Fractal vs. Helix: The comparison series (Made by yours truly!)

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by Mitch Baker, Oct 21, 2016.

  1. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    I've seen quite a few people mention this, but this is foolish to be perfectly honest. Fractal has a high cut on their cab block too. I haven't seen a SINGLE person respond to this series saying that "oh just a high/low cut on the Fractal will make it sound better" yet I've seen probably 5 people say that about the Helix. A high cut shouldn't be necessary to make your cab sound decent, it's there to make it sound perfect. Will a high cut make the Helix sound smoother? Sure. But there is no substitute for effective microphone placement, as I said; there's only so far you can go in polishing a turd, and if my suspicion about Line 6's impulses is correct (20:29 in part 2) I'm not surprised these cabs don't sound as tasteful from the get-go.

    Didn't mean to go off on you in particular, but you asked what I thought, and that's what I think :)
     
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  2. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    Yes, this too. I think quite a few people accused Ola of that in his comparison since he's more experienced with Fractal stuff, even though I don't doubt he was just trying his best on both units. That's why I prefer to go the more neutral route. Since I've already made it clear that I personally prefer the Fractal, I know I would have a looooooooooot of people accusing me of sabotaging the Helix if I couldn't get a tone they liked, and that just... doesn't sound fun haha. I'd rather leave that decision up to the individual watching. But I'm still entertaining the idea, we'll see.
     
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  3. JawaBBQ

    JawaBBQ Member

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    Great work, Mitch. I've taken a lot from your videos so far. I only own a helix, and objectively it's helped me identify how to see the strengths it has. This knife cuts both ways and they've also shown me how/where to navigate the things that aren't as natively strong.

    It's a flexible piece of kit. Sometimes it's not about being perfect as a standalone unit, but about being able to accommodate 3rd party solutions quickly and easily - be it IRs, or verbs, fuzzes or whatever. It's unrealistic of anyone to want a single piece of kit to sound like EVERY high quality unit in every aspect. That goes for the Fractal kit too, i'm sure people loop in their H9's regardless of platform.

    I like that it's the BRAIN of my rig, and is open to supplementation at a moment's notice... but i guess i come from using a gSystem so my approach has been defined by earlier rigs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016
  4. jageya

    jageya Member

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    Ok...great vids and welcome to TGP. Both units are amazing but in the end for me and maybe others the helix is favored. The main reason is the gui/visual flow display and scribble strips.The layout and massive options/dual amps/usb recording ability and an added pedal. Also again when i listened to all of the user here named glenn and his presets i was sold and realized either unit would be amazing but for my visual needs the helix is preferred. I play mostly ambient guitar now with clean and mid gain structure overlayed with synth melodies and ballsy guitar here and there. I am no line 6 fan boi but really think that the whole package is best for my needs if i was deciding on either one. While i give the edge to ax8 for the ir loading concept i think the helix has the possibilty to catch up in that dept.
     
  5. jageya

    jageya Member

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    ac15 on ax8 way better on 3rd vid...

    wow why does the helix sound like a blanket on it with the jtm45....is something wrong with the helix?
     
  6. Phnurt

    Phnurt Silver Supporting Member

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    That's the second time you've compared tweaking the Helix to "polishing a turd". I call shenanigans! YOU have drunk from the seductive fractal koolaide sippy-cup and are forever tarnished in my eyes. If you can't get a decent, if not excellent, tone from the stock Helix cabs then you're just not trying to. Shenanigans!
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2016
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  7. BjarneDa

    BjarneDa Member

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    Oh on many example i hear on Axe it sound way more polished than the real deal to me
    A more rounded sound and like they have filter out some freq,s..
    And then put a compressor after the amp to even out every transient.
    But its very pleasing to the ears they also have much better dist sound on their high gain amps then some real amps so they dont really sound exactly like a real amp it sounds like a more polished dist to my ears.
    Almost as if they try to make the amp sound better than it actually sounds i.r.l.
    Thats not a bad thing of course but then again its not realy like they capture the exact real amp sound.

    Helix sound like it has an exciter in the end of the signal chain very shimmery like some sort of pristine quality almost like when you compare a guitar track recorded to a tapemachine vs to a digital Daw
    To my ears they need to get rid of that pristine sound to sound more like the real deal..
    They also need to fix some things on the high gain dist sound as it have a strange buzz that i havent heard on a real amp but then again i have only played a few of their high gain amps i.r.l so i dont really know.
    They also lack that low end "thump" on many amps..

    Its cool though that modeling has really come so close to the real deal i remember the days when they sounded like a swarm of beezzz and yet we where amazed that they had the character or fingerprint sound of a real amp..

    But they havent really nailed it yet not even Kemper or Fractal when you hear head to head examples i always like the real amp more than the Kemper or Fractal or now even Helix.

    But in a blindtest you might guess wrong in Ola,s test i guessed AX8 as the real deal but it was a GUESS i wasnt sure i could have guessed the Bias and The Real Amp also i choosed between those 3 and choosed the most "polished" one and that was AX8 hmm :)

    But they all sounded different to eachother so no modeler nailed the real amp sound thats for sure.

    So i say maybe in 10 years or so we want hear any difference at all..
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2016
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  8. Garhel

    Garhel Member

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    Yes, this is what I hear as well, and probably why I struggle with the Fractal demos. I always think I must be a bit odd, but I very rarely hear an ax demo I like, especially high gain ones, it's just too "nice"! I'm sure that you can dial in a bit more spike and rawness, but I guess most people just prefer the smoothed out sound. In the vids for clean to crunch I preferred the Helix tones, might be faulty thinking, but it seems very easy with IRs and eq cuts to smooth out the Helix sound if you want that, and I'm not sure how easy it is to go the other way with the ax8.
     
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  9. BjarneDa

    BjarneDa Member

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    Well that is because AX8 cabs are IR,s they are already fixed and they have captured a real cab and they already have their cab voiced mostly they cut at 80hz and around 6khz i thought you knew that??
    You dont need to use HP/LP when you use IR in Helix either

    But for some reason i guess the software in Helix hybrid cabs is calculated how it would sounded if the cabs didnt have a LP/HP almost like some reverb plugins does in a Daw they calculate frequences that isnt there i.r.l so you end up having to cut those frequences out on that reverb otherwise that reverb would sound really bad.

    Helix is as mentioned hybrid cabs that means it is not an IR as you can change mics and distance of that mic on the cab that is also probably why they also needs to be HP/LP (as i mentioned above) even Line6 people say use HP/LP on the cabs they are there for a reason
    But people tends to forget that..

    So there is no need to adjust those HP/LP on the cabs IR in AX8 but if you then choose another IR that doesnt sound that good you might need to HP/LP it to sound better my guess is that is why the option is there there like so many other "non real life" options both units have..

    How about running AX8 in the loop of Helix and run a AX8 amp on a Helix cab withoput any HP/LP i really like to hear how that sounds or record an amp in reaper then wit reampiing run it thrue a Helix cab..

    So really comparing Hybrid cabs vs IR on those two units is not fair as they are nothing like eachother..

    Thats like comparing a boat vs a car one runs on water the other runs on land but both have engines one have a propeller the other have wheel..
     
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  10. Prince

    Prince Supporting Member

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    My suggestion for dialing in a "subjective" best amp model tone comparison, or matching the two units: Impose a 2 minute tone dial in time frame.

    Unit A: take two minutes to dial in best tone
    Unit B: take two minutes to dial in best tone
    Compare
    Unit A & Unit B: Take two minutes to match the tones
    Compare

    This could cut down on complaints that "you didn't spend enough time with Unit..." or "you're too familiar with Unit...". If anything, it could also show which unit will roughly get you to where to want to go the quickest.
     
  11. jpelzel

    jpelzel Member

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    Holy crap didn't even get to your when I replied. Deleting
     
  12. Jarick

    Jarick Member

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    I noticed you had an Eleven Rack earlier. Your current video tones are much better than the old 11R vs Pod one you did. Do you find the Helix/Axe are drastically better than the 11R or do you think it's more that you were able to dial things in better with the current stuff?

    Also, it seems like you got the Helix after the Axe...why did you pick up the Helix?
     
  13. Guitardave

    Guitardave Supporting Member

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    There are nearly impossible challenges to getting any truly objective comparisons given the amount of variables involved and what each of us likes subjectively. I think these comparisons of using stock settings at noon, standardized IR/cab choices are useful but can never satisfy anyone. There were Fractal and Helix models that both needed tweaks to the tone stacks to get close to my liking. Some of the tones from both modelers just didn't sound good to my ears, others sounded great. Sometimes I agreed with Mitch's "conclusion" about which one sounded better to him, other times I didn't.

    That said, he still does a great job of trying to make some sense and provide useful feedback.
     
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  14. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    Thanks! I can't say for sure yet. I'm using much better impulses now, I'm sure that's a big part of it. Eleven Rack/Fractal and POD HD/Helix will be coming immediately after I finish Fractal/Helix, we'll be able to judge after those are up :) I haven't done side-by-sides yet on my own time, so I can't say anything about that personally. VERY excited to see if POD/11R are competitive with the newer, more expensive stuff.

    Picked up the Helix just to make these comparisons, nothing more :)
     
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  15. Jose7822

    Jose7822 Member

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    Mitch,

    Comments like this ^ makes me wonder if you're really being as objective as you say you are when testing these units against each other. Everyone in this forum knows that both units can sound great. I've seen many videos of people getting great tones out of the Helix, just like I've seen videos of great tones out of both the Axe FX II and the AX8. And I'm talking about REALLY great tones, even when using Helix's Hybrid cabs.

    The point I'm getting at is that, as much as I and everyone else enjoys watching your videos, the truth is that the only way for someone to make a reliable decision between these units, or any of the other digital amp devices in the market today, is to try them in person. Comparison videos are either gonna be biased (like how you only got the Helix to make these videos, AND your admitted preference for Fractal), and/or limited to the person's ability to dial in a tone in each of the devices (basically, how familiar you are with each device, as well as how good you are at dialing a good tone). Making a video where you're positioning tone controls at noon doesn't work for all amps, Mesa/Boogie amps are one example of this. Not only that, but as mentioned before each company modeled different amps (even if they're the same brand and model), so they will probably sound different even if you set them up exactly the same. There are just too many variables at hand, and not a real reliable way to compare two modeling units unless both companies modeled the same EXACT amp.

    I don't want to imply that you're wasting your time making these videos, because there is still GREAT value in them. You do offer lots of information outside of just the tone comparison. But, at the same time, I feel that you should encourage people to still try these units out for themselves and to use your videos as guides (not absolutes). I'm very forgetful, so if you're already doing that then ignore this last bit. I just wished you were a bit more opened to the possibility that the Helix may win you over (like someone genuinely trying both units out to make a decision about which one they'll keep), rather than simply use it for video comparison purposes.

    Take care!
     
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  16. jageya

    jageya Member

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  17. Willowdale

    Willowdale Member

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    If you are also going to compare these other units by putting all dials at noon, it will be a waste of your time & talent........just dial things in to the best of your ability & let the (digital)chips fall where they may:aok
     
  18. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    He asked why I picked up the Helix, that's why I picked it up. Simple as that. I'm not going to lie about it. I didn't expect to like the Helix AT ALL, to be perfectly honest, but I've grown to really enjoy it for basically everything besides cabs. Your point makes perfect sense, but the thing is I'm not wanting to be "impartial" or "unbiased" at all. I fully embrace my personal bias towards the Fractal, but if you think I'm "gaming" this comparison somehow to lean towards the Fractal, that just isn't the case. My bias towards Fractal has no impact towards the sounds that you're hearing. If you don't think that's how those units actually sound, THEN my bias would have actual impact, but no one so far has argued that the Helix doesn't actually sound like that. Do I try to "sway" viewers through sharing my thoughts? Yes. But most people can form their opinions themselves around the sounds they're hearing, and if they disagree with me, they won't care what I have to say anyway. I share my thoughts because I think they have value as someone who owns both units, and if you don't care about or don't agree with what I think, that's OK. I'm not expecting you to.

    If anything I would be even MORE critical of Fractal as a company because I know they communicate with their users MUCH better than Line 6 does. Within the first couple weeks of owning my AX8, I found a bug in a few of the amp models, posted it to the forum, and it was solved in the next firmware update. So I know first-hand the degree to which they respond to concerns of the user-base, and that's part of why I think they make a superior product. The fact Line 6 hasn't directly addressed this mystical "hybrid cab" thing is a HUGE reason why I can't stand behind the Helix. Regardless of whether I think they sound good or not. I'm critical of Fractal because I know they strive to improve, and I'm critical of the Helix because I think it has relative shortcomings. To be fair though, I've only shared what I think about amps and cabs so far, and if you think I'm shying away from being critical of the Fractal, you're in for a reeeeeeeeal treat coming up :)

    For the umpteenth time, though, I'M NOT SAYING GREAT TONES AREN'T POSSIBLE FROM THE HELIX. I NEVER DID. I'm merely comparing their essential differences when set at the same settings. Whether or not that's useful to you is your opinion. I didn't do a very good job at comparing Mark series, because I don't use those amps very much personally. But to be fair, any inexperience I have around them applied to both Helix and Fractal there, so it wasn't like I was being unfair to either unit in that respect, I was unfair to both. And yes, both companies modeling different actual amps, so even if they were both perfect at amp modeling, they will sound different. I don't dispute that remotely. That's why it's more about "different" rather than "better/worse" most of the time.

    I do mean to treat these videos as simply guides, and I should be communicating that better, I 100% agree. Let me make that clear: there is NO substitute to sitting down with these units, and despite the length of these videos, they aren't intended to "replace" that in any way. I'm making this for people who are either simply curious, or don't have easy access to try them side-by-side. Fractal units aren't easy to get your hands on unless you know someone who has one, since they don't retail, and my intention was to cut out all the "hype" around both units and focus on tone.

    I appreciate your candor and honesty, I mean all of this with nothing but respect :)
     
  19. Jose7822

    Jose7822 Member

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    It's cool to hear that you're at least open to liking the Helix. Not that there's anything wrong with you not liking it (you are entitled to like or dislike it, as we all are), but more because at least you're being open minded about it (even if at first you were not expecting to). A LOT of people seem to just like one unit and completely disregard everything else. A very closed-minded position, in my view. You're not like that, so that's a plus!

    Also, I am NOT saying/implying that you're rigging or "gaming" the comparison at all. I think that in that respect we all agree that you're doing a great job. Furthermore, I'm also not saying that the Helix doesn't sound like what we hear in your videos. I think that the basic character of both units does indeed come through in your comparisons. However, I do think that setting levels at noon for all amps is not the way to go. You can do this with most amps, but there are some amps (again, Mesa Boogie amps are an example of this) where these settings won't work. Another example of why setting levels at noon is not always effective is when you did the Marshall comparison between the Helix and the Fractal models. The Helix model sounded much darker, but it actually started to sound better once you started dialing in more high end. Instead, consider dialing in the tones YOU like for the comparisons moving forward. Even if people don't agree with what you've dialed in, they'll at least have a better idea of what each unit is capable of producing. That's basically what I was trying to say.

    Anyone here will disagree with you on the level of communication we've had here with several of the Line 6 personnel. They have been top notch, and have even taken care of customer issues from a forum that's not even theirs. Line 6 has made clear that there are certain thing which can't be shared with the public, mostly regarding future development of the Helix and other products, because Line 6 is a publicly traded company and are forbidden to do so. Other than that, they've been communicating with us and replying to questions/comments pretty much daily. Now, if you're referring to the rate of updates. Then I agree no one beats Fractal in that sense. They do release more updates than anyone in the modeling industry, and they are unique in that sense. No doubt.

    BTW, Line 6 has indeed explained their Hybrid Cab technology to us before. You'll have to dig that info out somewhere in the Mega Helix thread though. Everything there is to know about the Helix is in there, along with a LOT of unrelated crap, unfortunately.

    Wait! I didn't say that you said that great tones can't be had in the Helix. I know you never did. The point I was trying to make, which I guess I failed to explain, was that everyone here knows the capabilities of both modeling devices. Most of us here know that people have successfully carved out insanely tasteful tones out of both Helix and Fractal devices. However, another portion of the people watching your videos may not know this, which is why I think that your approach of setting everything at noon is not ideal. They may think that both Fractal and Helix suck at reproducing a realistic Mesa Boogie tone, to use that example again. Hopefully this makes my point more clear.

    And I appreciate your time and effort. I can only imagine how time consuming this must be for you, which is why I, and most people here, are all grateful for it. I just think that you need to tweak some things here and there (both literally and figuratively) to make your videos even better than they already are. Looking forward to the next installment :).

    Thanks!
     
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  20. MIJLOVER

    MIJLOVER Member

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    You haven't been around here much, but DI, Ben and Frank from Line 6 have been nothing less than phenomenal in taking care of customers and users. They go above and beyond to take care of us if we have any problems.
     

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