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Helix LT. Hiss while playing with real amp+cab


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Hi guys. Today I had rehearsal with my band and that was the first time I tried out my helix with the stack (Mesa dual rect + Mesa recto st). I'm pretty sure I hooked everything up in a correct way (guitar-helix input-1/4 out-amp's return). It sounded fantastic, but unfortunately I had a really strong disturbing hiss sound coming through while playing heavy distorted riffs, especially slow palm-muted parts (metal/hardcore setup) even though i had two noise-gates in the chain. In my helix preset I was using amp simulation (badonk) and double cab sim (Ownhammers IR's).


Can you help me out? There's smth I must be doing wrong



PS. English isn't my first language

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Hey man, so a few things here:

1) For best practice, take out the IRs out of your patches if you are playing with a real guitar amp w/cab. The reason for this is because you actually have a cab.

This is your signal chain: Badonk (helix amp sim) -> Cab IR (Ownhammer) -> MESA Effect Return -> Real Cab. You have a cab emulation running into a cab, this is redundant and this might cause an issue.

I would recommend Badonk (helix preamp sim) -> MESA Effect Return -> Real Cab. 

2) What worked for me is when using a real amp(return fx)/cab, use the pre-amp version of the amp in Helix. Use the Badonk pre instead of the Badonk amp.


  • Reason: Using the Badonk amp emulation simulates also the power amp section of the amp. The Badonk pre amp is just the preamp and bypasses the poweramp section therefore, the poweramp is not emulated. What you want to do is use the pre-amp Badonk emulation in Helix. Since you are bypassing the preamp of your MESA by going into the return of your amp, and using your MESAs REAL power amp, you don't want to have a full amp emulation since that will create a redundancy for both the emulated power amp and your real MESAs power amp. We want to reduce redundancies (like the cabs in tip #1).

Personally (and again the recommendation is subjective), I use the "full amp" version of the emulation through my Vox return when I play at low volumes (bedroom level) but whenever I jam out with a band or gig at high volumes, it is always on "pre amp" version of the emulation in my effects return of my real amp. The reason for this is because at low volume levels, your real amps power amp isn't getting pushed, so you can emulate a "pushed" power amp with the helix and will sound great. At high volumes with power amp emulation I find there's some sort of "fake aritifact-ish over-saturated sound" and doesn't work for me and my gear. So you may need to create different versions of the same patch depending on the situation (recording, live, low level jam, 4cm, etc).

3) Signal chain.

This is especially important for heavy music. What I do for a heavy distorted sound is Guitar ->  Hard gate (settings to taste) -> Overdrive (Gain: 1-2*, Tone: 6-7*, Level: 7-9*) -> Amp (because your overdrive is pushing the amp harder, you wont need alot of distortion here I usually have the gain at around 3-5*, EQ to taste) -> Hard Gate (settings to taste, should be lighter than the first gate) -> (any other post amp effects). Learning the concept of gain staging with your gear (for heavy music) can go a long way to improve tone. Helix is the perfect learning tool for this. I would do some YouTube research on this.

Finding the right volume is important too. If you are plugging directly in the return, you need to make sure that the signal going in there is the same volume as if you were plugging your guitar directly in the front of the amp. Everything needs to be consistent and on instrument level, not line level.

*All numbers with * represents a scale of 1-10 on a setting. 1 = minimum, 10 = maximum.

4) Cables, Guitar, Pickups, and Tubes


  • Cables: Make sure your cables aren't cheap or damaged. Good quality cables go along way with high-end gear.
  • Guitar: Cheap guitars, are cheap. Bad pots, bad wiring can be an issue.
  • Pickups: Single coils are a big nono for this style. They naturally produce a 60hz hum and just having a light in the room, on a clean channel will cause a hum in your signal. Humbuckers are the way to go here for this kind of setup. Obviously the better quality humbucker you have the better they "buck the hum". If your pickup is passive, and your pickup is too close to your strings, you will run into feedback and muddy tone. With some internet research you can find the recommended pickup height for your guitar or pickup. 
  • Amp tubes (if applicable): If you have a tube amp, you need to ensure your tubes are in good health. Tubes that are about die don't sound very good...

5) Conclusion

Getting frustrated is part of the process because there is multiple factors to consider to fabricating your tone. Once you do it a few times, doing some online research on forums, it will come easy and you will truly know learn to know your gear inside out and creating a legendary tone will take you minutes.

Rock on! Hope this helps

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Really appreciate your feedback Sir! First 2 tips are really essential for a beginner like me. I have a decent guitar and cables, also some experience in building the signal chain, so I guess it's all about stop using cabinet emulations with a real cab and start using a preamp instead of  "full amp" just like you've mentioned. It was all good when I was practicing at low volume with my 30watt combo amp, now I know the reason why... Anyways, I'll have another rehearsal in a week and see if the problem is fixed!

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Success. Today I finally tried it again and Helix was super quiet. No excess noise, no hiss. I went through different variations of settings and conclusion is never use amp emulation while playing loud with a tube amp (2 power amps at the same time produce all the redundancies). I used preamp version and everything worked out fine.


Thanks you, Chrisnich!

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