Switch from DAW+plugins to Kemper/AxeFx/Helix... what would I miss?

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by metropolis_4, Apr 15, 2016.

  1. metropolis_4

    metropolis_4 Member

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    tl;dr - Tone aside, how does the workflow and control-ability of Kemper, Helix, or AxeFx compare with using a DAW+plugins?
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    I'm toying with the idea of switching to a dedicated hardware unit for my guitar sounds so I can free up Ableton for more MIDI instruments and looping, but I'm really hesitant because I love my guitar setup so much. I'm wondering if some people with more experience could tell me some of what I might gain and what I might lose by making this switch.

    Tone is a wash for me. I'm not big on the minutiae of the perfect tone; any of the options will sound good enough for me, so I don't care too much about that part.

    What I mainly want to know about is my workflow, editability, flexibility, and adaptability.


    Right now, my main workflow in Ableton looks like this:

    1. Make a pre-amp channel containing tuner and effects to be run before amps.

    2. run the send from the preamp to a group containing all my amp sounds. This usually contains 4-5 (sometimes more) separate channels running different amp models at different levels, and with different cab IR's for the various tones I need.

    3. Run the output of each amp channel direct to a couple of chained send channels containing post-amp effects.

    I usually have a compressor, tubescreamer, and the Softube Saturation Knob running pre-amp. Post-amp I have a spring reverb, a really heavy, wet, modulated reverb (usually two or so combined), a light tap delay, a heavy delay (usually a Valhalla combined with Traktor and maybe a tube or analog with some modulation thrown in), some modulation effects, and a global EQ and compression.

    I have a couple midi controllers set up for switching which allow me to toggle all of the pre and post effects, switch amp channels, and adjust several parameters such as gain levels, wet/dry balance, individual amp channel volume levels, mod depth etc.

    I am a fanatic about control. I want as much control over my rig as possible in a live setting. That's a key point for me.

    I love the GUI. I love being able to have a good visual for all the parameters I'm tweaking and to be able to see visual feedback as I'm playing (for channel levels and such). I love being able to see DB levels for all my channels to be able to balance them the way I want them.

    Another thing I need is the ability to process other instruments. I often need to run acoustic, classical, mandolin, and dobro through my rig.

    So, if I switched to Kemper, Helix, or AxeFx, what would I have to give up? What would work, but in a different way? And what might I gain?
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
  2. mikah912

    mikah912 Member

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    Sounds actually like the Helix would be a great fit for you.

    Controls Ableton. Sends out dry tracks for reamping. Routing flexibility for days. Cheaper than an Axe-FX or Kemper. Needs no additional pedals/remotes/whatever.
     
    hobbes1 likes this.
  3. metropolis_4

    metropolis_4 Member

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    I should've added Helix to my original list/post. I did't intentionally leave it out.

    That sounds useful... I'm not sure I really need this to control Ableton though. I've got tons of controllers to do that for me, and my main purpose in doing this is to separate my guitar rig from Ableton.

    Routing flexibility is a huge plus for me!
     
  4. mikah912

    mikah912 Member

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    No prob. That's my exact configuration (though I don't have my helix do much control either): Ableton Live 8 Suite + Windows 10 laptop + Helix.

    Easiest, most versatile rig I've had, and I was a huge VST guy before this much like you. I find the workflow of Helix to be way more convenient than keeping track of multiple plugin windows per track. The display keeps it all visible like a mini-tablet at all times. The scribble strips are a godsend that way too.
     
    metropolis_4 likes this.
  5. djd100

    djd100 Member

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    Latency, automaton, and in some cases signal routing options.?
     
  6. Digital Igloo

    Digital Igloo Member

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    This is coming from someone who's been using guitar modeling plugins almost exclusively since they came out (Amp Farm with ProTools MIX Plus in '98)...

    Advantages of Plugin Modelers:

    • As many instantiations as your computer will allow
    • Full recall without resorting to MIDI
    • Don't have to learn a new workflow
    • Automation of parameters is easier (automation lanes vs. MIDI)
    Advantages of Hardware Modelers:
    • 100% subjective statement: Very few plugins can compete sonically with the current hardware flagships (Scuffham S-Gear is one of maybe two, IMO)
    • Negligible latency while recording—no fiddling with low latency mode or buffers
    • Studio-to-stage transition is extremely straightforward—easy to recreate your album's tones live, because they already exist in hardware
    • Not tethered to a computer
    • Hardware inputs optimized for modeling—proper level, impedance, dynamic range, etc. You'd be astounded at how few preamps and audio interfaces have ideal instrument inputs for recording guitar and bass
     
  7. scook

    scook Member

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    Why not just bounce your guitar tracks to save CPU? (Obviously keep a backup of the dry tracks/plugin settings in a separate session file in case you need to change something later.)
     
  8. metropolis_4

    metropolis_4 Member

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    Latency is a wash for me I think. I'm getting < 5ms with my rig and it's perfectly acceptable to me. I don't even notice it.

    Also, I'm looking for a rig that will be used almost exclusively for live performance, not for recording.


    I do that when I'm looping pre-recorded guitar tracks. To clarify, what I'm looking for is to separate my live guitar rig from Ableton.

    I guess that brings up another thought in that by keeping everything in Ableton it's a lot easier to balance the levels and consistency of my pre-recorded guitar loops with the live parts I'm playing.
     
  9. scook

    scook Member

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    Ahh... I was thinking about recording, not live use.

    My bad.
     
  10. BCnSTL

    BCnSTL Member

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    Seems to me you'd need a high-end modeler to even come close to the power and flexibility of your current setup and even the Axe II wouldn't cover everything for you.
    I'd take the $ and spend it on a beefier computer and keep your current setup.
     
    creative360 likes this.

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