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Helix 3.0

A risk of buying technology is obsolescence. You spend your pennies on the new big thing and it can be a shockingly short time until the manufacturer moves onto the next big thing. You could almost imagine that they are more interested in shifting units than meeting your needs. Thumbs up then to Line6, who seem to be keeping their support for the Helix multi-FX platform rolling forward.

I can’t remember when it first came out – I was well behind on the purchasing curve – but I bought into it about 2.5 years go when I got a Helix LT floorboard. At the end of last week, they released a new firmware update (3.0) and I upgraded my system this morning.

What is the benefit? It brings various new capabilities. In this one, there are a bunch of things I doubt I’ll use much but also a few which are just what I’ve been looking for. In particular, I am excited about the new ‘poly sustain’ which is a type of ‘freeze’ effect. In other words, it grabs a sound and keeps it running, creating a drone to play over – a great practise tool and also potentially useful for creating pads of sound in a band situation. People have worked out ways to do similar things with previous versions of the Helix firmware but now it is all neatly bundled in as a default for free. Street value? The EHX Freeze pedal, a dedicated device to do this kind of thing, runs about £100 and it is the kind of thing I might have considered buying. Ergo, Helix is definitely a good value platform for me compared to going down the pedal collector route.

How will they make their money? One feature of many of the new effects is that they are processor intensive. There were already limits on how many different effects you could run at once and some of these new ones will exacerbate that even more. My guess is that, at some point, Line6 will release new units with increased processing power along with ever more nuanced (and demanding) digital models of real-world devices. However, as long as I can ride that curve on my Helix LT for a good long time, I’m happy with that.

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