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kringle

Why no level meters anywhere?

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I am completely confused why there are no level meters anywhere in the helix? none for any inputs or outputs, no where in any of the global settings, blocks, signal chains, EQs. 

 

Am I missing something?  I am trying to understand if the patches I build are correctly balanced in volume as the signal flows out of my guitar through the entire signal chain and out my output?  To me this is where every single patch starts and is the only way to build a usable patch - To not have such a fundamental control, is hard to accept - I have no idea how to know what's going on in my signal chain, if one pedal is blown out and clipping or running hot into another block, or if it's so low it's not driving the next block.

 

I find as I switch guitars or from patch to patch I have extreme volume balancing issues and the patches go from sounding good to utter trash.  Same for patches I download - such extremes in how they are configured that a lot of them require extensive adjustment to get the patch to a proper level that they often no longer sound like intended.

 

I love the potential & freedom of helix, but without any form of level control it's nothing more than pure audio chaos and requires OCD level investment of tweaking... and worse - instead of being an amazing tool, it's another digital rig that just sounds really bad. 

 

Please tell me I'm missing something major? how is everyone using a helix having no idea what's going on in the signal chain?

 

 

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15 minutes ago, kringle said:

I have no idea how to know what's going on in my signal chain, if one pedal is blown out and clipping or running hot into another block, or if it's so low it's not driving the next block.

 

In the modeling world, if you're relying on your eyes to tell you whether or not something sounds good, then you're doomed from the start. That's what ears are for.

 

Quote

how is everyone using a helix having no idea what's going on in the signal chain?

 

 

 

We listen and adjust accordingly, and for most users it works just fine. And not to put too fine a point on it, but  most individual FX pedals don't have level meters either, yet the giant pedalboard aficionados among us have managed to make those work just fine for decades, without any visual representation of what's going in or out of each one.

 

Modeling isn't for everybody... and that's OK, too.

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I can make it sound good to me. it just doesn't work if I switch guitars or play from patch to patch or if I share a patch.  Without any level control we generate snowflakes instead of producing quality usable patches.  Most analog FX pedals have a middle control that represents unity gain. Helix has no middle, no unity gain, no level control or level meter.   

 

Modeling isn't for everyone, but there is a difference between a poor modeling system and an outstanding modeling system. usability, signal quality, the right tools to ensure a good mix should be standard on something like the Helix.. but it's completely void. thus audio-chaos that only through extensive effort can something usable be produced.

 

I don't mean to be argumentative - but I'll ask if you are suggesting that having any insights into unity gain, signal levels would seriously hinder the modeling community. Understanding audio levels across the chain is useless to all helix owners and would hurt patch quality, consistency & sharing?  That good modeling is about listen and spinning lots and lots of knobs till it sounds good enough under that one single unique moment in time - probably never to be reproducible again?  And if it were there, you would put tape over the level meter because it's a hindrance to good patching.   I'm dosing in some humor here - but seriously - you find this would actually be a bad thing to the point you recommend people sell their helix and get out of modeling and go away?

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I think having meters might be nice, but I think you're exaggerating the impact they would have. There are input and output meters in Helix Native, and I hardly look at those.  mentioned above, pedals in the analog world rarely have any sort of metering (and, really, it's rare that there's one knob position that represents unity gain, especially for OD and distortion pedals). At 32-bit floating point, it's pretty much impossible to actually induce digital clipping in the box. It is possible to push certain blocks into overload conditions, just like it's possible to overload a VST in a DAW. In the Helix, that usually means you have some extreme settings before that block.

 

There are really only two blocks in the Helix that can be pushed into a true clipping state, and in both cases, the clipping is part of the effects. There's the Bitcrusher and the Vintage Digital Delay. If you low the Bit Depth parameter in those, you can induce digital clipping, and you'll hear it right away. In the Vintage Digital Delay, there's a Headroom parameter that can offset this so clipping happens later.

 

I think the hardware may see some sort of metering at some point, but I don't know. I know the reason Eric Klein (aka, Digital Igloo, the Helix product manager, no Chief Design Architect at YGG) has given for not including them sooner is that they don't want to make it something people get hung up on. Having the levels perfect isn't really going to make it all that much easier to get a tone you like. It matters to some extent, but it's pretty easy to remedy if you run into issues. I've been using the Helix for over four years now, and I've rarely ran into an issue.

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38 minutes ago, kringle said:

I don't mean to be argumentative-

 

That's debatable.... but really neither here nor there, as it won't change anything either way.

 

Quote

but I'll ask if you are suggesting that having any insights into unity gain, signal levels would seriously hinder the modeling community.

 

I didn't suggest anything one way or the other. I merely pointed out that it is what it is. There are are no meters... so you either work with the design as it is, or you don't.

 

Quote

 

Understanding audio levels across the chain is useless to all helix owners and would hurt patch quality, consistency & sharing?  That good modeling is about listen and spinning lots and lots of knobs till it sounds good enough under that one single unique moment in time - probably never to be reproducible again?

 

Reproducibility is two clicks of the "save" button away at any moment.

 

Quote

 

  And if it were there, you would put tape over the level meter because it's a hindrance to good patching.   I'm dosing in some humor here - but seriously - you find this would actually be a bad thing to the point you recommend people sell their helix and get out of modeling and go away?

 

Again, I recommended nothing in particular... nor did I say that Helix would be better or worse if we were to be gifted level meters in a firmware update tomorrow. All I did was offer a perfectly valid comparison to the use of individual effects pedals, most of which don't have meters either.... yet we don't see the world's guitarists taking to the streets, demanding that they be added to every pedal on the market, so that we may all better "understand" our signal chains.

 

Regardless, as of today, Helix is what it is...and no amount of lamenting over the lack of metering will make them suddenly appear. If that's a deal-breaker for you, so be it. I don't torture myself by continuing to use stuff I don't like.... why would anyone?

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I would love to have a metering block that I could insert wherever I wanted in the chain to monitor the level, when I felt the desire to.

 

The Helix is not the same as a "pedalboard > amp"... it is "pedalboard > amp > cab > mic > post EQ/effects". 

  • When I mix live, I monitor meters
  • When I record, I monitor meters

Why wouldn't I want to monitor what is happening in the Helix? I've never understood the denial of a good tool!

 

Monitoring a meter does NOT MEAN I am a slave to that meter! I look at a meter like I do a speedometer in a car. Sure, I can get a good feel of what is happening without looking, but every now and then it is nice to look down and take a snapshot of reality! Sometimes I'm doing 75 when I thought I was doing 60 - 65 :) 

 

As for "use your ears". Tone and metering are not directly related. 

Why not both? Why deny anyone of a tool they want, especially when you are not forced to use it if you don't want to. That's like denying someone the desire for a high gain amp they want.... just because you don't have any interest. 

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10 minutes ago, codamedia said:
  • When I mix live, I monitor meters
  • When I record, I monitor meters

 

Not trying to argue about it too much, but I think these are different situations. When you're recording, you need to meter the source to ensure that you're not going above 0.0dbfs as any information beyond that threshold will be lost forever. As far as live, it's a little less critical than recording, but it's possible that may actually clip something down the line.

 

I don't think anyone at Line 6 would necessarily meters are bad, but just that it could lead to a misunderstanding of what's happening. Most of the time there's no real penalty for going above 0.0dbfs "in the box" as long as you account for it later somewhere. I think a master output meter would probably be the most useful thing, followed by an input meter. Meters at various points along the signal chain, not so much.

 

Personally, I felt like my mixing in Reaper improved dramatically almost instantaneously when I learned I could basically ignore the meters on individual tracks. Of course, I still have to be careful that I'm not overloading a plug-in somewhere, but if my tracks are hitting red, I just ignore it most of the time unless I hear something weird. I'll just lower the master fader before mixing down to ensure the final track isn't clipping.

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7 minutes ago, phil_m said:

Not trying to argue about it too much, but I think these are different situations. When you're recording, you need to meter the source to ensure that you're not going above 0.0dbfs as any information beyond that threshold will be lost forever. As far as live, it's a little less critical than recording, but it's possible that may actually clip something down the line.

 

Yes, those are two different scenario's.... and having it on the Helix is a third scenario. 

My point was not to suggest the benefit is the same in all situations, just that meters are useful in general. 

 

A closer look at the sentence I bolded. EXACTLY! The Helix itself may not clip internally, but eventually that sound will land on another device (console, FRFR, interface, amp, etc... etc....) and it is best to stay within certain thresholds when it does! 

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46 minutes ago, phil_m said:

I know the reason Eric Klein (aka, Digital Igloo, the Helix product manager, no Chief Design Architect at YGG) has given for not including them sooner is that they don't want to make it something people get hung up on.

 

This is the political answer you create when you are called out for not having it on your device to begin with :) 

 

The single "most voted for" feature request on ideascale is meters, the 2nd is a digital clipping indicator (aka... input clipping at the AD conversion)

That speaks volumes as to what the people would like to see. 

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7 minutes ago, codamedia said:

 

This is the political answer you create when you are called out for not having it on your device to begin with :) 

 

The single "most voted for" feature request on ideascale is meters, the 2nd is a digital clipping indicator (aka... input clipping at the AD conversion)

That speaks volumes as to what the people would like to see. 

 

I honestly don't think it's political in the sense that I think that's the way they genuinely see it... What if I told you that the early plans for the Helix included meters?

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For context, I use the helix for live play and occasional recording, and to codamendia's point - it's more than a pedal board, it's my entire signal chain which includes mixing.  Live, I run to mixes of monitors, PAs, house sound, and send outputs to two different pedals for singers for additional key tracking on their vocal fx pedals.

 

Live I find that I might be spot on for a few songs, and then one is completely overblown and unbalanced.  I also find that what sounds really good running through my PowerCab or into my home interface, mixer or DAW sounds completely different going to house sound or our live sound board (using the exact same patches, output and master volume) and I find it's been an enormous amount of hours/effort spent trying to get 60ish usable patches.  Through all of that work, I don't feel I learned a valuable skill of modeling, I've just figured out how to endlessly tweak to reach "good enough".   I wish there were leveling tools to build quality usable patches that work no matter the input/output or require just simply adjusting the input/output (which helix is easy to do with master control, or easy adjustment)  what's missing is throughout the entire chain there is no way to ensure good levels.

 

If there were "no wrong way" to build a patch - then I get it, my point is moot.  but I find so many patches that are build WRONG, levels are off, there's clipping, excessive noise, tones washed out, something off I can't figure out. The probability of making a bad sound is far greater than probability of finding a great sound.

 

I still love the helix, it has made my gigging better with having my per-song tone change so easily - I just find that it takes many many hours to make one patch that matches and fits into the rest of my setlist. it's exhausting and I don't feel it should be that time consuming - I think having some "tools" to help build quality balanced patches (one being ability to see level) would greatly improve this experience and thus, make me happier, let me play/practice more and ultimately find more value in the helix.   

 

 

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31 minutes ago, phil_m said:

What if I told you that the early plans for the Helix included meters?

 

Then I am disappointed that they were removed from the plans :) 

 

I can understand not making it part of the hardware, or "fixing a certain amount of resources" for it... but surely as a moveable block the person can decide to use or not wouldn't be hard, nor would it be detrimental to the unit.

 

If I person fixates on meters and a poor sounding patch results from it.... that's on the user, not the tools. Fixating on a delay, or a reverb, or a distortion, or a compressor, etc... etc.. would have the same results :) 

 

@kringle... if you are recording with your Helix.... do you have a DAW at home? If so... set it up with a meter on the channel and use that for metering. I use my home studio console for the most part, but I also use a meter in the DAW now and then as well. Both work equally as well. My tones are extremely consistent regardless of what I am plugged into. 

 

Important to note: I use meters to get in the ballpark, and keep myself in the ballpark. In the end, it is your ears that do the final adjustments. 

 

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11 minutes ago, kringle said:

For context, I use the helix for live play and occasional recording, and to codamendia's point - it's more than a pedal board, it's my entire signal chain which includes mixing.  Live, I run to mixes of monitors, PAs, house sound, and send outputs to two different pedals for singers for additional key tracking on their vocal fx pedals.

 

Live I find that I might be spot on for a few songs, and then one is completely overblown and unbalanced.  I also find that what sounds really good running through my PowerCab or into my home interface, mixer or DAW sounds completely different going to house sound or our live sound board (using the exact same patches, output and master volume) and I find it's been an enormous amount of hours/effort spent trying to get 60ish usable patches.  Through all of that work, I don't feel I learned a valuable skill of modeling, I've just figured out how to endlessly tweak to reach "good enough".   I wish there were leveling tools to build quality usable patches that work no matter the input/output or require just simply adjusting the input/output (which helix is easy to do with master control, or easy adjustment)  what's missing is throughout the entire chain there is no way to ensure good levels.

 

If there were "no wrong way" to build a patch - then I get it, my point is moot.  but I find so many patches that are build WRONG, levels are off, there's clipping, excessive noise, tones washed out, something off I can't figure out. The probability of making a bad sound is far greater than probability of finding a great sound.

 

I still love the helix, it has made my gigging better with having my per-song tone change so easily - I just find that it takes many many hours to make one patch that matches and fits into the rest of my setlist. it's exhausting and I don't feel it should be that time consuming - I think having some "tools" to help build quality balanced patches (one being ability to see level) would greatly improve this experience and thus, make me happier, let me play/practice more and ultimately find more value in the helix.   

 

 

There is a lot going on here. 

how are you currently doing volume checks?     if you have a daw, set up a recording channel when making a patch.... now you have a output meter.    I;d rather not give up any possible DSP to a level meter. 

what volumes are  you making these patches at?   should be gig volume on the device you are going to use live. 

Live should have specific patches for live, imo.

recording should have another set, imo.  

 

60 patches is a lot imo.    what are they for?    cover band with different genres?   

try to start with basic patches -   

1 clean 

1 clean boosted

1 classic rock

1 modern rock 

1 Metal or hi gain.   

then populate 60 patches from there.    I used to have 50 patches set up individually for different songs....does not have a good return on investment.  I have 4-5 patches that I'm happy with and cover the songs for the most part, if one has a funky effect, then I'll set up another patch to include it.... 

 

 

good luck.   

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54 minutes ago, codamedia said:

Why deny anyone of a tool they want, especially when you are not forced to use it if you don't want to. That's like denying someone the desire for a high gain amp they want.... just because you don't have any interest. 

 

I'm not out to deny anybody anything...we all have our wish lists, and the OP is free to demand the moon if he likes. I am a realist, however... plus, he summed up his own opening salvo with one very concise thought:

 

"...instead of being an amazing tool, it's another digital rig that just sounds really bad."

 

Nuff said. He doesn't like it, and he's decided that the lack of metering is why. Moreover, he seems convinced that some additional dancing lights would transform Helix into something usable for him. OK...maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't...I have no idea. Belaboring the point accomplishes nothing, though. We don't have meters. Oh well.

 

I owned a Saturn years ago. Hated it. It was a high performance lawnmower, with a $hitty plastic interior that started falling apart after less than 2 years... so as soon as it was feasible, I got rid of it. I could have sat around repeatedly saying to myself, "I'd like this thing a whole lot better if it were a Ferrari"... but what would that have accomplished?  Either use the thing as is, or find something that makes you happy.

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4 minutes ago, cruisinon2 said:

plus, he summed up his own opening salvo with one very concise thought:

 

"...instead of being an amazing tool, it's another digital rig that just sounds really bad."

 

I did miss that.... and don't agree with that comment at all. I can see where you are coming from when responding to that. 

 

I would still like to have a meter block though :) 

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26 minutes ago, Heavyville said:

Thanks. I do have a Presonus Studio Interface into Studio One DA, yamaha mixer, powercab and studio monitors I can switch between. I can set my volume into the DAW just fine, it's not the final output level of a single patch that's the issue. I can do that fairly easily. But when I shift from studio to live, other issues manifest. For example what sounds perfect into DAW could flub on an in ear monitor, yet sound clear on a PA and it's not because master volume to the device, it's because the patch is overblown within the modeled signal chain even though the total output level/volume is very low.  I can go from a great metal tone to sounding like static.  I'll have a clear fender sound with mild breakup perfect at home between the Helix into PowerCab. but when I connect to PA system or DAW it becomes too clean and is like ice picks while using the same guitar and same settings.  I find ALL if these tonal issues are 100% inside the helix's signal chain and are NOT the external speakers.

Quote

I am a cover band and a lot of variation, so the helix brings me replication of original sound.  Going from opening of PJ Black with a old time transistor radio sound to ambient cure love song to Own Worst Enemy to Boulevard of broken dreams to Audioslave's Like a Stone to STP Push, to Royal Blood octave splits are all significant guitar changes that can't be covered by 3-5 basic patches. I have 100+ songs we cover.  Some are similar and I duplicate them with a new name.  

 

Helix helps with all this, but we're talking hundreds of hours to build these... and when I grab something off the community it doesn't fit with whatever my base level is, because the person who built that uses a while different base for how they approach patches, So I need to drastically alter their patch or build from scratch.

 

I see that with some audio management tools, starting with simple leveling throughout the chain - could greatly improve Helix.

 

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19 minutes ago, codamedia said:

 

I did miss that.... and don't agree with that comment at all. I can see where you are coming from when responding to that. 

 

I would still like to have a meter block though :) 

 

I understand why it caused reaction, the point I was trying to make was that  Helix has a very wide range - along with its ability to be amazing comes the ability to sound like trash.  What I don't like about helix is how substantially harder it is to find the "amazing needle" in the haystack of mediocre to bad.  With all the power of helix, it's important to have the right tools and guides included that help keep you in the good-zone.  

 

so YES - it's an amazing tool that is much harder than it should be to make that amazing come through - too often the net-net-net result is the sound coming to my ears is on part with cheap digital rigs, and I'll acknowledge it's all me doing the dialing, so yes call it user error - but I find that so many in this community operate with user error equal to me, of the thousands of patches I've tried hundreds - any my opinion is  <1% are well built, balanced and usable....  That's not good and you can't put that entirely on the community, that's the full user experience of helix that's lacking.

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7 minutes ago, kringle said:

What I don't like about helix is how substantially harder it is to find the "amazing needle" in the haystack of mediocre to bad. 

 

I'm with you on meters... but I'm sorry, I don't agree with this statement.

I don't dig through any mediocrity on the Helix.... I bond well with this wonderful machine. 

 

If you are describing the presets and shared presets as "mediocre to bad".... well.... YEAH! Please don't tell me you are counting on presets for tones? 

I have NEVER found a preset that would make me happy, and I would NEVER expect one of my presets to make someone else happy! 

 

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36 minutes ago, kringle said:

Live I find that I might be spot on for a few songs, and then one is completely overblown and unbalanced.  I also find that what sounds really good running through my PowerCab or into my home interface, mixer or DAW sounds completely different going to house sound or our live sound board (using the exact same patches, output and master volume) and I find it's been an enormous amount of hours/effort spent trying to get 60ish usable patches.  Through all of that work, I don't feel I learned a valuable skill of modeling, I've just figured out how to endlessly tweak to reach "good enough".   I wish there were leveling tools to build quality usable patches that work no matter the input/output or require just simply adjusting the input/output (which helix is easy to do with master control, or easy adjustment)  what's missing is throughout the entire chain there is no way to ensure good levels.

First - I would love a movable meter block that you could call up after any effect to check the output level.

But it's hardly "necessary" to get good sounds of the Helix. 

 

To the first issue, build your patches at live volume with a similar monitoring situation you use live and you shouldn't have wildly different levels.  If you live sound is drastically different than your rehearsal tones, either your FOH guy is treating your channel like he would a mic'd cab, or your patches aren't all that and a bag of chips to begin with. The only "skill of modeling" required is knowing what sound you're after and choosing the cab modeling/output method that suits your desired sound.If you treat the rest of it like a pedalboard/amp setup there' isn't much of a curve to getting a good sound other than learning the menu layout. If you're using 60+ patches I'm assuming you're playing some sort of cover/tribute set, and would expect that there is money involved, so is it worth your time to actually use 60+ plus patches and stress out about leveling across all of them, or would it make more sense to build a "rig" that sounds good on one patch and copy it over to a few additional patches switching out FX you might need for specific songs? If it's not a big income contributor, how much time outside of rehearsal is it worth to nail down 60+ patches for a set? Could you imagine trying to use 60+ different rigs in a live setting IRL and how long it would take to dial all of that in? It would be insane, not to mention the amount time you'd need to to wire everything together, the full-size truck you'd need to transport it, and the hours of setup every time you wanted to use it. These devices have a tendency to give people either option paralysis, or too many tools to think about when there's usually a simpler solution. If it sounds good, it is good. If it sounds bad, metering probably isn't gonna fix that.

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5 minutes ago, kringle said:

 

I understand why it caused reaction, the point I was trying to make was that  Helix has a very wide range - along with its ability to be amazing comes the ability to sound like trash.  What I don't like about helix is how substantially harder it is to find the "amazing needle" in the haystack of mediocre to bad.  With all the power of helix, it's important to have the right tools and guides included that help keep you in the good-zone.  

 

so YES - it's an amazing tool that is much harder than it should be to make that amazing come through - too often the net-net-net result is the sound coming to my ears is on part with cheap digital rigs, and I'll acknowledge it's all me doing the dialing, so yes call it user error - but I find that so many in this community operate with user error equal to me, of the thousands of patches I've tried hundreds - any my opinion is  <1% are well built, balanced and usable....  That's not good and you can't put that entirely on the community, that's the full user experience of helix that's lacking.

 

I think you're attributing a lot of power to meters... I have a hard time believing it would make dialing in a tone all that much easier. There's a ton of variables at play, and the signal level is only one of them, and, really, the thing that is going to have the most impact on is probably going into the amp model. So as long as you aren't doing something totally out in left field prior to the amp block, it shouldn't be that big of a deal. Like I said earlier, there are blocks that you can overload, but that becomes pretty obvious when that happens.

 

I think the phenomenon you're describing - it being easier to create bad sounds than good ones - is just part of the process of using a model with a ton of amp models and effects. Personally, I don't use most of the amp models. I stick ones I know I like most of the time. I will sometimes try to spend time with one I'm not that familiar with and dial it in to something I like, and that can be fun. But if I were trying to create a bunch of tones really fast, I'd stick to what I was familiar with.

 

Again, I'm not against meters being implemented in some way, but I don't see them being a silver bullet for anything, really.

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23 minutes ago, kringle said:

the point I was trying to make was that  Helix has a very wide range - along with its ability to be amazing comes the ability to sound like trash. 

 

When the user can't handle it a Ferrari doesn't look so good when it's wrapped around a tree either!

 

Back to a musical comparison.... :)

Take a beautiful JCM800 1/2 Stack, and give that same amp to three players.

  • The first will make it sound like a basket of moquitos
  • The next will make it sound like a muddy undefinable mess
  • The next will get a glorious tone out of it

It's not the tools.... 

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23 minutes ago, kringle said:

...and when I grab something off the community it doesn't fit with whatever my base level is, because the person who built that uses a while different base for how they approach patches, So I need to drastically alter their patch or build from scratch.

 

 

 

 

You're right about this... Customtone is the Wild West, and continuity from one player to another using the same patch is essentially nonexistent, but its not because of a lack of metering. First of all, you're assuming that Joe Average would actually bother to use the meters in the first place. And second, even if everyone did, you'll never account for the laundry list of other variables... the guitar, pickups, playing style, the chosen monitoring system, the different listening environments, bedroom volume vs. stage volume, etc etc... the list goes on.

 

If you want usable sounds, you have to create them yourself.

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1 minute ago, cruisinon2 said:

If you want usable sounds, you have to create them yourself.

 

There are not enough +1's available for this statement! 

 

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21 minutes ago, phil_m said:

 

 


I think the phenomenon you're describing - it being easier to create bad sounds than good ones - is just part of the process of using a model with a ton of amp models and effects.

 

Of course it is, lol. Sounding like $hit is the easiest thing in the world... nearly effortless, really.  And readily accomplished with a "real" amp and pedals, too.

 

These discussions always come back to the same thing: Theres is no "instant awesome" formula, and there never will be. Nor will there ever be a shortage of "If they'd just add 'X', then this one fatal flaw that I've discovered would vanish like a fart in the wind" assertions, either....unfortunately. Nobody likes work. I'd like Helix to read my thoughts and spit out exactly what I want, too... not holding my breath, though.

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2 hours ago, kringle said:

Helix helps with all this, but we're talking hundreds of hours to build these... and when I grab something off the community it doesn't fit with whatever my base level is, because the person who built that uses a while different base for how they approach patches, So I need to drastically alter their patch or build from scratch.

 

2 hours ago, kringle said:

What I don't like about helix is how substantially harder it is to find the "amazing needle" in the haystack of mediocre to bad. 

 

2 hours ago, kringle said:

I find that so many in this community operate with user error equal to me, of the thousands of patches I've tried hundreds - any my opinion is  <1% are well built, balanced and usable....  That's not good and you can't put that entirely on the community, that's the full user experience of helix that's lacking.

 

My impression is that the OP does indeed rely on Customtone for patch bases.

 

**********************

 

@kringle

 

One way of controlling the patch gain problem is to preserve something close to unity gain within the patch. So start with nothing - no blocks at all - then add the amp block and A/B until it is roughly unity with dry. Then the cab block(s) and do it again. Then any gain-boosting blocks and do it again. Patches for HBs may well need a few dB cut on the Output block compared to those for use with single coils but if you follow this method with all your patches, managing final output gain across the patch library will be easier.

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Yes I did want to rely on the community for patches and it was a big part of the value of helix to me, the other part was a good set of default patches out of the box... which together gave me a great start on a catalog of unique guitar tones toward reproducing a signature guitar tone for a specific song (not perfect, but good enough for live in small venues).   That's where it's really missing the mark for me from value/experience - most of that benefit is non-existent and I end up building from scratch in a very time-consuming way.

 

During that time consuming build process is where I feel levels and other tools may help speed it up and make it more friendly... my idea of a good time is not spending 2 hours F'in with patch settings and not playing, only to find out what I finally just thought was good - sounds like utter crap when I switch from helix Headphones out over to to a monitor, or DAW, or studio monitors or PA, or PowerCab, or house sound...  Something feels off if it changes so drastically - that to me is WRONG - something is WRONG here and I can't find it, and don't have any tools with the helix to help me figure it out and clearly I don't know enough about audio to figure it out on my own without extensive trial and error, regardless - The experience could be better, and I feel Helix leaves me hanging.

 

Keep in mind, I'm not trying to build ONE patch - I'm trying to manage and balance audio across 120 patches as part of a show with ever-variable house sound, studio and practice locations. Meters will absolutely help with this.  I can build some decent guitar patches quickly using the method BBD describes, and I'm very happy with them as far as general guitar tones. 

 

There could be other ways too - like a reference signal in helix that runs through the chain and does an audio histogram showing the signal variations visually, so you can pinpoint clips and lows from block to block. I'm sure there are quite a few ways to validate a decent end-2-end guitar signal. a simple histogram or level block would be a great troubleshooting tool.

 

I'm just sharing what I find a big hole in the value of helix. but seems I'm in the far minority here which surprises me.

 

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I agree with the OP. Level meters are an annoying omission for such a complex device.

 

Pointing out that traditional pedals lack metering is a poor comparison because:

  • putting meters on each pedal would require extra hardware in almost all cases, whereas having them on the Helix would be a single new software routine applicable to all
  • individual pedals tend to come with documentation - the Helix is notoriously poor on documentation when it comes to the individual blocks
  • regular hardware often gives less scope for error, whereas the Helix easily allows massive level differences between blocks

To make matters worse, many of the blocks seem to emulate analog gear which works best at certain volume ranges to get optimal saturation, or compressors which kick in above a certain threshold. Am I providing the right input ranges? I'll never know.

 

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2 minutes ago, kylotan said:

To make matters worse, many of the blocks seem to emulate analog gear which works best at certain volume ranges to get optimal saturation, or compressors which kick in above a certain threshold. Am I providing the right input ranges? I'll never know.

 

If it sounds right, then it is right, unless you distrust your own ears :-)

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5 minutes ago, kringle said:

my idea of a good time is not spending 2 hours F'in with patch settings and not playing, only to find out what I finally just thought was good - sounds like utter crap when I switch from helix Headphones out over to to a monitor, or DAW, or studio monitors or PA, or PowerCab, or house sound...  Something feels off if it changes so drastically - that to me is WRONG - something is WRONG here

 

That's not quite the same as the gain issue you were discussing. Changing the monitoring will change the sound you hear, although if things go to 'utter crap' when you switch between (good) headphones and a studio monitor then there may be problems with one or both of those.

 

Do you develop your patches using headphones btw?

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11 minutes ago, kringle said:

During that time consuming build process is where I feel levels and other tools may help speed it up and make it more friendly... my idea of a good time is not spending 2 hours F'in with patch settings and not playing, only to find out what I finally just thought was good - sounds like utter crap when I switch from helix Headphones out over to to a monitor, or DAW, or studio monitors or PA, or PowerCab, or house sound...  Something feels off if it changes so drastically - that to me is WRONG - something is WRONG here and I can't find it, and don't have any tools with the helix to help me figure it out and clearly I don't know enough about audio to figure it out on my own without extensive trial and error, regardless - The experience could be better, and I feel Helix leaves me hanging.

It's been said since day one with pretty much every iteration of modeler for the last 20 years. Building patches at bedroom/headphone volumes will not translate 1:1 to a FOH/band volume situation. Relative volume will change, perceived volume will change, perceived EQ will change all depending on volume and reproduction system. There is almost no possible way to create a patch or level patches at headphone/in-home levels and have that translate to full-power audio. Even with meters, perceived loudness is different than actual levels, and you'd need to do the final volume leveling at performance volume anyways.

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10 minutes ago, BBD_123 said:

If it sounds right, then it is right, unless you distrust your own ears :-)

It's not that simple unless you are staying in a controlled space with no changes.  Playing 80 patches tonight, then tomorrow having to rebuild 12 of the 80 patches because they sounded like crap (while rest were good) before the next gig rolls around, only to realize that back at the house they sound FANTASTIC... so what's wrong - why did 12 patches turn to crap for that gig? And the next gig, it's 10 others that are off.

 

My pedalboard and amp never have this issue DI'd or Mic'd - only helix gives me challenges.  my pedals experience the same audio characteristics, from a Strymon to a Tube Screamer it's an easy dial in.  Even switching amps or running house sound, I'll be within 10% of the original sound intended.   With Helix - it's pretty radical change.

 

again - I do like the helix - will keep it, I'll continue to struggle in a love/hate with it - it's still better sounding and a more convenient platform for me...  But this is feedback to Line 6 that the experience managing across a show of multiple patches is really poor. No ability to see or manage the Output signal across patches is a poor experience, Patch consistency and troubleshooting experience is poor. documentation is poor. it's not easy to understand at times but there's a lack of resources to help.

 

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5 minutes ago, kringle said:

 

It's not that simple unless you are staying in a controlled space with no changes.  Playing 80 patches tonight, then tomorrow having to rebuild 12 of the 80 patches because they sounded like crap (while rest were good) before the next gig rolls around, only to realize that back at the house they sound FANTASTIC... so what's wrong - why did 12 patches turn to crap for that gig? And the next gig, it's 10 others that are off.

 

My pedalboard and amp never have this issue DI'd or Mic'd - only helix gives me challenges.  my pedals experience the same audio characteristics, from a Strymon to a Tube Screamer it's an easy dial in.  Even switching amps or running house sound, I'll be within 10% of the original sound intended.   With Helix - it's pretty radical change.

 

again - I do like the helix - will keep it, I'll continue to struggle in a love/hate with it - it's still better sounding and a more convenient platform for me...  But this is feedback to Line 6 that the experience managing across a show of multiple patches is really poor. No ability to see or manage the Output signal across patches is a poor experience, Patch consistency and troubleshooting experience is poor. documentation is poor. it's not easy to understand at times but there's a lack of resources to help.

 

 

80 patches a night is kind of insane... That's just a lot to manage, and again, I don't think meters would make it all that much easier. What you're hearing is perceived volume, which is totally different than what a typical peak dbfs meter is going to give you.

 

The main difference with the Helix compared to a traditional amp and pedalboard setup is that with the Helix, you have the ability to change out the entire signal chain on a patch per patch basis. The gain structure can vary greatly from patch to patch, and even the dynamic response can be very different. So if you switch guitars, for instance, the way your patches react can change. I just don't know that it's even a realistic goal to expect equal loudness between 80 different patches, especially if they're all using different amp, cab and mic models.

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14 minutes ago, gunpointmetal said:

It's been said since day one with pretty much every iteration of modeler for the last 20 years. Building patches at bedroom/headphone volumes will not translate 1:1 to a FOH/band volume situation. Relative volume will change, perceived volume will change, perceived EQ will change all depending on volume and reproduction system. There is almost no possible way to create a patch or level patches at headphone/in-home levels and have that translate to full-power audio. Even with meters, perceived loudness is different than actual levels, and you'd need to do the final volume leveling at performance volume anyways.

 

I get that - I'm just trying to swipe at volume so it's not so drastic.

 

What's more concerning is major tone characteristic changes: 

Step 1 - Running Helix through a DAW it sounds like hot overdrive - I'm totally happy with tone.

Step 2 - unplug cable from interface, plug into mixer sitting 2 feet to the left and it sounds like a fender black face at the same VOLUME

Step 3 - unplug cable from mixer and plug into PowerCab 112+ and it sounds like a flabby clipped audio at the same same volume

Step 4 - unplug from PowerCab and run to headphone amp - sounds like I'm scratching through a tin can, same volume.

Step 5 - Listen via Helix headphone - WTF, sounds nothing like any of the other outputs!!

 

If I stick with a single output - HAPPY ALL DAY!!!  works perfect, no variation.

 

I am attributing much of this characteristic tone change to the Helix, and from my hundreds of hours of tweaking to solve this variability - I've found nearly all of my issues are because within the helix signal chain from block to block there's a lot of variability in volume... so it's not a quality signal and path.  Once I spend hours rebuilding and testing a patch across many outputs I can get it to sound OK across steps 1-5, yet still more varied than I think it should.

 

Tonight, I am adding 3 songs to our setlist this week - I anticipate 2 hours or more for EACH patch to build and test so that it' plays nice across my IEM, FOH, Monitors, Mixer, etc...  

 

I accepted the fact I sucked at modeling when I first got the Helix - but now I feel it's not me - it's Helix, I'm not learning anything or getting any better at modeling.

 

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Your pedalboard and amp are limited by your speaker cab and your position on stage as to what you're hearing. Even with an amp and cab setup, if I dialed in practice tones to jam in my house by myself, I'd be adjusting my gain and EQ as soon as I moved to the rehearsal space and cranking up to get over a drummer, or my amp/cab rig would be harsh and boomy and sound like assballs, too. 

 

There are lots of resources and help available right here as long as you present your issue as seeking a solution and not as shortcoming of the device. 

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2 minutes ago, kringle said:

 

What's more concerning is major tone characteristic changes: 

Step 1 - Running Helix through a DAW it sounds like hot overdrive - I'm totally happy with tone.

Step 2 - unplug cable from interface, plug into mixer sitting 2 feet to the left and it sounds like a fender black face at the same VOLUME

Step 3 - unplug cable from mixer and plug into PowerCab 112+ and it sounds like a flabby clipped audio at the same same volume

Step 4 - unplug from PowerCab and run to headphone amp - sounds like I'm scratching through a tin can, same volume.

Step 5 - Listen via Helix headphone - WTF, sounds nothing like any of the other outputs!!

 

If I stick with a single output - HAPPY ALL DAY!!!  works perfect, no variation.

If you're gain structure is changing as you change the output device, that's a physical problem, or you're adjusting the guitar volume to make up for volume changes. If you have OD plugged into one device, and then  a straight clean on the same patch plugged into another device, that's something that meters aren't going to help you with. 

 

Also, as mentioned, do you really need 80+ patches to get through a gig? That seems excessive unless you're in a $10k a night program band, but at that point you could probably spend all day building patches and consider it paid labor, or afford to pay someone to take care of the tech work for you. 

 

I understand the desire to have things be easy, but managing 120/80/50 patches for a gig is not going to be easy, even with metering. You need to approach it from the perspective that most patches are going to be single use. Live or home. Patches that work for both are going to be an anomaly, not a constant. I have a bunch of live patches that all sound great at band volume, but they sound overly mid-heavy and a little thin at bedroom volume, and there's no way I would use them for recording.

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8 minutes ago, kringle said:

What's more concerning is major tone characteristic changes: 

Step 1 - Running Helix through a DAW it sounds like hot overdrive - I'm totally happy with tone.

Step 2 - unplug cable from interface, plug into mixer sitting 2 feet to the left and it sounds like a fender black face at the same VOLUME

Step 3 - unplug cable from mixer and plug into PowerCab 112+ and it sounds like a flabby clipped audio at the same same volume

Step 4 - unplug from PowerCab and run to headphone amp - sounds like I'm scratching through a tin can, same volume.

Step 5 - Listen via Helix headphone - WTF, sounds nothing like any of the other outputs!!

 

Well, now we're getting somewhere... All of these scenarios are different output devices, and none of them are true FRFR systems (although, I'm not sure what type of speakers you have connected to the mixer). The Powercab Plus in FRFR mode is really only FRFR-ish - the tweeter is active, but the woofer is still essentially a guitar speaker. It is fine for monitoring in that mode, but I wouldn't depend on it for patch creation, necessarily. I mean, it can work, but you have to realize its limitations. For one things, it has less low end than a typical PA speaker, so it may lead you to want to compensate by adding more low end in your patch, which would make things more boomy when playing through a speaker with a wider frequency range.

 

It's not unlike mixing an album. You want to have speakers that are flat and uncolored for tone creation as that will give you a clean slate to work with, and it makes it so your patches will translate well across more systems. The volume you create your patches at also comes into play. Something that sounds good at low volume will often sound bad at higher volumes because of the Fletcher-Munson effect.

 

Basically, the more commonality you can have between the output device you use to create your patches and what you use to amplify them at the gig, the easier things will be.

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Guitar is same, volume of guitar is the same. yet I get that varied gain structure changes that's my concern, I am not changing the gain structure, depending on the output, the helix has different gain structures.  Swapping guitars I understand - when I go from a clean Fender strat with noiseless low output pickups to my les paul's that is meatier and substantially louder... I know what to expect and can adjust input volume or accept that there's going to be a different.  

 

I have 120ish songs, which we play 40ish a night, I do 1 patch per song since each song is so unique. it's 40 patches a night roughly, a few are duplicates I just rename because it's easier to label and just go up 1 bank each time. 

 

I understand your thoughts on separate patches for bedroom & live - The challenge is I don't have standing access to venue sound so the best I can do seems to sound like crap live and while I'm live it's not like I can start adjusting the patch.  

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47 minutes ago, kringle said:

 

It's not that simple unless you are staying in a controlled space with no changes.  Playing 80 patches tonight, then tomorrow having to rebuild 12 of the 80 patches because they sounded like crap (while rest were good) before the next gig rolls around, only to realize that back at the house they sound FANTASTIC... so what's wrong - why did 12 patches turn to crap for that gig? And the next gig, it's 10 others that are off.

 

My pedalboard and amp never have this issue DI'd or Mic'd - only helix gives me challenges.  my pedals experience the same audio characteristics, from a Strymon to a Tube Screamer it's an easy dial in.  Even switching amps or running house sound, I'll be within 10% of the original sound intended.   With Helix - it's pretty radical change.

 

again - I do like the helix - will keep it, I'll continue to struggle in a love/hate with it - it's still better sounding and a more convenient platform for me...  But this is feedback to Line 6 that the experience managing across a show of multiple patches is really poor. No ability to see or manage the Output signal across patches is a poor experience, Patch consistency and troubleshooting experience is poor. documentation is poor. it's not easy to understand at times but there's a lack of resources to help.

 


Probably most of us play in a variety of places with no changes at all to our patches other than output levels from the Helix.  But that really depends on how diligent you are in setting up your patches and having an appropriate setup that will best represent your live environment.  It's unlikely you would know if you were having problems with your pedalboard and amp because the sound you were hearing on stage would be nothing at all like what came out through the PA.  If you went DI, your PA signal would be missing the acoustic elements of the cabinet.  If you mic'd the cabinet your FOH sound would be representative of the type of mic used and how it was placed on the cabinet which could vary greatly, but it for sure wasn't what you were hearing on stage.

What varies with the Helix is you're in charge of it all with every patch.  Which means leveling the output and gain staging each different setup so that you send an appropriate signal to the board and listening to your tone on a system representative of what you'll be playing through.  This is especially true if you're using different amps as each amp has it's own unique gain staging and tonal attributes.  I have almost 200 presets (which I don't use for every show), but they each have to be dealt with individually when I'm building them to ensure the performance characteristics are correct.  That's not uncommon.  You wouldn't set up a Fender Twin with the same gain and tone setting your would for a Marshall or an Orange.  The same thing applies to the models which are directly built from those amp's circuit designs.

None of this is particularly difficult to understand or do, but you do have to have an approach and a system of working that accomplishes it.  Fortunately the Helix provides ample tools and flexibility to do such things.  The MOST important thing is to make sure your signal is appropriately gain staged so that it's not clipping and is at a consistent SIGNAL level with your other presets.  This could easily account for why some of your patches sounded bad.  If the FOH mixer was gain staged to optimize one preset and the next preset was at a different level one of two things will happen.  It will either start clipping or engaging the limiter, or if you have a diligent sound man he'll keep adjusting the mixer preamp gain level on your incoming signal to stay consistent...then proceed to cut the tires on your car on the next break.  Generally speaking most people have different ways of managing this.  In all cases you want a consistent signal and volume level that doesn't affect the tone of the patch which most people tend to use the channel volume on the amp model as it doesn't affect the tone.

I personally go beyond that and use a signal meter on my mixer channel to ensure the signal I'm sending to the mixer will only need to be gain staged on one preset and will be fine for all the others.  I only do that once, when I'm building it and simply check it when I load up presets for a gig.  I also detach my Helix master volume knob (big knob) from my XLR outputs in the global ins/outs and set my XLR outputs to Mic level signals.  This does two things, it sends a signal to the mixing board that's consistent with all the other incoming signals from mic's or keyboards, and it allows me to separately manage my on stage volume level to my monitor using the Helix volume knob without affecting the FOH signal.  It's also important to understand that when you detach the Helix volume knob from an output, it sends that signal at full strength as if the volume knob was on full.  That's the actual recommended practice in the Helix manual, but that also means you need to be very sure about gain staging the signal levels you're sending in some manner, either with a mixer as I do or through a DAW.

Some people get by with a simpler approach and often simply depend on their ears, but being a sound man myself for over 4 decades, I'm a little more cautious about making sure my output is bulletproof and is exactly the same as what I'm hearing on stage through my Yamaha DXR12, which is the same setup I use at home for dialing in my patches.

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Just now, kringle said:

Guitar is same, volume of guitar is the same. yet I get that varied gain structure changes that's my concern, I am not changing the gain structure, depending on the output, the helix has different gain structures.  .  

This is not normal behavior for the Helix and shouldn't be happening. 

 

Put aside whether or not metering would help, how did you approach your tones prior to Helix/MFX in a cover band situation? Handful of pedals into an amp, quick high/low and gain adjustment during sound check, and then go? 

3 minutes ago, kringle said:

I understand your thoughts on separate patches for bedroom & live - The challenge is I don't have standing access to venue sound so the best I can do seems to sound like crap live and while I'm live it's not like I can start adjusting the patch.  

If you're going to find it necessary to create patches to nail exact tones and reproduce them live, it would be very much worth your time to rent a rehearsal spot with a PA for a few hours once and awhile and do your final leveling/adjustments in that type of scenario to at least get your closer to what you're going to do live. Or if you're playing the same venue quite often, its not unusual to throw the house tech some cash/beer/smokey treats to hang out with you in the empty venue and run your pedal to the board to get things sorted out. It may not be ideal, but its the reality of wanting to utilize all that versatility at your feet. 

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5 minutes ago, phil_m said:

 

Well, now we're getting somewhere...

OK, this hits on a lot of it that I can't get figure out how to compensate for the shift from home to live.  I use the interface with a pair of Presonus E44 studio monitors for all my patch building.  This gives me great dynamics and range and the quality and consistency is always there. Then it's as you describe when shifting to Live it goes south in many ways depending on where.  

 

1/2 our live events we use a Mackie mixer and brand new EV's EKX-15P which are FRFR.  the other half can be FOH or other PA systems.

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