Is it worth it to buy a Line 6 Helix in 2021? As a Helix Lt owner, this is a question I have been asking myself recently. With so many similarly priced alternatives which offer different features, is the Line-6 still the guitarist or bassist best friend, or has it slipped into redundancy?
When asking if the Helix is worth it in 2021, the answer is a definitive yes. Every guitarist should be able to find a use for the Line 6 Helix products. Some alternatives offer an attractive proposition, but with the continued updates and prices found on the used market, the Line 6 Helix is still a worthwhile investment.
How to use the Line 6 Helix
Below I will outline a few ways you can use the line 6 helix. I will cover how to use the Helix essentially as an overview as there are multiple ways to get more out of the Helix, which could quickly turn into another blog post.
Using The Helix as your Gigging Rig
You can use a Line 6 Helix as your entire rig, and this means you can spend hours at home refining the tones you like through headphones or an FRFR speaker, then turn to practice or your gig and go straight into the PA with a single XLR. The Helix has all the amp models you could ever want, and you can add extra levels of tonal perfection by loading in different cab IRs.
If you like Metal, the Helix has almost flawless reproductions of classic high gain amps such as the JCM800, EVH 5150 and the MESA Dual Rectifier. In a recent update, they added the modern classic Orange Rockerverb MkIII. If you prefer cleaner tones or crunch, they also cover traditional Fenders, Vox and Hiwatt. You can find a complete list of all amp models here.
The amp models feel responsive and authentic, and anyone would have difficulty telling you that they weren’t the real deal in a blind test. With all this tonal variation, you will feel like a kid in a candy store, and you may genuinely wake up in the middle of the night to try a new amp on a whim. As if all that wasn’t enough, if another band member turns up without their gear, you can set up a separate input and output on the Helix with their rig running both into the desk at once.
Using Line 6 Helix for effects Only
You can also use the Helix as a pedalboard with hundreds of perfectly modelled pedal staples like the Ibanez Tube Screamer, The MXR phase 90 and The Legendary Klon, to name a few. You can find a list of all the current pedals and amps here.
You can go straight into the front of your favourite amp and even set up send and return effects loops. one tip here is to make sure your output volume dial is set to 100%. Otherwise, you might not be providing a full signal to the front of your amp.
I use the Helix as my main pedal board as I haven’t found a reason to buy the analogue versions of the pedals. I often spend hours playing with pedals I have never used and finding tones I wouldn’t have previously considered. As a pedalboard, the Helix can add real value to your ability to experiment.
Using the Helix for Practice or Home Recording
The Line 6 Helix plugs into your Mac or PC with a single USB cable. Once connected to your computer, you can access updates for the device and use Helix edit. Helix edit is software that acts as a visual interface for the Helix and allows you to edit presets, snapshots and other settings while connected to your computer.
The USB connection allows you to use the Helix as an audio interface for Guitar. This means you can go straight into your preferred audio editing environment and utilise all the functionality of your Helix. As an audio interface, the Helix also provides a perfect opportunity to practice and jam out with your favourite tracks without annoying the neighbours.
What are Snapshots on the Line 6 Helix
Snapshots allow switching between different states within a preset without any audible gap. With Snapshots, a tap of one footswitch enables you to change between a setting where the amp is set to high gain with no delay or reverb and a Tubescreamer engaged. Then another setting with the gain backed off, no Tubescreamer, and reverb. Due to the lack of an audible gap between the switched settings, things like delay to tail off nicely rather than being stopped abruptly.
You cannot switch between presets with the Snapshots, but you can get creative with having two different channels in your signal path. Snapshots can allow you to switch between two amps or have both in parallel. I mainly use them to avoid doing a jig every time I switch on or off multiple pedals.
Best IRS for Line 6 Helix
An Impulse Response or IR is a sample of the audio qualities or a speaker microphone or room used to recreate these sonic characteristics with digital sources. On the Helix, you can use IRs to better simulate guitar cabs with specific speakers and the microphones used to mic those cabs.
To get you started, here is a link to the Line 6 forum for free IRs.
Below are some of the websites for great IRs.
Ownhammer is the only site I have purchased IRs. I have the Heavy Hitters pack Link here. Their packs are full of value, with hundreds of IRs contained within to choose to install on your Helix. To avoid overwhelming things, they have a sort of best selection folder to get you started. There are some great combinations of cabs here to help you discover the tone that best works for you.
Celestion offers the opportunity to get it straight from the source. They provide IRs of their famous speakers that promise the most authentic samples. I have not tried these IRs myself, so I can not confirm their claims; however, they are known for providing quality products across the board.
Tone Junkie offers a free pack to get you started. I have used their free package, and the IRs are good. Their paid-for IR bundles provide good value, but ultimately, they didn’t outline clearly enough what style they would suit, and this is why I invested in IRs from other providers.
Which Line 6 helix to buy?
There is a Helix for every budget, the Pod Go isn’t a Helix, but it does have Helix technology at an affordable price. The Helix amp models and effects can be found in the pocket-friendly package. I would suggest the Pod Go to anyone who wants to sample the Helix experience without busting the bank. It would make an excellent present for the young and aspiring guitarist.
The HX stomp can be used on a pedalboard for multiple effect pedals in a tiny package. It can also be used as your complete rig as it packs the same sound quality and Helix experience into a smaller housing. You are limited due to the small form factor by lack of controls and only being able to use 6 processing blocks compared to the 12 blocks on the bigger brothers.
The Helix Floor is the flagship Helix product and offers the full-fat Helix experience. The Helix LT is essentially the same device, just stripped of some of the display above each footswitch. These products provide the most comprehensive modelling experience from line 6. You can use these as your entire guitar rig, perfect for any travelling musician who doesn’t want to lump around heavy and expensive equipment.
The Helix Rack is probably best suited to a studio environment where you want access to robust modelling solutions for tonal diversity.
Whatever Helix product you choose to buy, you will have hours of fun discovering just how powerful and customisable these tone monsters are.