Dialing in your Tone

 Here you will find some helpful resources with dialing in your own Helix (or actual) amps tones:

I) The SOAS/Hybrid Method

I) The 12:00 Method

III) The Steve Kimock Method

Before following any of these methods, the player should ask themselves: "What sonic purpose will this Amp model serve? Is this for home or live use? What is it about the L6 Default or SOAS Median value that I do/don't like?"

I) The SOAS/Hybrid Method

  1. Pick the SOAS-Preset/amp of your choosing & copy it to a new slot

  2. Record short & simple phrases with the looper. Alternatively, you can record and save these as samples in your DAW.
    I normally use:
    a. Strumming an open chord(s), on both neck & bridge pickups.
    b. Picking an arpeggio on both neck & bridge pickups.
    c. Picking a scale (or a lead riff) on both neck & bridge pickups.

  3. Play looped/sampled phrase(s).

  4. Scroll through the SOAS-Presets and compare their differences.

  5. On the duplicate amp, start scrolling through the SOAS-Settings:

  6. Find Gain & Master Volume settings:

    1. Demo each control's SOAS-settings (Low, High, L6 Default, L6 Factory, Average, Median, Popular 1/2/3/4, etc.)

    2. Save your favorite setting

  7. Find the EQ controls settings:

    1. Demo each control's SOAS-settings (Low, High, L6 Default, L6 Factory, Average, Median, Popular 1/2/3/4, etc.)

    2. Perform in this order: Mids->Bass->Treble->Presence->Cut/Resonance/Graphic EQ/etc.-> Bright switch.

    3. Save your favorite settings

  8. If necessary, make minor tweaks to all controls, start with Gain & Master Volume.

  9. Compare your new preset with the SOAS Snapshots by toggling between the two amps.

  10. Save your new preset -> RAWK THE F*CK OUT!!!

II) The 12:00 Method

-This is the tried and true approach that many professional players & bloggers swear by.  Here is the formula:

  1. Set Guitar Volume & Tone knobs accordingly: a) Roll off guitar Volume knob to 7-8 for dialing in clean/rhythm tones. Then crank to 10 for lead tones. Or b) Set guitar Volume knob to 10.

  2. Turn off all amp effects/pedals.

  3. Set all EQ controls to 12:00

  4. Set Master Volume control at a comfortable level

  5. Keep the Gain control fairly low & adjust the Master Volume control to a suitable level.

  6. Find the Usable Gain Range: Adjust the Gain control across its full sweep, from lowest to highest. Repeat.

    1. Make note of pos/neg tonal changes in spots/ranges. Listen for the Sweet Spot. Repeat.

    2. Decide on a Gain setting between the upper & lower limits of the Usable Gain Range.

  7. Adjust the Mids control across its full sweep, from lowest to highest. Repeat.

    1. Make note of pos/neg tonal changes in spots/ranges. Listen for the Sweet Spot. Repeat.

    2. Tip: Raise Mids control until it gets Muddy, back it off a bit to find the Sweet Spot.

    3. Add more Mids to cut thru the live mix.

  8. Adjust the Bass  control across its full sweep, from lowest to highest. Repeat.

    1. Make note of pos/neg tonal changes in spots/ranges. Listen for the Sweet Spot. Repeat.

  9. Adjust the Mids control across its full sweep, from lowest to highest. Repeat.

    1. Make note of pos/neg tonal changes in spots/ranges. Listen for the Sweet Spot. Repeat.

  10. If necessary, make minor tweaks to Gain, Master, & EQ controls.

  11. (If applicable) Adjust Presence control, balancing it with the Treble control.

  12. (If applicable) Adjust Cut control, balancing it with the Treble control.

  13. (If applicable) Adjust Resonance control, balancing it with the Bass control.

  14. (If applicable) Adjust Graphic EQ controls.

  15. (If applicable) Adjust Bright Switch. If bright switch is used, check to see how Drive pedals interact with it.

  16. Make Minor tweaks to Gain & Master Volume controls. (Lower Gain control for more clarity/Cut in live mix).

  17. Make Minor tweaks to EQ controls.

  18. RAWK THE F*CK OUT!

III) The Steve Kimock Method 

-This has been floating around for a while & can produce exceptionally dynamically rich results with certain types of amps (Dumbles, Trainwrecks, Matchless, etc.) This is a paraphrasing the the method as laid out by Steve Kimock & Tonesmiths:

  1. Turn on Amp (model) with nothing plugged into the input (of the Helix).

  2. Set all controls to 0.

  3. Turn Master Volume and Gain controls to 10 so that you can hear the Idle Noise Floor of the Amp model.

  4. Start with the Bass control. Slowly turn it up until you hear it “kick in”. You will hear a distinct point from where there is no audible noise to where in comes a low frequency hum. Set the Bass control to that exact setting.

    1. You are listening for the Thresholds of where “nothing/little is happening” & “something is happening.”

    2. These Thresholds are typically where an amp displays the most dynamically rich/interesting behavior.

  5. Repeat for the Mids, Treble, Cut, & Presence controls (in that order).

  6. Turn Gain control to 0 -> slowly raise it until it “kicks in”

    1. There will generally be two places on the dial where a drastic increase is heard.  Select the first Threshold for Edge of Breakup tone & the second Threshold for a Higher Gain tone.

  7. Turn Master Volume control to 0.  If the Amp Model is for a NMV amp, then the default setting is 10.  Many amps will sound best with their Gain control set to the first/Edge of Breakup threshold, and the Master Volume control “wide open” to 10.

  8. Plug in your guitar -> strum/pick softly -> RAWK THE F*CK OUT!

 

“You are going to notice a couple of things that occur by setting every knob on your amplifier right on their threshold. Firstly, the dynamic response will become much more touch sensitive as softer attack stays below the overdrive threshold and more aggressive playing pushes through and beyond it. Then you will notice that single notes tend to bloom more easily, and big chords respond with a k-r-r-r ang!  Again, this has to do with that threshold response. When the note or chord is first struck the amp compresses, releases the sound above the threshold, and then slowly becomes clearer as it descends back through the threshold and naturally fades out.”-Tonesmiths

ML Soundlabs also has a very cool and resourceful method for dialing in

(modeling) amp tones.  --->

 

QUOTES

Key lesson: while it might sound like a good idea to look up guitar amp settings online for ideas, you will learn more and become a better guitarist when you ignore those recommendations.”- Guitar Gear Finder

When learning how to EQ a guitar amp, trust your ears. If it sounds good to you, then it is!...There is no right or wrong way to EQ a guitar amp. If you’re confident that your amp sounds the best it can, then that’s fine.”- National Guitar Academy

You will ALWAYS get more tone changes in your amplifier by changing the speaker cabinet or the speakers than you will ever get by changing preamp or output tube types…Gain IS ALWAYS developed in the preamp section….USE YOUR EARS, not the numbers under each knob.   Remember a guitar is a MID RANGE instrument.  Remove the mids or presence and you'll fall out of this mi to where you may not even be heard. Now that you have the basics down, stop looking at the numbers under the dials of your amp, and always use your ears.  Put the settings where you like best, but NEVER cut the mids unless you are looking for that metal or hard rock tone from the 80's and 90's."- Blues City

You want to be listening to how each turn of a knob impacts your overall tone. Don’t get fooled into getting tunnel vision! When adjusting a single knob, it’s easy to want to focus on just the frequencies that knob is shifting, but that’s not the way we listen to music. We listen to music by hearing the whole picture.”- Guitar Chalk

Raise your mid range when you’re playing along with a backing track or playing in a band. It’s the mid range that will help your guitar stand out in the mix. When you have the gain up high, the tone is so distorted that it becomes a wash. As soon as you play with a backing track or in a band, the over-the-top distortion gets buried in a sea of noise.  When you roll the gain back, you start to get more clarity.”-Guitar Gear Finder

Often some of the best high gain sounds (when you really stop & listen) have a lot less gain dialed in than you might expect. Experiment with how far you can back off the gain controls and still get the amount of drive you a looking for.”- Mesa Boogie

A heavily scooped guitar tone can sound great in the bedroom, but in a band setting you will quickly be drowned out if you don’t have a healthy amount of mids dialed in. In a typical four-piece rock band, the guitar has to sit between the low end (kick drum, bass guitar) and the high end (cymbals, vocals). By scooping out your mids, you are essentially forfeiting the space that naturally exists for the guitar to live in.”- Fryette

It’s important to note that you should be listening at the volume you intend to be playing it. Our ears interpret sound differently based on the volume of that sound. If it’s louder, our ears tell our brains that there’s more bass and treble, and less when it’s quieter. It’s  the reason that your “killer tone” you dialed in at home in your bedroom ends up sounding like a fizzy, muddy mess on stage!”- Guitar Chalk

There is a common misconception that on a good amp, the tone controls should sound great when kept close to 12:00, but this is not always the case, so be sure to explore other settings.  There are many reasons why the noon position might not always be best. For example, Potentiometers with the perfect resistance taper for a specific design might hot {have been} available to the amp builder (or featured in the modeled amp). Another factor is that the optimal settings will likely change at different volume & gain settings...The Midrange control on some amps can have a big effect on gain & sustain.  For a more driving, sustaining sound, try turning the Midrange way up high.  Sometimes it might help you cut through the mix in a live setting...When playing a high power amp (model) at high volume, less gain is needed to produce nice sustain which will result in more note definition and clarity.  While we’re talking about volume settings, amps with Master Volume controls almost always sound best when the Master Volume is turned up high enough to clip the output tubes a little.”- Andrews Amp Lab

Links:

https://tonesmiths.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/the-secret-to-quickly-dial-in-a-tube-amplifier/

https://bluescitymusic.com/blogs/news/34416836-dialing-in-your-amplifier-is-easier-than-you-think-heres-how

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/22574-tone-tips-dialing-in-your-gear-for-great-sound

https://mesahollywood.com/blogs/news/25165953-quickly-dial-on-your-amp-that-tone-youre-hearing-in-your-head

http://www.fryette.com/blog/dialing-your-guitar-amp-in-for-live-playing/

http://andrewsamplab.com/blog/?p=175

http://guitargearfinder.com/guides/tips-for-a-great-guitar-amp-tone/

https://nationalguitaracademy.com/how-to-eq-a-guitar-amp/