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How to run a 4/7 cable rig using Helix w/a Mesa Mark VII (primary/left) & a Powercab 112+


DannyMcO
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Hey all - 

How do I wire up a Helix, a Mesa Mark VII and a Powercab 112+ to create a stereo rig, while properly using the effects loops? Is it actually possible, or do I need to get a cheapie amp with an effects loop to replace the Powercab? Clearly neither the 4 or 7 cable methods work; is this maybe a 5 or 6 cable setup? I'm a little stumped.

Mods: cross posted to Powercab. If one or the other is inappropriate, please delete at your discretion.

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Hey.  I run my Helix in stereo, so let me try to help.  Not sure what exactly you're asking though. 

In most situations, the stereo is achieved by running effects such as panner, stereo tremolo, chorus, delay, reverb in stereo after your cab block.  That's what turns mono signal into stereo.  In 3.6 Line 6 also added stereo cab blocks where you can have 2 different microphones L/R for that stereo spread.  Most people run their Helix in stereo for the Front of the House mix, and mono for stage volume.

 

Modern amps consist of 2 parts: preamp and poweramp.  Preamp colors and distorts your sound -- you have all the knobs to shape your sound.  Poweramp just amplifies the sound that is fed into it at one volume -- it's crystal clear and not distorted. 

 

If your amp has an effects loop, you can add things between the preamp and poweramp.  Usually the goal is to add time-based effects AFTER the preamp, that way they are not distorted by the preamp and are crystal-clear.  You don't want your delay to be distorted, otherwise it'll turn into a giant mess.

 

Below is a crude 4-cable method signal path:

 

guitar (cable 1) -> Helix's input -> some blocks like wah/distortion for example  ->

-> out of Send 1 to Mesa's input (cable 2) -> out of Mesa's send to Helix's Return 1 (cable 3) ->

-> a cab block or an IR -> stereo chorus, stereo delay -> output to FOH (L/R) / Mono (L) to powered speaker/ Mesa's return (cable 4)

 

You use the preamp of your physical amplifier inside the Helix signal chain, and use the power amplifier of your physical amp to amplify the resulting sound. 

 

 

There are some variations on the 4-cable method, however.  For example, you don't want to have the final signal to come out of your physical combo amplifier -- that would make it "3-cable method" I guess...

 

 

 

Since you said you want to run in stereo, then what you need to do is add the cab simulator to your chain.  Since you will be sending your finished sound to FOH, you need to have a guitar cab/IR followed by all the stereo blocks that would make your output stereo (stereo tremolo, stereo ping-pong delay, panner).  Now that your signal is in stereo, and you can send it to the FOH via mic-level XLR cables (L/R). 

 

If you need to hear yourself on stage, use the 1/4" output and send it back to your Mesa.  Now your Helix's volume knob will control the output of the 1/4" and therefore the loudness your Mesa for onstage volume.   That's what makes it 4-cable method.  If you for some reason do not want to use the Mesa to monitor yourself on stage, then you can use an FRFR, a powered speaker in the same fashion at the end of the chain -- you will hear the final product with all the delay and chorusing onstage in mono.

 

There are some people that like to complicate their lives even further -- they absolutely do not want to hear the cab/IR sound coming out of their physical on-stage cab -- this is basically a speaker emulation sound coming out of a speaker.  In that case, you would need to have a separate signal path for your on-stage signal that will bypass the cab/IR.  It's a complete overkill, yet some people on this forum keep asking how to do it. 

 

---

 

My advice is to ditch this 4-cable method.  You may think your amp is very special and cannot be replicated with what the Helix has, but you are wrong IMO.  There are so many options, and if you tweak things long enough you'll get there.  The whole point and beauty of a Helix is the fact is that it replaces your entire signal chain, rather than being used only for effects.  That's my 2c.  But I know some people absolutely cannot live without their specific pedals/amps. 


I watched how to do the 4-cable method video and realized that it's great and neat, but completely unneeded. 

 

FWIW, I run my Helix to FOH L/R using everything that's inside the Helix, no external pedals.  To hear myself on stage I run my 1/4" into a compact power amp: Mooer Baby Bomb connected into a single 12" speaker on stage.  Or I simply run the signal into a power amp of a combo amp like a Peavey Bandit for example.  I send the same exact signal to FOH as well as my on-stage amplifier.  Works great!

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On 7/3/2023 at 6:41 AM, PierM said:

A Mesa Mark VII and a Powercab in a stereo setup?

 

Why?

Probably because that's the equipment that he has and he wants to try stereo without purchasing more gear.

 

 

______________________

 

 

Danny, use your Helix in normal 4CM mode.  After the loop block, place your stereo effects block(s) and then send one Helix output (L) to the amp return and the other output (R) to the PC+.  It will be a 5CM.

 

Here is how you would normally set it up in 4CM.  The difference in your setup will be the cable routing at the Helix output.

 

 

SignalFlow4CM.jpg

SignalFlow4CMSt.jpg

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On 7/3/2023 at 6:48 PM, MGW-Alberta said:

 

Probably because that's the equipment that he has and he wants to try stereo without purchasing more

 

 

 

 

I didnt ask you. Did I?

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On 7/3/2023 at 8:41 AM, PierM said:

A Mesa Mark VII and a Powercab in a stereo setup?

 

Why?

The Mark VII is brand spanking new, but mono only; I could go and buy a cheap Fender amp for the stereo channel, but I already own the Powercab. 

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On 7/3/2023 at 12:48 PM, MGW-Alberta said:

 

Probably because that's the equipment that he has and he wants to try stereo without purchasing more gear.

 

 

______________________

 

 

Danny, use your Helix in normal 4CM mode.  After the loop block, place your stereo effects block(s) and then send one Helix output (L) to the amp return and the other output (R) to the PC+.  It will be a 5CM.

 

Here is how you would normally set it up in 4CM.  The difference in your setup will be the cable routing at the Helix output.

 

 

SignalFlow4CM.jpg

SignalFlow4CMSt.jpg

Awesome. Exactly what I needed to know. Thanks.

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On 7/3/2023 at 7:43 AM, theElevators said:

Hey.  I run my Helix in stereo, so let me try to help.  Not sure what exactly you're asking though. 

In most situations, the stereo is achieved by running effects such as panner, stereo tremolo, chorus, delay, reverb in stereo after your cab block.  That's what turns mono signal into stereo.  In 3.6 Line 6 also added stereo cab blocks where you can have 2 different microphones L/R for that stereo spread.  Most people run their Helix in stereo for the Front of the House mix, and mono for stage volume.

 

Modern amps consist of 2 parts: preamp and poweramp.  Preamp colors and distorts your sound -- you have all the knobs to shape your sound.  Poweramp just amplifies the sound that is fed into it at one volume -- it's crystal clear and not distorted. 

 

If your amp has an effects loop, you can add things between the preamp and poweramp.  Usually the goal is to add time-based effects AFTER the preamp, that way they are not distorted by the preamp and are crystal-clear.  You don't want your delay to be distorted, otherwise it'll turn into a giant mess.

 

Below is a crude 4-cable method signal path:

 

guitar (cable 1) -> Helix's input -> some blocks like wah/distortion for example  ->

-> out of Send 1 to Mesa's input (cable 2) -> out of Mesa's send to Helix's Return 1 (cable 3) ->

-> a cab block or an IR -> stereo chorus, stereo delay -> output to FOH (L/R) / Mono (L) to powered speaker/ Mesa's return (cable 4)

 

You use the preamp of your physical amplifier inside the Helix signal chain, and use the power amplifier of your physical amp to amplify the resulting sound. 

 

 

There are some variations on the 4-cable method, however.  For example, you don't want to have the final signal to come out of your physical combo amplifier -- that would make it "3-cable method" I guess...

 

 

 

Since you said you want to run in stereo, then what you need to do is add the cab simulator to your chain.  Since you will be sending your finished sound to FOH, you need to have a guitar cab/IR followed by all the stereo blocks that would make your output stereo (stereo tremolo, stereo ping-pong delay, panner).  Now that your signal is in stereo, and you can send it to the FOH via mic-level XLR cables (L/R). 

 

If you need to hear yourself on stage, use the 1/4" output and send it back to your Mesa.  Now your Helix's volume knob will control the output of the 1/4" and therefore the loudness your Mesa for onstage volume.   That's what makes it 4-cable method.  If you for some reason do not want to use the Mesa to monitor yourself on stage, then you can use an FRFR, a powered speaker in the same fashion at the end of the chain -- you will hear the final product with all the delay and chorusing onstage in mono.

 

There are some people that like to complicate their lives even further -- they absolutely do not want to hear the cab/IR sound coming out of their physical on-stage cab -- this is basically a speaker emulation sound coming out of a speaker.  In that case, you would need to have a separate signal path for your on-stage signal that will bypass the cab/IR.  It's a complete overkill, yet some people on this forum keep asking how to do it. 

 

---

 

My advice is to ditch this 4-cable method.  You may think your amp is very special and cannot be replicated with what the Helix has, but you are wrong IMO.  There are so many options, and if you tweak things long enough you'll get there.  The whole point and beauty of a Helix is the fact is that it replaces your entire signal chain, rather than being used only for effects.  That's my 2c.  But I know some people absolutely cannot live without their specific pedals/amps. 


I watched how to do the 4-cable method video and realized that it's great and neat, but completely unneeded. 

 

FWIW, I run my Helix to FOH L/R using everything that's inside the Helix, no external pedals.  To hear myself on stage I run my 1/4" into a compact power amp: Mooer Baby Bomb connected into a single 12" speaker on stage.  Or I simply run the signal into a power amp of a combo amp like a Peavey Bandit for example.  I send the same exact signal to FOH as well as my on-stage amplifier.  Works great!

I've played out with JTV69 into Helix + Powercab 112+ pair for years. I'm well aware of its capabilities...but have you ever tried to convince someone that they were wrong about their favorite color, or that your favorite band should be their favorite band, or that objective reality did not agree with whatever their taste was in something? 

I like Mesa's sounds - the clean, the crunch & the leads. The Mark VII has a lot going for it that I like better than what I was getting via Helix + 2 Powercabs. I'm sure you believe in what you say about Helix' amp & cab modeling - but as strong as that belief is for you? My own belief is that the Mesa does it for me, closer to my taste and more easily. 

Yes, Helix has a lot of models. Many of them are good, or even great. There probably isn't much you're going to tell me in that direction that I haven't already personally experienced professionally.

But my favorite color is my favorite color. I'll certainly listen politely as you extol the virtues of your favorite color, but you're simply not a good enough salesperson to get me to change a deeply held personal preference borne out of years of experience using the very product in question.

Thanks for the answer, though!

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On 7/3/2023 at 8:41 AM, PierM said:

A Mesa Mark VII and a Powercab in a stereo setup?

 

Why?

Is "Why" meant to be a "What are the advantages you expect to gain from this setup"?
Or is it more of a "Why the heck would you do that?"

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On 7/5/2023 at 4:42 AM, DannyMcO said:

Is "Why" meant to be a "What are the advantages you expect to gain from this setup"?
Or is it more of a "Why the heck would you do that?"

 

I was genuinely curious, as a stereo image needs identic audio sources (in terms of phase and response, volume etc.) to happen. By the sound of your description, sounded like you were trying to achieve stereo image by using a real amp, with his own phase and frequency response, and powercab through the Helix, with another phase and a completely different frequency response. On paper this is like having a guitar player and an amp in the room on the left, and a record of that same guy playing in another room, through a mic'ed amp, on the right channel. But I'm sure I didn't get the intent.

 

So yeah, was just curious to know the goal of doing a such complex routing in a diminished returns context.

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On 7/5/2023 at 6:05 AM, PierM said:

 

I was genuinely curious, as a stereo image needs identic audio sources (in terms of phase and response, volume etc.) to happen. By the sound of your description, sounded like you were trying to achieve stereo image by using a real amp, with his own phase and frequency response, and powercab through the Helix, with another phase and a completely different frequency response.

 

So yeah, was just curious to know the goal of doing a such complex routing in a diminished returns context.

If I were to guess, the OP is a doctor of a lawyer :)  Doctors or lawyers can afford to buy 5000-dollar Les Pauls and 4000-dollar Mesa Boogie amps.  So why...  because they can, they're fun toys. 

 

No gigging musician I have come across will use an amp like that using 4-cable-method, and then run in stereo out of a power cab... Well unless they are way out of my league and play with world-famous acts, and have truck-loads of gear. 

 

Gigging musicians tend to simplify their setup, rather than complicate it...  And that's why I settled for a Helix after 20+ years of having to have my "tube" "warm" "analogue" sound. 

 

BTW, analogue/digital/analogue conversion during the 4-cable method also diminishes the actual use for a real tube amp as the quality degrades.  I remember a long time ago having noise issues when trying to run a distortion pedal inside a pedal board switcher, so the degradation of sound is definitely there. 

 

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On 7/5/2023 at 6:05 AM, PierM said:

So yeah, was just curious to know the goal of doing a such complex routing in a diminished returns context.

I think you may be of the mind that I might be playing straight sounds in stereo - for example, a single tone being played identically to both channels. That's not what drives my use case.

My latest project will have me routing into the Mesa for its preamp tones (which I prefer over the model) in mono out of the Mesa effects loop into the Helix, where it will then be used in nonidentical (l/r signal) stereo effects - probably the easiest examples I can think of are things like l/r swells & wahs, ping pong delays, stereo tremolo and l/r rotary speaker emulations (rather than "loud/soft" mono Univibe types), or even combinations of multiple such effects.

Since I'm using the Mesa pre-amp for most of the tone and bypassing the preamp of the second channel amp, the second amp in the stereo setup doesn't matter so much as long as the amp circuit/cab/cone combo produces the Mesa's (and Helix') tone somewhat accurately. So it could just have easily been a used Blues Deluxe or some other amp with an actual effects loop to route into (7cM).  But since I already own the Powercab, I'm trying not to make my Guitar Center salesman's commission check any larger than what was produce by the Mesa/Music Man Silhouette/Charvel Pro Mod ticket he got from me already in the last month.

That aside, whether the sounds coming out of stereo channels are in phase or not, there will still be sweet spots as well as dead spots for listening, given that the waves still need to reach across physical distances to a listener's ear based on sound wavelengths and wave periods. My PA and even my home stereo subwoofer has phase buttons on it specifically to combat this, though all it really does is move sweet/dead spots somewhere else in the room.

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Danny, if you run the setup I showed you, your Mk VII preamp output will run into both the MK VII power section and the PC+ but they each will have their own left and right stereo time based effects; left to the amp and right to the PC+.  The PC+ will receive your Mk VII preamp signal.

 

If I am understanding you correctly, you may not actually want this kind of stereo rig but rather what we call a dual mono rig.  That's where you have one guitar playing through two amplifiers, each with a different sound; sometimes slightly different, sometimes a lot different.  SRV did this as a matter of habit in the recording studio.  He'd play one guitar through multiple amps; each set to different settings.  I have done this with a conventional guitar/pedal/amp setup using an A/B/Y switch and two amplifiers.  It can be a very compelling tone when set up properly.  If you do want to run dual mono then I suggest you create a preset using both paths; each path having the input block set to 1/4" and each path output set independently to left and right 1/4".  You may have to pan the outputs left and right.  I don't know.  It's been a while since I tried that setup.  You won't be able to use the down arrow at the end of path 1 to reroute to path 2 as each path will be discrete at the output but common at the input.  You'll be able to use the amp's loop to run your time based effects on the path that outputs to your amp.  Those effects should be mono, not stereo.  The other path will have to be a straight path from input to output with no loop block, placing your blocks in conventional order and you will probably want to run an amp block in this path.  If you want to get a wider sound image you can add a simple delay block at the very beginning of Path 2 (assuming that will be the path going to the PC+).  You would set the mix to 100%, the repeats to zero and the delay time to 2 or 3 milliseconds.  This will make it sound like there are two guitars playing at once with different tones rather than one guitar with one sound that is a blend of 2 tones.  It should sound more stereo-like.  You can go longer if you wish but anything over 3 milliseconds will progressively sound more and more like a chorus effect the more you increase the delay time and after about 25 milliseconds or so it will start to sound kind of bad.   You could use snapshot mode to apply different delay times to different snapshots.

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After thinking on this a little longer, in dual mono the PC+ path could be set up so it operates somewhat like an amp in 4CM.  It won't be perfect but it will be a little more like 4CM.  You would run a preamp block after your wah, distortion, etc. blocks and then place your time based effect blocks after the preamp and then run a cab block after those.  

 

One both paths you could also use a splitter block, if you wish, to create a longer path to make room for more blocks but you'd need to change the splitter block settings so that the entire signal routs to the "B" path rather than using the default 50/50 split.

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On 7/5/2023 at 6:24 AM, theElevators said:

If I were to guess, the OP is a doctor of a lawyer :)

 

No gigging musician I have come across will use an amp like that using 4-cable-method, and then run in stereo out of a power cab... Well unless they are way out of my league and play with world-famous acts, and have truck-loads of gear. 

 

Gigging musicians tend to simplify their setup, rather than complicate it...  And that's why I settled for a Helix after 20+ years of having to have my "tube" "warm" "analogue" sound. 

 

Come on, my dude. You're really going to claim to know anything about me or my situation based on my choice of gear?

You have now met 1 gigging musician who prefers the 4 cable setup (well, 5 cable setup, in this case). I'm not "way out of [anyone's] league". I like what I like and I save up for it if I know I want to buy it. You like what you like, and maybe your financial situation is different, but you, too, could just as easily be a doctor or a lawyer as you might be a waiter or handyman or full-time musician. None of those things are really any better or worse than the others, and there are plenty of penny pinchers in higher paying day jobs as there are big spenders in less lucrative bill-paying gigs. And it only takes one modest check from even a smaller-sized label to result in a rig upgrade. 

But I'm not going to judge you for what you like or what your rig contains. You played through tubes awhile and found Helix is a better solution? Well, does it work for you? AWE. SOME. Good on ya for avoiding the GAS that some of us (myself 100% included) have.

But consider - say someone asks us what our favorite colors are. You say yours is red, I say mine is green. Will either of us ever convince the other that our 100% subjective preference is wrong? Kind of an exercise in futility, no?

And we probably shouldn't read into our favorites, either...for all either of us knows, the other could just as easily be achromatopsic as tetrachromatic.

Or, for that matter, an accountant. ;-)

If I have anything to say about the Line 6 ecosystem that I had been exclusively using (prior to my recent shift), it's that it got me to think a lot more about live performances in stereo. Stereo effects through headphones always sounded cool through other multieffects units I've owned, but without the signal path editing and robust i/o of the Helix, they weren't as easily realized. Add in the Powercab control through the Helix and AES Link, and suddenly everything stereo was pretty easily attainable. 

Probably the only downside for me (aside from having to come here to figure out the best way to wire it), is that the Mesa weighs a damn ton.

But for the sounds I prefer to produce, the actual, the physical Mark VII in my stereo rig is worth its weight in gold.

Which, coincidentally, was the actual retail price of it.

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