Talk about tone obsession
So I’ve pulled the trigger. After trying many entry level multi effects for guitar, and even trying to assemble a pedalboard with individual pedals – let’s be honest, something cool about all those coloured pedals that you can mix in lots of different ways – I’ve decided to pull the trigger on the Line 6 Helix.
My main reason was the fact that it’s the top of the line from Line 6. Fractal Audio AX8 looks impressive but it’s hard to find in Australia. Kemper profile sounded overkill for what I need. And I had tried both the pocket POD and the Firehawk FX.
I did dance with the idea of getting the Helix LT – less I/O, a bit smaller and cheaper, etc – but quite often I end up regretting not having ‘feature xyz’ that only after the purchase you realise you wanted… so I aimed for the top.
My approach to patch making
I’m a quite systematic engineer – a good and a bad thing really – so I started by trying out the factory tones / patches, then later moved to the ones you download from Custom Tone (Line 6 online forum for tone aficionados). The latter was the inspiration to start building my own patch.
Here is what the basic diagram looks like:
The idea was to stretch both signal paths for just one guitar, and make the most out of it so you wouldn’t have to move things around to get more processing blocks into the path,
The top level path is centred in initial gain and amplification. The bottom level path follows on with effects and a looper at the end.
The order of the top path is:
- Volume pedal
- Wah pedal, both controlled by the included expression pedal
- Dynamics – normally this is a compressor that I use for the clean snapshot of the patch
- Stompbox, normally a tubescreamer
- Amp, and this will vary as I make new copies of the same patch
- Cab and IR so you have the option to alternate between them if you wish and see which sounds better with a given Amp / Song situation
- Off to the bottom path
The order of the bottom path is:
- Modulations, 2 of them so I can combine or alternate between chorus, flanger, etc
- Final gain boost – as I found this helps in levelling the loudness difference between the clean and the crunchy snapshots
The snapshots are:
- Clean, normally used for Intros / “acoustic” parts
- Rhythm, normally crunchy overdriven for rock / hard rock / metal
- Lead, boosted
- FX, for the parts that require most effects turned on
The variants of the patch are:
- One with the J45
- One with the JCM800
- One with the Mesa Rectified
- One with the Engl
- One with the 5150
This allows me to play songs from multiple decades of rock and metal without much hassle, just by changing the patch (which essentially changes the amp), and playing with the snapshots and FX a bit
I’m a newbie to this multi effects thing. So what I haven’t tried (but seen in other patches) is:
- Alternating amps for the clean snapshot. Some Amps I used sound dirty even with gain or drive turned down to min settings
- Parallel path for Cabs
- Other IR options than the Allure supplied by Line 6
Hope you can share ideas on how I can improve this.
You can download a zip file with 4 of these patches, for a small donation (yes I need to keep the lights on 🙂 ), below.
Cool Helix Tones as described in the article (total: 4)