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Fractal vs. Helix: Let the comparisons begin! (Video series)

Mitch Baker

Member
Thanks everyone, great to hear from you all!

In your comparison the Helix was always brighter. Have you isolated whether this is due to generic differences in the modelling, or does the IR implementation also play a part?
I forgot to mention this in the video, but my theory is that since Fractal includes a bright switch on every single amp model, and it often defaults to "on" when you select an amp model, Fractal kind of suggests to you that you have a choice between two levels of brightness to compensate for pickups or IR. That's what I was trying to elude to by engaging the bright switch on the SLO and 5150 portions, but failed to mention.

Helix, on the other hand, never gives you a bright switch, so I figure they just settled for a brighter alternative. Who knows, though; perhaps Line 6's capturing method simply tended to make them brighter, or the eight amps I compared coincidentally turned out to be all brighter than the Fractal. But I think the flexibility of having a bright switch is MUCH preferred, in my opinion.
 

axifist

Experienced
Gojira - Silvera, nice! :)

I have to +1 everyone, you definitely are a natural! And looking at your style of playing, I definitely suggest you to buy a Strat, you'll have a lot of fun with it!
 

Brownmatthall

Power User
I forgot to mention this in the video, but my theory is that since Fractal includes a bright switch on every single amp model, and it often defaults to "on" when you select an amp model, Fractal kind of suggests to you that you have a choice between two levels of brightness to compensate for pickups or IR. That's what I was trying to elude to by engaging the bright switch on the SLO and 5150 portions, but failed to mention.

Helix, on the other hand, never gives you a bright switch, so I figure they just settled for a brighter alternative. Who knows, though; perhaps Line 6's capturing method simply tended to make them brighter, or the eight amps I compared coincidentally turned out to be all brighter than the Fractal. But I think the flexibility of having a bright switch is MUCH preferred, in my opinion.
Not necessarily true for all amps, for instance some amps actually have a bright switch that's modeled. In other cases like the marshall plexi's turning the bright switch off is the equivalent of clipping the bright cap (which is a common mod on these amps), it's all very dependent on the model. I did enjoy the video though, very well done
 
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chucma

Power User
Wow Mitch! What a great video! I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series!!

You asked for ideas, I would love to see a deep dive into the drives please!
 

jlynnb1

Fractal Fanatic
my guess is the L6 models are brighter because they know most people will perceive brighter as better. I think it's tough to get a good comparison because if you're going with the same settings on two different units something will get shortchanged somewhere. What is also impossible for a test like this to tell you is the difference in feel and response....

great job though, enjoyed the vid and you're comfort level in front of the camera makes it an easy watch.
 

axifist

Experienced
I just watched the end after the tone comparisons. I think you don't entirely understand the power of having two amp blocks. What this gives you is the ability to blend between different amps (e.g. higain to clean, I do this with some songs) and to switch amps without any interruption with scenes (I do this all the time!). It's the only thing that would keep me from switching from my II to the AX8 if I wanted to. So it's definitely a big advantage of the Helix!
 

dukemcrae

Inspired
It makes me smile to see someone compare two products on one of the products fan base home forum, and everyone is giving him praise - very nice to see!

Great video, by the way!
 

aens

Inspired
Best comparison I've seen in a long time with a really professional approach. Really nice job. Keep it coming!
 

Konstantin

Inspired
I downloaded Ola's AX Preset Pack from this video. How can I change format file to the AFX? Fractool did not work :(
 

Ben Randolph

Power User
Just watched your comparison. Very well done. I agree that both the Helix and AX8 sound fantastic. For me it would come down to Helix's workflow being the strong point vs. Fractal's amp model options being it's strong point.
 

AlGrenadine

Axe-Master
I downloaded Ola's AX Preset Pack from this video. How can I change format file to the AFX? Fractool did not work :(
I loaded those AX8 presets successfully with FracTool. just drop syx files or the whole zip file onto FractTool's AxeFx icon and you're led to the audition window where you can cycle thru the presets.
If you hear nothing it's because the presets use a custom IR is used (it's in the zip file), you'll have to install it in one of your cab slots...
 

ETOLKIEN

Experienced
I loaded those AX8 presets successfully with FracTool. just drop syx files or the whole zip file onto FractTool's AxeFx icon and you're led to the audition window where you can cycle thru the presets.
If you hear nothing it's because the presets use a custom IR is used (it's in the zip file), you'll have to install it in one of your cab slots...
You are absolutely right, but I found something wrong in the custom IR syx file uploaded, is not fractool fault, I think it must be the wav to syx conversion that Ola did, I sent a private missage to Ola to clarify, a detailed explanation is here:
http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/ax8-vs-helix-for-metal.119449/page-2#post-1423006
 

ETOLKIEN

Experienced
Another thing to consider for future videos is how many amp models you can play with each device:
-Helix: 53
-Ax8: 249
 

FractalAudio

Administrator
Fractal Audio Systems
Moderator
Thanks everyone, great to hear from you all!


I forgot to mention this in the video, but my theory is that since Fractal includes a bright switch on every single amp model, and it often defaults to "on" when you select an amp model, Fractal kind of suggests to you that you have a choice between two levels of brightness to compensate for pickups or IR. That's what I was trying to elude to by engaging the bright switch on the SLO and 5150 portions, but failed to mention.

Helix, on the other hand, never gives you a bright switch, so I figure they just settled for a brighter alternative. Who knows, though; perhaps Line 6's capturing method simply tended to make them brighter, or the eight amps I compared coincidentally turned out to be all brighter than the Fractal. But I think the flexibility of having a bright switch is MUCH preferred, in my opinion.
The Bright Switch models the "bright cap" across the drive/gain/volume/comodjulator pot. Some amps have no bright cap, some amps have a hardwired bright cap and some amps give you a switch to turn it on/off. A bright cap increases treble as the pot is turned down. The original impetus for this was that guitars with weak pickups tend to be brighter and guitars with hot pickups tend to be darker. So you're likely to turn the gain up for the guitar with weak pickups which reduces treble response. On the guitar with hot pickups you're likely to turn the gain down which increases treble response to counteract the darker tone.

If the amp has no bright cap the Bright Switch defaults to off. If the amp has a hardwired cap the switch defaults to on. If the amp has a switch it defaults to whatever we felt sounds the best.

Our particular JCM800 reference amp has no bright cap because someone removed it. However the model has the switch on because that's the way the amp would've come from the factory.

There are actually 11 different (IIRC) bright cap models in the Axe-Fx/AX-8. The earliest bright cap circuits were just a cap from the input terminal to the wiper. Over time designers have developed more complex circuits with resistors in series with the cap, another cap from the wiper to ground, treble peakers before/after the pot, etc. The user doesn't have the ability to select the model though, it is hard-coded into each model.

In my Helix tests I noticed the amps tend to be brighter, not sure why. Our models are matched to our reference amps.
 

Manny Fufish

Experienced
Line 6 does a good job at user interface for sure, I'm sure they dedicate a lot of resources to it. Another thing they do well is sounding pretty good out of the box, it might not be "accurate" but it's tweaked in a pleasing way. Down side is many presets are over the top, saturated with effects.

If they ever build the Helix into an amp, such as the FireHawk 1500 FRFR type of thing, I'm buying one of those for sure! It would be pricey, but I have been waiting for an amp like that... If Fractal makes one, even better!!!
 
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