6 Years of the Line 6 Helix

Few companies have done as much to progress and popularize modeling technology as Line 6. From the release of its AxSys 212 modeling combo amp way back in 1996 through its POD series, DL4 "stompbox modeler," and dozens more products, it's been at the forefront of digital effects modelers and amp modelers for just about as long as those terms have been in use.

Six years ago, on June 11, 2015, Line 6 released the Helix. The first to include the company's HX modeling engine, the Helix quickly became a hit with guitarists and spawned an incredibly popular new product line for the company. In some ways it was a seachange for amp modeling tech.

Some people have long criticized the technology in general. They think a digital modeler can never replace the true tone of a tube amp or analog effect. And there are many of us players who have used older multi-effects and amp modelers that can attest: Sometimes, these digital emulations fall far short of the analog originals.

But the Helix arrived with a new wave of digital gear—alongside Kemper Profilers, Fractal Audio Axe-Fx, and related products—that really does the trick. More and more, professional guitarists who used to insist on playing "real amps" are more than happy to tour and record with modelers and profilers.

The Helix launched in two separate configurations: the Helix Floor and the Helix Rack. At the time, Line 6 President Marcus Ryle said it was the result of the previous two decades of the company's work, and a new beginning: "Helix is the start of a new chapter in the way guitarists relate to technology. … With Helix, we’ve created a next-generation platform with all-new HX models that are the culmination of all our past experience. We are confident that Helix will sound and feel amazing to both analog purists and tech savvy players alike."

What's incredible is that his confidence has paid off. Six years later, analog purists and tech-savvy players both have gravitated toward the Helix and the rest of the budding HX line.

The Helix itself was first available for $1,499, competitively priced against Kemper and Fractal's lines. It features 72 amp models, 37 speaker simulations, and 16 mic placements and a whopping 194 effects. It also comes with a ton of I/O options, including an 8-in/8-out USB audio interface. So while it's not cheap, it can do the work of a room full of gear. And if some of the included impulse responses (IRs) aren't to your liking, you can easily upload third-party IRs.

At home, you can spend a lifetime mixing and matching settings, creating tones, and recording. On stage, you can have an all-in-one device that will sound just as good through a front-of-house board as it does in your home studio. Players can—and do—travel with just the Helix as their entire live rig, which, again, to those of us who remember what modelers used to sound like… that didn't used to be a viable option, to put it nicely.

But maybe the cost of the Helix is prohibitive. Maybe you don't need the nearly endless options it offers. Since its introduction, Line 6 has released an ever-growing lineup of products built from the HX engine.

The HX Stomp is a smaller, more affordable alternative that puts the best of Line 6's HX effects and amp models into a convenient box. It's one of the most-popular products on Reverb, often topping our lists for both best-selling multi-effects and best-selling amp modelers.

But it's often joined on those lists by more HX options: the slightly larger but still affordable HX Stomp XL, the effects-focused HX Effects, the Line 6 POD GO (which offers HX effects and IRs and is quite a bit different than original PODs), and the Helix LT (which offers much of the original Helix's features but without as much I/O).

So the Helix was not just a great release, but truly a new kind of product for Line 6, the first of a whole new line of creative, useful, and incredibly popular gear. What an accomplishment for just six years.

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