Like most people, my introduction to Line 6 products was one of their Spider series amps around the same time that rap-metal was dominating the rock scene.
Regardless of your opinion of them, Line 6 sold so many of those Spiders that they pushed the guitar amplifier industry in the direction of modeling amps, with Peavey releasing a Vypyr series and Fender and other companies getting in on the action too.
They do have their appeal for someone just starting out, but Line 6 makes more than just practice amps and today we will explore some applications of their Helix series processors.
The Helix is more than an effects pedal and not quite an amplifier either. It is easiest to think of it as a preamp. If you want to use a guitar cabinet you’re going to need some type of power amp or powered speaker and a few cables first.
The Helix is offered in standard and simpler LT (light?) versions ranging from $1100 to $1600. And they are pretty complex with the owner’s manual being over seventy pages long.
So these processors are a big investment in money and time (by the way, helices is the correct plural term but since this is a product name I will use Helixes).
For now, we will just focus on getting the sound from a Helix into a speaker.
Can you plug a Helix into the instrument input of an amp?
You can definitely plug a Helix into your amp’s instrument input but since the Helix is designed to allow you to carefully shape your sound there isn’t actually a need to use a guitar amplifier’s preamp.
If you want to plug into an amp this way you should try an amp that is considered a good pedal platform.
Alternatively, you can run the Helix output right into the return jack of your amp’s effects loop if it has one so you can bypass the amp’s preamp.
Can you connect a Line 6 Helix straight to a guitar speaker cab?
The Helix is marketed as an effects processor so it could be called a preamp but it does not qualify as an amp itself.
It does have a headphone jack though so you can at least power headphone speakers with it.
So if you want to connect a speaker cabinet to your Helix you will need some type of amplifier like a power amp or a powered speaker (more on these soon).
It isn’t exactly vintage or traditional but the idea has been around for a long time.
I can’t say what the first company to do this concept was but direct input devices like Tech 21’s Sansamp series are the first to pop into my head.
Why is the Helix not powered?
I think that Line 6 is just following or maybe leading the current trend by choosing not to include an amplifier in the Helixes.
You may be familiar with their POD series processors, which are like smaller, cheaper Helixes.
And Kemper Profilers are designed for similar applications and they are becoming more popular too.
A lot of it comes down to size, weight, and convenience.
Just like with computers, a desktop model offers a lot more power for gaming and working but most people are willing to sacrifice a few things in order to take advantage of the portability of laptops.
Second, the owner’s manual for Helixes suggests using the powered/active Powercab speakers made by Line 6.
They cost between $600 and $1400 depending on the model so I’m sure Line 6 is hoping you will buy one of those to use with your Helix.
Lastly, their portability means they are great for using someone else’s speakers and power amps. You can just connect to the PA system in a bar, venue, or church and use the monitors and PA speakers.
Helix processors are even sold in a special Worship bundle with Worship-music styled patches already included and a church band will be playing through a PA system so that is what they are mainly designed and marketed for. It’s the way of the future I guess.
What do you need to run a Helix through a speaker cab?
If you aren’t ready to give up on the old ways just yet and want to use a Helix with your favorite speaker cabinet at home, it isn’t too complicated.
You will just need an amplifier or power amp from the likes of QSC, Behringer, or Crown and a few cables.
Note that if you are using a guitar cabinet, most power amplifiers are designed to run multiple large speakers so you really need to be careful about the wattage versus the wattage handling and resistance of your cabinet.
What cables should you use for connecting the Helix to a power amp to a speaker cab?
The equipment you will need to run a Helix processor through a speaker cabinet is actually pretty simple.
The unit uses an internal power supply so there is no proprietary adapter needed and an AC cable comes with the unit.
For getting your signal to whatever you choose as your amp you will need at least one ¼” instrument cable or XLR (mic) cable.
And then you will need at least one speaker cable for the connection between the amplifier and speaker cabinet(s).
Any music equipment store will have exactly what you need and if you choose to use a powered speaker then you won’t even need the speaker cable.
Are there any alternatives to using a guitar speaker cab with your Helix?
So connecting to a guitar cabinet can be done pretty easily and you can even use a regular guitar amp combo with speakers built-in, but there are plenty of other options too.
Helixes can be used to connect with a PC/Mac and run through studio monitors, used with headphones, or run into a PA system.
And what speakers you use are up to you. Some of the options include FRFR (full range, flat response) cabinets or even powered keyboard amps like the Roland KC series.
These options might sound a little different than what you’re used to since guitar speakers are designed to work well with guitars’ frequencies but there’s nothing wrong with experimenting and there are plenty of ways to tweak your sound with a Helix.
To be honest, Line 6 isn’t really my jam but I can see the appeal of some of their products.
And Yamaha Corporation sure likes them because they purchased the Line 6 company back in 2013 and Yamaha has a massive global distribution system.
So they aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.