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Amps won’t clean up on helix.


ashetler1
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hello everyone, I am new to the forum and also to the helix. Reading all the advice on here has helped a lot however I still can’t help but think something is wrong with my particular helix. The US double normal and the cali4 are the only amps that truly clean up. They are really the only amps I’ve found usable, they sound great especially the twin but I can’t help but think that the others are defective because unless I turn the gain and the master volume down almost all the way they all have a nasty distorted sound, can’t imagine anyone finding it usable. However the US double can be cranked all the way and doesn’t clip or distort at all. I am playing a les Paul studio with the stock 490 and 498. Does this sound normal to you guys? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated thanks.

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I don't have that problem. One of the nicest cleans I have is the litigator running very low on the gain but high on the channel down to just under 2 with a Strat, - you'd need to drop a tad more with humbuckers. Also I get good cleans from the simpler Marshalls,(J45) and the Hiwatt ( whowhatt). I also use the twin for cleans, which is what you'd expect, but if I run the gain right up at 10, I get a nice aggressive edge that is not very distorted, but definitely getting edgy.  

You don't tell us how you are amplifying the Helix, which may be a concern. 

If you find not only a lot of distortion, but it's very harsh, then are you going full range?  If so set speaker high and low cuts 100hz and 5Khz as a starting point to see how that helps?

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Do you know that the Fender "Twin" could be turned up all the way, without distortion but painfully loud? That's why the US Double is the same way (after what its modeled for). The gains on lots of the other amps in Helix are modeled after the originals, and when the gain is turned up it gets dirty sounding, as expected. Class A and AB amps especially get dirty as you turn up the gain or crank the master. It sounds like you have not been around many amps before, please excuse if this is incorrect. Or maybe this is your 1st foray into modeled (or Profiled) guitar amps and cabs? I do not think anything is wrong with your Helix yet. What are you using for a amp or FRFR speaker?

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Actually, from your description my first thought is there's something wrong with your output device or your input device.  It's not very likely something would be wrong with the models in your Helix, but that would be quickly fixed by simply downloading and installing the firmware since that's where the models reside.  It could also be possible, if you're using very hot pickups, that you simply need to pad the input.  But without any more information about your output device we can only guess at what's going on.

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All amps/channels have their own distinct characteristics, however they also follow the same general principle for usage. 

  • Preamp up / Master Down for overdrive tones
  • Preamp down / Master Up for clean tones

On the Helix, the preamp volume is referred to as "Drive"... that is where your overdrive comes from. The higher this is, the dirtier the amp will be. You adjust the overall volume of the model with the "channel volume" once you get the desired breakup from the "drive" level. For the cleanest tone possible, turn the "channel volume" up full then turn up the drive to achieve your desired volume. 

 

There are a few amps (such as the Twin) that will stay clean for a long time, but in general, most amp models will begin to break up when the "drive" is pushed past 4. This happens with the REAL AMPS as well... it's the nature of the beast! One more consideration, the hotter your guitar or the louder the effects in front of the amp are, the lower the "drive" has to be on the amp for it to begin breaking up. Since you play a Les Paul Studio don't be surprised if you have to keep the DRIVE down to 2 or 3 to keep an amp models clean... that's normal. 

 

There are also some amp models that WILL NOT clean up at all... that's because the model is sometimes the high gain channel of a specific amp. EG: SOLO LEAD OD will never clean up... while SOLO LEAD CLEAN will. That is exactly how a SOLDANO SLO Amp operates. 

 

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:
  • Preamp up / Master Down for overdrive tones
  • Preamp down / Master Up for clean tones

Is a good general rule. But some amp models require additional consideration as they have different gain structures. Preamp up / Master down will emphasis preamp distortion which is often asymmetric, produces more even order harmonics, and a smoother, less aggressive distortion with minimal sag. Any distortion from Preamp down / Master up will usually be from the power amp which is often symmetric, produces more odd order harmonics, and a harsher, more aggressive distortion with greater potential for sag. If both are up, you get a mixture of both preamp and power amp distortion which will mostly just have more saturation, the power amp distortion will contribute most of the tone.

 

However, the position of the tone controls in the signal chain can have a big impact on preamp distortion. If the distortion is before the tone controls like Marshal amps and Litigator, then the tone controls will control the treble ice-pick/fizz of the distorted tone. It can be difficult to get a good clean tone from this configuration because you have to run the treble low to keep the distortion warm, but then when you turn your guitar volume down to clean up the, the tone will be muffled. Other amp models have the tone controls before the distortion. These model give you better control of the clean tones because  you can keep the treble turned up when it goes into a clipping stage without creating more fizz. However, these amp model often don't have a lot of control of the tone after distortion, so they can be pretty harsh. Some other amp models have two drive controls and these might support distortion stages before and after the tone controls, and one or the other might have a bright bypass cap. These amps can be pretty flexible. You can of course change a lot of amp parameters with a foot switch or snapshot to get even greater control of clean to distorted tones. 

 

But if you need a lot of control of your tone, from clean to very distorted in the same patch, its often easier go get the distortion using multiple pedals in front of a clean amp. Each pedal can play a role in the signal chain. Since each one usually has drive, tone and level controls, you get a lot of shaping of the distortion tone and a lot of saturation control through stacking.

 

Try Guitar > Fuzz (OCD) > Distortion (Minotaur - with low drive, high level) > Teemah!. All blocks off is your clean tone. Set using the neck pickup, and use the tone control on your guitar to adjust for the bridge pickup. It's easier to remove high frequencies then it is to add them. Then use Teemah! to get your on the edge of amp breakup tone. Teemah! is great for this because it has bass cut before distortion to reduce mud, and treble cut after distortion to control ice-pic/fizz. It also has symmetric or asymmetric distortion with the Up/Down switch. This pedal is often left on all the time and cleans up very well with the guitar volume control.

 

Minotaur provides slightly more aggressive distortion and the Tube Screamer mid boost that we're so use to hearing. By itself, this is a different distortion than Teemah! by itself, and these two pedals stack very well to produce yet a third level of distortion. The low drive and high level emphasizes the mid hump of Minotaur and pushes the Teemah! harder to produce more distortion. But since Teemah! is later in the path, its flexible tone shaping has a greater impact on the overall tone. The more you stack in front of it, the more saturation and sustain you get, without having the overall tone change too much. 

 

Finally a Fuzz in front of Minotaur can provide a thick, smooth, high saturation and sustain tone with a lot of tone shaping control. It can be tricky to get a fuzz to sound good by itself, but stacked in front of Minotaur and/or Teemah! you have a lot more control.

 

Jeff McErlain has a great video explaining all this. See https://youtu.be/iK2b5LwcxrY. He also has a great TrueFire course on guitar effects. I highly recommend checking this out if you want to get the most out of your effects.

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Wow you guys are fast! Thanks. First off, sorry for not being more thorough. This is my first time on any forum but I’ve been reading this one long enough to know better. I am using a pair of sienhiesser closed back headphones most of the time and the rest of the time a pair of l3t speakers set to pa/reference mode. I should also note that when I hear someone playing through the helix on YouTube I never hear the unpleasant distortion. Until one day these forums lead me to the possibility of digital clipping, so I YouTubed what that sounds like and thought ah ha! That’s me that’s my problem. So I turned the global pad on, it helped a little but certainly didn’t fix it and I started turning the master volume and gain down on the amps but like I said I have to turn them down almost all the way to get it clean and when I do turn up the gain it doesn’t sound pleasant at all it just sounds bad. Rolling back the volume on the guitar helps to but by the time I turn the volumes and the gain down the sound isn’t much different than just going directly to the pa. Spikey to your point no I don’t have a ton of experience with hi end amps, so I’ve thought that could be the problem. Before the helix I had a supersonic 22 and a recroverb 25 and loved the sound o both of them, and even when I dialed in a sound I wouldn’t use it still sounded good just not to my taste. And also you are right on the money, this is my first time ever using a modeler. I think the distortion that bothers me on the amps almost has to be digital clipping but like I said the methods I’ve taken to get rid of it have also taken away any signs of life. Thanks again for the help, it’s very good of you guys to help a total stranger just because!

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21 minutes ago, ashetler1 said:

One other thing I noticed last night that seemed odd to me, When I turned the master volume on the Bassman amp model down to zero the volume I was hearing was still louder than when I bypassed the amp all together. Is this normal?

 

I'm now thinking that you are hearing your guitar raw buffered signal along with Helix's tone, at the same time. Guys???

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44 minutes ago, ashetler1 said:

One other thing I noticed last night that seemed odd to me, When I turned the master volume on the Bassman amp model down to zero the volume I was hearing was still louder than when I bypassed the amp all together. Is this normal?

 

This makes me very suspicious of the Helix master volume output level.  The reason being that if you have that Helix master volume up full, depending on the settings of your preset volume levels you could very easily be causing the limiter to kick in on your speaker which would account for what you're describing.  Where do you have your Helix master volume set?  That could also account for your digital clipping if you have the levels too high on your amp blocks or other effects blocks or output blocks in your signal chain.

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1 hour ago, ashetler1 said:

One other thing I noticed last night that seemed odd to me, When I turned the master volume on the Bassman amp model down to zero the volume I was hearing was still louder than when I bypassed the amp all together. Is this normal?

 

You will still get sound out of the tweed amp models unless you turn the Drive to zero, also.  If you have both the Master and Drive at zero and are still hearing output, you must have some other output path set up somewhere.

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Try global reset: power up with foot switches 5&6 pressed, just in case something got messed up. 

 

To avoid digital clipping, set each block level or amp channel volume so that the block is close to unity gain - sounds just as loud with the block bypassed or on.

 

Then make sure your playback device isn't clipping. 

 

 

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10 hours ago, ashetler1 said:

Wow you guys are fast! Thanks. First off, sorry for not being more thorough. This is my first time on any forum but I’ve been reading this one long enough to know better. I am using a pair of sienhiesser closed back headphones most of the time and the rest of the time a pair of l3t speakers set to pa/reference mode. I should also note that when I hear someone playing through the helix on YouTube I never hear the unpleasant distortion. Until one day these forums lead me to the possibility of digital clipping, so I YouTubed what that sounds like and thought ah ha! That’s me that’s my problem. So I turned the global pad on, it helped a little but certainly didn’t fix it and I started turning the master volume and gain down on the amps but like I said I have to turn them down almost all the way to get it clean and when I do turn up the gain it doesn’t sound pleasant at all it just sounds bad. Rolling back the volume on the guitar helps to but by the time I turn the volumes and the gain down the sound isn’t much different than just going directly to the pa. Spikey to your point no I don’t have a ton of experience with hi end amps, so I’ve thought that could be the problem. Before the helix I had a supersonic 22 and a recroverb 25 and loved the sound o both of them, and even when I dialed in a sound I wouldn’t use it still sounded good just not to my taste. And also you are right on the money, this is my first time ever using a modeler. I think the distortion that bothers me on the amps almost has to be digital clipping but like I said the methods I’ve taken to get rid of it have also taken away any signs of life. Thanks again for the help, it’s very good of you guys to help a total stranger just because!

Regarding the bad distortion sounds... Should be obvious but just want to double check that you have a speaker cab block or IR block in your chain. If there is no speaker block or it's turned off, you'll get a nice dose of unpleasantness, which sounds like what you are describing.

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Amsdenj. I have tried volume matching and that helps but when I try to get drive on an amp by turning the drive up or turning the master up one or the other, the distortion is very unpleasant still.  RoccoCocco. Yes I am using a cab, and yes the sound without one is a whole different level of unpleasant. 

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Can I suggest that you download few of Jason Sadites patches from CustomTone?

Try using them in conjunction with the appropriate "Dialing In" video for that amp and see how it compares with your setup.

A good example would be the Litigator preset/dialing in video because it has some nice clean and edge of break up tones, and he's using a guitar with dual humbuckers that should be in same ballpark as your LP.

 

 

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On 9/1/2019 at 11:03 PM, ashetler1 said:

...They are really the only amps I’ve found usable, they sound great especially the twin but I can’t help but think that the others are defective because unless I turn the gain and the master volume down almost all the way they all have a nasty distorted sound, can’t imagine anyone finding it usable. ...

 

On 9/2/2019 at 10:25 AM, ashetler1 said:

... So I turned the global pad on, it helped a little but certainly didn’t fix it and I started turning the master volume and gain down on the amps but like I said I have to turn them down almost all the way to get it clean and when I do turn up the gain it doesn’t sound pleasant at all it just sounds bad. ...

 

On 9/2/2019 at 8:11 AM, codamedia said:

All amps/channels have their own distinct characteristics, however they also follow the same general principle for usage. 

  • Preamp up / Master Down for overdrive tones
  • Preamp down / Master Up for clean tones

On the Helix, the preamp volume is referred to as "Drive"... that is where your overdrive comes from. The higher this is, the dirtier the amp will be. You adjust the overall volume of the model with the "channel volume" once you get the desired breakup from the "drive" level. For the cleanest tone possible, turn the "channel volume" up full then turn up the drive to achieve your desired volume. 

...

 

 

As codamedia indicated you will want your Drive turned down and your Master cranked up, not necessarily all the way, but the Master should often be set at 6 or higher to get clean tones. A good method for many clean amp models is to set the Master at about 8 or 9(although for some models the sweet spot is 10 or elsewhere) and gradually bring the drive up from zero until the tone has a nice clean punch without getting too gritty. You have two posts that make references to the Master volume in your  amp blocks being turned down and right off the bat that is going to make it difficult for you to get a good clean sound on many amp models. You have probably already done this but try swapping out cables/guitar and making sure you are plugged into the "Guitar" input. A compressor placed in your signal chain in front of the amp model can often help to get a good clean tone.

 

I can't speak to how the particular impedance of your Sennheisers sounds with the Helix as I don't own them but try setting your L3t's volume up at about midway and then adjusting your Helix's 'Ch Vol' and large volume knob to get the overall volume dialed in. If you have the volume down too low or too high on your L3t this could also contribute to a poor tone.

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Thanks for the litigator suggestion I will download that patch as soon as I get a chance to see how is compares to Jason’s. His sounds great. 

 

And spikey your suggestion about hearing the raw signal with the amp model actually sounds like it could be the case.  

 

Honestopinion, I’ve tried the master high and the drive low and bringing it up slowly but as soon as most amps start to get any kind of overdrive at all even a hint the unpleasant sound is there.

 

along with downloading and trying Jason’s patch I am going to get a recording of what I am hearing and maybe you guys can tell me whether that’s just what overdriven amps sound like or I have an issue somewhere. 

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On 9/3/2019 at 8:06 PM, ashetler1 said:

...

Honestopinion, I’ve tried the master high and the drive low and bringing it up slowly but as soon as most amps start to get any kind of overdrive at all even a hint the unpleasant sound is there.

 

..

 

Try working with turning down the tone controls paying particular attention to the Bass control. Also, probably not the issue but if you are using a delay turn the Headroom parameter up to max for clean sounds. On some amp models adjusting some of the amp parameters such as Bias or Hum can help as well.  Remember also that the Helix is responsive to your guitar volume so often just turning down the volume knob on your guitar will clean things up considerably. Good luck getting this resolved, it sounds a little elusive.

 

 

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So I owe everyone here an apology, and this is a little embarrassing. The good news is problem solved and I love my helix now! Apparently I hate the way the amp models sound without adding a high and low cut and I’ve read that suggestion a lot of times both here and on other threads and forums but overlooked them because the cab block had them already but for some reason today I finally realized that people wouldn’t be suggesting it if it was already there so I tried it and now making presets is an absolute breeze! Thanks so much to everyone for being patient with me and making all the suggestions. Your care is greatly appreciated.

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