Helix incoming!

Discussion in 'Amp Modeling' started by James R, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    I just struck a deal with a local guy to buy his Helix.
    He's had it for about 7 months and says the remainder of the warranty is transferable, which is good.
    Non smoker, never gigged, etc, etc.
    The photos are good and the unit looks pristine.

    It's a long weekend here in BC and he's busy for the day, but I'll be picking it up tomorrow around dinner time.
    I'm pretty darned excited about it.

    I've messed around with some modelling stuff before, most notably with my Fender Cybertwin SE.
    The Cybertwin is pretty in depth with tons of deep diving required, which put me off a bit, but it's still got some great sounds in it if you have the patience to find them.
    The technology is outdated too, when it comes to the new breed of modellers.
    I'm hoping I get along with the Helix much better.

    This was an impulse buy, even though I've been interested for a while, so I'm not sure exactly how I'll incorporate it yet.
    I have no frfr monitors, so it'll have to be through my amp and cab for now.
    What's my best bet here?
    Should I use it in the effects loop of my amp, or out in front?
    Also, for anyone that's using it through your existing rigs, is it more likely to sound good through a SS, tube, or hybrid type of amp?
    I realize much of it would be personal preference, but I'm wondering if the Helix "likes" one type vs the others.
    I have a BOSS Katana (SS), a couple Marshalls (tube, low wattage), and the Cybertwin (hybrid).

    I guess I have to start looking into and saving for frfr monitors now.
    I'd also love some suggestions their as well.
    I'm a strictly home player, but I'm not limited to low volume playing.
    Right now I use a Mesa 212 vertical slant cab with V30s, with a variety of amps, and I really dig the fullness and bottom end of the 212.

    Long winded, I know, but I'm thankful to finally be able to jump into the fray here in the modelling section, and I appreciate any input you experienced modellers can throw a newbies way.

    Cheers!
     
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  2. matthew bear

    matthew bear Senior Member

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    congrats!

    I'd start with using your effects loop, and disable the cabs in your patch. that way it's as if you are trying different modeled "heads" into your existing cab. That said, good sound is good sound so don't be afraid to break the rules if you like what you're hearing.
     
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  3. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Right on, man! The Helix is awesome. Matthew is right on. Another option, depending on how much your power "colors" the sound is to use the preamp models into your loop. That'll be like back in the glory days of rack-mount gear...get a killer preamp and run it with the power section of your amp head into your cab!!

    You can simulate killer rack rigs by having your time-based effects behind your preamp, with your drive effects before the preamp.
     
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  4. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    Thanks guys, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing, which will obviously be easier once I have it in my possession.

    Quick question...
    If I have it running through the effects loop so that I can use a particular amp model, can I still put Helix effects like wah and fuzz before the amp model and mod/delay/reverb after the amp model?
    Geez, I hope that made sense.
    What I'm trying to figure out is if I can bypass my physical amps preamp and use the Helix amp model as though it is the physical amp and pedals.
     
  5. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Yes you can do that.

    1. Plug into the Helix
    2. Create your patch (keep cab block off) - put "pre" amplifier effects where you want them with "post" amp effects after the amp model
    3. Take the output of your Helix and plug it into the "return" pf your amp's loop
     
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  6. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    Excellent!
    Thanks mmd. :thumb:
     
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  7. AllTheSound

    AllTheSound Premium Member

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    Congrats man your in for a real treat!
     
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  8. Pop1655

    Pop1655 Premium Member

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    He's an excellent resource! Lean on him! .....and Rocco and Donal.
    There's some good experience in here. We're lucky.

    I'll be very interested in following your journey, hearing your thoughts and learning what you think after a few weeks. I think you're gonna be a good experienced yet unbiased opinion on these. I'm looking forward to watching.

    It's been a game changer for me. No more chasing. I finally got what I've been searching for.

    The one thing that gets me in reading is how many don't run stereo. I just can't imagine listening to mine through one speaker.
     
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  9. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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  10. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Thanks man! Glad to be able to share what I have learned and help out!! I still can't believe, sometimes, that I went 100% modeling - especially after having so many killer amps. But I'll tell you what, not just from a sonic perspective - but also from a PRACTICAL perspective, you can't beat the convenience and flexibility of these units.

    While I used to be in the camp of "I only need ONE amp" - and for my band I DO only use ONE amp (model, lol) - having the others for experimentation and songwriting is glorious.

    For instance.....

    I have been using the Essex 15 with an OCD as my "core" tone in my live patch since I got the Helix. As time has gone by (a little over a year of gigging with it) I have gotten annoyed by the lower mid hump in my tone. Our last show was videoed and while it was "room" sound, I noticed that my sound drowned out everyone on stage. NOT from the volume, but from the domination of frequencies. To begin rectifying this issue, I copied one of my "core" patches into a new bank and began "auditioning" new amps in my rig.

    The solution was EASY (and VERY cost effective, lol) - I swapped out the Essex 15 (Vox AC15) for the Dr. Z Route 66 (don't remember the name L6 gives it). I didn't even change the EQ on the model. My ONLY tweak was to reduce the sag to tighten up the sound. It was pretty high in the factory model - which makes sense since the amp relies on rectifier sag for part of its tone. Personally, I am not a fan of tube rectification. I have always used diode rectified amps, so I turned down the value of the "sag" function until the Dr. Z "tightened" up. I also tend to run the bias on my real tube amps neutral or slightly cold (I got into expensive tube amps in the early 90s when EVERYONE thought tube sources would dwindle FAST) to "preserve" tube life. So, I checked the "bias" on the Dr. Z to see if I needed to reduce it. Visually it was "hotter" than I usually like, but sonically it sounded great. I turned it down anyway (try THIS on a real amp while playing, lol) and the sound got crappy. Turned it back up and it was AWESOME!

    So, in the course of 15 minutes I built a new rig with an expensive amp that I would have to wheel-and-deal to get in real life - and then HOPE like hell that I LOVED it!! How many of you have been THERE before?

    For the fun of it, I experimented with different cabs and drives, but ended up going back to my favs - the OCD and the Silver Bell/Greenback 20 dual cab block. That part of my "rig" seems solid - though I did change the mic distance and volume for the Marshall cab, and added some "room reflections" to each cab (which seems to be the secret to getting the stock cab blocks to sound killer).

    It all seems overwhelming at first, but once you dive in it easy to do. The best thing to do is experiment. Once you make a patch you dig (or find a factory patch that speaks to you) just copy it to a new spot and start tweaking away - I say copy it over so that if you "mess it up" too bad, you still have the one that you loved without having to try to "fix" the mistake (how many of us have ruined the magical tone on our amp only to NEVER get it back??? no reason for that to happen in the Helix).

    Anyway, just more rambling info on the Helix!
     
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  11. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Stereo is fun, for sure. I have some recording patches with MASSIVE amounts of ambient effects, with different delay times on the L/R spectrum, and fuzzed amps on one side with swirling cleaner amps on the other - it is a treat for the sense, lol...

    BUT, as primarily a live player I have found that when I tried to give two lines for a stereo spread, the sound guys were summing me mono and panning me toward my side of the stage (right). Of course some venues, the ones that tend to have a lot of national/international acts, tend to "get it" and they set it up right....even though it's NOT a complicated concept.

    It reminds me of when I used a wet/dry tube rig. I had my amp (a stereo Rivera S120) with 4 cabs and a 6 space rack for effects. 90% of the venues would either A) give me two mics but sum the signal mono (thus defeating the wet/dry concept) or B) give me two mics but pan hard left/right (which sounded great if you were in the right room position, but give the listener either a washed out, undefined sound or a BONE dry in-your-face sound that could be fatiguing on the ears). Very frustrating!!

    I did/attempted 4 shows going stereo and after 4 tonal disasters, I went back to mono for my live signal. Different applications would vary. Like, if I was in a cover band carting and setting up my own PA I could make stereo work easily. But, I am in an original band doing one 45-60 minute set with a 10 minute change over between bands. NOT enough time (or care on the sound guy's part) to work real hard getting a stereo guitar sound up and running.

    Just information...
     
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  12. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    Thanks, I appreciate the opportunity, but I have to take a step back for a bit.
    I've bought two amps, and now the Helix, in the last three or four weeks.
    It's time to replenish the gear fund.
    I do think that there's a pretty strong chance that a few amps and a whack of pedals might be moved along now that I'm getting the Helix though, so I may be in the market sooner than I expect.
    I'm thinking that I'd like to go with a powered/active monitor or two though, am I correct in assuming that powered speakers will eliminate the need for a power amp?
     
  13. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    You are correct sir. It also means you can't use guitar cabs as well, which you can with a power amp.
     
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  14. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    I see, I didn't know that, and it adds a whole new element.
    So much to learn.

    If I'm able to sell off some stuff in an appropriate time frame, I will definitely revisit the idea of a passive setup.
    I really have to do some research and figure out the best approach for my personal applications.
    Thankfully, I seem to have a great resource right here at MLP, as long as y'all can handle all the silly newb questions. :dunno:
     
  15. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Ask away, dude. It's good to share knowledge, and I have never seen anyone be a jerk when trying to be helpful....
     
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  16. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    We LOVE questions :)
     
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  17. James R

    James R Premium Member

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    Right on, much appreciated guys.

    I've got the Helix home now, just waiting on some dinner and then I'll be off to spend my evening trying a few different setups through a couple different amps.

    I'm super excited about this.
    I don't think I've been this excited for a gear purchase since April of 2013, when I bought my first real Les Paul.

    The guy I bought it from was super cool.
    I noodled around on his Fiesta Red looking Suhr Strat, stunning guitar, but not as nice as his early '70s Tele that was Definitely well worn and played. He didn't offer to let me play that one though.
    Anyways, messed around with the Helix for about 15-20 at his place and was floored at the sounds I was getting.
    I could've taken over his rig and played for hours, but he may have grown tired of that, and dude was like 6'5". :laugh2:
     
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  18. alstev

    alstev Senior Member

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    Man you just made that sound so cool. I'm saving up for a while to get a Kemper (I think, I could change my mind on which one I'll get), but anyways reading about how you're using your gear has me drooling, and I've listened to a ton of vids, so I know the tone is there, the next month is gonna crawl by. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas.
     
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  19. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    It really is the way to go. It has almost gotten to be ridiculous dragging out the big road cases with your amp and cab anymore. Speaking from a live players perspective it was the BEST gear choice I EVER made. We did a fly date in Wisconsin during late July. While my bassist did bring his amp (he plays MarkBass - good luck finding that from a cartage company) all I brought was my laptop and a USB drive with my presets (we obviously brought our guitars too). When we got there all the company had to do was provide me with a Helix (for that gig I used an LT)) - and I loaded my presets on to the LT at the gig and I was set to go. I will admit that I was not using my patches to the fullest because the floor layout of the LT is different from my Helix Control (I use a helix rack), but still, it was EASY to travel and do this gig. We have another fly date happening in October. So far the cartage company is giving me grief about "finding" a Helix - but it's far enough out that they should be able to get one. If not, I'll see if there is a local GC that will rent me one...OR I might just have to bring my own, lol....goodness gracious!!!!

    But, yeah, using the Kemper or the Helix would be awesome. A lot of dudes get caught up in having too many options. Sure, there's a lot there....but it doesn't mean you HAVE to use it ALL right away. For instance, the example I was talking about above. I NEVER thought I'd have use for a Dr. Z. Three knobs? COME ON!!!!! What kind of amp only has THREE KNOBS?!?!?! LOL....But seriously, it was there for me to try, and what do you know? It fit the bill perfectly.

    When I was still buying and using tube amps I used to use modeling as a way to "demo" amps I would never think of buying. I ended up with a vintage Deluxe Reverb because I liked the model so much in my POD. Same with the VOX AC30. Bought a real one because I loved the model so much. But, upon getting the Helix I sold off all the tube amps and various cabs once I was confident that Helix filled every niche that I would need. And it really does....

    A while back I dug my only tube rig left out of the studio closet. My faithful, beloved Rivera S120 with the matching 2x10 cab. I did a little maintenance on it (changed the tubes, set the bias) and fired it up. I was enjoying it for a bit - remembering the cool times blasting it onstage. I was considering doing a couple gigs with it for "old time's sake". SO then I dragged out the pedal board and began getting a stage rig together. I rebuilt my pedal board and routed everything to the amp. Started to run through the set and realized I was GROSSLY limited it what I was able to do sonically compared to the Helix....

    ALL the amazing routing options....the multiple volume levels built in to the snapshots....the ease of switching effects and amp sounds with a single button.....

    Then there was the tone....sigh......

    Don't get me wrong...my Rivera KILLS. It sounds BEEFY with smooth sustain. It has a gorgeous clean sound. BUT....it just didn't please me anymore. As I worked through the tone stack and adjusted the volumes up and down to find the sweet spot, I realized that there would ALWAYS be too many variables using this rig. Variable that no longer exist using the Helix.

    My amp isn't a victim to weird power levels in a venue (and sorry, a power conditioner really DOESN'T "regulate" the voltages - you are still stuck if a venue has 111 volts, etc...). My overall tone isn't a victim to whether or not the sound guy mics my cab in the sweet spot. I won't accidentally bump a knob on the amp or stomp box in set up. All the various "issues" that would cause a good night or bad night of playing are eliminated. The pedal dance - eliminated. The compromise of picking the CRUCIAL effects for a part - eliminated. I can have it ALL - without a wiring nightmare or massive plate of pedals - with GREAT ease.

    I tore the Rivera rig down and stuck it back in the gear closet. It has become obsolete in my sonic world. My faithful friend and sonic ally since 1990 is now a piece of nostalgic furniture in my studio...
     
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  20. Dick Banks

    Dick Banks Senior Member

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    True, stereo is MUCH better, but many of us run into FOH PA systems and are given only one channel, so we just do all of our patches that way...
     
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