How To Use Impulse Responses with the Line 6 Helix
If you’re a Line 6 Helix owner, I don’t have to tell you how amazingly flexible they are. For those that aren’t as familiar with the system, the Helix is Line 6’s latest and greatest hardware guitar processor, offering a very convenient and powerful way to shape your tone using modeled amps, cabs, mics, effects and more.
While the Line 6 Helix is a powerhouse on its own, there are some amazing features that many users overlook on their first test of the unit that are completely changing the game. One of those features is the ability to load in impulse responses from anywhere and add them to your signal chain for all-new sounds that stock users simply cannot achieve.
Let’s take a look at how it all works.
What are Impulse Responses (IRs)?
Impulse responses are the perfect way to introduce any speaker cabinet to your Helix setup. Sometimes referred to as an “IR” – an impulse response is really just a sonic imprint of a mic’d up speaker cabinet within a room. Characteristics of the cabinet are captured as a screenshot, along with the current microphone selection and placement, for a completely new and extremely accurate representation in any signal chain.
IRs aren’t difficult to create if you’re working with live amps often, but they are a bit time consuming to capture. They’re great for situations where you want to get the exact sound of a live amp in the studio down for reuse later on (such as in overdub sessions or even live). Of course, there’s the issue of access to certain cabinets…
A poor quality cabinet with subpar mic placement isn’t really a recipe for great tone, but access to some of the higher end equipment can be both expensive and hard to come by if you don’t have access to a large studio or budget that can afford more boutique options. In these scenarios, impulse responses make complete sense for both in the studio and on the stage.
By collecting impulse response packs like the ones in the Conquer All series, guitarists have access to hundreds of combinations of cabinets and microphones. Depending on the pack – you’ll even get some pre-processed IRs that are mix-ready, which is great when you don’t want to fuss with EQ. These IRs can be introduced to your Helix with ease and give you complete access to a library of industry-standard and hard-to-find speaker cabinets.
Loading an Impulse Response Into Helix
All impulse responses are saved as .WAV files, which your Helix or any other IR Loader will decode into the sonic characteristics of the cabinet. Once you’ve got your IRs saved to a computer, connect your Helix using an available USB port and power it up.
Moving back to the computer, launch the Helix Editor app to get started. If you’re not already familiar with the Helix Editor, I recommend spending some time navigating around it to learn what can be done. There are many settings that will look and act identically to the menus on your hardware, but there’s also some added flexibility that you can by working within the app itself.
Once you’ve found your bearings, you’ll see that there’s an “Impulses” menu in the top-left corner of the screen, right next to “Presets”. Clicking on the “Impulses” menu will allow you to import and manage the impulse responses on your device. The Conquer All impulses are all named and organized in a way that’s easy to see what you’ll be importing, but if you’re working with other IRs or ones you’ve created yourself, make sure the names are locked down so there’s no confusion about what’s contained in that IR file. There’s nothing worse than needing to do a hardware reset and not having a clue where “Guitar_IR_New” came from or how to get it back.
The Line 6 Helix will support up to 128 impulse responses on the hardware at any time and you can always swap out unused IRs for new ones later on if you hit that limit.
Using IRs on Your Helix
Once imported, IR blocks act exactly like any other block within the Helix system. They can be dragged and dropped within the preset menu as part of any signal chain and replace the cabinet in your existing settings.
It’s worth keeping in mind that while some post-processors such as time-based effects might make sense after your impulse response, the IR already contains details like the microphone, preamp & EQ/compression, making it less likely that you’ll need any of those components. Your impulse responses should fall directly after your amp in the signal chain and the microphone selection for the amp should be set to “Off” since that information is already hard-coded to the IR.
Studio Helix Users
If you’re someone that uses a Helix in your studio and you haven’t already joined JST VIP – what are you waiting for? JST VIP members get exclusive access to Ryan “Fluff” Bruce’s Helix Signature Tonepack included at no extra charge with their membership.