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ziggz

A Journey adapting to the Helix Rack.

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Hello y'all! I am new to the world of Digital Sound. I am a veteran here in my local music scene. I'v played through a Mesa Boogie F50 and Laney GH50 for the last 14 years. Using different setups from rack to floor fx setups. Like many on this forum I've gigged extensively, have written and have recorded many a track and tune. I took a break for the last 5 years. I stepped back in a year ago through a couple friends who wanted an EP produced, which I am hoping both will be complete within the next few weeks.

The reason I decided on Helix and to enter the world of digital sound are many. One it's where the market is progressing towards. 2. I needed to hear and feel the difference myself as a guitar player. 3. I am hoping to be venturing in to my creative disc in the coming weeks after I finish said artists production. So, I thought maybe this unit will offer some inspiration. Finally I decided this against the KEmper, Axe and Headrush. For the money my research found this unit is a solid overall machine for the value. We'll see.

I purchased the Helix rack, the controller and a Headrush power cab a few days ago. I am waiting on the power cab. Since my purchase I have started a journal documenting my journey with the machine.

I thought I'd post the journey here in hopes to A) Meet some incredible people, musicians and creative talent. B) Learn something from the community and finally C) If I can offer help that would be cool too.

With this said; Please chime in, offer anything such as direction, feedback and ETC. I'm here to be a part of everyone's creative journey as I frolic through my own. Cheers. 


Below is my Journey through Day 1 through 3 with a couple pics.

 

Day 1: Not impressed with the machine, but all I have played through are the presets it came with, and I'm running through a pair of JBL 2300's. I'll need to create some patches using it as my source.

Day 2: 

      Helix update: Jumped on it this morning after beginning my fun diet of smoothies, boiled eggs and tuna. (I have officially acknowledged that my age dictates my weight. Therefore I must fight the battle of aging so that I may live longer, play more and do all of our favorite thing to do... How can I say this politically correct? Headboard against wall.

 1f609.png;)

     So back to subject at hand. My goal with this machine is to emulate a tube amp's characteristics. Such as touch response, harmonic clarity, string articulation, textures of gentle compressed lows, warm mids and pleasant highs. While offering that 3d visual one gets when listening to a tube amp. So out of the box the Helix is very very digital sounding. There is no love out of the box for an experience player. However, the interface is very intuitive. There are a few parameters that are new to me. Such as Sag, Ripple, Bias along with a couple more options. These are suppose to control an amps "characteristics". They do, but ummm.... Not as noticeable as one may think.
 

    What I have found is like in music production a little goes along way when one is mixing. Same goes for the Helix rack or it seems.
   For example:

    Right now I am using the emulation of an Bogner Shiva connected to its Uberkab 4x12 loaded with V 30's. This has a high gain and dark sound from the get. I have a Ribbon 121 mic 8.5" away from the grill giving it about 30% of room ambience. Initially it sounded good, but nowhere near the goal I'm looking to obtain.
 

The first thing my ears notice were harsh grainy highs and muddy lows. (Remember my source. I am pushing the Helix through a pair of JBL 2300 studio nearfields. They are loaded with a 5" wolfer and 1" tweeter. A guitar cabinet is at least a 12" speaker. So, I am asking a lot out of the JBL's. I basically want the Helix to come across as a well mic'd 4x12 cabinet. Think about this, I want it to sound like 4 12" speakers out of 2 5" speakers. I am pushing the Helix. ;)
 

    After eq'ing and compressing with emulated gear such a LA Studio Compressor, the MXR 10 band EQ, a low and high filter along with a noise gate. Spending about a half hour on it by figuring how each parameter, and piece of emulated gear react with each other. I have come very close to the sound being acceptable. Almost there.
 

    If I can reach what my ear is asking for I'll post a video of it if you're interested in listening. I'm learning a tune from Metallica called "and Justice for All" I believed they used Mesa Mark IV's on that LP, but I decided to use the Bogner. Which is probably a fault since my ear is accustomed to that Mesa sound. Either way I started with the Bogner so I'll finish with Bogner. 

    Day 3: 
;) 3rd Day with the Helix. Today I am running it through my recording rig. It's a modest set up with a couple Focusrite 18i20's and Pro Tools.

I recorded the patch I spoke of yesterday. An emulated Bogner Shiva with its 4×12 Uberkab. Thus far I am digging the tone. Both through the 5" JBL's and the recorded track through a pair of Tonnoy 6" nearfields. I'm still missing the touch response and 3D sound you can hear through a tube amp. I do not expect this unit to nail it. However I'd like to be able to feel as if I am playing through a tube amp. I'm sure some of this is physiological and a mental obstacle to I need to accept the LIne 6 Helix is what it is. 

   Today I am going to learn the cool features Sag, Ripple, Bias and ECT. Hoping to find that "touch response" I'm looking for. I know this will not nail a tube amp, but I'm sure I can get close, or am I asking to much.  
 

Today my goal is to find it.

Below are pics of my modest jam room/studio, the axe I am using to workout my first patch and the patch I've started to build.

Rig with Jackson.jpg

Snapshot.jpg

Studio.jpg

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Keep going! It's worth it. I know you mentioned you were experimenting with EQ and high and low cuts, but definitely keep going with the cuts. I find that I have to be pretty aggressive to get it to sound right through a nice pair of speakers. Usually low cut up to about 120 Hz and high cut all the way down to 7.3 kHz. Makes a huge difference in the fizziness. Once I go in the DAW I might cut even more than that, honestly. Just depends. I actually really like that Uber V30 cab with the 409 mic, but I go for more aggressive sounds and am not real keen on dark sounds, so that probably makes sense. Never really liked the ribbon mics, honestly.

 

You might also want to mess with IRs if you haven't. I've been going back to stock cabs more recently, but IRs are a good way to add some "realness," for better or worse.

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I think you're asking a lot trying to nail all the typical performance characteristics you're used to after just a few days with the unit, particularly given the fact that you've never really been deeply involved in digital modeling until now.  There are a couple of things that may help in your approach.  I know they helped me a lot when making the transition.  I get the sense we may have fairly similar backgrounds in that I've been playing live and working in studios for several decades so we may share certain common experiences.

First, the Helix or any modeler for that matter, is far more like working in a studio environment than in a live environment.  As you probably know the live sound you achieve in a studio through a guitar amp, is not commonly what shows up in the recording.  A lot of the general ambience characteristics go away once you mic and capture the guitar on a recording.  So rather than targeting the live ambient sound approach it's easier if you approach it like you're producing the finished recorded sound live, because that's essentially what the modeling approach is.  You're constructing a finished production signal chain that will produce consistent sound on a recording as well as live rather than the process of converting the live sound to a recorded sound.

 

That being the case cabinets/IRs and mic'ing are much more important in producing the finished sound you're after.  You'll hear a lot of talk about EQ high and low cuts, which can and are sometimes very important.  But that also can produce a much more synthetic sound than having the right cabinet combination and mic'ing combination to begin with.  There are many cases in which I don't need to apply any cuts if I get the right combination of cabs and mic setups.  When I do need cuts they're very often very slight.  Only rarely do I need to apply high cuts below 10Khz in my patches for example, and most of my EQ notches tend to be in common EQ areas around 500Hz, 4.2KHz, or 8.0KHz as they have been in studio recordings over many decades.  Your time getting familiar with the different combinations of speakers and mic'ing arrangements will pay off ten fold over simple EQ manipulation in my opinion.  My experience tells me you can achieve all of these things with either stock Helix cabs or with IR's.  I personally prefer IR's because of their convenience and the availability of some fairly common pre-baked mic'ing setups available in most collections.

Another important consideration is that the Helix can only sound as good as your output device allows it to be.  I use Yamaha HS7 speakers and DT770 80 ohm headphones for my studio work and Yamaha DXR12 or QSC CP8 powered speakers for live work.  In the area of speakers it's the same as it's always been as far back as I can remember.  You get what you pay for.

Lastly patience and knowledge are the BIGGEST part of getting what you want out of the Helix or any modeler.  I'd HIGHLY recommend spending some time looking at any of Jason Sadites YouTube videos on dialing in amps as he very good at going over the key elements of getting very polished and professional sounds out of a wide range of the Helix amp models.

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Dragon,

   Thanks for your feedback. After working with it today I found that the cab and mic'ing combination is crucial to a sound one is after. I also learned a bit about the sag, bias and bias x and how they interact with mic'ing and cab combinations. It seems the amp one chooses is just a starting point which one can choose any amp and go anywhere with it tonally depending how one adjust it. At least that's what I have found thus far.

   This unit is primarily going to be used in a studio environment. I tend to work with it for a bit before I throw in the towel. As it stands today. It lays well in a daw and it is very easy to adjust to taste in a mix. I'm pretty impressed. I'll probably keep it after what I heard today.  

  Thanks again.

 

   

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Day 4 which will be a short day working with the Helix due other commitments. Life ;) Thanks to Dragon and Ng, I've applied their recommendations and thus far I am getting closer.  By adding a bit of simple delay, and having the mic distance and early reflection interact with each other. I have been able to manipulate an "in the room" cab feel. The lower register has begun to round out while keeping string articulation. The higher register is still sounding a little flat and plastic, or synthetic.  I have no doubt I'll figure it out.

This machine is incredible. I have only begun to understand what is under it's hood. 

After figuring out how to touch up the higher register. I need to figure out how to load IR's. When I import the IR's the Helix does not upload them. Any help would be good.  Thanks.

 

  Cheers.

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2 hours ago, ziggz said:

Day 5: Fixed the bug in Helix concerning loading IR's. 

 

I've gone back and forth with IR's vs. the stock cabs... currently using a mix of both, depending on the patch. Overall, if you find an IR or three that you like, they're a bit less work than having to play around with mic choice, distance, early reflections, etc... as all of that is "baked in" each IR. So either you like it or you don't. The only rub is auditioning a bunch of IR's gets tedious.... on the other hand, you only have to do it once. 

 

Both approaches will work in the long run... theres nothing "wrong" with either one. Happy hunting! 

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Cruisinon,

   I downloaded some IR's and liked a couple, but for the moment the stock cabs are working well for me. I just built my first patch that I like as a clean channel. I'm beginning to get a handle on this machine. My concern was being able to to catch a real feel and dynamic sound. in the past with modelers I've tried such as the earlier Line 6 gear and Axe Ultra. It always seemed I was fighting to play more so than relaxing with the touch response. Thus far with this unit I'm able to get really close. Then again with this units intuitiveness and layout. I never thought of adding a smidge of delay to create space on the cab block along with a bit of pitch to formulate a harmonic tone one hears through a tube amp cab combo. It's a very cool unit. Today I'm going to put my distortion pedals in front of it. I'm not to crazy about the emulated distortion pedals the Helix offers, yet.  

I need to figure out what a "snapshot" is? Does it mean it takes a snapshot of the patch that you can save and reference back to later? Reloading its pramarters like a saved patch? 

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17 minutes ago, ziggz said:

Cruisinon,

   I downloaded some IR's and liked a couple, but for the moment the stock cabs are working well for me. I just built my first patch that I like as a clean channel. I'm beginning to get a handle on this machine. My concern was being able to to catch a real feel and dynamic sound. in the past with modelers I've tried such as the earlier Line 6 gear and Axe Ultra. It always seemed I was fighting to play more so than relaxing with the touch response. Thus far with this unit I'm able to get really close. Then again with this units intuitiveness and layout. I never thought of adding a smidge of delay to create space on the cab block along with a bit of pitch to formulate a harmonic tone one hears through a tube amp cab combo. It's a very cool unit. Today I'm going to put my distortion pedals in front of it. I'm not to crazy about the emulated distortion pedals the Helix offers, yet.  

I need to figure out what a "snapshot" is? Does it mean it takes a snapshot of the patch that you can save and reference back to later? Reloading its pramarters like a saved patch? 

 

Think of snapshots as different states of a given patch.  One state may be the clean version.  Another state may be the crunch version or the lead version.  The snapshot simply allows you to capture which blocks are enabled or disabled and the settings that are being used within the blocks in that patch so it can be recalled at any time.  Because all blocks remain loaded and the only their states change there's no overhead like there is in changing patches, but you have the upper limit of blocks and DSP usage within the patch using snapshots.

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I've figured out by using its stocked cabs  (Today I picked the 25 watt Greenback). If I add a splash of mono delay, then dress it with a tiny amount of an octave pitch this will give a full sounding harmonic tone out of the speaker. We are talking very tiny amounts of fx on the cabs. Then if I mix the cab mix with a 121 Ribbon mic facing about 1.5" off the speaker, and then give it a bit of room ambience. I have emulated an "amp in the room" sound. Very very cool.

Today I am attempting to capture the tone off ...And Justice for All. Using the "cab block" I just created. Then route it to the Cali 4 Amp I created. (Which is another process figuring out how to capture a nice touch response and tone out of it) Within the last hour I have damn near captured the clean tone that is heard on the LP. I'm moving pretty quick around this machine.

I'm thinking (as I also do 1f609.png;) All I have left to figure out is the solo on the tune and I may use the song as an instructional video or make two videos. Not sure yet, but I thought I could record the tune, create an instructional video mixing it and also create an instructional video how I captured Kirk and James's tones on the Helix. Maybe make an instruction video how to play it, but I am sure by now there are a few videos already up and would be redundant. That may be cool? Still thinking about it. 

 

BW Jackson.jpg

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Helix: Today I learned about the machines power and it's limitations. Created a patch with 4 "Snapshots" each showing a specific modulating effect. This patch is meant to be use with an external distortion stomp box. Which in this case is my beloved Carl Martin Plexi-Tone.

The FX on this machine are good. They do not hold up to TC Electronic quality, but are decent. The FX in this unit sound adequate when set in Legacy mode.

Starting to understand how to route the FX and Modeling via Serial, Parallel and Stereo. It seems to run in Dbl Parallel and has an option to run stereo in 2 paths or Dbl stereo. Which I assume lessens the quality of its over all tone. Doubt I'll ever run it in Dbl stereo.

Still a cool unit.

Kit.jpg

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