Helix, AX8, Kemper, Amplifire side by side impressions

CapnRex

Member
Messages
2,378
First off, I own an Amplifire - but I am not particularly attached to it; I actually expected it would be worst and I was itching for another modeler.

So today I went to tokyo and I went to a music "KEY" store in Shibuya. They had all 4 side by side to play on. I spent maybe 45 mins there so it's not so in-depth, but I got a good feel for core stock sounds. They were running through a roland cube. I tried equivalents of blues jr, ac30, 5150, british crunch and mesas. Some had the exact model, others I had to approximate. This is just my opinion under this limited demo, and these were all just the stock cabs and so on used by the store. IRs would likely change this review a lot.

Best sound: kemper, by a mile. Both cleans and distorted sounded natural, and clear and present. I was truly impressed. I really loved the feel of it too, really reacted to my playing and just sounded like an amp should. I loved the lead tones I could get, sounded like stuff I hear on Satch albums. Nothing fizzy, just good overdrive. Also seemed like better sustain than with the others, but maybe there were stronger gate settings on them or something.

2nd best: AX8. Very good both distorted and cleans, but it did have a slight unnatural digital sound. In a mix, it would be very convincing, but playing without any backround sound or effects, you can tell it's a modeler. Very good, many great sounds. Easy to find one you like, unlike with the Amplifire which requires more tweaking.

3rd best: Amplifire. About the same as AX8 in tone with a slight reduction in clarity on some amps. Not as many amp models to choose from, and I couldn't get a convincing lead tone from the stock model in the store. (I can get it better at home with IRs and more delay, but not as good as AX8 and not near what the kemper had)

4th best: Helix. I was shocked as I thought this would be near the top. Digital sounds, compressed, definitely not as good as the AX8 or Amplifire, especially for the british crunch and ac30 which sounded brittle. The cleans sounded better but still flat. I have heard this is the case on the stock tones, so I expect this is not the Helix at full power, as youtube vids have been impressive.

I've really been looking forward to this trial and had such a blast. In the end, I decided to keep my Amplifire until I save enough for a Kemper. I really was blown away by it, and it's the only one I felt if I had it, I would be satisfied and not just keep looking for the next model that came out. As for the AX8, it's a little nicer in tones and amp models than the Amplifire, but not enough for me to consider selling my Amplifire and spending so much more. I feel bad dogging the helix when it was not using IRs...but since the others can use IRs too, I just don't see myself ever getting one.
 

BjarneDa

Member
Messages
818
Helix needs to have IR and not stock cabs i.m.o
Also if you using stock cabs you really need to dial in lowpass and highpass filter on the cabs to 80-120 hz and atleast go below 12 khz (i say 6 or lower) before you can get a decent sound it also needs to have some tweaking in the global settings and set to the right impedance in the input..

And just to inform you the factory presets sound crap really crap Helix is all about tweaking your own sound..

But then again high gain sound is not as good as the competitors except the new PRS amp..

I really hope they adresses those in future updates
 

mikah912

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,964
I read comments about the Helix being digital, compressed and unnatural - not to mention unable to achieve competitive high gain sounds....

....Then I think of my experience with it or watch Guitarjon's video where he sets up just a Helix amp at default settings, one Ownhammer IR and a small room reverb....and it sounds glorious.

I don't get why it's sometimes so difficult for other people to get great tone out of it. I really don't.
 

richpjr

Member
Messages
2,415
All I can say is...so what?
No disrespect intended but that is what you came away with...doesn't mean everyone else will have the same conclusions.
Play what you like.

45 minutes is a very small time to demo 4 different units and a Roland Cube isn't exactly the state of the art in sound, but that doesn't mean his conclusions should be dismissed as ridiculous, as is already happening. Everyone has different preferences in what sounds good to them.
 

JiveTurkey

Trumpets and Tants
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
25,707
I took much longer than 45 minutes and came to the same conclusions. It took a minute to get great higher high gain sounds out of the Atomic and was pretty much instant gratification on the Ax and Kemper. I need to try an up to date fw Helix.
 
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goodkungfu

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
799
I had a kemper, ax8, and helix together for over 2 months. CLR, Adam a5's and SS amp and 2x12 cab to play with.

Your right, the kemper does sound awesome.

Your right, the ax sounds awesome too.

But I sold both and still have the helix.

45 mins isn't long enough to try all these units, not nearly.
 

JoeB63

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
14,598
First off, I own an Amplifire - but I am not particularly attached to it; I actually expected it would be worst and I was itching for another modeler.

So today I went to tokyo and I went to a music "KEY" store in Shibuya. They had all 4 side by side to play on. I spent maybe 45 mins there so it's not so in-depth, but I got a good feel for core stock sounds. They were running through a roland cube. I tried equivalents of blues jr, ac30, 5150, british crunch and mesas. Some had the exact model, others I had to approximate. This is just my opinion under this limited demo, and these were all just the stock cabs and so on used by the store. IRs would likely change this review a lot.

Best sound: kemper, by a mile. Both cleans and distorted sounded natural, and clear and present. I was truly impressed. I really loved the feel of it too, really reacted to my playing and just sounded like an amp should. I loved the lead tones I could get, sounded like stuff I hear on Satch albums. Nothing fizzy, just good overdrive. Also seemed like better sustain than with the others, but maybe there were stronger gate settings on them or something.

2nd best: AX8. Very good both distorted and cleans, but it did have a slight unnatural digital sound. In a mix, it would be very convincing, but playing without any backround sound or effects, you can tell it's a modeler. Very good, many great sounds. Easy to find one you like, unlike with the Amplifire which requires more tweaking.

3rd best: Amplifire. About the same as AX8 in tone with a slight reduction in clarity on some amps. Not as many amp models to choose from, and I couldn't get a convincing lead tone from the stock model in the store. (I can get it better at home with IRs and more delay, but not as good as AX8 and not near what the kemper had)

4th best: Helix. I was shocked as I thought this would be near the top. Digital sounds, compressed, definitely not as good as the AX8 or Amplifire, especially for the british crunch and ac30 which sounded brittle. The cleans sounded better but still flat. I have heard this is the case on the stock tones, so I expect this is not the Helix at full power, as youtube vids have been impressive.

I've really been looking forward to this trial and had such a blast. In the end, I decided to keep my Amplifire until I save enough for a Kemper. I really was blown away by it, and it's the only one I felt if I had it, I would be satisfied and not just keep looking for the next model that came out. As for the AX8, it's a little nicer in tones and amp models than the Amplifire, but not enough for me to consider selling my Amplifire and spending so much more. I feel bad dogging the helix when it was not using IRs...but since the others can use IRs too, I just don't see myself ever getting one.

I have compared them all (and own a KPA and Amplifire), and I agree with your general conclusions. Note that I have tried Helix with IRs, and it doesn't change my feelings on this.
 

buddachile

Member
Messages
1,825
I have the Kemper and the Amplifire (which I've used with aftermarket IRs). In my experience the Kemper is truly awesome with great profiles, but the Amplifire is not effecting me nealry in the same way.
 

Axe-Man

Member
Messages
7,986
2 minutes was all I needed to know the Helix sounded just like a POD HD.

I could not dial in a good tone as I don't have a high opinion of the previous L6 offerings and to my ears it was simply a more touch sensitive but similar sounding version.

I've owned what 8 PODs so I know exactly what they sound like.

All the usual responses like was it factory reset and did you turn around 3 times with your fingers crossed to engage the 'sounds good' algo etc
 




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