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loydall

Pre-amp block to amp effect return or use amp patch?

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Hi - when I get a chance I'll try this but I'm going to set up some patches using just a pre-amp block (no amp/cab/ir) block and go straight into my combo-amp's effects return.

 

This makes sense to me - by going straight in to the effects return I'm bypassing my combo-amp's preamp effectively replacing it with the HX Stomp preamp.

 

But - I've read some people are getting better results using an amp block rather than a pre-amp block (still no cab/ir) but using the full amp block and then going into the effects return of their amp.

 

Anyone got experience of this? Seems more logical to use just the pre-amp to me.

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There is ONE and ONE ONLY, inviolate rule.

If it sounds good, IT IS GOOD!

 

I've done it both ways. I also use 4cm and use my amp's preamp, alternately switching OFF the FX Loop Block and turning ON either a Helix preamp OR a Helix amp (sans cab).

I've also used a preamp as a dirt box in front of either my amp's pre or a Helix amp (like using an AIAB on a pedalboard).

Someone (here or over on TGP, I forget) suggested using the legacy "Heavy Distortion" with an IR and NO amp! I tried it, sounds GREAT!

 

Experiment to your heart's content! The great thing about our virtual world is that nothing you do will break the box. The WORST that can happen is it'll sound awful.

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Thanks - I just had a play around with going straight into the effects return and actually, for the most part, I think I prefer using an amp block rather than preamp - the amp block feels a bit fuller in sound and gives more more tonal options than the preamp alone.

 

The thing I'm still struggling with is getting a convincing overdriven sound for a Strat on neck pick up.. it sounds great clean but the slightly overdriven sound sounds sort of, well, like any distortion sits on top of the guitar sound - not like it's part of the guitar sound. It's too metallic sounding - not creamy with a slight breakup which is what I'm after.

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I personally use the amp block on low volume and pre amp block on higher volume...

 

Try mixing with the poweramp settings in Helix when using an full amp block if it’s get 

too powerful, but anything you do that puts a smile on your face is correct...

 

 

 

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Honestly depends on which amp model you are using.  Some sound better to me with the Preamp block, others sound better with the full amp block.  Best bet is just to try them out both ways and let your ears pick for you. ;)

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I think a major factor in whether to use the preamp or full amp is how much headroom your power amp is going to have, as well as whether it is tube or not.  I actually go straight into the preamp of a Hot Rod Deville using the low input and full amp models....but I don't know if that would work if it wasn't such a clean amp with a relatively high wattage.  If you are going into a low wattage amp that starts distorting early in the volume curve, a full amp model might hit it with too much signal to keep things clear for the volume level you want.  And if you are going into a solid state power amp, I feel that might be too "unforgiving" in terms of how it clips to handle too hot a signal.  Just my .02.

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9 hours ago, JimGordon said:

I think a major factor in whether to use the preamp or full amp is how much headroom your power amp is going to have, as well as whether it is tube or not.  I actually go straight into the preamp of a Hot Rod Deville using the low input and full amp models....but I don't know if that would work if it wasn't such a clean amp with a relatively high wattage.  If you are going into a low wattage amp that starts distorting early in the volume curve, a full amp model might hit it with too much signal to keep things clear for the volume level you want.  And if you are going into a solid state power amp, I feel that might be too "unforgiving" in terms of how it clips to handle too hot a signal.  Just my .02.

 

Thanks - currently going straight into the effects return on a tube-amp (Egnater 40w combo). Are you saying that you go into the main input on a tube amp but still use pre-amp, amp blocks in your helix? I haven't actually tried that as it seemed logical to me to bypass the pre-amp if I was using a preamp/amp block in my helix and go straight into the effects return on the amp.

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12 hours ago, JimGordon said:

I think a major factor in whether to use the preamp or full amp is how much headroom your power amp is going to have, as well as whether it is tube or not.  I actually go straight into the preamp of a Hot Rod Deville using the low input and full amp models....

 

There is no right or wrong... if you are getting tones you like - go for it!

 

Where I have a problem with your statement is that you seem to equate the "amps preamp" as part of the power? Is it not! The power amp section of the amp is the power... ALL OF IT! Plugging a Helix directly into the power amp input effectively replaces the amps pre-amp... it will not effect the "headroom" of the amp in any way.

 

The only thing that needs to be considered is what "level" the fx return and/or power amp is set to. Some amps will be line level, others will be instrument level. For best results, the Helix should be set to match.

 

2 hours ago, loydall said:

Are you saying that you go into the main input on a tube amp but still use pre-amp, amp blocks in your helix? I haven't actually tried that as it seemed logical to me to bypass the pre-amp if I was using a preamp/amp block in my helix and go straight into the effects return on the amp.

 

Your initial logic makes perfect sense. Cascading pre-amps (eg:plugging into the front end of an amp, with an amp model already in place) can be unpredictable and counter intuitive. That doesn't mean it won't work, and it doesn't mean it can't sound good.... but it can create tonal problems that (unless you fully understand what you've just done) you may not be able to correct. 

 

The problem with doing this is that you will put the tone of one amp through another. The amps will NEVER sound like they are intended when you do that because the color of your AMP is always present. Bypassing the pre-amp by going direct to the power amp input (or FX return) is a more accurate representation of the Helix models. 

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:

Where I have a problem with your statement is that you seem to equate the "amps preamp" as part of the power? Is it not! 

 

 

 

Yeah, sorry, might have worded whatever I wrote oddly but certainly didn't mean that!

 

As you say "The problem with doing this is that you will put the tone of one amp through another. The amps will NEVER sound like they are intended when you do that because the color of your AMP is always present."

 

That's effectively what I was saying - which is why I'd always thought going straight into the effects return would make more sense - to avoid that colouration....

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32 minutes ago, loydall said:

 

Yeah, sorry, might have worded whatever I wrote oddly but certainly didn't mean that!

 

As you say "The problem with doing this is that you will put the tone of one amp through another. The amps will NEVER sound like they are intended when you do that because the color of your AMP is always present."

 

That's effectively what I was saying - which is why I'd always thought going straight into the effects return would make more sense - to avoid that colouration....

 

Try it. You might LIKE the coloration. Who cares what they are INTENDED to sound like? Unless you like it that way......NO RULES!

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3 hours ago, loydall said:

Yeah, sorry, might have worded whatever I wrote oddly but certainly didn't mean that!

 

Actually... my line you are responding to was a response to JimGordon quote, not to yours. I did two "quotes" and "responses"... my answer to your's was the latter part of my post... directly after your quote :)

 

 

3 hours ago, loydall said:

which is why I'd always thought going straight into the effects return would make more sense - to avoid that colouration....

 

... and if you read what I said when responding directly to your quote.... I am in agreement with that choice :)

 

Hmmmm. "colourization"?

UK? Canada? Australia? other?   .... or just a spelling error? 

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14 hours ago, loydall said:

 

Thanks - currently going straight into the effects return on a tube-amp (Egnater 40w combo). Are you saying that you go into the main input on a tube amp but still use pre-amp, amp blocks in your helix? I haven't actually tried that as it seemed logical to me to bypass the pre-amp if I was using a preamp/amp block in my helix and go straight into the effects return on the amp.

Yeah, I go into the low input, tone controls set at 12 o'clock or lower, using full amp blocks.  I know that it will color the sound somewhat compared to a neutral FRFR, and adds some noise on the higher gain patches, but it keeps it sounding very much "live amp in the room", which is a tradeoff I'm willing to make.  But my amp is pretty clean, and bland, and has a 4x10 combo speaker setup, so it has a pretty decent frequency range.

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12 hours ago, codamedia said:

 

There is no right or wrong... if you are getting tones you like - go for it!

 

Where I have a problem with your statement is that you seem to equate the "amps preamp" as part of the power? Is it not! The power amp section of the amp is the power... ALL OF IT! Plugging a Helix directly into the power amp input effectively replaces the amps pre-amp... it will not effect the "headroom" of the amp in any way.

 

So maybe I'm looking at this wrong or being dumb here, but whenever people talk about getting power amp distortion on a non-master volume amp, it makes it sound like the volume knob acts as an attenuator for the power amp, and that that controls the power amp saturation.  I have a combo amp that really has no control over the power amp volume, and long ago when I tried running a multi FX into the power amp, it ran at full blast with really no volume control.  So how would one control the volume if running the Helix straight into a power amp?  I always thought the big volume knob on the Helix was supposed to be run at full or close to full, as that would be unity gain.  And if there wasn't any way to control headroom on a tube power amp if no preamp is involved, how do people go direct to the power amp without full saturation occurring?  I guess maybe my rule of thumb about saturation and headroom on a Helix/amp combo only applies if you are going into the front end of the amp, and the headroom in question is  the preamp headroom, not the power amp?

 

 

12 hours ago, codamedia said:

 

The only thing that needs to be considered is what "level" the fx return and/or power amp is set to. Some amps will be line level, others will be instrument level. For best results, the Helix should be set to match.

 

 

Your initial logic makes perfect sense. Cascading pre-amps (eg:plugging into the front end of an amp, with an amp model already in place) can be unpredictable and counter intuitive. That doesn't mean it won't work, and it doesn't mean it can't sound good.... but it can create tonal problems that (unless you fully understand what you've just done) you may not be able to correct. 

 

The problem with doing this is that you will put the tone of one amp through another. The amps will NEVER sound like they are intended when you do that because the color of your AMP is always present. Bypassing the pre-amp by going direct to the power amp input (or FX return) is a more accurate representation of the Helix models. 

 

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17 minutes ago, JimGordon said:

 

So maybe I'm looking at this wrong or being dumb here, but whenever people talk about getting power amp distortion on a non-master volume amp, it makes it sound like the volume knob acts as an attenuator for the power amp, and that that controls the power amp saturation.  I have a combo amp that really has no control over the power amp volume, and long ago when I tried running a multi FX into the power amp, it ran at full blast with really no volume control.  So how would one control the volume if running the Helix straight into a power amp?  I always thought the big volume knob on the Helix was supposed to be run at full or close to full, as that would be unity gain.  And if there wasn't any way to control headroom on a tube power amp if no preamp is involved, how do people go direct to the power amp without full saturation occurring?  I guess maybe my rule of thumb about saturation and headroom on a Helix/amp combo only applies if you are going into the front end of the amp, and the headroom in question is  the preamp headroom, not the power amp?

 

 

 

 

In a NMV guitar amp the Volume knob controls the level of the signal being fed to the power amp. That's different than being an attenuator for the power amp. I think. Point is, power amp saturation follows the same rules regardless of where the level control is located. When the incoming signal is high enough, saturation happens!

 

The Helix output set to Unity is an IDEAL based on the idea that the attenuation happens in the digital realm, before the DAC, and that somehow (maximum geek-speak) affects the signal quality. The loss of tone in this process is the sort of thing that TRUE tone snobs discuss incessantly on HiFi forums and, in fact, in another thread (can't find it just now) there's a link to just such a discussion. My tube amp has a MV, but I set it up high and control the level I send with the BIG KNOB on the Helix because it's more convenient than running back and forth to the amp to make adjustments. I've tried it both ways and I think it actually sounds BETTER doing it this way. YMMV, but don't get sucked into thinking it HAS to be UNITY or TONE SUCK because some techie lays on some high falutin' scientific explanation of why it ABSOLUTELY IS! Try it and let YOUR EARS be the judge!

 

That said, WARNING! Start with the the BIG KNOB OFF and turn it up slowly or you might FRY your ears or blow a speaker! Use common sense!

 

As for all you said about going into the front of the power amp with Helix amps, you're over-thinking it. Set your reality amp CLEAN as loud as you can and still be CLEAN. Control everything else in the Helix. If you know how loud your reality amp will go without distorting with just the guitar plugged in, you know how loud it can get with the Helix up front before it adds to the the distortion. Look at it as an extra gain stage with it's own tone stack! I like to use 4cm because then I have a choice between the Helix pre/amps and the reality amp's pre with the touch of a switch. Best of all worlds!

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Thanks for clarifying things here; I was under the impression that the power amp saturation will always occur as you approach the peak output levels, regardless of input levels.

 

So my amp's clean channel (which is all I care about- the HR Deville's "drive" channel is crap) has no volume control, meaning that if I go straight to the power amp, it will be full on, with only the Helix volume knob controlling it.  Is there a global setting for the output I should change here, like from "Instrument" to "Line"?  The DeVille is 60 LOUD AS HELL watts, and I obviously don't wanna wreck my ears, but I also don't want too weak a signal hitting the front.  I guess as long as I am cautious in adjusting the knob, I should be safe. 

 

The way it's set up now, using the front end low input and keeping the tone controls no higher than 50%, the sound is a bit noisy in the background on higher gain patches, but it also tends to more or less behave admirably in giving me a range from clean on a Twin patch set clean, to really organic breakup on some of the more unruly Fender models, to some great high gain sounds where you can really hear the distorted notes going from just the model distortion to a controlled feedback if you just let it sustain.  If the straight to power amp option can work for my patches and setup, it would be a nice alternative with less background hiss.  I don't think I'd personally want to go with the FRFR speaker option, as when I bought the unit, and demo'd it at Guitar Center, the "sales" guy flat out refused to hook it up to a clean tube amp, and made me play through some kind of Line 6 powered cab.  (He also tried to shunt me off into buying an HX Stomp or FX instead, when I told him I had a real amp- not a real good sales job there, when I clearly wanted the full enchilada).  It sounded so bland and muffled and all the presets sounded so similar and, well, dead........I took a chance and bought it anyway, after looking at all the parameters available, which ended up being a good thing.  I'm not a huge fan of modern DI sounds or headphone out sounds from a modeler either, though.

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From the HRD Manual:

 

"D. VOLUME: Adjusts volume of NORMAL channel."

 

"L. MASTER: Use to adjust loudness of the DRIVE and MORE DRIVE channels in conjunction with DRIVE (F)."

 

So, If you're using the HRD Preamp section "NORMAL" (CLEAN) Channel, your signal is going into the "INPUT 1" (no pad) jack from the Helix 1/4" Out or a Helix FX Loop Send (4 cable method). The amp expects a GUITAR (instrument) level signal at the INPUT 1 (or 2) jack, so whether you're going direct from the 1/4" out or from a Helix FX Loop Send (4 cable method), you want that output/send set to INSTRUMENT.

 

CLARIFICATION: If you're plugged into an INPUT jack on the amp, the Helix Output should be set to INSTRUMENT LEVEL.

 

The signal is going from Guitar to Helix to the HRD NORMAL CHANNEL (Channel Indicator Light = OFF!). The amp's VOLUME knob is your amp's VOLUME KNOB. Set the Helix BIG KNOB full up (UNITY) or in "Global Settings - INS/OUTS" set "VOLUME KNOB CONTROLS" to XLR. That sets the 1/4" Out to UNITY by default.

 

The HRD's MASTER knob appears to be misnamed. It's not an AMP MASTER VOLUME at all, it's the DRIVE CHANNEL VOLUME. This knob should have no effect UNLESS the amp is on the DRIVE CHANNEL (Channel Indicator Light = Yellow or Red).

 

If you're going direct to the power amp (POWER AMP IN), REGARDLESS OF CABLING METHOD***, you'll be coming out of the Helix 1/4" Out set to LINE LEVEL.


CLARIFICATION: If you're going into the amp's "POWER AMP IN" jack, the Helix 1/4" Out should be set to LINE LEVEL.

 

In Global Settings - Ins/Outs set "VOLUME KNOB CONTROLS" to 1/4".

 

The BIG KNOB is now your amplifier's VOLUME KNOB.

 

*** there's a possible exception to this involving using a Load Box. That's got nothing to do with your use case. I mention it only because someone is bound to jump in and try to further confuse you by saying "but what if...."

 

 

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This clarifies things further- I appreciate it.  When I experiment with the power amp input, I'll switch to "line level".  No load box here, lol.  I'm curious if my patches that I created for the preamp-in method will all need to be changed or not to sound ok.....

 

Much appreciated!

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