ago, DunedinDragon said:

Well it's pretty unlikely the Line 6 dev team will chime in with their headphone choice since modeling isn't really a headphone kind of thing.  It's a signal measurement on a circuit and a mathematical simulation calculation kind of thing, which is not an audio based process until it's finally QA'd.  You may be confusing modeling with sampling which are very different processes.  They may or may not use headphones in the final QA of the modeling development and maybe someone from the product side might be able to chime in about what they've seen in dev, but don't count on it.  I'm with what previous posters said...you have some very honest and accurate headphones, so what the Helix produces they will accurately reflect.  But your problem may be in what you're expecting to hear based on what you're comparing it to.

 

EQ is definitely affected in a number of ways by the cabinet/mic simulation as it is in real life with a real amp, cabinet and mic in the real world.  Microphones can have a certain limiter aspect to them simply to prevent a signal overload, but that's pretty subtle.  EQ, on the other hand is affected more prominently based on the type of mic, the placement of the mic relative to the speaker on the cabinet, cabinet resonance and room acoustic interaction, and finally the speakers being used in the cabinet which have their own unique frequency response characteristics.  All of these thing are simulated with both Helix cabs and IRs.  The type of mic can also have a significant affect on the signal as all mics have their own response characteristics.  That's why the most accurate captures tend to be with multiple mic mixes on a cabinet that combine various mics with different responses.  A popular example of that would be combining a Royer R-121 ribbon mic with a Sennheiser MD-421 dynamic mic.

 

As to why you prefer a mix of the raw amp signal with a cab, only you can answer that question.  But I suspect it's because you're comparing apples and oranges.  With a fully formed signal chain consisting of an amp and cab/IR, the only viable real world comparison is to either a studio recorded guitar and amp, or a live PA performance of a mic'd cabinet.  To get an accurate representation of a guitar amp setup in a room you would need to remove the cabinet and mic from the signal chain in the Helix and go directly from the output of the Helix into a simple power amp through an actual guitar cabinet.  That removes the EQ and limits imposed by the microphone on the cabinet.  Once you mic that cabinet for either recording or live performance through a PA, you're right back to all the sonic characteristics of a fully formed Helix signal chain.  One other thing that comes into play when making these type of audible comparisons is the Fletcher-Munson effect which deals with how the human ear translates sound at different volume levels.

 

What I can tell you in my personal experience of playing guitar for 5 decades and working both as a musician and live/studio recording engineer is I've totally abandoned traditional amps and no longer make any type of comparisons to a traditional amp in the room.  When I dial in my patches I only compare them to what I hear on professionally recorded guitars as that's what I want my audience to hear when I play.

 

Thank you for this amazingly detailed answer, and a sound advice. This is the answer I was looking for.

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1 hour ago, don_kalaf said:

 

Thank you for this amazingly detailed answer, and a sound advice. This is the answer I was looking for.

 

You're more than welcome.  My short answer is what I told the Bass player I worked with this weekend when he asked me why I don't use a regular guitar amp.  I answered, "Because it's 2018"......

 

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