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FM3: My Life Has Been a Lie

citytoburn

Member
Dramatic title, I know, but I'm so happy with this unit. I've never been more satisfied with any gear I've ever purchased. I bought mine only about a month ago, but I'm just so in love with it now after digging into the software and dialing things in. The biggest problem is that between a full time job and raising a toddler, there's just not enough time in the day to play guitar.

I thought I was a fender guy for the last 20 years, but maybe I'm just not, but I just couldn't afford to try to find out before. One of the first things I did after exploring all the factory presets was to shoot out all the fender amps and cabs to look for "my" clean sound in the Fractal. So I know this sounds crazy but this is how I think. I was a math major and the first thing I thought of given all the choice in the universe was, let's just do a combinatorial analysis and figure out which amp and cab to play through. I made a little list of the Fender and Fender-esque amps in the Fractal, and a list of the Fender cabinets. To narrow it down I just decided I would only mess with 1x12 and 2x12 cabs at first. If I recall, I set up a 2x12 Twin cab (using my favorite of the SM57 IRs) at the beginning and compared each amp on that cab/IR. I listened to each amp on stock settings without any tweaks to EQ or settings. The way I did this was I loaded the first amp into channel A of the amp block, and then I would A/B it by putting the next amp in channel B, and if i liked B better than A, I left B there and put the next amp in C. Shoot out B/C, if B still wins, keep it in B and put next amp in C, if C wins, keep it there and put next amp in D. Then once there's an amp in all 4 slots, I move my favorite of the 4 to channel A.

Once I finished that process I determined my 4 favorite Fender amp models in the FM3. The 6G12 Concert, the Band-Commander, the Vibrato Lux, and the Tremolo Lux. I loved the Twin and the Super Reverb too for different applications but for a really clean sound those were the ones that stuck out to me. Then I started comparing the different IR options, usually starting with one cab, and then pairing it with a complimentary IR of the same cab. I found I tended to like a mix of a SM57 and one of the other mics. My preconception was that the Royer 151 was the way to go, but I kept finding that I preferred the sounds from the 313 and 421. Another example of an expensive distinction that I could never afford to make before. One thing I don't know, but would be curious to find out, is if the letter names of the mic positions (A, B, C, etc.) are consistent across different IRs. I don't know if it's coincidence but I tended to like A a lot, and C the most, but not 100% consistent across every IR. I don't care so much what those mic placements are, but it would be fascinating to find out if say C is always the same angle/distance relative to the speaker cone. Anyway, just using the 2x12 Fender cabs I ended up preferring the Double Verb 57 C (959) paired with the Double Verb 313 A (995). The ML Sound Lab Double Verb IRs were also sweet, especially the 421, but can't remember which of those I liked most.

Using the 6G12 Concert, I compared that IR setup I liked with the Double Verbs and started comparing to other fender cabs. I really liked some 2x10 and 1x12 examples, but not enough to switch. Then on a lark, I remembered hearing Divided by 13 cabs are great but I've never heard one myself. I set my double verb cab combo on channel A of the cab block, and then tried the "Division-13" IRs one at a time on channel B and chose my favorite in first cab slot (414 A or 947) , then picked my favorite complimentary cab (57 E). After that side quest I compared it A/B with the Fender cab that came out as my favorite from dozens and dozens of Fender cabs. Well, crap, the Division-13 pair beat it. So if you want to try my combo, without any amp tweaking, try the 6G12 Concert with that combo of Div13 IRs. It sounds amazing to me, articulate, clean and clear, forward, beautiful.

Last step, I thought, was check some other amps on the clean side with that cab and see what I thought. I tried just about all the amps that were intended to be clean amps. I was surprised at some, like the Mesa/Boogie clean amps sounded really nice (Lonestar, USA Clean), I've probably associated them too much with gain. I also loved the Buttery clean, though I've never heard anything about Budda amps before. The Carol-Ann Tucana clean was also excellent. These all rivaled my favorite fender. But the amp that one surprised me. The HIPOWER BRILLIANT beat, in my subjective view, all the other clean amps I tried, and sounded just beautiful with the Div-13 IRs. For reference, I was using a Gibson Les Paul Jr. Special with dual P90's. I did most of the comparisons with the bridge and middle positions, because that's mostly what I play when I'm clean.

I was totally in the dark about Hiwatts, my reference point was Jimmy Page (who I know had a higher gain mod on his) and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr (who pushes his Hiwatt with tons of fuzz, and pairs it with Plexis). I did not know that amp had such great cleans! I'm in ecstasy using this thing as my basic clean sound.

I spent a bunch of time dialing in the "winning" clean amps before doing a final check, and my "clean" amp block has the Brilliant channel of the Hiwatt, the Tucana Clean, the Buttery, and the 6G12 Concert in it, but I'm already finding I just leave it on the Hiwatt channel. The other thing I did that I'm pretty happy about is I did my amp fine-tuning using the middle position on my guitar, and that way when I switch to neck, it's not too muddy and flabby and sounds really nice, and when I switch to the bridge, it has a more thin/brittle sound that I actually really like, so all 3 positions are usable. On my deluxe reverb, I can't really get the neck pickup to sound good to me, so I mostly tune the amp to the bridge.

Last step, which isn't truly fully done, is to try other IRs on the Hiwatt. I tried the Hiwatt Cab IR in the fractal and really liked it, but out of what I have tested so far, my current favorite setup is a combo of 2 of the "Brit Big 2x12" IRs. I'm using 794 - 2x12 Brit Big 57 C AB & 802 2x12 Brit Big 421 C AB. With P90's this is so good.

As far as settings, I tweaked things just a little, pushed the mids just a hair, treble more, pulled down bass a bit, full master volume and I think the input gain is at about 6. Haven't yet made a deep dive into all the options but may do so soon when I get the chance. I still haven't recorded anything through the fractal but if I do I'll add it here so people can hear this preset. If anyone is interested I can share the preset but I haven't actually learned how to do that yet, though it doesn't seem mega complicated. I ended up testing some mid and higher gain amps later and found the Hipower Jumped is pretty much my jam on the crunch and higher gain side of things (w/ right combination of boost and drive pedals). So now I have my clean bank described above, as well as just an all purpose multi-channel amp setup with Hiwatt at the center. The preset uses all 4 amp channels with the "Brit Big" cabs. The 4 amp channels are basically A: Hipower Brilliant very clean, B: Hipower Brilliant boosted for breakup, C: Hipower Jumped for heavier rhythm, and D: Hipower Jumped boosted w/Drive for leads. Only other blocks for now are wah (set for fractal expression pedal), drive, delay, & reverb.

TL;DR was devoted Fender user for 20 years, now a Hiwatt man, thanks to Fractal. Or maybe just a Fractal man. :)
 

dsimms

Inspired
Thanks for taking the time to tell your story here. What type and brand system were you auditioning through - FRFR, studio monitors, headphones?
 

Mr.Modeler

Inspired
You'll be saddened to know that without all the testing, I ended up with the Hiwatt Brilliant as my main clean amp too. If you read up on the amps and cabs in the real world, you'll be able to narrow down your testing. The models in the Fractal gear are so accurate that you easily read up about your favourite tones and then go find that amp in the device.
 

citytoburn

Member
Thanks for taking the time to tell your story here. What type and brand system were you auditioning through - FRFR, studio monitors, headphones?
Since I have a toddler I'm pretty much stuck with headphones in the near term. I play in two situations, unplugged on the couch where the boy can interrupt or join in as he pleases, or after he falls asleep. I'm using Sennheiser HD 598SE headphones. I'll probably have to reconfigure/tweak the tones everything down the road once I get some monitors.
 

citytoburn

Member
You'll be saddened to know that without all the testing, I ended up with the Hiwatt Brilliant as my main clean amp too. If you read up on the amps and cabs in the real world, you'll be able to narrow down your testing. The models in the Fractal gear are so accurate that you easily read up about your favourite tones and then go find that amp in the device.
Ha! Definitely a nice time savings there! I was trying to enter the amp models without bringing in too much about my prior biases. I've messed around trying to dial up a couple of recorded tones using "actual amps" (tried for the Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie thing and did a decent approximation using the JMP-1 model and adjusting the power cab to be similar to a Mesa one, for example). But I didn't really have a particular reference point for the kind of clean sound I wanted to hear, there wasn't a certain record I was trying to emulate. And frankly I didn't even know Hiwatt did cleans before digging into all these options. There are still plenty of amps in there I really am not familiar with, and over time I'd like to experiment with all of them. My plan was to find a really nice clean tone first, and I thought that would be a Fender, but this exercise definitely opened my mind on that!
 

Mr.Modeler

Inspired
Ha! Definitely a nice time savings there! I was trying to enter the amp models without bringing in too much about my prior biases. I've messed around trying to dial up a couple of recorded tones using "actual amps" (tried for the Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie thing and did a decent approximation using the JMP-1 model and adjusting the power cab to be similar to a Mesa one, for example). But I didn't really have a particular reference point for the kind of clean sound I wanted to hear, there wasn't a certain record I was trying to emulate. And frankly I didn't even know Hiwatt did cleans before digging into all these options. There are still plenty of amps in there I really am not familiar with, and over time I'd like to experiment with all of them. My plan was to find a really nice clean tone first, and I thought that would be a Fender, but this exercise definitely opened my mind on that!
Another plus for your method is that you may discover tones you really like from amps/cabs you’d never normally even try.
 

Tremonti

Fractal Fanatic
Dramatic title, I know, but I'm so happy with this unit. I've never been more satisfied with any gear I've ever purchased. I bought mine only about a month ago, but I'm just so in love with it now after digging into the software and dialing things in. The biggest problem is that between a full time job and raising a toddler, there's just not enough time in the day to play guitar.

I thought I was a fender guy for the last 20 years, but maybe I'm just not, but I just couldn't afford to try to find out before. One of the first things I did after exploring all the factory presets was to shoot out all the fender amps and cabs to look for "my" clean sound in the Fractal. So I know this sounds crazy but this is how I think. I was a math major and the first thing I thought of given all the choice in the universe was, let's just do a combinatorial analysis and figure out which amp and cab to play through. I made a little list of the Fender and Fender-esque amps in the Fractal, and a list of the Fender cabinets. To narrow it down I just decided I would only mess with 1x12 and 2x12 cabs at first. If I recall, I set up a 2x12 Twin cab (using my favorite of the SM57 IRs) at the beginning and compared each amp on that cab/IR. I listened to each amp on stock settings without any tweaks to EQ or settings. The way I did this was I loaded the first amp into channel A of the amp block, and then I would A/B it by putting the next amp in channel B, and if i liked B better than A, I left B there and put the next amp in C. Shoot out B/C, if B still wins, keep it in B and put next amp in C, if C wins, keep it there and put next amp in D. Then once there's an amp in all 4 slots, I move my favorite of the 4 to channel A.

Once I finished that process I determined my 4 favorite Fender amp models in the FM3. The 6G12 Concert, the Band-Commander, the Vibrato Lux, and the Tremolo Lux. I loved the Twin and the Super Reverb too for different applications but for a really clean sound those were the ones that stuck out to me. Then I started comparing the different IR options, usually starting with one cab, and then pairing it with a complimentary IR of the same cab. I found I tended to like a mix of a SM57 and one of the other mics. My preconception was that the Royer 151 was the way to go, but I kept finding that I preferred the sounds from the 313 and 421. Another example of an expensive distinction that I could never afford to make before. One thing I don't know, but would be curious to find out, is if the letter names of the mic positions (A, B, C, etc.) are consistent across different IRs. I don't know if it's coincidence but I tended to like A a lot, and C the most, but not 100% consistent across every IR. I don't care so much what those mic placements are, but it would be fascinating to find out if say C is always the same angle/distance relative to the speaker cone. Anyway, just using the 2x12 Fender cabs I ended up preferring the Double Verb 57 C (959) paired with the Double Verb 313 A (995). The ML Sound Lab Double Verb IRs were also sweet, especially the 421, but can't remember which of those I liked most.

Using the 6G12 Concert, I compared that IR setup I liked with the Double Verbs and started comparing to other fender cabs. I really liked some 2x10 and 1x12 examples, but not enough to switch. Then on a lark, I remembered hearing Divided by 13 cabs are great but I've never heard one myself. I set my double verb cab combo on channel A of the cab block, and then tried the "Division-13" IRs one at a time on channel B and chose my favorite in first cab slot (414 A or 947) , then picked my favorite complimentary cab (57 E). After that side quest I compared it A/B with the Fender cab that came out as my favorite from dozens and dozens of Fender cabs. Well, crap, the Division-13 pair beat it. So if you want to try my combo, without any amp tweaking, try the 6G12 Concert with that combo of Div13 IRs. It sounds amazing to me, articulate, clean and clear, forward, beautiful.

Last step, I thought, was check some other amps on the clean side with that cab and see what I thought. I tried just about all the amps that were intended to be clean amps. I was surprised at some, like the Mesa/Boogie clean amps sounded really nice (Lonestar, USA Clean), I've probably associated them too much with gain. I also loved the Buttery clean, though I've never heard anything about Budda amps before. The Carol-Ann Tucana clean was also excellent. These all rivaled my favorite fender. But the amp that one surprised me. The HIPOWER BRILLIANT beat, in my subjective view, all the other clean amps I tried, and sounded just beautiful with the Div-13 IRs. For reference, I was using a Gibson Les Paul Jr. Special with dual P90's. I did most of the comparisons with the bridge and middle positions, because that's mostly what I play when I'm clean.

I was totally in the dark about Hiwatts, my reference point was Jimmy Page (who I know had a higher gain mod on his) and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr (who pushes his Hiwatt with tons of fuzz, and pairs it with Plexis). I did not know that amp had such great cleans! I'm in ecstasy using this thing as my basic clean sound.

I spent a bunch of time dialing in the "winning" clean amps before doing a final check, and my "clean" amp block has the Brilliant channel of the Hiwatt, the Tucana Clean, the Buttery, and the 6G12 Concert in it, but I'm already finding I just leave it on the Hiwatt channel. The other thing I did that I'm pretty happy about is I did my amp fine-tuning using the middle position on my guitar, and that way when I switch to neck, it's not too muddy and flabby and sounds really nice, and when I switch to the bridge, it has a more thin/brittle sound that I actually really like, so all 3 positions are usable. On my deluxe reverb, I can't really get the neck pickup to sound good to me, so I mostly tune the amp to the bridge.

Last step, which isn't truly fully done, is to try other IRs on the Hiwatt. I tried the Hiwatt Cab IR in the fractal and really liked it, but out of what I have tested so far, my current favorite setup is a combo of 2 of the "Brit Big 2x12" IRs. I'm using 794 - 2x12 Brit Big 57 C AB & 802 2x12 Brit Big 421 C AB. With P90's this is so good.

As far as settings, I tweaked things just a little, pushed the mids just a hair, treble more, pulled down bass a bit, full master volume and I think the input gain is at about 6. Haven't yet made a deep dive into all the options but may do so soon when I get the chance. I still haven't recorded anything through the fractal but if I do I'll add it here so people can hear this preset. If anyone is interested I can share the preset but I haven't actually learned how to do that yet, though it doesn't seem mega complicated. I ended up testing some mid and higher gain amps later and found the Hipower Jumped is pretty much my jam on the crunch and higher gain side of things (w/ right combination of boost and drive pedals). So now I have my clean bank described above, as well as just an all purpose multi-channel amp setup with Hiwatt at the center. The preset uses all 4 amp channels with the "Brit Big" cabs. The 4 amp channels are basically A: Hipower Brilliant very clean, B: Hipower Brilliant boosted for breakup, C: Hipower Jumped for heavier rhythm, and D: Hipower Jumped boosted w/Drive for leads. Only other blocks for now are wah (set for fractal expression pedal), drive, delay, & reverb.

TL;DR was devoted Fender user for 20 years, now a Hiwatt man, thanks to Fractal. Or maybe just a Fractal man. :)
Awesome! Try Austin Buddy stuff and look into 3rd party IR's. All cool things to try!
 

bradlake

Axe-Master
Dude - Hiwatt cleans are incredible. And P90s? Have you ever heard of the band The Who and the Live at Leeds era? :) One guitar, one pedal to fuzz, and lots of vol knob gets you all the great tones.



The cleans at the intro of "Eyesight to the Blind" are great.
Read my mind....just this AM I played “sparks” from Tommy thru myFM3 hIwatt And my
Roxy FZ SG...bliss.
 

citytoburn

Member
That's so funny, it didn't even occur to me I stumbled onto basically Pete Townshend's rig. I haven't listened to a whole lot of Who, but I'll have to check out Live at Leeds.
 

yeky83

Power User
Since I have a toddler I'm pretty much stuck with headphones in the near term. I play in two situations, unplugged on the couch where the boy can interrupt or join in as he pleases, or after he falls asleep. I'm using Sennheiser HD 598SE headphones. I'll probably have to reconfigure/tweak the tones everything down the road once I get some monitors.
Try the room stuff in the cab block if you haven't yet, really makes headphone playing more immersive for me.
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
Much of David Gilmour‘s tone has also been Hiwatt over the decades. You’re in good company, mate!

I understand the amp surprise thing. I was looking for a Fender slightly distorted tone, and my favorite turned out to be... the AC20 Deluxe! A Morgan Amps take on an EF86 AC30TB, and not a Fender at all. Fenders are great, but you have to trust your ears over those amp labels!

Good write up on your journey!
 

Jarick

Experienced
I appreciate the detailed write up as another very analytical person.

I need to spend time with the Hiwatt...I have not much. For pure cleans I like the USA Pre Clean quite a bit as well as the ODS 100 Clean.

One thing I like to do is to identify the IR that works the best for a variety of different amps and try to stick with that. I don't typically like to jump between say a 1x12 open back and a 4x12 closed back. I usually end up with a 4x12 with greenbacks and/or V30's even with my Fender and Vox amps.
 
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