So I visited Fractal Audio today, makers of the beloved Axe-FX. As many of you who follow the AP facebook page know, I've been having a hell of a time updating the firmware from 7.18 to 10.01. Cliff invited me to drive up to New Hampshire and he'd update it himself, which is exactly what I did today. I'd like to share a bit about my trip, it was really enlightening. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a shitload of the anticipated MFC-101 MIDI floor boards. People have been waiting for these FOREVER and they're all done. They're obviously going to some artists first like Petrucci and Vai, but said in the next couple weeks he should have enough to start shipping them to us regular guys. He gave me a DEMO of the unit and it's REALLY cool. Not only does it have a great feature set, but the fact it's designed to fit properly into a rack might be the coolest idea ever. It's pretty expensive, but all the blinky lights make it all-right in the end. I also saw a prototype for a cool 'effects-only' version of the Axe-FX that is designed to compete with units like the TC Electronic G-System. This is a really cool idea. I asked if a rack version would be available and he said yes (!). The most fun part of my visit however was getting to demo the Atomic Reactor FR Wedge speaker. It was a 'night-and-day' improvement over other 'full range' speakers I've tried the Axe-FX with. It had great tone at any volume, no awkward high-end response like with QSC stuff, just great tone. It comes with JJ tubes also which is awesome. The Axe-FX sounded really amazing through the Reactor. I may have to get one sometime. It made every other FR speaker I've tried sound like a joke, and it was light-weight. We also discussed amps for a while. Cliff is super-knowledgeable and shed some light on a lot of things that I never knew about pertaining to amps like Mesas, Soldanos, Peaveys, VHT, etc. Very cool stuff, he's a real straight shooter. And this came to no surprise to me, but he said he absolutely loves the Fryette 2/50/2 poweramp and said he used that with the Axe-FX for his live rig forever. He's pretty much retired from being a performing musician these days, which is a shame because I watched him play and he fucking RIPS. I also offered to loan him some of the amps I carry at my store which I'd love to see made into Axe-FX models, such as the H&K Triamp MKII or the Fryette Pittbull Ultra-Lead. He said he pretty much would need a schematic first and then go from there. Although it doesnt sound like there'll be any new models soon, hes really focused on the new products he's been working on like the MIDI controller and effects processor. All in all it was a fun time and I really appreciate Cliff taking the time to fix up my Ultra. He updated it to 10.02, which I don't believe is even out yet (no new amps, just minor stuff mainly related to the new MFC-101) and it sounds killer. The models in 7.18 sounded better and the new stuff sounded incredible. The 'Marsha' modified JCM800 ones sounded insane, as did the Bogner and Orange stuff. I liked the Mesa, Peavey, Bogner, Fryette, and Soldano models a lot better too. I'm only scratching the surface though as I haven't had time to really play with it yet. I had to rush back to my shop to catch up on business and ship out some product. Time will tell if any of this will result in me deviating from my live rig, as my past attempts of using the Axe-FX in that environment did not work for me, but I'm definitely encouraged. I'm loving my ENGL/Fryette setup just fine right now though. If nothing else, I'm excited to start tracking new material for my band NEMECIDE's first full-length CD in the fall/winter. I was happy with the tone on our EP but it could have been way better - and it shall! PS: Myself nor The Axe Palace has any affiliation with Fractal, they don't have dealers. I'm just a fan PPS: Sorry no pics. I thought it would be inappropriate to start busting out my iPhone camera and taking pics of a private office with prototypes all around. Use your imagination or ask me questions if you're curious about what something looked like.