A thought about why guitar sims have gotten so much better sounding than they had been recently.
The widespread adaption of Cab and mic IR's is why they sound so good these days, I'm thinking. The Helix uses IR's and will play third party IR's as well. So does the Positive Grid Bias system, and that sounds great as well.
I've been using the Two-Notes Torpedo Cab IR's for several years now, and it gets me consistent results for FOH and in-ears even though I'm still using real tubes to get to that point.
In experimenting with different speakers and cabinets, they make a bigger difference to amp tone than just about any other variation or parameter.
Completely agree that IR is why amp sims are sounding good, I have experienced this also, comparing those with and without.
I think the best way to buy Helix Native is to get some Helix hardware first, then the Native price goes down from $399 to $99.
I am planning on buying an HX Effects, since my favorite part of the Helix is the stellar effects section.
I guess I will need to revisit the amp sims to see how I like them now.