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First helix gigs. Observations from a recent convert.


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About a month in with helix. I thought I would post a few observations about gigging Helix and Powercab in the real world as it might help others. I bet my journey is pretty typical. Gigging for real humans not touring pros. 

My Goal:  was to replace my Friedman mini dirty Shirley and pedal board ; Friedman board, volume pedal, wah, full tone 69, muff, Timmy, KOT, phase 90, flint, delay, EQ, boost, other odds and ends depending on the day. Replaced with helix and power cab +. I use the Helix as a rig. One amp. One amp setting and pedals. Just like I would with my tube gear. A very simple setup. 

who: I play guitar and sing in a local bar band. I am not a pro. We play rock / country / blues / originals it’s a bar band. We gig locally around nor cal. I need a country tone, rock tone, solo tones for each, wah, phaser and univibe, reverb, trem,  delay. I “try” to ride the volume to get the sounds I want from clean to scream. Friedman was good at this. Before that I had a nace, Goodsell super 17, 68 vibrolux, Princeton, Drri, magnatone, kemper, played others as well.  They all worked. People liked the tones. i sound like me. 

Why Change:  the pedal board was big and heavy,  The amps are heavy. Tubes fail.  Inevitably some chord would fail and it took forever to find the problem and most importantly IT WAS HARD TO DIAL IN THE RIGHT VOLUME vs Feel. Also the tone seemed to change around for no apparent reason (probably volume).  

Volume is king: the most important factor in tone is volume. Getting the right feel of an amp requires volume. The right volume, I was told once by a local pro (world class), is louder and cleaner than you think. It’s completely true. for me anyway.  At a certain volume the amp cuts better, is more alive , I am lighter on the strings. There is more sensitivity to picking and guitar volume. Sustain is better, natural compression... It’s just better. 

Helix day one fail: I first Watched videos then dialed in a tone I thought sounded good at a decent volume and went to practice. JTM 45 , replicated my pedal board, used the Jason S template, what could go wrong.  In a band context it fell apart.  Fizzy on top, weird mid range, caved in when gained up, one dimensional clean. Band mates said it sucked. Not good. What I failed to do was use a reference tone and because of that I had way to much gain (from dialing in at low volume). I wanted to return it. 

I went back and set up helix and Friedman side by side at gig levels and tried to tone match.  I was unsuccessful in matching the tone. However, what I ended up with was in some ways better and in some ways worse but it was workable  It sounded good . Imagine  getting a new amp. Amps are Never exactly the same. Then, I had the same pro twist the eq settings and it got better. Use the looper functionality for this. The take away, eventually, was that helix amp and effects sounded good at the gigs. like a real rig. Not the same rig, but a good rig with its own sound. It’s a completely usable platform. A Very good sounding platform. An almost perfectly flexible platform. 

the process that worked for me:

I started over. To begin: pick an amp you like or one close to what you are using. For me jtm 45 = dirty Shirley and i used the cream back and or green back speaker models in the power cab to replace my 1/12 greenback. Dial in amp and cab at the loudest gig volume you would use. I set mine at light crunch then roll back guitar volume for cleaner tones. Keep your EQ cuts in one place so you are not chasing your tail. I got them to sound like cousins. Note I can crank the master on the jtm higher than I can the dirty Shirley and this actually makes the helix “ feel better “ in some ways. It’s more like a cooking amp. Some tones were not as good. As of this instant I could not quite produce the same shimmer in the clean tones.  Is that tubes ?  I don’t know. I will get better cleans over time as i learn more about helix. Also changing the mic, speaker cab , eq made more of a difference than the last 5% of shimmer. At a gig, that difference is completely gone, lost, not important. Dirt: about once every 10 gigs I would luck upon a pedal, amp, volume, band, room, setting that was magic. That perfect wailing guitar. Mostly I got good rock tones out of my equipment. With the helix I have not gotten that magic 30 seconds of tone yet, however, it’s better than my average tone was before ALL THE TIME. this is due to the volume flexibility you get with modelers. Also the “Amps” are cranked and take boosts more predictably and better than a real amp on 4. Volume related again. 

tips: 1) don’t digitally clip the amp. Pay attention to volume matching

2) dial it all in at gig volume 3) the boosts into a cooking amp give very usable rock tones. Keep the gain lowish. Like in real life the Timmy is a great tone shaper. Sadly, I can’t make the fuzz tones work yet. Maybe with more time. 4) dial in a darker tone than you think you need. Volume will fix that in a band mix. 5) cut frequencies as much as you can versus boosting. 6) spend time on the upper mids and higher lows. 250, 450, 700 -800 range. These are prone to sound wrong if not given eq love. 
6) on a dark stage the line six icon lines up with the guitar input! I just saved you an hour over your lifetime. 

powercab:  lots of times we don’t mic guitar amps. Only vocals into PA. These are 60-100 person clubs/ bars. Just like a real amp we set the levels and play.  Power cab sounds like a loud 1/12. It’s a 1/12. Is it beamy, boxy bla bla,  well compared to a 4x12 yes it is. Compared to a 1/12 it’s a great 1/12. It is louder than a dlx reverb, about the same as my vibrolux in volume. It’s more than 20 watts less than 50. Loud enough to do a bar gig un-miced with a loud rock drummer doing 70s rock. I have used frfr -raw, cream, green and cream back ir. All work well. Also 100% of your tone can be clean headroom, if you want. So that’s twice the DLX in clean volume. 


Benefits: no chords and cables, lighter and more compact than my pedalboard, visible on stage, GREAT volume control, fantastic interface, simple and practical at a gig. Easy to “mic” , run a cable to the pa, Easy to set up, enough practical volume to do any bar gig un-miced. Consistently sounds the same every time. Easy to get special effects if desired with no increase in size or complexity. Sounds like a tube rig in a mix and is much more flexible and consistent. reliable (so far).  Cover band nirvana. And GREAT volume control. 

Have I heard better tone. Yes. Have I had better tone. Yes for a few moments here and there. Are some individual dirt pedals better , more magical...yes. Do i miss Fuzz? yes. Does any of the above carry any meaning in the context of gigging in a rock band in clubs and bars: no. 

summary: Helix can sound bad. Helix is a great tool and is amazingly flexible. If it sounds bad it’s probably you. Helix can sound very good. EQ Time spent is good time spent. Have one EQ location if possible. Volume control is important for mortal bands and helix is awesome for that. Power cab is a great 1/12.  Helix + power cab works very well as a gigging solution in the real world. It’s sooooooo easy once you get a core tone. 

I looked around for real world gigging reviews of helix and power cab and there was not a lot. I hope this encourages people to try out helix in the wild. It’s a really powerful and fun tool. 

good luck and good music. 


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Damn that's helpful. I've been using a Helix LT through a QSC K10 (1000w) for a few years (very light local cover band gigging) and I really don't like the QSC, esp. the low freq boominess. I've read lots of posts on how to get rid of it, but frankly I'm sick of messing with it. I just want a half dozen good tones (clean to cruch to high gain) and some fx. I'm seriously considering the PowerCab Plus, using the speaker sims and bypassing the Helix cabs. (BTW did you say whether you're using the Helix cabs vs. PowerCab ones?)

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4 hours ago, thaw said:

My Goal:  was to replace my Friedman mini dirty Shirley and pedal board ; Friedman board, volume pedal, wah, full tone 69, muff, Timmy, KOT, phase 90, flint, delay, EQ, boost, other odds and ends depending on the day.

That is a really great amp. I’m not sure if you already tried them, but the Placater clean and dirty models are based on Friedman amps. They’ve been my “go-to” models for a while. They both sound awesome with the Timmy OD, as well. You can cover a lot of ground in a cover band setting with them. Good luck with your tone search. 

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I am currently using an ir of a creamback. But the cream back in the PC is also excellent. Green is sweet as well. Strangely I like the natural as well. All work pretty well. Just EQ to taste. 

also will check out placator models. Thanks!!

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Ik zit zelfs met een dilemma, ik gebruik in mijn studio de helix line 6 rek.

Nou zie ik via YouTube dat er een bewerkingsprogramma wordt gebruikt om de helix via die weg te bewerken.
hoe kom ik aan dit programma en wat is de naam van dit programma en kan ik dit voor mijn helix line6 rek gebruiken?

Zie ook dat dat de line6 voetschakelaar hele andere presets hebben dan mijn Rek.

Verder ben ik op zoek naar een mogelijkheid om feedback te creëren zonder dat ik een versterker voor nodig te gebruiken, Bestaat dat eigenlijk wel?




Wie kan mij helpen met deze vragen? .... Tnx




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Hi Nemathod, as a fellow dutch speaking guitarist I have an advise for you: please post your questions in English as this is an international forum, very few dutch speaking members I guess.

Another advise: Next time, please open a new thread with your questions. Now, you are highjacking a thread which has nothing related with your questions. Perhaps the Mods can put this in a separate thread.


As an answer to your questions:

For editing, you can download HX Edit from the Line6 website, just check that you download the version corresponding to your Helix rack firmware (check your screen when booting the Helix, it shows the firmware version number during start-up). Please be advised that you need your Helix connected through USB with the pc running HX Edit, as all you do is control your Helix from your pc. All changes you do are instantaneous changed on your Helix hardware.


As for your question about feedback: you can try the Digitech FreqOut pedal. I use this pedal between guitar and Helix guitar input. Just look it up on Youtube. Works great for me!



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As an early adopter of the Helix I can say that it's a learning process.  Back in the first days we didn't have a lot of practical experience in the user base about how to get what we wanted out our Helix units, but most everyone persevered and found ways to get the behaviors we wanted, and added to the community brain trust.

There are a few things I feel obliged to add at this point to the conversation.  One is about volume which isn't just one thing.  There is the volume you play at which (other than the Fletcher-Munson effect) has little to do with amp model behaviors.  It can be affected by any number of things post Helix that relate to the output rig you're using, i.e. FRFR speakers, 4cm, power amp with non powered speakers, etc.  The signal chain volume on the other hand is vitally important in getting amps to behave and act predictably as they were modeled in the laboratory...otherwise referred to as gain staging your signal chain.  The conventional approach is that your output volume coming from the Helix should stay relatively consistent with that of an empty signal chain.  So the output level from the Helix with an amp block engaged, or any other block engaged would not change significantly if that block were turned on or off.  I don't follow this process religiously, but I do try and stay within some limits and what happens is you'll find the channel volumes on all the different amps (which don't affect amp tone) stay in a pretty consistent range regardless of which amp you're using.  Changes to the master volume on an amp model do have the predictable effect of an overdriven amp you would expect of the amp model and differs from the behavior of the gain on the amp model.  This makes sense when you take into account that the Helix itself is NOT an amp, but just a very technically advanced preamp with lots of options.  The actual amp comes AFTER the Helix.

The other thing has to do with tone.  The most realistic and authentic tone in any preset comes from the cabinet and mic selection and placement, just as it does with real amps and cabinets.  On a physical amp and cabinet you can get the feel of what this means by listening to that physical amp and cabinet from different locations.  If you listen to it directly in front of the cabinet with your ears aligned to the cap (center of the speaker) you will hear a much harsher tone than if you position yourself toward the edge of the speaker.  The closer you are the brighter the sound will be, the further away the darker the tone will be.  Microphones don't capture the range of response that the human ear does therefore they tend to color the output more.  To offset this, studio engineers learn to use multiple different mic's and placements to produce a broader and more natural sound from a speaker cabinet.  A common combination is a dynamic mic and a ribbon mic which will give a more natural sound similar to what the human ear perceives.  Doing this correctly overcomes the necessity of doing a lot of equalization tricks which, to my ear, doesn't sound nearly as natural.

In my last 4 years with the Helix these are the two most important things I've learned as far as allowing me to more quickly  and easily develop well over 200 presets that address a wide range of genres and behave predictable both in recording and in live performances.

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This is a hugely important point. There are two if not three “volumes.” Master volume, gain and actual loudness. They all work together. There is amp master volume and gain which together control the distortion level (sound and texture and feel) of the amp.  Yes helix is really a pre amp. Good point.  Then there is the amount of amplified signal. Ie how loud the signal actually is. In a real amp you can not separate those things. In the helix it is easier to separate. Dial in the amount of distortion as well as the feel and chewiness of the amp. THEN set the right volume and EQ with mic and or EQ to taste. Same process as real world but separate and as such much easier to apply in the real world. I am convinced that the volume control is the most important setting on any amp. For instance a jtm 45 on 6.5 or 7 or even 10 is not practical in most small clubs. It’s too loud. But, that’s where they sound, feel and take pedals the best. Helix allows that at ANY volume. However, each volume level will sound different due to fletcher Munson. So, set the EQ at an appropriate level. And it will sit well in the mix. Modeling, in many ways, is the perfect master volume amp. 

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