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Helix: I Know It's Up to Me...


gitapik
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...but I could use some talking through.

 

I got the HX Stomp a little over a month ago. The idea was to have a travel companion for practice, recording, and jams. Took some time, but I've definitely gotten better at setting up my presets. 

 

Up until recently it was all about the headphones...and all has been going according to plan. I was (and still am) extremely impressed with the sounds and ease of use.

 

Then I plugged the Stomp into my Quilter Micro Pro Mach 2. The 8" speaker serves well for electric/acoustic guitars as well as PA systems (Pat Quilter's a pretty smart guy).

 

It sounds so good. Honestly: I don't get the "won't give you that amp in the room" phrase. The Stomp through that amp absolutely rocks the house.

 

So here's my "big" board:

 

xg7JIXh.jpg

 

The sounds are awesome, but the Mastermind, serious as it is, is nowhere near as intuitive as the Stomp. And there are a lot of wires to trace when there's a problem. And it's heavy and bulky to transport.

 

Thinking of dismantling it and getting a Helix. Honestly never thought I'd say that. Total valve amp/stomp pedal guy who loves his sound (I don't play many covers). But I've still got a nice small board and could make another with a few of the pedals I'd keep (Semaphore Trem will never leave my side). It's just that the sound possibilities with these multi-effects modelers is far exceeding my expectations.

 

So I know that, in the end, it's up to me...but I could use some talking through. It's a big step for me.

 

 

 

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Since you're familiar with the Stomp, then you already know what you're getting into...there's really not much of a discussion to be had. It's big brother just has more footswitches, and more ins/outs... for all intents and purposes the brains are identical, and it's gonna sound exactly the same as your Stomp. It just boils down to how attached you are to the other stuff on your board, and whether or not you want everything in one box... beyond that, there's really nothing anybody here can tell you that you don't already know.

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42 minutes ago, cruisinon2 said:

Since you're familiar with the Stomp, then you already know what you're getting into...there's really not much of a discussion to be had. It's big brother just has more footswitches, and more ins/outs... for all intents and purposes the brains are identical, and it's gonna sound exactly the same as your Stomp. It just boils down to how attached you are to the other stuff on your board, and whether or not you want everything in one box... beyond that, there's really nothing anybody here can tell you that you don't already know.


Well…my board is pretty much everything in one box. And with a lotta cables. I know I can switch pedals…but it all comes down to the same thing: different sounds connected to a controller. And the array of effects, amps, and cabs in HX is just as varied as the kinds of pedals I would buy. 

 

(I do realize I’m 3/4 talking to myself, here…but thanks for the input. Part of the process)
 

 

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44 minutes ago, gitapik said:


Well…my board is pretty much everything in one box.

 

Well I wasn't really talking about the physical footprint...Helix is one device... if it craps out on you, you're dead in the water and your fiddle shall remain silent until it's fixed or replaced. Whereas with a traditional pedalboard, the odds of each individual unit $hitting the bed simultaneously are basically zero. If one thing dies it can be "surgically" removed, and then it's on with the show... some guys don't like the "all your eggs in one basket" approach. Ymmv...

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1 minute ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

Well I wasn't really talking about the physical footprint...Helix is one device. Should it decide to stop working one day, chances are the whole thing will be useless, and you're dead in the water until it's fixed or replaced. Whereas with a traditional pedalboard, the odds of each individual unit $hitting the bed simultaneously are basically zero, and if one thing craps out it can be "surgically" removed, and then it's on with the show...that's important to some guys. Ymmv...


Yeah…this is true. And its been one of the main reasons I’ve shied away from multi effects units for years. 
 

My other option is to ax the Mastermind and Volante and set everything up on a smaller board. Get a different smaller footprint delay with some presets. 
 

The size of this rig makes me opt for my smaller board for jams and gigs (which is in the cards in the future). So it basically stays in the studio. 
 

Don’t mean to create controversy…but does the Helix have maintenance issues? 
 

 

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44 minutes ago, gitapik said:

Don’t mean to create controversy…but does the Helix have maintenance issues? 
 

 

 

Mine hasn't...4+ years old now, and not one hiccup that wasn't absent-minded user error. If there were any widespread failures, they'd have been whined about loudly and at length here at B!tch Central...;)

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I've used Helix floor for gigs for the last 5 years and never had a problem. I do have a backup though. We use an X32-Core connected to a MacBook Pro for our PA. I have S-Gear and Helix Native in the MacBook for a Helix backup. But I've never had to use it.

 

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12 hours ago, gitapik said:

Don’t mean to create controversy…but does the Helix have maintenance issues? 

 

Yes and no. While we will never know any exact numbers, it's likely not as sturdy as other units. Personally, I would never carry it around without a heavy duty case for that reason. Before I got mine, it had to have the tap tempo/tuner switch replaced because not only the LED stopped to work but also because the switch itself was acting up (the previous owner only used it at home for a year and it's generally been in mint condition, so no serious beating had happened). Given my own history with Line 6 products, their footswitches are notoriously bad (had broken ones on a shortboard controller and an M13 before). There's also some other parts that are of pretty cheap quality, such as the mic preamp (which may blow up in some cases, apparently due to issues with phantom power switching) and also the XLR out (which can't deal with phantom power at all). It might occasionally be susceptible to heat as well (especially true for the EXP sensor).

Personally, my worst experience in terms of reliability has been a preset that wouldn't let the unit boot properly, so I had to boot in safe mode which deleted the preset (quite bad as I'm always only using one single preset per gig - for reasons...). Ever since, I started doing copies of my live presets and I'm also doing somewhat "feature reduced" versions as I suspect the high DSP demand and/or complexity of some presets to be responsible for them to become corrupted.

 

Still, the overall worst thing for me by far would be the visibility. It's by far the worst of all floor units I ever used (and that's been quite some). Under certain light conditions (diffuse, bright light or direct sunlight on outdoor gigs) you really can't see anything. LEDs, scribble strips - they become pretty much completely invisible. You can't even use the display anymore, should you need to adjust a parameter or two. And while Line 6 could adress at least some parts of that (inverted scribble strip labels when a switch is active, LT style display mode), they won't. So, in case outdoor gigs during daylight are a noteworthy part of your gig schedule (they have been for me during the pandemic), the Helix might not be for you. Line 6 clearly didn't test the unit properly under any such conditions (or they just didn't care), "looks great in your appartment" seemed to be the deciding factor.

And yes, I'm seriously thinking about replacing it in favour of a Boss GT-1000, which has no visibility issues, not even in direct sunlight (and which seems to be a sturdier unit overall as well - pretty much in line with Boss' tradition of building things that stand years on the road).

 

And fwiw, as you're coming from a well laid out pedal board (I came from there as well), you might miss direct access to crucial parameters. You can access most of them rather quickly on the Helix, but it still doesn't hold any water against analog boxes with all (or most) parameters exposed. Not exactly a maintainance issue, but sort of.

 

Having said all that, I didn't have to use my backup (which, as has been mentioned, should be a mandatory thing in case you're running a one-size-fits-all unit), though (in my case an Egnator Goldsmith running into an Atomic Amplifirebox followed by a Zoom G3). And in case the visibility aspect doesn't kick in, I'm getting along quite fine with the Helix, so far everybody else (bandmates, audience, FOH folks) pretty much always seems to be pleased, too. Once the initial work (patch building and cross checking them under stage conditions) has been done, setting things up has never been easier, either.

 

In a nutshell, I still like the unit and it feels great while playing, but I wouldn't buy it again. As someone making my living as a live player, the mentioned aspects are crucial for me and the Helix only partially suits these needs. And there's always a kind of fear hiding that something might break or not work well (even if it was just unexpectedly bright light conditions) - something I never experienced with other units.

 

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13 minutes ago, SaschaFranck said:

 

Yes and no. While we will never know any exact numbers, it's likely not as sturdy as other units. Personally, I would never carry it around without a heavy duty case for that reason. Before I got mine, it had to have the tap tempo/tuner switch replaced because not only the LED stopped to work but also because the switch itself was acting up. Given my own history with Line 6 products, their footswitches are notoriously bad (had broken ones on a shortboard controller, an M13 before). There's also some other parts that are of pretty cheap quality, such as the mic preamp (which may blow up in some cases, apparently due to issues with phantom power switching) and also the XLR out (which can't deal with phantom power at all). It might occasionally be susceptible to heat as well (especially true for the EXP sensor).

Personally, my worst experience in terms of reliability has been a preset that wouldn't let the unit boot properly, so I had to boot in safe mode which deleted the preset (quite bad as I'm always only using one single preset per gig - for reasons...). Ever since, I started copying my life presets and I'm also doing somewhat "feature reduced" versions as I suspect the high DSP demand and/or complexity of some presets to be responsible for them to become corrupted.

 

Still, the overall worst thing for me by far would be the visibility. It's by far the worst of all floor units I ever used (and that's been quite some). Under certain light conditions (diffuse, bright light or direct sunlight on outdoor gigs) you really can't see anything. LEDs, scribble strips - they become pretty much completely invisible. You can't even use the display anymore, should you need to adjust a parameter or two. And while Line 6 could adress at least some parts of that (inverted scribble strip labels when a switch is active, LT style display mode), they won't. So, in case outdoor gigs during daylight are a noteworthy part of your gig schedule (they have been for me during the pandemic), the Helix might not be for you. Line 6 clearly didn't test the unit properly under any such conditions (or they just didn't care), "looks great in your appartment" seemed to be the deciding factor.

And yes, I'm seriously thinking about replacing it in favour of a Boss GT-1000, which has no visibility issues, not even in direct sunlight (and which seems to be a sturdier unit overall as well - pretty much in line with Boss' tradition of building things that stand years on the road).

 

And fwiw, as you're coming from a well laid out pedal board (I came from there as well), you might miss direct access to crucial parameters. You can access most of them rather quickly on the Helix, but it still doesn't hold any water against analog boxes with all (or most) parameters exposed. Not exactly a maintainance issue, but sort of.

 

Having said all that, I didn't have to use my backup (which, as has been mentioned, should be a mandatory thing in case you're running a one-size-fits-all unit), though (in my case an Egnator Goldsmith running into an Atomic Amplifirebox followed by a Zoom G3). And in case the visibility aspect doesn't kick in, I'm getting along quite fine with the Helix, so far everybody else (bandmates, audience, FOH folks) pretty much always seems to be pleased, too. Once the initial work (patch building and cross checking them under stage conditions) has been done, setting things up has never been easier, either.

 

In a nutshell, I still like the unit and it feels great while playing, but I wouldn't buy it again. As someone making my living as a live player, the mentioned aspects are crucial for me and the Helix only partially suits these needs. And there's always a kind of fear hiding that something might break or not work well (even if it was just unexpectedly bright light conditions) - something I never experienced with other units.

 


That’s a lot to quote but I want you to know that I read and absorbed the whole thing. Great points. 
 

I took my big board out of it’s case tonight to make sure I was doing the right thing, putting it up for sale. 
 

I decided I was NOT doing the right thing. 
 

No knock against the Helix. I am now a huge Line 6 fan. The Stomp is a keeper and who knows what down the road. But my pedalboard is ridiculously awesome. I’m just gonna have to put serious time into learning the ins and outs of the Mastermind. And if I can’t, I’ll sell it with the base board structure and make a simpler version, using the pedals I have and maybe a simpler controller.

 

This is an excellent community. I’m glad I posted this. Sometimes we need discussion to reach an informed decision.

 

Thanks, everybody. 

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4 hours ago, gitapik said:

I took my big board out of it’s case tonight to make sure I was doing the right thing, putting it up for sale. 
 

I decided I was NOT doing the right thing. 

 

Well, if your pedalboard is "ridiculously awsome" (as you say - and looking at it, I have no problems to believe), I wouldn't sell it, either, unless I really needed the money. At least not as long as you could still justify bringing it to certain rehearsals and gigs. As has been mentioned, especially in terms of accessibility, merely analog boards still rule big time.
 

For me it's been a bit different as my old pedalboard was way too huge and the newer one left some things to be desired, so the Helix has been a rather rational purchase, too. But I'm still thinking about slapping some hybrid rig together, using a bunch of selected pedals and running it all into my Amplifirebox. Nothing urgent, though.

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I wasn't even thinking about the op's chance of the helix going down but it's an excellent point.  When I gig, I bring a back-up peddleboard in case by peddleboard with my helix goes down.  the backup is a lot smaller and limited but has a stomp on it and would work in an emergency situation and get me through the gig.  If you are a gigging musician that's the cost we pay to have backups of everything (guitars, amps, ipads, etc.)

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9 hours ago, SaschaFranck said:

 

Well, if your pedalboard is "ridiculously awsome" (as you say - and looking at it, I have no problems to believe), I wouldn't sell it, either, unless I really needed the money. At least not as long as you could still justify bringing it to certain rehearsals and gigs. As has been mentioned, especially in terms of accessibility, merely analog boards still rule big time.
 

For me it's been a bit different as my old pedalboard was way too huge and the newer one left some things to be desired, so the Helix has been a rather rational purchase, too. But I'm still thinking about slapping some hybrid rig together, using a bunch of selected pedals and running it all into my Amplifirebox. Nothing urgent, though.

 

"ridiculously awesome"

 

Lol...that was a bit school-boyish, but I'd just come off of an hour of playing with it and remembered why I love it so much. It's a great board. Except for the Mastermind and Volante; I'm very familiar with all the pedals. MIght sub a fuzz for the Timmy, though. I can get a good light OD with the XTS Multi-Drive.

 

I haven't gigged since 2/22/19.Two serious accidents have forced me to reinvent my technique, twice. But I've been successful and will be out there, again, soon enough. Very happy about that. Hard work establishing new muscle memory but it can be done.

 

I've been using this board specifically in the studio. Sounds great through my OX and with a miked amp/cab. I'll take it to gigs and rehearsals, but for jams and small venues I sub pedals in and out of a small board, according to the genre. Tack a couple on the side if necessary: 

 

It's just that I'm so impressed with the Stomp. Thinking I can use it with my Quilter for jams and small venue gigs. Was thinking the Helix would work well both live and in the studio but I can also use the Stomp and then convert that dry signal over and use Native to get it more precise, if necessary.

 

 

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