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drb1982

FRFR vs FX Return

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Hello,

 

I’m new to Helix and im looking for advice. When I play my helix through a Headrush FRFR speaker I don’t really love the sound. I won’t say it’s terrible, because it isn’t. I just don’t like it anywhere near as much as when I play the helix through the fx return of my Marshall DSL amp. When I use frfr I use amp and cab models in the helix. When I play through my Marshall I use only preamps. I think my issue is that I don’t like cab and mic modelling. I don’t fully understand them and when I play the different preamp models through my Marshall’s celestian speakers I tend to like all the sounds. My question in this? The point of purchasing the helix was to move away from tube amps, so I don’t want to keep using it this way. Is there an option out there that allows this? Is that what the tech 21 power engine is for? What about impulse responses? Would frfr give me a sounds like an actual amp if I purchased a certain IR? I’m new to this world, but so far I find that I like amp modelling but I don’t like mic and cab modelling. I get too confused with the mic distance and all that. I’m used to just playing through amps without all the tweaking. Any advice on this? I’m sorry if I’m not being very clear 

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I would try out some free cab IRs first and see if it has any impact. If it doesn't seem to make a difference in your mind, you can try tweaking tips from people here.

 

If that still doesn't do it, then you're probably stuck using the real thing.

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There's nothing particularly hard to understand about cabinets, mics, and mic positioning.  As with any advancement of capabilities you have to be willing to invest some time to learn the concepts in order to get the most out of it.  You can't expect any piece of equipment to give you advanced capabilities for modeling a wide range of gear and setups without investing some intellectual energy in learning how to use it.  That doesn't mean you can't get some usefulness out of the Helix by doing what you're doing.  But you'll never achieve the flexibility one achieves once they grasp the full concept of modeling not only the amps and effects, but also the cabinets and mics which is a MAJOR part of the sound.  This really has less to do with getting away from tube amps and more to do with putting the full capabilities of studio quality sound into your live performance.  Every song you ever listened to either recorded or live was made possible by  using an appropriate cabinet, mic, mic position and mic mix to precisely tune and craft the sound.  So it's probably worth your time to invest in understanding it.  Especially in these days of the internet when learning how to do these things is just a simple search on YouTube or Google.

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It's been said many times but worth repeating often: NO modeler with an FRFR speaker will feel exactly like a guitar cabinet in a room. Because no FRFR speaker acts like a guitar cabinet. They are built differently, for different purposes, and interact with the room differently.

 

If you want to sound like a miked amp & cab on a recording or through a PA, modern modelers can do this perfectly, IMO. But for the room interaction and feel you're used to from an amp cabinet, you need an amp cabinet.

 

I rarely did the "cranked amp in a room" thing in my formative years, so I've been pretty happy with modeling quality for over a decade. Of course, IMO Helix was still a big improvement for me.

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Thanks for the replies and advice. I can’t say I disagree with any of you. But I think for me, what I’m really looking for, is all the great effect and amp models in one unit like the helix offers, but played through a real cabinet speaker. I don’t like the sounds of the mic and cabinet modelling, but to use the rest of the features of the helix that I love, it feels like I have to use the mic and cabinets also. The only other option I know of is to use helix through the effects loop of a tube amp, but a part of the reason I bought the helix was to get away from tube amps and have a plethora of different amps at my disposal. I get that most people feel that helix was meant to model the sound of a micd amp, and not meant to to give you the amp in the room sound. But that’s what I want. I want all the amps and effects of the helix AND for the amp in the room sound. If I want the sound micd for the studio or live I would rather just do it myself. I don’t want it to sound micd up when I’m playing in my basement. Is there not an option for this? I don’t know much about the power cab, but is that what it is for? Thanks!

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25 minutes ago, drb1982 said:

I don’t like the sounds of the mic and cabinet modelling

 

17 hours ago, drb1982 said:

I’m new to Helix and im looking for advice

 

Those two statements describe whats going on. Time will fix it and the tones created using Helix, mic/cab modeling and FRFR cabs. The best advice I can give is to take a patch, close your eyes and do not look at the dials you are turning. Instead, use your ears only, and don't readjust after you "like" the tone open them. 

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1 hour ago, drb1982 said:

Thanks for the replies and advice. I can’t say I disagree with any of you. But I think for me, what I’m really looking for, is all the great effect and amp models in one unit like the helix offers, but played through a real cabinet speaker. I don’t like the sounds of the mic and cabinet modelling, but to use the rest of the features of the helix that I love, it feels like I have to use the mic and cabinets also. The only other option I know of is to use helix through the effects loop of a tube amp, but a part of the reason I bought the helix was to get away from tube amps and have a plethora of different amps at my disposal. I get that most people feel that helix was meant to model the sound of a micd amp, and not meant to to give you the amp in the room sound. But that’s what I want. I want all the amps and effects of the helix AND for the amp in the room sound. If I want the sound micd for the studio or live I would rather just do it myself. I don’t want it to sound micd up when I’m playing in my basement. Is there not an option for this? I don’t know much about the power cab, but is that what it is for? Thanks!

 

The Powercab is an alternative FRFR approach butstill incorporates the cabinets or IRs.  But it does come closer to the amp in the room sound to a degree.

There's nothing wrong with your approach until it comes a time to go through a PA in which case you'll either have to modify your patch with a separate split off signal path that incorporates a mic and cab if you want to go direct to the mixer, or mic your cabinet with a real mic.  You also sacrifice the consistency of your tone with the cabinet as the sound varies depending on where you or your audience are positioned relative to the cabinet simply due to the way cabinets work as compared to FRFR speakers.

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1 minute ago, DunedinDragon said:

 

The Powercab is an alternative FRFR approach and still incorporates the cabinets or IRs.  But it does come closer to the amp in the room sound to a degree.

There's nothing wrong with your approach until it comes a time to go through a PA in which case you'll either have to modify your patch with a separate split off signal path that incorporates a mic and cab if you want to go direct to the mixer, or mic your cabinet with a real mic.  You also sacrifice the consistency of your tone with the cabinet as the sound varies depending on where you or your audience are positioned relative to the cabinet simply due to the way cabinets work as compared to FRFR speakers.

That’s a good point. I don’t really want to have to adjust my patches all that much once it goes to through the house pa. I wonder if I just need to experiment with different frfr speakers to see if I find one that I like more. I went with the Headrush 108 because it was cheap and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money experimenting. Maybe I need something with a bigger speaker. 

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7 hours ago, drb1982 said:

I wonder if I just need to experiment with different frfr speakers to see if I find one that I like more. I went with the Headrush 108 because it was cheap and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money experimenting.

 

Here's the rub though... the whole point of using an FRFR speaker is to provide a clean slate with no added color, so a modeler can do what it does, unencumbered. With that in mind, any two speakers that are truly FRFR will sound essentially the same. If you lined up half a dozen different ones to try, you may notice very subtle differences, but the odds of having a night and day, "eureka!" moment are slim to none, because they're all designed to do the same thing. Which in a sense, is nothing... except make you audible. It won't be like A/B-ing a Marshall vs a Boogie cabinet.

 

If you really want to stick with the goal of running direct to FOH, it really means making peace with the fact that fundamentally, modelers are not guitar amps. It's a different philosophy, a slightly different feel, and for most it requires a period of adjustment. But it's not for everybody... and that's OK, too.

 

If Marshall's are your thing, try some Celestion based IR's... that might get you closer to a sound you can live with.

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6 hours ago, drb1982 said:

That’s a good point. I don’t really want to have to adjust my patches all that much once it goes to through the house pa. I wonder if I just need to experiment with different frfr speakers to see if I find one that I like more. I went with the Headrush 108 because it was cheap and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money experimenting. Maybe I need something with a bigger speaker. 

 

The brutal fact is, the sound you're getting out of a FRFR speaker is the sound your audience has been hearing forever from the FOH, regardless of the cabinet you were using.  They weren't hearing the cabinet, they were hearing the mic'd cabinet.  It's just that you're not used to hearing it.  To your audience it's no surprise.

That being said, there are differences in FRFR setups whether it's speakers or a cabinet like the Powercab, and generally speaking you get what you pay for.  My philosophy is that it's pretty silly to spend the money we spend on sophisticated units like the Helix only to have them sound like crap because we tried to save a few bucks on the output device.  That makes no sense to me.  However, FRFR speakers and cabinets are also things that require a certain degree of technical know-how.  This isn't 1995 any more and technology has moved on, so that's kind of expected.  Woe be unto those that aren't willing to read their documentation nowadays....

 

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1 hour ago, DunedinDragon said:

The brutal fact is, the sound you're getting out of a FRFR speaker is the sound your audience has been hearing forever from the FOH, regardless of the cabinet you were using. 

 

Very true, but let me add one more tidbit. Just like all peaker cabinets, all FRFR speakers are not created the same. Read, ask and shop around for the best ones for the best deals.

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since your here using a Helix..... 

Amp in the room sound is generally a one trick pony, unless you've got a financial firm backing you and a road crew to load up all them amps.  

Amp in the room sound to me just means I like it really loud and includes the noises dishes and loose drywall and snares make.  Humans can be tricked by this.  Happens all the time.    If you're a mixer of audio, load up a compressor plug in and turn it off and on while doing nothing with dials, if its louder when it goes on,  you may have been tricked by dome default loudness war.  

 

 

 

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I think the most important thing is the sound the audience hears. 
IMHO a good modeler with a suitable IR is unbeatable.

The whole gimmick with microphone position and mcrophone distance matching to the performance location is omitted and you always have an authentic sound.

 

However, I can understand that the stage sound now feels a bit different. 
I consistently took the step to a small FRFR monitor speaker and got used to the other feeling.  
The sound for the audience is delivered entirely via the PA and is now determinable.

 

You can't always get what you want - so escape back to the origin or make friends with the new situation and explore the possibilities.

 

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Thanks guys. There’s a lot of good points and advice. I’m wondering if the FRFR speaker I’m using is causing some of the problem, or if it’s just a matter of adjusting to the difference in feel between a real amp and frfr. I’m using a Headrush 108 which is a very cheap speaker. I have really good tube amps and I haven’t really played a cheap amp in years so is it possible the difference in sound / tone quality I’m hearing is the difference Is more about the fact that I’m using a cheap frfr speaker? I’d be curious how much better the sound is with the line 6 power cab or the Friedman ? Anyone have any experiencing trying either of these after using a Headrush or similar price range  frfr speaker ? The price difference is really significant. I’d hate to pull the trigger on something like that and not like it

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1 hour ago, drb1982 said:

I haven’t really played a cheap amp in years so is it possible the difference in sound / tone quality I’m hearing is the difference Is more about the fact that I’m using a cheap frfr speaker?

 

No. You're focusing on pricetags, but money isn't gonna solve this problem. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with the Headrush speaker just because it didn't cost you a kidney. I recall number of guys posting that they are perfectly happy with their's. You could go out and buy the most expensive FRFR speaker you can find, and you're still gonna have work to do for the simple reason that you're not used to it. There are no instant fixes, and certainly none that involve spending money. You're having problems for two reasons:

 

1) You're dealing with two fundamentally different kinds of gear that require VASTLY different approaches to setting up your tones, one of which you have little to no experience with... that alone makes some problems inevitable.

 

2) You're not sure which way you want to go yet.

 

You already have everything you need to decide what's gonna work for you... you own both an amp and an FRFR. You need to spend a significant amount of time with both methods, especially the one you're not used to, before you decide anything..

but especially before running out and spending more money on something that ultimately may not help you, no matter how much it costs. I didn't gig with my Helix for a solid 2 months after I got it, until I was good and comfortable with how it works...and I was already well acquainted with modeling, FRFR, and running straight to FOH at the time. Some players will never warm up to FRFR no matter what they do... and that's OK, too.

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One option that I haven’t seen anyone else mention is to just buy a power amp, such as a Crown XLS 2502 (you might not need all of this power amp’s power though... you could find something cheaper), and run that into a guitar cab (just check the wattage and omns for the cab). 

 

Basically, this would allow you to setup as if you are going through an FX loop (using the pre amps) but you are no longer tied to a guitar amp. 

 

Another perk of this, is it gives you control to use whatever cab you choose, whether it be a guitar cab, a bass cab, an FRFR, or a fEARful (the bass guitar version of FRFR).

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15 minutes ago, jshimkoski said:

One option that I haven’t seen anyone else mention is to just buy a power amp, such as a Crown XLS 2502 (you might not need all of this power amp’s power though... you could find something cheaper), and run that into a guitar cab (just check the wattage and omns for the cab). 

 

Basically, this would allow you to setup as if you are going through an FX loop (using the pre amps) but you are no longer tied to a guitar amp. 

 

Another perk of this, is it gives you control to use whatever cab you choose, whether it be a guitar cab, a bass cab, an FRFR, or a fEARful (the bass guitar version of FRFR).

That sounds like a promising idea. So you just buy the power amp and hook it up to actual cab, and then run the helix preamps?

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15 minutes ago, drb1982 said:

That sounds like a promising idea. So you just buy the power amp and hook it up to actual cab, and then run the helix preamps?

 

Yes, that's what you'd do... but again, it won't help you answer the underlying question. You'll still have a power source driving a traditional guitar speaker, just like you do now. The only difference is that a power amp and cabinet are physically separate units... if your combo had separate speaker outs, you could drive an external cabinet that way too...Either way would yield similar results, and require the same patch creation approach. And practically speaking, it's the same as running into the FX return of the amp you've already got.

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Running the helix in an fx return is a perfectly fine way to use it. You can even send a signal directly to the PA by adding an IR to your preset (just make sure it doesn't affect your amp. I have a send that goes to it right before the IR. You could also use 2 paths)

 

It requires a small compromise: you need an IR close to your amp (you could even shoot an IR of your amp) and you have to make sure both paths sound good.

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