TOPIC: S-Gear vs Helix

S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 6 days ago #19403

This isn’t a full comparison, or a search for answers. It's just my personal conclusion from a years-old battle of the modelers!

Having owned and enjoyed S-Gear since 2013, I felt the need to seek out a hardware solution that was on-par with S-Gear’s tones in a more convenient, gig-friendly format. I tried many platforms and researched online the ones I couldn’t demo in person. I bought my Helix in early 2018 and soon discovered how incredibly versatile it was, even on the early firmware. The UI is spectacular and the tones really nailed the range I need for my varied gigs in genres spanning Jazz, Blues, Rock, Electronica, and Prog Metal. Clearly Line6 have put an immense amount of thought into the end user experience, unlike a lot of other hardware manufacturers who might have great-sounding tech, but can’t quite match that with user-friendly interaction.

Owning Helix has meant that I didn’t have to stress about taking a computer out gigging with me, and I basically just plug in, tweak the global EQ to suit the venue, and play. I can change settings on-the-fly, and I can control all my other gear with it, just by fiddling with control centre.

So, I’’m afraid to say I’ve made my choice, and that choice is S-Gear!

It’s not something that I can easily explain, but somehow Mike has created an experience which is intensely visceral. There’s a ‘thump’ in every amp model - never over the top, never obnoxious - just a satisfying reaction to playing technique that no other modeler I’ve tried has ever come close to. This was the one big let-down I felt with Helix. It sounded great - just not as good as I was used to with S-Gear. I also feel S-Gear reacts far better to volume- and tone-knob changes.

Just before Christmas, I was messing around in Ableton Live, and decided to run the Helix alongside S-Gear. First I substituted amps with S-Gear’s via the send/return, then used S-Gear’s convolver with Helix’s amps. No combination could come close to the feel I get from running straight into S-Gear.

So that was it. I decided it just isn’t worth the compromise. I actually had the Helix rack-mounted alongside a Mac mini which meant that the mac was always at gigs anyway. I tried it at a few gigs over Christmas, with the Helix there as a backup. I ended up having zero issues with S-Gear, and instantly loved the superior playability.

I sold the Helix in January and don’t regret it one bit. I use S-Gear for everything but the smallest gigs, and also in my studio for teaching and recording. It’s hooked up via MainStage, and I’ve built a basic MIDI foot controller. I’m actually finding plugins that I already owned are sounding even better than Helix’s effects. For example, Valhalla Shimmer is infinitely nicer than any of Helix’s big reverbs, Logic(MainStage)’s Overdrive plugin covers all the ground I need for OD/Distortion, and I’ve got all the compression, delay, and EQ effects I could possibly need. Anything else I could want is simply a download away!

I’m not in the least bit scared of ‘option paralysis’, but S-Gear needs so little tweaking compared to everything else I’ve used, that I’ve simply ended up playing far more than I ever did with Helix. There’s also a strange ‘adaptability’ about the tones. I barely need to change anything between different setups. The satisfying ’thump’ I’m talking about, is present in my studio monitors, headphones, FRFR speakers, and PA, and I’ve found I hardly have to tweak any EQ between venues. Helix was adaptable, but it took a bit of work sometimes.

I’m not saying this would be everyone’s experience, but for me, the simple fact is, S-Gear sounds and FEELS perfect.

I’m more than happy to pay for whatever Mike’s got in the pipeline, but S-Gear’s one of those rare products that’s pretty much perfect as-is, so thank you SO much for all your incredible work!

All the best!
The following user(s) said Thank You: mike, asintoras, theminion, martinbuffalo, Ti_Dom
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 6 days ago #19409

S-Gear is truly sonically superior, but having received an HX Stomp for Christmas, I must say I am enjoying the Helix experience better than I thought I would. :rock out:
The following user(s) said Thank You: Ti_Dom
Last edit: 1 week 6 days ago by swaite.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 6 days ago #19411

Hi Linz, I'm in a similar situation but maybe a couple of steps back. I love the helix workflow and I love the s-gear sound and feel. I wish I could drop one into the other.

There is a rig section on this forum, would you write up a description of your setup? Especially interested in the hardware choices you made with interface, computer and monitoring of the signal in a performance situation. Also, how's the latency?

Take care, great stuff.
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Last edit: 1 week 6 days ago by theminion.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 6 days ago #19412

As you all know, I've been an S-Gear fan for a long time. But for me, gigging and recording are very different things. For gigging, I need simplicity, easy/fast setup, lots of flexibility, easy to use, reliable and not distracting - I want to pay attention to the performance and the audience, not my gear. My hearing is a bit challenged, so I have to use ear protection, usually IEMs, and sometimes professional ear plugs, usually -25dB. Otherwise my ears will ring very badly for days. So with IEMs in a performance situation, even with my own mix, I'm not really going to experience and enjoy the tonal beauty of S-Gear.

My gig rig is a JTV69S (with a wonderful Warmoth neck and SVL Daytona pickups), Helix (Litigator amp model), and a Powercab Plus. The flexibility of this rig for club gigging is just incredible. I use open tunings, acoustic 12 string guitars and a few electric guitar models in an integrated system that I think just can't be beat.

In the studio, I use Apogee GiO into S-Gear, with Helix Native for some front of the amp effects.

So for me, it's not which one is better, but which one is optimized for the particular use case. Both is the best option for me.

Now if Mike had some kind of deal to put S-Gear amp models and convolved into Helix, boy would I pay for that.

I also have an HX Stomp that I got simply because it is so convenient for jamming. But I still use S-Gear as my backup for Helix for gigging. The computer is there anyway, so it's easy to fire up MainStage and just plug my guitar into one of the SD16's HiZ inputs.
The following user(s) said Thank You: swaite
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 5 days ago #19417

Linz wrote:

It’s not something that I can easily explain, but somehow Mike has created an experience which is intensely visceral. There’s a ‘thump’ in every amp model - never over the top, never obnoxious - just a satisfying reaction to playing technique that no other modeler I’ve tried has ever come close to. This was the one big let-down I felt with Helix. It sounded great - just not as good as I was used to with S-Gear. I also feel S-Gear reacts far better to volume- and tone-knob changes.

I agree with this when it comes to other software amp sims. Mike seems to have created a masterpiece here that is like a work of technical art more than actual science. There’s a master’s touch behind the tones and setups.

But actual hardware like Helix? Well, I haven’t owned Helix, but even Pod HD honestly seems to sound better than S-GEAR. Perhaps this is because it’s actual hardware, so the tone seems superior — clearer and more distinct.

So, I’m not sure about Helix, but generally, S-GEAR blows away most other software sims, but not necessarily hardware sims. Usually, you can hear a subtle difference if pay super close attention.

But perhaps there’s X factors here that you have noticed between the two that make the difference for you.

Thanks for sharing.
Last edit: 1 week 5 days ago by Ti_Dom.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 5 days ago #19418

swaite wrote:

S-Gear is truly sonically superior, but having received an HX Stomp for Christmas, I must say I am enjoying the Helix experience better than I thought I would. :rock out:

Too bad Stomp only has 6 boxes...
Very limiting. But I’m sure the tones are great.
Last edit: 1 week 5 days ago by Ti_Dom.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 2 days ago #19441

Had Helix for two week with a lot of quality cabs iR but... S-Gear is soo much more realistic. It’s really night and day...
What is so strange is that it’s a ultra small compagny (sorry Mike, but you’re not a big Yamaha toy fortunately!) who achieve to get good sound, alongside Fractal (with is also a small compagny...!)
Apparently those stuff need more knowledge, skills and love than rough money investment...
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 2 days ago #19442

I've downloaded the Helix Native and tested it against S-gear some time ago.
for me the main differences were:
1. Helix is noisy compared to S-gear.
2. Helix is "glitchier" and less trustworthy, performance-wise. No problems using s-gear, helix has a limit on processing multiple models or stances. Is heavier on the processor for the same stuff.
3. Although there is a lot of possibilities with each Helix model, a single S-gear model covers more ground and overlap what can be done with 3-4 Helix Models. Plexi, JTM45, Park and maybe Mahadeva models can be done in S-gear with just Stealer and it's wonderfull bright contour control. S-gear models are more versatile, like a real amp, that's why you don't really need a lot of models. Helix's models are like a static snapshot of an amp on a setting that can be tweaked over.
4. Helix limits bitrate of IR in 16 bits-48kHz. S-gear can load 24bits-96kHz.
5. Helix has a "broader" response on hi frequencies, just like Amplitube 3. Although S-gear sounds better to my ears overall, sometimes, in some models, there is a HF cut that sounds unrealistic, specially on Jackal model compared to Helix's SOLO100 or Amplitube's Soldano model. It's more notable using 3rd part IRs on S-gear. Maybe that's because S-gear models have probably been developed using Redwirez IRs, which is actually brighter.
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Last edit: 1 week 2 days ago by BrunoMariano.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 2 days ago #19443

The nice thing about sims is that they are so (comparatively speaking) affordable and you can never really have too many :) Just about every sim has an area it really excels in. I had a Helix LT board and was amazed by the sonic capabilities it offered, and eventually I got the Native version and sold the board.

Where Helix shines in my use is in the more ambient, lush, texture areas. Not something I delve into often, but its almost overwhelming array of effects make it my go to for that kind of stuff.

S-Gear to me is Rock n Roll through and through. It's the grab your amp, plug in and jam sim. No frills, quick and easy and great sounding.

I've got all the big amp sims, mostly through bundles etc and outside of the aforementioned, only actively sought out and purchased one, which turned out to be less than I had hoped after using it for a while.

If someone told me moving forward I could only have 2, I would without a doubt keep S-Gear and Helix.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 2 days ago #19444

To me top modeling are =
- hardware = AxeFxIII and Kemper
- software = S-Gear, Mercuriall Reaxis and Spark, Waves PRS supermodels.
I helix and Amplitube are expensive toys, like Bias FX. They are beautifully and shiny but when it comes to the ears it’s simply not here. The sound is not touching your brain at all.
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S-Gear vs Helix 1 week 1 day ago #19450

Apotheker wrote:

To me top modeling are =
- hardware = AxeFxIII and Kemper
- software = S-Gear, Mercuriall Reaxis and Spark, Waves PRS supermodels.
I helix and Amplitube are expensive toys, like Bias FX. They are beautifully and shiny but when it comes to the ears it’s simply not here. The sound is not touching your brain at all.

I totally agree with this. I've tried way more stuff than what is on that list and my selection would be exactly that one.

I have the Axe Fx III which I believe is the most stunning simulation SW or HW you can get, and If I had some budget restrictions, I would go for exactly those three amp sims, probably adding the Mercuriall U530. I own them and many times don't turn the Axe on just to enjoy them: presets like Plexmonster from S-Gear make me smile, and some "high gain" from PRS Dallas are just amazing.
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S-Gear vs Helix 4 days 9 hours ago #19473

For me, mixing them is the best solution - it addresses the problem that S-Gear doesn't have any pedals or a way to add VST natively and that the Helix amp models aren't as satisfying as S-Gear.
I love the Helix Klon model into the S-Gear Custom '57 with Ownhammer Fender Deluxe cab impulse. Wow. Seriously wow.
I bought a HX Stomp for this functionality - and it also doubles as a surprisingly-good audio interface for taking on my travels [and I say this as an RME owner!]
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