Line6 Helix Native
Line6 Helix Native

Line6 Helix Native. It’s not cheap, but is it worth it?

Today I’m going to walk you through Line6 Helix and everything it has to offer, both to guitarists/bassists and other musicians/producers.

This is a BIG review, and there’s a video review as well.

I cover EVERYTHING (except legacy effects) so hold on to your pants. We’re gonna figure out if a guitar plugin can really be worth $399.99.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I read every comment and respond to most. No registration is necessary to comment, so don’t be shy.

Contents

Video

There’s a video review!

Disclosure

I got a 1 year NFR to review this plugin.

What’s there

Let’s just get this out of the way. Here’s what’s included and some thoughts about each “thing”.

This does not however encompass the usefulness of the software, as nearly all of these sound pretty darn good in the appropriate context.

Guitar Amps

Amps
Amps

This is the GUI for basically all of the amps. Some have more parameters, some have fewer. There’s no fancy graphics here.

So no point taking a picture of every amp.

I have listed EVERY single amp, the amp it’s emulating, and my thoughts about each amp. I’ve also listed whether or not I’ve owned the amp, used the amp thoroughly, or have not used the real amp. I think this will help put my opinions in to context.

I tried each amp with its matched cab, the 1x12 US Deluxe, the 4x12 Greenback 20, the 4x10 Tweed PR and the 2x12 Blue Bell. I choose these cabs because I’m very familiar with them both in real life..

Each amp has some parameters that are REALLY nice to have.

  • Sag - in real amps this refers to how much the power supply voltage drops when there’s big spikes in the signal. Tuning this in real amps is often either not possible without redesigning the amp, or requires some serious hacking. With less sag you get that near solid-state like feel where the response is similar across the dynamic range. With more sag you get that really touchy dynamic feel heard in those smaller tube combos that the blues-boys love.
  • Hum - Real amps can get this really low-level, low-frequency hum (unlike what you hear from a single-coil guitar). This hum from the tube heaters often caused a sort of growly sound due to the increase in level at certain frequencies which will cause the amp to overdrive differently and sooner.
  • Ripple - The input power can sometimes have ripple, which is a modulation of the AC signal (at 50/60hz). Most amps try to filter this out with some big caps, but those caps can go bad or have been insufficient in the initial design. With higher values this also adds to that “vintage” sound, or just make the amp go crazy.
  • Bias - Explaining how this works in normal amps is irrelevant here. This parameter varies the operation from class AB to Class A. This is like a variable “conduction” parameter, or how much of the waveform is used for amplification in the tube or transistor. Class AB (low value) will have a tighter low end and less distortion, Class A will have more distortion, that touchy compressed feel, and have more resonant response at higher notes.
  • Bias X - This seems to be like your traditional guitar bias control. This is how much current is pushing through the power tubes (or transistors??? in some amps). Low settings seem to sound like the low side of optimal bias with a very tight, lower distortion feel. High values push the amp early. Adjusting this value often means re-adjusting the master (power amp) control since it will greatly affect how the output section reacts to dynamics.

WhoWatt 100

Real Amp - Hiwatt® DR-103 Brill

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“Who Watt” indeed.

I am not a fan of the mid/late 60s, early 70s guitar sounds. Thus I don’t have much experience with this amp in real-life.

I am however a fan of this amp. If you want that stadium rock sound, it really, really nails it. I also found that it does that chiming slightly-distorted reggae sound very nicely.

Soup Pro

Real Amp - Supro® S6616

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We have one of the biggest Supro experts here in town. I’ve played dozens of Supros because of it.

I. Don’t. Like. Supros. To any fans out there of them, I’m sorry. I love Led Zeppelin, but playing the amp feels strange to me.

Helix nails it. It has that somewhat thin distortion and the clean is almost solid-state like. I personally liked it more through the blue bell 2x12, to make it sound a bit brighter and almost AC15 like in its spectral profile, but with that supro clean and weird distortion.

Stone Age 185

Real Amp - Gibson® EH-185

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It’s the gibson box. Iconic little amp that for many people is the guitar amp. It has that blooming distortion when you pop a pinch-harmonic, just right.

To get the feel for this one, I had to crank up the distance and early reflections on the cab, and crank the Sag and Bias X parameters for it to feel right to me.

I can’t say that it’s a perfect emulation, but it does get the general feel right. I did feel like I spent a bit too much time tweaking it to sound like my EH-185 that I used to own (and sold because, man, way too expensive for what it is), but I haven’t heard any other amp sim get this close to it. Most EH-185s will sound pretty different anyway, so this tweakability is appreciated.

Voltage Queen

Real Amp - Victoria Vintage Queen

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I know nothing about this amp. I couldn’t even manage to google anything reasonable about it. I THINK it’s supposed to be an electro-king, which I have played. The manual says otherwise.

It gets really dirty. Vintage dirty. Like the old “broken speaker, broken amp” style dirty. Super fun.

It never quite gets clean.

Throwing on the 4x12 Greenback and cranking up the 2 channels can get you a nice tight modern sound. Turn down the sag, turn down hum/ripple and scoop out the mids with an EQ after. Pretty surprising actually, because none of these other small amp emulations can really do that this well.

Tweed Blues Nrm

Real Amp - Fender® Bassman® (normal channel)

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MY FAVORITE AMPLIFIER OF ALL TIME. If an amp sim can’t get to this sound, then I simply will not buy it. Period. No questions asked.

Helix is damn close. I still prefer another company’s emulation for a quick ultra-accurate sound, but Helix allows me to get to some extremes of maintenance that I can’t get with anything else.

I do have to crank the Bias parameter up fully to sound right (to me) otherwise there’s this subtle always distorted ghosting that pops in that I’ve only heard on really poorly setup Bassmans.

The control ranges feel a bit off to me too. The sound I’m used to from “all 5s” isn’t what you get on the Helix. I end up with the controls all over the place to get close to what my bassman sounds like.

I do prefer the Bright Model personally, but I wish this was switchable in the amp itself.

Tweed Blues Brt

Real Amp - Fender® Bassman® (bright channel)

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See the previous review.

US Small Tweed

Real Amp - Fender® Champ®

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Ahh, the Fender Champ. This is the amp I grew up learning on. I played electric bass through my champ. I played guitar though my champ. I sang through my champ. I champed through my champ.

Something about the low end of the champ model seems off to me, and it feels like it distorts too early with the given settings. I can get the sound I know, but I end up with the drive/ch/master lower than I’d expect for a similar sound.

On the other hand though, I can overdrive this more than I can get out of a real champ.

US Deluxe Nrm

Real Amp - Fender® Deluxe Reverb® (normal channel)

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My only complaint about this amp is that it sounds “larger” than it sound. The low end is a bit big and the distortion is more harmonically complex than my real amp here is.

To get the feel of the real amp I have to tinker with the sag (push it down) and use lower drive ranges.

US Deluxe Vib

Real Amp - Fender® Deluxe Reverb® (vibrato channel)

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Same as above except the vibrato channel is a bit fast and feels ‘sharper’ then the real thing.

I think that this is a pleasant improvement though.

US Double Nrm

Real Amp - Fender® Twin Reverb® (normal channel)

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This was my first upgrade from the champ. (I love fender amps, can you tell?).

And I have to say, unfortunately, this sounds wrong to me. The original Fender Twin has a huge low end when thrown in a room with default settings. It sounds kinda thumpy with a really crisp saturation.

This doesn’t sound like that. It sounds like a brand new fender twin with the bass knob cranked down and some other amp’s power section. I’ve heard some of the newer fender twins that sound like this and I dislike it. Maybe they are going for that sound. It’s not for me.

US Double Vib

Real Amp - Fender® Twin Reverb® (vibrato channel)

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See above. Same issues.

Mail Order Twin

Real Amp - Silvertone® 1484

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I had a silvertone 1484 for a while. I didn’t like how dirty it was at “playing volumes”.

THIS has the sound. It has that twang, the blooming low end, that strangely delicate distortion. Hot damn. It’s right.

The main order twin really sounds best with the cab distance and early reflections up. You also won’t get the feeling right on headphones, you need to turn on some speakers and crank it.

I’m quite happy with this amp. It makes me feel alright with selling my silvertone, and I didn’t feel alright with that decision for a long time now.

Divided Duo

Real Amp - ÷13 JRT 9/15

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I’ve never used this amp, nor even seen it in person.

The Line6 model has a very modern alt-rock sound. That washy distortion, a lot of presence (even with the slider to 0). Sparkly sort of think you’d hear on Matchbox 20 or Third-Eye Blind records.

Interstate Zed

Real Amp - Dr Z® Route 66

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The real Route 66 has a very smooth sound. The type of sound you could use on a jazz record, but still a distorted tone. The Line6 model is a bit more harsh than that, but when you switch to a more mellow cabinet and mic (like the 430 Ribbon) then it relaxes a bit.

I can’t say that I feel like this one nails the authentic tone, but it does offer a nice tight crunchy sound that works excellent for complex leads.

Derailed Ingrid

Real Amp - Trainwreck® Circuits Express

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Never seen or touched this amp in real life. I feel like this saturates far too quickly for my liking. With the drive way up it gets very deep and low-end heavy.

I’m not sure how the real amp reacts, but if this is accurate then I can’t say that I would want to use this in a mix ever. If it’s not accurate, then I wouldn’t use it in a mix either.

Jazz Rivet 120

Real Amp - Roland® JC-120 Jazz Chorus

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The low gain sounds feel right. When you crank the input and master though, it doesn’t sound correct to me. This model has almost a tubey sound, when the real amp has a harsh breakup when you overdrive it hard.

That said, I far prefer the sound of the model at high gain. The real amp sounds horrifying when you overdrive it. That crispy “broken hi-fi” sound isn’t here. If you Like that sound then you may be disappointed. If you want a JC-120 sound that you can get a bit more oomph out of, then this is really cool.

Essex A15

Real Amp - Vox® AC-15

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Oh my. Oh my.

They did it! No other amp sim gets this baby right, OR the AC-30. They all break up too soon or they are missing that high-mid range bump that happens when it’s overdriven.

The Helix gets it. This is another model that needs the cabinet distance turned up to feel like an authentic micing of the amp, but it’s there. It sounds like the amp, in a room, with a mic in front of it, and you’re listening to the recording.

Essex A30

Real Amp - Vox® AC-30 with top boost

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They nailed this one too. The only issue I have with it is that the drive control feels too short, and the presence isn’t as strong when cranked as I’d expect.

A30 Fawn Nrm

Real Amp - Vox® AC-30 Fawn (normal channel)

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I’ve not used the AC-30/66s before, but this has more low-mid range and a fuzzier distortion.

I tried some Beatles licks with it, and it gets pretty close. I don’t think I’m the one to review this amp though.

A30 Fawn Brt

Real Amp - Vox® AC-30 Fawn (bright channel)

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See Above

Matchstick Ch1

Real Amp - Matchless® DC30 (channel 1)

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In my view this is basically the modern classic rock guitar amp. Line6 got damn close to it.

My only complaint with this is that the drive slider seems too sensitive. I have to set it much lower than I would with the real amp. Despite this I can get the sounds I’d expect out of a real DC30 without too much effort.

Matchstick Ch2

Real Amp - Matchless® DC30 (channel 2)

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Once again, the modern classic. This is the distortion channel, and I still dislike that it’s in a separate amp profile, but it sounds close to correct.

With everything cranked it doesn’t sound too deep, and you can get some authentic feedback sounds out of it.

Matchstick Jump

Real Amp - Matchless® DC30 (jumped)

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I’ve not jumped a DC30 in person, but it does have that complex low-end distortion that I would expect and a very complex sound.

I suspect this is only particularly useful for leads and things higher on the fretboard, but it’s cool that it’s included.

Mandarin 80

Real Amp - Orange® OR80

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I’ve not used an orange OR80 myself, but I’ve been in the presence of one being used a number of times. The amp does have that mid-scooped late 70s, early 80s rock sound and they included the FAC control. The FAC control basically moves around a mid sweep that lets you go from ear-bleed leads to a more reasonable classic rock sound.

Seems alright.

Brit J45 Nrm

Real Amp - Marshall® JTM-45 (normal channel)

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The JTM-45 in Helix sounds a bit flat to me for some reason. The real amps have a bit more dynamic range in the saturation with the gain turned down a bit, but the Helix models overdrive more aggressively.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily, since most people wanna crank these guys.

Brit J45 Brt

Real Amp - Marshall® JTM-45 (bright channel)

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See Above

Brit Trem Nrm

Real Amp - Marshall® JTM-50 (normal channel)

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It’s not perfect, but it’s closer than what I’ve heard elsewhere. The saturation is just a bit too fizzy. Some of that fizzy top end that amp sims became famous for in the late 90s has somehow crept in here.

With a real JTM-50 you do get some fizz, but it’s only present when you REALLY crank the amp. Here it’s always there a bit.

Brit Trem Brt

Real Amp - Marshall® JTM-50 (bright channel)

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See Above

Brit Trem Jump

Real Amp - Marshall® JTM-50 (jumped)

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Jumped JTM-50s were all the rage for a long time. Nobody played there jtm-50 any other way, assuming you were lucky enough to have one.

The complexity of the sound is here, and I can’t speak to the authenticity fully since I haven’t played with this myself, but it sounds really good. I did find I needed to crank the bass down to get a usable sound, but that’s often what you expect from a jumped configuration.

Brit Plexi Nrm

Real Amp - Marshall® Super Lead 100 (normal channel)

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Ah. The nemesis of the Hiwatt DR-103, but the winner of the battle. This is the original Marshall amp that created a name.

If you play hard, it gets it right. If you play delicately in to it then it feels like it’s missing that low midrange that the original plexis all had. I managed to get close to that by turning up the bias and turning down the sag a tiny bit.

A lot of amp sims get this pretty close, and Helix isn’t too far off either. My complaint here is that the controls don’t match the real amp at all. If you ignore that, then you can get a great plexi sound.

Brit Plexi Brt

Real Amp - Marshall® Super Lead 100 (bright channel)

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See above

Brit Plexi Jump

Real Amp - Marshall® Super Lead 100 (jumped)

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The jumped plexi sounds perfect. It’s the LEAD MACHINE. Nailed it.

Brit P75 Nrm

Real Amp - Park® 75 (normal channel)

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I’ve not used this amp before. It sounds very similar to the Plexi but with more crunch. I really like this amp model. I think that this would be my “first go” if I needed a basic rock sound. It’s right there in the middle of what I’d want most of the time.

Brit P75 Brt

Real Amp - Park® 75 (bright channel)

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See Above

Brit 2204

Real Amp - Marshall® JCM-800

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I’ve had this amp in my studio SO MANY TIMES. It’s the hair-metal king before the culture started to branch out to various other amplifiers. If you want that really tight, upper-mid scooped sound. The Helix has it nearly perfect with this model. If you want a better model of this amp, you’ll be paying $129 for just that.

This is another amp that nearly every modern amp sim nails.

Helix gets close enough for most people I think.

Placater Clean

Real Amp - Friedman BE-100 (clean channel)

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This is maybe my favorite really clean amp. It just makes your guitar sound like a guitar.

Helix’s BE-100 sounds just like the original, except lacking some of that low-end chest-hitting thump you get from the low-e (or b) on a real amp. Even cranking my studio monitors I couldn’t get it.

In a mix I think it’s a fantastic model.

Placater Dirty

Real Amp - Friedman BE-100 (BE/HBE channel)

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I remember the first time I saw one of these in person. I was in awe. It looked so nice. It was a work of art. Clean lines. The cabinet was beautifully finished. The knobs felt firm. The switches clicked authoritatively.

The distortion… disappointed me.

It sounds close to a Plexi, but it’s not as tight sounding. That can be a great asset for big rock mixes, but for more intricate arrangements (which is what I was doing at the time) it’s not ideal.

Helix sounds pretty close. The real BE-100’s distortion has a shiny kinda hi-fi sound to it that the Helix is lacking, and I think that might disappoint some fans of the original amp. If you’ve never used the real amp then I don’t think you’d notice.

Cartographer

Real Amp - Ben Adrian Cartographer

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Never used this amp. Never seen it. Never heard of it.

I wish I did though! The Helix model is a fantastic sounding hard rock distortion with 2 bright switches. I wish I could get more bass out of it and cut the mids more, but that’s what post-EQ is for.

I think that many people trying out Helix that want a metal or hard-rock sound will totally glance over this and go straight for the Mesas. If you do that then you’ll be sorely missing out.

German Mahadeva

Real Amp - Bogner® Shiva

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The shiva is basically the in-between in the world of hard-rock to metal. It has a thick and harmonically complex sound that works great in guitar-driven rock, but often is too much for the newer genres of complex metal.

The Helix model captures that feel quite well.

The really strange thing here is that the “Amp+Cab” setting sticks you with a 1x12 Lead 80. It sounds TERRIBLE with that cab. Switching to any of the 4x12s sounds much better. I nearly wrote a review about how appalling this sounded until I threw on the 4x12 greenback20s.

I wish this came with both channels of the actual amp. There’s some nice clean tones to be had.

The treble control seems a bit anemic in this amp as well. I expect the shiva to become very bright, but the model doesn’t become as ear-piercing as the real amp can.

German Ubersonic

Real Amp - Bogner® Überschall®

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Yeah. Here we go. Some high gain crazy fun.

Amp sims have struggled to nail high gain sounds for years. The Überschall is one of the kings of the high-gain world.

THEY GOT IT RIGHT! Thank goodness. NOBODY ELSE gets this amp right. Most other amp sims don’t even try, and I suspect that’s because the Überschall can become so intensely distorted that it will alias like crazy and sound ultra-fizzy.

However Line6 did it, they did it. I can actually use this one.

CALI Texas Ch1

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Lone Star (clean channel)

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I’ve had a lot of Mesa’s around, but I’ve not used a Lonestar. The clean channel sounds a bit hollow, but it’s alright. I can’t imagine using this in a mix personally.

Cali Texas Ch2

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Lone Star (drive channel)

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The dirty channel has that fizz. That “digital fizz”. Maybe the real amp has that too? I just know that I’m not a fan of the high end on this model no matter how much I try.

Cali IV Rhythm 1

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Mark IV (channel I)

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Everyone around me loves the Mark IV. The clean channel sounds close to the real thing, but like some other amps in the Helix it’s missing low end.

However, they did include the graphical EQ which is a huge part of the sound. I was able to adjust that, and the knob tone controls to get familiar sounds, at the cost of not matching the real amp’s controls.

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Mark IV (channel II)

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Most folks call this the “Crunch” channel. It’s a great mesa-like sound, but it’s not quite the sound. There’s something about the low end when the distortion fades away that feels wrong to me. On the real amp you can palm-mute and start dreaming about firing your bassist, but with the model that compressed lowend just doesn’t seem to be there.

I think a couple other guitar amp sims handle the crunch channel better, but I also think the Mark IV is a bit of a meme at this point. I never grab this thing when I’m working on mixes, not even better models.

Cali IV Lead

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Mark IV (lead channel)

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The ubiquitous ultra-overused MESA lead channel.

I found that this was much closer to life than Channel II, however with a low B string it did not feel as tight as the real amp does. With the real amp and low-tunings, it has this almost gated sound, like the amp is struggling after you bash it with 61.7hz of beef. The Helix model doesn’t do that.

I can get close if I turn the sag all the way down, and the bias all the way down. Adding a gate helps too, but the real deal doesn’t need that treatment.

Then again, I think it’s a waste of time fiddling with this amp on ANY amp simulator. You can do better.

Cali Rectifire

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® Dual Rectifier®

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The Cali Rectifire feels right to me. It’s tight. It’s crunchy. It’s a dual rectifier sound.

I can think of one amp modeller that is slightly better, but in the context of all that you get with Helix, it’s simply not a fair comparison.

The Helix model is also more configurable, which I think is a huge benefit if the tradeoff is authenticity. This amp gets used in ultra-dense mixes, and I like to have the Sag and Bias and Bias X controls to guide me through those turbulent sonic landscapes.

Close enough is great for me here, and despite the lack of authenticity, I think this is the better model.

Archetype Clean

Real Amp - Paul Reed Smith® Archon® (clean channel)

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Never used, seen or heard of this amp.

It has a really nice deep, chest rattling feel with light harmonic additions. This isn’t the first amp that Helix has introduced me to that I liked. I suspect that I would grab this for rock clean sounds over anything else first.

Hard hitting.

Archetype Lead

Real Amp - Paul Reed Smith® Archon® (lead channel)

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Haven’t used it. Haven’t seen it. Haven’t heard it.

But when I say that I think there’s better amps than the Mark IV, this is the sound I’m talking about. It’s tighter. It’s more aggressive. It has more low end punch. It’s a better sound.

I hope this amp is authentic, because I want to go out and buy one RIGHT NOW.

ANGL Meteor

Real Amp - ENGL® Fireball 100

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This has the high-gain sound. The modelling is fantastic. That low-midrange bump is there. The sound in a mix is better than the MESA models. Life is good.

I wish that they had the clean channel, but this model is great. I think that this is one of the “Killer Amps” in Helix if you’re in to high-gain.

Solo Lead Clean

Real Amp - Soldano SLO-100 (clean channel)

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Nailed it.

That’s all I have to say: Nailed it.

Solo Lead Crunch

Real Amp - Soldano SLO-100 (crunch channel)

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Nailed it again.

I think this is one of the most authentic amps in Helix.

Solo Lead OD

Real Amp - Soldano SLO-100 (overdrive channel)

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Slightly less nailed it. I can hear some unnatural fizz and inharmonic content in the sound, but the feel of the amp is right.

It’s criminal that so many “kids these days” that like high-gain sounds don’t try out this amp. It’s a monster for leads and chugga-chugga.

PV Panama

Real Amp - Peavey® 5150®

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Every amp modeller has a 5150. They have to. It’s THE METAL AMP BY WHICH ALL OTHERS ARE JUDGED.

It’s a tiny bit fizzy, but it’s no worse than other amp simulators I’ve heard.

The “PV Panama” can sound a bit thin, but the resonance control(like the real amp) and the hum/ripple controls can bring you sonic devastation. Ample use of them lets you scroll through the decades, from the blistering EVH leads of the mid-80s to the brain pounding heavy metal of the 10’s.

The mid control feels off to me, but I haven’t seen an amp sim yet that feels right with that.

It’s good on its own. It’s great in a mix.

Line 6 Elektrik

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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Hmm. Not a fan. The distortion is shrill. The low end is missing. The mids are overpowering. I can see how this mind be powerful in a mix, but I didn’t get the opportunity to do so.

Line 6 Doom

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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Deep grinding distortion. Very deep. This is not the type of sound I often use because it’s very difficult to mix with, but it’s an interesting take on the grindcore AND shred sounds.

I’m curious to try this out when I get an opportunity in a real project.

Line 6 Epic

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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The Epic sounds awfully close to the Soldano SLO-100 except with a high-mid range cut and brighter distortion.

Epic gives you that type of sound that isn’t particularly satisfying when playing solo, but in a mix it’s what’s necessary to get a solo to standout, but not overpower the mix.

I think this is a wonderful addition to the amp selection.

Line 6 2204 Mod

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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A plexi mod that gives the JCM-800 more gain and more low end. You can achieve a more modern sound with this if you’re looking to integrate it in to a mix that focuses on having beefy lows and more gain.

A cool addition again.

Line 6 Fatality

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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This sounds like a triple/quad/quint MESA rectifier sorta? I’m not sure exactly what it is, but that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Fatality is tighter than the other MESA simulations and has a more present midrange. Like Epic and the 2204 mod, this is something that isn’t satisfying to play by yourself, but once it’s in a mix it makes sense.

I know some people will be upset that Helix doesn’t have a triple rectifier (yet?), but this comes close to making up for it. I think if you audition this in a dense mix, then you’ll stop caring about any of the MESA simulations regardless.

Line 6 Litigator

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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SO SMOOTH. Hot molly of arkansas, this is a smooth sounding amp…. except it’s crunchy. It only does crunch, but the smoothest crunch you’ve ever heard.

You know when you go to the guitar store, and there’s lawyers and doctors on their lunchbreak playing the $5,000+ amps in the corner? They sound awful, but somehow the amp draws you in with it’s pleasant saturation curve and modest low end.

That’s this. It sounds just like that. A really expensive amp that you think you’ll never buy, ‘cause who spends that much on amplifiers?

Just plug in, play a note and listen to the crunchy distortion pop in, then fade away. I’m in love. It’s so fun to play.

This stupid amp made this review take a few extra hours longer.

Line 6 Badonk

Real Amp - Line 6 Original

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This amp makes my sub do some work, and it sounds fantastic “out of the box”.

I’m surprised I like all of these “Line 6” amps so much. I do wish they had more of a clean selection, but I’m surprisingly happy with just the non-modelled amps.

Bass Amps

Tuck n’ Go

Real Amp - Ampeg® B-15NF Portaflex®

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I had one of these by my bed for a little while.

The real amp has a lot more low end than the model seems to, and saturating the real amp isn’t nearly as easy. The saturation in the amp model feels more compressed.

Despite having played 100s of hours on this amp in real life, I can hardly recognize the model.

SV Beast Nrm

Real Amp - Ampeg® SVT® (normal channel)

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Quite possibly the bass amp. It sounds close-ish. I can’t get that clanging high-end on bright roundwound strings like I can with a real SVT. The low end feels right. The overdrive feels right.

I played an SVT through high-school and into college, and sadly the SV Beast Nrm/Brt don’t bring back memories. It is a nice sounding amp, but nobody in the software world seems to have got this right yet.

SV Beast Brt

Real Amp - Ampeg® SVT® (bright channel)

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See Above

Woody Blue

Real Amp - Acoustic® 360

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I went through a phase where I thought that if I could score an Acoustic 360 at a pawn shop, I’d be the bass-god. I did that. It didn’t work. I did make money off reselling it though. (I still loved Jaco anyway. I still wanna be Jaco.)

This amp model is awesome, and it makes me feel like a bass-god. Exceptionally punchy, great low-end extension and the variamp control works surprisingly well.

This might just be worth the full price of Helix itself, at least for me.

Agua 51

Real Amp - Aguilar® DB51

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The DB51 makes your bass sound like… your bass. It’s clean and it’s true to what you plug it in.

Helix’s model does the same thing, but I couldn’t stand the db51 when I had it (and hated what I spent on it), so commenting on the Helix model might be too harsh.

Cali Bass

Real Amp - MESA/Boogie® M9 Carbine

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I’ve never played one of these, but after trying the Helix model I’m not sure I want to. It feels thin and buzzy.

Cali 400 Ch1 Bass MESA/Boogie®

Real Amp - 400+ (channel 1)

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Deep, but this is a REALLY LOUD AMP in person. The Helix model doesn’t convey that very well.

The general sound is there, but that feeling of speakers reaching their limit and the air in the room turning in to a sonic-gel isn’t there. That’s a big part of this amp’s sound. I don’t think that any modellers get this right though.

Cali 400 Ch2 Bass MESA/Boogie®

Real Amp - 400+ (channel 2)

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More gain. Channel 2 sounds quite a lot like the 400+ in the real world, more so than channel 1.

Excellent for metal and hard rock mixes, but I would still want to mix in a DI with it similar to how I’d operate with a normal amp.

G Cougar 800

Real Amp - Gallien-Krueger® GK 800RB

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Doesn’t every bassist eventually buy or nearly buy an 800RB at some point?

It’s not a particularly fancy or special sounding amp, and the Helix gets rather close to the sound of it. It’s that common round bass tone that’s ultra-common on records for the last 40 years. Excellent model.

Del Sol 300

Real Amp - Sunn® Coliseum 300

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This is another classic bass amp. I didn’t technically own one, but I did get to borrow one for a long time.

When it gets up there in volume, it has this almost guitar-amp like distortion. The model doesn’t capture that very well, even when I use input levels that are higher than they ought to be.

The lower gain sounds are similar, and the graphical EQ is included.

I dislike that the matched cab is the 1x18 Del Sol, because this sounds way better with the 8x10 SV Beast. I know it’s not the “matching cabinet”, but almost everyone plays the Sunn 300 with a 4x10 on top of a 1x18, or with an 8x10. The plain 1x18 sound just doesn’t feel right, even in person.

Busy One Ch1

Real Amp - Pearce BC-1 preamp (channel 1)

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I’ve not used this amp, or heard of it.

It sounds rather strange to me, and Ch1 is the distorted channel instead of Ch2. It sounds like there’s a bass signal, then a fuzz pedal running parallel to it. The dynamic interaction doesn’t feel right and the fuzziness doesn’t seem appropriate.

If this is how the real amp sounds, no thank you.

Busy One Ch2

Real Amp - Pearce BC-1 preamp (channel 2)

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Ch2 feels better. The saturation seems more responsive, and it’s cleaner (which isn’t always appropriate of course). I could use this in a mix I think.

Busy One Jump

Real Amp - Pearce BC-1 preamp (jumped)

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Ch1 and Ch2 combined. It sounds like you get the worst of each channel :(

Cabinets

Close and Far
Close and Far

I’m not going to review the cabinets. I am going to list them and if there’s any particular notes about a cabinet, I’ll add that.

The cabinets have some extra controls which I like.

  • Microphone Selection
  • Distance - Adds a feeling of distance to the cab. I did some measurements above and you can see that “far” (more distance) starts to cut off the lows, adds a big dip around 1k. This indicates to me some comb filtering and a gentle low shelf rolloff. All of the amps have very similar characteristics when adjusting the distance. I think this is a VERY important parameter to use. When auditioning sounds, turning up the distance gives it a natural feel like playing an amp in a room. When mixing, turn it back down.
  • Low Cut - A low cut.
  • High Cut - A high cut.
  • Early Reflections - Very quick delays (often the first stage of reverbs) that add realism to the sound.
  • Level - The output level.

These controls are all useful, but compared to some other products they are lacking. It would be nice to have more complex mic positioning and cabinet resonance modelling. That said, the cabinets included sound decent.

  • Soup Pro Ellipse - Real Amp 1 x 6x9” Supro® S6616
  • 1x8 Small Tweed - Real Amp 1x8” Fender® Champ
  • 1x12 Field Coil - Real Amp 1x12” Gibson® EH185
  • 1x12 US Deluxe - Real Amp 1x12” Fender® Deluxe Oxford
  • 1x12 Celest 12H - Real Amp 1x12” ÷13 JRT 9/15 G12 H30
  • 1x12 Blue Bell - Real Amp 1x12” Vox® AC-15 Blue
  • 1x12 Lead 80 - Real Amp 1x12” Bogner® Shiva CL80
  • 1x12 Cali IV - Real Amp 1x12” MESA/Boogie® Mk IV
  • 1x12 Cali Ext - Real Amp 1x12” MESA/Boogie® EVM12L
  • 2x12 Double C12N - Real Amp 2x12” Fender® Twin C12N
  • 2x12 Mail C12Q - Real Amp 2x12” Silvertone® 1484
  • 2x12 Interstate - Real Amp 2x12” Dr Z® Z Best V30
  • 2x12 Jazz Rivet - Real Amp 2x12” Roland® JC-120
  • 2x12 Silver Bell - Real Amp 2x12” Vox® AC-30TB Silver
  • 2x12 Blue Bell - Real Amp 2x12” Vox® AC-30 Fawn Blue
  • 2x12 Match H30 - Real Amp 1x12” Matchless® DC-30 G12H30
  • 2x12 Match G25 - Real Amp 1x12” Matchless® DC-30 Greenback 25
  • 4x10 Tweed P10R - Real Amp 4x10” Fender® Bassman® P10R
  • 4x12 WhoWatt 100 - Real Amp 4x12” Hiwatt® AP Fane®
  • 4x12 Mandarin EM - Real Amp 4x12” Orange® Eminence
  • 4x12 Greenback25 - Real Amp 4x12” Marshall® Basketweave G12 M25
  • 4x12 Greenback20 - Real Amp 4x12” Marshall® Basketweave G12 M20
  • 4x12 Blackback30 - Real Amp 4x12” Park® 75 G12 H30
  • 4x12 1960 T75 - Real Amp 4x12” Marshall® 1960 AT75
  • 4x12 Uber V30 - Real Amp 4x12” Bogner® Uberkab V30
  • 4x12 Uber T75 - Real Amp 4x12” Bogner® Uberkab T75
  • 4x12 Cali V30 - Real Amp 4x12” MESA/Boogie® 4FB V30
  • 4x12 XXL V30 - Real Amp 4x12” ENGL® XXL V30
  • 4x12 SoloLead EM - Real Amp 4x12” Soldano
  • 1x12 Del Sol - Real Amp 1x12” Sunn® Coliseum
  • 1x15 Tuck n’ Go - Real Amp 1x15” Ampeg® B-15
  • 1x18 Del Sol - Real Amp 1x18” Sunn® Coliseum
  • 1x18 Woody Blue - Real Amp 1x18” Acoustic® 360
  • 2x15 Brute - Real Amp 2x15” MESA/Boogie® 2x15 EV
  • 4x10 Rhino - Real Amp 4x10” Ampeg® SVT® 410HLF
  • 6x10 Cali Power - Real Amp 6x10” MESA/Boogie® Power House
  • 8x10 SV Beast - Real Amp 8x10” Ampeg® SVT®

Microphones

There is a microphone selection, but there’s no microphone positioning.

These are static in combination with the distance parameter.

  • 57 Dynamic - Real Mic - Shure® SM57
  • 409 Dynamic - Real Mic - Sennheiser® MD 409
  • 421 Dynamic - Real Mic - Sennheiser® MD 421-U
  • 30 Dynamic - Real Mic - Heil Sound® PR 30
  • 20 Dynamic - Real Mic - Electro-Voice® RE20
  • 121 Ribbon - Real Mic - Royer® R-121 - I found that this was almost universally the most neutral mic to use. Unsurprisingly, that’s pretty much the real world situation too.
  • 160 Ribbon - Real Mic - Beyerdynamic® M 160
  • 4038 Ribbon - Real Mic - Coles 4038
  • 414 Cond - Real Mic - AKG® C414 TLII
  • 84 Cond - Real Mic - Neumann® KM84
  • 67 Cond - Real Mic - Neumann® U67 - See the U87 below
  • 87 Cond - Real Mic - Neumann® U87 - I have no doubt they used a real U87, however I expected this to sound like it was positioned further back at the lowest distance setting. Almost nobody throws a U87 right at the speaker cone, yet it sounds just like that.
  • 47 Cond - Real Mic - Neumann® U47 - Same as the U87
  • 112 Dynamic - Real Mic - AKG® D112
  • 12 Dynamic - Real Mic - AKG® D12
  • 7 Dynamic - Real Mic - Shure® SM7

Effects

There’s a ton of effects here, and I’m a pedal hound. I own A LOT of pedals. They litter my floors, there’s a line of them in front of my tv, I have suitcases of them.

So I’m going to do a mini-review of every pedal.

I’ve tested these with the Main Order Twin and 4x10 Tweed PR because that’s the combo that sounds like my main amplifier. I also switched out to the Solo Lead Clean and Solo Lead Crunch on some of the distortion/overdrives just to hear it in a high-gain context.

I’ve once again labeled the pedals that I’ve owned, used or not experienced.

Distortion

Kinky Boost

Real Pedal - Xotic® EP Booster

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I’ve never used this guy, but it was the first pedal in the list and I’m quite surprised to hear that a booster pedal works how I’d expect it. Some other all-in-one amp sims have boosters, but they just add some crunch instead of making the amp’s input stage sound overdriven.

It’s a pretty simple pedal, it doesn’t do much other than the amp sound more like the amp, but overdriven.

Deranged Master

Real Pedal - Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster

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This is the best Rangemaster I’ve heard in an integrated system. It brings out the bright input crunch of whatever you stick it in front. Just for kicks I tried it with Doom and it brought it to life. That’s something you can’t do with a real amp (since Doom isn’t one).

Minotaur

Real Pedal - Klon® Centaur

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Yes, I bought a centaur. Yes, I’m stupid. It wasn’t nearly as awesome as people made it out to be (but it IS a great pedal). It’s full bodied, it’s true, it’s a tone that works when the guitarist is the forefront of the band.

Helix gets darn close to it, and the whole Helix package costs less than a Centaur.

Teemah!

Real Pedal - Paul Cochrane Timmy® Overdrive

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One of my favorite overdrives due to how flexible it is. You can get dark sounds, bright sounds, crunch and fuzz. Yet it never totally masks the sound of the guitar somehow, like some other pedals can (which is a necessary sound sometimes)

The helix pedal sounds fantastic.

Compulsive Drive

Real Pedal - Fulltone® OCD

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I hate the OCD.

I also can’t stand the Helix Compulsive Drive.

That’s good right?

Valve Driver

Real Pedal - Chandler Tube Driver

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I’ve never used this pedal despite some high praise.

It’s a really crunchy sound. It’s not the type of sound I like at all, so I shall remain quiet on this.

Top Secret OD

Real Pedal - DOD® OD-250

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This pedal is really compressed sounding, and the Helix nails it. It works fantastic for those growly 70s style guitars or modern stoner rock.

Scream 808

Real Pedal - Ibanez® TS808 Tube Screamer®

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Hmm. It’s close. The gain parameter just seems wrong. At 50% it sounds nothing like the ts808 I have right here. I A/B’d it with a similar input level in to the guitar (I checked the Helix output without an amp to measure this). The real ts808 broke up quicker and was brighter.

Hedgehog D9

Real Pedal - MAXON® SD9 Sonic Distortion

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Sounds about right. It’s a distorted mess of sound that works amazing for that nu-metal wash of guitars sound or any heavily-produced hard rock sounds.

Stupor OD

Real Pedal - BOSS® SD-1 Overdrive

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This pedal does not scale right to me at all. I also checked it against a real SD-1 and the real pedal was more distorted and brighter with the tone knob cranked less.

I was able to match the sound pretty closely, but the Helix model ended up with a higher tone and drive parameter. The real pedal could get brighter and more overdriven in comparison

Deez One Vintage

Real Pedal - BOSS® DS-1 Distortion (Made-in-Japan)

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Nailed it.

Deez One Mod

Real Pedal - BOSS® DS-1 Distortion (Keeley modded)

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Nailed it… almost. My keeley modded DS-1 sounds a bit brighter though.

Vermin Dist

Real Pedal - Pro Co RAT

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I don’t like the RAT on guitar at all. It was popular in the 80s and that grew on me like a slimey moss.

So I tried this pedal on what I use it on: Drum Room Mics.

It sounds better than the original. Less noise and better transient response. A++ would smash again.

KWB

Real Pedal - Benadrian Kowloon Walled Bunny Distortion

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I have no clue what this pedal is. I’ve seen it on TGP in the market, but I’ve never tried one.

It’s a strange, ultra-modifiable pedal. You get 2 rectifying diodes with an asymmetry control. I don’t even care if this is authentic. It’s useful and a great addition.

Arbitrator Fuzz

Real Pedal - Arbiter® FuzzFace®

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The Fuzz Face doesn’t sound this compressed in the box I can hold in my hands. The Helix model sounds too stuffy for me.

Triangle Fuzz

Real Pedal - Electro-Harmonix® Big Muff Pi®

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Nailed it.

Industrial Fuzz

Real Pedal - Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

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This unwieldy beast goes crazy if you’re not careful. The Helix model isn’t perfect, but it captured the essence of the Z.Vex Fuzz Factory perfectly. Well done.

Tycoctavia Fuzz

Real Pedal - Tycobrahe® Octavia

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I remember hearing this pedal for the first time and wanting to shove toothpicks in my ears to drown out the sound. It was AWESOME! Bright, hardcore fuzz and no concern for maintaining the tone of your guitar in any way.

Helix gets close to capturing that feeling, and I wish more amp sims came with awesome pedals like this.

Thrifter Fuzz

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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It’s a fuzz face, but more dynamic and a bit brighter. I would say that this is more useful than the included Fuzz Face for 95% of what most people will want to do with it. It will simply fit better in a mix.

Wringer Fuzz

Real Pedal - Garbage’s modded BOSS® FZ-2

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2 very different modes in this pedal. One is that Fuzz Face stuffy type sound, and one is an ultra-mid-scooped sounding fuzz. I’ve never used an FZ-2 or a modded one for that matter. I’d be curious to hear someone do somethign interesting with either of these sounds that wasn’t a lead.

Megaphone

Real Pedal - Megaphone

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Not a pedal. A megaphone. For that stereotypical “megaphone intro”. Pretty neat to have that here.

Bitcrusher

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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This is an FSU pedal. It’s not meant to sound good, it’s meant to sound bad and it does that good (well). Bit depth, Decay and a gate. Special effects fun and it can be surprisingly useful to have a light amount of sample rate reduction before a pedal to give it a little extra grit.

Obsidian 7000

Real Pedal - Darkglass® Electronics Microtubes® B7K Ultra

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The B7K Ultra is a new breed of super-pedal that tries to do a little of everything. The Helix captures that well, and it seems to get a bit more distorted that I recall the original pedal becoming. It’s a tweaker’s delight

Clawthorn Drive

Real Pedal - Wounded Paw Battering Ram

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I have never used this thing. It’s a combination overdrive and fuzz, where you can use both at the same time if you want, or just the overdrive.

There’s an octaver in there too. I think that anyone that’s grown up with the 70s or 80s guitar sounds will want to grab this and give it a whirl. It offers a wide range of sounds that were used in that era, and if you crank the tone you can get a bit of a more modern bright sound out of it too.

If Helix got this one right, then I want to buy this thing.

Legacy

I don’t review Legacy stuff. If it’s been depreciated, then I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it. There IS a great pedal in there, but you will have to go find it yourself.

  • Tube Drive - Chandler Tube Driver
  • Screamer - Ibanez® Tube Screamer®
  • Overdrive - DOD® Overdrive/Preamp 250
  • Classic Dist - ProCo RAT
  • Heavy Dist - BOSS® Metal Zone
  • Colordrive - Colorsound® Overdriver
  • Buzz Saw - Maestro® Fuzz Tone
  • Facial Fuzz - Arbiter® Fuzz Face®
  • Jumbo Fuzz - Vox® Tone Bender
  • Fuzz Pi - Electro-Harmonix® Big Muff Pi®
  • Jet Fuzz - Roland® Jet Phaser
  • L6 Drive - Colorsound® Overdriver (modded)
  • L6 Distortion - Line 6 Original
  • Sub Oct Fuzz - PAiA Roctave Divider
  • Octave Fuzz - Tycobrahe® Octavia

Dynamics

Deluxe Comp

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Not Good.

The attack sounds best between 0.1 and 20ms, but that’s only the first 10% of the slider! That’s all you have to work with.

The release has the same issue.0 to 200ms (typical time) is the first 10% of the slider.

It might be ok soundwise, but it’s a pain to use.

Red Squeeze

Real Pedal - MXR® Dyna Comp

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Nearly nailed it.

The real dyna-comp has some slight breakup when you drive it, and that’s missing. The compression sound is pretty spot on.

Kinky Comp

Real Pedal - Xotic® SP Compressor

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I have not used this in person, but it sounds nice. The attack stage feels sufficiently quick and the release opens up in a guitar-ish way. Works nicely for those 16th note funk riffs.

LA Studio Comp

Real Pedal - Teletronix® LA-2A®

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This is not an LA2A. It has a similar gain reduction curve and response, but it’s totally missing the excellent characteristics that happen when you overdrive it. Many times I’ve used an LA2A slammed with input to get a beautiful guitar tone off just a DI.

You can’t do that with this. Well, you can, but you just get the compression. Not the sound of an LA2A blowing up.

It is a nice addition though, and as a post-amp compressor it works well to even out dynamic parts.

3-Band Comp

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Brilliant. I’m not a fan of multiband comps, but this is almost perfect. It still has the same issues as the Deluxe Comp with the attack and release values.

However, stop trying to scoop the mids out of your metal/thrash/death/djent/whatever sound. Throw this on after the amp and bring down the mid threshold. You’ll get a more dynamic tone that still feels scooped, but sounds way bigger as the decay occurs.

5 stars for including this.

Noise Gate

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Most products suck with noise gates, and it’s not easy to do right.

THEY NAILED IT. Put this before your amp, set the threshold to the highest level, Release to ~100ms and slowly bring it down till your parts come out cleanly.

It will sound good. It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s a great gate.

Hard Gate

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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For ultra-high-gain sounds the Hard Gate can work slightly better, only because of the hold time.

Set the Close threshold to the minimum value, open to the highest. Hold to 50ms, Decay to 50ms.

Bring down the open threshold till your notes sound clear.

Bring up the close threshold until the balance between note decay and noise is to your liking.

The close threshold and hold parameter give you the extra control necessary when the decay of your sound is almost indistinguishable from the noise you’re trying to avoid.

Autoswell

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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This is an interesting effect. When the threshold is hit, it begins to fade in your signal by the attack time.

I found it very touchy to setup, and I don’t have any advice on how to do it easily because it’s highly dependent on the signal and your playing style.

I did spend more time playing with it than I wanted because it was a lot of fun, but I also found that something as simple as changing guitars will invalidate all of your settings. That happens to all pedals to some extent, but it can nearly ‘turn off’ this effect.

Legacy

I don’t review legacy models. There’s not anything super cool in there though, not that I liked at least.

  • Tube Comp - Teletronix® LA-2A®
  • Red Comp - MXR® Dyna Comp
  • Blue Comp - BOSS® CS-1
  • Blue Comp Treb - BOSS® CS-1 (Treble switch on)
  • Vetta Comp - Line 6 Original
  • Vetta Juice - Line 6 Original
  • Boost Comp - MXR® Micro Amp

EQ

Simple EQ

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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It’s an EQ. It works. It’s fun to use as a boost pedal.

Low and High Cut

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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High and Low pass. It works. It appears to be about a 12db/oct filter as I tested.

Parametric

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Typical minimum-phase parametric EQ. Works well, it’s easy to use.

10 Band Graphic

Real Pedal - MXR® 10-Band Graphic EQ

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Once again, this has the right EQ, but it’s missing how you can overdrive the pedal and do stupid things with it. I complain about this because I know another amp sim that DOES model that. It’s a powerful part of the pedal.

Cali Q Graphic

Real Pedal - MESA/Boogie® Mark IV Graphic EQ

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I’ve never liked this thing. It has the upper mid band in a weird place that’s not particularly useful.

That said, it appears to feel correct, and it’s cool that it’s extracted from the amp for use in other chains.

Modulation

The modulation devices have tempo-sync where it makes sense.

Optical Trem

Real Pedal - Fender® optical tremolo circuit

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This doesn’t sound right to me. The real optical tremolo has a very round shape, but this feels slightly “pointy” at the transitions. It doesn’t sound bad, and in fact I think this is more appropriate in a mix, but it doesn’t sound authentic to me.

60s Bias Trem

Real Pedal - Vox® AC-15 Tremolo

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Once again, the shape doesn’t feel right to me, but this time the Helix sounds too smooth.

It is nice that switching from vibe/trem correctly adjusts the speed parameter.

The vibrato sounds very nice, which is usually done poorly in some other sims

Tremolo/Autopan

Real Pedal - BOSS® PN-2

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SO FUN.

SO. FUN.

I don’t care if it sounds like a real PN-2 (it doesn’t, the PN2 is noisier and has a weird timing issue occasionally).

It sounds great, and it’s easy to use.

Harmonic Tremolo

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Fun again. Works in stereo with responsive controls.

I think this is the nicest stereo trem in the package.

Bleat Chop Trem

Real Pedal - Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper

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A sequenceable stereo tremolo with 4 stages. Each step can multiple the speed to give you a cool sequenced sound that morphs over time.

There’s multiple shapes and the square mode will give you a sort of fun ‘bleepy-bloopy’ noise that would be great on synths, not just guitars.

Script Mod Phase

Real Pedal - MXR® Phase 90

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Nailed It.

Ubiquitous Vibe

Real Pedal - Shin-ei Uni-Vibe®

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Line6 nailed the bright shimmering feel of the chorus and vibrato modes in the Uni-Vibe. The easy addition of stereo usage brings it up another level.

Excellent.

Deluxe Phaser

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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I haven’t heard a 16 stage phaser that doesn’t get “wet enough”, yet somehow this one doesn’t. I like my phasers to be set to kill, hopefully death by drowning.

This doesn’t do it.

Gray Flanger

Real Pedal - MXR® 117 Flanger

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PERFECT.

It’s just… perfect.

Harmonic Flanger

Real Pedal - A/DA Flanger

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I haven’t used this flanger, but I have to say that I’m not a fan.

It does do some cool crazy things if you turn up the enhance and harmonic parameters, which may be a neat effect for a song or two. As just a flanger it’s weak.

Courtesan Flange

Real Pedal - Electro-Harmonix® Deluxe EM

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

THEY GOT IT! The EM has well known for that “listening through a pipe” sound that is fantastic when used in moderation. I’ve not heard another amp sim that gets this sound right. IT’S RIGHT! THEY DID IT!

Now excuse me, I’ll be tubing.

Dynamix Flanger

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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As a flanger this is mediocre, except when you use the envelope mode. The envelope gives you some dynamic response to the intensity of the flanging. That dynamic response makes it useful for anything funky or prog-like.

The envelope parameters, especially the lag parameter (which makes the flanging start after it’s been triggered) allows you to make some special effects sounds that I can imagine being useful on stage.

It’s a cool “pedal”

Chorus

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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It’s a chorus. Except the shapes set it apart from everything else. You have not just sine/triangle but saw, square and random. Those settings take you from “Contemporary Christian Worship”-sound to some other realm of experimental music.

I appreciate this one. It’s my friend, my weird friend.

70s Chorus

Real Pedal - BOSS® CE-1

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

They got the CE-1 sound down. Thank goodness, because it took me forever to find an original CE-1 for myself.

There’s a “true stereo” mode that doesn’t just send the effected signal and an inverted signal out. A very nice addition that is necessary for putting out good mixes these days.

PlastiChorus

Real Pedal - Modded Arion SCH-Z chorus

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These little guys were really cool for a while. You could get them for like $29 and their only major issue was how noisy they were (and that they would break easily).

This captures the sound I remember hearing in countless music stores pretty well, but without the noise.

Trinity Chorus

Real Pedal - Dytronics® Tri-Stereo Chorus

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Bright, and a strange left/right/center control for the chorus amount. I wasn’t able to really get my head around how this works to sound good. Most of the settings that I tried came out similarly.

It does sound good just as is though. Tweaking it to something more than it is, isn’t really possible.

Bubble Vibrato

Real Pedal - BOSS® VB-2 Vibrato

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For some reason, unlike some of the other pedals, this one overdrives how I expect it to when I use the headroom slider. It also sounds very much like the actual pedal, with a weak vibrato that is nearly useless.

Vibe Rotary

Real Pedal - Fender® Vibratone

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The darkness, the speed change, the overdrive. It’s there.

122 Rotary

Real Pedal - Leslie® 122

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This effect sounds weak to me. It doesn’t have that deep swooshing 122 sound. The ramp feels too slow. It seems to be a very simple attempt at a 122.

145 Rotary

Real Pedal - Leslie® 145

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The 145 should sound huge and intimidating. This comes close. The ramp still feels wrong (it should start slow and ramp up quickly, this feels more linear)

The drive is there.

If you like the leslie sound, this isn’t for you. If you want the feel of it on a guitar signal, then this is sufficient.

Double Take

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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It’s a delay! A very short delay that seems to have variable times and a short time. It’s a cool doubles(triples or quads) effect. Nice to have.

AM Ring Mod

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Ring Mod = Robot Sounds. It multiplies the amplitude of two signals giving you some crazy sidebands that make your guitar sound crazy.

There’s an LFO in here to give the sound some life, and the carrier frequency goes all the way down to 5hz (which is really fun).

Nice.

Pitch Ring Mod

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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WAY COOL Pitch shifting but a ring mod on the pitch shift… I think.

It makes crazy pitch shifted effects. You can make your guitar sound like a deep bass synth, with no lag, or a screaming death-lizard-from-mars.

I have no idea what is happening here, but I think I may have played with this effect more than anything else. This was at least 3 lunch breaks worth for me.

Legacy

No Legacy Reviews Here! Two of these sound uber-cool though.

  • Pattern Tremolo - Line 6 Original
  • Panner - Line 6 Original
  • Bias Tremolo - 1960 Vox® AC-15 Tremolo
  • Opto Tremolo - 1964 Fender® Deluxe Reverb®
  • Script Phase - MXR® Phase 90 (script logo version)
  • Panned Phaser - Ibanez® Flying Pan
  • Barberpole - Line 6 Original
  • Dual Phaser - Mu-Tron® Bi-Phase
  • U-Vibe - Shin-ei Uni-Vibe®
  • Phaser - MXR® Phase 90
  • Pitch Vibrato - BOSS® VB-2
  • Dimension - Roland® Dimension D
  • Analog Chorus - BOSS® CE-1
  • Tri Chorus - Dytronics® Tri-Stereo Chorus
  • Analog Flanger - MXR® Flanger
  • Jet Flanger - A/DA Flanger
  • AC Flanger - MXR® Flanger
  • 80A Flanger - A/DA Flanger
  • Frequency Shift - Line 6 Original
  • Ring Modulator - Line 6 Original
  • Rotary Drum - Fender® Vibratone
  • Rotary Drum/Horn - Leslie® 145

Delay

The delays have tempo synced parameters where it makes sense.

Simple Delay

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

It is in fact a simple delay. It has a “Tails” function that controls whether the delay turns off when the effect does.

Mod/Chorus Echo

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Simple delay with chorus. The chorus seems weak and the delay isn’t particularly flexible. Not exciting.

Dual Delay

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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2 not-exciting delays for left/right and that weak chorus again.

Multitap 4

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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This is 4 delays, with the concept that you can set the time which each delay comes in, then it’s fed in to a single feedback loop with chorus.

Still not very exciting, but it is fun to use.

Multitap 6

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Multitap 4, but six.

Ping Pong

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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This is a simple “ping pong” delay, where the sound bounces from left to right speaker. Nothing special here except a low/high cut to make the sound fad away in the highs or lows first.

Sweep Echo

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

A simple delay, but with a modulated filter on it. The type of filter is adjustable and the shape of the modulation is adjustable.

This is the first of the Line6 delays in Helix that I found interesting. You can setup a simple delay sound and add some subtle motion to it with the filter and the resulting sound feels alive and organic. I do wish that the filter in low/high pass mode had some drive on it with high resonance though.

Ducked Delay

Real Pedal - TC Electronic® 2290

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Ducked delays mean that the feedback loop is turned down when the dry input is loudest. So your guitar signal is never drowned out by delay.

There’s a gated mode as well. The gate mode only lets the delay signal go through as long as the input signal is loud enough. So when you stop playing, the delay stops.

They’re both useful sounds, and generally better to use a mix than other simple delays.

Reverse Delay

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

The delayed signal is reversed in buffers (chunks of time) which makes it sound like the whole delay signal was reversed.

It’s a pretty standard delay sound, but when combined with autoswell you can make some interesting soundscapes. You can even make the reversed signal sound like it’s playing forward and really mess with people’s heads!

Vintage Digital

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

It’s a simple delay, but the delay path has variable sample rate and bitdepth. You can ‘bitcrush’ it and listen as the delay decays into 1980s digital oblivion.

Vintage Swell

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Autoswell, but with a delay built in. The signal fades in, and then the delay fades in. It all fades out the same.

I’ve heard this on some records, and I’m fairly certain it was done the old-school way. This effect is a great addition to the Helix package to bring some creative output to the party.

If you’re a post-rocker or anything similar, you’ll love this effect.

Pitch Echo

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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Each echo changes pitch. This is where you can start to make those shimmering thick delays with some careful application, and perhaps an extra Pitch echo or two.

I do wish that there was an option so that the pitch shift doesn’t change the speed, but that is part of the classic sound, so it’s fine. I’ve heard pitch delays where the pitch didn’t affect the speed, and they can sound interesting.

Transistor Tape

Real Pedal - Maestro® Echoplex EP-3

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Pitch wobble, some distortion, a high cut and some saturation.

This doesn’t sound exactly like the echoplex, but it has the same vibe. I do wish that the headroom was more sensitive, or that the saturation was more responsive.

Cosmos Echo

Real Pedal - Roland® RE-201 Space Echo

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

People go nerd-crazy for the space echo. Line6 has made it very close to the original. Close enough that I think any nitpicking would be a waste of time.

The splice parameter is really cool. It lets you simulate tape splices that make your echo jumpy.

Harmony Delay

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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It’s your input signal, plus 2 shifted voices. It tries to keep the voices in a specific key. The pitch shifting sounds pretty funky in context, but the result is rather neat when combined with ‘masking’ effects like a phaser or flange.

Bucket Brigade

Real Pedal - BOSS® DM-2

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

It self-oscillates. It squeels. It’s a bucket brigade delay in classic Boss style! Awesome!

So many other amp sim packages are weak on delays that wreak havoc on your signal chain. Helix doesn’t. You can do those crazy things with ultra high feedback, noise and delay time automation that you can’t do with some of the competitors.

Adriatic Delay

Real Pedal - BOSS® DM-2 w/ Adrian Mod

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Here you can change the BBD size which gives a different rhythm, and some extra blerpy artifacts. There is also a weak sounding chorus on it.

This isn’t the sort of thing you’d use for “normal” sounds, but it’s a fun and quirky device that I’m glad is here. It makes you feel like the people at Line6 appreciate us pedal tweakers and lovers of sound.

Adriatic Swell

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

This is Adriatic Delay, but with swell. Also fun. Also for weird nerdy people that love to have fun.

Elephant Man

Real Pedal - Electro-Harmonix® Deluxe Memory Man

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

They came close. The issue I have with this is that tweaking the time doesn’t sound like a memory man. It’s warbly. The real memory man has a slightly laggy but ‘clean’ pitch.

Otherwise, it’s good. I’d grab this for a “simple delay” over any of the other products.

Multi Pass

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Multiple patterns of filters hammering on your delay sound. 100% feedback gives you this beautiful fadeout that isn’t “forever”, but fades out with a brilliant ringing.

There’s an echo and delay mode, with the echo mode being much more fun. I think this gives a more analog vibe, but without sounding fizzy or dark, than any of the other delays here.

I love this one.

Legacy

Still no legacy reviews. Policies have not changed! One cool model in there though.

  • Ping Pong - Line 6 Original
  • Dynamic - TC Electronic® 2290
  • Stereo - Line 6 Original
  • Digital - Line 6 Original
  • Dig w/Mod - Line 6 Original
  • Reverse - Line 6 Original
  • Lo Res - Line 6 Original
  • Tube Echo - Maestro® Echoplex EP-1
  • Tape Echo - Maestro® Echoplex EP-3
  • Sweep Echo - Line 6 Original
  • Echo Platter - Binson® EchoRec®
  • Analog Echo - BOSS® DM-2
  • Analog w/Mod - Electro-Harmonix® Deluxe Memory Man
  • Auto-Volume Echo - Line 6 Original
  • Multi-Head - Roland® RE-101 Space Echo

Reverb

The reverbs have tempo-synced parameters where it makes sense.

Glitz

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

A bright delay with “swell” which is controlled by the delay parameter. Not exactly the best “pre” delay, but it gives you that unnatural big blooming reverb sound post-amp.

I can do much better with third party plugins though…

Ganymede

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Thick. I can hear some granulation in the reverb that’s a bit distracting, and if you put the verb before the amp it becomes more obvious.

The density of this will likely make the reverb-laden-guitarists happy though. I just suggest that you layer another verb with it to help fill in some of those sonic gaps.

Searchlights

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

The other verbs have modulation, but not this thick. If you want that Explosions in the Sky ‘distant guitar’ type, this is it. Add a touch of modulation and you’re good to go.

It almost sounds like there’s a slight ducking or swell on it, because the input signal comes through so clearly. I appreciate this reverb. It is my favorite of the bunch.

Plateaux

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

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This is Line6’s attempt at the Eno/Lanois Shimmer sound and they do it alright. The original sound was brighter and the pitch shifting was choppier, but cooler sounding.

I can’t say that I like this effect. The pitch shifts aren’t offset enough, and it doesn’t appear that you can change the feedback delay loop.

As its own effect, I think it may be cool layered with some other things, but standalone it doesn’t sit right with me

Double Tank

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Spring reverb sound, but more. It sounds like an ultra-thick spring reverb. It sounds good. You can control the amount of modulation, which is a plus (since springs can be a bit offensive in their twangliness when combined with modulation)

Legacy

No legacy reverb reviews! A handful of these are quite nice though, and I’m sad that I’m not reviewing them.

  • Plate - Line 6 Original
  • Room - Line 6 Original
  • Chamber - Line 6 Original
  • Hall - Line 6 Original
  • Echo - Line 6 Original
  • Tile - Line 6 Original
  • Cave - Line 6 Original
  • Ducking - Line 6 Original
  • Octo - Line 6 Original
  • ‘63 Spring - Line 6 Original
  • Spring - Line 6 Original
  • Particle Verb - Line 6 Original

Pitch and Synth

Pitch Wham

Real Pedal - Digitech® Whammy®

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

I can’t really evaluate this guy properly, because I don’t have a pedal.

That said, they do get the general sound right. I wish I had a pedal to go to town with this, because with some reactive and quick motions you can feel it out better. Automation doesn’t really work.

Twin Harmony

Real Pedal - Eventide® H3000

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

I’m a bit confused. This doesn’t sound like the H3000 at all. It is a cool sounding dual automatic pitch shifter, but it doesn’t have that H3000 sound.

Simple Pitch

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

It’s simple. It’s pretty not great. I dislike the graininess of the pitch shifting with this.

Dual Pitch

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

This sounds much cleaner than the Twin Harmony. Fast tracking, clean pitch shifting. I dig it.

3 OSC Synth

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

A pitch tracker fed into a synthesizer. You get detuning, pan, volume, duty cycle, wave shape AND 3>1 FM.

There is some delay to the pitch tracking, but it does an admirable job of tracking legato nicely. Hammerons, pullofs and slides work nicely.

The synthesizer itself sounds fantastic, and you can get some nasty, nasty sounds out of it. You can also get some pretty synth sounds out of this. It’s a lot of fun.

3 Note Generator

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

3 fixed signals. No pitch tracking. Great for drones and similar things. It’s a curios addition, but I’m sure someone will have fun with it.

Note: this is bypassed by default unlike other effects. You must unbypass it to use it.

4 OSC Generator

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Same as the 3 Note Generator but with another oscillator. The controls are slightly different (no glide), but the concept is the same.

Note: this is bypassed by default unlike other effects. You must unbypass it to use it.

Legacy

Where you looking for legacy model reviews? I’m sorry. Nothing to see here.

  • Bass Octaver - EBS® OctaBass
  • Smart Harmony - Eventide® H3000
  • Octi Synth - Line 6 Original
  • Synth O Matic - Line 6 Original
  • Attack Synth - Korg® X911 Guitar Synth
  • Synth String - Roland® GR700 Guitar Synth
  • Growler - Line 6 Original

Filter

Mutant Filter

Real Pedal - Musitronics® Mu-Tron® III

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

Envelope filter for your funkiest of needs.

It sounds really close to the mu-tron, but without some of the overdrive and that dirt. I think that’s a good thing.

The filter sounds great. The response is fast. The parameter ranges feel right.

Mystery Filter

Real Pedal - Korg® A3

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

This is a strange filter that closes on you when you smack it. I’m not actually sure how useful it could be, but it’s fun to mess with. The sensitivity seems really touchy though, and I often had a difficult time setting it after switching guitars.

Autofilter

Real Pedal - Line 6 Original

OWN - USED - NO-EXPERIENCE

It’s everything. Filter up/down, filter range, attack/release, filter Q, and 3 filter modes.

The attack and decay controls are a bit oddly scaled. We’re back to the “10% of the control is 99% of the usable range”. Yes, sometimes you want a 2second attack, but with an autofilter that’s really rare. Please cater to the people with more common requests of these settings.

If any of the other filters can’t get what you want, then you’ll be able to tweak it in here most likely. Possibly by stacking one or two of these as well.

Legacy

Legacy filters reviewed here!

Hahahaha. Nope.

4 of these are worth trying though.

  • Voice Box - Line 6 Original
  • V Tron - Musitronics® Mu-Tron® III
  • Q Filter - Line 6 Original
  • Seeker - Z Vex Seek Wah
  • Obi Wah - Oberheim® voltage-controlled S&H filter
  • Tron Up - Musitronics® Mu-Tron® III (up position)
  • Tron Down - Musitronics® Mu-Tron® III (down position)
  • Throbber - Electrix® Filter Factory
  • Slow Filter - Line 6 Original
  • Spin Cycle - Craig Anderton’s Wah/Anti-Wah
  • Comet Trails - Line 6 Original

Wah

So here’s the deal with the Wahs. I don’t have a pedal that sends out MIDI CC. Trying to utilize these products to their fullest requires that, and I feel that it’s unfair to just try automating the parameters to simulate that.

A big part of Wahs is how they react when you are playing. So in the interest of fairness I’m skipping these. I may update them in the future if I acquire the capability to utilize them in their intended environment.

  • UK Wah 846 - Vox® V846
  • Teardrop 310 - Dunlop® Cry Baby® Fasel model 310
  • Fassel - Dunlop® Cry Baby® Super
  • Weeper - Arbiter® Cry Baby®
  • Chrome - Vox® V847
  • Chrome Custom - Modded Vox® V847
  • Throaty - RMC® Real McCoy 1
  • Vetta Wah - Line 6 Original
  • Colorful - Colorsound® Wah-fuzz
  • Conductor - Maestro® Boomerang

Volume and Pan

These are fairly self-explanatory, and they do exactly what they say on the tin. Assigning these to pedals can be rather important, and it’s good that they can be used anywhere in the signal chain

  • Volume Pedal - Line 6 Original
  • Gain - Line 6 Original
  • Pan - Line 6 Original
  • Stereo Width - Line 6 Original

Features

Guitar Amp Simulation

Presets

Presets
Presets

Helix comes with a wimpy number of presets. HOWEVER Many of them sound alright. I’m usually not a fan of amp-sim presets because they’re laden in effects or have ultra extreme settings. Helix can be guilty of this, but many of the presets come with effects setup, but not engaged. I think that’s an awesome feature. It’s clearly a byproduct of the hardware, where having a distortion button ready to hit is part of a good preset.

I’d say that maybe 10% of the presets are usable. That’s 9% more than most other amp sims.

Bass Amp Simulation

Bass Amps
Bass Amps

Every. Single. One.

Every amp sim suite is short on bass amps and cabs!

Luckily, I think there’s 2 bass sims here that are fantastic and will cover most uses when combined with a good DI signal: Woody Blue and G Cougar 800. They sound great and with proper cab selection can get you from funk to punk to junk and back.

This isn’t the most complete bass amp sim software, but it has the most superlative options that I’ve yet to encounter besides the Bass Director. Line6 hasn’t tried to emulate the sansamp yet though in Helix, so we’ll have to see if they attack that.

Input Gain

Input Gain
Input Gain

One of the ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS FOR AMP SIMS IS INPUT GAIN.

Helix has the best positioned input gain I’ve seen, with a meter that doesn’t have simple peak ballistics. The manual clearly explains (p.10) how to set the input level so that you can experience the amps in an authentic manner.

Yes, basically every amp sim package out there has input gain controls, but none explain it as clearly as Helix nor do they offer an equally convenient method of adjusting it.

This is the single biggest factor to getting the most out of an amp sim, and Line6 did it right.

Signal Block Display

Signal Path
Signal Path

The signal path is shown with a series of blocks. You get up to 4 paths, with splits anywhere you want. You can have dual stereo parallel paths or 32 slot monster effects rigs.

Moving devices around is a simple drag and drop operation. Creating parallel lanes means just dragging the effect down until the split shows. The split and merge are automatically created, and you can move their positions where you want them.

Stereo setup is done by panning the outputs (for parallel processing) or just by using stereo effects.

The setup isn’t pretty but it’s functional and I find it easy to use.

In fact, I much prefer this simple block based setup than dealing with those graphically pleasing visual amp models and pedals that clutter up your screen massively. With Helix I can see what’s happening quickly, clearly and I can setup complex signal paths with ease.

Helix Hardware Integration

I do not have a hardware Helix, but apparently most everything you do in the software is transferable to the software and vice versa.

They call this “Studio to Stage”, and it’s a fine concept. I wish that I could test this, however I am currently only in possession of the software.

This also means that Helix Native is essentially a software editor for the hardware, and WOW. What an editor. If this concept really works as smoothly as the manual says then this is amazing.

Snapshots

Snapshots
Snapshots

Snapshots are how you “get around” in a preset. There’s 8 snapshots per preset, and each snapshot automatically stores the bypass states for blocks. So switching a snapshot is like pressing a bunch of pedals at once.

Saving snapshots are simple. You make the change (controllers excluded, see the next sentence), and it’s saved. Easy.

You can also right click a control to set it to be “snapshot controlled”. This means that the parameter now saves its state with snapshots.

Being able to have “free” parameters, and snapshot parameters is a cool way to work. You can have things that you can change live as you wish (reverb, eq, etc…) and other bits like input gain or split mixes that change per snapshot.

Snapshots aren’t a revolutionary way to work, but the way it’s implemented in Helix right now is straightforward and easy to operate. It’s the best in this category.

Controller Assignment

Controller Assignment
Controller Assignment

Controller assignment isn’t too fun. You need to click the parameters to be controlled, click CC, go to the CC page, then set the CC manually.

There’s no “learning” mode that I can find. It’s all clicking. You’ll probably end up sitting there with a manual typing in numbers, clicking small boxes and testing things repeatedly.

Some other amp sims do this much better. You select the control, you move the MIDI controller. You’re now done. Maybe 2 clicks, no manuals, no typing.

I hope the Line6 guys fix this soon.

Automation

Automation
Automation

Alright. Automation sucks.

You get 16 “knobs” and 16 “switches” that you can assign to parameters in Helix. When you automate those, then the parameters assigned to that knob/switch respond to the automation.

Only one parameter can be assigned to a “knob”. No macro control here, which is an unfortunate oversight.

The worse part is that this is a pain to setup. It’s 3 clicks per parameter, minimum, to be able to automate it. There’s no way to invert the automation or scale it. You can set the min and max range, but that is it.

If the automation assignment was simplified, and they added invert/scaling/multiple assignment then it could be fantastic.

Other Notes

Manual

The manual has a linked index. It is easy to search. Explains things very simply and clearly. Covers gainstaging nicely.

It’s clear and easy to read. I didn’t find anything that I wanted to know that wasn’t there.

Help

The HelixHelp site is awesome. I don’t know if this is an unofficial site run by a fan, or an unofficial site run by Line6, but it’s awesome.

Complaints

Opening the GUI is slow

Let me be really clear here. I’m on a MONSTER computer. I have a mid tier 2017 iMac Pro with the Radeon Vega Pro 64. My computer is extremely fast as of the writing of this post.

Helix Native’s GUI is a bit slow to open. It takes about 10 seconds to open the GUI, and resizing it is choppy.

Moving parameters and utilizing the widgets inside the main window is smooth, but I think that some people might be bothered by the slow start time.

No mic position adjustment

Many other amp sims let you move the mic around on the cab. This gives you a wide range of sounds and a reliable way to tune your sound. Helix Native is integrated with a hardware system, but it could still incorporate a horizontal axis control, or a slant control on the mic with a slider.

No cabinet resonance/overdrive adjustment

Cabinet resonance and cabinet overdrive are important parts of some sounds that rely on BLASTING the sound. Helix doesn’t emulate this in any way. Helix’s main competitor does.

This is only an issue for a small selection of sounds though, so it’s not a big deal most of the time.

Amps lacking chorus/vibrato/reverb

This is only partially a complaint. If you want vibrato on a Fender, then you need to add the vibrato effect yourself. It’s not part of the amp.

That also means you can have a Fender opto-circuit on your clean MESA. So there is added flexibility. For grab-and-go, it adds some clicking to the process of getting the sound of a full amp.

No Triple Rectifier

I have to say it. The iconic Triple Rectifier isn’t here. I don’t really care much, but I think that many people will think they need it.

Tuner Difficult to Access

Guess why? THERE IS NO TUNER.

The hardware apparently has a tuner, but the Native software product does not. What the heck dudes? Yes, I have a gazillion tuners in my studio, and in software, but when I was doing this review I was tuning my guitar with your main competitor’s product!

Get that tuner in here. The convenience is a big win.

Latency

There’s 16 samples of latency. That may not seem like much, because it’s not, but every little bit can add up. I know this is a technical limitation, likely for some sort of oversampling, but I still am going to complain about it ;)

I want high quality oversampling AND zero latency. Line6, please break the laws of math and physics to alleviate my pain.

Importing 3rd Party Impulses

Importing 3rd party impulses can be a chore. You have 128 slots for impulses, which is often too few. To add impulses you can drag and drop from your file explorer app, or you have to manually browse for the impulses and add them via file dialog.

The 128 slots is an issue, but adding them was problematic for me.

I was unable to get drag and drop to work properly in macOS, so I had to use the native import dialog. This dialog doesn’t let you easily add files from multiple folders. So I had to re-open and browse for each folder that had impulses I wanted to add.

Why isn’t there just a file browser? I understand if this was ported directly from the hardware and that hardware integration is important is important, but the native software desperately needs a file browser for impulses built-in. Importing them before you can use them is not great.

This all makes sense on a hardware device, but as a plugin it’s not great.

Using Impulses

Once you’ve imported your impulses, you now have to use either a slider(????) to select them, or two very small up/down arrows.

It’s a train wreck of a workflow that once again makes sense on a hardware device, but using a mouse/tablet it’s unpleasant and difficult to operation

Conclusion

$399.99

That’s a lot of money. Helix does give you enough value for the money. If you’re a “one amp man” then you need to try it out to see if that amp in Helix is exactly what you need. I do think that you might be swayed by some of the included amps/models that aren’t ‘exactly’ what you want.

If you enjoy experimenting, or you do a lot of studio work, or if you play a number of genres then I currently believe that Helix is the package. There’s no other single package out there that has a comparable package of quality models without any fiddling with built-in stores or messing with wire->pedal->amp GUIs that take up WAY too much space.

Nearly everything said here applies to the hardware helix as well. If you can afford to get the hardware then you are set. Working in the studio, then going to practice or working live, then going back. It’s supposed to be seamless. I have not tried it, but based on my research I trust that this is true.

There are warts. Automation in the DAW is not great. Loading your own impulses needs improvement. The GUI load time needs to improve.

This is a premium product that aims its tendrils at guitarists that want models and a quick path to recognizable sounds. If you’re really into experimenting or are confident that you know exactly what you want, brand names be damned, then I suggest checking out axiom. Axiom is the longer path, with windier roads and perhaps more fun adventures.

Helix is business. You plugin. You play. No fussing around. Just guitar sounds. Good guitar sounds.

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