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Migrating from an HD500x to Helix & PowerCab+ 212


pacard
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It's looking like I'm going to be buying a Helix, so i've been doing a ton of reading and watching youtube. I'm also considering adding a powercab plus 212.  I typically make a patch for each song. Thus far I've been using the HD500x through the power amp in on my amp (bypassing the amp's preamp). It takes a lot of time to dial in tones for each song, so I don't want to create patches, then get the a PC+ and have to rework all the patches I just created.  I'd rather get the PC+ when I get the Helix to minimize tweaking all my patches a second time down the road. I know there's no one size fits all and in the end it's based on what my ears tell me, so i'm asking in general, what are the most common practices. 

 

One of my problems has been the poor sound quality going from my HD500x to the PA. It has sounded awful. I gave up on that. I just mic my stage amp. This is one of the things I'd love to address without mic'ing my onstage monitor (amp or PC+). Hoping to get a little input.

 

My intended use is for gigging/band practice (guitar, just to be clear). We generally play classic rock/90's era music. I tend to use dual amps within a single patch to go from a clean tone to a distorted tone. ie, Santa Monica or Creep.  In my experience I just haven't found a distortion pedal within the HD500x that I liked, so I depend on the amp models' settings.  On one set I play acoustic guitar for the entire set. For these songs, it's usually just one patch for all of them and I toggle some very light effects on/off depending on the song. With that in mind...

 

- am i correct that i can do a wet/dry set up using just the helix into 1 PC+? do you typically keep the pan at center, or should left be hard panned left and the right hard panned right?

 

- what's been your experience going direct xlr out from the PC+ to the mixer? am i better off going direct out of the helix to the mixer? or is mic'ing still the best way to go? this also begs the question, if i'm using both XLR (l/r) outs to the mixer, would I need the the special AES cable to go from the Helix to the PC+ to maintain stage monitoring in stereo? Part of the reason I'm asking this is so that I'm prepared should we play a gig that doesn't allow amps on stage.

 

- somewhat related to the last question, does the helix have the same speaker IR's as the PC+? again, if i can't use the PC+ on stage, i'm wondering if i should have a cab in my signal chain on each patch (disabled when using the PC+) but enabled when i have no stage monitor? any input here?

 

- if i set the PC+ in the FRFR configuration, should I expect the sound through the PA to be pretty close?

 

- when creating stereo patches for a wet/dry output, any tips to get started? I've read a bit about global eq'ing to cut the very low/high frequencies and setting the outputs to Line level (if using 1/4" and Mic level if using XLRs). I'm also aware that ea DSP chip is assigned to a different path 1a/1b vs 2a/2b.

 

- if I'm using the PC+ should I be creating my patches using the preamp models or the full amp models (in general)? Would that change if going direct from the helix to the mixer?

 

Greatly appreciate the feedback from you seasoned users!

 

 

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More or less in order:

 

Helix will sound much better than the HD (I had one).

 

You can do W/D with a PC212, panned hard L/R, but from 6 feet away it's just a mix. W/D can sound cool when you're practicing by yourself at home. On stage with a band it's lost in the mix. The main advantage of the stereo aspect of the PC212 is adding motion to the overall sound using stereo chorus, flanger and the like. Reverbs sound bigger. Bottom line (IMO) is that W/D is overrated, of limited affect in a band setting, the audience won't hear it, and it's a time wasting rabbit hole when creating presets.

 

You can have the same IRs on both Helix and the PC212. Using them on the Helix allows you to place effects AFTER the speaker, like an engineer would do in a studio.

Using IRs on the PC212 is more like what you'd get ITRW, with amp and effects BEFORE the actual speaker. It also allows you to spare DSP for more FX in the signal chain.

In either case, in FRFR mode, the PC212 is just a monitor. Using SPEAKER mode is more like having an actual amp on stage. In neither case is there any advantage to mic'ing the PC212, which is actually a disadvantage in that the mic picks up the ambient stage sounds.

 

The only possible advantage to running the Helix XLRs to FOH is that you can add Global EQ to that signal, but really, that's the job of the FOH tech.

 

In FRFR mode, taking the XLRs from the PC212 to FOH, the FOH sound will depend on the FOH system. If it's a very flat system run by a good tech, in a good room, the sound will be very close. In SPEAKER mode, in addition to not being the sound of the actual speaker (just an EQ), the sound sent from the PC212 will be further modified by the addition of a mic emulation, making it essentially the same as using IRs in FRFR mode. The only advantage to using SPEAKER mode would be if you LIKE the sound of SPEAKER mode in your stage monitor. The general consensus, both here and over on the TGP Helix/POWERCAB threads, is that SPEAKER mode sucks. However, everybody's ears are different, there's no substitute for trying it both ways, just opinions. Personally, I find that some things sound good with SPEAKER mode, some better with IRs. It's just another of the many Tone Tools available in the Helix/Powercab ecosystem. Helpful, right?

 

NOTE: if you're considering trying out SPEAKER mode, see my comments in the Powercab Forum on using MIDI to ensure that the HF Driver is OFF, or pleasantly blended.

 

Always use the L6 Link to bring your signal to the PC212, as it eliminates an unnecessary DA/AD conversion, reducing latency and possibly lowering the S/N ratio.

If you're using IRs on Helix in some presets, and IRs on the PC212 in others, it allows you to save those settings with the preset.

Note that, at this point in time, you cannot use Global EQ on the digital outs. This may change in future updates.

 

Lastly, the choice of using preamps or full amps is mostly another thing that only YOUR ears can decide. There's a modeled interaction between the preamp and poweramp that may or may not affect the "feel" of playing, and there are additional parameters available in the power amp that are not available on the preamp. 

 

Did I miss anything?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Further to my remarks concerning using MIDI to control the HF Driver, and in response to your question about hi/lo cuts.

Just as, in SPEAKER mode you can feather in the HF Driver to add a little life to a dull sounding SPEAKER emulation, you can also use it to tame the "fizz" of an IR, which is what people generally use hi cuts for. The problem with hi cuts is that it can take the "sparkle" out of a clean preset, or make a hi-gain preset sound dull and lifeless. By using MIDI to CUT BACK the amount of HF Driver, you can take out some "fizz" without changing the basic tone of the preset.

 

When adjusting the amount of HF Driver, you use CC#5 with a Value of between 0 (HF Driver OFF) and 113 (HF Driver at 0db, the default FRFR setting).

Increasing the Value from 0 adds life to a dull sounding SPEAKER emulation. Decreasing it from 113 reduces the "fizz" in an IR.

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Thanks a bunch!!

 

ok, so if one is using the pc+ to get that "motion" as you refer to it w/ chorus, flange, etc are you just using mono patches in helix (panned to center) and going left channel only to the PA mixer? it always seemed like I got a fuller sound on the HD500x if i kept it panned to center despite only using the L output. can i still leverage the 1a/1b vs 2a/2b technique to keep the DSP less tasked if i'm only using a mono out?

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it seems line6 differentiates the speaker models in the PC+ vs the IR's which can also be loaded on the PC+, unless i'm misunderstood their sales pitch. I'm trying to determine if the PC+ speaker models are an option on the Helix as well. i think you may be using the term IR and speaker model interchangeably and just want to make sure i'm following you. I want to make sure i can have the same sound from a helix direct to the PA as I'd have exiting the PC+ in the event i can't use the speaker on stage.

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Hmmm: "In SPEAKER mode, in addition to not being the sound of the actual speaker (just an EQ), the sound sent from the PC212 will be further modified by the addition of a mic emulation".  not sure i follow you. does speaker mode require a mic emulation setting within the PC+? i don't recall that.

also, whether i use SPEAKER mode or FRFR shouldn't the XLR output be very close to the sound I'm hearing from the PC+?  a little confused.

 

"making it essentially the same as using IRs in FRFR mode." = making it essentially the same as using IRs (WITHIN HELIX?) in FRFR mode. guess i'm trying to understand the difference between IR's in FRFR mode vs SPEAKER mode w/ no IR's.

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"The only possible advantage to running the Helix XLRs to FOH is that you can add Global EQ to that signal, but really, that's the job of the FOH tech." wait, what? the helix global eq won't have any effect on the signal to the PC+?  Is that what you were referring to when you later said, "Note that, at this point in time, you cannot use Global EQ on the digital outs." (i'm guessing only the Helix has the Global EQ & digital out refers to the AES link?). that's nutty! wonder what the thinking was there.

 

again, it's not so much about advantages, it's about a situation where I don't have the choice of using the PC+ and MUST go direct out from the Helix to the PA mixer. i'm trying to maintain a consistent tone whether going out from the PC+ (to the mixer PA) or direct out from the Helix (to the mixer PA).

-----

" NOTE: if you're considering trying out SPEAKER mode, see my comments in the Powercab Forum on using MIDI to ensure that the HF Driver is OFF, or pleasantly blended." 

" Always use the L6 Link to bring your signal to the PC212, as it eliminates an unnecessary DA/AD conversion, reducing latency and possibly lowering the S/N ratio."

BOTH GOOD TO KNOW!! hadn't even thought about the DA/AD aspect.

-----

 

 

 

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57 minutes ago, pacard said:

ok, so if one is using the pc+ to get that "motion" as you refer to it w/ chorus, flange, etc are you just using mono patches in helix (panned to center) and going left channel only to the PA mixer? it always seemed like I got a fuller sound on the HD500x if i kept it panned to center despite only using the L output. can i still leverage the 1a/1b vs 2a/2b technique to keep the DSP less tasked if i'm only using a mono out?

 

Helix amps are Mono. Unless you're using split paths and dual amps with careful panning, there's no point in using stereo FX before the amp, as the signal will be combined to mono.

After the (single) amp, stereo FX will pan from left to right. Leaving the Output block centered will ensure that the same level goes to each side. Using L6 Link automatically sends stereo to the PC212. Using the L/Mono Out on either the Helix or PC212 collapses the signal to Mono. DSP availability is not affected by your choice of Outputs.

 

57 minutes ago, pacard said:

it seems line6 differentiates the speaker models in the PC+ vs the IR's which can also be loaded on the PC+, unless i'm misunderstood their sales pitch. I'm trying to determine if the PC+ speaker models are an option on the Helix as well. i think you may be using the term IR and speaker model interchangeably and just want to make sure i'm following you. I want to make sure i can have the same sound from a helix direct to the PA as I'd have exiting the PC+ in the event i can't use the speaker on stage.

 

Speaker mode is a function of the PC212, and is not available using Helix alone. When you use the Powercab settings in Helix, you're simply telling the Powercab what to do, and saving those settings to the Helix preset for transmission to the Powercab when the preset or snapshot is loaded. Without a Powercab those settings are meaningless.

 

In SPEAKER mode, Powercab turns OFF the HF Driver (doesn't really work, see my MIDI notes), and sends an EQ to the raw speaker that emulates the chosen speaker (maybe, which is why users say that SPEAKER mode sucks). An IR, on the other hand, is a "recording" of a speaker cabinet/speaker combination's sound at all frequencies. That's probably not the best description, but it's the essence of what an IR does.

 

There are 2 ways to ensure that you get the same (or similar) sounds with or without the Powercab. One is to always use IRs loaded on the Helix. The other is to make two presets, one for Powercab and one for FOH only, and deal with the reality that they won't sound exactly alike.

 

57 minutes ago, pacard said:

Hmmm: "In SPEAKER mode, in addition to not being the sound of the actual speaker (just an EQ), the sound sent from the PC212 will be further modified by the addition of a mic emulation".  not sure i follow you. does speaker mode require a mic emulation setting within the PC+? i don't recall that.

also, whether i use SPEAKER mode or FRFR shouldn't the XLR output be very close to the sound I'm hearing from the PC+?  a little confused.

 

In SPEAKER mode, what you hear from the Powercab is the actual physical speaker with emulation EQ. When you take the XLRs to FOH from the Powercab, what you're you're hearing at FOH is an EQ of the physical speaker with the added EQ of the emulation plus an additional EQ for the chosen mic. The mic can be selected from Helix, in HX Edit, or from Powercab Edit. It does not in any way affect the sound you hear from the Powercab itself, only the signal out of the XLRs to FOH.

 

57 minutes ago, pacard said:

"The only possible advantage to running the Helix XLRs to FOH is that you can add Global EQ to that signal, but really, that's the job of the FOH tech." wait, what? the helix global eq won't have any effect on the signal to the PC+?  Is that what you were referring to when you later said, "Note that, at this point in time, you cannot use Global EQ on the digital outs." (i'm guessing only the Helix has the Global EQ & digital out refers to the AES link?). that's nutty! wonder what the thinking was there.

 

Correct, when using L6 Link. Global EQ is intended as a method of compensating for room differences at different venues when using Helix to send to FOH/FRFR monitors. When performing at a venue with a proper sound system and talented sound engineer, that's his job, not yours. Regardless of what you send him, he'll make it sound best to his ears. Best Practice is to send him your stage signal and let him do his job. A happy FOH engineer is ALWAYS a good thing!

 

Many users have requested that Global EQ be available on the digital outs also. Do a search on Ideascale and vote for it.

 

 

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maybe i'm over thinking this. just have the cab signal path go to both the PC and FOH. go from helix to FOH. no PC, no problem. now i'm either sending a stereo signal via both XLR's to FOH or i sum to mono using just the L XLR to FOH. 

 

is there any way to make it a dual mono signal without creating an entirely different preset? i ask because i watched a youtube video (see below) stating that 1) summing to mono can screw with your sound and 2) running stereo to FOH can make my sound very varied depending on where someone is standing in the room.

 

"DSP availability is not affected by your choice of Outputs."  this much i understand ;-).  what i was trying to understand is how I could leverage both DSP's in the situation above.

 

really appreciate you helping me get this through my thick skull. i want to do this "right" the first time and try to avoid the HD500X misery i went through.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6XH5zEeR4o&ab_channel=VertexEffects

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Depends how complex your signal chains are.

 

If you put as much as possible in Path 1 and use the PC212 for your IRs, send the Path 1 Output to Path 2, then split Path 2 with stereo blocks on the digital out path and identical Mono Blocks and IR on the XLR path, that could work.

 

I'm on my way out to dinner, but if you'd like, I'll put together a sample preset for you tomorrow.

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I moved from a HD500x to the Helix, and later 2 xPC+.

 

I ran the HD500x as a full modeller and through a number of iterations of monitoring from a valve power amp with cabs, a JC120 into the power amp, varous wedges. I found it tolerable, but ultimately unsatisfactory and found myself tweaking patches between every gig.

 

With the Helix I've tried wedges, and then the PC+s, firstly in FRFR mode, then in speaker emulation mode, now back in FRFR. I went back to FRFR for simplicity of workflow, and consistency of sound/patch creation. Its not the same as amp in the room, but I find it a very good useable stage monitoring solution to move air and provide guitar speaker interaction, whilst using IEMs as my main monitoring source. My IEMs include ambient mics so I hear stage sound as well.

 

The consistency and simplicity bit was what sent me back to FRFR. I was splitting the feed so the PC+ had pre-cab signal and then the XLRs carried full emulated signal for FoH. My living arrangements mean I need to set-up patches using monitors at home and then test stage volumes in a rehersal room. Using a split signal meant tuning the stage soung and FoH sound seperately, and consiering the interaction between stage and FoH. It simply became too difficult and painful.

 

Like you I have a patch per song, and currently have close to 100 songs in our rep and keep adding more and dropping some. I need to be able to learn songs and build patches with about a week turn around - and I am not a fulltime muso by any means.

 

Attached are two templates - one for my FRFR approach the other for my PC+ cab emulation approach. Warning they will sound SHIP as they are place holders for blocks to make my workflow easier, and have some things I use consistently like horizon gate up front, and the rochester comp at the end. These are just peronsal preferences. The send at the front is to send guitar signal to a TC Voice live for auto harmonies as I work with a 3 piece. The input block is also for variax and ensures a consitent standard tuning - again easy to change.

 

If they help the transition great - but it will take a while. One thing worth noting is the amount of control you have with snapshots with the Helix. You can change lots of parameters with each snap. This can be used to make each amp act like a multichannel amp by changing a heap of parameters but especially drive, master and chanell volume.

 

Best of luck, but I expect you will have a significanltly improved experience over the HD500.

Mine FRFR.hlx Mine PC+.hlx

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Much appreciated, waymda. I'll definitely check those out.

 

The more i think about this, the more a wet/dry setup might be best for me and simple. Dual mono outs. FOH can blend the 2 feeds and I'll have a bit more immersive setup on stage w the PC+212.

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One additional thought on using the PC212. If you use the XLRs from the PC212 to FOH, you can disable the BIG KNOB on the Helix and use an expression pedal set to send CC#7 to control the output level of the physical PC212 (stage level), while the XLRs to FOH send a consistent UNITY level signal to FOH. That allows you to use the IRs on the PC212, and control your stage level separately from the FOH level. Saves the DSP on Helix, and is another way to make the FOH engineer happy.

 

EDIT: Also, if you use snapshots, you want to be careful using them to change Gain and Channel Level (keep them balanced), as this would change the level received at the PC212 input, which will also change the level at the XLRs to FOH.

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i like this idea. i definitely want a steady signal to FOH. but if i have to play out with out the PC, i'd need to duplicate all my presets so they had the IR's on the Helix as well.   ...i think

 

in the past i've just set the expression panel to control the sim amp's channel volumes. it didn't take up an fx block on the hd500x.  i guess doing it my way would affect the FOH signal. hmm

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Balancing overall output volume between presets/snapshots has always been an issue with modelers. Once you've got your presets/snapshots balanced, if you're using PC212 as I described, consider these ideas:

 

When I need a CLEAN lead boost, I assign either a stomp or a snapshot to the Output Block level, with a 4db boost (YMMV). That way, you don't affect the gain staging of the preset.

 

During sound check, use your boosted level, and explain to FOH that you're doing so, and that will be your highest level, so when you're playing rhythm, he should not turn up the channel gain to compensate.

 

 

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