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Helix vs Axe-Fx III

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Nobody has ever brought this subject up before.

 

After this many years, I don't think we should start now.

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36 minutes ago, Kilrahi said:

Nobody has ever brought this subject up before.

 

After this many years, I don't think we should start now.

Lmao

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A forum and/or YouTube alone should never be used to decide which piece of gear to buy.  Everyone has different needs, expectations, ears, etc.  Best thing to do is go to your local music store, spend some time with each unit and then purchase the one that sounds best to you.  Don't be swayed by fanboys on either side of the line.  Choose what's best for you.

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While you're waiting around for your "invitation" from Fractal, buy a Helix. With the extra $1K you'll have left over, buy a new axe. ;)

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Sabrett franks are FAR superior to Ballpark franks. Not even debatable. 

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1 hour ago, SaschaFranck said:

Here's a video of a guy usually prefering the Axe:

 

 

That was one of the best comparisons I've heard.

Maybe I'll try some some his IRs, compare them to my OH, 3Sigma, Rosen/Lancaster, Redwirez.......

Chasing that cwazy wabbit down the IR hole......

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10 minutes ago, rd2rk said:

Maybe I'll try some some his IRs, compare them to my OH, 3Sigma, Rosen/Lancaster, Redwirez.......

Chasing that cwazy wabbit down the IR hole......

 

I don't know how familiar you are with sequencers (I assume at least somewhat as you own that Focusrite), but once you have a bunch of "baseline" IRs ready, IMO it's making a lot more sense to bake your own by mixing them (and finally exporting them to a single one). I do that all the time and the results IMO are great. In case you're interested, I'll describe the procedure.

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32 minutes ago, SaschaFranck said:

 

I don't know how familiar you are with sequencers (I assume at least somewhat as you own that Focusrite), but once you have a bunch of "baseline" IRs ready, IMO it's making a lot more sense to bake your own by mixing them (and finally exporting them to a single one). I do that all the time and the results IMO are great. In case you're interested, I'll describe the procedure.

 

When I think of "sequencers" I think MIDI recorder but, yes I'm familiar with the process of which you speak.

I get it. You're working with that cwazy wabbit, trying to get me deeper and deeper into the wabbit hole....

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5 minutes ago, rd2rk said:

I get it. You're working with that cwazy wabbit, trying to get me deeper and deeper into the wabbit hole....

 

Nah, not really. Seriously, I have a bunch of baseline IRs and can make them work for pretty much everything by making "planned decisions", which is a whole lot different to selecting tons of IRs, which, instead of telling you "yeah, I do deliver more bitey high mids" are saying "Killerspeaker391-KillerMic725-CapEdge-2in.wav" - which, essentially, is telling you pretty much nothing (unless you're using it for the umpteenth time).

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1 hour ago, SaschaFranck said:

 

Nah, not really. Seriously, I have a bunch of baseline IRs and can make them work for pretty much everything by making "planned decisions", which is a whole lot different to selecting tons of IRs, which, instead of telling you "yeah, I do deliver more bitey high mids" are saying "Killerspeaker391-KillerMic725-CapEdge-2in.wav" - which, essentially, is telling you pretty much nothing (unless you're using it for the umpteenth time).

 

All IR vendors do the same thing with naming conventions. They should come with a digital decoder ring.

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11 hours ago, SaschaFranck said:

Here's a video of a guy usually prefering the Axe:

 

Interesting video. ML Sound Lab is a Fractal guy for sure. Ive read a few comments in the past that have clearly stated that.

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I'm getting  an FM3 so I can pit the fractal/Helix debate to bed.  The idea that Fractal can sound so much better than Helix just doesnt make any sense to me.  Maybe it does and I switch to the Fractal platform but I have a hard time seeing how its possible. 

 

My biased opinion is most of these "Helix doesnt hold a candle to Fractal" posts are made by high gain players where their tone and style aren't close to anything I play.  Last I checked people acknowledged that Helix shined in the edge of break up tone which is my bread and butter.  That may have changed with Ares, but I'm looking forward to comparing the two model systems.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, erabjohns said:

I'm getting  an FM3 so I can pit the fractal/Helix debate to bed. 

 

Good luck. Opinions and subjective assessments of amorphous concepts like guitar tone cannot be "proven" one way or the other. There is absolutely no objective truth here, and there never will be... there's only what you like and what you don't like. No one will ever be "right". Ford/Chevy, tastes great/less filling arguments will be with us until the end of time...

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The only objective truth would be that Fractal has more amps on offer. You may or may not need them. Personally, I don't, but I wouldn't mind the CPU power of the Axe FX III.

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On 10/26/2019 at 4:44 PM, dawg2k5 said:

What are your guys' thoughts?

 

They're both outstanding units but neither will sound outstanding until the user has learned to use them in enough depth to dial in the tones that they are aiming for.

 

EDIT: I've just now watched the video that SaschaFrank posted above, and the chap there says exactly the same thing, so clearly must be correct :-)

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Think I will get an FM3. Might be a bit of a wait though

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5 hours ago, BBD_123 said:

 

They're both outstanding units but neither will sound outstanding until the user has learned to use them in enough depth to dial in the tones that they are aiming for.

 

 

Nailed it.   My bandmate bought an Axe FX III and I have a Helix.   Previously,  we both used real Mesa Recto's.    The biggest difference I've seen is the ease of learning / use.  I can dial in patches with the Helix screen pretty easily.   He has to bring a computer if he wants to mess with his Axe FX.   The Axe FX III has a billion tweakable things on every block, practically down to atomic particle interactions on the power supply and built-in compression & EQ and all sorts of junk.  You can blend IR's and move the time alignment between them.  It's pretty cool, but extremely maddening when you're just trying to learn the basics and you don't even know which of the 5000 configurations are the ones causing you trouble.  It's a bit maddening even if you know what you're doing.     It's taken me about 2 years to get to the point of finally starting to understand what's going on with the more obscure settings like bias/bias x.   I'm a little jealous of all his routing options now, but not an extra $1400+ worth of jealous (once you throw in the footswitch).    My recommendation is,  go with Helix first... use it to learn how to make good sounds and figure out the basics of dealing with the world of modelers (which extends significantly beyond just the modeler itself).  After a few years and you're ready to take on the additional brain bandwidth of worrying about what happens when you play with the virtual power voltages on every block, then you can probably get the AXE III super cheap... or you can get whatever the new Axe model is.   

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On 10/26/2019 at 6:36 PM, rd2rk said:

 

All IR vendors do the same thing with naming conventions. They should come with a digital decoder ring.

IMO. the intent of the naming system is for those users who completely understand how the recording process of "paper cones" pushing air works at different lengths with different mics.  Some even provide a blend of mics at the same points.   The idea of mixing (LIBRA) IR's for a more suitable tone for your ears is great. I highly encourage it. I do it... so do the pros.

I do it all the time in my studio,  I generally make new IRs for every recording too...   I can generally start in the same area but I let my ears judge.   this creates something unique every time.

All my IRs, I've gone with always carry a second track of IR's that are room mic specific too.   

I shy away from IR companies that do not provide a million options as you are being fed an objective opinion on what a good IR is.  and that is my opinion though.  A lot of people find it convenient and easy and that is cool too.......i like options.

 

 

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21 hours ago, BBD_123 said:

They're both outstanding units but neither will sound outstanding until the user has learned to use them in enough depth to dial in the tones that they are aiming for.

 

Perfectly stated! 

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2 hours ago, Heavyville said:

IMO. the intent of the naming system is for those users who completely understand how the recording process of "paper cones" pushing air works at different lengths with different mics. 

 

Which is what studio engineers get paid the big bucks to know. 5 minutes on any modeling forum is enough to know that a large percentage of IR users haven't a clue. Redwirez respects their users by providing, along with the absolute widest selection of mics and mic positions, a lot of detailed info about that area of recording science - a virtual decoder ring. But who buys Redwirez IRs anymore? "That stuff is too complicated, it gives me a headache. Just tell me what sounds good!". Or (tongue in cheek) the common forum question "What's the best IR (or bass or amp or strings or) for metal?"

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I think IRs need to be treated differently as in "live vs. recording". I got the RedWirez big pack a long time ago and while I love the options it has on offer (I also have all IRs converted into Logic Space Designer presets which allows me to navigate through all of them with just my arrow keys) for my recorded stuff, for live I'm using quite different (self-made) IRs. Not only are those RedWirez IRs overkill but I also think they don't play comfortably through whatever of my FRFR live setups (wedges or InEars). For live I need a lot less mic characteristics and ideally pretty little early reflections - both of which you find plenty of in most IR packs. My own IRs are pretty "straight forward", trimmed as much as it gets and rather midrange-y. They seem to be working fine for everybody involved.

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In my experience, and I've only been mixing for...4 years now with limited gear (DIY), is that to get the good tones and the good mixes, your ears must mature a bit, there's no way around the hours and the tons of frustration. Once your ears mature a bit, you'll start to know what sounds you want and which ones you don't want, instead of just trying stuff to see if it works or not. This has been my experience. But progress is REALLY slow and it's easy to start looking for magic solutions especially when they are offered to you so conveniently through the Internet.

 

The Helix, the Axe, the Kemper, the VST stuff, even a lollipop old modeler, that all depends on how you mix it, the newer stuff is probably easier to work with, and the older stuff will probably be more work and less options that sound good. I've never had an Axe but the advantage it has over the Helix from what I've heard is that you don't have to tweak as much to get a very beliavable sound. But I'm happy with the Helix and I don't mind tweaking. You can hear unimpressive guitar tones from both the Axe and the Helix, it depends on the user, what I think can be a bit of a lollipop is that to get a more impressive & present tone in the mix you have to raise the high frequencies, doing that with modelled high gain amps can be very tricky because as you raise the high frequencies the sound becomes noisier, it's easier to deal with this with very good amp modelling and this might be where the Axe has some advantage over the Helix, but it's not very difficult to fix in the Helix either.

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11 minutes ago, vstrattomusic said:

what I think can be a bit of a lollipop is that to get a more impressive & present tone in the mix you have to raise the high frequencies, doing that with modelled high gain amps can be very tricky because as you raise the high frequencies the sound becomes noisier

 

Mid and upper mid, not high frequencies are what make a guitar tone cut through the mix. Too much HF just makes it sound scratchy and fizzy and poor.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, BBD_123 said:

 

Mid and upper mid, not high frequencies are what make a guitar tone cut through the mix. Too much HF just makes it sound scratchy and fizzy and poor.

 

EDIT: sorry for the double post - something went wrong with the first attempt, but it still appeared...

 

I was going to disagree, but you said "too much" high frequencies, and that's right, but that's the trick I think, raising them just enough so that the guitars sound big and open, without making them too noisy, if you do it just right, it's like you took a blanket off the guitar cabinet. But that's where you need good cabinet emulation & impulses, if I use stuff that's "ready for the mix" that's where the problems begin.

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7 minutes ago, vstrattomusic said:

But that's where you need good cabinet emulation & impulses, if I use stuff that's "ready for the mix" that's where the problems begin.

 

I must admit I get by fine with the stock Helix cabs, although I am not a metal, high-gain player. If there is a rule with Helix, then it might be 'keep it simple' :-)

 

 

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27 minutes ago, vstrattomusic said:

if I use stuff that's "ready for the mix" that's where the problems begin.

 

"Ready for the mix" is an enormous load of marketing bull$hit. The phrase itself is comical at face value. Which mix? Live? Studio track? They are all unique. Studio tracks especially... if they don't require some degree of post-EQ, it's just dumb luck. Not once have I ever actually seen that happen.

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This whole thread seems like an absurd comparison to make in the first place. The Helix and the Axe-FX III are separated from each other by over $1600 if you include the required additions of a foot controller and expression pedal. The four processors in the Axe-FX III and probably some of the other components are superior to the Helix as you would expect in a device that is so much more expensive. There is substantially more processing muscle in the Axe-FX III than the Helix. To me it comes down to which features you value most, what kind of UI you prefer, and whether you are willing to spend an additional $1600 for a setup that probably does have a better sound (provided you even have the ears to detect it) and more tweakable parameters than the Helix. I generally don't bother trying to convince myself that devices separated this dramatically in price are just as good as each other. I know it's heresy here but they probably aren't.  I'll admit it is somewhat comforting that even with the price differential there are still some things the Helix does better. Just happy to have the Helix. It does an incredible job and offers an amazing amount of features and flexibility at its price point.  I don't expect my laptop to do everything a Cray super computer does either, nor did I have to spend millions on it and my laptop does fit nicely on my desk and doesn't require 10% of the Hoover dam's electrical output to run. Suits my needs and budget.

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10 minutes ago, HonestOpinion said:

This whole thread seems like an absurd comparison to make in the first place. The Helix and the Axe-FX III are separated from each other by over $1800 if you include the required additions of a foot controller and expression pedal. The four processors in the Axe-FX III and probably some of the other components are superior to the Helix as you would expect in a device that is so much more expensive. There is substantially more processing muscle in the Axe-FX III than the Helix. To me it comes down to which features you value most, what kind of UI you prefer, and whether you are willing to spend an additional $1800 for a setup that probably does have a better sound (provided you even have the ears to detect it) and more tweakable parameters than the Helix. I generally don't bother trying to convince myself that devices separated this dramatically in price are just as good as each other. I know it's heresy here but they probably aren't.  I'll admit it is somewhat comforting that even with the price differential there are still some things the Helix does better. Just happy to have the Helix. It does an incredible job and offers an amazing amount of features and flexibility at its price point.  I don't expect my laptop to do everything a Cray super computer does either, nor did I have to spend millions on it, however my laptop does fit nicely on my desk and doesn't require 10% of the Hoover dam's electrical output to run. Suits my needs and budget.

 

Good points. There WILL come a point where all of this audio improvement is just snake oil. Our ears are pretty garbage in the grand scheme of things. 

 

In my opinion, we hit that a bit BEFORE Helix, but I could be wrong. How much better Fractal factually is, and how much of that fact we can actually perceive with our garbage ears, is up for debate I guess. 

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18 minutes ago, HonestOpinion said:

This whole thread seems like an absurd comparison to make in the first place. [snip...]

 

Amen to everything you've said.

It's pretty much inevitable that the Axe FX *must* be better in some areas. And it proveably is. More amps available at a time. More FX available at a time. More CPU horsepower to realize certain FX that simply require it (HQ polyphonic pitch shifting and the likes).
But in the end, the main question is whether you need all this. Personally, I don't, even if I wouldn't mind. And as far as sound quality goes, I'm almost perfectly happy with the Helix. I would however love to see some Axe features not related to CPU power and/or money, namely the global blocks functionality. That'd really boost the Helix in a most tremendous way for what I use it for.

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It's all good. Modeling works, competition will keep everybody on their toes, and we all benefit :-)

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On 10/27/2019 at 9:48 PM, hoghat said:

 

Nailed it.   My bandmate bought an Axe FX III and I have a Helix.   Previously,  we both used real Mesa Recto's.    The biggest difference I've seen is the ease of learning / use.  I can dial in patches with the Helix screen pretty easily.   He has to bring a computer if he wants to mess with his Axe FX.   The Axe FX III has a billion tweakable things on every block, practically down to atomic particle interactions on the power supply and built-in compression & EQ and all sorts of junk.  You can blend IR's and move the time alignment between them.  It's pretty cool, but extremely maddening when you're just trying to learn the basics and you don't even know which of the 5000 configurations are the ones causing you trouble.  It's a bit maddening even if you know what you're doing.     It's taken me about 2 years to get to the point of finally starting to understand what's going on with the more obscure settings like bias/bias x.   I'm a little jealous of all his routing options now, but not an extra $1400+ worth of jealous (once you throw in the footswitch).    My recommendation is,  go with Helix first... use it to learn how to make good sounds and figure out the basics of dealing with the world of modelers (which extends significantly beyond just the modeler itself).  After a few years and you're ready to take on the additional brain bandwidth of worrying about what happens when you play with the virtual power voltages on every block, then you can probably get the AXE III super cheap... or you can get whatever the new Axe model is.   

 

I have Helix, Kemper Stage, and Axe FX III.  You can do well with any of the 3.  I find Helix floor the most purely portable and it's easy to use without a computer (although I prefer major programming with a laptop).  I have no trouble getting highly useable sounds.

 

Axe FX III I will give the edge since this latest series of firmware builds currently at 10.2.  It is impressive with the tones I've coaxed out of the newer features.

 

You can't really screw up going with any of the three.  I'm not a fanboy on any of the forums other than "great job on this guys" whenever warranted by the 3 manufacturers.

 

Biggest thing is get a really good monitor or FRFR amps if you're going to go direct.

 

Good luck!

 

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Helix is an integrated ecosystem: Variax at the front, Powercab at the back, HX Effects and HX Stomp in the middle. That's what's really different. Very few people can hear the differences in amp and cabinet models. And then there's Litigator. 

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On 10/26/2019 at 10:52 AM, lungho said:

A forum and/or YouTube alone should never be used to decide which piece of gear to buy.  Everyone has different needs, expectations, ears, etc.  Best thing to do is go to your local music store, spend some time with each unit and then purchase the one that sounds best to you.  Don't be swayed by fanboys on either side of the line.  Choose what's best for you.


I don’t disagree but it’s pretty difficult to go to a store to check out a Fractal. And actually, because of that, I automatically disqualify the Fractal. No try, no buy. 

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1 hour ago, hideout said:


I don’t disagree but it’s pretty difficult to go to a store to check out a Fractal. And actually, because of that, I automatically disqualify the Fractal. No try, no buy. 

 

I can pretty much agree with that. Fortunately, I was able to check out an Axe FX II of a student of mine for a few days.

Btw, it's the same with Atomic stuff. No way to check things out others than buying or borrowing them from a friend.

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There is/was a trial of so many days for Axe.

 

I guess you probably eat the return shipping, though. Ouch.

 

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