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adamwhisner

Looking for legit acoustic sound with JTV59/Helix/Powercab

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Admittedly, I'm a little over my head with all of the functionality of the combination of my Variax, Helix, and Powercab. So many answers online get into the kind of detail that's just beyond my understanding. All I'm looking for is some noob help with dialing in a decent acoustic guitar sound for coffee shop gigs. Not looking to be shamed by people for whom the answer seems simple. It's not simple for me. I'm an old, former tube amp and 3 or 4 pedal guy just looking for a basic walkthrough. Surely there's a way to get the acoustic models in the Variax to play through the Helix and into the Powercab with a really legit sound that can sound acceptable in a duet scenario with another acoustic guitar player. Please help!

 

Cheers,

 

Adam

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4 hours ago, adamwhisner said:

Admittedly, I'm a little over my head with all of the functionality of the combination of my Variax, Helix, and Powercab. So many answers online get into the kind of detail that's just beyond my understanding. All I'm looking for is some noob help with dialing in a decent acoustic guitar sound for coffee shop gigs. Not looking to be shamed by people for whom the answer seems simple. It's not simple for me. I'm an old, former tube amp and 3 or 4 pedal guy just looking for a basic walkthrough. Surely there's a way to get the acoustic models in the Variax to play through the Helix and into the Powercab with a really legit sound that can sound acceptable in a duet scenario with another acoustic guitar player. Please help!

 

Cheers,

 

Adam

 

I really do have some tips here, but it's been too busy of a day for me to reply in detail. If no one beats me to it, I hope to reply tomorrow.

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Okay, so I'm away from my own setup at the moment so I can't reference it. I need to stress, every single thing I've ever done I ripped off wholesale from other people's ideas. It works though. If other people already figured it out no need to reinvent the wheel. Back when I was first trying to figure out the Variax, the first place I went was Line 6's own tips which was on their blog that sadly seems to be inactive now. Check this out:

 

https://line6.com/blog/1965

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Okay, now here's some more tips that I recommend considering and checking out, and then later on I hope to put one of my core presets that I use for the Stomp (again, largely ripped off from Line 6's acoustic Stomp presets) that I really like that won't be any trouble for your Helix. Okay, so here's my core tips, in order of importance:

 

1. IT ALREADY SOUNDS BETTER THAN YOU THINK. This is a core rule with the Variax and it is one that I still find myself, someone who obsesses far too much about perfection, reminding myself of even to this day. You see, the thing about the Variax is that it does not emulate the feeling of a performer playing an acoustic - it emulates the sound a listener hears listening to an acoustic. It emulates what a guitar sounds like if you record it with a microphone. If you have played traditional acoustic guitar for years then you've fallen in love and come to trust that experience. You don't just hear the sound that others hear, but you feel the guitar vibrating against you a certain way, and you hear it a bit different than everyone else - there's even a smell of your guitar if you notice, and a way that it responds in your hand - and ALL of that is gone. In its place, you do hear something - you hear the sound of an electric guitar being strummed and how THAT feels, and it's a very different experience - and to be honest it feels wrong.

 

That doesn't mean it sounds wrong to everyone else though. Especially if you mess around with other tunings on top of that with your Variax - it can be really disconcerting, but I've tested it time and time again with people, recordings, etc., and you have to come to trust yourself that the fact is the sound output is pretty dang convincing. 

 

Unfortunately the playing experience for you will never be the same, and you'll have to learn to live with that.  It's for this reason that as much as I love playing the Variax and as often as I use it for acoustic, I will still always return time and time again to a real acoustic because I adore the player experience of a traditional acoustic, even if the audience doesn't seem to care about the difference much if at all.

 

2. Check out some of the experts first. Peter Hamm is a regular poster here, and I think he really knows what he's talking about. I watched his videos right from the beginning. His are how to make an acoustic sound great through a Helix - but see my point number 1 above. You see, the way to make a Variax acoustic sound great through a Helix and a regular electric acoustic are actually the same thing:

 

3. Sometimes it's nice just to be lazy with a Variax. I know you are after mixing your Variax, Helix, and FRFR speaker, and it will work great, but often I just plug my Variax into my Stomp, and my Stomp into my favorite acoustic amp - and let the amp do most of the hard labor to get the Variax to the perfection I want it. Then I let the Stomp (or in your case the Helix) do the effects. This is my fave acoustic amp. Even better, sometimes it opens up ideas for your powercab oddly enough. It's not something you'll likely want to do right now, but someday in the future you may find yourself wanting to do a lazy way too.  There's a larger 120 version out there too, but it outputs great sound for a medium sized room, and makes the Variax sing pretty sweet. Plus it's on a crazy good sale right now:

 

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/amplifiers-effects/boss-acoustic-singer-live-60w-1x65-acoustic-guitar-amplifier?rNtt=acoustic

 

4. Finally, in terms of a Helix preset, - you can see largely what Peter did above. I tend to keep it even simpler though some of that is that I have fewer block choices. I'll share more on this when I can actually look at my Stomp's setting. Hopefully the above is enough to get you started though.

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I really do think less is more when it comes to the Variax acoustic models. I may put a little compression or EQ on them, but they sound fine on their own without any post-processing, really. I recorded this awhile ago, and I didn't have any block on in the Helix:

 

The main thing is the Variax acoustic models aren't going to sound like a typical acoustic/electric with a piezo pickup under the saddle and a preamp system. Even the best acoustic preamp systems have a piezo quack element that's inherent in the sound, and many acoustic players are simply used to hearing that come through. Sometimes they prefer to have some because it can cut through and project better. So it may just take getting used to what the Variax acoustics sound like.

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Thanks for sharing this Phil, and it's an excellent example of what I was trying to explain.  The above recording has nothing on it at all - and yet listening to it, if I had never been told it was a Variax, I would have assumed it was a regular acoustic.

 

However, if myself, and I bet the original poster adamwhisner, had been playing it ourselves, we would have had nagging voices in our head saying, "This doesn't sound right, I need to tweak this . . "

 

That's because the player experience does not sound or feel at all like what a real acoustic guitar player experience is like - but the audience has no clue.

 

As long as you care more about what the audience experiences than yourself, the Variax will be exactly what you want.

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I have been hunting for this and finally found it. This is another well known Helix user that I turned to when I first got my Variax. I didn't have a Helix, but I tried to mimic it as close as I could with the Firehawk and felt like it got good results. Then when I got my Stomp I was able to mimic what he did because similar to Phil, he's a less is more guy, and I tend to agree:

 

 

One thing, where I don't have a full blown Helix I was never able to utilize much of the last portion of his video despite how useful it looked - but you can use it so that should be helpful too. It's awesome how with the push of a switch you can swap out Variax guitar models.

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Thank you SO much for this detail! Above and beyond.

 

I appreciate the tips about expectations. I used my Variax with a Spider V amp for a theatre gig, but that amp had acoustic amp models built in. With a little tweaking, I was able to dial in some acoustic tones that were so good and audience member came up to me afterward and asked when I pulled out an acoustic, because he didn’t remember seeing one.

 

The thing is, I only used the speaker in the Spider V for onstage monitoring, and sent the signal to the house PA. I ended up selling the Spider because the in-room sound of the speaker was awful. The Powercab, even in flat FRFR mode sounds decent.

 

I had to learn how to change my string attack on the Variax to get the right sound when using acoustic models, and that’s actually been fun. I don’t really need spot on tone - it’s the versatility of the guitar I love - I just need to be able to flip between electric and acoustic sounds and not have it be jarringly “digital-y.” There’s a Line 6 pro who does a YouTube demo of the Variax acoustic sounds, and it’s insanely good, but you read later that the signal is going through processors and other pro gear and then Pro Tools. I need the most basic, easy-to-navigate Variax>Helix>Powercab set up.

 

With the Helix, which doesn’t have acoustic amp models that I’m aware of, I didn’t even know you could run a signal chain without an amp model. That’s the kind of beginner level info I need. If I play with some of the settings in the examples you provided, I’m confident I can find something that’s going to sound great.

 

Thanks for taking the time to help me out!

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Wow! Great tips ... lots of detail. I know what I’ll be working on this evening. :)

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