Line 6 Helix: The superior audio interface - inSync (2023)

Line 6 Helix: The superior audio interface - inSync (1)

Theline 6 helixhas many talents, and one of them is being a cross-platform audio interface - with features that even many dedicated audio interfaces don't have.

You can record vocals and keyboards as well as guitars, but it's even possible to monitor with effectszero latencywhile recording the edited sound - and/or a dry version for later editing. And then there's the built-in re-amping guitar, HX Edit software can edit Helix while it's acting as a USB interface.

But that's enough introduction - let's start with the interface.

The big picture

Most audio interfaces have an associated app for input and output routing. HX Edit offers a similar feature with Helix. Just as inputs to an audio interface appear as input options for a DAW's tracks, and outputs are available as destinations for tracks and busses, Helix's I/O works similarly.

However, there are two main differences compared to typical interfaces. First, Helix has a variety of input types - including guitar, mic, variax, aux, and the receive jacks for transmit/receive jack pairs. Second, the heart and soul of Helix is ​​real-time hardware processing. Unlike traditional audio interfaces where zero-latency monitoring is an added feature, with Helix it's the norm. For example, Helix's USB 1/2 output is a stereo output, as you'd expect from any audio interface - but it's a hardware-based output that sits at the end of all Helix processing. So it can send the processed signal or the dry signal, both of which you can monitor with no latency, to your DAW.

Like typical audio interfaces, Helix requires drivers; Your choices are similar to other interfaces. Also, like any high-performance audio interface,do notuse a USB hub. Plug Helix into a USB port located on your computer's motherboard or you may encounter connection issues.


Helix is ​​compatible with Mac's Core Audio drivers. When you connect a Mac's USB port to the Helix, it will appear as a selectable device in the Audio/MIDI Setup panel (found under Utilities). While that works fine, I highly recommend downloading and installing Line 6's Core Audio driver, which has a choice of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz sample rates . Only 48kHz is available with the Mac's native drivers.


Helix works with Windows' native drivers; but for better performance download the Line 6 ASIO drivers. Go to and click Downloads. On the All Software tab, select HX Edit, your operating system, and click Go. Download and install the latest version of HX Edit, which will also install the necessary drivers.

(Video) NEW SERIES: Line 6 Helix - IN THE STUDIO - Episode 1: Helix As An Audio Interface

In your host, open the Helix Control Panel (your host may not call it that; it might be called "Settings" or something similar). The six ASIO buffer options, ranging from Extra Small to Extra Large, are 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, and 2048 samples. Choose the smallest option consistent with stable audio performance. With the window open, set the helix bit depth. You choose Helix's sample rate in your host (44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, or 96kHz).

You can ignore the Sound Control Panel button unless you want Helix to share playback with Windows' native drivers (e.g. listen to YouTube while working with Helix). In this case, click on "Sound Control Panel" and then on "Speakers" for Helix Audio and make it the default device if it is not already done (see fig. 1). Click on the "Properties", go to the "Advanced" tab and set the desired format for Windows playback.

aggregation interfaces

Helix is ​​basically an 8-in/8-out analog interface (there's also an S/PDIF out, but you can't access it from HX Edit). If you need more I/O, you can aggregate other interfaces with both Mac and Windows. For more information, see this article:"How to add more inputs to your audio interface."

Global Helix Settings

HX Edit does not show all Helix parameters related to audio interfaces; You have to call up some of them on the device itself under the global settings. These are the parameters that you don't often need to adjust, but they are key to setting up the I/O.

There aremanyWays to set up Helix for different studio and live performance scenarios and cover them all is beyond the scope of this article. So we will cover the main aspects of using Helix as an audio interface for computer applications and the crucial global settings.


Although you can edit what we're about to describe in the Helix ground unit, you'll use the HX Edit program since you're using it as a computer interface. Set up the I/O in the input and output blocks. Some of this may seem confusing as the routing is designed to offer both creative and useful possibilities. However, the Multi-Input and Multi-Output blocks will cover most of your needs. Things only get more complex when using Helix to go beyond simply reading audio in and out of a computer.

Multi In and Out, USB 1/2 destination

On page one of the Helix hardware global settings, assign USB 1/2 as a multi-destination. Multi In hears everything that looks like a guitar: guitar, aux and variax, and there's a handy trim control for level. The multi output is post-helix processing and plays through three output sets: XLR, 1/4″ and headphones.

The key point about the multi-blocks is that they're part of the Helix hardware, so no matter what's going on in your computer, it's like zero-latency monitoring on steroids. In addition, all tracks of your DAW stream via USB 1/2.

(Video) My Setup for Recording Guitar with the Line 6 Helix and an Audio Interface

Recording with a microphone

The Helix's main attraction is the guitar processing, but you can also record vocals (Helix can do some really tasty vocal processing). Connect the microphone to the microphone input on the back panel. Global Mic settings include 48V phantom power on/off for condenser mics, Mic In Gain (up to 60dB), and Mic In Low Cut. Adjust all of this as desired.

  1. Select Mic for the Helix input block (Fig. 2). Set the Output block to Multi and you'll hear the mic with zero-latency monitoring - the mic will be mixed into the DAW's output stream.
  2. To monitor the mic with Helix effects (like compression, EQ, reverb, etc - whatever the singer likes), insert the processor(s) between the mic input and the multi output.
  3. To record the processed track in mono, map a mono DAW track's input to the appropriate Helix output, which will be listed as Helix Input 1 or 2 in your DAW (because it's an input on your DAW). For stereo effects, map the stereo track input of a DAW to inputs 1+2.
  4. Enable recording and you're recording the processed microphone sound. Conceptually, this is similar to Universal Audio's active plug-ins, which allow you to monitor with effectsAndRecord effects with virtually no latency. In addition to USB 1/2, USB 3/4 and USB 5/6 pairs can also be treated as stereo streams or as two independent mono streams per pair. So if you add a stereo processor to Helix, what you hear can be stereo, even with a mono mic input. Note that the following examples use USB 3/4, but you can substitute USB 5/6 instead - they are functionally equivalent.

You can also record the dry sound while monitoring with zero-latency effects (Fig. 3). This offers the benefits of auditory effects during recording, but leaves the dry signal available for subsequent processing. Think of it as re-amping vocals.

  1. Set both input blocks to Mic.
  2. To record the microphone signal without additional effects, send the dry microphone path to USB 3/4. This routes the mono mic signal to both USB 3 and USB 4. So assign a mono DAW track input that will pick up the mic to the outputs that show up in your DAW as either input 3 or input 4 in mono, or inputs 3+4 for stereo. DonotActivate the input monitor of the DAW track.
  3. To also monitor with effects, set the second path to Mic, insert an effect and send its output to Multi. You'll hear the processed sound mixed with the tracks in your DAW, while the track you're feeding the mic into will record the dry sound.
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Here's another variant. Suppose you want to monitor through plug-in effects inserted into your host's mixer instead of through the Helix effects. To do this, send the microphone signal directly to a USB bus output and route the track input of the DAW to this output.

  1. Similar to Fig. 2 above, send the microphone to USB 3/4.
  2. In the DAW track where you want to record the mic, set the input to record the corresponding Helix output. Since the output appears as an input to your DAW, select input 3 or 4 for a mono track, or inputs 3+4 for a stereo track.
  3. Activate the track's input monitor.
  4. Set the second helix path input to None.

Now the mic bypasses Helix's processing entirely and goes straight to the computer. Since you're monitoring the computer's output, you'll hear any effect plug-ins inserted into a track. Of course, now that you're outside of the Helix hardware environment, you'll hear the usual latency introduced by listening through a computer.

record guitar

Similar techniques to picking up a mic apply to guitars, whether it's a guitar plugged into the line-in jack or aux-in (e.g. for powered guitars with "hot" pickups) or a Variax , which is connected to the Variax input. Select the desired input option with the input block. As with the mic samples, Helix effects allow you to monitor with zero latency while recording the processed or dry sound.

Recording line-level instruments

To record a mono or stereo drum machine or synth, the effects loop return jacks (labeled Return 1 and 2 on screen) can also serve as inputs (Fig. 4). For stereo instruments you will need to connect two of the inputs (1 and 2 or 3 and 4 – not to be confused with the similarly numbered USB I/O). You can also choose whether the inputs are line level or instrument level under the global settings (this also sets the levels for the associated send jacks).

(Video) SPDIF Tricks: Sync Two Audio Interfaces

Set the input blocks to return 1 and return 2 (or 3 and 4). The output blocks go to USB 3/4 or USB 5/6. Unlike mono signals we don't have the luxury of being able to dry record the inputs and monitor with effects, although as discussed above you can record with effects inserted between the input and output blocks and monitor via computer plug-ins.

What happens in your DAW depends on how it handles input routing. For mono tracks, patch one track's input to Helix input 5 and the others to Helix input 6, and pan them opposite. For a stereo track, assign its input to Helix inputs 5+6.

By the way, Helix also has 5-pin DIN connectors for MIDI, so it's both a MIDI interface and an audio interface. You can connect a keyboard controller to the MIDI input and use it to control virtual instruments.

The DI link

So far we've covered how you can take advantage of the Helix hardware to enable zero-latency monitoring, even with processed sounds (which we can also record). However, Helix has a special “shortcut” for recording a DI signal. Inputs 7 and 8 pick up the input signals before they are processed by Helix. So if you record to a stereo DAW track assigned to inputs 7+8 (or a mono track assigned to inputs 7 or 8), the dry audio will be preserved for later playback. strengthen. In the global settings for ins/outs you can independently assign inputs 7 and 8 to guitar, microphone, aux, variax or magnetic variax pickups.

This means you can mic a physical amp and record with or without effects on one track while simultaneously recording the dry signal on another track - or record direct guitar via Helix effects on one track while re-recording the dry signal record on a different track.

Re-Amping mit Helix

The easiest way to re-amp dry-recorded tracks is to use theNatives Helix-Plug-in. It does exactly what the Helix ground unit does and you can share presets between the ground unit and the Helix Native software. Simply edit the dry track with Helix Native as an insert plug-in - instant re-amping.

But if you don't have Helix Native, most DAWs can also re-amp through Helix (Fig. 5). You need two lanes. Record your dry guitar; or if you have USB 7/8 output recorded into a track's inputs, use that for your dry track. Assign the output of the DAW track or a send to the USB 3/4 or (USB 5/6) track. Assign a Helix input block to USB 3/4 or (USB 5/6). Now the Helix input listens to the dry track and you can insert Helix effect blocks to process the sound. Assign the Helix output block to USB 1/2.

Because the processed helix sound drives USB 1/2, you will hear the processed output in your headphones or monitor speakers. After you get the sound you want, add another track to your DAW and set its input to inputs 1+2. Arm the track, start recording and you're recording the processed helix sound.

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The final result

Ask most guitarists to describe Helix and they would probably say it's a really cool multi-effects box. And that's true. But now you know it's also an audio interface because the same effects used on guitar can be applied to voice, keyboards and more. You can even monitor zero-latency effects, and on top of that, re-amping is a given.

Sure, you can't set up four mics and record a drum set with your Helix...but for solo and duo artists, you probably don't need a separate audio interface with a Helix.


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