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#1
Alright guys, thread title says it all.

Currently I see the top tier modellers as follows:

Kemper
Axe FX (or perhaps the AX8)
Helix

I'm going to buy one of them, but I wanted to get a bit of a discussion going here about which one to get.

Currently the Helix has the lead for me. It seems like the most comprehensive in terms of option, and I am very impressed by all the features Line 6 thought to throw in. I imagine that I will never use it to its full potential, but I like the fact that I have LOTS of options. My one concern: the sound. The Axe FX I've heard and played. I've owned a Kemper. They were both excellent in terms of tone. I imagine the Helix sounds damn good, but does it sound as good as the others, and if not, how close is it?

The Axe: this one honestly seems the least user friendly. The one I played I didn't tinker with myself, but it seemed like it could take a bit to get the hang of it. Not the end of the world, but when I'm going for the objective best...

The Kemper I've owned, as mentioned. I really thought it was the the best sounding modeler I've ever played. The downsides are that its not kind of awkwardly shaped, and the effects aren't too much to talk about. I also found that if you wanted to tweak a profile, you didn't have a huge USABLE range for the on-board adjustments. I like tweaking, so this is kind of a bummer for me.

Help me out guys, what do you think?
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
Last edited by dementiacaptain at Sep 16, 2016,
#2
I've never played any, but I've only heard great things about the Fractal Axe FX. A few bands I listen to have swapped out their tube amps with them, and it sounds great on a produced album.
#3
Yeah and that's a lot of why the Axe is in the list, because I've heard some great sounds from bands I like (BTBAM comes to mind), but I've also heard garbage from it. Part of my fear is that it takes a lot of effort to get those really awesome sounds that just blow you away, and most of the sounds are just "really good." I know it'll require work to get the most out of it, I just worry about how much.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#4
I've got an Axe (Ultra). I've got a Helix (on borrow). Haven't worked with the Kemper.
All three sound great, all three use IRs (that probably makes the biggest improvement in sound).
All three have people out there contributing patches and adding both content and assistance.

So...sound aside:

I'm actually buying the Helix next.
Neither the Axe nor the Kemper come with any foot control. A current Axe with the recommended foot controller runs about $3K, the Kemper a bit less.
The Helix (in my neighborhood) is $1500, but I can get a 20% discount (manager's discount) and then I pay 10% of that total back in LA sales tax. so around $1320. The Helix has a huge screen for arranging routing, editing and passing information to you (such as tuning), great switching options (including colored LED surrounds), context-sensitive switches, LED "scribble strips" that are also context sensitive, and a solid expression pedal built in. It has FOUR FX loops, plenty of output options. And since it's self-contained, it's a lot less bulky.

One more thing: I can replace it almost anywhere I am. Worst case, I'm usually an expensive Fedex delivery away, but most Guitar Denters have one hanging around, and there are 200 of those stores out there. And since I live within driving distance of Line 6 in Calabasas, I can actually get the thing fixed in a timely manner.
Last edited by dspellman at Sep 17, 2016,
#5
It sounds like you're more of a Helix / Axe-FX guy with the tweaking needs. I personally prefer the Axe-FX, but I'm sure the Helix will do great if you sit down with it and really learn how to use it.

The Kemper does come in rack form as well if you're not a fan of the lunchbox version and while the effects aren't as expansive as the Helix and Axe-FX, I'd say the quality is pretty much on par and they offer a lot of tweakability as well. I've been using the Kemper for quite some time now and I've noticed that if you really get into properly learning how the unit works, the effects are pretty stellar. The morphing feature they released not too long ago is very nice as well and allows for some next-level stuff.

And as you probably already know from owning a Kemper, it's very user-friendly.
#6
Thanks guys, very helpful.

Spellman: in terms of coaxing what you want out of the Axe as compared to the Helix, would you say one is easier than the other? I love tweaking, true, but at the end of the day I want to play the thing more than fiddle with it. I'm not new to modellers, so I understand typically you have to really dive in and learn the unit to get the best, but when I had my POD HD for example I felt like I had to really work at it to get it to max potential.

K0nijn: I actually prefer the lunch box to the rack at least the lunch box has a carrying strap. I haven't owned the Kemper in a while, so I am interested to see what improvements have been made, as I know they are always improving things.

In terms of tweaking I think you're right, the other two are more catered to that. The thing with the Kemper though is the sky is the limit. As long as people keep profiling, I can ALWAYS find a new cool sound, and that's appealing.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#7
Quote by dementiacaptain
Thanks guys, very helpful.

Spellman: in terms of coaxing what you want out of the Axe as compared to the Helix, would you say one is easier than the other? I love tweaking, true, but at the end of the day I want to play the thing more than fiddle with it. I'm not new to modellers, so I understand typically you have to really dive in and learn the unit to get the best, but when I had my POD HD for example I felt like I had to really work at it to get it to max potential.

K0nijn: I actually prefer the lunch box to the rack at least the lunch box has a carrying strap. I haven't owned the Kemper in a while, so I am interested to see what improvements have been made, as I know they are always improving things.

In terms of tweaking I think you're right, the other two are more catered to that. The thing with the Kemper though is the sky is the limit. As long as people keep profiling, I can ALWAYS find a new cool sound, and that's appealing.



The thing with the Kemper has always been IRs. But the Axe and the Helix and the AX-8 and the Two-Notes Torpedo C.A.B. also use IRs in exactly the same way. In terms of using profiling, all of them are the same these days, and using the same IRs (though the C.A.B. actually has an advantage in how it puts its IRs together -- a story for another thread).

I wouldn't typify the Helix as needing a lot of tweaking to sound great. Same with the Axe, but if you're into seeing what changing the plate voltage on a tube would do, the Axe is your baby. I don't have that kind of time or inclination, honestly. You don't *have* to do any of that to make it sound good, mind you. It's just there. My personal feeling is that if you assume that the Helix is on equal footing with the other two in terms of modeling quality and the use of profiling, then the Helix's advantage is in the usability that's been built in.

We knew that the high end capabilities would be dropping in price point, and that's happening. Cliff will do his best to make sure that the Axe products have great technology, but companies like Line 6 were started by engineers coming over from keyboards (Alesis) which already had a lot of this tech, and Line 6 is owned by Yamaha, which has great keyboard technology of its own *and* DSP manufacturing internally.

We're in a situation a bit like the auto industry. There are cars that have 1500 horsepower and multi-million dollar pricetags and that can demonstrate 250mph speeds and you can drive them around town. There are those that have 650-700 horsepower and run 200mph and cost half a mil and you can drive them around town. And those that are sporty, have flat-crank engines, etc. and will do 130 and you can drive them around town and they cost you $50-70K. All will hit any speed limit where it's legal to drive normally. It just depends on how much you want to spend (and why you want to spend it) on "potential."

And bragging rights.
#8
Thanks man. Hearing your opinion on the matter helps a lot. I'm now more confident that the Helix would have what I need.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#9
to me, although I have VERY little hands on experience, i would lean on the Line 6 if i were transporting it. if it is going to stay in you're studio, that would make me lean toward axe.
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#10
Yeah I'm definitely leaning that way. It just looks so flexible...
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#11
I personally would go for a Kemper in a studio. You probably have all the effects on dial in your DAW anyway and for amp sounds it's hard to beat. If you're doing sessions with other people, getting different sounds is a lot quicker also, in my opinion, unless you have patches dialed in for a lot of occasions on your Axe-FX / Helix.

If you're going to gig and stuff, the Helix is a very nice option being all in one. I'd check out the AX8 as well for sure if that's the form factor you want.
#12
That's the thing, I'm not really doing a lot of live playing or recording
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#13
I think you need to decide for yourself how important a footswitch is and you can certainly factor that into your decision. The Helix is a great option cost-wise if you want to able to have total control with your feet.

I think any of these units will be able to deliver. If you can't get a good sound out of either of the three options you have (or 4 if you count the AX8 as well), it's not the units fault, to be honest.
#14
Quote by I K0nijn I
I think you need to decide for yourself how important a footswitch is and you can certainly factor that into your decision. The Helix is a great option cost-wise if you want to able to have total control with your feet.

I think any of these units will be able to deliver. If you can't get a good sound out of either of the three options you have (or 4 if you count the AX8 as well), it's not the units fault, to be honest.


Oh yeah, I mean at the moment I'm playing through Positive Grid's apps and the sound I get from that is already pretty great. I know that all the options here are good ones in terms of sound, it's just tough to pick because I don't really need any particular feature set.

Right now I'm going back and forth between the Helix and the Kemper (the AX8 is cool, but honestly the fact that it's more expensive than Helix and there's no expression pedal kind of kills it for me). Seeing a lot of the things you can do with the Helix has got me really tuned in to that, but the Kemper I've owned and only sold it because I couldn't validate keeping it at the time given my financial circumstances.

This go round I have money specifically allocated for this purchase, but I'm really struggling to take anything off the list.

There's more trivial things that I'm considering too: Though it may not be as convenient, I really like the fact that the Kemper is sort of head shaped and easy to tinker with on the desktop. I do a lot of my playing sitting at my desk, so this is nice.

I also have a pedalboard that I'd like to use with whatever I end up getting. I could do that with any of them, but I know that it may be a bit redundant with the Helix...

Bah, I need more money so I can buy them both
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#15
The Helix has an editor, I believe, so if you're sitting at the desk, that's a nice option.

The Helix could be integrated into your pedalboard as well, but might make a lot redundant, indeed. Not that a Kemper wouldn't, in my opinion. I've lost interest in every pedal that isn't a delay or reverb or something completely whacky that I'd probably only use once a year since I got the Kemper.
#16
See I've just started getting into pedals

I'm thinking Helix pretty hard at this point. It's been a day of demos and reviews for me with the studio headphones on. I think the feature set, the number of configurations, the sound are all awesome. Now it's just so I cave and buy a new one or do I wait for one to pop up for a better price.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#17
dementiacaptain I would go with the Ax8. You can easilly edit it connected to your pc using the editor. The Helix's amp models and cab sims are not as good as the AX8, though the effects are good.

Given the price similarity, I would go with the AX 8.
#18
Well I pulled the trigger on a Helix. Found one for a grand, figured that's as good as it's going to get for a while
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#19
Quote by reverb66
dementiacaptain I would go with the Ax8. You can easilly edit it connected to your pc using the editor. The Helix's amp models and cab sims are not as good as the AX8, though the effects are good.

Given the price similarity, I would go with the AX 8.


I would have to disagree.
The AX8, mind you, is just fine. There's very little to choose from in terms of amp sims between the two on a normal basis. Both are using Cab IR's, and can share IRs (say, Ownhammers or even the free ones that are now all over).

In order to compare the two, you still have to buy a good expression pedal for the AX8. But for usability, it's all Helix. Four FX loops instead of one. Much better switching. Much larger (and more usable) LED panel for editing and routing on the unit itself. Color LED surrounds on the switches that change color contextually. LED scribble strips (that also change depending on the context, and that are programmable, as are the LED surrounds). I honestly haven't used the Line 6 editing software yet, because it wasn't available when the Helix was first introduced and I got used to routing presets using the LED screen. The Helix allows two complete rigs, the AX8 one. I expect that there are areas where the two will leapfrog one another with changes in firmware, but the hardware score definitely has to go to the Helix.
#20
Quote by dementiacaptain
Well I pulled the trigger on a Helix. Found one for a grand, figured that's as good as it's going to get for a while


I think that's the price for good used ones for now. Check out Greg DeLaune's YouTube videos for his presets. I'd recommend these if for no other reason than to look at how he's constructed them (he'll answer questions about that). And start looking for other IRs now. There are a LOT of them out there. No reason not to have a library of them on your computer.
#22
Quote by dspellman
I think that's the price for good used ones for now. Check out Greg DeLaune's YouTube videos for his presets. I'd recommend these if for no other reason than to look at how he's constructed them (he'll answer questions about that). And start looking for other IRs now. There are a LOT of them out there. No reason not to have a library of them on your computer.


I've got a few already, I'll be exploring what's out there
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#24
Quote by reverb66
dementiacaptain Check out the Pete Thorn review of the Helix - he mentions some cab IR's he used for the review which sound great.


Watched in full

He's an Ownhammer guy.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#25
I love my AX8. I like that Fractal is active on their forums, and seem to come out with updates every few weeks. You get direct connection with the designers there.
The interface is easy to use. It isn't as pretty as the Helix, but I would pick it over L6 any day.
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#26
Quote by Mincer
I love my AX8. I like that Fractal is active on their forums, and seem to come out with updates every few weeks. You get direct connection with the designers there.
The interface is easy to use. It isn't as pretty as the Helix, but I would pick it over L6 any day.


Is it still the case that an update pretty much screws your presets over? That was the main disadvantage for me when I got my Kemper and not an Axe FX.
#27
I'll have to do a rundown of it when it arrives.

Everyone posting in here should track down the modeling thread and go post in it. I'd like to get that going a bit more, this forum definitely has a big knowledge base when it comes to tube amps but we need to build up the digital side of things a bit more I think.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#28
Quote by Mincer
I love my AX8. I like that Fractal is active on their forums, and seem to come out with updates every few weeks. You get direct connection with the designers there.
The interface is easy to use. It isn't as pretty as the Helix, but I would pick it over L6 any day.


I have the Ultra, so I understand the appeal (you can buy an Ultra for less than what the AX8 will cost you these days). I've known Tom King (over at Atomic) since he put out the Atomic Reactor tube-powered speakers for the "desktop" modelers (M-Audio, Behringer, Vox, Pod). I've got three of them that I use all the time.

I know some of the folks out in Calabasas, so I don't have to deal with forums in order to talk to the designers. I have been INSIDE their Faraday cage...

I've got another reason to prefer the Helix, of course -- I have four Variax guitars, including two of the current JTV-89F guitars (as well as an old 500 and a 700 Acoustic). Either of the Helix or the 89F is pretty remarkable on its own, but run the two of them together through the VDI cable and the combination is killer.
#29
Spellman, I can look up more details but since you're around, I'm assuming that .wav files have to be converted into another format for the Helixto use them? Or am I off base
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#30
Quote by dspellman
I have the Ultra, so I understand the appeal (you can buy an Ultra for less than what the AX8 will cost you these days). I've known Tom King (over at Atomic) since he put out the Atomic Reactor tube-powered speakers for the "desktop" modelers (M-Audio, Behringer, Vox, Pod). I've got three of them that I use all the time.

I know some of the folks out in Calabasas, so I don't have to deal with forums in order to talk to the designers. I have been INSIDE their Faraday cage...

I've got another reason to prefer the Helix, of course -- I have four Variax guitars, including two of the current JTV-89F guitars (as well as an old 500 and a 700 Acoustic). Either of the Helix or the 89F is pretty remarkable on its own, but run the two of them together through the VDI cable and the combination is killer.


I own a Variax acoustic, so I was hoping for better integration with the HD500 when I had it for 5 years, and for better implementation of the looper. The looper worked better on the DL4 and M series, but they never got it right with the HD500. So I sold it after 5 years.
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#31
Quote by I K0nijn I
Is it still the case that an update pretty much screws your presets over? That was the main disadvantage for me when I got my Kemper and not an Axe FX.


I don't notice that at all. If anything, it improves the feel/response, which was already amazing.
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#32
Quote by dementiacaptain
Spellman, I can look up more details but since you're around, I'm assuming that .wav files have to be converted into another format for the Helixto use them? Or am I off base


Cut and paste from a support doc:

Helix supports nearly all IRs in .WAV format. However, the Helix Edit application may
automatically change its attributes before sending it to the Helix hardware:

Converts all .WAV IRs to 16-bit, 48kHz mono; when loading a stereo file, Helix
Edit uses only the left side
Shortens (or lengthens) the IR to 2,048 samples. The user may choose a
1,024-sample version to save DSP, which fades out the IR halfway through
#33
Quote by Mincer
I own a Variax acoustic, so I was hoping for better integration with the HD500 when I had it for 5 years, and for better implementation of the looper. The looper worked better on the DL4 and M series, but they never got it right with the HD500. So I sold it after 5 years.


You sold the Variax, or you sold the HD500? I get that you didn't like the looper.

The integration with the modelers via the VDI cable is stunning. I can change models and alternate tunings (as well as cabs/FX/amps) with a single stomp. The intro to Dangerous by the Doobie Brothers (the Wolf Trap version) begins with a pair of acoustics and a Dobro with a slide. The Doobs have acoustic guitars on those mbrace-style stands, and they have electrics slung over their shoulders. They need a whole measure to bring the electrics up and get ready to go for the main part of the song, and they have to get around and away from the acoustics, and then get BACK to them for an interlude in the middle of the song. Not required for the Variax with the VDI cable. Same goes for Boston songs, etc. There are metal players who are doing songs with two and three different tunings fundamental to the song. You just can't do that without a Variax and a foot switch.

The magnetic pickups run through the VDI cable as well, with no capacitance issues. And you can use single coil models without noise from neon signs, acoustic models without the usual feedback issues, etc.
Last edited by dspellman at Sep 21, 2016,
#34
No, I still have the Variax Acoustic. I sold the HD500. I didn't really need to change the model of the Variax in the middle of playing, and honestly, I just use my M9 most of the time with the VA, as the looper volume is able to be controlled with the exp pedal.
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#35
Quote by Mincer
No, I still have the Variax Acoustic. I sold the HD500. I didn't really need to change the model of the Variax in the middle of playing, and honestly, I just use my M9 most of the time with the VA, as the looper volume is able to be controlled with the exp pedal.


Got it. And of course, the HD500 wasn't under consideration in any case.

One other aspect of running the Variax and the Helix together is that you can assign the volume and tone knobs on the Variax to control Helix parameters. I noticed this:



And then started dinking around on my own. Some mind-blowing results...
Last edited by dspellman at Sep 22, 2016,
#36
Yeah, I admit that it is pretty cool. I don't think the acoustic can be controlled that way, though. They should really update the VA- or at least come out with an updated board to throw in there.
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#37
So I got the Helix yesterday and took it to practice.

I only had time to whip up two patches, one with a Mark IV and one with a Twin. The Mark I used a Kalthallen IR for a V30 with an SM57 and a Greenback IR I found, the Twin with the matching cab. I used the global EQ to set a high cut, just to remove a bit of fizzle (I do this with pretty much every setup).

The sound is leaps and bounds above what I could get with my old HD500, and the setup was a breeze. Using the controls on the Mark model, I found they work very much the same as on the real amp, meaning I could use similar settings to get my sound. This is the first modeler I've used like this.

The Twin sounded good, but I'm going to be looking for an IR suited for it. The in-built cab is okay, but a bit flat. I'm still very happy with the sound.

The controls are simple and the editor is great.

I will post more when I get into it a bit more, but first impressions are this thing sounds great, it's easier to use than any previous iteration. Good job Line 6.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#38
The Variax is such a crappy guitar though...I just can't get around using one. Maybe if I were to gut the hardware and put it on something decent, like my used Godin I could see pulling it off...

The Helix is starting to look good, you're right.
#39
The original Variax was lame, but the newer ones are solid, which one are you talking about?

And yeah, the Helix is the happiest I've been with a modeler, even compared to the Kemper. The Kenper was cool but lacked the kind of control and effects I wanted. Arguably the profiles sounded a bit better than the Helix out of the box, but I can tweak much the Helix to suit me much more easily and with better results than the Kemper.
I'm just a kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer.
#40
Quote by dementiacaptain
The original Variax was lame, but the newer ones are solid, which one are you talking about?


Any of them, haven't played a good Variax guitar. They feel awfully cheap and uncomfortable to me, all models, like a $200 Squier. I think they thought of providing the hardware only but I think that was before they got bought by Yamaha and now their approach seems to have changed.

Just looked up the Helix prices and they are insane!
I was thinking they were maybe twice the price of a HD500 but nah, they're up there in cork sniffer territory with the rest of them.

Thinking about it, the new Amplitube through something like a tablet PC with an A/D and midi controller might get me in all these modeler territory with savings of $2000 or more... or there might be more worthwhile purchases (amps and guitars) that I'd like to own in that price range before I go for what is essentially a proprietary laptop and an audio interface.

Keeping this in mind, the Amplifire seems to be great for what it is.
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