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PlayinOcean

Could Helix floor actually help me?

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Hopefully you guys can give me some advice.

 

My current setup is fairly simple: a Mesa F30 combo with a HX Effects doing all of the effects work. The setup works fairly well; de amp sounds great and the HX gives me everything I need effects-wise. 

 

But there is a problem. I live in a house with thin walls and my neighbours are highly sensitive. This means that I can only play at low volumes. For this reason, I bought a Vox Air GT (great amp!), because my Mesa is completely unusable at these volumes (and it sounds a lot different). However, when I am preparing for live situations, my home setup is next to useless. Not only is there a big volume discrepancy, there is also the issue of the HX reacting completely differently to the Vox compared to the Mesa. So the changes I make to presets within the HX during practice can have wildly different results on the live setup. There are also issues connected to the Mesa; where I stand in relation to it makes a huge difference, for example.

This has meant that I just use one preset that I have used live effectively, and I only sometimes make small changes to it during the live situation. What a waste of all the potential of the HX!

I would love to endlessly craft my sounds back at home in preparation of the live gig, but so far that has only had disappointing results.

 

Now I hoped that just going direct (by upgrading to Helix floor and ditching the Mesa) would solve these issues. That way, the sounds I create at home (with IEMs or maybe studio monitors) would remain roughly the same live, maybe with the help of some Global Eq-ing to account for the change in volume and ambience. Live, I would also use the same IEMs. 

 

But then I started reading about people with Helixes who still have the same issues that I have now with my tube amp. The changes in volume, monitor speakers and ambience would still ruin all their home-prep. They get suggestions to buy frfr speakers (and practice at stage volume) and premium studio monitors to closely resemble what the PA/live monitors would do to their sounds.

 

I can really only afford to sell my HX and Mesa, and use that money to buy the Helix plus maybe some budget studio monitors. Live, I would use IEMs or the monitor wedges available. I also still have the sound issue at home, so I cannot practice at the same volume that I would have live.

 

Long story short: will going from tube amp to digital/direct mean that I can actually prepare my presets at home, or will I still have the same issues that I now have? 

Please don't suggest that I should buy more expensive gear or that I should practice at higher volumes, that is just not possible for me right now.

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Are you a solo performer or do you play in a group/band? If the latter you may have a rehearsal space where you play at gig volume. Try using some of that rehearsal time to work on your live tones with the band. One technique is to record the band with a mix that excludes your guitar parts. Use that mix at home with headphones and craft your tones to blend with that mix to your taste. The headphones will colour the recording as well as your guitar similarly, so when you go live without the headphones your guitar is still likely to mix well with the band.

 

If you’re a solo performer it’s a tough situation. The best way to hear what you sound like at gig volumes is, well, to play at gig volumes. The next best way, imho, is to use good headphones. But the stage sound will inevitably be different.
 

There’s also an important factor that you don’t mention: the difference between the ‘amp in the room’ sound and the sound of a modeler like Helix. I suggest you do some research on that (lots of threads here). Are you most interested in the sound you hear on stage or the sound the audience hears through a PA?

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Well I’m afraid I have bad news for you. 
there is only one way to set up sounds for playing at volume, and that is by playing at volume. 
Now, using an FRFR system will be closer than running  tube amp quiet and then loud, at least the simulation of running the amp at volume will be closer to to the same experience, but there is enough difference to still cause big problems. 
I have a lot of experience doing this now, and can get a 80% result setting up sounds at home at low volume. But the final EQ is still only possible at volume. And because of that, other effects like say the Q of a wah also needs tweaking. Even the clarity/ability to hear individual notes in a overdriven sound seems to vary based on actual volume. I’ve actually changed amp sims sometimes because I find the mud can be different at volume. 
So bad news for you. Setting up tones at volume is the only way to get it right. 
With experience, you might get closer ~ but you will still find you need to tweak. 

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In my personal experience I depend greatly on using live powered speakers (Yamaha DXR12) to give me confidence in my stage sound at home.  I personally go direct to the board and we have DXR12's both as our FOH speakers and a mix of DXR12's and QSC CP8's for stage monitors so it tends to work out quite well.  All that being said,  in the past I have had to depend on my BeyerDynamic DT770 headphones to work on my stuff at home when I had one of my DXR12's in for repairs, and it wasn't bad.  That may be because I'm pretty used to knowing how to get the sound I want however because I have had my Helix fo six years, so I don't know how well that would work from a newbie quite honestly.  I just thought I'd throw that out there.

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47 minutes ago, silverhead said:

Are you a solo performer or do you play in a group/band? If the latter you may have a rehearsal space where you play at gig volume. Try using some of that rehearsal time to work on your live tones with the band. One technique is to record the band with a mix that excludes your guitar parts. Use that mix at home with headphones and craft your tones to blend with that mix to your taste. The headphones will colour the recording as well as your guitar similarly, so when you go live without the headphones your guitar is still likely to mix well with the band.

 

If you’re a solo performer it’s a tough situation. The best way to hear what you sound like at gig volumes is, well, to play at gig volumes. The next best way, imho, is to use good headphones. But the stage sound will inevitably be different.
 

There’s also an important factor that you don’t mention: the difference between the ‘amp in the room’ sound and the sound of a modeler like Helix. I suggest you do some research on that (lots of threads here). Are you most interested in the sound you hear on stage or the sound the audience hears through a PA?

Thanks for the advice. I play in a band, but I'm afraid we don't have the means to record our stuff to that level. 

I have encountered the amp in a room-saying a lot. To be honest; I tend to play at quite low volume on stage, so I'm not getting that vibrating-your-trousers feeling from my amp anyway. 

Knowing that many pros use Helix as their main solution, I am confident that I will find sounds that are as good as my Mesa. I am mostly interested in the sound I hear myself, because I play with confidence when my monitor sound is good. 

 

42 minutes ago, rvroberts said:

Well I’m afraid I have bad news for you. 
there is only one way to set up sounds for playing at volume, and that is by playing at volume. 
Now, using an FRFR system will be closer than running  tube amp quiet and then loud, at least the simulation of running the amp at volume will be closer to to the same experience, but there is enough difference to still cause big problems. 
I have a lot of experience doing this now, and can get a 80% result setting up sounds at home at low volume. But the final EQ is still only possible at volume. And because of that, other effects like say the Q of a wah also needs tweaking. Even the clarity/ability to hear individual notes in a overdriven sound seems to vary based on actual volume. I’ve actually changed amp sims sometimes because I find the mud can be different at volume. 
So bad news for you. Setting up tones at volume is the only way to get it right. 
With experience, you might get closer ~ but you will still find you need to tweak. 

Thanks. I'd rather have bad news now than disappointment later. Maybe other readers will have different experiences than yours, but based on your post, I might as well stick with my current setup.

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Don't get confused - Amp in the room is a different conversation.  We are talking about the fact that human ears hear differently at volume - a proven fact!

A nice full sound at low volume will be boomy and probably muddy while possibly having harsh tops too!

If you like your current gear - spend a few dollars in a rehearsal studio at live volume. 

If good sound matters to you - and yes, makes you feel good playing - then do it loud!  - well however loud you guys play. (preferably with your band - sitting in with the other instruments while being heard is also part of the puzzle.

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3 hours ago, PlayinOcean said:

Hopefully you guys can give me some advice.

 

Oddly enough, the headline of the Release Notes for the Firmware version 2.90 states


"The Always Level Presets By Ear at Stage Volume with the Rest of the Band Playing Update"

 

Which rather seems to be what the other posts are suggesting.

Hope this helps/makes sense

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Nope.

Quote

Please don't suggest I should buy more expensive gear, or that I should practice at higher volumes, that is just not possible for me right now.

 

Ok, I won't suggest it.... I'll just flat- out say it:

 

1) This has nothing to do with gear, no matter how expensive, and

 

2) You have no choice in the matter... volume affects tone, and you must dial in your tones at the volume at which you intend to use them, or chaos will ensue every time you turn up or down significantly. Period.

 

The perceived loudness of different frequency ranges varies tremendously with volume. Google "Fletcher-Munson curve" if you really want to drown yourself in the nitty gritty.

 

It's just how our brains work, so unless you can rewire your head to deal differently with sound, there's nothing to be done. There is no device, algorithm, or protocol that can undo the biology. It's not about anything that the amp or modeler is or isn't doing... it's about how you qualitatively perceive the end result. The problem is... quite literally... all in your head. It's the same for all of us.

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I dial stuff in at home on studio monitors and IEM with backing tracks that are similar to what the live sound will be. I kind of have a sense now for how it will translate to the live sound. You will learn after a few tries how to adjust.

 

My personal opinion, if you get the Helix and studio monitors for home and IEM for live, you will have a better enjoyment balance between practice and live performance. The two will be closer together than what you are experiencing now. Even if they aren't exactly the same in both environments they will be more similar than different compared to your current situation.

 

Your other option would be to use a reactive loadbox such as the Two Notes Torpedo Captor. If you really like your current amp, this is what you should do.

 

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15 hours ago, jonandtice said:

I dial stuff in at home on studio monitors and IEM with backing tracks that are similar to what the live sound will be. I kind of have a sense now for how it will translate to the live sound. You will learn after a few tries how to adjust.

 

My personal opinion, if you get the Helix and studio monitors for home and IEM for live, you will have a better enjoyment balance between practice and live performance. The two will be closer together than what you are experiencing now. Even if they aren't exactly the same in both environments they will be more similar than different compared to your current situation.

Much appreciated. It is of course a matter of degrees. I can surely live with my live sound being different from my home sound, as long as it is still vaguely the same. I can tweak in the live situation (for example using the Global EQ), but I cannot make a new preset from scratch at every rehearsal.

 

Just a follow up question: I know by now that volume is a big factor when it comes to percieving sound, but can this be "faked" by just bringing up the volume on my IEMs at home? Still thinking about ways to get some use out of my low volume playing at home...

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9 minutes ago, PlayinOcean said:

Still thinking about ways to get some use out of my low volume playing at home...


Hi,

 

This came up on here before, and I can’t find the thread right now, but IIRC, the suggestion was that you have 2 sets of presets - one for live and one for practice.

 

I guess you would start out with making the presets at home, then make duplicate copies of those which could then be adjusted and saved during the sessions when you are playing with more volume. I don’t know how many preset you would need to modify for a gig, but it’s worth a shot.

 

Hope this helps/makes sense.

 

 

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6 hours ago, PlayinOcean said:

but I cannot make a new preset from scratch at every rehearsal.

 

And you don't have to... once should be sufficient.

 

Quote

 

Just a follow up question: I know by now that volume is a big factor when it comes to percieving sound, but can this be "faked" by just bringing up the volume on my IEMs at home?

 

No. For one thing, you'll deafen yourself. And second, every time you change your output device(s), your sound will change.. can't be helped. Different speakers = different sound. IEM's and headphones are not the same thing as a monitor wedge or PA speaker.... one is right on top of your head, and with the other you're listening way off-axis, and at some distance from the speakers. There are no room reflections with headphones etc etc... different devices for different tasks. The high end in particular will generally be much more pronounced in headphones or IEMS, but it's the first thing to diffuse and vanish in a room.

 

Quote

 

Still thinking about ways to get some use out of my low volume playing at home...

 

If you value your sanity, you'll create two sets of patches. One to use at home at low volumes, and one for live use. Yes it's more work up front, but you only have to do it once. The alternative is to be in a constant state of tweaking multiple parameters back and forth... for every patch you use... every time your Helix leaves the house. So unless you really enjoy turning knobs, it's just not worth the aggravation.

 

After a while, you'll learn what adjustments typically need to be made to adapt a patch created for one use, to the other... enough to get you in the ballpark at least. But there will never be a substitute for actually using your ears under real-world conditions. Believe me, I wish there was a short cut...a pushbutton solution for this would be the best thing since crapping indoors...but I've been at this for years, and there simply isn't one. And there really can't be... perception is fickle, weird,  mostly unexplainable (aside from a bunch of oft-regurgitated adjectives that don't really mean anything), and very much an individual phenomenon. What sounds good to you might sound like nails on a chalkboard to me, and nobody will ever convince either one of us otherwise.

 

You can fight the physics of sound and your own biology all you want, but it's a losing battle.

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As cruisinon2 already mentioned the Fletcher-Munson curve is a harsh mistress and will always pose a dilemma for guitarists - "How do I get my presets to sound the same at performance levels as they do when I designed them at home?" The answer is you can't unless you have unbelievably tolerant neighbors and a masochistic urge to damage your hearing. So my method has been to try to get the volume up as much as I can without posing a danger to my hearing while I am designing presets intended for stage. Rehearsal has always provided my best opportunity to edit them at the higher volumes more closely resembling performance levels. Unless your band has unlimited patience you might find this difficult at first. Several things will happen though as you get more adept at programming your HX FX. You will be able to dial in the sounds you want more quickly so your drummer will look upon you more kindly, and you will learn to anticipate to a certain extent what will sound better at higher volumes so your presets will require less tweaking to get gig ready.  You should also be able to use some of the presets that have proven to work at stage volumes as templates or guides for others. This is a huge timesaver. The variety of those will increase with time.

 

Now the other dilemma. For many guitarists a traditional guitar amp just has a "feel" and limited frequency response and range that they prefer.  However, that is not what your audience is going to hear whether you go direct to the PA or mic your amp.  As stated already a FRFR floor monitor or IEMs will definitely give you a more accurate idea of what your audience is hearing through the PA.  This makes for a more accurate translation from your practice/rehearsal created presets to the PA. If you don't like the sound of an FRFR/IEM as a stage monitor, and there are a fair number of users who don't and prefer using an amp, then there is no getting around the fact that there will be more of a tonal divergence between what the audience is hearing and what you are hearing from the stage. That makes preset design for the PA more of a challenge as you create your presets with a rig that sounds nothing like the PA. And to pile on you need to find a sound that sounds great on both your amp and the PA. You will need to account for that disconnect as best you can when designing presets. Easier to do with some presets and equipment than others. Whatever approach you decide on is fine but there are always compromises to be considered. 

 

Just to throw a third monkey wrench into things, once that guitar tone that sounded fantastic in your practice space finds itself in a mix with other instruments it may not work near as well. Could be harsh or not cutting through for example. Yet another good reason to test and modify your tones in rehearsal. If you have to, make some mental or written notes on how your presets might need to be adjusted as you may not have time to get to them during rehearsal. Refine those presets at home on your own time and try them out at the next rehearsal.

 

There is some really great advice given in this topic that should be helpful but fundamentally there is no perfect solution that I have found yet that lends itself seamlessly to presets that work every time when transitioned from practice/rehearsal to stage. Sometimes it is only during the show that you find out that a preset you thought was ready for prime time could use a little more work. Damn you physics! Back to the drawing board. To get them right every time you would literally have to create your presets at the gig and that ain't gonna happen unless you can put chickenwire or plexiglass between you and the audience because the beer bottles will be flying. All I can say is it gets easier and faster as you spend time with the equipment.  You also end up with a few go to presets that work well under most circumstances.

 

At the risk, no, certainty, of being redundant, the more similar your monitoring equipment is to the PA, e.g. an FRFR, the more likely it is that your preset will translate more directly to the PA. But if you prefer an amp, you can make that work too probably requiring a bit more effort or adjustment.  Nothing but time and money is stopping you from endlessly experimenting and vacillating between various approaches like a good number of the musicians on this forum until you find your preferred method and at last...(Nope! You then proceed to continue experimenting and vacillating, but with better results).

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