Create a Virtual Room with the Line 6 Helix
There's more to the sound of your guitar than an amp and cab
By Craig Anderton
The room in which you’re playing has a huge effect on the sound of your amp and cab. An acoustic space is a sophisticated filter, delay line, and modulation effect that adds variety to your sound. Although you can dial up “room” plug-ins, sometimes you want something a little more raw—like the short, subtle echoes that occur in a small club or rehearsal space. As a bonus, the guitar will often fit better in a mix with other instruments that were miked in a room, like drums, hand percussion, piano, and the like.
While creating a follow-up preset pack to Craig Anderton's Amazing Multiband Helix Presets, I found this particular block very useful in creating room sounds, so I thought it might be worth sharing with other Helix fans.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DELAY TIMES
To prevent echoes from hitting at the same time, choose prime number delay times such as 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, and 37 ms. Longer times create a bigger virtual room, but too long a delay sounds less realistic. A little feedback creates a more complex vibe, but don’t turn it up to the point where you hear the repetitions trail off.
The screen shot shows how the taps are set up in the Helix’s Multitap6 module. The bars that are colored blue are the delay times; scale is based on a master delay time of 100 ms, so a scale of 17% is 17 milliseconds, 19% is 19 milliseconds, and so on. Note that the shorter delays are panned wider, while the longer delays are more centered.
The Mix is set to 100% delayed sound, which is handy for when you’re tweaking the sound. In practice, though, a little bit of the delayed sound goes a long way. Bring up just enough to fill in the acoustic space around the amp and cab sound.
• When you’re playing guitar, you’re moving around—so your ears pick up different reflections. This adds sonic animation you won’t hear if you just stick a mic in front of a speaker (or use an amp sim that models sticking a mic in front of a speaker). Insert a chorus effect after the delay, set for a very slow rate and a subtle mix (e.g., 20% wet). The effect should be subliminal, and not at all obvious, to add a taste of “animation.”
• Try increasing feedback a bit. This will thicken the room sound, but be careful not to turn it up high enough to create a metallic effect.
• Insert EQ after the delays to alter the room’s “acoustics.” For example, you can reduce the high frequencies to emulate softer surfaces, or go for a brighter sound if you want harder surfaces.
• Change the relative mix of the different taps. Mixing the shorter delay levels higher will bring the guitar closer, while mixing the longer delay levels higher will make the guitar seem further away.
• Panning the delays can also be effective—spread them evenly throughout the stereo spread.
And there you have it—a virtual room for your Helix. I hope it helps when you want the sound of playing in a small room, like a rehearsal space.