Line6 Helix Review

 

 

Line 6 Helix Floor

 

Website: https://line6.com/helix/

Average Price: 1499€

Overall Rank: 90 out of 100

Links to buy the Helix: 

Thomann

Amazon

Gear4Music

Music Store

Sam Ash

 

Product Overview

 

  • Flagship Helix multi-effects floorboard system
  • 12 capacitive-sensing footswitches and customizable scribble strips
  • Extensive I/O for seamless integration with your entire rig
  • 6.2″ color display, expression pedal, and 8-in/8-out USB audio interface
  • Powerful Dual-DSP HX Modeling
  • Large 6.2”, 800×480-Pixel LCD Screen
  • 62 Amps, 37 Cabs, 16 Microphones, and 104 Effects
  • Capacitive Footswitches and Customizable Scribble Strips. Touch to Edit, Hold to Assign, Press to Engage
  • Up to 3 Expression Pedals, CV/Expression Output, External Amp Switching, and Deep MIDI Control
  • 22.05 x 11.85 x 3.58 inches, 14.7 lbs

 

The Pros & Cons

The Good:

PRO #1 Incredible and high-quality powerful sound: amp simulations are very realistic, with the possibility to upload custom Cabinet IRs

PRO #2 High-Quality Effects

PRO #3 Floor unity case with pedal expression, practical, and easy to carry to your Gigs. 

The Cons:

CON #1 Tone Response can be more dynamic, especially in the clean sounds.

CON #2 A bit pricey but the quality is also very high.

 

Let’s Explore the Helix Floor

 

First of all, I was a bit skeptical when I saw this pedalboard for the first time. 

I definitely am an analog guy, who likes to wire pedals in a tube amp. I honestly overall prefer real tube amps and I like the feel of the air moving around me. 

This is the reason why at first I was thinking… Nah, not really for me. 

Then I have had the opportunity to try it, and I have to say that the sounds are absolutely phenomenal, both the effects and the amp simulations. 

 

But let’s get into the details

 

First, the Helix Floor presents itself as an all-in-one unit, made for live performances. The case is very strong and robust, and the design very elegant. 

The display is luminescent and easy to read, visible even during your darkest gigs. 

I like the fact that the button switches are so easy to manage and access, and the fact that there is an expression pedal on board will make your life easier, without bringing with you more stuff to a gig. 

The onboard screen is intuitive and the wheels let you have complete control of every parameter, and to make even a little change of parameter in your patches easily, even if you are playing at the same time. 

Overall the effects wiring and patches programming has got a learning curve by the way, and you will need some little time to understand how to get out the best from all your patches. Despite the screen is easy to read, you will have to understand how to obtain the best performances from your effects blocks. Nothing impossible, it just has got a small learning curve. 

 

 

The retro panel has got:

  • Expression pedals outputs to let you add more external pedals to control parameters in real-time. You will be able to control parameters such as modulation, volume, wah, whammy, distortion etc. 
  • Guitar Input
  • Auxiliary output
  • 2 different send-return blocks will allow you to add external effects, even emulating the classic 4 cables method with the internal amp simulations
  • 2 Stereo XLR Out to go into the Mixer/PA during studio or live situations
  • 2 Stereo Jack outputs
  • A Phones Output
  • Variax in, just in case you want to interface the Line 6 Variax with the Helix
  • Midi input and output
  • A L6 Out to interface the Helix with other Line 6 products
  • USB Out
  • Power Cables input

 

The Overall Impression about the Helix

 

There’s no doubt about the fact that on stage and in the studio, a great guitar tube amp, with great pedals in front of it and the right player can seriously make the difference in obtaining THE TONE.

What companies like Line 6 are trying to make since more than 20 years now is trying to get as close as possible to that idea of sound: the touch sensitivity, the headroom, the harmonics, the joy of playing. 

This is what devices like the Kemper or the Helix are trying to obtain: THE TONE. 

I have to admit that Line 6 has gained more and more of my respect over the years. I have had a POD 2.0 back in the days and now even the POD line has improved and got better and better. 

The impression that I have is that if you play the Helix alone, especially on clean sounds you will definitely hear the difference with a tube amp, but not THAT much to be honest. You can manage to play incredible arpeggios and solo lines, and if you will listen to what you played in a full mix with drums, bass, and keys, it will be difficult for you to think that you are playing through an emulator. 

The distortions are just killer: from crunchy british Marshall sounds to american Mesa Boogie walls, your tones will be phenomenal, and the pleasure to play with these sounds will be always there, even if you are not playing with real tubes. 

I have tried all the amp collections and you can find nice sounds even on the boutique ones, that normally are the most difficult to emulate.

It is also very nice that you can charge your IRs and emulate the cabinets you want. 

The idea I have about all these amp simulator software products is that no matter what happens, the Impulse Responses you will use are at least responsible for 70% of the quality of your sound. So the fact that you can charge your own IRs is awesome.

Line 6 knows this very well and it will let you have access to a vast library of IRs. The onboard ones are very good quality. 

Personally I almost always use my Celestion Packs, but I obtained great results also with the onboard cabinets. 

For every situation and performance, with the Helix you can be sure that you will have all the sounds that you desire in one single click, and this is awesome, especially for the session man that has to travel a lot and can’t bring with him/her tons of pedals and amps. The Helix will save out your gig if you need to pass from the David Gilmore’s to the John Petrucci’s sound in a matter of a second, just pressing a single button. I find this really great!

Here is a list of the Amps you will find inside the Helix.

 

The Effects

 

I have to admit that Line 6 never disappoints me when talking about effects. 

I have had the POD, the MM4, and many others. The impression was always that the effects sounded good, but not realistic. Sometimes the choruses and the modulations, in general, were artificial, and especially in the MM4 now replaced by an all-in-one unit, there was all the time a lacking of volume when the effect was on. All these limits have been overcome and I can affirm that the quality of the effects in the Helix is very high. The reverb sound very rich, you can have all the delays that you want and the modulations sound very realistic, with nothing to do with the past honestly. 

Here you can find a list of effects you can have on the Helix.

 

Conclusions 

The Helix can be a very useful tool for the live touring musician that wants to have everything in a compact format pedalboard, go to a gig with just 2 cables, plug the Helix, play and finish without losing an incredible amount of time in wiring tons of cables with the risk of having troubles and damages. 

The tones will be always on point and the quality of the sound is something you can always count on. 

This is the reason why I advise you openly the Helix if you are a working musician that wants an easy and efficient guitar rig to rely on. 

 

Ignazio Di Salvo 

 

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