Line 6 Helix Native. DAW plugins.

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Mike, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    How else would you suggest software implementations of real world amps be fairly compared? Should we dial them all up to 10 instead? Should the tester subjectively pick what he thinks are the best settings from each? Oscilloscope charts?

    Most of the people commenting here actually downloaded the demo and listened, and most of those weren't all that impressed. 10 yeas ago the Helix SW would have been an absolute game-changer. But there's a whole lot of competition out there these days from companies who are passionate about bringing great guitar tone to the plugin market. And they don't have the massive marketing overhead of L6 which is reflected in their SW pricing model.

    Here's another thing that disappointed me about L6.... $1500 is a big chunk of change to pay for Helix HW that is nowhere near the Kemper in tonal authenticity, and only adds some new models and interface options but essentially sounds the same as the HD500X. I can't knock L6's business acumen, they are clearly killing it with Helix, but it's not the premium sounding product that Kemper is, nor does it hit the value point the HD500X does... it's in some strange middle-land that certainly appeals to a large audience, but not to me in particular. I'll pay for products that resonate, but this one was a big miss for me.

    Funny you mention Mesa Mark... I'm a huge fan of the Mesa Mark series, and if given the choice, I would take a busted one with knobs stuck on 5s over a whole lot of other manufacturer's amps with a full set of working knobs!!!
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
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  2. oc616

    oc616 Control Deck Wins

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    Again you are missing the point of those clips I made entirely. I'd rather have people do what I did and solo the damn central guitar track with an out-of-the-box sound than put some half-arsed drums or god forbid a full mix to show me exactly what I'm getting with nothing additional. That was the point, so when the TH3 sounded better in that circumstance to a lot of other users' ears, I know which stood the test. There was no "easily dialed out fizz", to which your quote below is a laughable attempt at justification for a well documented phenomenon.

    So no, we don't evaluate amps purely on the groups of "set to 5", I spent a good 2 days trying to work around it and found the attempt unnecessary compared to what I had for less with minimal effort anyway. Hence solo default tracks, so you can hear the model as it comes for each plugin.
     
  3. mikah912

    mikah912 SS.org Regular

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    No point in further back and forth, really. Sorry y'all didn't dig it. The product stands or falls on its own merit, and they seem to be doing a little better than ok.

    It's just another great plug-in option to go alongside S-Gear, TH3 and Thermionik. If you like one of those better, cool. I own and use them all, but my only hardware is a full Helix Floor. It kicks out premium guitar tone that made me send a Fractal AX8 packing - twice - but only to people open to it. Use whatever does it for you. Peace!
     
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  4. Elric

    Elric SS.org Regular

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    What's dumb about demanding that a $400 plugin be inspiring whether you use it when rehearsing alone or in a mix? Especially when competing, less expensive products do? Sounds like a rational assessment to me. Sometimes guitar is unaccompanied in a song too.
     
  5. mongey

    mongey SS.org Regular

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    I think its decent from very limited time with it . not about to drop $400 USD on it but with a little tinkering it sounds pretty decent

    sold my axe fx xl 2 years ago but from my memory of it I wouldn't say its light years apart . every amp sim can sound like fizzy crap with the gain they put on tap. I don't think I ever made a fractal high gain patch without some fairly heavy LP filerting
     
  6. Ericjutsu

    Ericjutsu SS.org Regular

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    right now it's not worth 400 USD. I think it will be fairly soon after some updates. It's certainly worth 100 USD for Helix hardware owners though.
     
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  7. AkiraSpectrum

    AkiraSpectrum SS.org Regular

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    After spending a few more hours with Line 6 Helix Native I have the following update:

    #1 Had trouble getting tones that I liked (clean or dirty) using the stock cabinet emulation.

    #2 Downloaded a couple free IR's (an OwnHammer and a CelestionPlus) and it completely changed my experience. Rather than tweaking with EQ and frequency filters on the cabinets I was able to get much better tones, instantly, with little to no tweaking. I can't tell you how much more I enjoyed Helix Native with the free OwnHammer cab IR, it was very fun.

    #3 My general impression is that the Helix provides a more 'raw' tone--something you'd hear if you were to mic a cabinet in a studio or home recording room. Because of this, you need to tweak things a little to get a more 'polished' tone. It seems to me that other modelers are more 'polished' sounding right out of the box, while the Helix attempts not to emulate a 'polished/optimal' sound, but rather a 'raw' sound that you need to work with if you are looking for 'polish'. As mentioned earlier, cabinet IR's get you most of the way there in terms of the 'optimal/polished' tones that most of us have come to expect with contemporary modelers. Where Line 6 went wrong is with their cab emulation, they--unlike a lot of other VST's, modelers--did not put the time in to finding optimal tones (obviously this is subjective) that other companies have. This is where I think 95% of the issues are coming from in terms of those who have disliked Helix.

    #4 Overall, after finding a good cab IR I really enjoyed all the tones I was getting. It definitely sounded more 'genuine' than a lot of modelers I've used (haven't played AxeFx, Kemper, or Headrush though) and I really ended up liking the cleans and mid-gain tones as well. I don't like how there wasn't a built-in tuner or acoustic sim though--these should be included. I would gladly buy the Helix Native program if it were cheaper and had an acoustic sim and tuner; however, I understand the $400 price-tag from Line 6's point of view because they #1 don't want to devalue their Helix units and #2 because the price-tag signals that they are attempting to hang with the leaders in the market (Kemper, Fractal).
     
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  8. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    You would think that L6 would put more work into the IR's if that's the main thing holding the Helix tone back. I'm guessing most people just want/expect this kind of software to sound good out-of-the-box rather than spend a bunch of time tinkering to find a good sound. Maybe the L6 sound design team can't capture enough of the corporate budget, what with their marketing team gobbling up all those internal dollars.

    I have always been disappointed with amp sims aside from my Kemper, but this Helix thread encouraged me to demo some of the latest amp sim packages. So the past few days I put TH3 and Amplitube Max (4) through the paces. I tried TH3 first and was getting along with it ok, despite the wonky interface. Sonically it was good/satisfying, not mind blowing, but right about on the level of my TSE50 (which I only use for practice and jotting down ideas in the DAW) albeit way more versatile.

    Then I tried the latest version of Amplitube... and wow, have they really beefed that application up since I last tested it a few years back (v2 or v3, don't remember which version). I don't recall it sounding anywhere near this good. In fact, I hated back then. I quickly got a tone using the licensed Mesa Mark IV stacked with a Carvin that blew me away... actually the Mesa stacked with pretty much anything else was friggin' awesome. It's literally the first time I thought I could live without my Kemper for studio use. I was shocked.

    I feel like I've been completely jaded by the horrific and useless VST sims that I've invested in over the years (earlier versions of Amplitube, Waves, NI, LePou, other various free stuff, etc.) that I've totally missed out on this awesome piece of software. On top of that, the interface was way easier to use than TH3 embedded in Reaper's VST window on a 13" laptop screen. And I won't even get into Kemper's horrific physical interface and the lack of features in the user interface of it's companion computer SW.

    I want to explore the new Amplitube more, but you only get 3 days to demo. The $500 price tag for Amplitube Max is no small chunk of change, and I still may pull the trigger. I need to take another test drive again before my demo license runs out to make sure I'm not just imagining things.

    Neither Amplitube Max nor Helix are cheap, but at $100 more for Amplitube, I'd easily pay the uptick in price for the better, out-of-the-box tone. I always worry about SW or HW require tinkering to get good sound, because if it doesn't sound good out of the box, I rarely get it dialed in to complete satisfaction after the fact.
     
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  9. steinmetzify

    steinmetzify CHUG & SLUDGE

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    Yo, just so you're aware, you can buy just Amplitube Mesa Boogie. I did it, and for $150 totally worth it.
     
  10. isotropy

    isotropy SS.org Regular

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    To me at this point, the only guitar amp modeling I'd pay for would be an Axe-fx or Kemper. There's so much stuff out there now that is all basically decent and that's it. The Pod HD was overall a disappointment to me. The more I used it the less of a Line 6 fan I became. No matter what the pricepoint or perceived effort of a Line 6 project, they always seem to just not quite get there in terms of quality/wow-factor.

    I'm easily as satisfied (if not moreso) with LePou amps paired with really good IR's (another thing hugely lacking from Line 6 products). I understand these units offer more than just recording tones, e.g. the convenience and portability for live use. But for me, meh.
     
  11. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    For me Amplitube 4 falls into "it's okay category". Even if it has modeling approved by Mesa Boogie. What turns me off in Amplitube is pricing and GUI. Scuffham S-gear has amazing Mark IV model and TH3's Dual Recto is also very authentic, they have quite realistic knob reactions compared to anything else.
     
  12. jsmalleus

    jsmalleus SS.org Regular

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    Haven't tried Native, but if it has the global EQ like the regular helix then a quick notch or two goes a long way in the fizz dept. Usually end up doing the same for fizz/howly mids in a mic'd up amp/cab as well, so I don't really find it to be a deal breaker. There are definitely more plug & play friendly options out there in terms of tones, but if you take 30 seconds to hunt down those frequencies I think some folks might find it closer to what they'd expect from the "EQ baked into the input" options.
     
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  13. mikah912

    mikah912 SS.org Regular

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    There are lots of great options out there, but none are comprehensive or anywhere near perfect.

    Fractal has a great selection, but not great workflow and is missing some modern high gainers I rather enjoy. Also, if you're not paying the full $2400 for the Axe-FX II, you're going to have settle with a lot of limitations on the AX8 like a fixed impedance input, no headphone jack, small display and more.

    Helix has a more limited selection and and doesn't have stock cabs that fit with the popular tastes here, but it is racking up more modern high gain tools like the PRS Archon and Darkglass B7K and is the only real all-in-one (pedal, interface, headphone jack, performance floorboard, reamper, modeling and FX). Kemper has a potentially endless selection of models, but has super limited effects and no computer editor.

    The computer VSTs are no different. I like the high gain amps on one or two, but like workflow of another and effects of another. Just pick what fits your tastes....
     
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  14. KingAenarion

    KingAenarion Resident Studio Nerd

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    Ummm... what?

    Absolutely night and day difference there.
     
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  15. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    Typically if I'm looking for an effected sound, I don't have something specific in mind, I just page around until I find something that works for the song/track. In that context, even though Kemper doesn't have as many effects as Helix, AmpliTube, or TH3, I've never found myself yearning for an effected sound that couldn't be found there. And there's always the ability to add other effects post-tracking if I need to go somewhere the Kemper couldn't take me. But you're right, it's definitely not the Kemper's strength.

    From what I've experienced to date, Line6 seems to be king when it comes to the variety and usability of their FX. I'm sure this is by design, a marketing tool used to awe the average joe who walks into their local Guitar Center, plugs into Helix or HD500X and can immediately get some whacked out alien or pipe organ sounds. You can easily get carried away with this and lose focus on the most important thing.. the tones you will actually be using 95%+ of the time.

    I'm no expert in the technology behind these SW and HW modeling systems (and I may be WAAAAY off base here...) but I believe the reason the Kemper sounds so darn good the Kemper is modeling one single end-to-end sound - amp, cab, mic, outboard pre/comp/EQ channel - all in one shot. Versus all the others who are modeling a bunch of amps, cabs, speakers, mics, mic placements, and outboard gear all separately. Then you mix and match it all to get a guitar tone.... I think this mix-and-match approach leaves a lot of room for the SW designers and the end users to end up with guitar tones that leave a lot to be desired.

    A Kemper model either sounds good or it doesn't - and most sound pretty good, because the people creating these models have typically a single good sounding real-world signal chain before the modeling process begins. With the Kemper it's pretty cut and dried... model sound good? Keep it. Model sound bad? Move on to the next patch. You can't swap out a mic or change the model's speaker placement. What you get is what you get.

    In these non-Kemper products, that the layering of multiple models can compound flaws in amp/cab/speaker/mic/outboard models. A model's frequency signature layered on top of another model's frequency signature can create all types of unwanted amplification of certain frequencies and weird/undesirable phase issues. Also, an amp model may sound like total crap, until you find the right cab/mic/mic placement setup. And that can be a very time-consuming and error-prone process. En route to getting a good sound, the end user may experience audible fatigue just trying to mix and match all the individual components to derive a tone that sounds natural and good.

    So from that perspective, the Kemper is a very different animal from all the other common amp sims on the market today. I think it's approach of not separately modeling every device in the signal chain has helped it generate very authentic tones.
     
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  16. steinmetzify

    steinmetzify CHUG & SLUDGE

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    Just grabbed the demo for TH3 to compare. This is some decent stuff...I'd rate it equal for the Rectos in Amplitube, and the GUI is WAY better.

    Having some fun riffing around on the Randalls and 5150s too.
     
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  17. AkiraSpectrum

    AkiraSpectrum SS.org Regular

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  18. NosralTserrof

    NosralTserrof SS.org Regular

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    Hey man, great shootout, but could you see about using the Ownhammer IR for both Bias and amplitube as well as the helix? I think that'd be a more accurate shootout IMO, being able to compare/contrast with the IR set as a neutralizing point.
     
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  19. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    Great shootout!!! To my ear the AmpliTube is the winner here. It represents that distinctive Boogie growl best of the 3 and is more balanced across the frequency spectrum. This shootout re-confirmed my option from my recent test drive of AmpliTube (which I wrote about upstream in this thread).... that the newest version of AmpliTube really is great sounding piece of software.

    Bias is a distant second for me, not bad, but definitely not as full sounding across the low mids, and forgoes some of the Mesa growl that the AmpliTube has while leaning a little more toward 'fizzy'.

    The Helix was a distant third for me, thin and really fizzy at the top end, especially during solos. There may be some mixes where the Helix sits better overall, for instance in a case where you're not looking for a guitar-forward mix and the guitar occasionally pops through thick layers of non-guitar instrumentation. I'm guessing most people on this forum aren't typically writing/recording music where guitar is taking a back seat to thick layers of orchestration.

    BTW, you can get rid of the white noise by keeping the Custom Shop application (which should have installed with the rest of the package) open while you're demoing the software.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  20. AkiraSpectrum

    AkiraSpectrum SS.org Regular

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    Thanks! Yes, using the same IR would have resulted in a more accurate comparison, but this 'shootout' wasn't meant to be an 'all things the same minus preamp across vst's', it was more about me being able to find something that sounded good without really tweaking anything by using what was available within the VST itself. Because I don't have BIAS AMP PRO (only BIAS FX std edition) I wasn't able to use the IR loader and I don't think Amplitube has a built-in IR loader either.

    If I get some time before my trials (Helix and Amplitube) run out I may look into finding an external IR loader and do a 3-way comparison with all using the same IR.

    Thanks! If I remember correctly I did have Custom Shop open, otherwise the Mesa Boogie Dual Rec would not have worked--so i'm not too sure why I was getting static, unless it had to do with the trial version restriction? *puzzled*

    Yeah, I too was/am blown away by the Amplitube 4 vst, it sounds really good, very authentic 'in the room' sound, in my opinion. In other words, it sounds like I am listening to the amp as if I were standing in front of it. The big problem with Amplitube 4 is that I absolutely despise the UI. I also don't quite understand what I can and can't do with selecting certain amp models and saving presets etc. In addition, I find that I'm not exactly sure how paying for everything works either. Is it possible to run the free version and then just buy some amps and effects? Or do I have to buy the basic version for $150 first?

    A lot of the fizz of the Helix can be dialed out fairly easily with an EQ pedal in the 2-4K range. Although doing this kind of takes away some of the tones 'life' and 'bounce' in my opinion.

    BIAS FX (which I own) is interesting because out of the 3 it is probably the least realistic in terms of gain and OD interaction. Without an OD amp models don't have the gain or 'power' that a real life amp should; in other words, you need an OD or boost or EQ to give you a more realistic sound. The issue--while small--is that I find the OD (the TubeScreamer 808) to be too dramatic, to the point where I have to turn the level and tone down significantly, because even with the gain and tone at 0 and the level at noon it sounds like I'm running the tone and level at 10 on the other VST's. Not a big deal, but just something I've noticed.
     

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