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Distortion, Part 1


Helix has 11 distortions (and a “megaphone” effect they put in the same category). The variety is significant – each distortion has a distinct, different sound. This is good, because distortion is very personal. There are some distortions in Helix I’ll use rarely, while others are on the A-list of “ways to make guitars sound great.” However, this is to be expected: different types of music want different types of distortion, and chainsaw grinding in an industrial homage to insanity isn’t what you’d want for a beefy, articulate blues sound. Well, probably not smile.png...


Some of the distortions are just fine by themselves; others really need a cab to tame them. Let’s run down each one, with the name followed by the controls.


Minotaur (Gain, Tone, Level). This overdrive is excellent for rhythm guitar parts and chords. The distortion is full-sounding, and has great breakup/breakdown characteristics. You could use just this distortion and nothing else in an effects chain, and make satisfying sounds. It articulates well, and doesn’t overwhelm a guitar’s distinctive sound,


Compulsive Drive (Gain, Tone, Peak Type, Value - whatever that means! - and Level). A more aggressive overdrive than Minotaur, Compulsive Drive crosses over into lead guitar territory. It’s fizzy and bright, but works well with a cab to keep things under control – I liked teaming it with the US Deluxe, Blackback 30, and XXL V30. In all cases, pulling back on the gain sweetened things up but you could also push hard with more gain and setting Peak Type to High. In fact the Peak Type and Value controls add flexibility in terms of getting more mileage out of the basic algorithm, and like Minotaur, it has a certain pleasing smoothness to it although the breakup/breakdown transition isn’t quite as seamless as the Minotaur, nor does it retain tonal differences among guitars and pickups as well.


Valve Driver (Gain. Bass, Treble, Level). This is the sound of naked tubes, without a cab to take out the rough edges. Frankly if you’re going to spend the time taking it with a cab, you’re better off starting with one of the other distortions. The only application I liked for the Valve Driver was with the gain pulled way back to give just a hint of breakup – that sounds very authentic and “tubey,” and is also beautifully responsive to your touch.


Top Secret OD (Gain, Level). This is kind of a cross between the Valve Driver and the Compulsive Drive; it doesn’t have the latter high end, or the Valve Driver’s harshness. This is a good overdrive when you want something that’s not quite so smooth, but a little chunkier. Articulation is quite good given that it tends to level the tonal differences among pickups.


Scream 808 (Gain, Tone, Level). Everyone likes a good Tube Screamer emulation, and I’m no exception. The somewhat darker, denser sound works fine by itself or with the right cabinet, and benefits from higher gain settings. The breakup/breakdown isn’t quite as smooth as some of the others, but is still very good. It also doesn’t overwhelm the “native” sound of your guitar.

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Distortion, Part 2


Now for the next batch...


Hedgehog D9 (Gain, Tone, Level). There's a full sound with plenty of low end, but turn up tone and the high end fizzes and sizzles. This is one of those distortions that really wants a cab, but I also think it has the most abrupt breakup/breakdown characteristics – when the signal fades, the spiky distortion just kind of disappears past a certain point. It also swamps out differences among guitars to a large extent. I was about ready to put it in the “maybe someday” file, however...when experimenting with the cabs, found that for lead guitar, it was a perfect match for the 1x12 Lead 80 cab. Throw some delay on it, and you wouldn’t need anything else. I can’t emphasize enough that sometimes a cabinet brings out the worst in a distortion, and sometimes the best. The 1x12 Field Coil cab gave a great, raunchy kind of blues tone. Moral of the story: Experiment! This is why I place such importance on a piece of gear’s user interface, and why I think the Helix excels. It takes only a few minutes to find the right “match” among the various components.


Vermin (Gain, Filter, Level). This is definitely rat-like, but interestingly, while the Hedgehog sounded great with 1x12 cabs and not so great with 2x12, this was the exact opposite. The 2x12s give a boxy, mid-rangy sound that’s an excellent match. Definition is good, too, especially for the more aggressive approach..


Arbitrator Fuzz (Fuzz, Level). This one just doesn’t do it for me, either by itself or with any of the cabinets. The distortion is jagged and the distortion components are way too prominent – it neutralizes the distinctive sound of whatever guitar you put through it. With leads using neck humbuckers, you really need the lo cut filter to reduce “thumps,” and although this isn’t a problem with the bridge pickup, the sound is rough and jagged – not a “sweet” distortion. I’m sure for some guitarists this will be just what they want, but it goes on the bottom of my Helix distortion list. (Hopefully someone who likes it will chime just to demonstrate that taste in distortion is indeed subjective.)


Triangle Fuzz (Sustain, Tone, and Level). ...and then one click of the dial later, we arrive at one of my favorites. This one seems to favor 2x12 cabs, but also sounds great with the Lead 80 and particularly with the 1x12 US Deluxe – that’s one of my favorite combos in all of Helix-land. The breakup characteristics are fabulous, which also means you can put a compressor in front of this (Deluxe Comp was my favorite – I wanted sustain, not the transparency of the LA Studio Comp or the heavy hand of the Red Squeeze), and it totally sings. I definitely preferred not using condenser mic emulations on the cab; it liked dynamics and ribbons the best. An all-around, versatile fuzz.


Industrial Fuzz (Compress, Gate, Drive, Stability, Oscillator, and Level). The flexibility of the parameters means this is almost like an effects chain, but you’ll have to play with the controls to tame the beast. When it’s full throttle, the sound is quite cool – thick, big, and balanced. However, there’s no elegant want to back out of this amount of gain. Ultimately, I recommend following it with the Volume Pedal so you can control how it fades. Also, you probably don’t want to use this without a cab...unless you have unwanted house guests you want to drive away.

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Distortion, Part 3


And now for the thrilling conclusion...


Tycoctavia Fuzz (Fuzz, Level). This emulates the Octavia’s octave-above effect. The good news: It comes very, very close. The bad news: The Octavia was always kind of sketchy in the first place. Having designed a similar effect around a half-wave rectifier, I knew to pull down the tone control for the best octave effect. The attack on these units was always ugly, but there's a fix - place an EQ Low and High Cut filter in front of it, set the Low Cut to around 500 Hz, and the High Cut to 2 kHz. The effect will be much more controllable. Two other tips: It works only with single notes, and do not put a compressor or other effect in front of it – it wants your raw guitar signal.


Megaphone (Grit, Tone, Focus, Space, Mix, and Level). Think of this as like a resonator guitar, but less metallic, and resonating at a lower frequency. It's a “novelty” sound, but you’ll want to use from time to time to accent a repeating lead figure, or place a rhythm guitar into a narrow slice of the audio spectrum if you need to make room for other instruments.


And that’s our guided tour of the distortions. I’m in a quandary about what to do with audio examples, because unless I record a couple hours of material, nothing will really get across more than a fraction of what these can do. So much of the sound depends on what you’re playing, what amp and cab you’re using (if you even use one at all), whether you precede it with EQ or compression (or both), and so on. I don’t want to do the “hey, listen to this cool sound” type of audio example because that doesn't seem instructive...on the other hand, showing what Tycoctavia sounds like with and without pre-filtering might be helpful, as would taking a distortion and showing how the right cabinet can make it sound great, while the wrong cabinet brings out the worst in it.


Remember, this review is not only open for comments and questions, but welcomes them...so any advice you have on what you want to hear would be helpful. Meanwhile, here are my takeaways on the distortion.


  • There’s plenty of variety. Take the time to get to know them, and you’ll find what you want. If you don’t find what you want, you’re probably not looking hard enough.
  • Because the breakup characteristics are generally excellent, any gain controls are true controls that cover a range of sounds - not just “distortion off/distortion on.” The Valve Driver is an excellent example of this; back it way down, and you can get some really authentic “tube warming” sounds.
  • Be careful not to fall into a “favorites” trap. I’ve been playing with these distortions off and on for a week, and my first reaction was “I like these, and I don’t like these.” That’s probably where many people would stop, but because the whole point of this review is to go beyond superficiality and really dig, it didn’t take long before I realized they all had their purposes, depending on what you put before and after them. The only one that’s on my “likely won’t use much, if at all” was the Arbitrator Fuzz, but given that I have ten others to choose from that I do like, as well as the funky Megaphone sound, I’m okay with having one reject.

The three building blocks we’re covered so far – dynamics, EQ, and distortion – are the foundation of so many sounds. Get those right before you go into an amp, and you’re well on your way.


I tested these distortions with humbuckers (Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard), single coil (Gibson 2014 Melody Maker with P90s), and some Line 6 Variax and Gibson FBX emulations; the effects didn’t seem to have any particular bias in favor of a particular pickup or guitar type, although as noted above, some distortions covered up a guitar’s characteristic sound more than others.


Next up: Modulation...and Line 6 didn’t skimp on those, either.



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Craig' date=' I'm curious if you happen to be a Fuzz Face guy in general. A lot of the characteristics you described in the Arbitrator are indeed present in a good FF type pedal, for better or worse (depending who you ask). Cheers![/quote']


Actually, the original never really appealed to me that much either. I'm VERY picky about distortion, which is why I ended up inventing multiband distortion (i.e., splitting the signal into different bands, then distorting each band). This was the approach used in my original Quadrafuzz kit by PAiA, the hardware QF2 reissue by Iron Ether, and the plug-in that Steinberg virtualized (both the original and the 2.0 version that appeared in Cubase 8). And yes, I'll be exploring how to use Helix's parallel paths to do multiband distortion. :)

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By the way, I haven’t gone too much into what the models are emulating, because I want to judge each effect on its own merits (although I did note the emulations whose “sonic signatures” were so obvious they were instantly recognizable). That doesn’t mean the others aren’t recognizable, just that (as noted) I tend to follow my own path for distortion so I’m not that up on the various commercial models. However, for the record, here are the distortion emulations.


Minotaur: Klon Centaur

Compulsive Drive: Fulltone OCD

Valve Driver: Chandler Tube Driver

Top Secret OD: DOD OD-250

Scream 808: Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer

Hedgehog D9: Maxon SD9 Sonic Distortion

Vermin Dist: Pro Co RAT

Arbitrator: Arbiter Fuzz Face

Triangle Fuzz: Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Industrial Fuzz: Z Vex Fuzz Factory

Tycoctavia Fuzz: Tycobrahe Octavia

Megaphone: Megaphone

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Modulation, Part 1


For the modulation effects, we’ll indicate what’s being emulated. Interestingly, although most effects are available in mono or stereo, this category has five effects that are stereo only (Trinity Chorus, Vibe Rotary, 122 Rotary, 145 Rotary, and Pitch Ring Mod).


To be fair, I need to reveal a bias: I wish companies wouldn’t just emulate “classic” modulation effects. If you want that sound, fine...but modulation has so much more potential, like envelope control of parameters, randomization, and providing functionality that analog circuits probably would have done had it been technically possible. As one example, I built a “pluck detector” so that plucking a note (even if a chord was sustaining) would create a trigger suitable for effects like filtering sample and hold. Yes, I know it’s geeky, but suffice it to say I feel modulation is virgin territory for inventive, cutting-edge companies that want to go boldly where no other company has gone before. Hint, hint smile.png


Meanwhile, I wish the modulation effects had sync-to-tempo, or lacking that, the ability to respond to tap tempo [Edit: Fortunately, they do! See Digital Igloo's comment below. One of the reasons I like the Pro Review format is it offers manufacturers the opportunity for a 24/7 fact-check.] Line 6 points out in the documentation that not all speed or rate parameters sync to tempo by design, due to the interactive nature of modulation effect controls. Still, when using Helix in the studio where you have the time to optimize a preset, this would be a welcome feature.


Regardless, none of this detracts from the sound quality, so let’s start listening. Incidentally I’ve been recording examples as I go along, so once we’re done with the modulation, I’ll string these together into some representative examples.


Optical Trem (Speed, Intensity, Level; Fender optical tremolo circuit). I’ve played through enough Fenders in my life that the tremolo sound is burned into my brain, and this is it. 'Nuff said.


60s Bias Trem (Speed, Intensity, Mode, Level; Vox AC-15 Tremolo). Compared to the Fender’s smoother sound, this has a more “abrupt” tremolo effect, . (Geek alert: The opto-isolator, a component used in many older “optical” tremolos, had a decay time that smoothed out the tremolo waveform.) The two tremolo models cover the two truly iconic tremolo effects. This model also includes vibrato—an under-appreciated and underused effect. (Put it in some of your songs soon, before everyone catches on and it becomes the equivalent of gated drums in the 80s.)


Script Mod Phase (Rate, Mix, Level; MXR Phase 90). This totally nails that liquid, smooth, phaser sound for which the Phase 90 was famous.Done.


Ubiquitous Vibe (Rate, Intensity, Mode, Lamp Bias, Mix, Level; Shin-ei Uni-Vibe). The control complement means this is more flexible than the Script Mod Phase, and can give a “heavier” sound as opposed to the Script Mod’s dreamier sound. “Lamp Bias” provides useful control over depth, and Mode chooses between chorus and vibrato.


Gray Flanger (Rate, Width, Manual, Regen, Mix, Level, Headroom; MXR 117 Flanger). Again, my bias is showing...I was raised on tape flanging, in particular, the flanging setup Jimi Hendrix used for Electric Ladyland (our band had sessions booked after him, so before he left we just said “hey, leave the flanging set up.” Needless to say if Hendrix ran over, I never complained because I got to see him work). The beauty of tape flanging was that you could actually reverse time, and create a “through-zero” flanging effect. Flanger stompboxes couldn’t do that, but I think they would have if they could. However, as a stompbox flanger model instead of tape flanging model, the Gray Flanger does the job very well and sounds like the original. I particularly like that if you reduce Width to minimum, you can change the flanger’s manual control (which I presume you can assign to the footpedal—we’ll find out later). Finally, note the Gray Flanger does positive flanging only (the “sharper” flanging sound, not the “hollow” one). Cool user interface feature alert: You know an effect has an additional page of parameters when you see dots toward the upper right of the controls, like the little dots that indicate sliders on web pages (check out the Harmony Central home page slider if you’re not familiar with this concept).


Harmonic Flanger (Rate, Width, Manual, Enhance, Harmonic, Mix, Level, Headroom; A/DA Flanger). A/DA made quirky, interesting effects (remember their Harmony Synthesizer?) so it’s good that Line 6 has taken note of this and done an authentic model. The sound can be complex and resonant, but the Harmonic Flanger can also do positive or negative flanging (as determined by the Harmonic control). If you’re looking for a thicker, more dramatic flanging effect than the Gray Flanger, this would get the nod.


Courtesan Flange (Rate, Range, Color, FreezeLFO, Mix, Level, Headroom; Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress). I’m not sure we really need a third flanger, although this does again have a different character. There is a Freeze LFO function which defeats the LFO, but it doesn’t hold the LFO at where you choose to freeze the LFO—it always holds at the bottom of the LFO sweep. This may be authentic, but I wouldn't mind if Line 6 took a few liberties. Actually I would have preferred if Line 6 had included Electro-Harmonix’s PolyPhase, whose unique phasing sound never got much recognition (probably why it wasn't included!) but there really wasn’t anything like it.


Chorus (Speed, Depth, Predelay, WavShape, Tone, Mix, Level; Line 6 Original). I have to say I often prefer Line 6 original models over historically accurate emulations, and this one is no exception. The chorus sound is luscious and downright sweet, it doesn’t have the jarringly periodic “whoosh-whoosh-whoose” of many other choruses, and being able to set the initial delay with the Predelay control is useful. However the “secret sauce” here is the waveform control, which gives ramp up, ramp down, sine, inverse sine, triangle, and random. This makes the Chorus suitable in a variety of contexts, like more electronically-oriented music.


So let’s close out on that high note—we’ll be back soon with coverage of the remaining eight modulation effects. See you later, and check by often for updates.

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Line 6 points out in the documentation that not all speed or rate parameters sync to tempo by design, due to the interactive nature of modulation effect controls.
The vast majority of Time, Speed, and Rate parameters will sync to Tap Tempo, but the model defaults may appear as if they don't. Press the knob and the value should toggle between Hz (or ms) and note values.
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THANK YOU Mr. Igloo sir! Great to know. I went back and edited the post to let people know I had it wrong.


So here's my question: Is this mentioned anywhere in the documentation? I looked through it and also did some searches on likely terms, but didn't find anything. Also, now that I'm pretty familiar with The Way of the Helix Interface, I did push a couple of rate knobs to see what would happen...nothing did, but I probably managed to find the one or two that didn't respond.


I'll be doing Part 2 of the Modulation effects tonight, and will check out the tap tempo options.


As to the spoiler alert, it seemed to me like the Split block would be the way to go, so I'm taking your response as confirmation that I'd be barking up the right tree.


Finally, I really appreciate your participation. Feel free to contribute as much as you want in terms of tips and such (or insider knowledge!), it makes this kind of thread just that much more useful to Helix owners and potential Helix owners.

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Modulation, Part 2


Well I know the suspense must have you on the edge of your seats, so let me clear up the sync-to-tempo aspect once and for all. I thought it didn’t work because I hit the tap tempo button, and the modulation rate didn’t change. Then I adjusted the global tempo control, and that didn’t make a difference either. So, I pushed the Speed control on the 145 Rotary rotating speaker simulator, and that didn’t change to a tempo indication...at which point I figured okay, no sync to tempo.


What I didn’t think to do was push the 145 Rotary’s “Slow Speed” and “Fast Speed” controls! Not only could they adjust to different note values, but you could even adjust the two separately—i.e., one at a rate in Hz, the other in a rhythmic value based on tap tempo and/or on the global tempo value.


I then went back through all the modulation effects covered previously, and guess what? They all do sync-to-tempo. So, the bottom line is that Helix not only does sync-to-tempo, but does it well. Why am I not surprised...


I may look dumb for not having figured this out, but look on the bright side: Now you know not to make the same mistake, so you won’t look dumb. As I said in the SONAR forums in response to a question, “I learn things the hard way, so you don’t have to.”


Okay, let’s look at the other modulation effects. Like the the Helix flangers, power trios, or a ménage à trois, Choruses come in threes. We already covered the delicious Chorus, so...


70s Chorus (Rate, Mode, Vibrato Rate, Vibrato Depth, Spread, Stereo, Mix, Level, Headroom; Boss CE-1). This definitely nails has the darker, warmer CE-1 vibe...it’s the chocolate pudding of choruses, compared to the fruit smoothie of the Chorus—which is somewhat brighter and seems to have more voices. Like the original CE-1, there’s a vibrato and like the Ubiquitous Vibe, I’ve had a soft spot for vibrato ever since I played through a Magnatone amp. The Spread control gives a wide stereo image, and there’s a Stereo control with “True” and “Classic” options. I assumed the Classic option threw the left and right channels out of phase, but the sound didn’t cancel in mono so...it’s not that, although whatever Line 6 is doing gives a similar effect. In any event, yes, it’s a CE-1 sound. Oh, and did I mention these effects do sync-to-tempo? smile.png


Trinity Chorus Stereo (Rate, LDepth, CDepth, RDepth, LFO Preset, LFO Manual, LBoost, CBoost, R, Mode (stereo or mono), Mix, Level, Kitchen Sink; DyTronics Tri-Stereo Chorus). Okay, I was joking about the kitchen sink control, but there are a lot of parameters for a chorus. The specialty here is the three separate chorus units, and the way the L, C, and R controls affect a sort of waveshaping of the modulation. The Trinity was based on a Panasonic MN3007 analog bucket brigade delay chip for each chorus, and the result is a super-lush sound that’s a cross between the clean sound of the Chorus and the darker sound of the 70s Chorus, but with a more complex sound than either one. (Jeez, I’m starting to sound like a wine-taster...“a pert, yet unassuming chorus, with a complex bouquet and a hint of phaser”). Also interesting: LFO preset is a slow, fixed LFO, while Manual lets you vary the rate. Turning on Boost accentuates the pitch-shifting nature of chorusing, which adds a vibrato-like character.


Bubble Vibrato (Speed, Depth, Rise Time, Mix, Level, Spread, Headroom; Boss VB-2). This is another effect that was based on an analog bucket brigade chip. This has a rich vibrato sound, but pull the Speed and Depth down low enough, and it gets more into Chorus territory. The enigmatic Rise Time control sets how long it takes for the vibrato effect to fade in when you push on the associated footswitch to enable it.


Vibe Rotary (Speed Slow/Fast, Slow Speed, Fast Speed, Ramp Time, Drive, Speaker Blend, Mix, Level, Headroom; Fender Vibratone). Well...uh...so here’s the deal. The Drive control on this is great, just the right kind of grit and dirt to give that “straining rotating speaker.” But by “stereo,” it means an almost auto-panning effect that I find distracting. There’s no mono version available, but it’s easy enough to convert it into mono by following it with a mono EQ...which is additionally useful because the sound is pretty midrangey (as you’d expect), so you can take some of that out. At slow speeds with lots of drive it can generate some really powerful sounds, but overall, it’s a bit too limited for my tastes.


122 Rotary (Speed Slow/Fast, Slow Speed, Fast Speed, Ramp Time, Drive, Speaker Blend, Mix, Level, Headroom; Leslie 122). First, to keep the lawyers at bay, note that Leslie is a registered trademark of Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing. This one also has the accentuated stereo, as well as a boxiness about it. This may be authentic, but I recommend adding a gentle notch around 400 Hz. The drive is brighter than the Vibe Rotary, which definitely has its uses.


145 Rotary (Speed Slow/Fast, Slow Speed, Fast Speed, Ramp Time, Drive, Speaker Blend, Mix, Level, Headroom; Leslie 145). More auto-panning, decent drive but again, a boxiness that’s more like a honk. In this case, a bit of a notch around 2 kHz made the sound more even. Of the three rotating speaker simulators, I liked this one the best and would use it again, but none of them really knocked me out.


AM Ring Mod (Frequency, AM, AM Frequency, LFO, LFO Rate, LFO Shape, Mix, Level; Line 6 Original). When you try this out, before doing anything else set the mix control to all processed sound, and assign the Frequency parameter to a footpedal. Later on, graduate to turning on AM and varying its frequency, then turn on the LFO and get into the options offered by the six different waveforms. Ring modulation produces a non-harmonic sound which is often described as “klangorous,” because actually, that’s the perfect adjective. I assume most guitar players would shriek in terror as they run away from this effect; if you’re not one of those, I think I can safely call you “bro” (or “sis,” as appropriate).


Pitch Ring Mod (Shape, Duty Cycle, Octave, Pitch, Low Cut, High Cut, FM Amount, FM Shape, FM Duty, FM Octave, FM Pitch, Mix, Level; Line 6 Original). If Mad Max: Fury Road was a signal processor, this would be it—pure cacophony in a box. I’m not even going to attempt to explain what the controls do, but they involve frequency modulation, pitch shifting, and waveform mangling that takes ring modulation to another level. Now, although I’ve emphasized the bizarre aspects of ring modulation because...well, it’s bizarre, there are musical uses, particular with palm muted strings when you want to add amelodic, percussive effects, and devices like drum machines. Neither ring modulator is an effect you’d use often, but don’t dismiss them out of hand just because you don’t get awesome sounds within 10 seconds. They can add a whole other dimension to your playing, and apply to a variety of instruments


And...that does it for the modulation. Here are my takeaways:

  • Did I mention that they can do sync-to-tempo?
  • The tremolos are really good—authentic and useful. Lately I’ve gotten into using tremolo and vibrato more, and you really can’t do much better for either than what’s in Helix. Including the Boss VB-2 was a nice touch, too.
  • The Phase 90 clone is a dead-ringer, and I’ve been partial to that sound, so thumbs up. Ditto the Uni-Vibe.
  • Of the flangers, I liked the Harmonic Flanger the best due to its versatility. The other ones will be relished by those who like the vintage effects they emulate, but I really do think someone needs to take flanging further.
  • I’m generally not a fan of choruses but the Chorus and Trinity chorus add some great chorus effects. Nothing against the CE-1, but if you have any amp sim, there’s probably already a CE-1 in there whereas nothing sounds like the Chorus and Trinity. Great job on both...they make me want to use choruses again.
  • The rotary speakers didn’t really do it for me. Narrowing them to mono was a big improvement though, and the drives are well-done. I was able to get some good sounds, but not from the effects alone; to tame them the way I wanted required post-FX EQ.
  • No matter what anyone else thinks, the ring modulators are cool. Although of limited musical usefulness on the surface, they work well with excess—excessive delay, excessive reverb, anything that goes to the extreme. They’re really more for sound design than rocking out, but that’s something I like about Helix: It includes some esoteric options to satisfy those who usually aren’t easily satisfied. I can see myself using most of the modulation effects in one context or another over time.

One of the things I like most about the emulations is what’s missing: the nasty noise that bucket brigade devices made, especially when you lowered their clock rate. I know authenticity is wonderful and all that, but I applaud whoever at Line 6 said “Let’s not emulate the aspects that sucked, okay?” I’m sure some purists would complain (“bucket-brigade chip noise is an essential part of my sound”), but then again, purists like to complain and tend not to be fun at parties, so we can safely ignore them.


What processors are next? Lots: Delays, reverbs, weird/fun synth stuff, filters, and of course, the amps and cabs. As Johann Sebastian once said...“I’ll be Bach.”

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Delay – Multitap 6


While reviewing the delays, I came upon a preset that I thought would be fun to share. It’s sort of a “universal small room” constructor, derived from the Multitap 6.


A multitap delay works by picking up signals at different times from a “master” delay, which in the case of Helix is 0 to 4000 ms (aside to Digital Igloo: Is there a way accelerate the knob rotation? It takes a while to get from one end to the other). Also with Helix, tap time is calibrated as a percentage of the total delay: for example if the master delay is 100 ms and the tap is 9%, then the delay time is 9 milliseconds. I'm pretty sure that's the way this works but if not, Digital Igloo monitors this thread so he can let me know if it needs correction.


Most people think of a multitap delay as a way to get creative with echoes, but when set to short delay times, you can simulate the reflections in a small room. Then, you can adjust the master delay to change the size of the room—the longer the delay, the bigger the room. Set the delay long enough, and you can get some pretty cool slapback echo effects.


So...call up the Multitap 6 delay, and dial in the numbers below.


Page 1

Time = 100 ms, Feedback = 0, Low Cut = 70 Hz (or to taste), High Cut = off (unless you want to soften the “room” surfaces), Mix = 30%, Level = 100


Page 2

T1 Scale = 3%, T1 Pan = Left 50, T1 Level = 10, T2 Scale = 7%, T2 Pan = Right 50, T2 Level = 10.


Page 2

T3 Scale = 11%, T3 Pan = Left 70, T3 Level = 9, T4 Scale = 13%, T4 Pan = Right 70, T45 Level = 9


Page 3

T5 Scale = 17%, T5 Pan = Left 100, T5 Level = 7 T6 Scale = 19, T6 Pan = Right 100, T6 Level = 7


Now vary the Time control to hear the “room size” change. Of course, this kind of program is ripe for customizing with different levels and panning for the various taps. Experiment with adding feedback, but a little is all you need unless you want a ringing sound.


Tomorrow evening, we’ll look at the other delays...but this tip seemed like it was worth taking the time to pass along.


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Delays, Part 1


Without further delay (sorry, couldn’t resist), it’s time for delays. BTW in case you wonder what the “Trails” parameter in these programs does, when it's"on" delay or reverb decay continues after bypassing an effect, while "off" cuts off the delays upon bypassing the effect. Also, when you change Time or other parameters that affect the amount of delay, the audio doesn’t glitch—it changes pitch, like what used to happen with analog delay. I don’t know if this is a “happy accident” or whether Line 6’s DSP engineers sweated over being able to do smooth, clickless time changes, but in either case it’s welcome.


Note that a lot of the fine points of these controls aren’t explained in the user’s manual; perhaps there’s more info coming or maybe not, since you can just mess with the controls and figure things out. In any event, I hope you find the deeper descriptions of these controls helpful.


Simple Delay (Time, Feedback, Mix, Level, Scale, Trail; Line 6 Original). Time is variable up to 4,000 milliseconds, and you probably know what Feedback, Mix, and Level do. Scale is interesting; there’s no description I could find in the manual or online, but what it appears to do is...when set to 100%, the delay is based on the Time, and appears in both channels simultaneously. As you lower the Scale percentage, the delay in the right channel becomes shorter, while the delay in the left channel gets longer, with the total of both equal to the delay set by Time. With Scale set to 0%, the full delay happens in the left channel, and there’s no delay in the right channel. Hey Mr. Igloo--did I pass or fail the SAT (Scale Aptitude Test)?


Mod Chorus Echo (Time, Feedback, Low Cut, High Cut, Mix, Level, Scale, Modulation Mode, Speed, Depth, and Spread; Line 6 Original). This resembles the E-H Memory Man that chorused the echoed signal to produce a more shimmering echo. Low Cut and High Cut are in the feedback path so you can add that “limited bandwidth” sound of older delays. The Chorus itself is pretty straightforward, although it can also do vibrato. Spread has a subtle effect that seems to enhance stereo imaging of the chorus. Again, time goes to 4,000 ms and Scale works as described previously


Multitap 4 (Time, Feedback, Diffusion, Low Cut, High Cut, Mix; T1 Scale, T1 Pan, T1 Level, T2 Scale, T2 Pan, T2 Level; T3 Scale, T3 Pan, T3 Level, T4 Scale, T4 Pan, T4 Level; Modulation Mode, Rate, Depth, Spread, Level; Line 6 Original). This is not just a 4-tap version of the 6-tap delay described yesterday, but is more like a combination of the Simple Delay and the Mod Chorus Echo (the Multitap 4 modulation also chooses between Chorus and Vibrato modulation modes). The main difference here is a Diffusion control, which operates like the Diffusion control in reverbs. When set to maximum, the echoes are more “spread out” and sound less distinct—more like reverb than echo. When set to minimum, you can hear the individual echoes much more clearly. (Your reverb factoid for today: High diffusion settings are used mostly with percussive sounds to prevent the “marbles bouncing on a steel plate” effect that happens with lots of discrete reflections, while low diffusion settings are common with sustained sounds like vocals so the reverb is a little thinner, and doesn’t “step on” the sound being processed.)


Multitap 6 (Line 6 Original). We covered this in the previous post, and there’s not much to add except I now have a better idea of what the Scale control does. Using the relatively low settings in yesterday's example program explains why the sound sounds weighted a bit to the left, as the longer delays happen there. At least I think I have Scale figured out...


Ping Pong (Time, Feedback, Scale, Spread, Mix, Level, Low Cut, High Cut, Trails; Line 6 Original). The Time control goes up to 8000 milliseconds instead of 4000 ms, as found in the other delays. As you might expect from the name, the Ping Pong echoes bounce back and forth between the left and right channels. We’ve met the other controls in previous effects, so we’ll move on to...


Sweep Echo (Time, Feedback, Low Cut, High Cut, Mix Level; Filter, Shape, Rate, StartFreq, Range, Resonance; Duty Cycle, Scale, Spread, Headroom, Trails; Line 6 Original). Think of this as echo-meets-filter, with a pretty sophisticated filter: choose from lowpass, bandpass, or highpass responses, and the wavefrom can be triangle, sine, square, inverse sine, exponential, or random. Although Time can sync to tempo, the filter sweep rate does not—too bad, I wish it did. In any event, the sweep’s low frequency is the StartFreq, and Range determines how far it departs from there. (FWIW Cakewalk’s Rapture virtual instrument has an equivalent type of effect, and I’ve found quite a few uses for it--so take the time to try this out, and experiment with the settings).


That’s enough for tonight, we’ll do the other six delays tomorrow. However, I already have a takeaway as all of these delays are Line 6 originals, whereas the next six are emulations, with one exception.


Had Helix been around in the 80s, entire new age albums could have been cut with just a guitar and a Helix—dial in some long, lush delays with taps and chorusing, and it’s enough to put you in a hypnotic trance. Fast forwarding to today’s flavor of trance, the sync-to-tempo and scaling options with multiple delays let you spray rhythmically-correct notes throughout the fabric of a tune. If you’re into ballads, the addition of chorus-style modulation to delays gives a suitably dreamy quality, while for rock, being able to go from hard-as-nails rockabilly slapback to languid delays worthy of a David Gilmour guitar solo shows the versatility of these effects.


The downside is that the delays have a lot of parameters; taming them takes knowing what they do, then adjusting them as needed. Hopefully, these descriptions will help you know what they do—then you’re on your own to adjust them to your taste.


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Half-Time Break: How to Save Individual Effects Settings


Before proceeding to the 2nd half of delay reviews, here’s your “How to Make Your Life Easier with Helix” tip for today—saving individual effect settings for later use.


You may have noticed you can save presets, but you can’t save settings for individual effects...or can you? Actually you can, because you can copy and save individual blocks. If I come up with an effects setting I really like for a block, it’s easy to copy the block and paste it to a special preset that simply contains “favorites” of effects. This preset isn’t intended to make sounds; it’s just a holding tank for cool effects. Then when I want to call up a favorite effect, I just go to the preset, copy the block, and paste it into a different preset. Of course, Helix has enough presets that you can dedicate multiple presets to containing collections of favorite effects settings.


Similarly, if you have a particular set of block settings contained in any preset, you can copy it and paste it to another preset. Nice, eh?

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Also, when you change Time or other parameters that affect the amount of delay, the audio doesn’t glitch—it changes pitch, like what used to happen with analog delay. I don’t know if this is a “happy accident” or whether Line 6’s DSP engineers sweated over being able to do smooth, clickless time changes, but in either case it’s welcome.
Delays were indeed designed this way, but since release, some users have requested to not hear pitch artifacts when adjusting tempo. In firmware 1.04.1, we added a new parameter: Global Settings > MIDI/Tempo > Tap Tempo pitch. Choose between "Authentic" (cool pitch gremlins) or "Transparent" (no cool pitch gremlins).
Hey Mr. Igloo--did I pass or fail the SAT (Scale Aptitude Test)?
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Delays, Part 2


I'm back from a great NAMM show for Harmony Central...even had a chance to hang out at Line 6, and was fortunate to meet Digital Igloo and Ben Adrian in person. (BTW they denied that Helix is the result of reverse-engineered alien technology, but the denial seemed kind of half-hearted so I'm still not 100% convinced.) I also asked what accounts for the "analog" nature of the Helix sound. They didn't get into too much detail, but I did corner Marcus Ryle and I got the impression they're throwing a fair amount of computing power toward that goal. I also got to check out some very cool new Line 6 gear we'll be reviewing here on HC, so stay tuned for that.


Meanwhile, now would be a good time to remind you that we welcome interaction...got questions? Tips? Suggestions? Feel free to weigh in.


We already covered six delays, but we have six more to go.


Ducked Delay (Time, Feedback, High Cut, Low Cut, Mix, Level; Scale, Threshold, Ducking, DynAttack, DynRelease, DynType;’ Trails; TC Electronic 2290). “Ducking” means the effect lurks in the background while you play, then appears when you stop playing. If you’ve played in a large hall, you’ve experienced something similar: When you hit a note you hear yourself playing, and then the reflections come back and hit you. Ducking is also common in commercials, where the background music bed “ducks” out of the way while narration occurs.


The controls are straightforward until you hit the second page. Threshold sets the level above which a signal causes the delay to “duck,” while Ducking determines how much the delay is attenuated when ducking occurs. Type determines whether the effect does ducking or gating (the opposite of ducking—the delay is audible, not suppressed, by your playing). With gating, DynAttack sets how long it takes for the delayed signal to appear after your guitar goes over the threshold, while with ducking, it sets the time for the delay to be suppressed. With gating DytnRelease determines how long the delay persists after the guitar signal goes below the threshold and with ducking, how long it takes for the delay to re-appear when you start playing.


Transistor Tape (Time, Feedback, Wow & Flutter, Scale, Spread, Mix; Level, Headroom, Trails; Maestro Echoplex EP-3). The EP-3 was the first solid-state iteration of the Echoplex. At first, I was surprised there weren’t high and low cut controls to emulate what happens with tape and tape heads. I needn’t have worried; the emulation builds that sound into the model. Although the controls are basic, the key feature here is the Wow & Flutter control. Far from being a gimmick, it adds some “meat” to the sound that’s not like chorusing-style modulation. I’m a big fan of this effect, and Helix gets it right. Purists might object that Line 6 didn’t choose to emulate the original tube-based Echoplex, but the proof is in the sound, and this model is a great delay.


Harmony Delay (Time, Feedback, Key, Scale, Mix, Level; V1 Shift, V1 Level, V1 Pan, V2 Shift, V2 Level, V2 Pan; V1 Scale, V2 Scale, Root Level, Root Pan, Low Cut, High Cut; Trails; Line 6 Original). I’ll finish recording examples soon, which is a good thing because this one has to be heard to be believed. It’s the kind of effect that someone will write a song around, and it will become a big hit...or you’ll be sitting in a movie theater, and you’ll hear a guitar sound in the soundtrack that makes you say “Hey! That’s the Helix Harmony Delay!” (like the car commercials with presets from Reason...but I digress).


Anyway, hit a note, and that’s followed by another note delayed by the Time setting, then that’s followed by another note (also delayed by the Time setting). For example with Major selected as the Scale, the notes are tonic > major 3rd > 5th. Each delayed note has adjustable Pan, Level, and Shift (the note that’s played, with your choices set by the Scale, Key, and Shift controls). This isn’t really intended for chords, and you need to learn how to play in a way that accommodates what this effect does best, but Harmony Delay can be rhythmic, beautiful, and compelling. Another fun trick I tried was tuning the two notes to obtain tambura-like drones. I won’t waste any more words so I can get to recording the remaining examples sooner, but this effect—while not something you’d use every day—is outstanding for being an effect you’ve never heard before. While this won’t be my most-used delay, it’s my favorite one.


Bucket Brigade (Time, Feedback, Scale, Noise, Mix, Level; Headroom, Trails; Boss DM-2). Bucket-brigade chips were delay lines based on analog technology (say “Reticon SAD-1024” to some people, and they get teary-eyed with nostalgia for the days before digital—which apparently includes some of the people who designed effects for the Helix). BBDs produced a noise that became ruder and grainer as the delays got longer, but the modeled noise in Helix is far more polite. (I presume Line 6 didn’t want those unfamiliar with the Ways of the BBD to return the Helix, thinking it was defective.) Anyway, this is a “character” delay that has the same high-frequency degradation as the original DM-2 when you add feedback. It’s cool, but I prefer the Echoplex for the extra “depth” it adds to the sound.


Adriatic Delay (Time, Scale, Feedback, Noise, BBD Size (for options for the amount of delay—1024, 2048, 4096, or 8192 stages), Mix; Rate, Depth, Spread, Level, Headroom, Trails; Boss DM-2 with Adrian modulation). Similar to the Bucket Brigade, the main difference is greater options for tailoring the stereo imaging, more delay possibilities, and modulation. The sound can also be made grittier than the Bucket Brigade. This makes the Bucket Brigade, which is basically a subset, somewhat redundant although to be fair, it takes more effort to get the sound you want out of the Adriatic Delay.


Elephant Man (Time, Feedback, Mode, Depth, Mix, Level; Scale, Spread, Noise, Headroom, Trails; Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man). The Deluxe Memory Man was always one of my favorite effects, and one of the few effects I used live that I didn’t design. There was a certain liquid, lush quality to it that went beyond the usual delay units of that time. As with Bucket Brigade and Adriatic Delay, there’s the option to add noise but this doesn’t hold back—you can make it quite noisy if you want. Overall, Elephant Man retains that sound but thankfully, this time around the noise is optional. This is a great effect, but TBH, that’s because it models a great effect accurately.


__________________________________________________ ________________________________


Delays: My Takeaway...But More


I’m putting my takeaways as a separate sectionbecause as I played with these effects, I realized something I don’t think Line 6 has emphasized: the sound and feel is very analog. I was raised on analog effects, so I know that sound. Helix gets it. I noted earlier about how changing delay times reacts the way it did with analog effects, but there’s more of an analog vibe than just that.


And it occurred to me why I like Helix so much: It speaks to my desire for analog smoothness, but folds in the benefits of digital—programmability, tempo sync, predictability, and not needing a couple hundred wall wart AC adapters. It simply refuses to have the brittleness sometimes associated with digital. Why Line 6 hasn’t made more of a big deal about this is puzzling, but to me it’s perhaps the most important Helix characteristic, arguably even more so than the user interface.


As to the delays, the first six are useful, but the second six are inspired. They make delays about more than just about repeating a signal; the Harmony Delay is brilliant, the Transistor Tape has a full sound, and the BBD models bring “character” delays into the fold. Ducked delay is another welcome variation on a theme. I have only two complaints: I’d like to see a reverse delay (“backwards” delay), and I sure wish these were available as plug-ins for DAWs. Well, that’s why there are external inserts...right? These delays surprised me, as I normally think of delays as useful, but not particularly exciting. These are both.

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Modulation Effects Demo


Here are some audio examples of the modulation effects. As with the other audio examples, these are "naked" - just a Les Paul Standard going direct into the effect, no amps or other other effects. I stayed fairly close to the defaults, but one thing a short demo like this can't do is show the wide range of sounds available from each effect. As we get more into applications, you'll hear other aspects.


What's probably most interesting about these demos is that they show how the sound quality from theoretically "similar" effects (like choruses, flangers, and tremolos) can actually be quite different. The 14 effects, in this order, are:


  • Line 6 Chorus
  • 70s Chorus
  • 70s Chorus (Vibrato Mode)
  • Trinity Chorus
  • Optical Trem
  • Bias Trem
  • Bubble Vibrato
  • Courtesan Flange
  • Gray Flanger
  • Harmonic Flanger
  • Script Mod Phase
  • 145 Rotary
  • Vibe Rotary
  • AM Ring Mod


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It’s a been a long day, but my reward is playing with the Helix. So, I picked a category with only two options: Filter, both of which are envelope-controlled filters that track the dynamics of your playing.


Mutant Filter (Mode, Peak, Gain, Range, Drive, Mix; Level; Mu-Tron III). This is your basic envelope filter. Mode offers lowpass, bandpass, and highpass filter types. Peak is the filter resonance, and Gain sets the sensitivity to match your dynamics to the filter. Drive determines whether the filter sweeps up and then down (the usual behavior), or down and then up.


One of the features I really like about the Mutant Filter is the Mix control. This means you can have a subtle filter sweep in the background, and perhaps even more importantly, makes the Mutant Filter well-suited for bass. An envelope-followed filter normally thins out the low end, so mixing in the dry bass signal means if you like your low end you can keep your low end, with the filter sweep superimposed on top. The sound absolutely does the Mu-Tron III so if you wish you had one...now you do.


This definitely succeeds at being an emulation, but of course, I always want more! So if Line 6 wants to include an original model someday, I have a few suggestions:

  • Add an all-pass mode or notch response to the filter for phaser effects.
  • Be able to lower gain even further for really subtle filtering effects, which is important if you...
  • Add an initial frequency control, so (for example) a sweep could cover the range of 1 to 2 kHz, or 3 to 5 kHz.

With these changes, you could have subtle modulations that add sparkle by kicking up the highs when you play harder, especially if the Peak control is up a bit. Don’t get me wrong—this is a very well-done model. But as I’ve noted before, many times it’s the Line 6 originals that appeal to me because they do something different.


Mystery Filter (Sensitivity, Frequency, Resonance, Attack, Release, Mix; Level: Korg A3).The mystery here is how to adjust the controls to get something useable—it took me a while to wrap my around this one. Although I’d played with an A3 before, I wasn’t all that impressed so I didn’t have a lot of experience in working the controls. In fact, the Mystery Filter supports “Anderton’s First Law of Effects”: If there are enough controls to make really cool sounds, there are enough controls to make really bad ones.


However once you get the hang of this, the Mystery Filter can do some really interesting tricks. It’s an envelope follower whose native mode is to sweep downward, but it’s possible to set the Attack and Release controls to smooth the response so the changes aren’t tightly tied to individual notes or chords, but represent more of an average of your playing. I do feel the Sensitivity is too sensitive; the useable range for me was mostly between 0 an 2. Granted, I’m doing most of my testing with a Les Paul Standard, which has pretty beefy humbucking pickups, and I use .010 strings instead of .008 or .009, as well as play with a hard pick. Still, it took turning down the volume at the guitar a bit to make things more manageable.


Eventually I figured out some really good control combinations, and was able to obtain sweet filtering sounds. Like the Mutant, I appreciate having a Mix control so the filter doesn’t “take over” from your sound.


The bottom line is the filters do what they’re supposed to do, and while I took an immediate liking to the Mutant Filter, the Mystery Filter grew on me the more I used it. The one caution: When you find a setting you like with the Mystery Filter, save it using the procedure described a few posts back for saving effects settings—or you may not be able to find it again :)


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Reverbs, Part 1


There are 12 reverbs, so let's listen to the first six. These I tend to think of as more "studio" reverbs as opposed to the other more "special effects" reverbs. The six reverbs have the same basic controls: Delay, Pre-Delay, Low Cut, High Cut, Mix, Level, and Trails. This is one effects category that has stereo versions only - no mono. However, I did test the sound in mono to make sure there weren't any strange artifacts or "phasiness," but they worked fine.


First things first: These reverbs are light years ahead of the digital reverbs you used to find in multieffects, which sounded grainy, periodic, and often had to be mixed in the background so you wouldn't notice how bad they were. I'd have no problem using these on voice, drums, and other signal sources, which makes me wonder if maybe Helix is going to end up being a platform, and not just a guitar effects...sort of the hardware equivalent of how Native Instruments' Guitar Rig was transformed into more of a general-purpose studio processor rack.


Anyway, what you want in a reverb is a smooth, even decay that doesn't have periodicity (i.e., there's no repetitive nature to the sound) or "flutter," short variations that don't sound like a real space. All of these give a very good account of themselves, but to give them the toughest test possible, each reverb has two audio examples - a a quick guitar chord hit using the default preset, then another quick hit but with the delay extended to max. Extending the delay would point out issues if they existed, but you can hear that by and large, the "tails" are indeed smooth.


Plate will probably be the "go-to" reverb for most people. It has an even, creamy decay that works well on leads.


Room does a convincing room that works well if you extend the decay for a bigger room. Although this type of utilitarian reverb isn't as sexy as a lush plate or hall, it can help provide a sense of space and realism to otherwise dry guitar sounds.


Chamber was a bit of a surprise. I really like the default setting, but when extended, there's a sort of pitchiness. If you need a chamberish reverb quality but with a long decay, you're better off with the Hall algorithm set to a shorter decay.


Hall gives a solid hall sound at shorter decays. Having played Carnegie Hall at one point in my checkered career, as well other venues with hall acoustics, this algorithm provides a good combination of relatively rapid decay with damping, and a sense of space. Turning decay to max places unrealistic demands on the algorithm - I've never played a hall like that! - but the smoothness remains at lower settings.


Echo gives a tight series of echoes...sort of like "slapback meets room." But, this one has a trick up its sleeve: listen to what happens with the decay time up full. The echo goes into infinite sustain, which is cool enough, but those variations you here are my messing around with the Pre-Delay control. And note how this also underscores one of the coolest aspects of the Helix - that "analog" quality I've mentioned previously. There's no giltching, and you won't hear artifacts. If anything, it reminds me of a variable-speed tape recorder with a mixer feeding back on to itself..."Electric Ladyland," anyone?


Tile, like Room, is one of those useful presets when you want to put your guitar within a sonic space that's very real world. Brings back memories of rehearsal spaces...



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Reverbs, Part 2


With a few exceptions, the next six reverbs have the familiar control set of Delay, Predelay, Low Cut, High Cut, Mix, Level, and Trails, and have only stereo models (no mono) available.


Cave is the Helix version of the Taj Mahal—a big, billowing reverb. However like the Chamber reverb, set too long a decay time and there's a tonal artifact. Thinking it might be some anomaly with the LP Standard I was using to test, I tried switching pickups and other guitars, but encountered the same issue. As long as you stay with a “normal” delay range—and as you'll hear from the audio example, the default is pretty long—you'll be fine.


Ducking attenuates the reverb while you're playing, but when you stop playing, what's left of the reverb tail “blooms” until its decay is over. Think of it as opposite of a noise gate, but with a less drastic action; instead of the reverb appearing only when you play, it's most prominent when you don't play. The audio example gets this across really well, because I set the predelay to zero and set the mix for reverb only. After the first initial guitar hit, I keep playing and you'll hear the reverb go more into the background. As soon as I mute the strings, the reverb reappears and swells in level. I'm a fan of ducking effects because they don't “step on” what you're playing, so I'm happy to see some included here. My only wish list item is more control over how far down the reverb goes when you're playing.


Octo has nothing to do with the Octovox in the Eventide Anthology Pro Review, and besides, it's theoretically impossible to get crosstalk between forum threads. Anyway...like all the other reverbs, Octo is a Line 6 Original, which means it's not emulating anything specifically. However, some originals are a little more original than others, and Octo fits in that category—it also replaces the Predelay with an Intensity parameter. For the audio example, instead of showing the difference with different decays, the first Octo example has minimum intensity, while the second one has maximum intensity. In this case a sound is worth a thousand words, but if I had to use a description, Octo acts like a showerhead. With minimum intensity, it's a slow, even flow of water and with maximum intensity, it's like a needle shower. Well, a sonic shower. Hey, I tried...just listen to the example.


'63 Spring does an excellent job of sounding like a spring reverb. The audio example plays a palm-muted riff because that's the only way you'll hear how the springiness builds up with subsequent hits, just like the real thing. It actually sounds a little too good compared to my first Danelectro spring reverb, but I'll cope. (True story: When Alesis was designing the Midiverb, for their NAMM demo I suggested putting in a mercury switch that squirted some volts into the input, so when they hit it, it would give a “sproing” like a real spring reverb. Cooler heads prevailed, but I still think it would have been fun.)


Spring is...well, it's like a more deluxe version of the '63 Spring. It is to '63 Spring as a Lexus is to a Toyata, although frankly, I'm not sure the world needs a deluxe version of a spring given the hall, plate, and other reverbs. I would have preferred a funky emulation of one of those early 12-bit digital reverbs, like the ART 01, because they had a delightfully dreadful sound.


Particle Verb'spredecessor in the HD500 was one of my absolute favorite sounds, so I'm very glad it made the cut for the Helix. Had this been available in the 80s, you would have heard it on every new age and “hearts of space”-type CD ever made...so maybe it's good it wasn't around in the 80s, or it would be treated like gated reverb on drums. This algorithm replaces the Delay and Predelay parameters with Dwell and Condition, so again, the audio examples depart from the norm because this is not a normal reverb. The first example plays the different between minimum dwell (more of a construct of sound) and maximum dwell, which is more diffused and blooms over time . With both, the Condition parameter is set to Stable. The next example has Condition set to Critical, and the final example has Condition set to Hazard; you'll understand why that word was chosen when you hear what it sounds like.


My takeaway from the Reverbs is that eight of the 12 are fairly straight-ahead reverb sounds. They're high quality, and are basically studio effects shrunk into the Helix case. However, the four others—Ducking, Echo, Octo, and Particle Verb—bring something different to the party. Whether you're playing a traditional gig or looking for some pretty radical soundscapes, the options are there.




(Incidentally, I did a live recording called "Ambience Rose" of Variax + HD500 using the Particle Verb extensively, and it's on my YouTube channel. When I tell people it was done live with the Variax, the next thing they always say is “Okay, I get you were playing guitar, but what keyboard were you using?” That's who cool the Particle Verb is.)



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Wow...there is really a LOT to...er process here. I think my ram is overloading and creating some wetware digital fizz. I might have to do a flash update.

LOl I hope. Thank you for the detailed assessment....It really is a lot to sort through. One of the things I am interested in is the ability to not only tweak on the fly and plenty of presets to set situational programs and banks....but that it sounds AND feels authentic. One of the problems I had with HD500 and a few other modellers is killing the after notes. A good amp...tube or whatnot....the notes will bloom and blossom. That can be just the fundamental note or good feedback. You either have to REALLY coax it out, or it just cuts out.


If a computer is going to truly replace the tube....it's GOT to do this.



So...you need to be able to get to important functions, the notes (the music!) need to live and breath and blossom. AND...need to go into a variety of monitors....from the pc/laptop/iphone to a 1963 Fender Twin Reverb...with ease.


For a reference point...I think the Vox Tonelab for lower gain things and the Digitech RP1000 for more variety are the platforms I appreciate. There's a lot of simplicity, ease of use, and good tone and feel. I think the Tonelab gets a bad rap for not having more modern metal settings...but some of my best low-to-medium gains were done with it. I think the issue might have been solved with a modern comprehensive EQ section.


Anyway...I will keep readiong and awaiting your feedback. The good kind. :lol:


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Just spent 2 hours reading every word, listening to every demo of this review.

This is one damn impressive piece of gear!

I cannot imagine how much time you must have put into this review Craig. Stellar Review!


If Line 6 didn't kick you a freebie...They should have!


Thoroughly enjoyed the review, Humbly thank you for the time you took to produce it!


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One of the things I am interested in is the ability to not only tweak on the fly and plenty of presets to set situational programs and banks....but that it sounds AND feels authentic.


I'm almost done with the effects, so amps and cabs are next. They're reworked from the HD500 so we'll see...


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