When I was playing original music I got the coolest thing a musician could get: an endorsement deal. After our first EP came out I was able to secure a deal with an amazing amp company and a pedalboard company. High on the fumes of my status I ordered the BIGGEST pedalboard they had and a half stack amp rig. I was LOUD and I looked COOL AS HELL.
Then we got in the van and started touring.
Every show. Load in up a flight of stairs (or shady freight elevator). To the stage. More steps. Play the gig. Load out. Rinse. repeat.
In my mid 20’s I started having back issues. Something about lifting heavy things over and over in tight pants and sleeping on floors/van seats apparently isn’t good for your spine.
After that band folded I downsized my rig considerably. I was playing smaller venues and didn’t have a trailer to put my stack in. Over time my rig went from a 4×12, to a 2×12, to a 1×12.
Then I stopped bringing an amp altogether.
What I realized was that playing private events in ballrooms and event centers was not conducive to live sound. The amps always looked out of place and never really sounded the way I wanted them to. The reflections mixed with the vocals made the band sound muddy
As the band leader I was also carrying our PA so it became an issue to carry a full PA, mics, cables and an amp/cab and pedalboard.
We had already made the switch to IEMs. I didn’t need the stage volume and it just became a hassle.
Then the Helix LT came out.
The Helix LT is the lower-tier version of Line 6’s Helix flagship amp modeler. It had everything I needed for my gigs (Corporate group, studio, and church) and I was able to get it for under $1k thanks to a 15% off coupon from Guitar Center.
My entire rig was funded by selling off my pedals. I still have my amp but I don’t worry about blown tubes and bad cables anymore. My load in/out time has been reduced to 60 seconds and my guitar sounds awesome every night.
The amp simulator market is full of great products. From the Fractal Audio AX8, to the Kemper, to the Amplifire to the Headrush. They all sound awesome and are cheaper than any single boutique amp that they emulate. The benefits outweighed the cost significantly.
I love the sound and the feel of a live amp behind me. I also love having my entire rig in one place that weighs less than my combo amp did.
UPDATE: Sine I originally posted this article I have downsized even FURTHER to a Line 6 HX Stomp. My board went from 60 pounds to 6.
All of the sounds I loved in the Helix but in a form factor more in line for a lead vocalist. I still have/use the Helix LT for sideman gigs but for 80-90% of what I do the stomp does the job handily. Couldn't be happier!