Seems to be the general consensus here that Fractal’s amp modeling beats HX. How about the effects front?
So basically they’re the same except the III is a million times better.You know, we get this kind of thread coming up every few days or weeks. I completely understand why. It's a really valid question.
I have been playing Fractal products for close to a decade now, but I have owned a Helix and an HX Stomp for some time as well. I'll do my best here.
-Quite honestly, the sound quality of both of these units is so high that if you are playing live or at practice, the effects quality is a total toss up. It ALL comes down to which unit gives you the interface or functionality of your choice. Everyone who owns a Helix will tell you they like the Helix interfacing better. Same for the Fractal guys.
-Before I had an Axe-FX III, i believed the Helix effects were arguably just as good. If you put a gun to my head, I think Fractal has surpassed the Helix with the III. The reverbs are worlds better. The delays are better. The overdrives are better. Could I tell playing live? Nah. In the studio? Yes.
I think if I were you, I would get the unit that looks more appealing. For me, it's Fractal all day. I had a Helix for a couple of months and it never measured up for me.
That's just my opinion. Playing live, it really doesn't matter.So basically they’re the same except the III is a million times better.
Having owned both Axe-Fx 2 and now having a Helix, I find Helix is easier on the fx front. There is a different approach in the units to effects. Helix is based more on real pedals while many of the fx blocks on the Fractal units are generic. Some have presets for some specific units but mostly you are left to figure it out for yourself. Don't know if this has changed for Axe-Fx 3.
For me it's easier to pick a familiar pedal effect than try to figure out how to get the generic block sounding right.
Reverbs are far better on Fractal. While the new reverbs on Helix sound great, they are specialty reverbs like shimmer etc. They should also upgrade the basic reverbs because I feel they are only ok at best.
With other effects I have no complaints about the Helix. I was able to nail my analog pedals with the Helix to the point that I just sold them.
Both of you really nailed it here. I would add that with tweaking, you can get most of the Fractal "hifi" effects to be very pedal like. The Reverbs and Delays on the Fractal are in another league, though. IMO they kind of destroy the Helix. The mod effects are more of a subjective kind of thing.IMO, the general difference is Fractal FX are mostly designed to be studio rack emulations and HX are mostly pedal emulations. Doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Just different flavors.
I think you nailed the market quota for the line 6 crowd. Before the Helix came along, there was a large swath of the player market that wouldn't touch any of the Fractal products. They took one look at it and said, "Good lord...looks like a Lexicon rack unit or something. Not for me." When people saw the Helix, they saw something accessible. Now, as someone who's spent hours and weeks with both units, I kind of disagree with that whole assessment (in practice). IMO, the Fractal software is actually better than the Helix in a lot of ways. The hardware controls I think favor the Helix a bit. Personally, I refuse to edit on either unit's hardware.I've never used a Fractal. But I've steered clear of multi-effects for a long time. When Helix came out, I got interested. It looked so easy to use, the color coded footswitches, the scribble strips, capacitive switches. Cool. But $1500 and way more functionality than I needed. When HX FX came out, I was sold. I really only wanted the effects part. I like that they are not infinitely tweakable. It's a black box full of all the old standards. I find it really pretty much perfect for me. And I agree with what has been said about in a band context, it's hard to tell. Once those drums kick in and the bass, if there's a bit more goo in the real phaser vs the modeled phaser, the ride cymbal covered it all up. I would imagine the same is true for the HX phaser vs the Fractal phaser. Maybe it has a phaser that you like better, but the sounds are all so great now.
I see where you're coming from here. One thing I would say is that the Fractal amps and effects are so good immediately out of the box, you could actually NEVER dive into the advanced menus and be perfectly fine. TBH, I can't remember the last time I touched an advanced amp parameter.Infinite tweakability makes me nervous
I agree with a lot of this, but I kind of reject the idea that you can't "drop in" a Fractal effect and get a great sound in seconds. You can. Quite easily. If you are looking for super specific tones, then yes, you may have to tinker. But if you just want a tape delay or zero flange or cave reverb, those are all 2 button presses away. I did think the Helix overdrives were better until the Axe III. That was the kicker for me.I always think the Helix is more like a fun collection of pedals and the Fractal is more like a rack of studio effects. The Helix stuff you can drop right in and start turning knobs and get something that makes you happy in seconds. It sounds great with the guitar, has lots of character. The Fractal stuff you may have to tinker with a little more but the tone is richer, more transparent, more high definition if that makes sense.
I really prefer the Fractal reverbs, chorus, and pitch effects. Helix I think has better drive pedals. Delays slight edge to Helix as they are more plug and play but Fractal can sound great with a little tweaking.
I would also agree the Fractal amps to me sound better, more realistic low end, better cleanup with the volume knob, no fizz in the upper mids.