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Headrush Prime First Look: The 1-Stop Solution For Great Recordings?

headrush Prime
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The HEADRUSH Prime just came out of nowhere, without any warning. Can this be the “all in one” solution for home studios? Today we take a look at what we know.


Headrush Prime: The Ultimate Studio And Stage Tool?

Headrush has been the looked-over company when it comes to multi-effects. Line 6 and BOSS has almost completely dominated the market, leaving Headrush as a “niche”. This is all despite the crazy features that Headrush usually offers.

Well we are huge fans of the Headrush Series of multi-effects processors, and I even liked the original “Eleven Rack” that the sounds are based on, and I owned one for a while. The biggest selling point with the other units before the Prime was the interface.

Not only is the interface system on Headrush units easy to understand, they are also very intuitive. This is compared to other brands like the Line 6 Helix processors. Headrush was just a little bit easier to get set up and programming custom patches.

The Headrush Prime is a whole different experience, and NO other processor offers what this one claims. The Headrush Prime could be an “all in one” solution when it comes to recording at home. Of course, it is also designed for the stage.

So what makes the Headrush Prime so impressive? I mean, the Helix has pretty much reigned supreme for the last few years. Guitarists that couldn’t swing the cash for the Helix usually went with something like the POD GO instead, which is also a great unit.

We have almost reached a “singularity” when it comes to digital guitar gear. I think we have started getting to the point that most digital gear is pretty equal. I can get some great tones out of budget processors, and most certainly the Helix.

Guitarists are moving over to digital, more and more every day, and I can see why. I think this is just the next step in the evolution of electric guitar, and more people will be turning to FRFR speaker setups and silent stages, going forward.

Silent stages with “in ear” monitors have started becoming more popular. Silent stages reduce the overall volume for small venues, and can also absolutely blast a stadium. I see less and less actual tube amps on stages these days, and locally I see Katanas and the Helix on small stages.

Could something like the Headrush Prime or the new TONEX put large tube amps out of commission? I honestly think that could be the future of guitar, but I am getting way ahead of myself. That’s a whole different article.

So today we are going to take a look at everything the Headrush Prime does, and go over why this thing is so incredibly impressive. Just 15 years ago, amp modeling was in its infancy. But now we have some serious contenders when it comes to replacing your entire rig.

The most interesting thing, is the price point. The Headrush is sitting right below the Helix, which is… interesting considering all of the specs.

So let’s take a look at all of the features, and break down why this might be the last multi-effects pedalboard you will ever need. There is a lot to cover, since this is not just for guitarists!


Headrush Prime: Features And Specs Overview

headrush prime

The Headrush Prime has an interesting market approach, since it is primarily for guitarists and bassists, but can also be used by vocalists. Technically, it can be used by both at the same time, but there is a small problem with that. More on that later…

The Prime pedalboard looks very familiar if you have ever used literally any multi-effects system. You have the usual buttons for effects and patches, a touch screen, and a Wah/volume pedal. So it looks rather unassuming at first glance.

But what the Headrush is sporting under the hood is what everyone is talking about. The Prime does a little bit of everything, and it is very surprising just how many features Headrush managed to pack into this thing.

There is a lot to go over with here, and I honestly don’t even know where to start. Maybe we should take a look at what Headrush is known for first, and then move on to the more detailed features. because this is a LOT to take in.

Features

  • 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen with intuitive interface
  • Realistic and responsive amp, cabinet, and microphone modeling including all new models by Revalver, the recognized innovator of software guitar amp modeling
  • Guitar and Bass presets by ChopTones
  • Expansive library of guitar and vocal FX, including Antares Auto-Tune®
  • Amp Cloner captures the sound of your favorite amp, preamp, distortion pedal, overdrive pedal, or fuzz pedal
  • Direct Wi-Fi connection to the HeadRush Cloud for clone sharing, preset sharing, and firmware updates
  • Wi-Fi streaming music practice tool makes learning songs easier than ever before
  • Bluetooth audio connectivity for playing along with mobile devices
  • Powerful custom-designed multicore DSP system with gapless preset switching
  • Road-ready steel chassis with durable built-in expression pedal and universal power supply
  • 12 footswitches with customizable color LEDs and OLED scribble strip display screens
  • Import virtually unlimited guitar and bass cabinet IR files
  • Stereo FX loop for integrating external FX pedals and 4 cable method connectivity
  • Best-in-class looper with save/load functionality and MIDI Sync
  • Record and re-amp via the built-in USB Audio interface (up to 24-bit/96KHz)

Tech Stuff

The Headrush Prime is a hefty pedalboard, weighing about 15 pounds. It weighs this much, because it has a solid metal chassis. Each footswitch has an assignable OLED screen above it like the Helix, so you’re never lost as to what the function may be. Each pedal also has a colored LED function light above the switch displays.

The main touch screen is bigger than my phone, and it works by dragging and double tapping on your selections to edit patches and effects. The physical knobs are useful as well, but most operations are a simple tap.

Headrush claims that the Prime has more power and DSP than any other previous devices, which means you can run more effects at the same time. The quad-core processor is close to a real computer when it comes to power, which is nuts.

The looper can store up to 20 minutes of sound, and you can record up to five minutes at a time. So you can have loops for songs easily stored and ready to go for the stage. The USB input also allows you to store WAV/MP3 files on a flash drive, externally.

The Bluetooth/Wi-Fi is another added feature that can be really cool. This allows you to share presets wirelessly, and even download updates without physically plugging the unit up to the computer. You can also stream from your phone, making backing track practice a breeze.

The Gapless Preset Switching is actually a pretty big deal. In budget processors you often have a sudden “cut-off” on delay and reverb effects when you changes patches, but the Headrush lets your reverb “tails” bleed over to the next patch so it sounds natural. You can turn this feature off on each patch, if you want.


Input And Output Options/Re-Amping

Headrush prime Rear Inputs Outputs
TONS of Inputs And Outputs

This is where the Headrush Prime really shines in my opinion. You can do just about anything with the amount of inputs and outputs available. But let’s start from the far left of the picture…

You will notice that this is an XLR input, and it is made for a microphone. You have a separate knob for the input level of your mic, so you can blend it with your guitar signal. We will get more into this later, when we talk about effects.

The normal 1/4″ outputs can be used in stereo or mono, just like any other processor. This is probably the easiest way to connect to your interface at home or in the studio for recording.

You also have the normal FX loop functions is you want to use the Prime as just an effects unit with your physical amplifier. You could also use the “4 Cable Method” with your amp as well.

You can add an extra expression pedal if want, to control whammy effects or volume. Although, the built-in pedal can toggle between two different functions, and a “secret” pedal mode we will talk about later, that is a little insane to me.

The balanced XLR output is great for running your unit to the front of the house at a venue, and that way your stereo effects will all work great. This can also be ran in mono to your interface/studio tools. The MIDI controls can change through “scenes” like the AxeFX.

The USB input/output can be used to hook the Headrush Prime to your computer for editing patches or downloading updates/settings. However the USB INPUT is a pretty cool idea, as you can hook up a flash drive to do all kinds of stuff, including loading up some backing tracks.

Of course, all of this can also be used to re-amp your DI files. If you have some tracks on a song that needs some new flavor, re-amping is incredibly easy. You can simply scroll through the patches until you find the right sound for your tracks.

Finally, you also have an awesome menu option that shows how your signal chain is routed. You have an interface/monitor option, live setup, 4 cable amp, FX loop, and even a headphone option. This can all be changed on the fly, depending on how you are using the Headrush Prime.

So this thing is built like an absolute tank, its heavy as hell, and it has every type of input/output that you can imagine. But none of this matters if it doesn’t sound great right?


The Headrush Amp And Cab Collection: The Clone Wars

The Headrush Prime has taken everything that the other Headrush units already have, and expanded the choices quite a bit. There are vintage-style amps, all the way to crazy high gain monsters. But that is just what COMES with the Headrush.

First, you have some great presets dialed in already by Chop Tones. If you have never checked out Chop Tones before, there are tons of great Headrush presets already from the company, as well as Kemper and Helix. The company makes great sounding presets for almost every multi-effects processor on the market!

Chop Tones also makes some amazing IR packs that I have purchased recently. They may be inexpensive, but these are some of the best IRs I have found. The Headrush comes with all of these pre-loaded.

Second, you have the Headrush tones to work with. These are models made by “Revalver” which was created by Headrush. This is a stand-alone program you can buy for your home studio, but it comes with Headrush Prime. This is a whole new way of making amp sims and impulse responses, though it resembles Kemper.

The amp models that come loaded with your Headrush unit have been captured with ACT technology. Audio Cloning Technology, or ACT, is straight from the actual amp or cab. This means the sounds are closer than ever to sounding and responding like an actual tube amp.

So even if you never hook your Prime unit up to your computer or the internet, you have tons of amazing sounds to choose from, and they are all edited with a simple touch screen. You simply drag and drop the amps, effects, and cabs that you want.

But cloning is where things get very interesting. Sure, you have hundreds of combos when it comes to amps and cabs already built in to the unit. The Headrush Prime can accurately clone the device that you want, and all you have to do is plug it up and follow the on-screen instructions.

This works with most amplifiers, and it is kind of crazy to think you can just clone all of your big tube amps. Better yet, you could technically clone another FX unit like a Kemper or AxeFX. Seems a little redundant, but why not?

The same can be said for cabinet options, as you can clone your cabs as well! You can also load any custom IRs that you may have, and at this point I think we all have some favorite impulse responses that we use with our digital gear. The Headrush Prime comes with 300 built-in IRs.

Finally, Headrush also has a cloud of amps and cabs that have been cloned by other users using ACT. This means that you can download just about any amp you can think of, from other users on the cloud. Want a 5150 tone? Just download someone’s amp clone of it! Download a few different ones!

The Headrush Prime has full instructions on how to hook up your amp and clone it, and the results that we have seen so far are very impressive! The possibilities are really limitless, and any amps that you do not own yourself can be downloaded from the Headrush Cloud.

HeadRush Prime Multi-Effects Processor
$1,299.00

The Headrush Prime is one of the most powerful, versatile and realistic-sounding floorboard FX processors ever, featuring an advanced multi-core processor with a huge library of on-board guitar FX, amp, cab and microphone emulations, smart amp/pedal cloning and IR loading, best-in-class looper and a full suite of vocal FX


Effects & Autotune

The effects have everything that the other Headrush units already have. Headrush is known for having some great quality effects for guitar and bass. But this time we have a few added features… for vocals?

That’s right, the Headrush Prime has an XLR input as well as the standard guitar 1/4” input. This is meant to double as a vocal processor, and you can even use both at the same time! This can be an absolute MONSTER as a stage unit if you are a vocalist.

You get tons of distortions, overdrives, chorus, delay, reverbs, and even down-tuning effects. headrush has been doing the best tuning sims already for years. This will be great for a band that uses multiple tunings, since you can easily tune down with a click of the button.

A lot of the effects can run in stereo, like ping-pong delay. If you spring for a couple of FRFR cabs, this could sound amazing on stage. Likewise, it will also sound great on recordings. You have more than enough effects to get just about any type of tone you can imagine.

The only problem I can see you running into when using the Prime as a vocal/guitar unit on stage is that you have to split the DSP with effects. This means you the effects are shared when it comes to the power of the effects unit. You only get so many “blocks” for effects, and you have to split them with the vocals.

This can be a problem, since amps and cabs count as “blocks” for the guitar, and from the demos I have seen you get 14 blocks. I understand why this had to be done, as the Antares Autotune probably takes up a lot of DSP.

But think about the possibilities when it comes to looping! Autotune gets a lot of hate when it is used improperly, or seen as cheating. But it has great potential for creating live harmonies for your vocals, as well as loops. So before you get on the Autotune hate train, it can be very useful.

This allows you to ditch any live vocal effects devices that you may be using, and have everything in one device. The Headrush has tons of real potential once you have everything set up and programmed the way you need it for a gig.


Hands-Free Editing & Practice Mode

headrush prime Practice Mode
Practice Mode

Practice mode is yet another feature that is absolutely awesome, and extremely useful to songwriters. The headrush unit comes with some backing tracks already loaded up, but you can add your own via USB. You just load up a WAV track and play along!

This menu function even lets you scroll through your different presets at the top, so you don’t have to go back and forth between practice mode and the main menu. You can perform a lot of functions that a DAW would usually be needed for, or a separate app.

This means you can slow down the song or loop, or you can change the pitch without affecting speed. It is almost like you have a built in “mini-DAW”. You can loop different sections, making this a great learning tool as well.

Hands-free mode is absolutely insane to me. The Headrush Prime can easily be edited on the fly, without bending over to touch anything! Hands-free mode opens up all kinds of options for emergency on stage edits.

When you set the Headrush into hands-free, the pedal buttons all change to the different parameters of your selected patch. You can then click on the parameter, in this case let’s say it is the gain on your overdrive. You use the expression pedal to change the gain setting up and down.

This means everything can be changed without ever bending over to touch the unit. If a patch is too loud on stage? All you have to do is use the expression pedal to change the parameters! That seems crazy to me.


Headrush Prime: Wrapping Up…

headrush Prime

The Headrush prime is the next step when it comes to serious multi-effects processors. So many guitarists and bassists are going over to digital gear and FRFR speaker setups. It makes gigging so much easier for the musician, as well as the venues.

But is Headrush going a little too far with the Prime? I am little confused, so let me explain.

I know that there are a lot of appealing features about the Headrush Prime. The power to profile or “clone” amplifiers is a really cool concept that you could really only get from Kemper, in the past. Add to that all of the other effects… and you have a fully functional rig at your feet.

I LOVE all of the choices you have when it comes to the guitar features, and I think the Headrush Prime could be a real contender with other, more expensive processors (Hello, AxeFX).

This can be an amazing tool for the studio and the stage. Have a bunch of amps at home that you love? Just clone them into your Headrush, and you will have them with you everywhere. Does your friend have an awesome amp you would like to have?

The Revalver software is something that I have tried in the studio, and you would be amazed at how accurately it can capture a tube amp sound. It is even more amazing to hear the response to your playing dynamics, since it IS essentially a tube amp.

But I think the vocal processing on the Headrush Prime is a little bit of a misstep. I think it could be a cool tool to use at gigs, for sure. But it is also cutting into your guitar signal’s DSP. So you see where my concern is, here.

Every effect that I add to my vocal chain, is taking away effects from my guitar chain. That can be a big problem when it comes to stacking delay and reverbs.

Most vocalists that use effects probably already have a dedicated FX unit. I know I have one that I use for live, and in the studio. Mine is a TC Helicon unit, and it does SO much more than the Headrush. So it seems like adding this is just… a bit much.

The big “Antares Autotune” logo on the front keeps reminding me that this is not just for the guitar. While it can be useful, I feel like the vocal effects are a bit “tacked on”. Almost like an afterthought, when the Prime is already such an impressive piece of GUITAR gear.

But then again, if you plan on using this as your entire rig? And you want to consolidate all of your live gear into one unit? Then maybe the Headrush Prime is is exactly what you are looking for. I guess we will see when it shows up for review!

We originally thought that this was pre-order only, but it looks like our supplier is in stock! The Headrush Prime is available for order right now. They will be shipping immediately!

HeadRush Prime Multi-Effects Processor
$1,299.00

The Headrush Prime is one of the most powerful, versatile and realistic-sounding floorboard FX processors ever, featuring an advanced multi-core processor with a huge library of on-board guitar FX, amp, cab and microphone emulations, smart amp/pedal cloning and IR loading, best-in-class looper and a full suite of vocal FX

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