Helix epiphany - fully digital rig that matches my tube amp experience

Guitardave

Member
Messages
11,334
Everyone has their gear journey and I don't even begin to pretend mine is over but for the first time EVER I had a digital rig fully meet/exceed my personal expectations in a typical gig situation. I'm not some uber crazed cork sniffer but I know what I want to hear coming from my guitar rig. My main amp is a 50-watt Lil Dawg Wonderdawg which is just an awesome blackface vibe that holds it own with every high end amp (Two Rock, Morgan, Redplate, Morgan, BadCat, Dr Z, Mesa, etc. etc.) that I have owned and kept the Wonderdawg. Typically I use a fairly simple pedalboard with Rockett Pedals for my ODs. Not nearly as picky about delays or many other effects as I use them very sparingly and my amp has reverb.

Fall 2015 I picked up a Helix as an attempt to satisfy my jones to have a "big" pedalboard that could really provide me switching control of my favorite effects/rig. I'd tried multiple approaches to the big board and it's always been a huge PITA for so many reasons. The Helix was an instant home run and I've been happy with it since day one in that regard.

The amp modeling and other functionalities were nice to have items (backup if my amp dies) but sounded so good that I've spent the last 15 months experimenting on how to amplify the amp models in a way that sounds on par with my main rig.

FRFR, direct to PA - I tried several approaches but as a starting point I have never enjoyed the mic'd sound of my amp coming thru the PA/monitors. Just doesn't fit well for me when the rest of the band is playing thru real amps, acoustic drums, etc. etc. It always sounds and feels off compared to my actual tube amp on stage with me. I'll live with it when the situation calls for it...but that's about it.

Amp models into the effects return of the amp. Tried various options with some of my other amps that have effects loops and they all work well. But not always worth the hassle compared to just using Helix effects into the front end.

Amp models into a power amp into a guitar cab. Tried various options (BadCat Unleash, Fryette Power Station, Quilter, Tech 21 Power Engine 60, etc.) - all sounded really good but had some issue that made it not quite up to par (not enough headroom, too much coloration from the power amp, etc.) At home, in isolation and at lower volumes they all sounded great. But they just didn't measure up on the gig.

Decided late last week to try a much better power amp (Crown XLS2500) and use two of my Boogie 1x12 cabs in a vertical 1/2 stack config. The top cab is loaded with a Jensen C12k, bottom is a Mesa Black Shadow.

My goal was simple - match or exceed the tone of my Wonderdawg (Helix/or little pedalboard) at actual gig levels. Load in and setup had to be relatively easy, gear needed to be light and manageable. Here's a pic of the rig:

View media item 51527
and packed ready to load-in with the Helix in it's case:

View media item 51529
OMG - just using the Helix Deluxe Normal full amp model (no cab) and it was absolutely spot on. Within the last few years I've owned and gigged an original '65 Super Reverb, VSA (Vintage Sound) Super, Redplate Blackverb, Dr. Z EZG50, etc. This rig sounded and felt every bit as good as my Wonderdawg or any of these amps. I think a lot of it is the ability to keep the solid state amp from being pushed at all. That's where that nasty high-end sizzle that fatigues my ears so quickly comes from. It also results in no headroom/punch when the band gets loud. With the Crown the power amp lights were only lighting up the first LED indicator - I had massive headroom to spare and it just sounded perfect at all volumes, louder just got better. Rolled my volume on the Helix to 1/2 way for the first set, brought it up to 2/3rds for the louder stuff. Seriously great tones - and now I'm able to run it in stereo which of course makes all the time based stuff just sound huge. It was sitting about 8 feet behind me next to the drums - nothing special at all. I used the Mesa EQ at the end of chain to trim a little of the low end because the raised wooden stage had a lot of low end resonance. I programmed and dialed in this entire rig from scratch using the Helix front panel in about 30 minutes. Most of the effects were the stock settings with minor tweaks. And the rig is dead silent - absolutely no noise. Each piece weighs 25 lbs. or less. Setup took about 10 minutes for the first trial. I'm working on a few ideas to bring that will bring that down to about 5 minutes. I keep it on the rolling rack and basically just need to plug a few cables in. Here's a pic with a guitar case next to it for perspective.

View media item 51528
I'll try and gets some good clips and will see how it fares as I continue to gig in different scenarios. But I finally have a digital rig that seems like it's worth the time to really explore some more complex signal stuff.

You can substitute your modeler of choice in this type of setup but I'm convinced that having the beefier power amp is going to be key to satisfaction at gig levels.

Hope this write up helps someone with their digital rig journey!!

And yes, I recognize the sheer amount of gear involved to replicate something that my Wonderdawg and a few pedals can do. But this only the starting point with the digital rig - the Dawg is already perfect for what it does and can't really do much else. Now I have the flexibility to explore a lot of interesting things that were previously way too much hassle to seriously consider.

View media item 51530View media item 51526
 
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MIJLOVER

Member
Messages
2,536
Everyone has their gear journey and I don't even begin to pretend mine is over but for the first time EVER I had a digital rig fully meet/exceed my personal expectations in a typical gig situation. I'm not some uber crazed cork sniffer but I know what I want to hear coming from my guitar rig. My main amp is a 50-watt Lil Dawg Wonderdawg which is just an awesome blackface vibe that holds it own with every high end amp (Two Rock, Morgan, Redplate, Morgan, BadCat, Dr Z, Mesa, etc. etc.) that I have owned and kept the Wonderdawg. Typically I use a fairly simple pedalboard with Rockett Pedals for my ODs. Not nearly as picky about delays or many other effects as I use them very sparingly and my amp has reverb.

Fall 2015 I picked up a Helix as an attempt to satisfy my jones to have a "big" pedalboard that could really provide me switching control of my favorite effects/rig. I'd tried multiple approaches to the big board and it's always been a huge PITA for so many reasons. The Helix was an instant home run and I've been happy with it since day one in that regard.

The amp modeling and other functionalities were nice to have items (backup if my amp dies) but sounded so good that I've spent the last 15 months experimenting on how to amplify the amp models in a way that sounds on par with my main rig.

FRFR, direct to PA - I tried several approaches but as a starting point I have never enjoyed the mic'd sound of my amp coming thru the PA/monitors. Just doesn't fit well for me when the rest of the band is playing thru real amps, acoustic drums, etc. etc. It always sounds and feels off compared to my actual tube amp on stage with me. I'll live with it when the situation calls for it...but that's about it.

Amp models into the effects return of the amp. Tried various options with some of my other amps that have effects loops and they all work well. But not always worth the hassle compared to just using Helix effects into the front end.

Amp models into a power amp into a guitar cab. Tried various options (BadCat Unleash, Fryette Power Station, Quilter, Tech 21 Power Engine 60, etc.) - all sounded really good but had some issue that made it not quite up to par (not enough headroom, too much coloration from the power amp, etc.) At home, in isolation and at lower volumes they all sounded great. But they just didn't measure up on the gig.

Decided late last week to try a much better power amp (Crown XLS2500) and use two of my Boogie 1x12 cabs in a vertical 1/2 stack config. The top cab is loaded with a Jensen C12k, bottom is a Mesa Black Shadow.

My goal was simple - match or exceed the tone of my Wonderdawg (Helix/or little pedalboard) at actual gig levels. Load in and setup had to be relatively easy, gear needed to be light and manageable. Here's a pic of the rig:

vpl2gty4TKfgsHHjO9csUGhjKOmj9ofo6qhNvY_niNSYUNPS9YkOnpthLKE9Qum3JGGD5P9M0bDG4jJL6Vn-CvYxG79uzHyY_hB_HaGQsSRORw52h_ZPCOv0pqeab4uIvXWc7Km5GwhjDp9L_iPAlCgDHQQ5iSzy523xfc-lrPuYY3pjjMo7Cn1CfQ1Bf7JIMDLRLF2EkbcqboW7x27ukD_B8XmkioijzNCOaIZ4uemmMCjgDoQxnUCj88J0d1RoLVs5iEqtb8gVxnSHlS3gol86iEKvqqslbinGF4CyMdGfLoy_xPfLqnG7MkTt7bk_TXWXpNJKtKSJ3lANhB2FF_RljJaiEKVO9tJYUeBzSy6iAiAKlizMMmUIDCfJvsEky0bVh8hx7jqS1VSFoAAM3xCOSkSMLdTaRxhXXj-sU7Bi8dyqAwNg5x_0mrpATDjcMm3-zOhAcmGRZPmHo3qS-F5jCERMc1UcOkZEzTQDAgppBiVyCVKhb9LudjkNdR17YCQKW6KD2ZBj2cZ5eRtSAMexhMsSezmxPzg1X2fgtL3g6nFzRCDzvzPwxHm5G9vgdQXYscxHb1b8JAnvYwfjDecx4SuB_xbayec-JOZ3pzSDa10uyIPY=w487-h648-no



and packed ready to load-in with the Helix in it's case.

1azustUDAd8skJ9ZHZsxGjvBd4Y4BOl3K3hr8QL-HifJDv32WpcjaboeDL6lOwCKlZqnRjCvMOrFnv_evLw-4PwV40mRj6b5-cnFMf9YhnWzLh52WJ18vuychNWx0a-UVqPwm2EmmFQXyBiXOJiMBH_8HGn_lWfdvhJyKrXj9fooiZnvI14Dk6_QGOulQf3VR5cA28vzzXBrfNAcEg-i-p616Vn7c_H3Y7DpmDFW2GBDA0aUcXqpmlE1frVcDEp-iQctfhB4bOf7YJepnGzc8BdFQnPhrEstKSkBZqz-Mez2VSWpNgafTseFqvEzFmt2C9jgOAhWQvcpuh-TiENHPORPBgRcBrfhTz81c2K25wRBJUS3-hu7bV_KKz4p5wpWXyKFJqceAA7M1K70hlXtUzA0rh92-P4Md1Pa2DCllTFQocy4ddYyRFIusBZYdYKgKefC7cz2z7niVqkE-8qB7HgASWwjlxr7itUEL_RP_cTZ3gcWBHdfUB5U1-0_RrOgn2t4DD4ty_5Q1bvZL1fYRzL7MrxYm_sywajSMpW8ZGaQObw5dk0vJY0I9MZNO03UYRX_vLFVBaxSLG0Cg5BCVLVxbG2P91atvu6B76FsgnFUo5OONdss=w487-h648-no


OMG - just using the Helix Deluxe Normal full amp model (no cab) and it was absolutely spot on. Within the last few years I've owned and gigged an original '65 Super Reverb, VSA (Vintage Sound) Super, Redplate Blackverb, Dr. Z EZG50, etc. This rig sounded and felt every bit as good as my Wonderdawg or any of these amps. I think a lot of it is the ability to keep the solid state amp from being pushed at all. That's where that nasty high-end sizzle that fatigues my ears so quickly comes from. It also results in no headroom/punch when the band gets loud. With the Crown the power amp lights were only lighting up the first LED indicator - I had massive headroom to spare and it just sounded perfect at all volumes, louder just got better. Rolled my volume on the Helix to 1/2 way for the first set, brought it up to 2/3rds for the louder stuff. Seriously great tones - and now I'm able to run it in stereo which of course makes all the time based stuff just sound huge. It was sitting about 8 feet behind me next to the drums - nothing special at all. I used the Mesa EQ at the end of chain to trim a little of the low end because the raised wooden stage had a lot of low end resonance. I programmed and dialed in this entire rig from the Helix front panel in about 30 minutes. Most of the effects were the stock settings with minor tweaks. And the rig is dead silent - absolutely no noise. Each piece weighs 25 lbs. or less. Setup took about 10 minutes for the first trial. I'm working on a few ideas to bring that will bring that down to about 5 minutes. I keep it on the rolling rack and basically just need to plug a few cables in. Here's a pic with a guitar case next to it for perspective.

X4isc7wjjMNNrEGS4AMtzFvFmOHOnak6X2TSRYL44ZmsN0ptvOFWTjHNovVQkDpA70PMj4sAmFYJNZr3rDn6dnxJB01VKElgNhtJP0jwxmOLyASxi2kMl8mBV92lZswPzE2yuvQ3iw1_1t0MXvQ2liVExVkYdhQKndC93XIhSWCkDy1pasxpLq0_OLJITFGBzlzjA2xGSHXC5TF5Q0zg-R0T9y2InIlU4FC_IbAuXMwQJxWYrtA_geJ4r9px5GapobYIitNXz5VyiKbp16De9SKLEVGiuuDPtAtA-YTLVmuh_9r_H3DBW6ENc4j-56fNkRW-LBZE2cCdYqhmq07uHrAJDd-zdTd6R_Rcp97idr7JctM5T346x5AFaBp19YDKJclTOJrJqCuK_RDYT7yFkGnob_PDFGBxw4SrWxGNpk9QkPYSaa73b1VZoZsr4XlYD-F4DgV4EGH4YbqJ2Wb1fzN0ll6335Sc6jfeSGBm38TNFTdal8a7AdqAiE0YK1KLFfPyWKCzMrKtJEWvlmJ3M6Epe3Ml1CmTc78JbpfM-0cS1NpUioctbAJen-x4rw2sGsrFcNSXd1nkCn1tCjbqQANQmRThM8UuhVRbvEdycgn2OZfB-IFy=w487-h648-no




I'll try and gets some good clips and will see how it fares as I continue to gig in different scenarios. But I finally have a digital rig that seems like it's worth the time to really explore some more complex signal stuff.

You can substitute your modeler of choice in this type of setup but I'm convinced that having the beefier power amp is going to be key to satisfaction at gig levels.

Hope this write up helps someone with their digital rig journey!!

Congrats on finding your setup. I followed many of your trial and error-adventures, and cool that you're hitting home.

Just a quick question, how do you make sure you're not driving the cabs too hard with the power amp? Driving two cabs must help a lot of course.
 

Guitardave

Member
Messages
11,334
Congrats on finding your setup. I followed many of your trial and error-adventures, and cool that you're hitting home.

Just a quick question, how do you make sure you're not driving the cabs too hard with the power amp? Driving two cabs must help a lot of course.

The power amps dials on the front of the Crown are currently set to about 3/4 - you can adjust them down as needed. I can tell you comfortably that cranking the Helix to full output volume still only has the Crown's blinking into the 2nd led and it's really loud. I'll probably roll them back a bit on the Crown. The Jensen can handle 100 watts, not sure on the Mesa but I think it's up at about 75 watts. I'm toying with putting another Jensen in but I like the contrast the two different speakers give me. Especially as I start to experiment with dialing in dual amp models. I may even try some of the more neutral speakers that have been recommended to see if those with some cab modeling works but that'll be down the road. For the moment I just want to bask in having finally gotten something that is working so well. Oh, and being able to kick in a stereo delay/chorus, etc. in the vertical config gives this huge stage sound that still manages to really project really well. The height of the upper cab is also perfect for me to be able to hear myself in balance to the rest of the band. Previously I would have to bring an amp stand or use a chair/stool to raise the amp up. Sounds like a minimal thing but it all adds up to hassles and time for load-in at the gig.
 

dbagchee

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,051
Great to hear! I've been following a lot of your threads as I think we have similar goals. At this point I've been focusing on the Amplifire in stereo out to the returns of a Mesa Rectoverb 25 & Mark V:25 but am wanting to simplify into a single stereo power amp to run into my 1x12s (or optionally my stereo 2x12 or 4x12). Just trying to decide which one - I was leaning toward the Matrix stuff but maybe this is more of the ticket. I was hoping to find something that had a compact form factor though as I don't really want to lug a rack case around - though it seems the options are limited.
 

Guitardave

Member
Messages
11,334
Great to hear! I've been following a lot of your threads as I think we have similar goals. At this point I've been focusing on the Amplifire in stereo out to the returns of a Mesa Rectoverb 25 & Mark V:25 but am wanting to simplify into a single stereo power amp to run into my 1x12s (or optionally my stereo 2x12 or 4x12). Just trying to decide which one - I was leaning toward the Matrix stuff but maybe this is more of the ticket. I was hoping to find something that had a compact form factor though as I don't really want to lug a rack case around - though it seems the options are limited.

Yeah, I was thinking about the Matrix but I already had a pair of the Crowns for my PA. Actually that rack case is the one from my PA and I just pulled one of the two Crowns out of it. The rack case works well with the rolling cart in that it gets the cabs up high enough for my personal monitoring preferences and I can keep all the cables in it. Total weight is about 25 lbs. including cables. Now that I know it can work well I'm going to just run with it for awhile and see how I feel after a year or so. It takes me using a rig in a variety of situations before I really know if it's just the honeymoon phase. I'll still probably grab my Dawg and little pedalboard for at least 1/2 the gigs I play. I can also use my BadCat Unleash as a poweramp when I want to only run one cab for small gigs. Lots of possibilities.
 
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MIJLOVER

Member
Messages
2,536
The power amps dials on the front of the Crown are currently set to about 3/4 - you can adjust them down as needed. I can tell you comfortably that cranking the Helix to full output volume still only has the Crown's blinking into the 2nd led and it's really loud. I'll probably roll them back a bit on the Crown. The Jensen can handle 100 watts, not sure on the Mesa but I think it's up at about 75 watts. I'm toying with putting another Jensen in but I like the contrast the two different speakers give me. Especially as I start to experiment with dialing in dual amp models. I may even try some of the more neutral speakers that have been recommended to see if those with some cab modeling works but that'll be down the road. For the moment I just want to bask in having finally gotten something that is working so well. Oh, and being able to kick in a stereo delay/chorus, etc. in the vertical config gives this huge stage sound that still manages to really project really well. The height of the upper cab is also perfect for me to be able to hear myself in balance to the rest of the band. Previously I would have to bring an amp stand or use a chair/stool to raise the amp up. Sounds like a minimal thing but it all adds up to hassles and time for load-in at the gig.

Cool! The Crown delivers 775 w peak, but that's in 4 O. In 8 O, it's 440 W, again at peak. So unless you crank Helix and the Crown, the speakers should be safe, right? Do you run it with the 1/4 jacks or XLR?
 

Guitardave

Member
Messages
11,334
Cool! The Crown delivers 775 w peak, but that's in 4 O. In 8 O, it's 440 W, again at peak. So unless you crank Helix and the Crown, the speakers should be safe, right? Do you run it with the 1/4 jacks or XLR?

Yeah, that's kind of my thinking as well. If it gets loud enough I have to worry about blowing speakers then my ears won't be able to take it. Running XLR from the Helix.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,010
No images for me either...even with ad block disabled, which usually works.
 




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