The Best Guitar Processor You Can Get: Fractal Audio FM 9 vs Helix Line 6

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A guitar processor is a must have for somebody playing an electric guitar. That device is what lets you tune the guitar sound texture and adjust effects to enhance your performance.

The best thing about a guitar processor is that it includes a variety of guitar effects. This way, you don’t have to buy several separate pedals, which is great for somebody looking to bring more versatility to their music.

In this article, we will compare two of the best guitar processors and help you choose the right one.

The Comparison Table

To give a clear understanding of things in which those two processors differ, we have compiled them into a table.

To get more information on each of them, see the reviews below.

Fractal Audio FM 9 vs Helix Line 6

Product Fractal Audio FM9 Helix Line 6
Performance features 4 DSP cores 2 DSP cores
Sound 280 amp models, 2200+ cabs 41 amps, 7 bass amps, 30 cabs, 16 mics, 80 effects
Storage 1024 locations 1024 locations
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Fractal Audio FM9 — Your Standard Working Horse of a Guitar Processor

FM9 is the newest release since the popular FM3 model hit the market in April of 2019. The current generation represents the evolution of the previous one, featuring more footswitches, I/O and DSP power.

It also offers increased performance thanks to the 4 DSP cores, which is more than its predecessor featured.

Design

The processor has a large display with easy-to-navigate controls. The device shares the layout of buttons and rotary encoders with the previous model FM3, but adds on to it with more footswitches — there are 9 of those with their own vari-color LED rings.

On top of that, each footswitch has an LCD display that indicates the current assignment.

In terms of ports, you won’t miss out on anything with this guitar processor. It offers 1/4” instrument input, two stereo pairs of 1/4” jacks, and to top it off — main stereo output with both XLR and 1/4” outs. And it even has a headphone jack.

There are also 48k SPDIF and 5-pin MIDI in and outs. FASLINK II port lets you connect an external switch or expression pedal: the manufacturer even sells first-party Fractal Audio FC-12 and FC-6 foot controllers.

You can record the sound with a built-in USB audio interface that has 8 channel recording and playback.

Features

Fractal Audio FM9 is built on a system called amp blocks. Each block has 4 channels that run more than 280 amp models. In addition, the device has Fractal’s entire cabinet collection built-in with more than 2200+ cabs. You can upload your own impulse responses using 1024 locations.

Now, let’s talk effects. This guitar processor offers a ton of freedom in terms of sound algorithms. Here you can make use of 57 overdrive pedals, 50 reverbs, and a wide variety of delays.
Want some more? Fractal Audio FM9 has you covered. It covers all the bases with chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, wah, EQ, filter, and pitch effects.

Positive
  • Great control versatility
Negatives
  • Higher cost.
  • Nothing to set it apart from the competition.
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Helix Line 6 — A True Powerhouse

So, Line 6 responds to the newest guitar processor offerings from Fractal with its dual-DSP Helix, allowing it to process 4 discrete stereo paths. The device is packed to the brim with an array of amps, cab, and effect simulations to help you bring out the best in your guitar playing.

Helix Line 6

Design

The guitar processor offers a sturdy and beefy enclosure. The front panel houses a large 6,2” LCD display and an array of footswitches with illuminated labels, knobs, and a programmable expression/volume pedal.

The I/O covers all of the needs an electric guitar player might have: it has 2 expression inputs and a CV/expression output; external amp; guitar, aux, and mic inputs;  XLR, 1/4”, and headphone outputs; 4 sends and returns; Variax input; MIDI input, output, and Thru; S/PDIF input and output; AES/EBU or L6 Link output; USB port.

Features

The Helix offers 1024 preset locations that you can organize in 8 setlists containing 32 banks, each having 4 presets. Your preset can have 4 stereo paths, with each of those including 8 blocks of amps and effects.

To amplify your sound, you can rely on 41 modeled amps, 7 bass amps, 30 cabs, 16 mics, and 80 effects. The joystick makes it much easier to edit the sound, and touch-sensitive footswitches let you get to the parameter adjustment much faster before applying it to the sound.
The treadle and the footswitches can be completely adjusted to your liking with two operating modes: Preset and Stomp. The first mode chooses the preset while the second one turns the effect on and off.

Positive
  • Good accuracy.
  • Great for indie and alternative rock.
  • Lower price.
Negatives
  • Might not suit heavy genres.
  • Some users report windows 10 driver issues.
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Buyer’s Guide

The best product is always the one that helps you with your needs. So, to make sure that you buy the best guitar processor for you, you need to figure out how you are going to use it.

Then, you have to make sure that everything about the product fits your use case. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Size. You need to make sure that the processor has room for all the controls but is also compact enough to fit within your setup;
  • Display. The display must be easy to see and read at all times and in any lighting condition. Seeing the display clearly will help you adjust your sound on the fly while playing live shows;
  • Controls. The ability to tweak the sound to your liking is the essential part of a good guitar processor. Check if the product of your choice has everything you need in terms of amps, bass amps, cabs, and effects;
  • Sound quality. If you can, go to the physical store and request a demo of the processor. You need to make sure that you like the sound of the processor before you buy it. If you can’t do that, try to search for demos on YouTube;
  • Connection capabilities. In order to get the processor working with your setup, you need to check if it has everything you need to connect it to different devices: USB ports, guitar and mic inputs, a headphone output, MIDI inputs/outputs, and so on.
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Conclusion

Well, here you have it. Those two guitar processors are some of the best the market has to offer, so you can’t really go wrong with either of those on the surface level.

What really matters here is the details and the scenarios in which you are going to use your future guitar processor.

If you are looking for more sound versatility, FM9 will be a great fit. It offers a great number of sound effects and a ton of tone control.

For those in favor of a more focused approach, Helix Line 6 has all bases covered. It is great for playing alternative and indie songs and offers good sound quality.

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FAQ

Fractal Audio FM9: Does the processor come with a computer app?

A fully-featured software FM9-EDIT is included with a device completely for free.

Helix Line 6: Can you use the aux in with a mixer to use multiple instruments with the looper?

Yes, everything that you plug into the device will have the same effects.

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