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jyafink

Can I use with a tube amp or do I need a FRFR cabinet?

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I have a Mesa Boogie Mark IV combo which my son has taken over.  He wants a bunch of effects.  I am an old school analog guy who played in bands in the 80's but these new digital processors have come a long way.  Rather than buy him the 6 effects he wants for $1,000.00 I would much rather buy him a Helix.  However, having to buy FRFR cabinets is an added expense.  So, could I run a Helix through a tube amp or is it really designed to work best with a FRFR cabinet?

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54 minutes ago, jyafink said:

However, having to buy FRFR cabinets is an added expense.  So, could I run a Helix through a tube amp or is it really designed to work best with a FRFR cabinet?

 

An FRFR allows you to get the absolute MOST out of the Helix, but that doesn't mean you can't use it with an existing amp. If you run the Helix in 4 cable method with an amp you are open to many options... including the use of the Helix PRE-AMP's (marshalls, vox, matchless, etc... etc...) when you aren't running the pre-amp from the Boogie. 

 

The one thing you will want to avoid (generally speaking) are the cab/mic simulations in the Helix... although experimenting to see what happens is not against the law :) 

 

Check out this demo of the Helix by Pete Thorn.... in this track he uses the Helix is almost every conceivable manner, then breaks down each track with how he does it. Some of the tracks use amps, some are direct, etc... etc...  (NOTE: it goes into more depth for recording with load boxes, and IR's... but you don't need that part when playing live) 

 

At 14:20 he is demonstrating the 4 cable method I mention above.... 

 

 

 

 

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The answer is both.

 

It runs best simply because of what an FRFR cabinet is (essentially it allows it to sound like whatever is put into it - which allows the modeler to sound the closest to what it's modeling).

 

With that said though, I 100% recommend that you're better off buying a Helix over 6 (and likely to grow) separate effects pedals.  The Helix does a fantastic job of effects, and that has nothing to do with an FRFR. It will do the effects as well or better with a Mesa Boogie IV as a singularly effects pedal will with the same Mesa Boogie, or any other amp.

 

The FRFR equation has more to do with the amp/cab modeling choices, which in this case you don't need, but in later years he may find useful. Who knows, maybe next year he'll get a FRFR cabinet.

 

The point is in the long run, you'll get WAY more bang for your buck, and future proof him far more, getting a Helix.

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Yes. You'll probably want to use the "4 cable method" so that you can choose which effects go before the amp and which go in the effects loop of the amp.

 

Guitar>REAL PEDALS>HXFX Input>HXFX OD,Dist, etc>Send Return1 Block>HXFX Send1>Amp Input>Amp FX Send>HXFX Return1>HXFX Delay, Reverb, etc>HX Output>Amp FX Return
 

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I'm surprised no-one has suggested the obvious. 

If you are planning FRFR in the  future, or thinking a lot of recording, the Helix is a good choice. 

However, if you plan on using it for FX with the amp, and want to keep using an amp, the HXFX is the better choice. 

It's all the effects without the amps and cabs. 

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I'm agree with Rvroberts,

if your son only plays with the Mesa Boogie, he won't need the other capabilities of Helix devices (a helix FX is sufficient).

If he wants to play with the changing of amp modeling (play on a fender, a marshall, etc...), you can pick up a stomp, a LT or the floor....and a FRFR to have the changing of cab simulation....

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Also there's the one cable method, plug the Helix into the FX return of the amp! 

 

That's how I use mine most of the time. 

 

Craig 

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5 hours ago, SteveFrance said:

I'm agree with Rvroberts,

if your son only plays with the Mesa Boogie, he won't need the other capabilities of Helix devices (a helix FX is sufficient).

If he wants to play with the changing of amp modeling (play on a fender, a marshall, etc...), you can pick up a stomp, a LT or the floor....and a FRFR to have the changing of cab simulation....

 

4 hours ago, CraigGT said:

Also there's the one cable method, plug the Helix into the FX return of the amp! 

 

That's how I use mine most of the time. 

 

Craig 

 

While true that he only NEEDS the effects if he ONLY uses the MB, the full Helix (Floor or LT) gives him the ability to use ALL the Helix Preamps AND effects by going one cable to the MB.

 

EVEN BETTER - 4 cable allows him to do both - a single preset could SWITCH between the MB Preamp and any of the Helix Preamps. Plus 8 snapshots (scenes). Plus grab and go to recording sessions/jams/gigs - no heavy amp or separate Audio Interface required.

 

It's all about possibilities and, of course, what you can afford! 

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Yeah, it's absolutely true that the HX Effects is a wonderful choice if effects are primarily what you're after.  However, both are expensive devices, and I assume the fact that you're considering a Helix indicates it's already in the budget. 

 

One thing that would suck is to blow $600 bucks on a HX Effects and suddenly realize you're longing for a Helix. The Helix does it all - the HX Effects does a little less than half of what the Helix does (fewer effects at once, fewer routing possibilities, no amps, less purpose for IRs). Core things to consider that give a full Helix an advantage:

 

1. The Helix can do whatever the HX Effects can do effects wise.  It can also do MORE effects wise, with more routing options, etc.

 

2. The Helix is also a wonderful late night bedroom practice session set, which the HX Effects is not. Your son wouldn't need to even whip out the big ole amp, he could simply plug a pair of headphones into the Helix and experiment with all kinds of amps and effects, potentially even finding other amps he'd like in the future.

 

3. FRFR speakers aren't THAT expensive anymore, and so one year from now he may love the Helix's amp choices so much (as discovered playing over headphones) that he'd love a FRFR speaker that following year to take full advantage of the Helix. This won't happen with an HX Effects.

 

The HX Effects is a wonderful effects machine, but I would only strongly recommend it to someone who is absolutely married to their trusty tube amps AND married to an existing pedal board. It doesn't sound like your son is necessarily married to only using the Boogie for the rest of his life, and he clearly doesn't already have a pedal board he is hoping to integrate it into, and for that reason I'd recommend a Helix.

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I have been listening to Youtube videos in my office about various units and will most likely go with the Helix.  Yes, the cost of it is not that big of deal for me.  Most everyone seems to prefer the Fractal system for sound quality but I and my son are not ones who want to spend a lot of time tinkering with things to get it to sound good and it appears the Fractal requires a lot of time.   Headrush also seems to be a good sounding unit so I am checking out videos on that one today too.  Someone further suggested a Boss GT-1000 but I have researched that and it seems that most everyone prefers other units over that one.  I don't like that the HX Effects has no display.  All of this is a tough decision for me because the Mesa Boogie Mark IV was such a big part of my youth in the 80's when I used to play in bands.  It is such a classic amp with sentimental value.  I used to be a hardcore analog pedal guy also but that was 20 or more years ago when all digital stuff was junk.  But, when listening to current analog v. digital effects videos I almost always get it wrong and cannot tell the difference.  It seems that most pros can't tell the difference either.   So, unless someone recommends another brand of unit to check out I will probably get the Helix and use it for the effects only now through the Mesa.  Once we have it relatively mastered I can then think about FRFR cabinets.  This plan would also give me time to wean myself from the Mesa although with an amp that good I can't imagine it will ever be completely retired.  

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On 12/18/2018 at 3:18 AM, rvroberts said:

if you plan on using it for FX with the amp, and want to keep using an amp, the HXFX is the better choice.

 

On 12/18/2018 at 10:38 AM, SteveFrance said:

if your son only plays with the Mesa Boogie, he won't need the other capabilities of Helix devices (a helix FX is sufficient).

 

To offer another perspective: From a performer's and pedal lover's point of view I disagree. My Helix serves pretty much als a big pedalboard for my tube amps, having replaced a 12HE rack with loads of pedals, two TC 19" units and a midi looper/switcher - I don't use any amp modeling or speaker simulation. Never. For someone who wants six pedals to start with the HXFX might be too small too soon - it is limited to a maximum of 9 DSP blocks, and in the worst case that would include the FX loop for the 4CM, right?

 

Also (and that's the performer's view) the HXFX might have too few footswitches if you want to use it in stomp mode and want/need to control a multichannel amp as well as the effects. Also for me the 4 stomp / 4 snapshots mode is the best marriage between controlling stomps and playing preset (or in this case snapshot) based. The Helix offers enough DSP power to be a really nice, big pedalboard, and enough stomp switches to enjoy that, too.

 

Things you need to consider before you "settle" for the HXFX. Getting the Helix is not wasting money just because you don't use the amp modeling. It's much more than "just" amp modeling and well worth it for the other stuff.

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Another option worth serious consideration is picking up an X3 Live or HD500 for very little $.These have lots of very cool effects and extremely usable sounds to run through the Boogie.

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Line 6 HX effects is like $450 used in excellent shape on GC site right now. Just FYI. Less than half the cost of all the pedals and you can get GC coverage. 

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Thanks to all who responded.  I bought the Helix, and after playing with it for a while I have come to the conclusion that almost every sound it makes is colored by the sound of the Mesa, or more likely, the 4x10 Marshall celestion speaker cabinet the Mesa is running through.  That is not necessarily bad, but as others have said it does not allow you to experience the Helix at its full potential.   So, its now time to research FRFR systems.  Back to Google and Youtube because Guitar Center and Sam Ash are worthless.  It's always best to hear things in person but as you know going to those music stores is a horrible experience these days.  If anyone has any thoughts about the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus let me know, otherwise I'm sure I will find plenty of opinions about FRFR on other forum postings.  

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2 hours ago, jyafink said:

Thanks to all who responded.  I bought the Helix, and after playing with it for a while I have come to the conclusion that almost every sound it makes is colored by the sound of the Mesa, or more likely, the 4x10 Marshall celestion speaker cabinet the Mesa is running through.  That is not necessarily bad, but as others have said it does not allow you to experience the Helix at its full potential.   So, its now time to research FRFR systems.  Back to Google and Youtube because Guitar Center and Sam Ash are worthless.  It's always best to hear things in person but as you know going to those music stores is a horrible experience these days.  If anyone has any thoughts about the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus let me know, otherwise I'm sure I will find plenty of opinions about FRFR on other forum postings.  

 

Well, I am just going to admit straight up that the longer I'm alive the more I get pulled into Line 6's ecosystem. I dipped my toe in at first, found the water pleasing, and keep getting in deeper with each passing year. I like how all of their products are great on their own, but are built to build upon each other so that you get even more use out of them when combined.

 

So in regards to the Powercab 112, it's my favorite of the FRFR speakers. There's a number of things I like about them. First and foremost, the flat response is great, which is exactly what most people are seeking. However, unique to the Powercab is the cab modeling they included, which I felt sounded awesome and was a welcome addition. When used, you may find it sounds better in some situations than just a flat response, and it conserves DSP (which on the Helix may not be too huge a deal, but for Stomp users like me it is a plus). Other FRFR cabinets won't have that option. I also like that it has an L6 link (at least the plus does) so that SOMEDAY (it's entirely baffling this can't be done yet) the Helix ought to be able to control the cab choices on the Powercab. Until then, you can do it with Midi (again, on the plus) which is also a reasonable approach. Finally, it also has a low cut switch on there, which I've never used, but since the age of two on upwards switches are always cool in my book.

 

So yeah, that's the one I like. However, if I were to buy a budget FRFR it would be the Headrush one. It's a pretty solid deal, and quite a bit cheaper.

 

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/amplifiers-effects/headrush-frfr-112-2000w-1x12-powered-speaker-cab?pdpSearchTerm=headrush

 

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14 hours ago, jyafink said:

Thanks to all who responded.  I bought the Helix, and after playing with it for a while I have come to the conclusion that almost every sound it makes is colored by the sound of the Mesa, or more likely, the 4x10 Marshall celestion speaker cabinet the Mesa is running through.  That is not necessarily bad, but as others have said it does not allow you to experience the Helix at its full potential.   So, its now time to research FRFR systems.  Back to Google and Youtube because Guitar Center and Sam Ash are worthless.  It's always best to hear things in person but as you know going to those music stores is a horrible experience these days.  If anyone has any thoughts about the Line 6 Powercab 112 Plus let me know, otherwise I'm sure I will find plenty of opinions about FRFR on other forum postings.  

 

Unfortunately there's not a lot you can do when it comes to FRFR setups than to just directly try them out and see what best fits you.  The range of FRFR setups alone can make that a daunting task, but the one thing I think is important to bear in mind.  You just spent a considerable amount of money on a premium modeling unit so it doesn't make sense to try and save money on the audio output system since your ultimate sound will be so dependent upon it.

 

Personally I'm a big advocate of using professional level powered speakers as my output method.  By that I mean the same powered speakers used on most club level PA systems such as the Yamaha DXR or DBR series, the QSC K.2 or CP series, or comparable systems by Electrovoice and JBL.  Some of that is dictated by my experience working as a sound man in live productions, but some of that is also because it tends to be the most versatile setup for a range of situations.  All of these speaker systems have several things in common.  They're all bi-amp setups meaning they use two different amps to power the main speaker and the high frequency speaker separately providing a smooth and consistent transition between frequency ranges in a much more effective way than a simple crossover system.  More importantly they are equipped with their own DSP processing units that will allow you to contour the speaker response to the manner in which it's being used.  A classic example of this is when a speaker is used as a floor monitor it can have the effect of building up bass frequencies as it acoustically interacts with the floor.  Therefore all these speakers have a contour setting that will automatically adjust the speaker's response to address that situation and a different contour setting if the speaker is placed on a pole for live sound applications, as well as various other potential application settings.

 

In my case I set up my speaker on a half height pole behind me in a traditional backline setup.  Most of the time I use a Yamaha DXR12 speaker for medium to large situations and a QSC CP8 for smaller, more intimate situations.  There are several reasons for this.  These speakers are engineered in such a way that in a vertical setup they provide a consistent sound across a very wide angle of sound dispersion and a limited vertical angle of dispersion.  This ensures that sound energy doesn't get wasted by sending it into the ceiling and floor and therefore has much better projection across long distances.  With the way I set mine up in the backline the rest of the band is able to easily hear me and we can all blend better because of the wide dispersion and in the case in which the venue doesn't lend itself to putting the instruments through the PA, I still have the value of getting the same level of projection into the audience as if I were going through the PA.  As a side note I also use this same type of setup for the electronic drum kit when we use one for the same reasons.  Of course the primary reasoning behind all of this is to allow me to have confidence that the sound I'm hearing on stage is the same sound my audience is hearing through the PA.  I recognize it's not going to be a traditional amp cabinet sound but rather a studio quality sound, but that would be the case for the audience no matter what type of stage setup I had once it's been sent through the PA.

 

The powercab is a great design for addressing those that prefer to use a FRFR cabinet style setup and has many more features that some of the other FRFR cabinet style FRFR systems out there.  But again, this is a different type of choice than the style of FRFR I use and suits other purposes.  The principle advantage to these type of designs is they will give you a more traditional cabinet feel on stage than will the type of setup I use.  Ultimately they all end up being the same once they feed through the PA to the audience.

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