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Hello, I'm having trouble getting the sound I was hoping for on the Helix, and I need some help.  I'm sure it's my lack of experience with gear and effects that's the problem, not the Helix.  I watched all the Jason Sadites videos and regularly read through this forum, and I do seem to be SLOWLY getting closer, but I also wonder if there is not something more fundamental wrong with my setup or settings - like guitar, monitor speakers, amp choice, etc.   Here's how I'd describe the sound I'm going for:  Warm, smooth, thick, rich clean tone, with some reverb/spaciousness, and a little overdrive to give it a soaring quality.  I tend to prefer smoothness and warmth to pinpoint clarity and accuracy, and I definitely don't like twangy sounds.
 
- My guitar.  I have an American Elite Strat.  It's great, but the single coils are probably at odds with my tonal goals.  I use the neck pickup exclusively, but want it to be even more "neck-pickup-like" if that makes sense.  The bridge pickups sound unusably harsh and twangy to my ears through the Helix.
- I have monitor speakers connected to the Helix as my "amp".  Yamaha HS7's - they are nice monitors, but possibly not as guitar "amp" and this may be part of the problem.
- Over headphones, I get closer to the sound I'm looking for.  Things sound spacious and rich in comparison to the monitor speaker setup.
- I get a harsh digital sounding tone anytime I use a delay block.  This is not as important as the main tone issue, but it is pretty pronounced, and maybe this gives a clue to what's going on.  Weirdly, ping pong delay is the only one I've found that doesn't have this problem as bad.
- The sound was way too harsh and digital sounding until I turned on the global EQ and dialed down the high cut to a low level, around 5kHz
- Using ribbon mic's on the cabinets helps immensely as well. I've not otherwise messed with trying different cabs or cab settings... 
- I've experimented with different amp models, and some work better than others, but the base fenders work the best:  US Double vib/nrm.
- Before Helix, I used a Yamaha THR10C, and found the chorus effect to give that smooth rich sound.  (it doesn't actually sound like a chorus, and I only mention this in case anyone has experience with this)
 
Appreciate the help!!  Attached is a tone example (excuse my intermediate-lollipop playing) and also a settings file in case that's useful.
 
Thanks,

Test Sound Clip Main Headphones.m4a

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First...leave global EQ alone.  There's nothing you can do in global EQ that you can't do within the patch.  But global eq will affect all patches, which may not be correct for other patches.

I listened to your sound clip which sounded pretty decent to my ears (and I listened through my HS7's).  I would suggest when you listen to your patches you listen as if you're listening to a mastered recording sound rather than a live on stage sound, because that's what the Helix is producing.  The only thing that was a bit off to my ear was how drenched the sound was with reverb.  But that may be what you want.  One thing to remember with the HS7's is they have a rear bass reflex port so the sound you get will depend a lot on their placement.  I have mine placed about 3 feet from a rear reflecting wall with both facing inward about 45 degrees so they make an equilateral triangle with me in the center.

I also have an American Elite Strat which I normally play in the middle position (position 3).  I commonly use a mix of two mics.  A dynamic which is normally an MD421 and a ribbon which is typically a R121 set up very similar to the way Jason Sadites sets up his dual cabinet mics in his videos when I use the stock cabinets.  More often than not I will use IRs rather than the stock cabs as it's just easier with less manipulation to deal with to use them.  I rarely make high cuts lower than 8 khz, but that's using a final parametric EQ in the same fashion as Jason Sadites does.  Chances are the harshness or twanginess that's bothering you is in the 4200 to 4500 hz range which is typical of those type of pickups.  You can smooth this out in a couple of ways.  I will sometimes slice that level out a bit on my final parametric EQ, or simply roll off a bit on the tone knob of the guitar.

The delay block problem may be related to overdriving the delay, which generally relates to the gain staging of your preset.  The general guideline used by most people for gain staging is to make sure the volume of the preset is close to the same volume with the block engaged or not engaged.  If you do that consistently on all blocks there's less likelihood you'll be adding gain on each of the blocks that ultimately could result in clipping on some effects blocks.  Also some effects blocks also have a headroom adjustment which will allow you to give the block more headroom before clipping occurs.  If gain staged appropriately you can always adjust the overall volume of a preset by adjusting the channel volume of the amp block without affecting the tone.


You're dead-on accurate in saying that a warm, smooth, thick, rich clean tone isn't typically associated with single coil guitars.  For that type of tone I'll use my Gretsch hollow body or sometimes my Les Paul.  Even using a split coil won't do much to fix that situation.  It's just physics.  I reserve my Strat for more bluesy or blues rock tones, or more "in your face" tones like punk and such.  It also works pretty well for Motown R&B and some styles of country.  If you do any of the modern P&W, Strats tend to be the guitar of choice there.

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19 hours ago, jaw5jaw5 said:

...The sound was way too harsh and digital sounding until I turned on the global EQ and dialed down the high cut to a low level, around 5kHz

Test Sound Clip Main Headphones.m4a 742.05 kB · 3 downloads

 

+1 to all of the above, especially the use of global EQ. Don't get in the habit of using it to create your patches.  Different tones will almost always require varying degrees of EQ, sometimes substantially different curves from one patch to the next...particularly when it comes to clean vs dirty sounds. If you rely on the global EQ for this, every time you create a new patch you'll ruin all the others which you've spent hours dialing in previously.

 

The parametric EQ has high and low cuts, as do the cab blocks. The "Tilt EQ" is great for this, too. Global EQ is for making subtle overall adjustments to different acoustic environments... not creating your tones.

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Thanks to both of you for the great recommendations.  All of those tips make sense and I will try all of them.  Noted on the Global EQ.  

 

I think those near-field HS7 monitors are a big part of the problem.  I was actually surprised by how good the recorded tone sounded when played on other speakers in a different setup.  I also like the sound much better through headphones than the monitors.  Those are dead giveaways, and I should have figured this out before.  So it seems there are a couple of issues:

 

- First, are near-field studio monitors the right choice for a hobbyist like myself looking to play for myself and my family in a sub-optimal living room setup?  Or would something less "exact" make more sense?  Would I like a Powercab a lot better, for example?

 

- Also, placement could be a huge problem, as you pointed out.  As you can see from the pic, the speakers are almost BEHIND my sitting position, so while they may project nicely into the room, it's probably a terrible setup for ME, which is a problem.  Obviously those speakers are also crammed in a suboptimal space, one right next to another speaker (this is our living room main speaker system).  

 

I will do some research on speaker placement in general, but any tips based on the setup in the pic.  Ways to improve it in the approximate space there?  (I can move couch a bit).  Also, should I consider a powercab instead of studio monitors?

 

Thanks again for the great advice.

Joel

 

Very Questionable Guitar Setup.jpg

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Hmmm... this is a bit of a long shot, but based on what you've described and the pic of your setup, I'm wondering if you're encountering phase cancellation issues from your speaker arrangement.

 

Pointing two speakers almost directly at each other is not a good practice. You mentioned that only the ping pong delay sounds good. That delay bounces the delay effect from ear to ear, making phase cancellation less likely. However a small stereo delay offset with two speakers aimed right at each other could be just enough of a phase shift to make things cancel and sound like *** where they mix. I can tell you with the utmost confidence that there's nothing audibly 'digital' sounding about the delays and reverbs in the Helix.

 

Try pointing your speakers forward, and get the stuff out of the way of their projection. Also, as a listener, you need to be more out in the middle of their stereo field, too. 

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Also, if it helps, here's your patch with my strat (2019 American Professional), neck pickup, volume 10, tone 10. It's definitely less bright than yours, but it sounds like you're getting a touch more noise too, which is odd considering your pickups should be 'noiseless' on the Elite. Maybe you ran the bit you recorded through a compressor or limiter? If not, I'd look into your signal input (cable, nearby R/F sources) -- something there might be adding harshness too.

patchsample.mp3

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Quite honestly looking at your picture I'm not sure the HS7's would even project that nicely into the room itself.  What you have to remember about studio monitors, they're not really designed for filling a room exactly.  They're for precision listening in a studio control room environment.  But your application is a bit different in that it's more like a small, intimate club environment.  A powercab would probably work but I'm afraid it might be crammed into that small space and you wouldn't really be able to hear it as it's meant to be heard from behind you.  The other option might be a couple of small live powered speakers like the QSC CP8, but again space it a real problem there.  It's just a very tiny space and not much room.

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Fwiw, I don't necessarily think that your attached audio example is particularly bright or harsh. Checked the patch as well and couldn't find much, either (but then, the guitar I used isn't bright on its own). You might be able to find a somewhat darker different cab, though.

I replaced the cab with an IR block and slapped an IR of my own in. The IR is a bit more mid-rangey than the cab. You might want to give it a try (altered patch and IR in the zip).

MAIN Headph Mod.zip

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Hey all, just want to chime in and say thanks for the feedback on the speakers and overall setup.  I obviously need to make some pretty significant changes, and to be honest, it will help to have these "independent 3rd party" reviews when I go to claim additional space in our family living room :)  But honey, DunedinDragon and SashaFranck said...

 

More seriously, this all makes sense and I have a bunch of work to do trying out the suggestions and patches.  It will be a busy weekend.  Please keep the advice coming if there's anything else...

 

Joel

 

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