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firehawkkwah

Helix or new guitar

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Let's say you have $800 to spend on some new gear. 

Your quiver currently consists of a Firehawk, Variax Standard, and a Squier Jagmaster from the 90s. 

 

The Variax/Firehawk combo is a pretty decent one, but the Helix is obviously much more capable, and the reamping/dual amping, better effects (esp distortions), and snapshots are things you want and would make for better recordings (in a virtual cover band) and live ensemble performances. If you sold the Firehawk to defray the cost of the LT, you'd end up about $800 out of pocket.

 

But on the other hand, there's always the allure of a new guitar, and although sonically the Variax does pretty well, it's just not as pretty as, say, a PRS SE Custom 24 charcoal burst. 

 

So which direction do you go and why? 

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No brainer for me - Helix.

 

The variax integration is phenomenal and allows patch and within patch changes of guitar model, and tuning model as well as the whole amp and effects shebang.

 

Want to play "go your own way" starting with a chorused 12 string and move to a crunchy LP for chorus's and a a dirty LP for solos - no probs, I do this with 3 levels of dirt and delay for the chorus/solos via snapshots - all tuned down 2 steps to suit playing in open E shapes for the singer in singing in D

 

The palette is wide open and the quality amazing.

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I suppose another option is to sell the Standard and get a 59 since then I get the two magnetic humbucker like I want, and then get the Helix...

 

Slightly more expensive, but maybe gets me closer!

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I'd say whichever one entices you to enjoy playing, practicing, and recording more. Problem is, you likely won't know that until you get it! 

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From your list, upgrading the Firehawk to the Helix would be my choice. 

 

I went from an HD500 to the Helix LT... and the difference is impossible to explain. 

I have never been happier with any single piece of gear than I am with the Helix. I finder it tremendously inspiring. 

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The other things to consider about Firehawk are it’s Tone Matching and mobility (Bluetooth based remote app). If losing those features are not important to you I would definitely upgrade to the LT first. If affordable I would then sell the Standard and get the JTV59.

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One thing to consider in your choices - the new guitar process goes like this: Arrive at home, admire for 30 seconds, plug in, then begin playing.  Play more hours than you probably should since it's a new toy... admire and then go to bed, start over in the morning.

 

With the Helix it's - arrive home, spend next 3 weeks figuring it out, get angry at why it sounds flubby, tinny until you find a decent enough patch... study your butt off (all the time not actually playing any guitar... weeks go by and you are finally figuring out all the quirks & complexities... now spend months watching youtube videos, tweaking, learning, changing your understanding of how sound works, getting berated on forums for being a dolt by some superior helix users with 10K hours under their belt... continuing to struggle for months... spend your entire winter constantly messing with helix to emerge in the spring having lost some of your playing ability since you dedicated 2000 hours toward helix and not playing anything more than a few licks that came to mind.  But now the good news is that you are pretty adept at using helix and have some good patches setup so you can finally get back to playing and enjoying guitar.

 

I'm exaggerating a bit here, well maybe - bottom line is helix is a massive time sink.... do you WANT or NEED that right now?

 

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31 minutes ago, kringle said:

One thing to consider in your choices - the new guitar process goes like this: Arrive at home, admire for 30 seconds, plug in, then begin playing.  Play more hours than you probably should since it's a new toy... admire and then go to bed, start over in the morning.

 

With the Helix it's - arrive home, spend next 3 weeks figuring it out, get angry at why it sounds flubby, tinny until you find a decent enough patch... study your butt off (all the time not actually playing any guitar... weeks go by and you are finally figuring out all the quirks & complexities... now spend months watching youtube videos, tweaking, learning, changing your understanding of how sound works, getting berated on forums for being a dolt by some superior helix users with 10K hours under their belt... continuing to struggle for months... spend your entire winter constantly messing with helix to emerge in the spring having lost some of your playing ability since you dedicated 2000 hours toward helix and not playing anything more than a few licks that came to mind.  But now the good news is that you are pretty adept at using helix and have some good patches setup so you can finally get back to playing and enjoying guitar.

 

I'm exaggerating a bit here, well maybe - bottom line is helix is a massive time sink.... do you WANT or NEED that right now?

 

 

Was Helix your first introduction to the world of digital modeling coming from an analog situation? If so, much of the time and effort can be attributed to that, not necessarily to Helix itself. Note that the OP is coming from a Firehawk so is familiar with the digital modeling world.

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3 hours ago, kringle said:

One thing to consider in your choices - the new guitar process goes like this: Arrive at home, admire for 30 seconds, plug in, then begin playing.  Play more hours than you probably should since it's a new toy... admire and then go to bed, start over in the morning.

 

With the Helix it's - arrive home, spend next 3 weeks figuring it out, get angry at why it sounds flubby, tinny until you find a decent enough patch... study your butt off (all the time not actually playing any guitar... weeks go by and you are finally figuring out all the quirks & complexities... now spend months watching youtube videos, tweaking, learning, changing your understanding of how sound works, getting berated on forums for being a dolt by some superior helix users with 10K hours under their belt... continuing to struggle for months... spend your entire winter constantly messing with helix to emerge in the spring having lost some of your playing ability since you dedicated 2000 hours toward helix and not playing anything more than a few licks that came to mind.  But now the good news is that you are pretty adept at using helix and have some good patches setup so you can finally get back to playing and enjoying guitar.

 

I'm exaggerating a bit here, well maybe - bottom line is helix is a massive time sink.... do you WANT or NEED that right now?

 

 

Boy, that wasn't even close to my experience. Not that it won't be but it's not the only posibility. My experience with my Variax and Helix was, I was playing Us & Them. Let's see, what does Gilmour use for that song? A Hiwatt, Strat, and a Univibe. Put them together. WOW that's close. That happened a few times. I've also experienced some of what you described as well. But I didn't have to wait for months including an entire winter before I could "finally get back to playing and enjoying guitar. And the fact that he has a guitar and something to play it through would pretty much indicate that NEED has nothing to do with it. I didn't NEED a Helix either, but I got one. Just don't want to scare him off.

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4 hours ago, kringle said:

bottom line is helix is a massive time sink.... do you WANT or NEED that right now?

 

Wow... your post is not my experience at all.  I have no problems turning on the helix and dialing in what I want/need quickly. I used to waste a lot more time dialing in my HD500 than I do the Helix.

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23 minutes ago, codamedia said:

 

Wow... your post is not my experience at all.  I have no problems turning on the helix and dialing in what I want/need quickly. I used to waste a lot more time dialing in my HD500 than I do the Helix.

Mine neither. But I'm a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx veteran, so the HxStomp is a walk in the park for me. But our experience does not apply to newbies at all.

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10 hours ago, firehawkkwah said:

although sonically the Variax does pretty well, it's just not as pretty as, say, a PRS SE Custom 24 charcoal burst.

 

I recently picked up the limited run charcoal/cherry fade SE 24... it's an absolute steal for $800. My only real gripe is the lack of stainless frets, but that's hard to find on a sub-$1K guitar anyway, and the $5000 PRS's don't have them either, so it is what it is... been playing this thing nonstop since I got it.

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Huh, I was able to setup and enjoy my Helix almost instantaneously. There are a ton of articles and youtube videos on how to get good tone. And if you don't want to deal with that, you can just go to custom tone and download user presets and tweak them. I was playing custom tones for months before I started creating my own (yes It was that fun, I love downloading presets, it's like opening a present). 

 

I understand some people had issues dialing Helix in, I just didn't. 

 

Get what inspires you to play guitar more. It can be a new guitar, but for me, the Helix just encourages me to tinker and play. 

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15 hours ago, silverhead said:

The other things to consider about Firehawk are it’s Tone Matching and mobility (Bluetooth based remote app). If losing those features are not important to you I would definitely upgrade to the LT first. If affordable I would then sell the Standard and get the JTV59.

 

I haven't really been using the tone matching on FHFX, although I do like the ability to edit settings from my phone.

 

I think I'm leaning towards your order now: LT and then see how it plays out in regards to guitar. I do like the Variax and the integration with the floor unit: it's one of the reasons I bought a FHFX years ago, even years before I had a Variax. Just wanted that capability to be there if I wanted to use it. 

I'm planning to swap out the Standard bridge pickup for a humbucker and see if that gets me there. If not, then yeah, maybe the JTV59 would get me closer to being able to do what I want with fewer pieces.  But since I can't get my hands on one to try and feel the neck, etc, plus I really can't afford everything all at once, just gotta do one step at a time! 

 

I mean, as much as I like the idea of having a full collection of things, I would truly love to have one setup that I really enjoy, know well, and does everything I want it to do. 

 

Can't you make a Variax that looks as good as a PRS?! :)

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7 hours ago, firehawkkwah said:

I mean, as much as I like the idea of having a full collection of things, I would truly love to have one setup that I really enjoy, know well, and does everything I want it to do.

 

Ahh... the guitarist's Holy Grail. I've been looking for that for 30 years now, lol. Let me know if you find it. ;)

 

7 hours ago, firehawkkwah said:

 

 

Can't you make a Variax that looks as good as a PRS?! :)

 

Is not really a question of "can they do it? ", but rather can they do it at a price that people are willing to pay? The JTV's debuted at ~$1400 ten years ago. Now I like my 69, but I didn't pay that price, and frankly, I wouldn't. It's a perfectly serviceable instrument (once I swapped out the neck for a Warmoth), but having had it for 7 or 8 years now and knowing what it's good at, and what it's not, I wouldn't buy another one unless some of the deficiencies with the tech side have been dealt with effectively.... piezo quack, and some of the alt tuning limitations, etc. Time will tell what the next Variax generation will look like. We'll see...

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12 hours ago, firehawkkwah said:

Can't you make a Variax that looks as good as a PRS?! :)

 

I'd say they did that with the 700 series... but that was a 1st gen variax with no magnetic pickups. 

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On 9/1/2020 at 4:39 AM, firehawkkwah said:

Let's say you have $800 to spend on some new gear. 

Your quiver currently consists of a Firehawk, Variax Standard, and a Squier Jagmaster from the 90s. 

 

The Variax/Firehawk combo is a pretty decent one, but the Helix is obviously much more capable, and the reamping/dual amping, better effects (esp distortions), and snapshots are things you want and would make for better recordings (in a virtual cover band) and live ensemble performances. If you sold the Firehawk to defray the cost of the LT, you'd end up about $800 out of pocket.

 

But on the other hand, there's always the allure of a new guitar, and although sonically the Variax does pretty well, it's just not as pretty as, say, a PRS SE Custom 24 charcoal burst. 

 

So which direction do you go and why? 

Ok Im a spoiled manchild so if it was me and you have good credit I get both from zzsounds pay it off in 12 months.

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On 9/2/2020 at 9:25 PM, cruisinon2 said:

 

Ahh... the guitarist's Holy Grail. I've been looking for that for 30 years now, lol. Let me know if you find it. ;)

 

 Time will tell what the next Variax generation will look like. We'll see...

Right?!

I was really hoping the Variax would do it, but it doesn't.  It won't be the last guitar I buy.

 

I will say that I'm pretty sure I'm done with traditional amps, though. The ease of modeling for recording and portability and just playing with things has me fully on board.

So maybe Helix will be closer to the last board I buy. Then again... Lol.

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5 hours ago, firehawkkwah said:

Right?!

I was really hoping the Variax would do it, but it doesn't.  It won't be the last guitar I buy.

 

I was quite taken with mine initially, and it's still a useful tool,  but it doesn't see as much playing time these days. I've gotten too used to playing wireless with all my other guitars, and going back to a tether just sucks. Yeah, I could go wireless and use the battery... but losing the control that the VDI provides makes it just another guitar if I can't change models or tunings on the fly with a footswitch.

 

Quote

So maybe Helix will be closer to the last board I buy. Then again... Lol.

 

No it won't, lol... something better will come along sooner or later, that we'll all just "have to get". It's the nature of the beast...

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@OP - I'd go helix + helix native.  Then after that start gearing purchases to be more toward a studio setup.  You can start with reaper since it's free, and get a bass somewhere down the line.   Then upgrade to cubase or one of these other DAW's at some point down the line.

so go 
Helix + helix native
get a DAW
next get a bass.
get a decent mic (even if you don't sing, you may surprise yourself)
then later get some nice plugins.
fab filter stuff.   maybe some UAD stuff if you get monies lying around. 
Then circle back around to more guitars...more basses.  more guitars.. more basses.  lol

that's your 5-10 year plan.  

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On 9/1/2020 at 1:39 AM, firehawkkwah said:

Let's say you have $800 to spend on some new gear. 

Your quiver currently consists of a Firehawk, Variax Standard, and a Squier Jagmaster from the 90s. 

 

The Variax/Firehawk combo is a pretty decent one, but the Helix is obviously much more capable, and the reamping/dual amping, better effects (esp distortions), and snapshots are things you want and would make for better recordings (in a virtual cover band) and live ensemble performances. If you sold the Firehawk to defray the cost of the LT, you'd end up about $800 out of pocket.

 

But on the other hand, there's always the allure of a new guitar, and although sonically the Variax does pretty well, it's just not as pretty as, say, a PRS SE Custom 24 charcoal burst. 

 

So which direction do you go and why? 

 

firehawkkwah,

 

I know the challenge of "what gear next".  This is more a "been there and am there again" for me as opposed to giving you my opinionated direction.  So the answer to the age old question of "How many <fill in the blank> do I need ... 'Just one more'"

 

I recently had a friend of mine who is rather noted in the West Coast instrument merchant arena send some guys to appraise and then purchase and then haul away much of my many years of gear collecting.  The reason is - it helped me with new purchases in many arenas in addition to and other then just musical instruments ... hahahaha.  I still have my ol' Goldie, Strat, & Martin.  I have added the Limited Edition Helix to the family and I have now got GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) for a new Mesa; does it ever end?  So I have decided to be patient, save, and try the gear to make my decision since in my case I use the Helix so much that I sometimes use an amp to make my fellow musicians feel happy; I have two in the band who feel stage sound is what they need to be inspired - go figure but their feelings are valid for them so I support that.  If the "6 months no interest" leaders are available in about 4 months I may use that to defray more waiting if I am not at the level of savings I want.

 

In the end only you can decide.  However, getting a Helix was the best move I made many years ago.  I really have no regrets selling my gear recently which included my older Helix since I did want to get the Limited Edition for my own reasons.  Adding other gear such as guitars and/or amps will be easy since I have the Helix.  And going to music stores or even the manufacturers that allow me to try gear helps.  And even though I mitigate buyers and thus purchase decision remorse I am always thinking "what else might help?"  But that is just my experience and thoughts. YMMV

 

Dennis

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