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FM3 3-button vs AX8 11-button, reflection after 6 months or so

Johan Allard

Power User
I saw a post in the Ax8 go-fund-me thread about "how can the FM3 be a replacement for an Ax8 when it only has 3 buttons", ... Since this had a potential of hijacking the thread I didn't feel like responding there. I also haven't thought about it for a while so got me thinking about how the FM3 has been a replacement for me, after about 6 months or so I've used it.

First, when you design something new, and don’t make it exactly like the previous, could be bigger or smaller or wider or whatever, there will always be people that prefer the previous design. There will also be people that people that prefer the new design. A lot of people will complain before they have tried the new design so you have to let it settle. When a lot of people have tried the new design you can look at the overall feedback. If the group that prefers the new design outweighs the previous group you have made the right design choice. If the previous group outweighs the group that prefer the new design you haven’t and you’ll have to weigh that in when you design the next version and when. This is all standard product design cycles.

For me, the FM3 has replaced the AX8 completely. I don’t even use the FC6 I bought before I got the FM3 that I thought I would absolutely need. And no, I don’t use the FM3 exactly as I did before with the AX8 but I prefer the workflow with the FM3 that wasn’t possible with the AX8 with the new more flexible buttons. I love the mini displays that gives me reminders to what scene does what for song specific preset I only use occasionally. I love that my new board is a PT Metro 16, including wireless. It’s super small and super flexible.

I've always been a heavy user of scenes. With the Ax8, I usually had 4 scenes configured on the lower 4 button row, and 4 effects on the upper button row. In reality though, I rarely used the effects live. It was handy to try different stuff at home but when it came to my live preset I programmed scenes for everything. One problem I frequently had with the Ax8 was to remember what each scene did. My main setup was Scene 1 as a main crunch tone, Scene 2 slightly boosted, Scene 3 was my "wildcard" - often a straight clean tone, Scene 4 was my lead tone. This worked really well, but I also had a range of song-specific presets and on for instance I had an Intro Scene, a main Rhythm Scene, a slightly boosted Rhythm for the sections between the verses, a slightly different version of the Intro scene for the breakdown and a lead scene. That's 5 scenes in all, but they didn't fit into my normal structure so I could never remember if Scene 1 was my Intro scene or my main Rhythm Scene, and so on.

With the FM3, when using it at rehearsals (and eventually live when we get to play live again), I use button one for Scene 1/4 toggle with Scene 7 for hold, button two Scene 2/5 toggle and button three Scene 3/6 toggle, so my main preset has 7 Scenes. But the difference for me is the small customizable labels so I can always see for instance on my She Sells Sanctuary preset that button one toggles between Rhythm/Boost with Intro on Scene 7 (Button one hold). So even if there's less buttons, it's more obvious what each button does. I also have two external buttons, the right button does tap/tempo and hold for tuner, the left toggles view 1/2 (Scenes/Effects) with hold for layout 2 (Select Preset).

Before I got the FM3, I ordered and got the FC6, anticipating that i'll need it to replace the Ax8. But after playing with the FM3 on it's own and thinking about how I really use it live, I never ended up building a live board for the FM3+FC6 so I just used the FC6 to make it more flexible to play around with different stuff at home. After a couple of months, I ordered an FC12 and that's what I'm using at home now. I'm currently renovating my house and when we're done at the end of the year, I'll move into my new office/music room and my plan is to keep the FM3 at eye level in a shelf next to my desk, and just use either just the FC12 or possible the FC12+FC6 on the floor. With the FC12, I can have instant access to all scenes, presets and a few effects to turn on and off. For my live presets, I have a layout on the FC12 where the first three buttons is identical to the ones on the FM3 so I can practice playing along just like on the FM3 but using the FC12 instead. And when I want to play around with different stuff and effects and things, there's plenty of buttons to do so.

This is not meant as a "if you don't like the FM3 with or without the FC6 you're wrong and I'm right" kind of argument. For me, I knew that I would want all the improvements that the new platform, and Ares has given us, and that just forced me to get onboard with the new architecture. And I'm for one am glad that I did because I've ended up with something that's even better for me. But I can absolutely see that for some people, the layout and size of the Ax8 would be better. You can't make any change anywhere without there's being a compromise somewhere else.

As for moving forward. I'm not expecting any changes to the current lineup. If/when in a couple of years there's a FM3mkII, I would totally expect that to be in the same chassis as the current FM3. I could still see (and I argued for) that there could be a FM9 that would be an all-in-one thing that would sit between the FM3 and FM3+FC6 in size, but I think it's more likely that we'll see a FC2 or FC4. The FM3 + FC6 is really wide so by just adding another couple of buttons (without the external screen on the FC6/12) would be really useful while not pushing it super wide. Again, not really expecting that to happen but it would be a nice addition. The other thing I'd really love would be a range of FC+ series (FC6+ and FC12+) that would use screens similar to what's on the Mastermind GT series - more expensive for sure but I'd happily pay extra for bigger screens.

This is just some notes about my experiences in my transition from the Ax8 to the FM3 + FMC6/12. Enjoy!
 

AJ Vargas

Experienced
I was too on the "How in Hell a 3-switch layout is supposed to work against the 11 one from the AX8???" camp. Once I got my FM3 and briefly played with it, all doubts are gone. Sure, it's something to get acustomed to, specially coming from the AX8 (or any previous footswitch paradigm) but once you get a grasp of what the layouts can do, you realize how capable and powerful this little toy is, and yes, it's much more than the AX8 ever was.

Sure, the FM3+FC-6/12 would be the ultimate in switching flexibility (planning on getting a FC-6 in the future, it's a pricey item for me ATM) but I really vow for anyone to try a FM3 and get surprised at how much you can do with it and even more if you add one of those ultra-cheap Mosky dual switches.
 

Mincer

Inspired
This is good to know. Coming from the AX8 to the FM3 (a few days old), I am learning that how I worked before won't work. But I am starting to see that the old way of working was replaced with something easier, which will eventually allow me to do things I couldn't do before.
 

ThrillGrill

Member
One thing that I don't think anyone is talking about is the "simplify and just play" factor. As a gear nerd, I always wanted to be prepared with the "kitchen sink" for gigs. Every now and then though, I'd show up to a friends studio or gig and jump on for a guest spot. Not knowing their pedalboard, I'd just stick to a usable tone and use my guitar controls more.

I focused WAY more on just playing and vibing with the other musicians/crowd, rather than worrying about tap dancing for the perfect punched in phaser that no one ever noticed anyway. What they did notice most likely was that I was present in the moment, and immersed in the vibe of the song!
 

chris

Legend!
One thing that I don't think anyone is talking about is the "simplify and just play" factor. As a gear nerd, I always wanted to be prepared with the "kitchen sink" for gigs. Every now and then though, I'd show up to a friends studio or gig and jump on for a guest spot. Not knowing their pedalboard, I'd just stick to a usable tone and use my guitar controls more.

I focused WAY more on just playing and vibing with the other musicians/crowd, rather than worrying about tap dancing for the perfect punched in phaser that no one ever noticed anyway. What they did notice most likely was that I was present in the moment, and immersed in the vibe of the song!
this, very this.

i've said this before, but many of my gigs are acoustic style, so i really don't need effects or a pedal board. often i'm using the AX8 or FM3 or whatever, focusing on changes, what tone would work for what song etc.

but i would regularly NOT take anything and plug straight in to the board. just my volume control on the guitar and a tuner. without anything else to focus on but playing, i'm always more connected with the song, i usually play better and more relaxed, and it's a great experience.

i enjoy both, maybe with effects more, but the benefits of both types of performances are great.
 

Johan Allard

Power User
My main gig preset is very simple with just amp, cab, delay and reverb, I use the amp boost for a lead boost and a GEQ for a lead volume boost. I'm on that preset 90%+ of the time. When I had the Ax8 I would often just add stuff because there was empty buttons but with the FM3 and using scenes for everything I'm a lot more disciplined only adding what I absolutely need so it's been good forcing me do do less for live presets.

And, having the FC12 at home is fun and very convenient for just playing around with different factory preset and just having a ton of options available when there's no pressure of performing.
 

Kidmag

Member
Great write-up thank you! The AX8 has been my only "Amp" that actually has gotten used for over 5 years now. I've just jumped on the FM3 waitlist, and I have definitely been wondering how I'm going to transition my switching. I too use the AX8 almost exactly as you describe above. I have three primary presets based around amps that I use for 80% of our songs. With these I mostly have OD/distortion, delay, phase, or chorus (reverb is just on always) set on the bottom 3, plus looper in the 4th button. Then I have 5-6 presets that are song specific with up to 4 scenes in each across the bottom buttons. You could say the top buttons really don't get much use except for things only changed before a song starts, like to a different reverb or adding compression. Sounds like I should have no problem transitioning.
 

jjdpro

Inspired
I saw a post in the Ax8 go-fund-me thread about "how can the FM3 be a replacement for an Ax8 when it only has 3 buttons", ... Since this had a potential of hijacking the thread I didn't feel like responding there. I also haven't thought about it for a while so got me thinking about how the FM3 has been a replacement for me, after about 6 months or so I've used it.

First, when you design something new, and don’t make it exactly like the previous, could be bigger or smaller or wider or whatever, there will always be people that prefer the previous design. There will also be people that people that prefer the new design. A lot of people will complain before they have tried the new design so you have to let it settle. When a lot of people have tried the new design you can look at the overall feedback. If the group that prefers the new design outweighs the previous group you have made the right design choice. If the previous group outweighs the group that prefer the new design you haven’t and you’ll have to weigh that in when you design the next version and when. This is all standard product design cycles.

For me, the FM3 has replaced the AX8 completely. I don’t even use the FC6 I bought before I got the FM3 that I thought I would absolutely need. And no, I don’t use the FM3 exactly as I did before with the AX8 but I prefer the workflow with the FM3 that wasn’t possible with the AX8 with the new more flexible buttons. I love the mini displays that gives me reminders to what scene does what for song specific preset I only use occasionally. I love that my new board is a PT Metro 16, including wireless. It’s super small and super flexible.

I've always been a heavy user of scenes. With the Ax8, I usually had 4 scenes configured on the lower 4 button row, and 4 effects on the upper button row. In reality though, I rarely used the effects live. It was handy to try different stuff at home but when it came to my live preset I programmed scenes for everything. One problem I frequently had with the Ax8 was to remember what each scene did. My main setup was Scene 1 as a main crunch tone, Scene 2 slightly boosted, Scene 3 was my "wildcard" - often a straight clean tone, Scene 4 was my lead tone. This worked really well, but I also had a range of song-specific presets and on for instance I had an Intro Scene, a main Rhythm Scene, a slightly boosted Rhythm for the sections between the verses, a slightly different version of the Intro scene for the breakdown and a lead scene. That's 5 scenes in all, but they didn't fit into my normal structure so I could never remember if Scene 1 was my Intro scene or my main Rhythm Scene, and so on.

With the FM3, when using it at rehearsals (and eventually live when we get to play live again), I use button one for Scene 1/4 toggle with Scene 7 for hold, button two Scene 2/5 toggle and button three Scene 3/6 toggle, so my main preset has 7 Scenes. But the difference for me is the small customizable labels so I can always see for instance on my She Sells Sanctuary preset that button one toggles between Rhythm/Boost with Intro on Scene 7 (Button one hold). So even if there's less buttons, it's more obvious what each button does. I also have two external buttons, the right button does tap/tempo and hold for tuner, the left toggles view 1/2 (Scenes/Effects) with hold for layout 2 (Select Preset).

Before I got the FM3, I ordered and got the FC6, anticipating that i'll need it to replace the Ax8. But after playing with the FM3 on it's own and thinking about how I really use it live, I never ended up building a live board for the FM3+FC6 so I just used the FC6 to make it more flexible to play around with different stuff at home. After a couple of months, I ordered an FC12 and that's what I'm using at home now. I'm currently renovating my house and when we're done at the end of the year, I'll move into my new office/music room and my plan is to keep the FM3 at eye level in a shelf next to my desk, and just use either just the FC12 or possible the FC12+FC6 on the floor. With the FC12, I can have instant access to all scenes, presets and a few effects to turn on and off. For my live presets, I have a layout on the FC12 where the first three buttons is identical to the ones on the FM3 so I can practice playing along just like on the FM3 but using the FC12 instead. And when I want to play around with different stuff and effects and things, there's plenty of buttons to do so.

This is not meant as a "if you don't like the FM3 with or without the FC6 you're wrong and I'm right" kind of argument. For me, I knew that I would want all the improvements that the new platform, and Ares has given us, and that just forced me to get onboard with the new architecture. And I'm for one am glad that I did because I've ended up with something that's even better for me. But I can absolutely see that for some people, the layout and size of the Ax8 would be better. You can't make any change anywhere without there's being a compromise somewhere else.

As for moving forward. I'm not expecting any changes to the current lineup. If/when in a couple of years there's a FM3mkII, I would totally expect that to be in the same chassis as the current FM3. I could still see (and I argued for) that there could be a FM9 that would be an all-in-one thing that would sit between the FM3 and FM3+FC6 in size, but I think it's more likely that we'll see a FC2 or FC4. The FM3 + FC6 is really wide so by just adding another couple of buttons (without the external screen on the FC6/12) would be really useful while not pushing it super wide. Again, not really expecting that to happen but it would be a nice addition. The other thing I'd really love would be a range of FC+ series (FC6+ and FC12+) that would use screens similar to what's on the Mastermind GT series - more expensive for sure but I'd happily pay extra for bigger screens.

This is just some notes about my experiences in my transition from the Ax8 to the FM3 + FMC6/12. Enjoy!

 

jjdpro

Inspired
I saw a post in the Ax8 go-fund-me thread about "how can the FM3 be a replacement for an Ax8 when it only has 3 buttons", ... Since this had a potential of hijacking the thread I didn't feel like responding there. I also haven't thought about it for a while so got me thinking about how the FM3 has been a replacement for me, after about 6 months or so I've used it.

First, when you design something new, and don’t make it exactly like the previous, could be bigger or smaller or wider or whatever, there will always be people that prefer the previous design. There will also be people that people that prefer the new design. A lot of people will complain before they have tried the new design so you have to let it settle. When a lot of people have tried the new design you can look at the overall feedback. If the group that prefers the new design outweighs the previous group you have made the right design choice. If the previous group outweighs the group that prefer the new design you haven’t and you’ll have to weigh that in when you design the next version and when. This is all standard product design cycles.

For me, the FM3 has replaced the AX8 completely. I don’t even use the FC6 I bought before I got the FM3 that I thought I would absolutely need. And no, I don’t use the FM3 exactly as I did before with the AX8 but I prefer the workflow with the FM3 that wasn’t possible with the AX8 with the new more flexible buttons. I love the mini displays that gives me reminders to what scene does what for song specific preset I only use occasionally. I love that my new board is a PT Metro 16, including wireless. It’s super small and super flexible.

I've always been a heavy user of scenes. With the Ax8, I usually had 4 scenes configured on the lower 4 button row, and 4 effects on the upper button row. In reality though, I rarely used the effects live. It was handy to try different stuff at home but when it came to my live preset I programmed scenes for everything. One problem I frequently had with the Ax8 was to remember what each scene did. My main setup was Scene 1 as a main crunch tone, Scene 2 slightly boosted, Scene 3 was my "wildcard" - often a straight clean tone, Scene 4 was my lead tone. This worked really well, but I also had a range of song-specific presets and on for instance I had an Intro Scene, a main Rhythm Scene, a slightly boosted Rhythm for the sections between the verses, a slightly different version of the Intro scene for the breakdown and a lead scene. That's 5 scenes in all, but they didn't fit into my normal structure so I could never remember if Scene 1 was my Intro scene or my main Rhythm Scene, and so on.

With the FM3, when using it at rehearsals (and eventually live when we get to play live again), I use button one for Scene 1/4 toggle with Scene 7 for hold, button two Scene 2/5 toggle and button three Scene 3/6 toggle, so my main preset has 7 Scenes. But the difference for me is the small customizable labels so I can always see for instance on my She Sells Sanctuary preset that button one toggles between Rhythm/Boost with Intro on Scene 7 (Button one hold). So even if there's less buttons, it's more obvious what each button does. I also have two external buttons, the right button does tap/tempo and hold for tuner, the left toggles view 1/2 (Scenes/Effects) with hold for layout 2 (Select Preset).

Before I got the FM3, I ordered and got the FC6, anticipating that i'll need it to replace the Ax8. But after playing with the FM3 on it's own and thinking about how I really use it live, I never ended up building a live board for the FM3+FC6 so I just used the FC6 to make it more flexible to play around with different stuff at home. After a couple of months, I ordered an FC12 and that's what I'm using at home now. I'm currently renovating my house and when we're done at the end of the year, I'll move into my new office/music room and my plan is to keep the FM3 at eye level in a shelf next to my desk, and just use either just the FC12 or possible the FC12+FC6 on the floor. With the FC12, I can have instant access to all scenes, presets and a few effects to turn on and off. For my live presets, I have a layout on the FC12 where the first three buttons is identical to the ones on the FM3 so I can practice playing along just like on the FM3 but using the FC12 instead. And when I want to play around with different stuff and effects and things, there's plenty of buttons to do so.

This is not meant as a "if you don't like the FM3 with or without the FC6 you're wrong and I'm right" kind of argument. For me, I knew that I would want all the improvements that the new platform, and Ares has given us, and that just forced me to get onboard with the new architecture. And I'm for one am glad that I did because I've ended up with something that's even better for me. But I can absolutely see that for some people, the layout and size of the Ax8 would be better. You can't make any change anywhere without there's being a compromise somewhere else.

As for moving forward. I'm not expecting any changes to the current lineup. If/when in a couple of years there's a FM3mkII, I would totally expect that to be in the same chassis as the current FM3. I could still see (and I argued for) that there could be a FM9 that would be an all-in-one thing that would sit between the FM3 and FM3+FC6 in size, but I think it's more likely that we'll see a FC2 or FC4. The FM3 + FC6 is really wide so by just adding another couple of buttons (without the external screen on the FC6/12) would be really useful while not pushing it super wide. Again, not really expecting that to happen but it would be a nice addition. The other thing I'd really love would be a range of FC+ series (FC6+ and FC12+) that would use screens similar to what's on the Mastermind GT series - more expensive for sure but I'd happily pay extra for bigger screens.

This is just some notes about my experiences in my transition from the Ax8 to the FM3 + FMC6/12. Enjoy!
'A lot of people will complain before they have tried the new design so you have to let it settle".It's not like we can just go to a store and try a unit out ..
 

roaka1

Member
I was part of that conversation. Thank you for the info tho. For a long time i thought the FM3 is not for me. Looking into it and reading stuff here changed my mind and set me back 1266€. G66 will ship it this week!
 

Johan Allard

Power User
'A lot of people will complain before they have tried the new design so you have to let it settle".It's not like we can just go to a store and try a unit out ..
This was referring to before the product was actually released. When a product has been released you can see reviews and comments from other people (such as this thread) if you can't try it out yourself.
 
@Johan Allard I was the one that started the Go-Fund-Me thread since I had just purchased a mint AX8 (I never owned one before this one) and I was hoping to see the Ares firmware from my XL+ in the AX8 (but I am actually fine having the AX8 stay the same).

I found I really liked the AX8 and I was able to get some great sounds out of it especially when I would take a preset from my XL+ and convert it to the AX8 (it seemed to sound really close to the XL+ (and my friends said it sounded the same) even though the XL+ was on the Ares 2.0 firmware).

I did purchase an FM3 before XMAS time and I used it right away.

It does sound great and I have set up the 3 footswitches with several different configurations, however, I think it could be pretty challenging to people that are not very tech oriented (or patient) and they would probably consider the AX8 easier to use and less of a headache.

I did find I liked being able to add a 4 button footswitch to the FM3 and making it an FM7 or making the FC-6 become an FC-10 :)

Honestly, I plan to keep the AX8 and don't see a reason to sell it since it definitely has a different sound than the FM3/AX3 and I can see there are some advantages to keeping it even though I own the newest Fractal gear.

Additionally, one thing that I really like about the AX8 is the control knobs.

And yes, I know you can set up the FM3/AX3 to have control knobs (actually, you can have more controls set up on the FM3/AX3) but I believe part of the love for the AX8 knobs is due to them sitting on the top of the AX8 for easy access.

The AX8 is a super cool device and should stay in my Fractal collection for a very long time regardless of any new Fractal product coming out :)
 

Johan Allard

Power User
@Johan Allard I was the one that started the Go-Fund-Me thread since I had just purchased a mint AX8 (I never owned one before this one) and I was hoping to see the Ares firmware from my XL+ in the AX8 (but I am actually fine having the AX8 stay the same).

I found I really liked the AX8 and I was able to get some great sounds out of it especially when I would take a preset from my XL+ and convert it to the AX8 (it seemed to sound really close to the XL+ (and my friends said it sounded the same) even though the XL+ was on the Ares 2.0 firmware).

I did purchase an FM3 before XMAS time and I used it right away.

It does sound great and I have set up the 3 footswitches with several different configurations, however, I think it could be pretty challenging to people that are not very tech oriented (or patient) and they would probably consider the AX8 easier to use and less of a headache.

I did find I liked being able to add a 4 button footswitch to the FM3 and making it an FM7 or making the FC-6 become an FC-10 :)

Honestly, I plan to keep the AX8 and don't see a reason to sell it since it definitely has a different sound than the FM3/AX3 and I can see there are some advantages to keeping it even though I own the newest Fractal gear.

Additionally, one thing that I really like about the AX8 is the control knobs.

And yes, I know you can set up the FM3/AX3 to have control knobs (actually, you can have more controls set up on the FM3/AX3) but I believe part of the love for the AX8 knobs is due to them sitting on the top of the AX8 for easy access.

The AX8 is a super cool device and should stay in my Fractal collection for a very long time regardless of any new Fractal product coming out :)
It’s just tools at the end of the day. For me, the FM3 completely superseded the Ax8 in all aspects so it was a no brainer for me to sell the Ax8. I have a mate with an Ax8 with all his live stuff dialled in and he‘s planning to keep using that live but bought a Axe Fx 3 for recordings. Whatever works best for you is the right thing to do :)
 
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