Access Line 6 Helix’s Other 1,640 Cabs
There’s a simple way to turn the 41 stock Helix Cabs into 1,640 cab sounds, but there’s a catch: you need to follow your Amp with two Cabs in parallel paths. With a 4-Path Helix device, this isn’t much of an issue but with HX Stomp, you may not want to give up an extra block…or you might, if you’re looking for new and different cab sounds.
How It Works
This technique inserts a different cab in each parallel path, and uses the Mixer’s Invert function to invert the Path B polarity (fig. 6.1). Mixing the Cabs together cancels out what the two cabs have in common, because of the inverted polarity. This emphasizes their differences—the various resonances and “personalities” that make each cab unique. Because there are 41 cabs, and each cab can pair with one of 40 cabs, the total potential number of cab sounds is 1,640 (41 x 40).
Figure 6.1 Inverting one Cab’s polarity (note the B Polarity setting) cancels some frequencies when the two cabs are mixed together.
Let’s unpack what this means:
- Panning the paths off-center just a bit reduces the cancellation, which morphs the cancelled and stock sounds. I rarely pan more than right/left 25-30.
- Any changes made to a Cab parameter are much more dramatic than usual, because those changes create more of a difference between the two Cabs. Sometimes changing a Cab’s parameter, even something as simple as High Cut, can turn a not-so-useful combination into something unique.
- Because this technique relies on two Cabs instead of two Amps, processing power requirements can be modest. The preset in fig. 6.1 uses a Deluxe Comp, Voltage Queen Amp, 4x12 Blackback 30, 1x12 US Deluxe, and three stereo effects: Parametric EQ, Dual Delay, and Double Tank reverb. Yet there’s still enough processing power for one more mono effect at the beginning: almost all the Modulation and Filter effects, all distortions (except for 7 of them), and even non-poly Pitch blocks.
- The Parametric EQ is helpful, because the frequency response anomalies can be pretty drastic. Even a minor boost or cut at certain frequencies can optimize the tone.
- The cancellation reduces the overall output level, so add any needed makeup gain with the Mixer’s Level parameter, or the Level parameter in post-mixer effects.
- With a 4-Path Helix (Floor, Native, Rack. LT), the top two paths can be your main guitar sound, while the lower path uses an out-of-phase Cab sound in parallel. This can give some novel stacked Cab sounds.
Manage Your Expectations!
You can’t predict which Cabs will or won’t sound good together. Besides, a particular combination might not seem all that great initially—but add some EQ, or just change the mic on a Cab, and then the sound might fall perfectly in place. Even small parameter differences can have a major impact on the sound.
To experiment further with your presets, click on one Cab, then choose other Cabs. After you hear how this technique can give different Cab sounds, optimize the sound to your taste with the Cab parameters, Parametric EQ, or other effects.
Granted, the stock Cabs are fine, so this may seem like overkill. But playing around with this technique gives different, and sometimes surprising, tones that can lead to songwriting inspiration. You’ll also have unique Cab sounds no one else has.
Finally, if you find a combination you like with particular Cab parameter settings, save it as a preset! After all, there are 1,640 cabs, and a near-infinite number of options from varying the Cab parameters. If you lose a sound you like, you might not be able to find it again.
This article is excerpted with permission from Sweetwater Publishing's The Big Book of Helix Tips and Tricks.
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