Line 6 simplifies the Helix just enough to bring the price down and make it more streamlined. By Peter Hodgson
The Line 6 Helix has only been out for a little while, but it’s already revolutionised guitar processing with its player-friendly features on the surface, and incredibly deep signal processing capabilities lurking underneath. Not to mention, it manages some incredibly responsive tones. It’s also a fairly pricey unit: Line 6 has made it extremely roadworthy and they’ve packed a lot of functionality into it, which means it has the price tag to match. In order to make the Helix concept more attainable for more players, they’ve now released the Helix-LT: a streamlined version of the Helix which gives you the same great sound capabilities as the full-sized model, but with a few features stripped back in the name of affordability and ease of use.
BABY, YOU COULD BE A MODEL
First up, the Helix-LT has 62 amp models, 37 cabinets and 104 effects. It also benefits from the ongoing development of the original Helix, which launched with 50 amps, 30 cabs and over 70 effects. It uses dual DSP HX modelling to achieve its sounds, just like the original Helix, and it has a large 6.2”, 800x400 pixel LCD screen to display your signal chain and settings.
The unit has capacitive footswitches, meaning they can sense how hard you’re pressing them – or in what ways you’re pressing them – in order to unlock different features. They’re simple to use: touch to edit, hold to assign or press to engage. You can also program them to be momentary switches for kicking in an effect only when you’re stepping on the switch. If you need more control, there’s a built-in expression pedal on the left, as well as a jack for an external expression pedal. This jack doubles as an amp-switching jack, so you can program channel changes on your physical amp as part of your Helix-LT patches. This is great for those who use the ‘four cable’ method to use the processor as an effects system while still employing a real amp’s preamp and power amp. There’s also deep MIDI control, so you can use Helix-LT to control other devices or have it be controlled by a laptop.
Around the back you’ll find the guitar input, stereo send and return jacks, stereo XLR outs with ground lift, stereo 1/4” outputs, a 1/4” headphone out, a Variax input (to use with a Line 6 Variax guitar and incorporate your model, pickup and tuning changes into your Helix patches directly), a digital XLR out, MIDI I/O, USB jacks and power switch. You can share your presets between the Helix, Helix-LT, Helix Rack and Helix Native plugin, so if you have sounds that you love and a lot of Helix gear, you can easily choose whichever unit best suits the task at hand.
As with the full spec’d Helix, the Helix-LT sounds incredible, and you soon realise that the hardware is basically there to unlock the sonic potential therein. That sounds obvious, but I think a lot of us guitarists get too wrapped up in the bells and whistles of our gear, and we forget to actually make music with it. The amp and effect models of the Helix line feel so damn fun to play that you can totally give yourself to the music and forget about where the sound is coming from – that’s until you need to interact with the Helix and you find that again, everything is laid out for maximum power with minimum interaction, whether you’re running it stompbox-style or in snapshot mode (which lets you create different sounds for, say, verse, chorus and solo of a specific song). When you need the Helix to be the ultra-capable cyberbrain that it is, it will do everything you need. And when you need to forget all about it and just blast through a great-feeling emulation of a cranked Plexi, it’s that too.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In our review of the original Helix Floor, we said, “The Helix will appeal most to those who need extreme flexibility and aren’t scared to go deep into editing, but the way everything is laid out makes it extremely intuitive to learn.” The Helix-LT bridges that gap by streamlining some of the connections and stripping a few functions back, making it easier for those who might be intimidated by the full model’s sheer weight of routing options, while still giving edit-happy folks plenty of power to play with.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Capacative footswitches
• Plenty of sounds
• Amp control
• Easy-to-navigate screen
• Variax and MIDI integration
• Incredibly flexible
• Even easier to use than the Helix Floor
• Very roadworthy
• Expression/amp control on the same jack
Ph: (03) 9693 5111