Field Test: Line 6 Helix LT

Whether you are a die-hard tube-amp guy who just needs a compact, versatile pedalboard, or a guitarist about to embark on your first big, no-amp, in-ear-monitor tour, the Line 6 Helix LT offers the advantages of a digital effects and amp modeler with the all-access convenience of its analog counterparts.
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Whether you are a die-hard tube-amp guy who just needs a compact, versatile pedalboard, or a guitarist about to embark on your first big, no-amp, in-ear-monitor tour, the Line 6 Helix LT offers the advantages of a digital effects and amp modeler with the all-access convenience of its analog counterparts.
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Line 6’s Helix amp and effects modeler instantly became one of the go-to devices for a subset of players who eschew amps onstage in favor of emulations. It joined Fractal’s Axe-FX II and the Kemper Profiler as a solution for guitarists who need to access a wide variety of sounds without hauling around a humongous pedalboard, or racks with drawers of pedals, amps, and amp switchers. But, as attractive as Helix LT is (and it is gorgeous), if you are playing in bar bands rather than with Katy Perry, you might find the $1,499 tariff a bit steep. Recognizing this, Line 6 has unveiled the LT version, which streets at $999.

The number of available sounds and sound quality are exactly the same as the more expensive version. The economizing is restricted to a simpler (still gorgeous) interface, which replaces individual screens under each switch with one large, color LCD (the same LCD found on Helix) that lays out the entire signal chain. The I/O section is stripped down, but still offers multiple effects loops, MIDI, Variax compatibility, external control of other effects and amplifiers, and more. And having fewer ins and outs allows Helix LT to have more compact dimensions, which is good news for fly dates. As streamlined as it is, Helix LT still has too many options and goodies to enumerate here, so I will just pinpoint what I think makes it and its big brother special.

One of the main drawbacks of multi-effects is that you program them at home or rehearsal, and then need to adjust them to the band and/or the room on a gig. On most multi-effects this means much paging and scrolling around—virtually impossible to do at a short sound check, let alone mid gig. Helix’s revolutionary touch-sensitive footswitches let you instantly access the controls on each effect. You just bend down, touch the footswitch that controls the effect, and the six knobs below the display screen become controls for that effect. You can immediately twiddle away, just as you would on your pedalboard. For as complex as it is, the GUI for Helix is largely intuitive. An afternoon of just messing around, with an occasional dive into the manual (which could be clearer), and I could make the device bend to my will.

The amps sound as close or closer to the real thing as most current generation modelers, but where they excel is feel. Their stock response to the guitar’s volume control and my picking dynamics was exceptional. But I could go beyond that to personalize the response by easily tweaking each amp model’s bias and sag. Bypassing the amp models and just using the effects into a Supro Comet reminded me why Line 6 effects are an industry standard.

Whether you are a die-hard tube-amp guy who just needs a compact, versatile pedalboard, or a guitarist about to embark on your first big, no-amp, in-ear-monitor tour, Helix LT offers the advantages of a digital effects and amp modeler with the all-access convenience of its analog counterparts.

KUDOS Analog-style access to a multitude of high-quality effects and amp models.
CONCERNS Manual could be clearer.
CONTACT line6.com

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