Help me pick a modeler! (Mostly for live)

thebigcheese

Member
Messages
142
I have acquired a lot of nice gear over the years, but frankly I am getting pretty sick of hauling a 100w head, a 2x12, and a PT Pro in a flight case to every show, not to mention a bag of cables. On top of that, I've finally signed a lease on an apartment with my fiancee and am just not going to have room to store it all, much less use it. So I think it is time I move to modeling, but I don't want to get something that sounds like butt. These leads me to debating between the Fractal AX-8 (which I understand has a waiting list, which I am now on) and the Line 6 Helix. I mostly like that those two in particular have foot controls and are in a reasonably affordable price range.

So here's my current setup - PRS Custom 24, Mesa Roadster head, Orange PPC212OB, Whammy DT (used for 5th up and octave down harmonies on different songs), Royal Beaver fuzz (have been known to use Fuzz Factory 7), Malekko Compressor (for single-note clean runs), Orbital Modulator, Nemesis Delay, and Dimension Reverb (for when I need extra reverb). For the most part, I am confident that either system can imitate most of those effects well enough for my purposes (as long as I can adjust the wet/dry mix on a phaser). Mostly what I am thinking about are the pros and cons of each system in regards to how I want to use it.

Sound quality is paramount, for sure, and from that standpoint I am inclined to go with the AX8 as it contains the tried-and-true Axe FX system and all the hundreds of models that entails. I haven't used it, but it's definitely the most prevalent and probably half my favorite tones come from that, so I don't think I would be disappointed. On the other hand, I really like to have a "drunk-proof" system, one that is so easy to use that even when I am drunk and half asleep on stage I can't mess it up. For that, the ideal system would allow me to set up several basic patches (say, a basic clean and a basic dirty) that I might use on several songs and set it up so I can load up a song and just hit a "next" button to scroll to the next patch for the next section of that song. Ideally, I would like to not have to remake or take up slots for the same settings, but I would like to be able to access it under multiple banks, I guess. So I might pull up one set of presets for one song and that would scroll from, say, 1>3>4>1. Does that make sense? That's not a deal breaker if it can't do that, but it would certainly simplify programming and also allow me to use up fewer memory slots.

Speaking of memory slots, how much power does the AX8 really have? I know it is stripped down when compared to it's sibling, but just how stripped down is it? I think the most I would run at once is a fuzz, amp, cab, delay, and reverb. As long as it can handle that, I think I would be fine, but I don't want to hit a CPU wall one day.

The scribble strips on the Helix are very appealing to me from the "drunk-proof" viewpoint. Nice and bright, can program them to say what I want, really hard to mess up what I'm hitting. But having a "next" button would kind of make that a moot point, as I would only have to worry about one button.

The last thing, really, is patch switching time. Say I want to go from clean with delay and reverb to dirty with no delay and a different reverb, is there going to be noticeable lag time switching between those? I can imagine (because I do it) a song where I would need clean with chorus and reverb, dirty with a smidge of reverb, and a big solo tone with more gain. So switching between three different amps, really (which is handled by the 4 channels on the Roadster). How well would each system handle that?

There seems to be very little real-world useful information about either product out there, so I'm hoping someone can help me figure it out. Thanks!
 

atquinn

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,748
Get a Helix now (make sure you get a discount on it) And get on the waitlist for an AX8. If for some reason the Helix doesn't satisfy you; wait for the AX8. If you have no experience with either one, this is the method that makes the most sense IMO since the Helix is capable of doing more stuff than the AX8 and, with a discount, costs a bit less.

Either one could do what you've outlined but you might have to jump through more hoops to do it gaplessly with the AX8 depending on the specifics.
-
Austin
 

GuitarGalah

Member
Messages
268
You might hit the "CPU Wall" if you go for fancier reverbs, but other than that, you'll be fine with either unit.
Patch switching time isn't noticeable on Helix, and I think that using scenes in AX8 eliminates switching times (I could be wrong here).
Keep in mind that the AX8 doesn't have an expression pedal. Other than that, I'd say you would be happy with either modeller.

Good times, eh?
 

reo73

Member
Messages
1,246
Other option is go with an Atomic Amplifier and use it just for amp modeling along with the effects you already own. All will fit on a bigger pedal board. This is what I am thinking of doing for live use because I like amp modeling but I like pedal effects.
 

atquinn

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,748
You might hit the "CPU Wall" if you go for fancier reverbs, but other than that, you'll be fine with either unit.
Patch switching time isn't noticeable on Helix, and I think that using scenes in AX8 eliminates switching times (I could be wrong here).
Keep in mind that the AX8 doesn't have an expression pedal. Other than that, I'd say you would be happy with either modeller.

Good times, eh?
The preset switching gaps are comparable on the AX8 and Helix. Both are noticeable to me and both are much longer than the Fractal rack units or the Amplifire (both of which are nearly seamless). Of course, keep in mind that the dropouts in the AX8 and Helix are comparable to the dropouts you get when switching channels in actual amps, so....

In addition, scene changes on the AX8 do not eliminate audio dropouts if you are switching amp models. If you are switching amp models, whether it be with scenes or preset changes, there will be an audio dropout. In some cases using a scene change will cause a slightly longer dropout than a preset change. However, if if you are doing something like using scene controllers to morph a clean amp to a dirty amp (by adjust drive, saturation, etc...), you can do that seamlessly. Or if you're kicking in a drive pedal, it would be seamless. So like I said, it depends how you go about it on the AX8. Assuming you have the CPU on the Helix you can just use 2 separate amp chains and switch between them seamlessly in a preset although maybe with not the sort of versatility the scenes approach give you on the Fractal units.
-
Austin
 

atquinn

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,748
Which Helix FW are you on @atquinn ? I don't hear what you do I guess, because I wouldn't call that a noticeable gap.
I'm basing this on the audio samples that were released when the Helix was first released and the recordings I did testing preset switching on the AX8 and Amplifire. I had a Helix a month or so back, but it's not something that I paid attention to at the time. If that's something that has changed recently, that would be good to know since AFAIK, it's still an issue. If you'd like to record some audio samples, that would be cool. If not, maybe another current Helix owner will chime in.
-
Austin
 

thebigcheese

Member
Messages
142
I'm glad to hear that most people who have tried the Helix vs another modeler are saying that it isn't any worse than the others. Sounds like they have finally done something right. I might take your advice and pick one up while waiting on the AX8, and if I like it, well, then I already have it.
 




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