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Helix Split-Merge Routing does change the level (and other routing measurements)


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hi guys

first of all I'd like to let you know that I read all the threads I found about this same subject and didn't find the complete answers,

so I decided to run some tests myself (like I did on the POD HD years ago) and to create a new thread with my results

(I'm on FW 2.60 by the way)


ok, I'll start from the end results, so that those who just need to have a quick answer can read it immediatly,

then I'll give some deeper explanations



the main point of this post is: the moment you create a split/merge routing configuration by dragging down a block you get a level change:


after the merge block, with all bypassed fx:

with split A/B and Y you get +3dB at the output sum

with split crossover you get -3dB at the output sum




each path by itself gets attenuated by -3dB so if you use the split A/B to switch between sounds, each of those sounds is -3dB qiueter than the same fx/amp with the same settings in a non-splitted path



the good news are that the level changes do not actually occur at the split, so the two paths are both an exact copy of the signal before the split,

instead the change occurs at the merge block


so the right solution is to act on the merge mixer faders





why? and why those values?


• well to answer, I need to clarify two things that I've read someone get wrong and mixed up in other threads


1) when you sum two identical signals in a circuit either analog or digital you get +6dB boost (voltage sum)


2) when you send a signal to a physical speaker and then send the same identical signal also to another identical speaker you get +3dB (acoustic power sum)


this is math and physics, not an opinion


now, this second point is one of the reasons why something called "pan law" exists:

as we said, when you have a mono signal going to two speakers (so the pan knob on a mixer is at the center position) you get +3dB of sound pressure

so mixer designers in some cases decided to pad the center position of the pan knob by -3dB, gradually returning to unity gain at the extremes

(in some other cases they may use -2.5, -4.5 or -6dB: the actual effect of the pan law depends on the coherence/incoherence of the signals, on speaker placement, on listening conditions, and also on mixing taste I would say, so the designers have to make an assumption and take a plunge, I don't have time to enter into this now, sorry).



• now back to the Helix:


you have an empty "new preset" patch

you have a signal going through path 1 (I used various sine waves and pink noise)

you add a gain block at 0dB (if you want you can even bypass it) => nothing changes

you drag the block down creating a double path => you get +3dB at the output sum


so, what's going on?


- the A/B or Y split duplicates the signal to two paths,

so each of them carries the same identical signal which goes to a merge block mixer channel,

then the two get summed together... so you should get +6dB, but...

... since the pans in the mixer have a -3dB pan law you only get +3dB


- the crossover does not duplicate the signal but splits it in two frequency bands, if you sum those two filtered signals you get the exact same signal you had before, so no +6dB boost here,

but there is still the pan law, so you get the -3dB


- but, as I wrote before, each path by itself gets attenuated by -3dB because of the pan law, so if you use the split A/B to switch between sounds, each of those sounds is -3dB qiueter than the same fx/amp with the same settings in a non-splitted path



• please note that these are not theories or speculations,

I've tested and measured thoroughly every configuration and I'm sure the Helix routing works like that


• all this behaviours occur identically to mono or stereo signals,

remember that all the lines representing signal flow in the Helix display are always "double conductor cables" so either stereo or dual-mono

(stereo = they carry two different signals; dual-mono = they carry two identical signals)


this point could be deepened a lot but I don't have time for this now




some other considerations:


• if for example you open the pan pots of the merge mixer to the extreme L and R, the pan law attenuation does not apply and the level goes back to unity


BUT this is not a solution, because if you run in stereo you only get the left from path 1A and the right from path 1B




• I'd like to warn you of potential problems I found with the parameters inside the split blocks


I) the split A/B "route to" parameter is a balance control, not a crossfader, so moving it to the left attenuates the signal going into B while not touching the signal going into A and viceversa; so it is appropriate to use that parameter to switch from A to B but not too much to find a mix of A with B for 3 reasons:

1- as I said you only have control over the attenuation of one of the two signals you are mixing

2- at center (even position) you have more level than any other position because the two signals are at full level, so the judgement on which is the best mix is compromised for psychoacoustic reasons

3- worst of all: if the blocks in the paths are amps or distortion boxes or compressors, as long as you are not in A100, "even" or B100 positions, you are sending an attenuated signal to one of them, changing its sound and not only its level


II) the split Y "Balance A" and "Balance B" parameters (added in fw 2.10 so not covered in the manual) work like this:

the stereo or dual mono signal goes into the split, it is duplicated to path A and B and on each of those you can control the balance between left and right,

those balance control also have a pan law but different from the merge mixer block pans !

in this case it's unity at center and +3dB at sides !

(I think the reason for this is to avoid an attenuation to the splitted signals at default settings)


so if for example you use 2 amps in the paths do not use these parameters or the two amps will receive a different level than if the balance is at center.




• to finish I'll add two other Helix Routing measurements I found during my tests:


- the pan block is actually a balance control with a pan law equal to that applied in the split Y block: at center it's at unity gain, going to the left attenuates the right up to minus infinite and adds +3dB to the left (and viceversa)


- unlike the POD HD500 the fx sends / returns on the Helix are all at unity gain levels (+/-0.3dB),

thanks Line 6 !




thanks for reading, I hope to have been helpful





Edited by perapera
I edited this post adding, corecting and rephrasing things to be more clear and include different scenarios
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I'd like to add that on the Helix manual at p. 44 under "Tips for Creative Controller Assignment" it says:

"To smoothly blend between the tone on parallel paths A and B, select a Split > A/B block and assign the Route To parameter to an expression pedal. By default, a heel-down position means the signal passes fully through Path A. Moving the pedal toward the toe-down position will gradually crossfade into Path B. Alternatively, assign a footswitch to control the Route To parameter, for instantly switching back and forth"


"gadually crossfade" is wrong and actually it would be cool if it was a crossfader (but they can not change it in a fw update, because that would ruin many user presets)

what they could do is actually add a crossfader parameter in the merge mixer block


but of course we could do that by assigning level A and level B, or two gain blocks each on his path, to the same expression pedal with opposite min and max values:

this also avoids the problem of sending different levels from the split to gain-related fx and amps on the two paths, because we are controlling the levels after the fx


...the potential problem I see with the use of mixer levels is that -60dB, which is the minimum value for the levels in the mixer block, is not exactly silence (by the way, why didn't they go with -120dB like in the gain block?!?)

I say "potential" because the interference of a signal -60dB lower than another totally depends on the kind of sounds at stake

i.e.: it coul totally be ok for two clean or two distorted sounds but maybe not for a clean vs a distorted sound




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  • 3 years later...
  • 4 months later...
On 6/19/2019 at 7:24 AM, perapera said:

(in some other cases they may use -2.5, -4.5 or -6dB: the actual effect of the pan law depends on the coherence/incoherence of the signals, on speaker placement, on listening conditions, and also on mixing taste I would say, so the designers have to make an assumption and take a plunge, I don't have time to enter into this now, sorry).


As an addition to the great information presented by Lorenzo, if you're interested in an elaboration of what he says above, the following is an excerpt from my Max Your Mix! eBook. I hope you find it useful!


Here are the main attributes of several pan laws:


•    Most common. Most DAWs default to a -3 dB equal power pan law. With stereo, a mono channel panned from left to right will have a constant perceived level. If a DAW doesn’t default to this pan law, it will be available as an option.
•    Best for collapsing to mono. With stereo mixes that will collapse to mono (e.g., for broadcast or playing over a mono sound system), most engineers choose a -6 dB pan law. This provides constant gain. This means that a mono channel panning from left to right in the original stereo mix stays at the same perceived level when played back in mono. With other pan laws, mono audio will sound louder as it passes through center in the original stereo mix.
•    SSL console standard. Solid State Logic consoles use a -4.5 dB pan law. SSL was the first company to include compression on every channel. With a -4.5 pan law, a channel compressor panned to center reacts differently compared to other pan laws. There’s a subtle depth to the mix. You can consider this pan law like a preset that provides a specific effect.
•    “Up front” sonic character. The -2.5 dB pan law gives a somewhat punchier sonic character. This is also like a preset that provides a specific effect.
•    Old-school linear gain change. This allows for a center-channel buildup when panning a signal from left to right. It’s preferred for extracting the mid signal from a stereo track for mid-side processing. 



As laws go, pan laws are not applied universally. Different programs can default to different pan laws. This can become a problem when moving a project from one host DAW to another. Unless the selected panning laws match, choosing identical level and panpot settings may not produce the same sonic result. Perhaps when someone thinks a particular DAW sounds “punchier” than another, the “punchy” DAW might boost the level when signals are panned hard left or right. The “unpunchy” one might use the law that drops the center level instead.


For example, suppose you move a Cakewalk project to Cubase. The project will sound softer, because even with the same basic pan law, Cubase drops the center to maintain equal power, while Cakewalk raises the left and right sides. Conversely, if you move a Cubase project to Cakewalk, you might have to deal with distortion issues because signals panned hard left and hard right will now have a higher level.



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