Know the tools at your disposal
In this article we’re going to discuss the “Four Cable Method” also referred to as the “4CM”.
If you’ve been playing guitar long enough you’ve probably heard of this once or twice by now, if you use digital amp modelers you’re a little more likely to have heard of this, as it’s a very useful and important feature that’s mentioned often.
I’d heard the term several times before I ever even had any interest in it. I mean, even when I had my Eleven Rack and my Line 6 Spider IV which both had the capabilities to work together I just assumed it was some difficult or uninteresting thing to do, I didn’t at all understand what exactly I was missing out on.
Now that I have a very awesome tube amp and a very awesome amp modeler though, I became intrigued with the idea of exploring all my options. Which brought me to the Four Cable Method.
Frame by frame… Step by step
It’s very simple really and can be very rewarding, and can be thought of as just 4 easy steps.
Step 1: Plug an instrument cable into your guitar into the input of your amp modeler.
Step 2: Then plug an instrument cable into your “Send 1” on your amp modeler going into the input in front of your amp.
Step 3: Now insert an instrument cable into the “Send” of the Effects Loop of your amp to the “Return 1” of your amp modeler.
Step 4: Finally, take your last cable and insert it into the “Output” of your amp modeler going into the “Return” of the Effects Loop on your amp.
I suppose it is fair to mention, although this is the four cable method utilizing only 4 cables I would personally recommend four eight foot professional quality cables, 8 feet or around that amount so that you have space and enough slack.
Just remember to have your effects loop enabled on your amp, and if you’re having any trouble getting the wet or dry signal try a Stereo FX Loop 1/2 Block for the Line 6 Helix, as this particular discussion is going over my experience using the Four Cable Method with my Line 6 Helix and EVH 5150 III 50 watt amp head.
With this setup in particular I’m able to COMPLETELY control my EVH amp head from my Helix via MIDI commands so I’ve eliminated the need for even the simple channel toggle pedal for the EVH, which is awesome because the less clutter the better. Factor in the genius that is the Line 6 Helix and I’ve got an easily accessible arsenal of tone. Just one switch and I can change the control values of my Gain and Tone knobs on my Minotaur pedal while also raising or lowing my master volume to depending whether I’m stomping on or off, which I’ve included that volume change to compensate for the volume gap between the Green and Blue Channel most EVH 5150 users may know about.
Setting up the MIDI learning mode on the EVH was a breeze once I found out to use the “Bank/Prog” setting and set each parameter to an individual number. For this example just go to the “Command Center” on your Helix and set your footswitches to…
Footswitch 7 – Command: Bank/Prog – MIDI Channel: Base – CC00: 1 – CC32: 1 – Program: 1 – Green Channel
Footswitch 8 – Command: Bank/Prog – MIDI Channel: Base – CC001: 2 – CC32: 2 – Program: 2 – Blue Channel
… then hold down both channel select buttons on the front of the EVH 5150 for about 3 seconds then release both buttons, one of the channels LED should be blinking to signify that the amp is in learning mode. Press the footswitch you want to use, for example, Footswitch 7 will be for our Green Channel, so, after programming the MIDI commands to the footswitch of your choice, press then hold both channel select buttons on the amp for 3 seconds, then release, once the amp is blinking, even if it defaults to green, click the foot switch on the Helix to send the MIDI command, in our example foot switch 7, but really it’s whatever footswitch you want to use, then hit the channel select on the amp to go from Green to Blue, then BACK to Green, THEN press and hold both channel select buttons on the amp again and release after 3 seconds. Your amp should have learned the command now and just do the same process for the remaining two channels if you want.
I’ve even got my Helix sending the command for the Effects Loop Bypass on my amp, which is,
Command: CC Toggle – MIDI Channel: Base – CC#: 85 – Dim Value: 54 – Lit Value:74
Tower Of Power
So as you can tell, the Helix has assumed full control over the amp in addition to the effects I control from the Helix itself, which can vary, I mean, when I’m using a heavy tone I don’t have a need for much more than noise gates and EQ’s, so I’ve dedicated multiple presets for specific functions. One preset that’s just for my clean tone so I can have whatever effects I want and how many ever I want, another for the heavy tone same concept, then one that I can switch between both channels in one preset, although I “can” switch between channels in all the presets this channel has a “Tone Switch” so my control values change at the stomp of a button. Lastly I have my very awesome “Frankenstein” preset, which is designed to go Four Cable Method with my 5150 but also has a single signal path that goes out through the XLR jack into my Mission Engineering Gemini 2 powered 2×12 cabinet, for a wet/dry type of setup where I sculpt a foundation tone through the EVH and use the Gemini for all my effects, which is actually a very very awesome set up…
… my tower of power…
… the wall of Thall…
… my beautiful creation…
In all seriousness though, it really is like a top notch rig to me!!
Why should I use the Four Cable Method?
Why should I care? Why should I bother?
Well, let me answer this as best as I can…
Why would I use the Four Cable Method with my rig?
Well for starters Line 6 has been a big name in the game for a while, and their formula has only gotten better. With all the quality effects you get in ONE unit, it removes the hassle and pain of hauling around a bunch of pedals while imitating them gracefully.
Add in the fact that you can express complete control over the EVH 5150 III 50 watt amp head via MIDI commands from the Helix and it’s a match made in Heaven.
The heaping amount of awesome quality effects combined with the versatility and practicality of the unit… using the Helix with your favorite amp head should definitely be something you experiment with!
You might find exactly what you’re looking for when you combine an effects modeler, especially the Line 6 Helix, with your favorite tube amp. You’ll be able to use a noise gate(s) at important parts of your signal. You’ll be able to easily and accurately EQ your tone with Line 6’s Parametric EQ. You’ll also be able to use the Looper function to jam over recorded segments and in addition to that, have access to over 60 quality effects WITH MIDI command capabilities…
Should you care? Should you bother with the 4CM?
Yes. Yes indeed. Especially if you happen to have a Helix unit already. Using the Four Cable Method can save you some valuable space and load in time, AND save you some hassle if your amp modeler of choice has MIDI command functionality.
I hope this bit has been informative and helpful! As always I really appreciate those that give any of my articles a read!!