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xmacvicar

Musings on Helix after 2 years of use (non gigging guitarist)

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Recently I went through a bit of a 'what should I play helix' through issue where I was torn up on switching to Studio Monitors vs. my L6 L3Ms, etc.....Long story short, I am keeping my L3Ms but I did get to experiment with some decent studio monitors. I have been playing electric since '96 and have been in bands here and there over the years - some gigging experience with a few bands (some on guitar, some on drums) but right now I am not actively playing with a band nor have I ever integrated a digital modeller into a live band playing situation.

 

When I tested some recording and using the studio monitors for audio referencing, it kind of became crystal clear; the stock presets which sound like lollipop through my L3M's at 'gig volume' fit almost perfectly in a recording mix with almost no adjustments! The Brit 2204 sounded like the real deal, not the swarm of usual bees, etc. I had this eureka moment - THIS IS WHAT IT WAS DESIGNED FOR. Honestly, I see this more so now as this brilliant little device whose main attraction and purpose is to fit into a recording mix, with ease, at any time and with little adjustment. I do also believe that none of this easily translates into a 'replacement for a traditional guitar amp' situation. Just hear me out.....

 

Don't get me wrong. I love the Helix. I am not dogging on it. But I think there are inherent challenges considering this as a device used to 'replace' a traditional amp. This thought is supported by the SHEER number of forum posts here, and on gearpage, which are constantly about 'how to level presets' or 'how do I make it sound like a real amp' or 'how do you get this thing to not sound buzzy" or "how can I get it to sound and feel like an amp in the room or (insert any other wealth of similar forum posts). I think at its heart, it is main purpose is NOT for this scenario and thats why we see alot of hesitation, or confusion about how it is adopted as a more 'traditional' rig (instead of a recording interface). To me, Line 6's greatest challenge in their product offering here is not providing more amps, or more fx or whatever, but educating guitarists on where this fits into their life. By design, I see it excel as a recording device. Making those presets sounds good, or real, or proper, at volume (and as the inevitable replacement of traditional guitar amps over time) is the greatest challenge.

 

Dont' flame me. haha.

 

 

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I think that's an interesting perspective, but I think Line 6 clearly markets it more as a performance unit with the recording aspect channeled more into Helix Native. 

 

I think the barriers you talk about with live performance has more to do with the human element. In other words, people have a hard time changing from the ways that they're used to doing them in. I have an uncle who to this day hates driving anything that isn't a stick shift, even though the fact is that a stick shift is now the less efficient and optimal way for any car to run. To him it just doesn't "feel right."

 

For me, the evidence of this comes from watching younger musicians who didn't grow up for decades in the traditional amp approach.  Like the younger crowd who has no problem with an automatic transmission "feeling right," the vast majority of them seem to have no problems or concerns gigging with units like the Helix, and indeed, seem to prefer them.

 

We won't know until it happens, but I suspect 50 years from now everyone will recognize that units like the Helix were the natural transition to the future. What will be interesting is when it becomes less about emulating old ways and adapts more to being the best version of what digital can be. 

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26 minutes ago, xmacvicar said:

Recently I went through a bit of a 'what should I play helix' through issue where I was torn up on switching to Studio Monitors vs. my L6 L3Ms, etc.....Long story short, I am keeping my L3Ms but I did get to experiment with some decent studio monitors. I have been playing electric since '96 and have been in bands here and there over the years - some gigging experience with a few bands (some on guitar, some on drums) but right now I am not actively playing with a band nor have I ever integrated a digital modeller into a live band playing situation.

 

When I tested some recording and using the studio monitors for audio referencing, it kind of became crystal clear; the stock presets which sound like lollipop through my L3M's at 'gig volume' fit almost perfectly in a recording mix with almost no adjustments! The Brit 2204 sounded like the real deal, not the swarm of usual bees, etc. I had this eureka moment - THIS IS WHAT IT WAS DESIGNED FOR. Honestly, I see this more so now as this brilliant little device whose main attraction and purpose is to fit into a recording mix, with ease, at any time and with little adjustment. I do also believe that none of this easily translates into a 'replacement for a traditional guitar amp' situation. Just hear me out.....

 

Don't get me wrong. I love the Helix. I am not dogging on it. But I think there are inherent challenges considering this as a device used to 'replace' a traditional amp. This thought is supported by the SHEER number of forum posts here, and on gearpage, which are constantly about 'how to level presets' or 'how do I make it sound like a real amp' or 'how do you get this thing to not sound buzzy" or "how can I get it to sound and feel like an amp in the room or (insert any other wealth of similar forum posts). I think at its heart, it is main purpose is NOT for this scenario and thats why we see alot of hesitation, or confusion about how it is adopted as a more 'traditional' rig (instead of a recording interface). To me, Line 6's greatest challenge in their product offering here is not providing more amps, or more fx or whatever, but educating guitarists on where this fits into their life. By design, I see it excel as a recording device. Making those presets sounds good, or real, or proper, at volume (and as the inevitable replacement of traditional guitar amps over time) is the greatest challenge.

 

Dont' flame me. haha.

 

 

 

The way we perceive sound is not at all tied to the source of that sound... it's simply a function of amplitude. Volume affects tone whether your rig is digital or not, and dialing in sounds you like at wildly different volumes is a challenge no matter what you're playing through. The fact that you find the factory presets usable at lower volumes is just dumb luck, and doesn't prove much of anything on a grand scale. I can't stand any of them no matter what volume they're played at...

 

As for the primary purpose of Helix, I'd have to say it's to enable you to bring an "album ready" tone into a live environment... why else would the hardware exist?  If all I wanted to do was record, I could have bought Native and an interface, and spent a fraction of the money. 

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My experience after 3 1/2 years of using my Helix both in the studio and live performance is exactly the opposite.  I use a Yamaha DXR12 for live performances and Yamaha HS7 studio monitors.  I design all of my patches using the DXR12, and occasionally bring those same patches over into the studio.  There may be a few very minor tweaks, but generally they all stay intact going from one environment to the other.  In fact we've make several multichannel recordings direct from the mixing board in live performances that needed no adjustment at all.

 

What this tells me is that you may simply be experiencing the differences between PA speakers and studio monitors which are very different by design.  I've never used an L3M but I do know there are different DSP settings that can be used depending on how you're using it or have it placed.  Some of this could be not having the L3M settings correct for how your using it.  However I suspect it has more to do with the way one listens to studio monitors and the way one listens to live music.  I doubt very seriously you've ever listened to a live performance positioned right in front of a PA speaker like you would a studio monitor.  The sound you hear in close proximity to a PA speaker is likely to be much more harsh than if you back away from it and give it some room.  That's normal because PA speakers are built for projection, which studio monitors are not.

When I'm setting up my patches for live use with my DXR12, I generally play them with my DXR12 at about torso height and I listen to them from different points in the room maybe 5 or 8 feet away, sometimes even turned to the side or with my back turned in order to get a feel for how they're going to sound on stage.  When I listen to those same patches through my studio monitors I'm sitting in an equilateral triangle of around 3 feet from each speaker with each of those speakers at roughly just around head height when I sitting down.

I think it's a huge error to make the determination that FRFR type speakers won't sound as good live as an amp given that an amp will most likely be miced and will eventually go through FRFR speakers.  In fact, I suspect you've never heard an amp in a live concert of any size.  You've heard a mic'd amp sent through a FRFR type speaker.

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True, but Helix came out way before Native. Not arguing with you, just saying! You could cite the existence of all the routing options as proof it wasn't just meant to be a recording device - I get that. I just feel like L6 ( or any company doing this digital stuff ) has as their biggest hurdle, having people learn how to create great tones for their environment. I just mean that in the sheer number of posts that exist about this - people struggling with getting a grip on it. I think thats why this is their biggest challenge - not pushing out new amp models, etc. I feel like there was not alot of education about this - I get thats not really Line 6's responsibility, but I wish there were more resources about what makes a good polished guitar signal without having to read through 3 years of forum posts. But...I am figuring it out!

 

Of course we are core users of the platform, we understand what it can do. 

 

I love the helix; as someone who grew up on traditional guitar amps and had every single combo possible between 1997 and 2017, I would say Helix has made me a 10x better guitar player than I ever was previously - I am more in tune with what makes a better guitar signal and I'm thinking about things like EQ and high/low cuts, and fitting into mixes and shaping my tone in a way I never even knew existed before. Before it was "PLUG INTO THIS AMP, CRANK IT, OMG THE TONES MAN". However, to add to this - I do feel like amazing tone is at the tip of my tongue but I often have a hard time getting it out. I think thats because I haven't used Helix in a true permanent application (ie - a real band). Going between Studio Monitors and FRFR speakers, and headphones, the tones are elusive because they are just different in every environment; it kind of makes it hard to 'nail down'. But I know they are in there....

 

 

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1 minute ago, xmacvicar said:

True, but Helix came out way before Native. Not arguing with you, just saying! You could cite the existence of all the routing options as proof it wasn't just meant to be a recording device - I get that. I just feel like L6 ( or any company doing this digital stuff ) has as their biggest hurdle, having people learn how to create great tones for their environment. I just mean that in the sheer number of posts that exist about this - people struggling with getting a grip on it.

 

 

It's true there are huge numbers of posts about people struggling to learn how to use their complex digital gear.

 

However, if you go over to places like the Gear Page you'll see there are, arguably, double or quadruple that number of posts about people struggling to know the best way to use traditional gear. The difference is perception. We interpret the digital examples as reasons why they're inferior to traditional gear, and the traditional gear examples as just part of the learning curve.

 

The truth is that both examples are just learning curve examples.  Playing music well, particularly on a performance level, has a huge learning curve regardless of the gear.  That's part of what should attract us to it. 

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This was a very interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Tom Abraham. He's a pro and worked with Alice In Chains and Metallica. His basic jist is that he has made patches (in this case he was using the Axe Fx) for a performer that sounded exactly the same as a performers tube amp setup by them selves but in a live mix with the Axe Fx instead of the miced amp, the guitar would disappear, even though it sounded exaclty the same on it's own. One more perspective from someone who has no loyalties to any modeller.

 

 

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I think it's entirely a player/personal thing. I HATED real amps when I started gigging because guitar cabs are not, for most part, very well designed speaker boxes. They're roughly the right size to hold an arbitrary number of high-sensitivity drivers that push the main fundamental frequencies of the instrument (again, for the most part) but they literally sound different in every room, they sound "bad" right up next to them if the sound is "good" in playing position a lot of times, and I was pretty much fed up to my eyeballs with buying gear/amps/EQs/distortion pedals/different speakers and spending time by myself in a rehearsal space dialing things in to sound really good to me (standing at my pedalboard) only to take it to play a room with poor treatment and have my big, full, rich, tone sound boxy, or small, or flubby, etc because the stage was hollow, or the floor was really reflective, or the ceiling was untreated, or someone was leaving the doors open etc, etc, etc. I still loved playing, but there was always a tonal disconnect between what I would dial in at rehearsal versus what I would get at most gigs. I finally went FRFR when I got a brand-spanking new HD500 (my fourth modeler after using Boss GT-6/8/10) and it was a revelation! My guitar tone was hitting me in the ears with the sound I was expecting to hear, and due to the nature of the FRFR speaker, it was always really close to what I was used to hearing at rehearsal no matter where we went. OTOH, the bass player in one of my bands is quite an accomplished guitarist (he played/toured with Sarah Longfield in the Fine Constant for years) and though he likes MY sound using FRFR, he doesn't like to play that way. But we'll hook the Helix up to his Dual Rectifier FX Input and his Orange 2x12 and he'll get lost for a long time in the lush tones available to him that way. So for my experience, amplification/reproduction is the most important part of the equation for most people, even if they don't realize it. The Helix Floor/LT are both definitely performance-oriented devices, IMO.

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2 minutes ago, brue58ski said:

This was a very interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Tom Abraham. He's a pro and worked with Alice In Chains and Metallica. His basic jist is that he has made patches (in this case he was using the Axe Fx) for a performer that sounded exactly the same as a performers tube amp setup by them selves but in a live mix with the Axe Fx instead of the miced amp, the guitar would disappear, even though it sounded exaclty the same on it's own. One more perspective from someone who has no loyalties to any modeller.

 

 

OMG did this thread over on TGP turn into a sh!tshow, lol.

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3 minutes ago, brue58ski said:

This was a very interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Tom Abraham. He's a pro and worked with Alice In Chains and Metallica. His basic jist is that he has made patches (in this case he was using the Axe Fx) for a performer that sounded exactly the same as a performers tube amp setup by them selves but in a live mix with the Axe Fx instead of the miced amp, the guitar would disappear, even though it sounded exaclty the same on it's own. One more perspective from someone who has no loyalties to any modeller.

 

Nor any in depth experience with how to use a modeler.....

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11 minutes ago, gunpointmetal said:

OMG did this thread over on TGP turn into a sh!tshow, lol.

 

Oh really? I didn't get into the thread. I hope that doesn't happen here. That is not my intent. In fact my experience has been different than his. But I'm always willing to keep an open mind.

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15 minutes ago, xmacvicar said:

I just feel like L6 ( or any company doing this digital stuff ) has as their biggest hurdle, having people learn how to create great tones for their environment. I just mean that in the sheer number of posts that exist about this - people struggling with getting a grip on it.

 

That's all true, but it is completely independent of volume, which is almost entirely what your original post was about. Those who struggle with digital gear, do so with headphones, studio, monitors, straight to a PA, etc. etc.... and all at a variety of volumes. The problem is not the chosen output device, or what Helix's "primary function" is or isn't. It's a lack of experience with modelers, and/or an understanding of how to apply EQ to produce a desired result. 

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15 minutes ago, DunedinDragon said:

Nor any in depth experience with how to use a modeler.....

 

So you don't buy him saying the amp and Fractal sounded exactly the same? I do wish I had been there when he did all that. Is there any advice you would have given him? I'm not trying to be smarmy. I honestly want to know. I do know it's hard to give advice about this, having not been there at the time.

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3 minutes ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

That's all true, but it is completely independent of volume, which is almost entirely what your original post was about. Those who struggle with digital gear, do so with headphones, studio, monitors, straight to a PA, etc. etc.... and all at a variety of volumes. The problem is not the chosen output device, or what Helix's "primary function" is or isn't. It's a lack of experience with modelers, and/or an understanding of how to apply EQ to produce a desired result. 

 

Two days ago was in my local Long & McQuade store and I was testing studio monitors with Helix; i had the main guitar rep help me - who happens to be probably the most professional guitar player in my area who performs in a lot of bands and is The hired gun so to speak; he plays in some very significant musical groups in the area  He heard me load up one of my patches as I was trying to dial it in and he literally cringed put his head down laughed and walked away. A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy. 

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12 minutes ago, brue58ski said:

 

Oh really? I didn't get into the thread. I hope that doesn't happen here. That is not my intent. In fact my experience has been different than his. But I'm always willing to keep an open mind.

I think its fine here, it became this whole 25 page thing on pyschoacoustics and got pretty hilarious. I don't comment over there anymore after a certain speaker designer with no social skills reported literally every post I made as inappropriate for calling him out on a being a condescending douche to everyone. 

 

7 minutes ago, xmacvicar said:

 

Two days ago was in my local Long & McQuade store and I was testing studio monitors with Helix; i had the main guitar rep help me - who happens to be probably the most professional guitar player in my area who performs in a lot of bands and is The hired gun so to speak; he plays in some very significant musical groups in the area  He heard me load up one of my patches as I was trying to dial it in and he literally cringed put his head down laughed and walked away. A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy. 

Being a "professional" musician in now way qualifies anyone as an authority on tone. I know a few guys around here that make their living playing music and they definitely don't have what I would consider to be a good sound.

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16 minutes ago, brue58ski said:

 

So you don't buy him saying the amp and Fractal sounded exactly the same? I do wish I had been there when he did all that. Is there any advice you would have given him? I'm not trying to be smarmy. I honestly want to know. I do know it's hard to give advice about this, having not been there at the time.

 

I believe him insofar that he thought they sounded exactly the same... But they obviously weren't exactly the same. Our ears can be deceived pretty easily. I think the main thing is that if you're going to use a modeler, you need to have at least some ability to tweak and setup your tones in the context of playing with the rest of the band. It seems to me that was the thing that caused this guy problems. I'm kind of surprised that a band the was touring worldwide would ever introduce anything into the show that hasn't been soundchecked with the whole band numerous times.

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Just now, gunpointmetal said:

I think its fine here, it became this whole 25 page thing on pyschoacoustics and got pretty hilarious. I don't comment over there anymore after a certain speaker designer with no social skills reported literally every post I made as inappropriate for calling him out on a being a condescending douche to everyone. 

 

Being a "professional" musician in now way qualifies anyone as an authority on tone. I know a few guys around here that make their living playing music and they definitely don't have what I would consider to be a good sound.

Totally fair. The problem with this is that this guy is a f@#$^ great guitar player and has amazing amp/analog sounds haha.

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1 minute ago, phil_m said:

 

I believe him insofar that he thought they sounded exactly the same... But they obviously weren't exactly the same. Our ears can be deceived pretty easily. I think the main thing is that if you're going to use a modeler, you need to have at least some ability to tweak and setup your tones in the context of playing with the rest of the band. It seems to me that was the thing that caused this guy problems. I'm kind of surprised that a band the was touring worldwide would ever introduce anything into the show that hasn't been soundchecked with the whole band numerous times.

 

To add to this, I just saw Brit Floyd at a beautiful venue in Toronto, Canada (sony center for performing arts). Both guitarists are using digital rigs (Axe III and some boss stuff?) and it was easily the best sounding live show I heard in my life. Guitar sounds were mind blowing. Not true David Gilmour stuff, but man it was wonderful to listen to.

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I'd also add that it's not like getting lost in the mix can't happen with traditional setups. I don't know how many times I've tweaked a distortion pedal to what I thought was perfection, only to have my guitar get lost as soon as I step on the pedal while in rehearsal. It can happen pretty easily.

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1 minute ago, phil_m said:

I'd also add that it's not like getting lost in the mix can't happen with traditional setups. I don't know how many times I've tweaked a distortion pedal to what I thought was perfection, only to have my guitar get lost as soon as I step on the pedal while in rehearsal. It can happen pretty easily.

I've heard just as many high-end traditional rigs from Mesa/Marshall/ENGL sound AWFUL as I have heard digital rigs sound awful. IME playing lots of shows and seeing lots of shows, more people make their amp/cab rigs sound like lollipop than people with digital rigs.

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2 hours ago, Kilrahi said:

I have an uncle who to this day hates driving anything that isn't a stick shift, even though the fact is that a stick shift is now the less efficient and optimal way for any car to run. To him it just doesn't "feel right."

Wait, there is an alternative to the stick shift?  ;-)

 

 

2 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

When I tested some recording and using the studio monitors for audio referencing, it kind of became crystal clear; the stock presets which sound like lollipop through my L3M's at 'gig volume' fit almost perfectly in a recording mix with almost no adjustments! The Brit 2204 sounded like the real deal, not the swarm of usual bees, etc. I had this eureka moment - THIS IS WHAT IT WAS DESIGNED FOR. Honestly, I see this more so now as this brilliant little device whose main attraction and purpose is to fit into a recording mix, with ease, at any time and with little adjustment. I do also believe that none of this easily translates into a 'replacement for a traditional guitar amp' situation.

 

Dont' flame me. haha.

 

 

I have been A/B'ing my tube amps to the Helix in the hopes to conceive an "amp in the room" fullness using my Mackie with FOH system.  I find this to be the only way I can really tell if what I do in the creation of the presets is what I want coming from the PA since we produce everything through the PA.  I am 98% spot on after some help with my wife's ears and feedback; I have to leave at least 2% or more to "not quite the same but close" due to my experience with the 100% reports I always hear about.  I do agree with the use of studio monitors for the stock presets and out-of-the-box settings.  However, I have heard other digital units sound extremely close to the physical tube amplifiers and feel the Helix is being constantly evolving to provide both OOTB and Live Stage performance.  I do see the real challenge concerning the type & quality of mixing boards and PA gear I have to put it though from time to time.  But again this is just my opinion.

 

Dennis

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1 hour ago, xmacvicar said:

Totally fair. The problem with this is that this guy is a f@#$^ great guitar player and has amazing amp/analog sounds haha.

 

When I hear examples like that, it always just translates in my mind as saying, "I know this really talented guitar player who is a cork sniffing gear snob."

 

People like that exist in any genre or element, from sound, movies, video game machines, to clothing . . . if it were true that there were ZERO musicians out there able to create amazing music with digital modelers then that kind of attitude would be troubling, but that is clearly NOT the case which you yourself pointed out with the reply immediately following it. 

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2 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy. 

 

Only if they don't understand how to use it...

 

1 hour ago, xmacvicar said:

Both guitarists are using digital rigs (Axe III and some boss stuff?) and it was easily the best sounding live show I heard in my life. Guitar sounds were mind blowing. Not true David Gilmour stuff, but man it was wonderful to listen to.

 

QED :-)

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2 hours ago, brue58ski said:

 

So you don't buy him saying the amp and Fractal sounded exactly the same? I do wish I had been there when he did all that. Is there any advice you would have given him? I'm not trying to be smarmy. I honestly want to know. I do know it's hard to give advice about this, having not been there at the time.

 

It may have but he really didn't go into the setup of the output with the Fractal i.e. into 4cm, into FRFR speaker, though IEMs or stage monitors.  How exactly did he "match" that sound exactly?  Nor was he very specific about how he got the sound.  We just have to take his word for it and bow in homage to his expertise.

 

You have to excuse me but I've been around these kind of guys since the '70s so I tend to be a bit skeptical about their broad "expert" statements and their overrating of their ability to distinguish differences due to their "golden ears" that us common folk just simply don't have.  The most telling statement was when he gushed all over about the sound of a good tube amp over any modeler as if that's the sound he's presenting to the audience.  When most of us know what he's presenting to the audience is a mic capture of that sound, not the tube amp sound, but he assumes we're all to stupid to understand that.  And if he loses the modeled sound in the mix there's a big problem with either his skills at the board or his skills at the modeler..or both.

My opinion is that since the late 90's and especially over the past few years technology leaps not only in modeling but in many other instruments and technical leaps in sound reinforcement gear have made the "magic" and value they used to provide accessible to everyday musicians, so they're desperate to prove they've still got some value to offer.  Case in point, these guys absolutely despise some of the new digital mixers that have advanced features like auto feedback detection and correction, auto room acoustic measurement and EQ setting, auto gain staging, and auto conference volume management.  Things that they could only do are now done automatically for anyone that can push a button.  Their response is always, "it's not as good as when it's done by trained ear, even if you poor schmucks can't hear the difference".

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19 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

 

Two days ago was in my local Long & McQuade store and I was testing studio monitors with Helix; i had the main guitar rep help me - who happens to be probably the most professional guitar player in my area who performs in a lot of bands and is The hired gun so to speak; he plays in some very significant musical groups in the area  He heard me load up one of my patches as I was trying to dial it in and he literally cringed put his head down laughed and walked away. A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy. 

 

I'm sorry....but a two second, eye-rolling appraisal from the local music store "rock star" isn't worth two wet farts. I've met that guy a thousand times over the years... and if you're impressed by that sort of a$$hat, I don't know what to tell ya. If he's that wonderful, what's he doing jockeying the counter at a music store? Nevermind...I know the answer.

 

What exactly do you think this proves? I mean other than the fact that the guy's a d1ck....There are plenty of pros and amateurs alike who get excellent results with modelers from various manufacturers. They're not hard to find... youtube is drowning in them. Numerous live acts have embraced the whole "quiet stage" thing. It's everywhere. If they all sounded like $hit, nobody would use them, and the whole guitar playing community didn't suddenly go deaf. You either know how to use the gear, or you don't. But it certainly is easier to blame the box isn't it? 

 

 

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5 hours ago, brue58ski said:

 

So you don't buy him saying the amp and Fractal sounded exactly the same? I do wish I had been there when he did all that. Is there any advice you would have given him? I'm not trying to be smarmy. I honestly want to know. I do know it's hard to give advice about this, having not been there at the time.

 

“Lost in the mix” is an EQ and/or panning and / or volume problem, not digital vs analogue. If that mix was coming out of a venue PA then by the time it’s gotten to that PA, whether or not the sound origin was digital or not is pretty much irrelevant if the desk is digital. If two sounds are exactly the same then they’re exactly the same. 

 

If amps cut through the mix and modellers can’t cut it, why does every guitar forum have endless “how can I get my <insert amp or pedal> to cut better...” type threads? 

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18 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

Two days ago was in my local Long & McQuade store and I was testing studio monitors with Helix; i had the main guitar rep help me - who happens to be probably the most professional guitar player in my area who performs in a lot of bands and is The hired gun so to speak; he plays in some very significant musical groups in the area  He heard me load up one of my patches as I was trying to dial it in and he literally cringed put his head down laughed and walked away. A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy.

 

I learned a long time ago that musicians "can be" really closed minded... that L&M employee seems to be one of them. Our L&M stores here in Winnipeg has them as well :)   (BTW: L&M head office would not be happy with that employee for his reaction and closed mind)

 

Give three players a JCM800

  1. One will make it sound like a wall of mud
  2. The next makes it sound like a mosquito
  3. The next makes it sound glorious

The thoughts from the peers (musicians in the wings)...

1&2: The guys got great gear but his tone isn't very good (user is blamed)

3: Wow that Marshall sounds great (amp is praised)

 

Give three players a Helix (or any modeler for that matter)

  1. One will make it sound like a wall of mud
  2. The next makes it sound like a mosquito
  3. The next makes it sound glorious

The thoughts from the peers (musicians in the wings)...

1: Modelers always get lost in the mix (blame the gear)

2: Modelers always sound thin and brittle (blame the gear)

3: He seems to get a good sound out of that thing (spiteful praise of the user)

 

 

Amps and modelers are just tools... Ultimately (based on knowledge and ability) it is the USER that makes it sound good or bad. 

 

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@xmacvicar

 

I didn't want to quote your full opening post, but that is what I am referencing here...

 

You keep saying it sounds great when recorded, but doesn't sound like a real amp when compared to a real amp. There is a vital distinction you are missing and/or have completely overlooked. 

 

When the HELIX is used with an FRFR (like your setup is) it isn't suppose to sound like a real amp... it is suppose to sound like a real amp through a microphone. The microphone chosen and the position it is placed has a huge impact on the tone. For a proper comparison, you need to mic up the amp and listen to it through the FRFR like you are listening to the Helix. That is the difference between "Amp in the room tone" and "recorded & FOH tones". 

 

Admittedly you say you are a "non gigging guitar player" and thank you for doing so - it puts things in better perspective as we try to help you. 

Any guitar player that gigs has a "what the hell is that" moment when they hear their tone through a PA for the first time. It is "that sound" the Helix is delivering... and that is the sound you are shaping. 

 

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19 hours ago, brue58ski said:

His basic jist is that he has made patches (in this case he was using the Axe Fx) for a performer that sounded exactly the same as a performers tube amp setup by them selves but in a live mix with the Axe Fx instead of the miced amp, the guitar would disappear, even though it sounded exaclty the same on it's own.

 

For those interested... this comes up at about 1h40m into the video (yes, I was bored this morning)....

 

(basic summary of what actually is said)

He does not say he created the tone... the 2nd guitarist in Keith Urban's band had created a fractal patch to match his live rig which was a clean boost into a Marshall Super Bass. He says the tone sounded the same in the PA when isolated, but was lost when in the mix. He goes on to say something was missing, but has no details of how the patch was created, accepted the tone as provided, and no attempt was made at the "fractal level" to make it work.... if there was, he doesn't mention it.

 

Looks like that Fractal got 15 - 30 minutes of time and was disregarded... if people think that's a fair judgement of a piece of gear then there is nothing left to say. 

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14 minutes ago, codamedia said:

Looks like that Fractal got 15 - 30 minutes of time and was disregarded... if people think that's a fair judgement of a piece of gear then there is nothing left to say. 

In Modeler land that's the equivalent of turning an amp on with whatever settings it is already on at a music store through a no-name cab and then wondering why it doesn't sound great, lol. I appreciate a lot of the knowledge available on the internet, but sometimes people need to admit when they're making assumptions of speaking outside of their knowledge base. The accurate thing would have been "We weren't really sure what we were doing and we only had a few minutes to do it. When we hooked it up and solo'd it we thought it sounded the same, but since it got buried in the mix with band we must have missed something."

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50 minutes ago, codamedia said:

 

For those interested... this comes up at about 1h40m into the video (yes, I was bored this morning)....

 

(basic summary of what actually is said)

He does not say he created the tone... the 2nd guitarist in Keith Urban's band had created a fractal patch to match his live rig which was a clean boost into a Marshall Super Bass. He says the tone sounded the same in the PA when isolated, but was lost when in the mix. He goes on to say something was missing, but has no details of how the patch was created, accepted the tone as provided, and no attempt was made at the "fractal level" to make it work.

 

Sounds like the Fractal got 15 - 30 minutes of time and was disregarded... This engineer would have put more time into placing a single '57 on a 4x12.

 

Try talking a scotch drinker out of liking his favorite bottle... you won't. The cork sniffer has two defining characteristics:

 

1) He's right. 

2) His perception/palate/ standards/etc are keener and more "evolved" than yours. 

 

You'll never convince the cork sniffer of anything, because that would mean either:

 

1) He was actually wrong about something.

 

or

 

2) There's something good out there in the world that somehow escaped his heightened awareness of all things wonderful.

 

Either option would cause too much cognitive dissonance for the cork sniffer to handle, and his Waterford crystal-bedazzled psyche would crumble. 

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25 minutes ago, gunpointmetal said:

In Modeler land that's the equivalent of turning an amp on with whatever settings it is already on at a music store through a no-name cab and then wondering why it doesn't sound great, lol. I appreciate a lot of the knowledge available on the internet, but sometimes people need to admit when they're making assumptions of speaking outside of their knowledge base. The accurate thing would have been "We weren't really sure what we were doing and we only had a few minutes to do it. When we hooked it up and solo'd it we thought it sounded the same, but since it got buried in the mix with band we must have missed something."

 

Amen.

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20 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

 

Two days ago was in my local Long & McQuade store and I was testing studio monitors with Helix; i had the main guitar rep help me - who happens to be probably the most professional guitar player in my area who performs in a lot of bands and is The hired gun so to speak; he plays in some very significant musical groups in the area  He heard me load up one of my patches as I was trying to dial it in and he literally cringed put his head down laughed and walked away. A lot of people still think it's just a lollipop little toy. 

 

It only proves that he's not open-minded and he lives with his old prejudices.....

He can be a good guitarist but to become a "star", it's something else.... It's not because you are the best technical one....

I think he's good at reproducing stuffs and as you say he is playing in a lot of bands so, he hasn't got his own band with his own sound....

He surely has got the best RIG to sound like.....

 

I was talking about those prejudices on a french topic two days ago and said that for the price it was really courageous for a neophyte to go out from a music store with a modeling rig.

All the guitar stores over there don't sell Helix. They sell very good guitars/tube amps/analog pedals and they really know that kind of equipment but they really don't know how to use modelers.....And they explain that there's nothing better and blablabla.....

The only time i've been able to try the Helix in good conditions was in a sound system store rather than in an instrument store....

 

To respond to the first point, I've bought a powercab + to go with the Helix and i really think that i reach that amp feeling.

 

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1 hour ago, gunpointmetal said:

In Modeler land that's the equivalent of turning an amp on with whatever settings it is already on at a music store through a no-name cab and then wondering why it doesn't sound great, lol.

 

Yep... that same engineer probably spends more time placing a '57 in front of a 412 cabinet. Actually... I did watch too much of that video... he uses Palmer load boxes to avoid cabinets/mic placement.... IMO that's borderline ironic. I wonder what would have happened if he had used the Palmer in place of a cab/mic sim in the Fractal? His test is lacking so may details it could have been the Palmer that made the difference - he didn't appear to take the time to eliminate that. 

 

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23 hours ago, brue58ski said:

This was a very interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Tom Abraham. He's a pro and worked with Alice In Chains and Metallica. His basic jist is that he has made patches (in this case he was using the Axe Fx) for a performer that sounded exactly the same as a performers tube amp setup by them selves but in a live mix with the Axe Fx instead of the miced amp, the guitar would disappear, even though it sounded exaclty the same on it's own. One more perspective from someone who has no loyalties to any modeller.

 

 

I have had similar experience, and I think I know why. First the experience. The other guitar player in my band uses a Les Paul and Fender Blues Junior. That's a 15 W amp with 1x12 open back cabinet. I use a JTV-69S and Helix with a Powercab+. The constant feedback I get is that he's too loud and no-one can hear a note I'm playing. So I have to really force myself to turn up (while also trying to do my part to keep stage volume down). Now clearly a Les Paul is going to cut through the mix better than a Strat because of the double coil pickups. But I don't think that's all of it. 

 

I think the primary issue Tom is experiencing is headroom. If you tone match a Helix/Powercab+ with a 50W Marshall 4x12, you can get very close. The cleans will sound the same as well as the high gain tones. But the difference is headroom. That Marshall can't get its tone at low volume, it needs to be cranked and loud. But Helix/Powercab can get a good tone at low volume. So what tends to happen is that we run our Helix patches with lower Master and higher gain to get the distortion we need, while controlling the overall volume with channel volume or Powercab volume. This gets a great distorted tone, but has very little headroom, even if its putting out the same dB level as the Marshall. It's the headroom that delivers punch, pick attack, articulation and feel. It's power in Watts and speaker cone area that pushes this across a large room.

 

I suspect if Helix were setup with the same headroom, power and speaker area, the outcome would be more similar. Note however that a FRFR needs to have roughly twice the power of a guitar amp to deliver the same distorted volume level. This is because the FRFR has to be run clean and a clipped signal is essentially a square wave which has 2x the area under the curve (which is power). A guitar amp rated at 50W is actually delivering 100W of power when it is heavily distorted. 

 

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1 hour ago, amsdenj said:

 

 

I have had similar experience, and I think I know why. First the experience. The other guitar player in my band uses a Les Paul and Fender Blues Junior. That's a 15 W amp with 1x12 open back cabinet. I use a JTV-69S and Helix with a Powercab+. The constant feedback I get is that he's too loud and no-one can hear a note I'm playing. So I have to really force myself to turn up (while also trying to do my part to keep stage volume down). Now clearly a Les Paul is going to cut through the mix better than a Strat because of the double coil pickups. But I don't think that's all of it. 

 

I think the primary issue Tom is experiencing is headroom. If you tone match a Helix/Powercab+ with a 50W Marshall 4x12, you can get very close. The cleans will sound the same as well as the high gain tones. But the difference is headroom. That Marshall can't get its tone at low volume, it needs to be cranked and loud. But Helix/Powercab can get a good tone at low volume. So what tends to happen is that we run our Helix patches with lower Master and higher gain to get the distortion we need, while controlling the overall volume with channel volume or Powercab volume. This gets a great distorted tone, but has very little headroom, even if its putting out the same dB level as the Marshall. It's the headroom that delivers punch, pick attack, articulation and feel. It's power in Watts and speaker cone area that pushes this across a large room.

 

I suspect if Helix were setup with the same headroom, power and speaker area, the outcome would be more similar. Note however that a FRFR needs to have roughly twice the power of a guitar amp to deliver the same distorted volume level. This is because the FRFR has to be run clean and a clipped signal is essentially a square wave which has 2x the area under the curve (which is power). A guitar amp rated at 50W is actually delivering 100W of power when it is heavily distorted. 

 

 

This explanation could not come at a bettter time. THIS is what I struggle with, with Helix. I have a Rush patch I setup that is a 2 amp patch - has a Hiwatt 100 for cleanish stuff and a Marshall for the riffy stuff. I have both patches balanced well in volume. I really only use my Helix to jam along to the original recordings via USB. I find that I can play along with a song like Limelight or Tom Sawyer or whatever, and the marshall tones kinda cut through the mix based on the volume I have the original recording coming through, but the second I pop over to that Hiwatt, which I had previously balanced, my guitar just POOF DISAPPEARS and I feels like I'm playing some completely soft, limp thing. This is what I can't get sorted with Helix.

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39 minutes ago, xmacvicar said:

 

This explanation could not come at a bettter time. THIS is what I struggle with, with Helix. I have a Rush patch I setup that is a 2 amp patch - has a Hiwatt 100 for cleanish stuff and a Marshall for the riffy stuff. I have both patches balanced well in volume. I really only use my Helix to jam along to the original recordings via USB. I find that I can play along with a song like Limelight or Tom Sawyer or whatever, and the marshall tones kinda cut through the mix based on the volume I have the original recording coming through, but the second I pop over to that Hiwatt, which I had previously balanced, my guitar just POOF DISAPPEARS and I feels like I'm playing some completely soft, limp thing. This is what I can't get sorted with Helix.

 

There's only so many ways to keep saying the same thing. The answer is the same as it has been all along....EQ. What sounds magnificent outside of a mix will often sound irretrievably awful (and/or disappear) in a mix. The converse is equally true. But that's got absolutely nothing to do with volume, or Helix... never did, never will. When you have multiple instruments, inevitably there is frequency overlap... they're competing for the same sonic space. It's a delicate balancing act to get it all right. The rig is irrelevant... you'll eventually run into the exact same problem with a different modeler, a 1x12 combo, or a wall of Marshall cabinets. 

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6 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

There's only so many ways to keep saying the same thing. The answer is the same as it has been all along....EQ. What sounds magnificent outside of a mix will often sound irretrievably awful (and/or disappear) in a mix. The converse is equally true. But that's got absolutely nothing to do with volume, or Helix... never did, never will. When you have multiple instruments, inevitably there is frequency overlap... they're competing for the same sonic space. It's a delicate balancing act to get it all right. The rig is irrelevant... you'll eventually run into the exact same problem with a different modeler, a 1x12 combo, or a wall of Marshall cabinets. 

 

Fair enough. I was so frustrated by it that I was thinking "will ordering a Power Cab Plus solve my issue, thinking it would be more present and up front and more in your face than the FRFR?" Sounds like it won't, at the end of the day. 

 

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12 hours ago, xmacvicar said:

 

Fair enough. I was so frustrated by it that I was thinking "will ordering a Power Cab Plus solve my issue, thinking it would be more present and up front and more in your face than the FRFR?" Sounds like it won't, at the end of the day. 

 

 

An acoustic problem can't be solved with more/different gear if the real issue is a lack of understanding about what's going on. Acoustic physics and the Fletcher-Munson curve don't change based on what kind of rig you have. The room you're standing in doesn't care if you have a Marshall stack or a Helix, and your brain will interpret the relative loudness of different frequency ranges the same way every time, no matter what the source of that sound is.

 

And there's only so many things to adjust. If you're hearing mud, there's too much bass...pull it back. If it's screeching at you like nails on a chalkboard, trim the highs. If it sounds full and balanced by itself but disappears in a mix, then you need a mid boost. I played tube rigs with a 4x12 cab for a couple of decades,  and it was the exact same drill... if there's too much of something, get rid of it. Not enough of something else? Boost it. Lather, rinse, repeat...

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The only way to make Helix sound like a guitar amp and a guitar cab is to use a guitar cab. (big period)

Guitar cabs are terrible amplification devices, but they work for the voice of the guitar and they're what most people are used to hearing/feeling when they play. The PowerCab gets closer because of the cabinet design and the coaxial driver, but if you want the experience of playing through a 4x12, you gotta play through a 4x12. If you want the SOUND of a 4x12 mic'd properly in a high-end studio coming back to you through monitors, that's what the Helix is doing through an FRFR/PA system. Even with far-field IRs it's not gonna sound/feel the same. There have literally been thousands of threads about this on the internet since modelers have been a thing, and it all comes down to playback system. If you're a "live and loud" player a FRFR system probably won't satiate your desires when you're playing. I grew up practicing in headphones with lollipop little Zoom and Boss modelers, and like a controlled stage, and I LOOOOOOOVE my in-ears, so the whole "4x12 mic'ed up in another room" sound works perfectly for me, but I totally understand why it doesn't for some people and while they always feel like something is missing. 

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