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Ears not Eyes


Fractal Audio Systems
From time to time I hear customers complaining they can't get the sound they want and they look at their preset and all the tone knobs are at noon or only slightly deviated from noon. I ask why and they say something like "well, I don't want to stray too far from the defaults".

Amps have controls for a reason. Don't be afraid to get radical with them, especially older amps. Those old amps were crude and not intended to deliver the more modern type tones players today want. For example, if I were to use a Fender model for a lead tone I would turn the bass way down and midrange way up as they get too flubby otherwise.

As an excellent illustration consider Joe Bonamassa's settings:

Bass is all the way down, midrange is almost all the way up. Pretty much how I would dial in that amp (59 Twin or 58 Bassman which are very similar topologies).

As you turn the volume up on these old amps the distortion is coming from the power amp and you need to boost the mids and cut the bass to flatten the response since the power amp's response follows the speaker impedance which is scooped in the mids. Otherwise the bass clips before the mids which causes flubbiness.

That's also similar to how I dial in a Plexi. I crank the mids and lower the bass.


this. very this.

i've had people tell me "but i'm not allowed to turn the bass all the way down" or similar comments. allowed? try it! or preconceived notions of "well i don't want a thin tone, so i can't turn the bass down." TRY IT. and listen to the result. our mind is the #1 thing preventing us from getting the tone we actually want!


Fractal Fanatic
I remember the first amp I had - an old Randall orange panel 1x12. I had to crank it all the way just to be heard, and the bass would totally fart out. When I would turn the bass down, I felt like "but I shouldn't do this!" - except that it sounded way better. Lesson learned early.

Tom Morris

Power User
Whenever I see someone say they can't get the box to sound good I just scratch my head in wonder. I have yet to touch any settings in the power amp section of the amp blocks. Im a cover tune guy, my method of setting up patches consists of selecting an amp that best matches the song, sounds closest to what I'm after (Factory patches). Tweaking the dial as you would on the front of the amp. Final touch I go to the amp blocks EQ section and really fine tune the eq. All in the ears.


Fractal Fanatic
Most of us mortals would never set a real Bassman or Twin volume on 10 like this as it would make you deaf, melt your face, peel the paint off the walls and attract cops. But if you used these EQ settings at small club volume (between 3 and 4) you'll just get a terrible ice pick high end and not much breakup or distortion. Closer to noon settings will get you a nice rounded clean at lower volumes.

Turn it to 10 and it's a completely different beast. This actually works!

The beauty of the Axe is being able to do this at any volume you want (turn down via level control in the amp block, and physical output knob).


Fractal Fanatic
Bass is all the way down, midrange is almost all the way up.
That would also describe almost all of my settings, likely since I use NMV 95% of the time and older amps. Bass way down, cranked mids and treble is usually up there.

I've always been glad I don't have and OCD about how to set the controls or how they may/may not match up to a real amp, nor have thoughts about that the controls don't look right. Yup, always use the ears, never tweak with the eyes.


On the other hand, I have seen many times--especially in the update threads--that if you're tweaking too many amp parameters (advanced or otherwise), that you should find a different model--one that does what you really want.

So, where is THAT line?


On the other hand, I have seen many times--especially in the update threads--that if you're tweaking too many amp parameters (advanced or otherwise), that you should find a different model--one that does what you really want.

So, where is THAT line?
For me, anything more than the Basic page is probably the wrong Amp. Some very rare exceptions for sag or depth, but that's how I do it. That may not work for others, but worth a try.


Power User
Keeping it simple is great advice but I've found it very worthwhile to hear what each parameter does. Spending some time and learning what each one does and how they interact with each other can help you know whether it's worth the time to tweak a little more or simply move on to another model. Some parameters don't affect the tone or feel as much as others but there are some I've discovered, like Definition and Harmonics, that add that little spice that finishes off the amp for me. What I end up with may not be the exact tonal representation of a particular amp but it's how I would want it to sound if I were to use it.
I am absolutely devoted to having a 31 band graphic EQ in my rig. (I use an Alesis DEQ230.). I use my ears, not my eyes, to set my tone with it and I've tested myself by blanking out two presets and then setting both of them, band by band, until they sounded right to me, then checked the resulting curves when I was done with both of them. The curve is the same, to within 1 dB in every ban.

I say this on the evening before my FX II is due to be delivered to me. I can not yet say if I will transfer the DEQ230 into the Fractal's effects loop or if the FX II's equalization has the resolution to render it obsolete.

I will say that, while this may not apply if you're using an Axe-FX, with any other rig, if you are not using a 1/3 octave EQ in your rig and tweaking the sliders to see what they can do for you, you should try it. It can put a fine polish on your tones that can't be achieved with a lower resolution EQ.

I note that a prominent characteristic of just about every Bob Bradshaw rack used by any big name 80s guitarist is that they all have two or three 1/3 octave EQs in them. Ever wondered why? They're final tone shaping and play a big part in the really great tones many of those players were getting out of those rigs.

I view the 1/3 octave EQ as the most overlooked and yet most powerful tone shaping tool you COULD have in your rack. It's the FIRST thing I'll put in my effects loop if I had to start over.
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