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Helix to FOH: Need instructions for Dummys ...


Axxxeman
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Oh boy. I'm in a mess. I have been trying to plug in my HELIX in three different FOHs of three different bands now ... and it ALWAYS sounded like perfect lollipop. I always had to kick out the Helix and go by classical tube amp in the end, I never succeeded to get a decent sound, no matter, if those sounds were of my own programming or factory presets or even Jason Sadites presets. And the PAs were very different from each other, there was one huge one from the late 70ies, one compact one from the 90ies and one very new Dynacord powermixer. The problems were very different, but could in no case be solved, no matter, what I tried. On one PA (70ies) the Helix sounded damp, no dynamics, like some badly adjusted, old transistor amp, and on the Dynacord it sounds dull with some strange frequencies and some clipping, although input gain is set very low and there is no clipping on my headphones or studio monitors at home. I have no FRFR yet and I won't buy one, unless I am convinced, that going with a HELIX into FOH really will get me a great sound and not laughter from my band mates. But I am far from being convinced after all my bad experiences. Friend of mine has a Kemper, just plugs in, sounds great from the start. Forget Fletcher Munson, it just works! Furthermore, on no PA did I get adequate pressure like with my tube amps. Only volume ... Did I buy the wrong gadget???

 

Or am I just too stupid to check out, how this connection can be performed satisfactorily? I found out some problems such as phantom power and how to avoid them, but no overall solutions. So I would be VERY thankful for some instuctions on how to dial in the perfect XLR output signal. I know that the problem IS HELIX based, because the keyboard sound as they should. A Kemper sounds as it should. But not the Helix. There are so many possibilities that maybe I just lack the correct combination of settings to get it done ... 

 

So, if anyone could help me with a list of settings (such as: Should the XLR output better be on MIC or LINE? I tried both, but there is obviously more to think about ...). How need the global settings be set? How to balance frequencies on the mixing console on one hand and on general EQ on the other hand? How should I set the large global volume wheel?

 

I love the Helix, it is quite easy to use and gets me the results, I want, when doing recording (USB connection), but live ... as I said, it's a mess and a drag.

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If you plan to go straight to FOH regularly, IMO there's little ways (if any) aside from testing the Helix at higher volumes through a PA. Could as well be a wedge FRFR monitor, but you need to check things at volume. Apart from super cheap things it could pretty much be anything, these days even most affordable PAs and/or FRFR monitors deliver at least sort of useful results.


Also, make sure to check both the XLR and the 1/4 outs (when using the XLR out, it's absolutely mandatory there's no phantom power running!), just to see whether it makes a difference.
 

As far as mic vs. line level goes, I usually use mic level as most consoles have no issues with that whereas line level could potentially cause some trouble when using comparatively "hot" patches. I do occasionally switch to line level, though (depending on what the soundguys are asking for).

 

Along these lines: Make 100% sure there's no input clipping on the console.

Also make sure to have anything set completely flat on whatever console you're running into.  No cuts, no boosts, just flat through the channel.


If you can, connect some MP3 player (well, usually a smartphone these days) to the console and listen to some music you're familiar with. In case that sounds like @$$, you can't expect the Helix to sound great.

Then start with one of your most used patches/sounds and check whether it sounds the way you like it.

During that session, insert a looper as the very first thing in your signal chain, so the looper will do the playing while you can adjust the sound.

 

Personally, ever since I switched to modeling, my issues with my sounds through FOH stuff have completely vanished. But I've been spending plenty of time to adjust my patches beforehand, I even created my own custom IRs (in fact, I'm using almost only one or a slight variation of it, I could post these, if you wanted). So far, everybody involved (myself, bandmates. FOH dudes and the audience) seems to be quite happy.

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3 minutes ago, SaschaFranck said:

If you plan to go straight to FOH regularly, IMO there's little ways (if any) aside from testing the Helix at higher volumes through a PA. Could as well be a wedge FRFR monitor, but you need to check things at volume. Apart from super cheap things it could pretty much be anything, these days even most affordable PAs and/or FRFR monitors deliver at least sort of useful results.

 

...

Many thanks for taking your time to answer this.

- I always check that phantom power is off at my channels, first thing ever.

- Mic level. Okay, this sounds like a good thing to start with

- There is no input clipping as far as the mixing console's settings and clipping LED are concerned. General volume of Helix is set on 2/3. Still, clipping is audible, but I have no idea, at which point it is striking in ...

- flat ... no boosts or FX are set on my channels, but setting all EQs to "flat" will result in even worse sounds.

- the sound of the PAs were good. Voices and keys sound perfect. Only Helix does not.

- I tried even to program a new setting in band rehearsal, together with my band mates at actual live volume. I even cannot find a single amp model which would sound good from the start. So there is a problem elsewhere in the Helix and I fail to locate it.

 

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So, have you tried the 1/4 outs? Usually it shouldn't matter that they're unbalanced - you really only need balanced outs for pretty long cable runs, so for a testrun 1/4 should just be fine.

 

3 minutes ago, Axxxeman said:

but setting all EQs to "flat" will result in even worse sounds.

 

You really need to set them to flat for a testride, though. Otherwise you'll never know the cause of the problem.

 

4 minutes ago, Axxxeman said:

General volume of Helix is set on 2/3.

 

I would decouple the volume knob from the outs you're sending the FOH way (can be done in the global settings). Set XLR to mic level for "easy to handle" levels and set "Volume Knob Controls" to something else but XLR.

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10 minutes ago, SaschaFranck said:

So, have you tried the 1/4 outs? Usually it shouldn't matter that they're unbalanced - you really only need balanced outs for pretty long cable runs, so for a testrun 1/4 should just be fine.

 

Not yet. IF I can get a decent sound from Helix on FOH, I planned to use this output for a FRFR monitor box, so I really would not like to feed the FOH from there. But for testing I could try it, of course. But I also have XLR adapters to use with line-in, when there was no other way to avoid phantom power on two of those PAs (most drummers use some condensator mics ...). Would this work, too? 

 

I can de-assign the volume knob from XLR alright, thanks for the hint.

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21 minutes ago, Axxxeman said:

Not yet. IF I can get a decent sound from Helix on FOH, I planned to use this output for a FRFR monitor box, so I really would not like to feed the FOH from there.

 

Sure. It's exactly as I'm doing it. XLR goes FOH, 1/4 to my personal monitor (or vice versa, on some occasions...).

Still, just to make sure nothing is wonky on your Helix, you should try it out. In case it sounds the same, just go back to XLR.

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2 hours ago, Axxxeman said:

I love the Helix, it is quite easy to use and gets me the results, I want, when doing recording (USB connection), but live ... as I said, it's a mess and a drag.

 

1 hour ago, Axxxeman said:

So there is a problem elsewhere in the Helix and I fail to locate it.

 

Did the Global EQ accidentally (or purposely) get engaged? IIRC the global EQ will not apply to USB (which you say sounds good), but it will apply to the outputs it is assigned to. 

 

1 hour ago, Axxxeman said:

IF I can get a decent sound from Helix on FOH, I planned to use this output for a FRFR monitor box, so I really would not like to feed the FOH from there.

 

FWIW... because of the phantom power issues I feed a direct box with my 1/4" to the FOH and run the XLR to my FRFR. 

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1 hour ago, Axxxeman said:

Oh boy. I'm in a mess. I have been trying to plug in my HELIX in three different FOHs of three different bands now ... and it ALWAYS sounded like perfect lollipop. I always had to kick out the Helix and go by classical tube amp in the end, I never succeeded to get a decent sound, no matter, if those sounds were of my own programming or factory presets or even Jason Sadites presets.

 

I love the Helix, it is quite easy to use and gets me the results, I want, when doing recording (USB connection), but live ... as I said, it's a mess and a drag.

 

Well...what a mess we have here...but I don't think it's insurmountable.

The key thing is your last statement.  Assuming you're using some decent playback monitors or headphones when you record, you're getting good results from your USB connection.  The difference here is that the USB connection is a digital connection to your computer, whereas the connection for live performance is always going to be converted to analog for either 1/4" or XLR connections, and that's where the differences lie.

There are a lot of things that can affect this conversion with the primary one being signal level and the methods you use to manage that signal level.  I don't know if you've used it or not but if you select your output block you'll see a signal meter displayed at the bottom right hand corner of the screen.  That is the digital signal level of your preset which would normally be in the range of 60 to 65% at it's peak levels.  At those levels it's common that many people going live to a PA via XLR to Mic signal level and disengage it from being affected by the large Helix volume knob when sends the full level signal to the PA which is what most PA's expect to receive.  In this arrangement you get the best digital to analog signal conversion with the lowest signal to noise ratio going into the mixing board and can be easily gain staged at the mixing board.

In this situation you control the level of your output using the Helix built in signal meter at roughly 65% (along with what you hear with your ears) to manage the volume level in your patch by adjusting things such as the channel volume on your amp model or your output block, neither of which will affect your tone but will get consistency in your output levels between the patches and between different snapshots with the patches.  I use the amp model's channel volume to control my levels, so that channel volume level varies depending on the amp as well as other factors such as what type of effects are contained in my patch such as boost, gain and compression.

But now you get to the PA's which can be an unholy mess depending on how old the PAs are and the architecture being used.  When it comes to phantom power that's really pretty easy to control just using a phantom power blocker which plugs directly inline between your Helix XLR output and the XLR cable going to the mixing board and is readily available from Amazon or other online music dealers.  The bigger issue is the significant architecture changes that happened to PA's starting in the 90's and made significant leaps in the 2000's and is at the core of what most people are referring to when they use the term FRFR.

In the past such as the 70's, 80's and even 90's PA's typically used a passive mixing board that routed to a central amplifier and a separate crossover for lows and high frequencies which then sent the amplified signal to powered speakers and subs.  What changed was the use of powered rather than passive speakers which used built-in amps in the speakers which were better tuned to the speakers and eliminated the need for a centralized amp.  However the next stage of development in powered speakers in the 2000's  was the one that began the use of the term FRFR because they incorporated DSP intelligence (yes the same DSP in your Helix) to better manage not only the frequency allocation between the lower and mid frequencies for the speaker and higher frequencies horn, but also the better allocated the amplification and tuning of the speaker based on how it would be used.

The problem that quickly jumped out at me when you recounted the different PA's you were using is that none of them from what I could tell are of the FRFR variety.  Even the newest one which is the Dynacord is a new model that still uses a centralized amp.  That doesn't mean it can't be tuned in the same way as a typical FRFR speaker if it has tuning options in the amp, but that's pretty rare except for very expensive amp setups used in major concert setups.  The vast majority of us that go direct to mixing boards are using the more modern style of setups that incorporate FRFR technology in both our main speakers as well as our floor monitors.

In the past I've dealt with this same problem in some smaller venues that have older PA's and passive speaker systems and how I dealt with it was to use my own Yamaha DXR12 powered speaker mounted behind me in the backline on a pole mount to augment the PA and allow me to not have to make adjustments to my presets based on the difference in the PA.  It wasn't a perfect solution, but it worked well enough in uncertain circumstances where the house PA technology was unreliable.

This is one of the main reasons most of the bands that do the direct to PA thing also own their own PA setups so they can control such things gig to gig.  It's not impossible to accommodate older PAs or passive PAs but it does mean you may have to adjust some things in your presets as most of those older setups tend to have quite a big drop in frequency response in the upper mid level frequencies at the crossover point.  Maybe it could be accommodated through the global EQ although I've never attempted it.

 

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:

FWIW... because of the phantom power issues I feed a direct box with my 1/4" to the FOH and run the XLR to my FRFR. 

 

That's what I started doing, too (at least usually). Got a phantom power blocker as well, but, not only that the thing is slightly bulkier than the DI box I'm using, no it does require phantom power to work, go figure (at first I even thought it was broken because that fact isn't mentioned anywhere on the package or elsewhere)! I thought about permanently mounting it on my board, with a hidden cable feeding it, but no cigar that way.

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On 11/12/2021 at 5:51 AM, Axxxeman said:

Friend of mine has a Kemper, just plugs in, sounds great from the start. Forget Fletcher Munson, it just works!

 

You can ignore the Fletcher/Munson curve if you want, but the fact is that it is very likely a large contributing factor to your problem. And I assure you that your friend's Kemper is not some mystical device, strangely immune to the effect that volume has on the human perception of loudness of different frequency ranges. It doesn't "just work" by accident... he dialed it in that way.

 

You've made no mention of what you're listening through at home (or at what volume) to dial in your sounds. But I promise you that if you're using headphones and/ or studio monitors at comfy living room volume, then Fletcher- Munson is indeed an issue... and a big one. Worse would be running Helix through a traditional guitar amp at home, and then expecting those tones to translate to stage volume, through a PA... because then you've got two issues, completely different output devices and a large volume discrepancy.

 

Your live tones must be dialed in through similar speakers (read: FRFR) to what you're playing through live, and at or as close as possible to stage volume. Otherwise you will wallow in $hitty tone limbo forever. There are no shortcuts or universal settings that will be a guaranteed solution for you. Only your ears can tell you when you're done, and there's zero guarantee that that what works for me, will work for you.

 

Quote

 

 

Or am I just too stupid to check out, how this connection can be performed satisfactorily?

 

No, you're not stupid... you just don't know what you're doing yet. Nobody does when they first start fooling around with modelers. But the connections are not your problem... all they do is deliver a signal from A to B. The issue is learning to dial in sounds for a specific purpose. And if you can create sounds that you like through whatever you're using at home under those conditions, then you can do it live too. The process is no different, but your EQ curve will be...you just have to do it. But expecting one to translate to the other without making the necessary EQ tweaks is...unfortunately for us all... a fantasy, and will forever be a losing battle.

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, Axxxeman said:

...

 

I have no FRFR yet and I won't buy one, unless I am convinced, that going with a HELIX into FOH really will get me a great sound and not laughter from my band mates. But I am far from being convinced after all my bad experiences. Friend of mine has a Kemper, just plugs in, sounds great from the start. Forget Fletcher Munson, it just works! Furthermore, on no PA did I get adequate pressure like with my tube amps. Only volume ... Did I buy the wrong gadget???

...

 

 

18 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

You can ignore this if you want, but the fact is that this very likely a large contributing factor to your problem. And I assure you that your friend's Kemper is not a mystical device, somehow immune to the effects that volume has on the human perception of loudness of different frequency ranges. It doesn't "just work" for him by accident... he dialed it in that way.

 

You've made no mention of what you're listening through at home (or at what volume), to dial in your sounds. But I promise you that if you're using headphones and/ or studio monitors at comfy living room volume, then Fletcher- Munson is indeed an issue... and a big one. Worse would be running Helix through a traditional guitar amp at home, and then expecting those tones to translate to stage volume, through a PA... because then you've got two issues, completely different output devices and a large volume discrepancy.

 

Your live tones need to dialed in through similar speakers (read: FRFR) to what your playing through live, and at or as close as possible to stage volume. Otherwise you will wallow in $hitty tone limbo forever. There are no shortcuts or universal settings that will be a guaranteed solution for you.

 

 

No, you just don't know what you're doing yet... nobody does when they first start fooling around with modelers.  But the connections are not your problem... all they do is deliver a signal from A to B. The issue is learning to dial in sounds for a specific purpose. And if you can create sounds that you like through whatever you're using at home under those conditions, then you can do it live too. The process is no different, but your EQ curve will be...you just have to do it. But expecting one to translate to the other without making the necessary EQ tweaks is...unfortunately for us all... a fantasy, and will forever be a losing battle.

 

 

 

 

I think @cruisinon2 gets to the heart of the issue. Using an FRFR at rehearsal at something resembling gig volumes, is probably the most accurate predictor of  what your Helix will sound like through a PA, although as @DunedinDragon pointed out, older analog PAs introduce additional possible variances to the sound that would be produced by a modern, powered speaker, PA. As you state you don't own an FRFR and you seem to like the sound and "pressure" you get with your tube amps. Given your almost entirely analog signal chain - both PA and monitor - at least with your current setup, miking your amp might actually be a better approach for you than direct to FOH

 

Personally I prefer going direct to FOH from the Helix. There are many advocates on the forum for using an FRFR monitor(at or close to gig volume) to design presets that will translate most easily to stage. It is a fairly simple equation, powered FRFRs just sound more like a modern PA, they are essentially PA speakers, so it is more like using a PA from the gitgo to design your presets. That is the approach I have used for years and it works well but it is not the only way to go about things.

 

If you want to stick to a more analog approach there is no reason you can't if that is what best suits the equipment you will be playing through. If you do decide to go direct to FOH rather than miking your amp, you will almost definitely find that you need to EQ things differently and make modifications to your patches, although some players get lucky, and the tones they dial up for their tube amp represent a compromise and sound great through the FOH as well.

 

Ultimately the formula is, the closer the monitor you design your presets on is to your PA, usually, the less tweaking and translation your presets will require when playing out.

 

 

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I haven't tried the Helix through FOH yet. But red similar problems with the POD HD back in the day.
Probably you need a decent FRFR speaker where you dial in your tones. Even with a expensive headphones your tone might sound pretty differrent on an FRFR speaker and stage volumes. I always dialed in my tone with the POD before hand on an Alto speaker and didn't had any problems, the sound guys were happy with the sound.
Also I don't know how you dial in your presets but you should probably use a low and high cut. In one of reiffs beards and gears video Ryan says for a live situation he cuts down to 8-10Khz because it would take peoples heads of. 

Maybe you will find some useful things, he uses Helix in his live setup

 


 

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you for all your inputs. Indeed they helped me to get along on the path. I do now have a decent sound on FOH ... decent, not yet optimal, though, but I will eventually get there.

I made myself a to-do-list where I checked every single aspect, from the input PAD to the output settings.

Well, the biggest failure topic was ... myself. It started in the first band, in which I was using the Helix, together with a Marshall halfstack, where I wanted two of the four possible signal paths of the Helix to go directly into FOH, while two paths where reserved for FX-ing and MIDI-controlling the amp (which worked perfectly fine). My problem was that the band's PA dated from the 70ies and I could not get the Helix to sound properly on that one. So started to fiddle around with the HELIX' general EQ to balance the sound, but never succeeded to make it sound great. After this I completely forgot this general EQ and I did not think of turning it off, when feeding other, modern PAs with the signal. So the signal was designed to sound crap on those.

 

Now, having it disengaged, it sounds at least decent.

 

What's missing now, is, to make it sound really good. That's, where Fletcher Munson comes in. I have always thought, that the meaning of FRFR would be, that you could simply ignore Fletcher Munson, because the FRFR speaker will sound the same at different volumes. I see now, that I was completely wrong on this. So, yes, programming at home with headphones did not bring on optimal sounds. As soon as winter is over (we have to heat our rehearsal room with a wood in an old stove from the 40ies and that's some nasty business ... :-D ). I will start to reprogram every single preset / snapshot in stage volume with the help of a backing track and looper.

 

Furthermore I have realized, that the guitar makes a bigger difference than I would have expected. What sounds great with Strat A can actually can sound crap with Strat B. So I will have to chose ONE special guitar for each preset and then use this preset only with this guitar and program an alternative for the replacement guitar. This way I hope to finally get exactly, what I want, in the rehearsal room and on stage.

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41 minutes ago, Axxxeman said:

What's missing now, is, to make it sound really good. That's, where Fletcher Munson comes in. I have always thought, that the meaning of FRFR would be, that you could simply ignore Fletcher Munson, because the FRFR speaker will sound the same at different volumes. I see now, that I was completely wrong on this.

 

Yup...FRFR just provides a blank canvas for a modeler. But as you've seen, it's not immune to the effects of volume because the Fletcher-Munson curve really has nothing to do with speakers... it's a limitation of our ability to perceive the volume of different frequencies accurately... a permanent EQ filter that's inside your head, if you will. You can't get rid of it no matter what you're playing through...

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4 hours ago, Axxxeman said:

 

 

What's missing now, is, to make it sound really good. That's, where Fletcher Munson comes in. I have always thought, that the meaning of FRFR would be, that you could simply ignore Fletcher Munson, because the FRFR speaker will sound the same at different volumes. I see now, that I was completely wrong on this. So, yes, programming at home with headphones did not bring on optimal sounds. As soon as winter is over (we have to heat our rehearsal room with a wood in an old stove from the 40ies and that's some nasty business ... :-D ). I will start to reprogram every single preset / snapshot in stage volume with the help of a backing track and looper.

 

Furthermore I have realized, that the guitar makes a bigger difference than I would have expected. What sounds great with Strat A can actually can sound crap with Strat B. So I will have to chose ONE special guitar for each preset and then use this preset only with this guitar and program an alternative for the replacement guitar. This way I hope to finally get exactly, what I want, in the rehearsal room and on stage.

 

I think you're slowly but surely coming to the grand conclusions most of us that have been involved in this discussion with you have come to over the years.

1.  Fletcher Munson is a very real human effect that can't be avoided short of having the sound at a reasonable level where human hearing works efficiently.  If you spend the time to examine some of the examples of charts for the Fletcher Munson effect, you'll see that 90 to 95 dbSPL is generally where the effect begins to dissipate.  What's important about this is that's typically a bit less than the level people play at on stage so you don't really need to blast your sound at "performance" levels...more like standing next to an idling truck level.

2.  Different guitars are, in fact...well...different.  Despite all the advances in guitar electronics, a Strat will never sound the same as a Les Paul.  Although I sometimes tweak my presets so that I may have two of the same presets, but each tweaked a little bit and optimized for different guitars.  But that doesn't mean the results will be the same, just that the preset will be presentable on either a Les Paul or a Strat.  Many of the songs I do really will only work well with one type of guitar and so I limit myself to that guitar when performing it.  This is especially true with certain music genre's like funk or country.

3.  I play a lot with various backing tracks which I create in Ableton using with various instruments, and that's really taken my performances to the next level knowing how to best fit in with different instruments such as keyboards, horns, pads or even pedal steel and strings ensembles.  It's as much about developing the right playing style as it is getting the right tone.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 1/24/2022 at 7:32 PM, DunedinDragon said:

2.  Different guitars are, in fact...well...different.  Despite all the advances in guitar electronics, a Strat will never sound the same as a Les Paul.

 

It is more complicated than this. Different guitars like a LP or a Strat, it understands that they have different sounds. I did not refer to that. I refer to very similar guitars, such as a Fender Strat and an Ibanez Strat. Alone the different pickups alter the sound in a way that a preset, programmed for one of the two, might not work with the replacement guitar.

 

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