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Sound quality: FRFR vs headphones


benthere77
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*Hopefully I don't get skewered as I actually have a Pod GO and not Helix, but this forum seems to have more action and these devices are similar.

In short, my Pod GO sounds pretty awful through my Headrush 108 frfr speaker.  Words like muddy, muffled, flat, and lifeless come to mind. Also volume either way too low or way too high when switching through factory presets.  I spent a couple of hours creating my own custom preset and got something that was somewhat playable, but not nearly as good as my strat plugged straight into a Fender Blues Junior tube amp.  

 

I was thinking I had made a huge mistake buying this gear when I read a suggestion to try it out with headphones.  I did that, and WOW!  All of the sudden these built in presets have life, and my custom preset is absolutely inspiring through these 'phones.  Now I see what all of the hype is about.  

 

How do I get these beautiful sounds that are in my headphones to come out of this speaker?

 

Other than the weird volume swings between the built in presets, my specific complaint about playing through the FRFR is in regards to notes played on the B and high E string.  In the headphones they have beautiful punch, sparkle, responsiveness, sustain, etc.  Through the FRFR they sound like garbage.  The clarity and sustain just evaporate.  

Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

 

(Note: I haven't had this device for long and right now I'm just trying to get a good clean Fender reverb type of sound.  Think SRV on Riviera Paradise or Lenny.)

Thank you in advance!




 

 

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Although the 108 would be considered a budget FRFR.... it should not sound bad, just not as good as higher end models. Many people use the Headrush successfully... so it should work for you. I use a "budget" FRFR myself but not the headrush.... I have no problems getting what I need out of it. 

 

A few suggestions to try....

  • Do not engage the contour button on the headrush. You want this unit to be as flat as possible. Engaging the contour might give you a false sense of "bigger" at first.... but it actually will thin out the tone substantially.... especially as you play louder. 
  • Try and decouple it from the floor as much as possible. I usually find the "monitor position" is enough for me with these types of boxes, you may need to actually lift it. 
  • "Louder" will always be perceived as "better"..... are you attempting to listen to the FRFR really quietly.... or are you able to actually push it a little? 

And here is one to be aware of....

  • Headphones are stereo, the FRFR is mono! Just like the volume I mention above, stereo will almost always be "perceived" as bigger and better. 
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One other very important thing: don't connect a stereo signal to a mono port. In other words, don't connect the headphone out of Helix to a mono port on the FRFR with a TRS cable. If the mono port is balanced, then doing this will cause a bunch of sound cancellation and make it sound like hot garbage. You can use a TRS connector into a balanced mono port for lower noise, but just make sure the signal is mono at the source side.

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I always had a hard time with the PA style speakers with horn separate and above the woofer.  I think being away from the speaker a certain distance to allow convergence of the HF and LF driver helps.   They can sound worse the closer you get to them.  The HF drivers/horns can be harsh too.  So maybe with what you have now, I would recommend you put some distance between you and the Headrush 108 if you haven't already tried it.

 

I don't know much about the Pod Go, but Helix has a nice global EQ that can help even things out with different speaker types.

 

I tried the Headrush 12" in Guitar Center and a Line 6 Powercab and found a huge difference.  I believe the design and the wood cabinet of the Powercab certainly helped, but really I believe the coaxial design of the HF driver in the center of LF helps most of all.  I have a PC 112+, but really just use FRFR 90% of the time.  So a PC 112 plain could fit your needs.  Not sure how you feel about used, but they are hitting the used market nowadays for around $400.  Still not quite as low as the Headrush but worth it if you can swing it IMO.

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57 minutes ago, roscoe5 said:

I always had a hard time with the PA style speakers with horn separate and above the woofer.  I think being away from the speaker a certain distance to allow convergence of the HF and LF driver helps.   They can sound worse the closer you get to them.  The HF drivers/horns can be harsh too.  So maybe with what you have now, I would recommend you put some distance between you and the Headrush 108 if you haven't already tried it.

 

I don't know much about the Pod Go, but Helix has a nice global EQ that can help even things out with different speaker types.

 

I tried the Headrush 12" in Guitar Center and a Line 6 Powercab and found a huge difference.  I believe the design and the wood cabinet of the Powercab certainly helped, but really I believe the coaxial design of the HF driver in the center of LF helps most of all.  I have a PC 112+, but really just use FRFR 90% of the time.  So a PC 112 plain could fit your needs.  Not sure how you feel about used, but they are hitting the used market nowadays for around $400.  Still not quite as low as the Headrush but worth it if you can swing it IMO.


Thanks for the input.  The Pod GO also has the Global EQ.  I adjusted it and that did help but still not great.  I think there is something to what you said about being so close to the speaker.  I'm essentially playing in my home office right now. So like really close to the HR.

I also have tried the GO into the Power Amp In of my Boss Katana 100 MKii. I actually like that better so far but still not having much luck getting the highs to sound pristine like they do through the headphones.
 

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2 hours ago, benthere77 said:


Thanks for the input.  The Pod GO also has the Global EQ.  I adjusted it and that did help but still not great.  I think there is something to what you said about being so close to the speaker.  I'm essentially playing in my home office right now. So like really close to the HR.

I also have tried the GO into the Power Amp In of my Boss Katana 100 MKii. I actually like that better so far but still not having much luck getting the highs to sound pristine like they do through the headphones.
 


You're comparing apples and oranges.  Not know what kind of headphones, some consumer brands add a lot of EQ to sweeten the sound which you wont get through a speaker.  You also have to bear in mind powered speakers are simple PA speakers and they're going to sound harsh up close.  That's why people tend to not sit next to them in clubs.

Everything here is guesswork without seeing what you've got in your signal chain.  One thing is for sure, the sound you'd be getting in a live performance will be MUCH more like what you're getting from the HR than it will from the headphones.

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Most headphones have a single driver/speaker where the HR has separate HF and LF driver.  Headphones also usually have some engineered fabric between the driver and the users ear, not just for comfort.  This can really smooth things out in a good set of headphones.

 

This may sound a little odd to you, but this is cheap/free to try.  If you are feeling crafty, try laying some fabric (towel, pillow case, etc.) over the HF driver on the HR speaker.  Fabric layers can filter/attenuate and smooth out frequencies, especially high frequencies with a compression horn, which may help with the near field harshness.  You might experiment with multiple layers or different fabrics.  If you find success with fabric and want to improve aesthetics, you can always attach it behind the grille of the HR.

 

Mesa uses engineered, coated grille cloth in their speaker cabinets to tame high frequencies and smooth out the cabinet sound.  Other manufacturers do as well.  Even the coaxial FRFR designs like Line 6 Powercab and Mission Gemini have the HF driver under a fabric center dust cap of the 12" LF/woofer driver.  Plus I imagine they use engineered grille cloth as well.

 

Anyway, good luck and have fun!

 

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  • 3 months later...

That's exactly my current situation. I purchased a Hotone Ampero. tested it with headphones, and directly to the mixer and PA with the band. Sounded good, always better with headphones. Also tried it in the Amp in socket of my Katana, not bad.

Got the Headrush and the tone sucks, no matter where I set the speaker, no matter how far or close I'm from it. Thinking about having to create specific presets for the speaker, but will have to do it in my rehersealplace, as I can't go loud at home. That's bulllollipop. Could end up getting rid of all that stuff.

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On 7/14/2020 at 3:25 PM, benthere77 said:


Thanks for the input.  The Pod GO also has the Global EQ.  I adjusted it and that did help but still not great.  I think there is something to what you said about being so close to the speaker.  I'm essentially playing in my home office right now. So like really close to the HR.

I also have tried the GO into the Power Amp In of my Boss Katana 100 MKii. I actually like that better so far but still not having much luck getting the highs to sound pristine like they do through the headphones.
 


Have you tried listening to your FRFR in different rooms? Small offices have notoriously bad acoustics - specifically, huge swings in low/low mid frequencies depending on your exact location in the room, which can cause your tone to go from muddy to thin just by moving a few feet. I can tell you this from experience, as it’s the exact reason I have to mix on headphones at my house. 
 

I would suggest setting up in a larger room, if possible, and listening from at least 6 feet away as others have mentioned. This should give you a much better representation of what the tone will sound like live (assuming that is your goal - if not, this may not help much).

 

I would also caution that most headphones are not particularly “flat.”

So even if your FRFR sounds dramatically different in a larger room, it probably still won’t sound exactly like the tone you’re getting in your headphones. This is where the global EQ can be very handy.

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Headphones will always sound clearer and more direct when you directly compare headphones with speakers. This is because HPs exclude the room from the signal. Rooms can make a guitar sound better or worse.

 

Impact of the room on floor monitor sound

Say you have a wedge monitor on the floor. You (1.5m tall) stand 1m before it. Your room might be 2.5m high. While the direct signal arrives at your ears after 5ms of travel through the air, you get an early reflection from the ceiling after about 12ms . So there already is a short delay of 7ms (12-5) that adds some perceived phase shift (gets louder @140Hz but tamed @70Hz). If you move to 3m away from the monitor the relative delay between direct and reflected signal gets down to 5ms so that 200Hz is perceived louder and 100Hz less loud. This is just one of many reflections you get from the room. They add up to something that alters the sound significantly.

 

Experiment that simulates the impact of one room reflection:

Use headphones, put a looper as first block, play something and let it loop. Add a simple delay with no feedback and sweep through low delay times 0-50ms and try to evaluate what it does to the original sound of the guitar.

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I have the exact opposite problem.

Through my speaker (JBL eon 612) it sounds awesome.

I have it in monitor mode, about 8 feet away, slight treble boost.

 

But in headphones... uugghh.  The cleans are good. Different than the speaker and I get that. More detailed for sure. No problem.

 

But the distortion tones are just awful. Not just my presets, the factory ones, anything heavy, just terrible. 

Sounds like when you plug headphones into the output of a stomp box. 

 

I tried three different headphones, none super nice but still. Bad enough where I hate trying to practice with headphones.

 

It doesn't make any sense, right? Why is that?

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@FireHawkkWah , How are you connecting to your JBL? a TS or TRS cable because im wondering if using a regular instrument cable is messing me up? My Headrush sounds like hot Garbage with Distortion and slightly better with my Pre-Sonnus headphones but not great

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12 minutes ago, kane21014 said:

@FireHawkkWah , How are you connecting to your JBL? a TS or TRS cable because im wondering if using a regular instrument cable is messing me up? My Headrush sounds like hot Garbage with Distortion and slightly better with my Pre-Sonnus headphones but not great

As stated in the thread you started TRS vs TS has no effect on sound. It only prevents added noise.

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Using Helix XLR cable into mixer, then TS cable into JBL.

Mixer is set flat.

 

I love playing through the speaker, considering mic'ing up the JBL in order to try to record the sound I'm hearing, but that seems to go against the whole point of having amp/cab emulations and USB out recording!! 

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  • 1 year later...

Hi! 

 

One more unhappy home Headrush FRFR 108 user...I have to admit due to family needs I really haven't put in the time to learn the ins and outs of making the Helix sound great, I know many here have documented how it takes time and you get rewarded by learning from other users, trial and error...however my setup is:  

 

- Headrush FRFR 108 connected to XLR mono output of the helix. No contour enabled and the speaker is raised about 1.5 m from the ground via stand

- A pair of wireless (RF) standard consumer Sennheiser headphones in the phones output

- I have purchased some presets from well known preset-makers (Fremen, MBritt) to make sure I have something generally considered good to try with 

- I am a "bedroom guitarist", playing in my small home office (about 3m x 5m, 2.5m ceiling height). The Headrush stand is in one corner of the room and I am standing about in the middle of it.

 

As the original poster, I enjoy playing with headphones and am disgusted by the sound emitted by the Headrush :-). I keep the Headrush low (about 1-2 out of 11 on their volume scale, not 1-2 hours) to not be evicted from the apartment, and play with the Helix and guitar volume when needed. Some recurring characteristics I see: 

 

- as the original poster mentioned, the sound is generally muddy and lacks clarity

- "clean" presets are almost inaudible if I don't crank the volume up on the guitar or on the Helix right to maximum

- "distorted" presets, or even just solo snapshots of the same presets which add gain and a bit of distortion suddenly become way too loud, so much that I feel the urge to soften my pick attack and start playing extremely quiet, which messes up my technique...

 

Where I get confused is that it's not really a constant effect I get, but it seems like clean and distorted presets are affected in opposite ways. A change in snapshots which is absolutely smooth on the headphones results in disaster with the speaker. 

 

I have also just purchased a pair of IK Multimedia iLoud monitors to compare with the Headrush, I don't have much room but I thought I could find space for those small thingies at least. Still need to try them. I will also consider @roscoe5's advice above with using some textiles. Based on the above, I guess I also need to play with the global EQ and trying to raise the Headrush volume and lower the Helix one. Sadly switching to a bigger room is not an option here.

 

Thought I'd summarize my situation to see if there's any further advice out there :-) Otherwise, retroactive thanks for the advice already given above!

 

 

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Short answer is you won't replicate the head phone tones through external speakers. I had a whole thread on this with the Helix. The same presets through head phones were much more aggressive and dynamic through any headphones I used - same presets through FRFR speakers nope! I have since dialled in better tones for the speakers but it's still not the same as the head phone sound.

 

For whatever reason with these devices, they sound completely different through head phones. The confusion is when people say.. well that's because head phones are different from speakers, which is true, but of course you're expecting a better result from external speakers and it's the opposite.

 

But you won't match the way your presets sound on head phones, I've been down that rabbit hole. Just forget about it and try and get the best tones you can specifically for your speakers.

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Thanks @Paulzx for the advice, sounds wise :-)

 

I am going to start by trying some volume adjustment between Headrush and Helix master and see if I can at least hear the cleans better, without breaking any window when I switch to "solo" snapshots. Then will try some settings on the Global EQ. If these don't work I will start playing with the presets, I guess I will need to have two versions of each preset (unless those which sound good on the Headrush would also sound good on headphones). 

 

On the topic of Global EQ, I am also singing and playing backing tracks through the Headrush (vocals via the Helix Mic IN and backing tracks via USB, using the Helix as soundcard). Is there any rule of thumb on what I should not cut to still hear those clearly? Some examples to start from would be great, then of course I need to adapt to my room and my setup. 

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1 hour ago, Eclipse612 said:

Then will try some settings on the Global EQ. If these don't work I will start playing with the presets,

 

Do not use the Global EQ as a foundation to create/edit presets on. That will create a never ending loop of tone chasing and frustration. 

Use it to correct a room, only when needed. 

 

Make your preset sound as best it can on the speaker you use the most (eg: the headrush). The better is sounds there, the better it will sound in headphones. If it sounds better in headphones than it does on the Headrush don't chase that sound... you will never achieve it.  

 

  • Tones created on headphones rarely sound good on speakers
  • Tones created on speakers almost always sound good on headphones... sometimes better 

 

FWIW... I use in-ear monitors (ie: headphones) on stage at least 50% of the time. I never create a tone FOR my in-ears, or ON my in-ears. I create my tones on my speakers, and they ALWAYS work with my in-ears. 

 

On 12/1/2021 at 11:02 AM, Eclipse612 said:

I have purchased some presets from well known preset-makers (Fremen, MBritt) to make sure I have something generally considered good to try with 

 

The MBritt presets sound great. If you load those up with the corresponding/matching IR they should provide a fabulous starting point. Of course.. the guitar you use has a big impact on tone. Michael Britt uses a lot of single coils... Tele's, Strats and P-90 equipped guitars. 

 

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3 hours ago, codamedia said:

 

Do not use the Global EQ as a foundation to create/edit presets on. That will create a never ending loop of tone chasing and frustration. 

Use it to correct a room, only when needed. 

 

 

Good point. I wasn't thinking of doing that, but more trying out if the Global EQ helps, if not then resetting it to flat and working on the presets. But good you mentioned this so I try to stay away from the error. Just because adjusting the global EQ probably takes less time than looking through all presets. 

 

3 hours ago, codamedia said:

 

The MBritt presets sound great. If you load those up with the corresponding/matching IR they should provide a fabulous starting point. Of course.. the guitar you use has a big impact on tone. Michael Britt uses a lot of single coils... Tele's, Strats and P-90 equipped guitars. 

 

 

Agree they sound great (in my headphones at least :-) ). I play a 2002 Strat with custom single coil pickups made by an Italian luthier who makes a David Gilmour "black strat" like pickup set. Also have the infamous switch to use the bridge and neck pickups together, though I haven't found a good use for it yet (and I think Gilmour himself doesn't really use it a whole lot). I play a lot of Floyd and that's why I also have the Fremen presets: the example I was making above that is driving me nuts is his preset for Time. It sounds amazing in the headphones, then on the Headrush I need to turn up the volume to hear just a little of the crunch in the intro and verse tones, so when I switch to the solo it just explodes with noise. 

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On 12/2/2021 at 4:09 PM, Eclipse612 said:

I guess I will need to have two versions of each preset

 

That is basically what it comes down to if you're going to use headphones a lot. I haven't done that primarily because once I realised the Helix sounded a lot better with headphones than any kind of external speaker, I stopped using headphones altogether because it was frustrating. I just accepted it produces a different type of sound between those two listening modes, it shouldn't but it does nothing you do will change it

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I actually have realized one thing today. While the problem still exists, it is definitely less disastrous if I am playing without a backing track. So I am starting to believe that only half of my problem is how to render the Helix tones through the Headrush in my room, while the other half is probably how to hear them when something else is playing in the background. I guess this is a similar problem, if not the same, to being able to "cut through the mix" when playing in a band (not sure if a backing track vs. a real band makes a difference frequency-wise when it comes to affecting what can be heard from the guitar).

 

Any pointers for where to look at for good input on this topic? 

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4 hours ago, Eclipse612 said:

I actually have realized one thing today. While the problem still exists, it is definitely less disastrous if I am playing without a backing track. So I am starting to believe that only half of my problem is how to render the Helix tones through the Headrush in my room, while the other half is probably how to hear them when something else is playing in the background. I guess this is a similar problem, if not the same, to being able to "cut through the mix" when playing in a band (not sure if a backing track vs. a real band makes a difference frequency-wise when it comes to affecting what can be heard from the guitar).

 

Any pointers for where to look at for good input on this topic? 

 

You have just described the same problem encountered by everyone who has ever mixed a multi-track recording, be it at home on a laptop, or in a million dollar facility. The guitar tone that sounds magnificent on it's own will often sound terrible in a mix, and vice versa. Doesn't matter if it's a recording,  or playing live on stage... getting everything balanced so that individual instruments aren't stepping all over each other is an art in and of itself. That's why you see the same handful of names mixing album after album... if it was easy, anybody could do it.

 

The short answer is that there are simply no universal settings or strategies that are guaranteed to work for everybody. Each track is unique... that's all there is to it. The tone that worked for Tune A, might not work at all in Tune B... it depends on what else is going on in the track. You can prove that to yourself just be playing along with backing tracks on YouTube. You might have a lead tone that works magnificently with one track, and completely disappears from the mix with the next. Learning to use EQ effectively is a trial and error exercise... the closest thing there is to "universal truth" , is that getting the sound you want is often more about removing  frequencies which are too prominent, as opposed to boosting those that seem to be lacking... otherwise you tend to end up with too much of everything. Cut first, boost second. For example, if the mids seems to be lacking, try backing off the lows/ lower mids first, instead of just automatically cranking the midrange frequencies.

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On 12/6/2021 at 6:50 AM, Eclipse612 said:

I actually have realized one thing today. While the problem still exists, it is definitely less disastrous if I am playing without a backing track. So I am starting to believe that only half of my problem is how to render the Helix tones through the Headrush in my room, while the other half is probably how to hear them when something else is playing in the background. I guess this is a similar problem, if not the same, to being able to "cut through the mix" when playing in a band (not sure if a backing track vs. a real band makes a difference frequency-wise when it comes to affecting what can be heard from the guitar).

 

Any pointers for where to look at for good input on this topic? 

 

You would be surprised at what a great guitar tone in a mix actually sounds like standing on it's own. Find some "isolated guitar tracks" on the net and listen for yourself. Most of us would never think of dialing in tones like that... yet we love those sounds on the recordings. 

 

I haven't heard "your tone" so it's impossible to make any direct suggestions.... but here are three common problems for not getting a guitar to sit nice in a track or mix.

  • Too much low end. It sounds BIG on it's own, but it creates a mess in a mix. Dial it back and/or set some appropriate low cuts to the guitar doesn't interfere with the kick, bass and keyboards in a track. 
  • Don't scoop the mids... leave them in! Although it might sound "pleasant" on it's own when scooped, the guitar actually lives in the mid-range of a mix. If you take them out (even a little) then your guitar will become thin and lifeless in a mix. 
  • Don't add too much reverb. Unless you are using it as an effect (eg: surf guitar) then it should be applied naturally. You don't usually hear properly applied reverb... it just softens the part and sits it nicely into the mix with the surrounding tones. 

TIP: EVERY guitar tone that you love on a recording has studio compression applied to it. That is the magic sauce most people over look, and it is the reason many Helix users will apply an LA Studio Comp toward the end of their chain. Don't squish the signal, just let the gain reduction meter flicker while you play. This really refines the tone, like it does on a recording. 

 

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On 12/7/2021 at 12:08 PM, codamedia said:

 

You would be surprised at what a great guitar tone in a mix actually sounds like standing on it's own. Find some "isolated guitar tracks" on the net and listen for yourself. Most of us would never think of dialing in tones like that... yet we love those sounds on the recordings. 

 

I haven't heard "your tone" so it's impossible to make any direct suggestions.... but here are three common problems for not getting a guitar to sit nice in a track or mix.

  • Too much low end. It sounds BIG on it's own, but it creates a mess in a mix. Dial it back and/or set some appropriate low cuts to the guitar doesn't interfere with the kick, bass and keyboards in a track. 
  • Don't scoop the mids... leave them in! Although it might sound "pleasant" on it's own when scooped, the guitar actually lives in the mid-range of a mix. If you take them out (even a little) then your guitar will become thin and lifeless in a mix. 
  • Don't add too much reverb. Unless you are using it as an effect (eg: surf guitar) then it should be applied naturally. You don't usually hear properly applied reverb... it just softens the part and sits it nicely into the mix with the surrounding tones. 

TIP: EVERY guitar tone that you love on a recording has studio compression applied to it. That is the magic sauce most people over look, and it is the reason many Helix users will apply an LA Studio Comp toward the end of their chain. Don't squish the signal, just let the gain reduction meter flicker while you play. This really refines the tone, like it does on a recording. 

 

 

Those are all good tips actually. In reality, any one guitar tone would probably have three potential versions, one for playing just on it's own, one for a studio mix, and one for a live mix. I've recently gotten more into using compressors in my presets, I think the main problem is that most people don't really know how to use them or how to get the best settings out of them, but they do make a difference.

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3 hours ago, Paulzx said:

In reality, any one guitar tone would probably have three potential versions, one for playing just on it's own, one for a studio mix, and one for a live mix.

 

The studio is a completely different situation... not really part of what I think of as "creating presets" because it is often done on the fly and the engineer/producer have a big part of it's final outcome.

 

As for live and home use... we've gone back and forth about this in past threads. The better you are at producing tones that "translate" between various speakers, the less you have to worry about creating "separate presets" for each environment. My live tones are the same tones I use at home. They have been carefully set up to sound very good through Studio Monitors, Stage Monitors, IEM's (headphones), FRFR & FOH/PA.

 

Please note that I am not saying they sound the SAME in each... that's not possible and I don't waste my time trying. The trick is just making it sound "very good" in each.

If that seems odd to you... take your favorite song from your favorite artist and play it through 5 playback systems. Home stereo, Studio Monitors, Headphones, in the car & through a mono bluetooth speaker.  That song won't sound "the same" in each system, but chances are it will still sound VERY GOOD in each system.

 

That's a very special skill that is worth learning... whether it's creating a guitar tone, or mixing a song.  

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I have two Headrush FRFR112s and when I bought the first one I had it on the floor and it sounded terrible. Bassy and muddy as you described.

I was using a Headrush Pedalboard.

I lifted it off the floor (small speaker stand about 1M, and wow it came to life and sounds just great. I then bought the second one for stereo and they sound fantastic with my Fender Strat, Tele and Gibson Les Paul. Acoustic guitar.

I have played several gigs with these combined with a Fender SuperSonic 22 and I just love the sound I'm getting.

 

Now I just got the Helix LT one day ago but I'm sure that it too will sound great when I get it worked out.

Hope this helps.

Cheers, All

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