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Old 04-16-2010, 08:02 AM   #1
JohnIce
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Offical Axe-Fx Q&A thread!

There are a lot of questions flying around on this board regarding the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx, so to make everything easy for people speculating about whether or not it's worth dropping the cash for one of these, here's a place for you to ask specific questions and get direct answers from those of us who own the unit and have first-hand experience with it.

I really hope this thread isn't redundant, Mods

Anyway, I'll start out with some FAQ:

Q: Does the Axe-Fx really sound like a tube amp?
A: This one is obviously the most relevant qustion, but it's also very subjective and hard to answer. In my opinion: yes. Some bands you can check out that use an Axe-Fx are: Periphery, Animals as Leaders (Live, not on the record), Devin Townsend, Dweezil Zappa, Cynic and Meshuggah, and some guys who use the Axe-Fx but not exclusively are Jeff Loomis, Chris Broderick, Adrian Belew (King Crimson), Vernon Reid, Greg Howe, Marty Friedman and many others. For some statements from these artists, head over here: Artists using Fractal Audio Systems and Atomic Amplifer Products

Some examples of the Axe-Fx, used in a professional mix or settings:

(this one might be seen as file-sharing, please let me know and I'll take it away. Soryz bulb )










And... um... one of mine




Q: Is the Ultra model that much superior to the Standard, and would I regret buying the Standard?
A: This is also a matter of opinion, but at least we can pinpoint what it is in the Ultra that costs the extra money. First of all, ALL the amp, cab and mic sims are exactly the same in both the Standard and Ultra models. You're not missing out on any of that when buying a Standard. What the Ultra offers is primarily more memory and CPU, meaning you can put more effects and routings etc. in a patch before you run out of CPU. That said, running dual amps and dual cabs on the Standard, along with a few effects like a compressor, delay and reverb, is no problem on the Standard. Some argue that, due to the continuous firmware updates from Fractal Audio, which constantly add more amps and stuff to the Axe, there may come a point in the future when the Standard's memory can't hold any more stuff. We're not there yet, but it may happen. However, the Standard already has 50+ amp models, and they won't sound any less good just because the firmware updates stop. But it's worth keeping in mind.

The Ultra also offers a multi-band compressor, synth effects, a vocoder, looper and a routable noise-gate among other things. The routable noise gate is, in my opinion, kind of redundant because the amps in the Axe-Fx don't add any noise on their own like regular amps do, so having the noise gate at the start of the signal chain (as it is on the Standard), works as good as having it anywhere else.

For those wondering if it's possible to still make som wild effected tones on the Standard model, check this out:




In conclusion: If you're more of a guitar-into amp guy who likes a lot of versatility both live and in the studio, I'd say the Standard is fine. If you're a studio guy who wants the extra mastering tools and OTT effects of the Ultra, or you play in a U2 cover band, get the Ultra.

Q: Is it easy to dial in a good sound?
A: The interface is very easy. But getting a good sound is mostly up to how much experience or knowledge you have about studio tools and sound engineering. Remember, the Axe-Fx doesn't just simulate guitar amps, it simulates guitar recordings. So dialing in a tone on the Axe-Fx can be most easily compared to recording and mixing a guitar tone on a record. However, the Axe-Fx is also a great way to learn about EQ's, compressors, filters etc. My studio skills went through the roof after getting the Axe-Fx . So it can work both ways. In short, the more time you spend learning and reading about what each parameter does to the tone, the easier and quicker it'll be to dial in good tones.

Q: What do I need to buy extra to use the Axe-Fx live?
A: In essence, nothing . You can plug the Axe-Fx straight into the PA, listen back through the monitors, and switch patches by flicking the large, round knob on the front of the Axe-Fx. When I first got mine, I did some shows like this. I pretty quickly bought a midi controller though, to be able to steer it with my feet. Pretty much any midi controller will do, I bought a Behringer FCB1010 which is about as cheap as you can go but it's a reliable pedal and works well with the Axe-Fx.

Some people, especially those who have a lot of experience playing live with a tube halfstack behind them pumping air at their asses, like to run the Axe-Fx through a power amp and cabinet. This way, the Axe-Fx only acts as a preamp, and when doing this it's very easy (and recommended) to shut off the power amp and speaker sims on the Axe-Fx. This can be done on a -per patch basis, so you can have a set of patches for live use, without power amp and speaker sims, and another set of the same patches for studio use with the power amp and speaker sims on.

It's also common to use powered monitors with the Axe-Fx. The reason for this is, for example when you have a loud drumset and maybe the other guitarist in your band plays a half stack, they send a lot of volume from the stage, so if your guitar sound only comes through the PA which sometimes sits above the first few rows in the audience, it makes it hard for them to hear you. By using powered monitors (placed behind you, facing the audience like a regular amp), you even out the stage mix and can also free up some space in your monitor mix. You also get a much more exact representation of what your actual tone sounds like through the PA, as you get the exact same tone through your powered monitor. If you use a power amp and cab, it might sound awesome where you are standing but through the PA it might sound like crap and you don't notice. Either method works though and it's completely up to personal preference.

Q: There isn't one at my local Guitar Center, how will I ever buy one?
A: American buyers can order directly from the company here: http://www.fractalaudio.com/purchase-fractal.html, and european buyers can easily buy from G66, the only european distributor afaik: http://www.g66.com/. These guys have excellent customer service btw. Aside from the Axe-Fx, they sent me their own "n00b manual" to get started making patches, a hand-written thank you note and a box of chocolates That's how you run a business, boys and girls!

Any more questions, and I'm sure both myself and the other Axe-Fx users on this board will be happy to help!

Cheers!

- edit - Btw, please don't come into this thread to bash the unit or modeling in general, or tell us all how much better you think tube amps are, or that the GSP is better value or whatever. This thread is meant to be helpful to those considering buying the unit, so unless someone specifically asks for a comparison between the Axe-Fx and a another amp that you may have experience with, please take it somewhere else. Play nice.
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Old 04-16-2010, 08:06 AM   #2
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i vote for this being a sticky. what do you guys / mod think?
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Old 04-16-2010, 08:18 AM   #3
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oh god please yes. so many AxeFX questions. sticky this

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Old 04-16-2010, 08:30 AM   #4
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This will not become a sticky, there is one master sticky for all of these threads so that this section does not become cluttered with sticky threads. In future if you find any thread that you would like added to that list for quick reference please post a link in that thread and I will add it to the original post as I have done with this thread.

Great thread


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Old 04-16-2010, 08:45 AM   #5
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Here's a handy page for the feature comparison between the Ultra and Standard models - Feature comparison - Axe-Fx Wiki

Another thing worth mentioning is that if you're going to use the Axe FX as just an effects unit like I do, then you might want the Ultra for the sole purpose of the routable noise gates. The Standard only has the gate on the input. This doesn't affect anything when you're using the modeling though because there's no noise generated after the model if you gate at the input, so it works just as well.

The gate on the Axe FX works like an ISP Decimator, it tracks at the input, and apprently uses the same algorithm if I understand it correctly (downward expander).
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JJ Rodriguez View Post
The gate on the Axe FX works like an ISP Decimator, it tracks at the input, and apprently uses the same algorithm if I understand it correctly (downward expander).
Not quite. The Axe-FX's gate is effective enough that I haven't used my Decimator in over a year, but the way it tracks is different. The ISP's gating varies from tight to loose depending on how quickly the signal it's tracking is decreasing in volume. If the signal level falls quickly, it gates harder with a larger reduction ratio. If the note is sustained and decaying naturally, the reduction ratio is smaller. So at a given input level that is below the threshold, the gating will be more apparent with a rapidly decreasing input than with an input that is allowed to decrease naturally. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly sure the Axe-FX will just gate the same at a given input level under the threshold regardless of how rapidly the input goes down to that level.

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Old 04-16-2010, 09:25 AM   #7
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After reading/watching the Tosin Abasi interview with Guitar Edge, I got super interested in the Axe-Fx. It's been a heavy debate over at the Boogie Board and somewhat around here for at least a year. I have about as many reservations as anyone, but I'm completely open to the idea that some day (maybe that day has already arrived), digital modeling for all practical purposes will be 100% interchangeable with "old-school" guitar rigs. I am tempted, like Tosin, to "sell everything I had" and buy one of these with a little rack setup. Currently playing a boosted Mark IV combo with a 2x12 Recto cab for reinforcement.

A few questions:
  1. Is there nowhere to audition the unit other than Tone Merchants in Orange, CA?
  2. Can anybody report the difference between using, say, a Carvin DCM1000L transistor-based power amp (PA style) and a tube power amp such as a Mesa Boogie Stereo 2:Fifty or Carvin TS100?
  3. Can anybody report the difference between using a traditional guitar cab (sans amp/mic modeling) and running through a full-range passive "PA-style" speaker unit such as the Atomic monitors or a Carvin/Mackie monitor? Perhaps a tube amp + guitar cab is a good combo, and a PA-amp and PA-monitor are a good combo, but mix and match is a ?
  4. Can anybody comment on overall durability? I can repair a tube amp and swap tubes out if something goes silly on stage; I can't repair an Axe-Fx and would probably cry if something happened at a gig and I had no real backup.
  5. How does tuning work? Can I onstage tune?
  6. Recommendations for foot controllers? Behringer always scares me, Rocktron has a "Midimate"...
If you live in the Philly/Brandywine valley area and wish to make a friend, I wish to try your Axe-Fx rig I'll bring cold chocolate or beer to your preference.
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:30 AM   #8
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Q: Is there any delay in switching patches? If so, is there a difference between the Standard and the Ultra?
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPhoenix19 View Post
Q: Is there any delay in switching patches? If so, is there a difference between the Standard and the Ultra?
In this interview, Tosin praises the fast switching. I believe there should be no difference in switching between the models - the faster processor and extra memory in the Ultra would not accelerate that function noticably, but allow you to run more simultaneous effects. Unless the Standard is woefully underspecced, which I am doubting.
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
A few questions:
  1. Is there nowhere to audition the unit other than Tone Merchants in Orange, CA?
  2. Can anybody report the difference between using, say, a Carvin DCM1000L transistor-based power amp (PA style) and a tube power amp such as a Mesa Boogie Stereo 2:Fifty or Carvin TS100?
  3. Can anybody report the difference between using a traditional guitar cab (sans amp/mic modeling) and running through a full-range passive "PA-style" speaker unit such as the Atomic monitors or a Carvin/Mackie monitor? Perhaps a tube amp + guitar cab is a good combo, and a PA-amp and PA-monitor are a good combo, but mix and match is a ?
  4. Can anybody comment on overall durability? I can repair a tube amp and swap tubes out if something goes silly on stage; I can't repair an Axe-Fx and would probably cry if something happened at a gig and I had no real backup.
  5. How does tuning work? Can I onstage tune?
  6. Recommendations for foot controllers? Behringer always scares me, Rocktron has a "Midimate"...
If you live in the Philly/Brandywine valley area and wish to make a friend, I wish to try your Axe-Fx rig I'll bring cold chocolate or beer to your preference.
Keep in mind i have never played an axeFX, but i have seen all of these questions answered over time so ill give you quick answers before the experienced show up.

-Axe Palace in MA

-Some say the tube power amp adds to the tube-feel of the tone.

-you can turn the cab modeling off and use a guitar cab if you wish. you can also use the cab modeling and go through a PA.

-can't comment

-i saw tosin tuning on stage so im going with yes.

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Old 04-16-2010, 10:02 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
Can anybody report the difference between using, say, a Carvin DCM1000L transistor-based power amp (PA style) and a tube power amp such as a Mesa Boogie Stereo 2:Fifty or Carvin TS100?
I've used mine both with a Carvin DCM1540L and a Peavey Classic 50/50. I prefer the solid state power amp. I generally think that tube power amps are really beneficial to modelers, but I found the Axe-FX's power amp modeling to be good enough that a real tube power amp wasn't necessary, and using the DCM gave me a much clearer tone than the Peavey, which is by no means muddy and is actually fairly transparent. Some people still prefer to use tube power amps with them, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
Can anybody report the difference between using a traditional guitar cab (sans amp/mic modeling) and running through a full-range passive "PA-style" speaker unit such as the Atomic monitors or a Carvin/Mackie monitor? Perhaps a tube amp + guitar cab is a good combo, and a PA-amp and PA-monitor are a good combo, but mix and match is a ?
They both sound good, but it's just a bit different. Running through a power amp and into a guitar cab will make it sound like there's an amp on top of a cab in the room with you. Using cab sims and monitoring through FRFR makes it sound like there's an amp on top of a cab in an isolation booth in the next room that you're hearing through a mic and monitors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
Can anybody comment on overall durability? I can repair a tube amp and swap tubes out if something goes silly on stage; I can't repair an Axe-Fx and would probably cry if something happened at a gig and I had no real backup.
I haven't beaten it around much, but it seems as dependable as about any other well made digital effects unit. It's made in the USA, except that I think the processors themselves are made in Canada. It seems pretty sturdy, and apparently the seal is damn near air tight, so I don't even worry about dirt and dust getting into it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
How does tuning work? Can I onstage tune?
Yeah, it has a built in tuner, though I've heard the calibration is a little off. If you're particular about being really in tune, you might want to get a separate tuner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soopahmahn View Post
Recommendations for foot controllers? Behringer always scares me, Rocktron has a "Midimate"...
Any MIDI controller should work. The Liquid Foot is really popular (but expensive), and Fractal is working on their own controller for the Axe-FX that I think may be in the final development stages.

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Old 04-16-2010, 10:08 AM   #12
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Thanks Tom! Excellent answers. What styles are you playing and how does the unit treat you compared to your old school rig?

One more question and I'll shut up for a while and stop hogging... does anybody else think a rack bag is a bad idea? It seems to me with all the heat generated between an Axe-FX and a power amp, it would be best to have a hard rack with 1-2 spaces between the units to let them breathe. Heat is the #1 enemy of electronics, after all. That, and water. Yes, the two primary enemies of electronics are heat, and water, and dust. Ah yes. Dust. The three, three primary enemies of electronics are...

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Old 04-16-2010, 10:15 AM   #13
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Mostly metal, but I mess around with all kinds of sounds, and I've even been using my Tele a lot lately. It sounds fantastic for everything. I'm probably not the person to ask when it comes to comparing directly to real amps, because the real amps I've owned haven't been that great. My last rig was a POD X3 Live into a Peavey Classic 50/50, which worked great for metal. I can say, though, that I'm pretty happy with its capabilities, and my amp and effects GAS is pretty much cured at this point.

A hard rack case is probably the way to go.

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Old 04-16-2010, 10:55 AM   #14
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Is the noob manual available upon special request from G66 ? Sounds like something i'll need
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:03 AM   #15
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It's called the Fractal forums and the Axe Wiki So much knowledge there on how to program it and get weird .... done.
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:05 AM   #16
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Is the noob manual available upon special request from G66 ? Sounds like something i'll need
They send it out to everyone who buys an Axe-Fx, as far as I know, so no worries As JJ mentioned, the Fractal forums and Axe wiki are incredibly useful for pretty much anything you want to know about the Axe, and there are also some tutorials on youtube that are good. Our very own thinkpad20 from these forums made a great one on dialing in a modern metal tone.

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Old 04-16-2010, 05:05 PM   #17
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Yeah, I just got mine, and it completely dominates. I haven't had much time to tinker, but I've got a very usable tone with the VH4 sim. The only issue I have is that the QSC power amp I have now makes it sound thin, like its missing something. This will soon be remedied by a tube power amp. I need to print off that entire Axe Fx wiki for assistance on making brutal metal patches!
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Old 04-16-2010, 05:31 PM   #18
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.... yeah, Matt! Glad you're digging it!
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Old 04-16-2010, 06:17 PM   #19
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Yeah, I just got mine, and it completely dominates. I haven't had much time to tinker, but I've got a very usable tone with the VH4 sim. The only issue I have is that the QSC power amp I have now makes it sound thin, like its missing something. This will soon be remedied by a tube power amp. I need to print off that entire Axe Fx wiki for assistance on making brutal metal patches!
You using the power amp simulations? Cabinet sims? What cab/speaker are you running through?

We're gassing for the same things right now
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:31 PM   #20
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You using the power amp simulations? Cabinet sims? What cab/speaker are you running through?

We're gassing for the same things right now
I'm using the power amp sims, but no cabinet sims. I'm using an oversized Mesa 4x12 for the time being. Perhaps an Orange or Diezel cab are in my near future.
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Old 04-17-2010, 07:46 AM   #21
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PS: Awesome playing, JohnIce. I just watched your video - very catchy, great tone, killer solo...

What do you guys think of something like this instead of getting a rack mounted power amp and running through a guitar cab or passive FRFR? Is 450w in a 2-way enclosure enough strength/dispersion to not only use as a stage monitor, but use alone at smaller metal gigs?

Buy Mackie SRM450 v2 Active Loudspeaker Factory Restock | Powered Cabinets | Musician's Friend
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Old 04-17-2010, 11:46 AM   #22
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Some people swear by the direct out to a FRFR speeaker, but have advised that you need a good one not to gimp your axe fx. Not sure a 500$ speaker will do.
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Old 04-17-2010, 12:54 PM   #23
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PS: Awesome playing, JohnIce. I just watched your video - very catchy, great tone, killer solo...

What do you guys think of something like this instead of getting a rack mounted power amp and running through a guitar cab or passive FRFR? Is 450w in a 2-way enclosure enough strength/dispersion to not only use as a stage monitor, but use alone at smaller metal gigs?
Thank you, good sir!

I use FRFR monitors in that exact way, although I do most of my tweaking through my studio monitors. The most important thing is that it's got a flat respose, which it should have as FRFR stands for flat response, full-range. But all FRFR speakers aren't totally flat, especially cheaper ones. But I have a pair of Mackie's in that price range that sound fine to me on a loud live-stage.
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Old 04-17-2010, 01:49 PM   #24
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Thank you, good sir!

I use FRFR monitors in that exact way, although I do most of my tweaking through my studio monitors. The most important thing is that it's got a flat respose, which it should have as FRFR stands for flat response, full-range. But all FRFR speakers aren't totally flat, especially cheaper ones. But I have a pair of Mackie's in that price range that sound fine to me on a loud live-stage.
What model Mackies? Do you point say one at yourself and one at the rest of the band? How many RMS watts?

I just found this, could be helpful to others with such questions:
Fractal Audio Systems • View topic - Buying and using full range speakers: A few basics
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Old 04-17-2010, 03:36 PM   #25
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What model Mackies? Do you point say one at yourself and one at the rest of the band? How many RMS watts?

I just found this, could be helpful to others with such questions:
Fractal Audio Systems • View topic - Buying and using full range speakers: A few basics
Wow... I'll have to ask my singer's other drummer, he bought them I'll get back to you on that one, mate!
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