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Future Helix 2


mikefstewart
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4 hours ago, craiganderton said:

 

Interestingly, Helix was deliberately overdesigned, with a lot of memory that was unused initially. It put the unit at a price disadvantage when it was introduced, but that's also the reason why Line 6 can keep updating it. So I guess it qualifies as a gamble that paid off.

 

There have been memory expansions and ROM updates for synthesizers over the years, but computer-based devices are becoming less modular in general. The soldered-in RAM in the Mac M1 laptops isn't just to encourage you to buy more RAM initially, it also improves performance. System-on-Chip (SoC)-based devices integrate what used to be disparate elements into a single piece of silicon. Although many Android phones allow for memory upgrades using SD cards, those are really just holding tanks for data, they're not tightly integrated with the phone. 

 

Another consideration is that including something like multi-pin connectors to accept a daughterboard, more chips, etc. is not trivial or inexpensive. So, that would raise the price with no perceived benefit until the unit offered hardware updates. Also, remember that Apple makes its own silicon, and Microsoft works closely with Intel. I don't know how much leverage a company like Line 6 would have with a company like Analog Devices to be privy to future plans, or be given priority in terms of expansion options. And you're right on target that it could be a support nightmare!

 

Windows desktop machines are still pretty modular, but becoming less so in terms of being able to mix and match disparate components. I'm not saying upgradable hardware is impossible by any means, just that it's gotten more complicated than when you could add a Radias board and FireWire ports to a Korg M3 :) It also may be a problem in a market that has become so price-sensitive. So I think those may be some of the reasons why companies are reluctant to get into hardware upgrades. 

 

Overdesign, room to grow. It shows Line 6 took a very welcome gamble on the product's odds of succeeding and left themselves the capacity to improve their initial offering. Good on 'em. The same objectives might be leveraged even more with hardware expandability.

 

I hear you on the movement towards less upgradeable computers(and compactness) with the advent first of the iPad and now the Surface, Chromebook and others following suit. Granted there may be efficiencies, speed increases, and functionalities gained in some areas, but I sincerely believe this is mostly profit driven to the detriment of the consumer. It is all about ridiculously short upgrade cycles like Apple's where a new version of the iPad or iPhone comes out every year. Underestimated your future memory requirements, too bad! Buy a whole new device or pay a ridiculous sum to have someone pry open your old device and upgrade it. This sales model can easily feed into gross consumerism with little tangible benefit to the end user. In fact, it actually contributes to decreased value for the end-user because technological advances are parsimoniously doled out in order to drive the buyer into a whole new device. Essentially encouraging developers to sit on already created or conceived innovations that are already "in the can" in order to leverage them down the line for maximum profit. Sorry to sound cynical about that but I believe there is some truth to it. Thankfully that dynamic is somewhat mitigated by the competition to be the first to get out the latest and greatest.  That mitigating tension is not enough though in many cases not to stifle timely innovation and inclusion of all existing current developments in a new offering. Just too much profit incentive to parcel it out. With that said I truly appreciate how long Line6 and some other companies have maintained their commitment to products that are now several years old. They didn't have to.

 

When it comes to an audio workstation many still prefer a computer that sits on the floor with the capacity to grow in capacity and capability as the need arises. I have a nice laptop but nothing beats my loaded up PC(or Mac if you prefer) for throwing raw computing power at recording.

 

Anyway, your points are well taken and definitely provide some insight into why a modular approach isn't available in the modeling world(yet).

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25 minutes ago, theElevators said:

Time to introduce the concept of an open source guitar processor box, where you can run a VM with Helix, Kemper, Fractal, Zoom, whatever firmware... Wouldn't that be wild?

 

Exactly the kind of idea I was getting at except even more sophisticated. No need for hardware modules, just enough DSP and memory to accommodate offerings from a range of modeling companies. This type of innovation is exactly why I am so keen on and have been advocating for the ability to agnostically incorporate plugins from different developers into modelers. 

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1 hour ago, HonestOpinion said:

This sales model can easily feed into gross consumerism with little tangible benefit to the end user. In fact, it actually contributes to decreased value for the end-user because technological advances are parsimoniously doled out in order to drive the buyer into a whole new device. Essentially encouraging developers to sit on already created or conceived innovations that are already "in the can" in order to leverage them down the line for maximum profit. Sorry to sound cynical about that but I believe there is some truth to it.

 

I think there's a lot of truth to that, actually. When the iPod first came out, Jobs expected users to toss it when the battery couldn't take a charge anymore. IIRC you could get the battery replaced, but it was $260 or something like that. Enough people complained (as they should have!), and the policy was reversed. These days, at least Apple's repair fees are reasonable if you need a laptop battery replaced or whatever, but I was VERY happy to see right-to-repair laws being passed.

 

I've often wondered how Line 6 can afford to keep on giving free updates to Helix. They're not trivial updates, and if they did market research, I bet they'd find a lot of people would have thought $100 was fair for the 3.0 update. But maybe it's the same reason I give free updates for my ebooks - I figure if people like my ebooks, maybe they'll buy other ebooks. I think a lot of people have gotten hooked on the Line 6 "ecosystem" through Helix. So they get Helix Native, an HX Stomp for gigging, a Powercab for gigs...and if a Helix II comes out that can load Helix presets, perhaps a lot of Helix users would go for it.

 

Regarding the Eleveators' open source guitar box, probably the closest we'll come for the near future is if companies developed native versions of their hardware that ran on something like a Mac Mini, and someone made a "universal" hardware controller with programming and footswitching capabilities. In theory MIDI 2.0 would allow for that kind of universal controller, if a profile could be made the encompassed most amp sim parameters. Tantalizing... 

 

Meanwhile, I'm still figuring out Helix :)  Today, I ran tests on the modeled mics to quantify them. It was very interesting. Perhaps if more people had a deep knowledge of the mics, they might not feel the need for as many IRs. I gotta admit, I was a little surprised that Line 6 modeled how the mics react to the proximity effect. I was equally surprised that the RE20 model had very little proximity effect. Granted, it was designed that way, but that's a serious level of detail in the modeling.

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2 hours ago, theElevators said:

Time to introduce the concept of an open source guitar processor box, where you can run a VM with Helix, Kemper, Fractal, Zoom, whatever firmware... Wouldn't that be wild?

 

Now THIS, I'd pay for...

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  • 1 month later...

Well this has been an entertaining thread for so many reasons. I found it purely wondering if an H2 release has been speculated with good reasoning, so thanks rabbithole.

There is definitely a lot of misunderstanding and assumption on a number of subjects, which to be honest I'm unsure have been clarified....I started getting thread fatigue after page 2 :-)

 

BEWARE: I am likely wrong or have not fully thought out the points in this post. I hope it clarifies a little or brings bluesky thinking into a more real context in some manner. That's my intention anyway.

 

Regarding the capabilities of the Helix over the previous generation HD products; the Helix runs two 4th gen. SHARC ADSP-21469 DSPs versus the single 3rd gen. ADSP-21369 in the HD. The power here is not simply a clocking upgrade, even though the architecture is fundamentally similar between both generations. The 4th gen. can access faster external memory (DDR2) than the 3rd (SDRAM). It's not a magnitude of difference, but not merely an incremental one.

 

To throw one out there, the 5th generation of SHARC DSP chips are a similar gear shift such as the capability to model 3D space natively which might be a poor thing to be chumming the waters of this thread with. The same power and capabilities being under the hood of the entire H range will likely translate to the H2. Improvements in grunt will likely be in line with that of the Quad Cortex; four processors rather than two would seem a reasonable assumption in that particular sausage-waving arms race. Sticking with two 5th gen. SHARC might seem a little backward even if the power upgrade would still be significant by comparison. I wouldn't imagine that the Helix lineup would be fragmented between say, something like a dual DSP LT and quad Rack/Floor models....that would be incredibly detrimental in my view.

 

The discussion about touchscreens and other physical interface points is a worthwhile discussion. I'm of the opinion that the more complex something becomes, the more that there needs to be an upshift in durability. This is more of an issue for floor models since they see the most physical abuse with stomping, dirt and transport. I would personally like to see HX Edit become less of a desktop-only application and also see it on iOS and Android portable devices for deep diving with a very similar physical control space as current. The Helix floor has always struck me as the most durable and use-appropriate modeller for gigging, so adding in more fragile complexity would undermine that. Replaceable external deep control through devices feels like it allows for a robust powerful workhorse; fragile stuff can be outsourced to phones, tablets or laptops via Bluetooth or other wireless protocol.

 

The absolutely valid comment about developers reach being deeper than their grasp says a lot, and unfortunately I think this was either missed, or worse dismissed if it didn't align with any particular view. I'd add that this reach is into a space that is constantly evolving and moving away from one's grasp so no one "perfect" unit or modelling paradigm can ever exist. Suggesting that there is a single goal is fatuous at best. Every solution and every update to that will always have development that can be done, with the market changing and providing new requirements. I personally haven't latched onto the Quad Cortex as I feel it wants to try and be some sort of end run pioneer ahead of the modeller market trend when really, we're not that much into innovation on the whole. Certainly a case for the slow reliable tortoise than that new-fangled hare thing. Pioneering might reveal new ideas and direct trends, but they tend to be pretty unstable platforms with a high miss ratio.

 

For what it's worth, what my Helix floor does today will likely be just what I want it to do in ten years. This is perhaps Line6's biggest problem in that the devices out there are going to be hard to replace with an H2 unless it again ups the standard of solid hardworking devices. If it goes into gimmick territory, I think we'll end up divided between accepting the fluff to stay in the ecosystem with the hardware we like, move on to Kemper (or whatever is ticking the boxes at that time) or more likely stick with the Helix we have until it EOLs in preference to current market lineup.

 

-----

 

A separate conversation about what I'd like to see in an H2, or what I'd want it to be.

 

Visually, black is nice. The durability angle of the Helix floor really should be the same or better. That said, under this desk everything blends into one dark mass. Ring lights and backlit buttons that can be universally controlled for brightness (colour would be a gimmick bonus) with a switch to mute/light the lot, activate when using controls and fade out after 10s or other would be great. I like that my Helix can be unobtrusive but that same thing can make seeing things a chore. I like the controls as they are for the most part, but the joystick can be a bit hit and miss.

 

Dual expression controllers with the option for switchless activation. Dual is perhaps less of a priority, especially for those that don't even use one. Being able to powerfully assign the switchless activation flag to other blocks or even snapshots would be immense; simply putting your foot on the pedal to turn on the wah that also changes up amp and effect settings? Nobody has that right now. 

 

Tone matching would be excellent. I have a swathe of IRs I created with plugins in my DAW, so having this brought under the Helix software roof would be fantastic, especially if its integrated well rather than being a satellite "feature". Capturing a tone from a recorded piece, comparing that to me playing the same thing with my "best guess" and the IR transform being generated is crazily fun. A more out-there extension of this might be GAN AI analysis in software to suggest this-verb, that-EQ, etc. plus a generated IR. This is definitely more a desktop GPU thing, possibly Helix Native-angled?

 

"Studio blocks" leveraging the 3D audio processing capabilities of the 5th gen. SHARC DSPs would allow for movement beyond simple stereo into modelling more complex spaces. This is more chumming of course. I don't fully see how live floor users would find that much application for this, but certainly it would add to the production capabilities of the rack. Perhaps this would bake in too much of the sort of thing that would be done DAW-side but hey.

 

External pedal power output?

 

Okay, I'm out of steam guys. This has bitten into my Sunday more than I expected :-D

 

Be constructive and realistic in response to anything written.

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21 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Well this has been an entertaining thread for so many reasons. I found it purely wondering if an H2 release has been speculated with good reasoning, so thanks rabbithole.

There is definitely a lot of misunderstanding and assumption on a number of subjects, which to be honest I'm unsure have been clarified....I started getting thread fatigue after page 2 :-)

 

BEWARE: I am likely wrong or have not fully thought out the points in this post. I hope it clarifies a little or brings bluesky thinking into a more real context in some manner. That's my intention anyway.

 

Regarding the capabilities of the Helix over the previous generation HD products; the Helix runs two 4th gen. SHARC ADSP-21469 DSPs versus the single 3rd gen. ADSP-21369 in the HD. The power here is not simply a clocking upgrade, even though the architecture is fundamentally similar between both generations. The 4th gen. can access faster external memory (DDR2) than the 3rd (SDRAM). It's not a magnitude of difference, but not merely an incremental one.

 

To throw one out there, the 5th generation of SHARC DSP chips are a similar gear shift such as the capability to model 3D space natively which might be a poor thing to be chumming the waters of this thread with. The same power and capabilities being under the hood of the entire H range will likely translate to the H2. Improvements in grunt will likely be in line with that of the Quad Cortex; four processors rather than two would seem a reasonable assumption in that particular sausage-waving arms race. Sticking with two 5th gen. SHARC might seem a little backward even if the power upgrade would still be significant by comparison. I wouldn't imagine that the Helix lineup would be fragmented between say, something like a dual DSP LT and quad Rack/Floor models....that would be incredibly detrimental in my view.

 

The discussion about touchscreens and other physical interface points is a worthwhile discussion. I'm of the opinion that the more complex something becomes, the more that there needs to be an upshift in durability. This is more of an issue for floor models since they see the most physical abuse with stomping, dirt and transport. I would personally like to see HX Edit become less of a desktop-only application and also see it on iOS and Android portable devices for deep diving with a very similar physical control space as current. The Helix floor has always struck me as the most durable and use-appropriate modeller for gigging, so adding in more fragile complexity would undermine that. Replaceable external deep control through devices feels like it allows for a robust powerful workhorse; fragile stuff can be outsourced to phones, tablets or laptops via Bluetooth or other wireless protocol.

 

The absolutely valid comment about developers reach being deeper than their grasp says a lot, and unfortunately I think this was either missed, or worse dismissed if it didn't align with any particular view. I'd add that this reach is into a space that is constantly evolving and moving away from one's grasp so no one "perfect" unit or modelling paradigm can ever exist. Suggesting that there is a single goal is fatuous at best. Every solution and every update to that will always have development that can be done, with the market changing and providing new requirements. I personally haven't latched onto the Quad Cortex as I feel it wants to try and be some sort of end run pioneer ahead of the modeller market trend when really, we're not that much into innovation on the whole. Certainly a case for the slow reliable tortoise than that new-fangled hare thing. Pioneering might reveal new ideas and direct trends, but they tend to be pretty unstable platforms with a high miss ratio.

 

For what it's worth, what my Helix floor does today will likely be just what I want it to do in ten years. This is perhaps Line6's biggest problem in that the devices out there are going to be hard to replace with an H2 unless it again ups the standard of solid hardworking devices. If it goes into gimmick territory, I think we'll end up divided between accepting the fluff to stay in the ecosystem with the hardware we like, move on to Kemper (or whatever is ticking the boxes at that time) or more likely stick with the Helix we have until it EOLs in preference to current market lineup.

 

-----

 

A separate conversation about what I'd like to see in an H2, or what I'd want it to be.

 

Visually, black is nice. The durability angle of the Helix floor really should be the same or better. That said, under this desk everything blends into one dark mass. Ring lights and backlit buttons that can be universally controlled for brightness (colour would be a gimmick bonus) with a switch to mute/light the lot, activate when using controls and fade out after 10s or other would be great. I like that my Helix can be unobtrusive but that same thing can make seeing things a chore. I like the controls as they are for the most part, but the joystick can be a bit hit and miss.

 

Dual expression controllers with the option for switchless activation. Dual is perhaps less of a priority, especially for those that don't even use one. Being able to powerfully assign the switchless activation flag to other blocks or even snapshots would be immense; simply putting your foot on the pedal to turn on the wah that also changes up amp and effect settings? Nobody has that right now. 

 

Tone matching would be excellent. I have a swathe of IRs I created with plugins in my DAW, so having this brought under the Helix software roof would be fantastic, especially if its integrated well rather than being a satellite "feature". Capturing a tone from a recorded piece, comparing that to me playing the same thing with my "best guess" and the IR transform being generated is crazily fun. A more out-there extension of this might be GAN AI analysis in software to suggest this-verb, that-EQ, etc. plus a generated IR. This is definitely more a desktop GPU thing, possibly Helix Native-angled?

 

"Studio blocks" leveraging the 3D audio processing capabilities of the 5th gen. SHARC DSPs would allow for movement beyond simple stereo into modelling more complex spaces. This is more chumming of course. I don't fully see how live floor users would find that much application for this, but certainly it would add to the production capabilities of the rack. Perhaps this would bake in too much of the sort of thing that would be done DAW-side but hey.

 

External pedal power output?

 

Okay, I'm out of steam guys. This has bitten into my Sunday more than I expected :-D

 

Be constructive and realistic in response to anything written.

 

There are a few points here I don't necessarily concur with but also many I do. A technical, thoughtful, and thought provoking writeup with plenty of good ideas and speculation.

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The one thing I see as a major reality in the Helix marketplace is the user community is somewhat divided as to how important having greater DSP power is.  A large number of Helix users who develop presets on a song by song basis or whose presets are generally pretty simple have very little concern regarding limited DSP availability.  But there's also a large group that tends to focus on building more complex multi-use presets and are constantly battling available DSP levels.  It makes me wonder if the next generation might be the step that provides the answer for the second group even though that won't be all that important to the first group.  As long as the updates are consistent across the entire Helix family I don't see where that would be much of a problem for anyone but might be a boost in broadening the market for those wanting more power for more complexity.

Another area that could easily fall into this category could potentially be areas such as automation.  Although the current platform is adequate for simple functions it's far from adequate for more complex applications as is evidenced by the number of folks using MIDI controllers with the Helix.  Perhaps these two areas of functionality could be integrated in some way in a more complex unit or add on unit.  Just spit-balling ideas here.

 

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18 minutes ago, DunedinDragon said:

The one thing I see as a major reality in the Helix marketplace is the user community is somewhat divided as to how important having greater DSP power is.  A large number of Helix users who develop presets on a song by song basis or whose presets are generally pretty simple have very little concern regarding limited DSP availability.  But there's also a large group that tends to focus on building more complex multi-use presets and are constantly battling available DSP levels.  It makes me wonder if the next generation might be the step that provides the answer for the second group even though that won't be all that important to the first group.  As long as the updates are consistent across the entire Helix family I don't see where that would be much of a problem for anyone but might be a boost in broadening the market for those wanting more power for more complexity.

Another area that could easily fall into this category could potentially be areas such as automation.  Although the current platform is adequate for simple functions it's far from adequate for more complex applications as is evidenced by the number of folks using MIDI controllers with the Helix.  Perhaps these two areas of functionality could be integrated in some way in a more complex unit or add on unit.  Just spit-balling ideas here.

 

WhatEVER they do come out with, they are probably developing now or soon, right? Helix was in development for 3 years before it came out, iirc.

As far beyond HD 500 as Helix was, I expect a similar leap with the "next thing," whatever it's called. (I always vote for "WhizBang 2000 XL Mk iii SE"... which is why nobody has ever hired me in their marketing department...)

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7 minutes ago, PeterHamm said:

WhatEVER they do come out with, they are probably developing now or soon, right? Helix was in development for 3 years before it came out, iirc.

As far beyond HD 500 as Helix was, I expect a similar leap with the "next thing," whatever it's called. (I always vote for "WhizBang 2000 XL Mk iii SE"... which is why nobody has ever hired me in their marketing department...)

 

How bout the Line 6 "Awesome"? I can see the brochure already, lol...;)

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On 2/28/2022 at 8:14 AM, DunedinDragon said:

A large number of Helix users who develop presets on a song by song basis or whose presets are generally pretty simple have very little concern regarding limited DSP availability.  But there's also a large group that tends to focus on building more complex multi-use presets and are constantly battling available DSP levels. 

 

I am in that 2nd group... but day to day I do not run out of resources. 

 

However... if I tried to add something like a poly "drop" effect I likely wouldn't be able to.

At that point I'd just create a simplified duplicate preset which could handle it... which would then make me part of the first group :) 

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