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Presence in amp tones.. nasty or not?


Paulzx
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Guys, this more of an open discussion on tone than question but it would be good to get some feedback especially from people who use helix for gigging.

 

Like a lot of you I suspect, I'm always tinkering and analysing my metal and hard rock tones for authenticity as well as what sounds good to me just playing on my own. I've come to the conclusion that a lot of my distortion tones I liked that sounded rich or saturated on their own, actually do not sound good when you jam along with records and classic players. Whats doing it is the presence. I noticed most of the amps come with presence dialled in, which amplifies with IRs and gets even worse, so I started taking the presence right off with amp and cab tones and IR tones, there was a massive difference when playing alongside records.

 

With the presence gone or just very low, my guitars now sit in the mix of real records so much better. When I play alongside Angus Young, my guitar tone now sounds really close to the real thing as ive realised the presence is just making these tones extra fizzy and totally unrealistic.

 

I now realise most of these live artists and records have taken out these fizzy top end parameters and what you get is much better cut through. I know Scott on the helix channel always said to dial presence out of the tones because its nasty, and I have to agree.

 

So if any of you guys are trying to get your guitars so sound more like the classic Rock records, I would suggest looking at this. Anyone else found the same benefit in their tones?

 

 

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1. If the amp is modelled right, so it's presence have to be modelled right. The comparision has to be made with respect to real amps, not to amp recordings.
2. No amp comes with a presence dialed in. Maybe model default settings.
3. No decent commercial IR should be made on any tube amp with non flat frequency response or presence dialed in.
4. The presence in case of tube amps is usually EQ in a power amp feedback loop, some amps have no presence, presence eq works different in different amps.

So, simply no.

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Actually it has nothing to do with the artist and everything to do with the mastering phase of recording which is there to establish the master blend between the instruments/voices so they all fit together correctly.  I adjust presence all the time on various different amps depending on the style and tone of the song as it sometimes makes a significant difference how I sit in a live mix.  But I'm playing against a live mix of instruments and voices, not a mastered recording.

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Typically in a tube amp as Zolko60 said, presence is generated in the negative feedback loop and actually boosts high frequencies so it's default (not doing anything) setting would be 0.

All other tone controls are cut only so their defaults would be 10.

 

Then again most amps would sound horrible like that but that's why we have tone controls :-)

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This topic cannot have a blanket "all or none" answer. Some amps have presence controls, some do not... therefore it will work better with some amps than others.

I don't artificially add presence to a BF Fender or Vox tone....but you bet I use it on the Marshalls and other amps that originally had it. 

 

This is a link to a continually updated thread about the "phantom" controls available in the Helix for many amp & effect models and how to set them for accuracy. Nobody has to stick to these guidelines, but I'm a firm believer in knowing/understanding the rules before you break them. 

 

https://line6.com/support/topic/19961-helix-amp-model-gallery-real-controls-vs-invented/

 

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Interesting about the phantom controls. My main thinking on this is that the presence control is adding too much fizz to heavy distortion tones, even though it sometimes sounds good to the ear initially. Now I'm listening more closely for it in recorded albums and live performances, I can hear its either been dialled out or not there to begin with.

 

I do think it has improved most of my tones by dialling it right down or out. Apart from Scott on the helix channel, I was interested to know if anyone else here was also removing the presence from their high gain tones as a go to method for more authentic sounding tones.

 

Its actually the first thing I look at now when building a tone, much more so than using EQ blocks, as a starting point at least. Sounds like I might be the only one who actually thinks its nasty though lol.

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For me, when I've been struggling to find a balance between getting the right amount of 'bite' but not sound ice-picky or shrill.....I've played with the treble and presence together.  I agree there is no blanket approach as every amp is different in how the treble and presence affect the tone and also how they interact with each other.  

 

For me, I'll try to add both, because they add to the frequencies that 'cut' through in a way, however if I'm struggling to find that sweet spot, I've reduced my treble down below where it sounds good, then brought the presence up to find some of that bite, and then raise the treble to find the sweet spot.  It seems, to me, that if I adjust the treble first, it ends up higher than it needs to be because I'm trying to turn it up to get some of those presence frequencies out of it.  Then when presence is added its too much.  

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As stated above, there is definitely no "one size fits all" answer here.  My Helix goes right into the front of a Fender HR Deville, low input, clean, with the preamp tubes being 12AY7/12AT7 to reduce the gain/tame the volume curve and the amp EQ set fairly neutral, so the output is going through a real guitar combo cab, which will naturally tame high frequencies that might stick out on an FRFR, Powercab or DAW setup.  This setup seems to be contrary to the approach a lot of people favor, so the fact that I dial in a healthy dose of presence into a lot of the amps might not work for a lot of people not using a normal guitar cab.  One thing I have noticed is that some amp models, but not others, have a strange curve to the presence, where it's fine for 75-80% of the dial sweep, but things suddenly get really weird, spitty and thin in that last top part.  You can see this in the Cartographer, for example- I was trying to dial out a really raspy, spitty, thin sound in one patch, and couldn't figure out why I couldn't, until I cut the presence down, which restored the body and normality.  On the other hand, the Mark IV seems to do very well with presence set high, perhaps due to the fact that the amp has a lot of bass and mids, and where the tone stack is located compared to other amps.  Another thing is that I think the gain settings also affect how weird and buzzy the presence control acts.  Last night I was screwing around with my 80s Queensryche patch, which uses a JCM800 with the drive set under 5.  I noticed that the presence was cranked up pretty high (almost all the way), yet it didn't have that spitty fizz going on; I think it's because the gain is set relatively low.

 

I think this interactivity is one thing I like about the Helix modeling.  My prior multi-effects was a Digitech RP-1000.  At the time, I was impressed by how good it sounded compared to what I had expected from digital modeling.  However, the parameters were so limited (no sag/bias controls, and all amps only had 3 EQ controls, gain and volume), and in retrospect, it really felt like their modeling system basically was a poor man's Kemper.  In other words, they modeled a sound based on a single amp setting, and all the parameters did was take away or add EQ and a fixed gain curve from that one point, instead of modeling how the various controls and parameters interact with each other.  While the Helix is not in the tier of in depth component/parameter tweaking of an Axe-FX, it does a nice job of splitting the difference, and providing the most important controls and parameters to make a difference.

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high end is like sugar, once you get a taste of it, any more sounds great and anything less sounds crap, problem is it's hard to tell when you've gone too far, have to start dark and keep it dark, once you bump the high end (pun intended) you need to keep bumping and bumping. vocals snare and kick beater are the only thing that need to cut through, everything else is accessory. electric guitar is midrange instrument, if you keep it dark in the mix, everything above it is made brighter by relation without needing to brighten them extra. listen to SOAD Toxicity guitars, dark af, but clear as day, it's all midrange, high end is for vocals and snare (and hats if the drummer is an artist)

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22 hours ago, Paulzx said:

Sounds like I might be the only one who actually thinks its nasty though lol.

 

I don't think it's nasty... but I also don't believe it is appropriate on many amps.

I will work with proper mic choice and placement before removing all presence from the amp... when it's an amp that normally benefits from presence . (Marshalls, Hiwatt, etc...)

 

22 hours ago, Paulzx said:

My main thinking on this is that the presence control is adding too much fizz to heavy distortion tones, even though it sometimes sounds good to the ear initially. Now I'm listening more closely for it in recorded albums and live performances, I can hear its either been dialled out or not there to begin with.

 

The dreaded "fizz" has returned to conversation :) This has been discussed many times in the past on these forums. You seem to have latched onto Presence as the culprit, but you really should consider other factors. 

 

Have you played with the mic choices and positions? While I don't know for certain, the finished tones you admire might simply be mic'ed differently. EG: A '57 at 1" will inherently have a lot of presence you will have problems dialing out if you don't like it. 

 

The Helix Cabinets are mic'ed at "center position" which is the brightest spot on a speaker.... but most engineers will mic a speaker somewhere between the "center" and "edge". The closer to the edge you get, the darker (less ice-pick) the mic'ed tone becomes.

  • Try some different mics on the cabinets. Every mic will have a different tonal response, and it makes a huge difference. 
  • Although the Helix cannot move the position of the mic, you can simulate it.
    • Insert the TILT EQ after the cabinet
    • For simplicity, leave the default settings alone.
    • Move the TILT toward the DARK setting (eg: turn it down from center). Every -10 is similar to moving the mic about 1" toward the edge of the cone. FWIW... I run mine around "dark 50"... about half way between center and edge. 
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On 1/2/2021 at 7:26 AM, themetallikid said:

For me, when I've been struggling to find a balance between getting the right amount of 'bite' but not sound ice-picky or shrill.....I've played with the treble and presence together. 

 

This is the best approach for me as well. If I find myself pushing presence above about 40%, I'll usually back off and try increasing treble and reducing lows instead. I also usually set the cabinet or IR block to low cut at about 100 hz. My theory is to stay out of the frequency range of the bass and drum rather than try to cut through them.  

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3 hours ago, rzumwalt said:

 

This is the best approach for me as well. If I find myself pushing presence above about 40%, I'll usually back off and try increasing treble and reducing lows instead. I also usually set the cabinet or IR block to low cut at about 100 hz. My theory is to stay out of the frequency range of the bass and drum rather than try to cut through them.  

Exactly...the only time i have any with presence above that range is if I have the treble really rolled down and its working for me. 

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On 1/2/2021 at 3:26 PM, themetallikid said:

For me, when I've been struggling to find a balance between getting the right amount of 'bite' but not sound ice-picky or shrill.....I've played with the treble and presence together.  I agree there is no blanket approach as every amp is different in how the treble and presence affect the tone and also how they interact with each other.  

 

For me, I'll try to add both, because they add to the frequencies that 'cut' through in a way, however if I'm struggling to find that sweet spot, I've reduced my treble down below where it sounds good, then brought the presence up to find some of that bite, and then raise the treble to find the sweet spot.  It seems, to me, that if I adjust the treble first, it ends up higher than it needs to be because I'm trying to turn it up to get some of those presence frequencies out of it.  Then when presence is added its too much.  

Yep thats a good description. I'm constantly trying to get a nice bitey distortion without it being shrill or thin sounding. Messing with the treble and swapping around with presence can help on some amps. Maybe the treble itself is the culprit on some amps

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On 1/2/2021 at 5:32 PM, JimGordon said:

As stated above, there is definitely no "one size fits all" answer here.  My Helix goes right into the front of a Fender HR Deville, low input, clean, with the preamp tubes being 12AY7/12AT7 to reduce the gain/tame the volume curve and the amp EQ set fairly neutral, so the output is going through a real guitar combo cab, which will naturally tame high frequencies that might stick out on an FRFR, Powercab or DAW setup.  This setup seems to be contrary to the approach a lot of people favor, so the fact that I dial in a healthy dose of presence into a lot of the amps might not work for a lot of people not using a normal guitar cab.  One thing I have noticed is that some amp models, but not others, have a strange curve to the presence, where it's fine for 75-80% of the dial sweep, but things suddenly get really weird, spitty and thin in that last top part.  You can see this in the Cartographer, for example- I was trying to dial out a really raspy, spitty, thin sound in one patch, and couldn't figure out why I couldn't, until I cut the presence down, which restored the body and normality.  On the other hand, the Mark IV seems to do very well with presence set high, perhaps due to the fact that the amp has a lot of bass and mids, and where the tone stack is located compared to other amps.  Another thing is that I think the gain settings also affect how weird and buzzy the presence control acts.  Last night I was screwing around with my 80s Queensryche patch, which uses a JCM800 with the drive set under 5.  I noticed that the presence was cranked up pretty high (almost all the way), yet it didn't have that spitty fizz going on; I think it's because the gain is set relatively low.

 

I think this interactivity is one thing I like about the Helix modeling.  My prior multi-effects was a Digitech RP-1000.  At the time, I was impressed by how good it sounded compared to what I had expected from digital modeling.  However, the parameters were so limited (no sag/bias controls, and all amps only had 3 EQ controls, gain and volume), and in retrospect, it really felt like their modeling system basically was a poor man's Kemper.  In other words, they modeled a sound based on a single amp setting, and all the parameters did was take away or add EQ and a fixed gain curve from that one point, instead of modeling how the various controls and parameters interact with each other.  While the Helix is not in the tier of in depth component/parameter tweaking of an Axe-FX, it does a nice job of splitting the difference, and providing the most important controls and parameters to make a difference.

Interesting info Jim, you're probably right, although I singled out the presence for making the tones too fizzy, it may well be a combination of drive also. I need to do a bit more investigation

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On 1/3/2021 at 1:59 AM, bypassvalve said:

high end is like sugar, once you get a taste of it, any more sounds great and anything less sounds crap, problem is it's hard to tell when you've gone too far, have to start dark and keep it dark, once you bump the high end (pun intended) you need to keep bumping and bumping. vocals snare and kick beater are the only thing that need to cut through, everything else is accessory. electric guitar is midrange instrument, if you keep it dark in the mix, everything above it is made brighter by relation without needing to brighten them extra. listen to SOAD Toxicity guitars, dark af, but clear as day, it's all midrange, high end is for vocals and snare (and hats if the drummer is an artist)

Totally agree with this. The sugar in my case is the presence or brightness. Sounds good initially when you turn it up because everything sounds more alive and up front but in reality for me at least, it makes the tone way too top endy

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On 1/3/2021 at 12:43 PM, codamedia said:

 

I don't think it's nasty... but I also don't believe it is appropriate on many amps.

I will work with proper mic choice and placement before removing all presence from the amp... when it's an amp that normally benefits from presence . (Marshalls, Hiwatt, etc...)

 

 

The dreaded "fizz" has returned to conversation :) This has been discussed many times in the past on these forums. You seem to have latched onto Presence as the culprit, but you really should consider other factors. 

 

Have you played with the mic choices and positions? While I don't know for certain, the finished tones you admire might simply be mic'ed differently. EG: A '57 at 1" will inherently have a lot of presence you will have problems dialing out if you don't like it. 

 

The Helix Cabinets are mic'ed at "center position" which is the brightest spot on a speaker.... but most engineers will mic a speaker somewhere between the "center" and "edge". The closer to the edge you get, the darker (less ice-pick) the mic'ed tone becomes.

  • Try some different mics on the cabinets. Every mic will have a different tonal response, and it makes a huge difference. 
  • Although the Helix cannot move the position of the mic, you can simulate it.
    • Insert the TILT EQ after the cabinet
    • For simplicity, leave the default settings alone.
    • Move the TILT toward the DARK setting (eg: turn it down from center). Every -10 is similar to moving the mic about 1" toward the edge of the cone. FWIW... I run mine around "dark 50"... about half way between center and edge. 

Thanks for the suggestions. I have experimented with the mics and positions, I know there are a lot of variables. I haven't used the tilt eq though so will have a look at that

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On 1/2/2021 at 5:32 PM, JimGordon said:

As stated above, there is definitely no "one size fits all" answer here.  My Helix goes right into the front of a Fender HR Deville, low input, clean, with the preamp tubes being 12AY7/12AT7 to reduce the gain/tame the volume curve and the amp EQ set fairly neutral, so the output is going through a real guitar combo cab, which will naturally tame high frequencies that might stick out on an FRFR, Powercab or DAW setup.  This setup seems to be contrary to the approach a lot of people favor, so the fact that I dial in a healthy dose of presence into a lot of the amps might not work for a lot of people not using a normal guitar cab.  One thing I have noticed is that some amp models, but not others, have a strange curve to the presence, where it's fine for 75-80% of the dial sweep, but things suddenly get really weird, spitty and thin in that last top part.  You can see this in the Cartographer, for example- I was trying to dial out a really raspy, spitty, thin sound in one patch, and couldn't figure out why I couldn't, until I cut the presence down, which restored the body and normality.  On the other hand, the Mark IV seems to do very well with presence set high, perhaps due to the fact that the amp has a lot of bass and mids, and where the tone stack is located compared to other amps.  Another thing is that I think the gain settings also affect how weird and buzzy the presence control acts.  Last night I was screwing around with my 80s Queensryche patch, which uses a JCM800 with the drive set under 5.  I noticed that the presence was cranked up pretty high (almost all the way), yet it didn't have that spitty fizz going on; I think it's because the gain is set relatively low.

 

I think this interactivity is one thing I like about the Helix modeling.  My prior multi-effects was a Digitech RP-1000.  At the time, I was impressed by how good it sounded compared to what I had expected from digital modeling.  However, the parameters were so limited (no sag/bias controls, and all amps only had 3 EQ controls, gain and volume), and in retrospect, it really felt like their modeling system basically was a poor man's Kemper.  In other words, they modeled a sound based on a single amp setting, and all the parameters did was take away or add EQ and a fixed gain curve from that one point, instead of modeling how the various controls and parameters interact with each other.  While the Helix is not in the tier of in depth component/parameter tweaking of an Axe-FX, it does a nice job of splitting the difference, and providing the most important controls and parameters to make a difference.

Hey Jim, I would be interested to see your Queensryche patch.. one of my favourite bands 

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I've revised my opinion on this having played around with settings a bit more, in case anyone reads this thread later. It's not really viable to dial out the presence altogether on most of the high gain amps, you lose too much resonance. In fact, to make your guitars sound more like those in album recordings, you need a higher end sound, dialling the presence down or out just makes it too muddy I think.

 

The best result I've found is to set presence relatively low, bring treble up halfway, boost the mids up a fair bit, and bring the bass up a bit. This seems to give a much better overall sound. Of course I'm talking in general terms here, but as someone who is forever tinkering with high gain amps, I'm always looking for a big, modern distortion tone, and so far, that general method seems to work for me.

 

So to sum up - presence is nasty if you have too much, but a little bit is necessary! (more or less what was said above by others above)

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A bit late to this, but I've found that "fizziness" is almost always just a narrow band of frequencies, usually between 3.2-3.4K, depending on the combination of amp and cab models. Trying to attack this with the Presence control can be a bit like trying to kill a fly with a flamethrower, as it typically affects a much larger range of frequencies. My go-to move is to get the amp and cab dialed in as close to the overall tone I want as possible, and then stick a parametric EQ with a pretty high Q after the cab in order to make more precise surgical cuts to whatever offending bits are left.

 

YMMV, of course, but I've found that this is what works most consistently for me.

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On 1/5/2021 at 12:13 PM, Paulzx said:

Hey Jim, I would be interested to see your Queensryche patch.. one of my favourite bands 

Paul, sorry I didn't get back to you earlier- I just uploaded it to CustomTone (my first one!).  It's for Rage For Order/Mindcrime era Queensryche, so it's not the SLO sound from Empire.

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10 hours ago, JimGordon said:

Paul, sorry I didn't get back to you earlier- I just uploaded it to CustomTone (my first one!).  It's for Rage For Order/Mindcrime era Queensryche, so it's not the SLO sound from Empire.

Thanks for letting me know Jim, I'll check it out anyway. 

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