New floor/rack unit heats up the modeler wars
RECENTLY a producer decided to drag me kicking and screaming into the digital age with the Line 6 Helix. It took him months to do it. I fought every step of the way. What you should probably know about me is that I didn’t have a cell phone until like 2006 and I didn’t want one. I’m not a big fan of change, or things that make doing things easier. I have at times in my life had a Steve Albini-like dedication to analog. Over time though, brands like Strymon have convinced me that digital tape emulation is not a sin worthy of excommunication. But we all know digital sounds terrible for distortion. Flat, sterile, lifeless — don’t believe me? Go listen to the (admittedly horribly recorded) AC/DC track ‘Live Wire’. Crank the volume. If you don’t get chills hearing that mostly clean, gained to hell and back Marshall when Angus holds that one feeding back note forever in the middle of the song while the band drops out and then comes back in… quit guitar. Now listen to Nickelback – that’s all rack-mount amp/effect sims you’re hearing. Again, if that’s not an easy choice… quit guitar.
Sure, the tracks I was working on were recorded to ProTools, and carried here on a hard drive. Sure, it’s gonna end up as an mp3 played through crappy headphones. Sure it’s just a doubled guitar track mixed in with real amps. Sure the audience can’t tell the difference… but I’ll know. And I have principles!
I’ve played all of the systems. I’ve had Fractal and Kemper employees dial in their products for me while I played. It’s not for me. Digital feels lifeless to me. It lacks the balls. And the worst offender of all the digital modeling companies to me has always been Line 6. If you must, give me a Boss DS1 and a cheap Chinese Fender, I’ll find a way to make it work, but keep your Line 6 amp modeling away from me.