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

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

  1. phil_m

    phil_m Supporting Member

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    Not sure what you're expecting them to say. They have a proprietary method they use for cab modeling, and I can understand why they wouldn't just divulge everything about it. DI did write a blog post about it a while back. I don't know how to link to specific post from this page, but it's here (scroll down to the post from 2015.09.15): http://line6.com/helix/blog.html/

    Along with its suite of internal speaker cabinet models, Helix also allows you to load high-quality impulse responses from third parties. While this is a fantastic option to have, it’s important to note that the factory speaker cabinets in Helix offer a number of advancements over traditional static third-party impulses.


    We call the speaker emulations in Helix “hybrid cabs”, because they use a number of proprietary algorithms to reproduce the same frequency and dynamic accuracy typically seen in a 2048-point impulse response, but at far lower DSP usage.


    Not only that, a hybrid cab allows you to move the microphone from directly on the grill to up to 12 inches away (in .5 inch increments), and accurately captures the proximity effect/bass boost of the microphone in all positions while doing so. All of this detail means that the speaker cabinet reacts just like the real thing, not just sounding better but feeling better under your fingers.


    Due to the efficiency improvements hybrid cabs offer, it’s actually possible to run up to four speaker cabinets at once in Helix (depending on DSP load), all with different microphones and microphone positions!
     
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  2. Frank Ritchotte

    Frank Ritchotte Silver Supporting Member

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    Hi Mitch,

    Its all good and things have changed quite a bit at Line 6 in the last couple of years. There are a bunch of L6 folks here on this forum and others, not as Marketing operatives (I am in Operations..NOT marketing or Sales) but out of a feeling of commitment to our customers. This is not part of any of our job titles or responsibilities it is literally because individual employees feel both pride and commitment and I can 100% promise you it is absolutely genuine. Beyond these forums, as you know, we have our own forum and we also have the most user-facing development tool in the industry: IdeaScale. Almost every design decision in Helix (including what new amps/pedals/functionality to add) is made in-part by looking at what you guys vote up. Our goal is to build a product YOU want not one we want (though DI always gets his stuff:)).

    I just wanted to jump in and let you know that your comment may be out of date and I hope you see, through your interactions here, that we are here cuz we want to be and we are not going anywhere. AND IdeaScale is how we will continue to operate going forward which means you the customer will continue to design this product and others with us. And, If we can find a way to get even closer to our customers we will.

    Your videos rock.
     
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  3. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    OK, I shouldn't have phrased it like that: no, I haven't been on this forum much, and I haven't had much correspondence with L6 staff because I'm not as active in that community, so I probably made a wrong stretch there, and I apologize. I'm not in a position to say which company is "better" at communication, so I shouldn't have phrased it like that, and that was a very biased claim. But I think y'all get my point. Even if Line 6 is doing a great job at it, Fractal is too, I know that for sure. Didn't mean to criticize anyone who's doing great work for Line 6 in that regard, but my main point still remains true: I still am quite critical of Fractal because I know my concerns will be taken into account (regardless of whether they're better at that than L6, didn't mean to establish some sort of hierarchy.)

    As far as this goes, I'm not necessarily curious about all the in's and out's of the process, and I can understand why that would be kept secret. My main concern is that if they've gone this far to allude to the fact these aren't "actual" impulses, I want to hear the actual sonic difference between a hybrid cab's model and an actual impulse taken of the same cab and mic. Just to see if it's really as accurate of a process as they say. Because as it's stated, the main reason for doing this was to save on CPU, which is a valid concern for the "amount of blocks" they want out of the Helix, but from my experience, the single most important part of a guitar recording is mic choice and placement HORIZONTALLY on the speaker cone. And from what I've seen and heard so far, since these are likely impulses just stacked on top of one another, I think there's little chance that someone was grueling over how any given microphone model actually sounds at that position on that cab as they captured it. I could be wrong. This in theory worried me; and more importantly, in practice, I believe has lead to relatively harsh high gain tones, where fractions of an inch can make a world of difference in placing the mic to balance top end. If you think all the Helix cabs sound better or equally good as actual impulses, then I can understand why you wouldn't be as critical of this process, but personally, I think they fall short to actual impulses most of the time, which makes me want to know more. That's just what I think. To me there's no substitute for effective horizontal mic placement, unless they found a way to accurately model that through impulses, which would be quite interesting :)

    And let me restate, I'm not saying these cabs can't be made to sound pleasing. I'm simply speaking in relative terms, and it's easier to start with something tasteful than to always need to tweak it, no matter how simple you think those tweaks are. Not to mention having something that's actually accurate to real life; which matters to some, others not.
     
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  4. veritechc

    veritechc Member

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    Hi Mitch!

    Here is how I think about the Helix cabs vs the Fractal approach.

    Line 6 has stated that they model "warts and all". What that means is that they have modeled everything component by component. That includes their hybrid cabs. To me, they respond just like if you put a mic in front of that cab and recorded it. There are no filters or eq, just what the real mic has. Therefore, just like you would do if you were recording a guitar cab, you may need to add some eq in post. That is what I use the Hi and Low cuts in the Helix for, to shape the raw mic sound.

    Fractal takes a different approach. Cliff uses his idealized version of what he models. He already has things dialed in to sound great and that includes his Cabs. So there is not as much sound shaping needing to be done by the user because he has already done part of it.

    I think both approaches have their merit.
     
  5. Mitch Baker

    Mitch Baker Member

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    Even if they're "warts and all" I want them to be made by people who are critical of the placement of the PARTICULAR microphone they're capturing to make sure it sounds good. That really can make a world of difference in tonality, and can greatly reduce the amount of post-processing necessary.

    I can't speak for Cliff or Fractal when it comes to how "processed" their cabs are. But I can speak in relativity here because I capture my own impulses and I use other impulses that I know were captured "warts and all" as you say. Are most of my personal impulses voiced like the Helix's and need EQ? Yes. Absolutely. But are a few more like Fractal's? Yes, and those are the ones I use more, since they're great out of the gate. It's certainly possible to have great tone simply due to effective microphone choice and placement, and starting to avoid reliance on post-processing was an oddly liberating experience to me haha. If this isn't a big deal to you, I won't tell you you're wrong, of course. I agree, both approaches definitely have their merit. If the impulses Fractal uses are already processed by EQ to sound tasteful, I would have major issues with that. But to me, they just sound well-miced, nothing more.
     
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  6. veritechc

    veritechc Member

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    Can't ask for more that that Mitch. I just know that having both an Axe Fx and Helix side by side for a year you notice the differences quite a bit. In my case throwing an eq or high\low cut when needed was no more inconvenient than when I had to deep dive into the Fractal parameters or use the Axe Edit because I never liked the front panel of the Axe.

    I do get where you are coming from though. The Fractal platform just was a bit more polished when you dropped in an amp and cab. Matter of fact when I owned one I made a whole bank of just those to test out all the amps. I'm sure it's still out there somewhere out there on the purgatory that was the Fractal forums for me, lol.
     
  7. jageya

    jageya Member

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    from the beginning of the helix release if i am correct the onboard cabinet ir's have been a weakpoint maybe. The sheer number of included ir's on the fractal is huge. In the hd500x the weakpoint to many has always been the cabs.....Just means there is room for improvements from line6 if they also think thats a possible weak link in the chain...just sayin...i know approaches are diff between companies as well.
     
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  8. Ericjutsu

    Ericjutsu Member

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    A huge problem with the Helix's cabs is that there is no option to move the mic further horizontally. They are all on axis in the center of the speaker cone. When most people mic cabs, they find a sweet spot and not just put it in the center of the speaker cone. The low end on the Helix is also lacking I believe. Hopefully there will be updates to the amp/cab modeling in the near future. That's really my main issue with it. Fractal has much more frequent firmware updates. The Helix really hasn't had that much content added by comparison. Hopefully that changes...

    I still do like the Helix though and I'm happy I bought it. If I had more money though, I would have probably went with the Axe FX II. I'm still excited for the future of the Helix though and maybe someday it'll surpass the Axe FX II or at least be equal to it.
     
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  9. Ericjutsu

    Ericjutsu Member

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    Yeah I really think Line 6 needs a guy who really knows about miking cabs because it's been a weak point of all of their modeling.
     
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  10. veritechc

    veritechc Member

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    I actually use both the stock cabs and IR's all the time. Both require about the same effort to sound fantastic.
     
  11. mikah912

    mikah912 Member

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    Can't disagree. "Warts and all" is not really a philosophy I see being appropriate for cab/mic modeling in the age of Ownhammer, Fat Lazy Cabs, Rosen Digital, etc.

    I get it....in the launch of this product, they had a bazillion balls to juggle. They had cabs and mics sitting around the Line 6 headquarters. It was low hanging fruit. But without Fredman/Off Axis/etc. options of modern IR makers, it's incomplete.

    I think the best compromise is to do what someone like Overloud did with TH2/TH3. They made their own super tweakable cab and mic models like Line 6. But they ALSO included a factory sampler from third party IR makers. No matter what else was happening, I can't imagine a call from the mighty Line 6 to Ownhammer or Kazrog or GuitarHack or Kalthallen or Rosen wouldn't get a quick and easy licensing agreement done in a matter of days.

    Maybe they still will.
     
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  12. Jarick

    Jarick Member

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    Mitch, I really enjoyed your video series comparing the different amp models in the Fractal unit. It was very helpful to hear those differences (and similarities) and I think you nailed it when estimating the changes between similar amps. It would be interesting to hear the same thing for the Helix down the road.

    I agree that Line 6 could do a better job with their cabinets. They were at the forefront of modeling for many years but hardware limited their ability to model cab impulses and that's what held them back. Helix is a major step forward but it sounds like they could take another big step. I can't see them partnering with Ownhammer but I really like the idea of adopting a similar blended/mixed IR that is easier to dial in.
     
  13. Guitardave

    Guitardave Supporting Member

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    Very interesting - I tend to think of using IR's as more like using a Kemper profile. It's a fixed value of a number of complex variables. Helix cabs and mics use a vastly different approach. For me they offer a very quick and easy way to get great tones. I can always augment them with IR's if I find them lacking.
     
  14. MusicLaw

    MusicLaw Member

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    It may be a bit Utopian but here goes....

    A Horizontal Microphone Position value parameter (another slider in the editor) for the Helix cabs would be an awesome tool! Of course, all the data supporting this parameter, relative to the distance factor would also be necessary for this to be accomplished.

    As for acquiring technology or exploring licensing opportunities for 3rd party IRs, that's a process I could easily see Lime 6 embarking on should they wish to do so. Intellectual Property tech is an area I'm very familiar with.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
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  15. jageya

    jageya Member

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    interesting
     
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  16. Guitardave

    Guitardave Supporting Member

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    I like it but it gets a bit crazy, because we should also have microphone angle as well.
     
  17. MusicLaw

    MusicLaw Member

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    I don't disagree.

    As this involves merely the data points derived from Audio 3D Imaging -- not 3D video Imaging -- most if not all of the video chip guys are likely laughing at all this. ;) In the grand scheme of sheer processing power this audio stuff is relatively basic.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
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  18. jageya

    jageya Member

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    you lost me at relatively basic.:confused:
     
  19. Jose7822

    Jose7822 Member

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    The tip in this video is the reason I now like the stock cabs in the Helix. If anyone hasn't given this a try, please do. You'll see what I mean. Great tip!

    P.S. I keep my path stereo though, as opposed to how he does it in the video. But that's my preference.
     
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  20. jageya

    jageya Member

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    so when you keep it stereo you would do the way he did demonstate with the second path
     

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