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Axe FX III as a Platform

Jono Bacon

Inspired
Hi Everyone,

I primarily work in the tech world, so forgive me if some of my day job is blending in here, but it strikes me that there is an enormous amount of potential for the Axe FX III, and the grunt horsepower in it, to be a platform people can build content on.

Specifically:

1. Creating additional amps and effects.
2. Creating applications and integrations for engaging with the device.

In other devices, this would be typically be accomplished with a set of APIs (at developer.fracalaudio.com?) that expose various functionality inside the unit. This would mean that the core engine could be protected, but key functionality could be exposed to enable the community to create this kind of content. I am not sure if this is something the Axe FX III (currently) supports.

While an API for people to build apps and integrations would be interesting (imagine all kinds of DAW integrations, preset management, etc), I think the ability for people to create amp models and effects would be particularly interesting. This could potentially spur a whole open source community (building communities is primarily my area of expertise) of people working together to create and model amps, refine this work, and more.

This could provide a really valuable component of AxeExchange in which people could share these amp models, rate them, and then link off the to GitHub/GitLab project where they can further collaborate around them.

Of course, the Axe FX III would have the official, FAS modelled amps, but then there could be 'User' amps that can be loaded onto the amp and while some of them would be crappy, like the rest of the open source world, some of this collaborative output would likely be fantastic.

There would need to be some pieces to figure out here for FAS (e.g. exposing the necessary APIs, sandboxing these user submitted amps to avoid security vulnerabilities, providing a developer portal with docs and tutorials), but I think this would open up an enormous advantage for FAS, generate a new and exciting community around the Axe FX III, and spur all kinds of neat innovative ideas.

Thoughts?
 

laxu

Power User
Line6 tried the build your own pedal with the ToneCore DSP kit. It didn't sell well. Audio DSP is such a specialized field that the number of people who would build new effects and amp models would be pretty small.
 

Jono Bacon

Inspired
Sounds like a technical support nightmare.

I don't think it would be, so long as it is clear which amps/apps are user created and which are produced officially by FAS. Also, a solid sandbox will help to protect against any issues.

Line6 tried the build your own pedal with the ToneCore DSP kit. It didn't sell well. Audio DSP is such a specialized field that the number of people who would build new effects and amp models would be pretty small.

I would argue that it wasn't the right time. This was back in 2008 (or so if I recall) and since then we have seen an enormous growth in hardware-level hacking (e.g. the maker revolution, Kickstarter campaigns, GitHub growth) and I think there could be a huge opportunity to capitalize on this.

Part of what makes the Axe FX incredible is the extensibility of it with IRs, presets etc, I think expanding this to people building amp models would be phenomenal.
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
I think there could be a huge opportunity to capitalize on this.
Disagree it's a "huge" opportunity. It's very, very small. Infinitesimally small. The hardware the Axe-Fx uses is not casual-dabbler friendly to learn to use. The resources required to develop a higher level interface that would allow "dabbling" without having to understand the entire board architecture and use something like Ti's CCS to develop would require significant time and staffing.

This is not a market worth pursuing IMHO.
 

shasha

Fractal Fanatic
Neat idea but we're talking about someone who is not only a guitar player but someone who can code as well. That's going to be a pretty small market. Of course plenty of people could benefit but would it be worth the pain of opening that door be worth the net gains? The other thing is that I'm sure that there would be number of trade secrets that FAS would have to share in order to have something that is moderately good. From what I understand there is a lot of real circuit measurements and signal analysis involved with creating a block. And now we're talking about code writing guitar players with test equipment and circuit theory.
 

Rex

Legend!
Disagree it's a "huge" opportunity. It's very, very small. Infinitesimally small. The hardware the Axe-Fx uses is not casual-dabbler friendly to learn to use. The resources required to develop a higher level interface that would allow "dabbling" without having to understand the entire board architecture and use something like Ti's CCS to develop would require significant time and staffing.

This is not a market worth pursuing IMHO.
And even if that interface could be made simple to use, there are only a tiny handful of people (maybe none?) with the knowledge, ears and experience that @FractalAudio has who could build a model that could compete with the factory models.
 

Paperjace

Experienced
A cool idea, but yeah, I could never see this happening. Not just because of the huge technical undertaking it would take to create a SDK for people to tinker with, but that it would risk giving away the secrets of what makes Fractal products stand out from other competitors.
 
This may be true for amps, but not necessarily for effects. You could build your own effect modules without needing to know anything about circuits or components. You just tell it what to do with the incoming audio.
 

artzeal

Experienced
Already accomplished. No API required.

Its already possible to modify amps extensively within the existing (Q9 for Axe FX II / AX8) architecture. There is so much control of the amp functions: New virtual amps can be created. Any practical access for adjustment beyond the emulation of the hardware user controls is available in the plethora of advanced parameters. And not just service type tweaks to biasing, negative feedback and component values. Tube types and tone stacks can be swapped between amps. All manner of current interactions. I cobbled together a splendid and convincing Egnater Rebel 20 from the Blues Jr model with appropriate adjustments: both the EL84 and 6V6 circuits. Sounds just like the amp. Grafting a Fender 6G12 tone stack into to the Hiwatt does some really cool things: Well, I think so. But, don't take my word for it: Roll your own amp. Its just a matter of saving a preset. No API is necessary: which removes the gatekeeper of coding: which effectively excludes many musicians. Anyone with an understanding of how amps work can make minor adjustments or extensive changes. And those that want to learn. Those that don't know and don't care how amps work: don't have to, which is perfectly fine: The music is numero uno, anyway: Just pick one of the 250+ stellar amp channels, spin the gain, volume and tone knobs until the corners of your mouth point up and rock on, no worries.

Given that the VST and AU APIs have been available for a long time, and there are to my knowledge few effects or amp offerings of any quality that aren't from dedicated, invested professional developers, I wouldn't hold my breath expecting a flood of important amateur contributions to a crowded field. Soldering together a homebrew dirt pedal on the kitchen table back in the day was great fun. I don't have to now: With the FAS drive models: It's possible to swap in virtual FET, germanium or silicon transistors, opamps etc., tested in a variety of proven virtual pedal circuits: and voila: custom pedal. No flux stains on the table cloth. (No nifty custom painted pedal box, though: its not all roses).

As far as online libraries, communities or shared resources: Perhaps the existing forums and formats already pretty well fulfill those functions? The creative aspect of players adjusting anything and everything to fit their own approach looms so large; and the range of variables such as hardware, pickups, etc. is so vast: A unifying effort will be mighty challenging. If it offers something, though: it should succeed.

And finally: I only trust Cliff and the FAS team for my amp models. Leave the wizards to their lab, I say: Don't mess with success. User amp models (probably even mine) might tarnish their reputation.
 
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FooPlayer

New Member
3rd party amps might not be feasible/practical since there is so much Fractal’s own sorcery involved, but 3rd party effects could be a great concept. Fractal wouldn’t even need to expose much of the internals. Maybe have some API’s for utilizing the DSP efficiently in the HW, but most effects would just need stereo in/out and few tweaking knobs in the UI. If the 3rd part effects would be available only in Fractal’s own web store, then Fractal would be able to test & validate them before release.

We have this already for 3rd party cab IR’s, and look the amount of offering coming from 3rd parties. Who knows how rich ecosystem of 3rd party effects this would create.
 

ivanhoe

Member
As a player who is also a developer accustom to consuming datasheets and writing code against various hardware, it would definitely be interesting. Not so much amps though, that I personally would not spend any time on as I feel pretty much everything I would want is already covered or achievable with one of the existing models and some minor tweaking. However, as mentioned above specialized effects would be appealing. Especially given in the past people (myself included) have had to combine many different blocks to get a similar effect to a sound on one pedal (strymon bigsky for example), where having that in one simple easy to tweak block would be convenient. Having said that I am not sure there would be many others doing it.
 
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