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FM3: My Life Has Been a Lie


Fractal Fanatic
Hiwatt is insane, with the right drive pedals you can play literally anything thru it, from blues to metal.
And I type this as someone who owned a real DR504 for years and now has the smaller 20W version (Little D).

Since I got my first fractal device years ago I've tried and played any kind of amp in the box, but in the last months I went full circle and back to the hiwatt + drives, it's the setup I know best and which (maybe consequentially) satisfies me the most.

Since we apparently have similar tastes, I suggest giving a shot to this IR, I casually discovered it a couple months ago and it immediately became my go-to cab:
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Joe Bfstplk

Fractal Fanatic
TL;DR was devoted Fender user for 20 years, now a Hiwatt man, thanks to Fractal. Or maybe just a Fractal man. :)
Yeah, that 6G12 is a great amp. Played a real one, with the early 5-tube preamp and center volume knob arrangement in late 2019. Shoulda bought it. Fantastic clean sounds. Fender hit it out of the park with the early brown amps. I use it with a couple Super Reverb 4x10 IRs - a 57 and a 121 or 160. My go-to clean sound, and sounds great punched in the nose with a drive pedal, too....

Already loved HIWATT after playing a friend's in the mid '90s. My #2 go-to clean. @Burgs has a youtube video with a free HIWATT preset attached that has a really nice set of settings in the amp block that I use as a starting point for dialing in mine.

I have a Band Commander preset or two, using the Bassman 2x12, since they had very similar cabs.

I only have one Double Verb preset, using the same Super Reverb 4x10 IRs I use with the 6G12, and it does a fair impression of the Super Six 6x10. Tens seem to work nicely with this one when the impedance curve is set to match the Super 4x10. There's just something about 10" speakers and Fender amps, and the more, the merrier. It's a preset that will just grab you, and suddenly it's 2 hours later....

Another fave is the DC30 EF86, for more Voxy-than-Vox sounds. Great clean or turned up.

A surprising contender, that I use a lot for cleans, is the MkIV Boogie Rhythm channel - with the gain set kinda low. Nice thing is that dialing the gain up (and compensating with the output if needed) gives a great crunchy, dirty sound that can even cover lower-gain leads. I have a number of presets that use modifiers to glide between these settings....

Joe Bfstplk

Fractal Fanatic
Will have to read about that in the manual a bit and check it out. I've just been leaving it as-is and using "small room" in the reverb block and so far been happy.
Try the Recording Studio C reverb sometime. I was not using reverb at all before, but have gone through and added just a bit of it on all my presets recently.


Thanks for all the great advice in this thread! Lots more for me to check out and some clean or cleanish amps I missed in the first run. The big mind-blowing thing for me with the whole Fractal experience is just how in the dark I was, and how much I was walking around with other people's opinions in my head in place of personal subjective experience with gear (using my guitars, my hands, my ears). I guess I probably sucked up an encyclopedia of misleading information from 25 years of guitar forums and magazines and youtube channels. I've only played like 6 amps in my life long enough to really get to know them, and I haven't really had a chance to compare different mics on 1 cab, let alone different cabinets or different speakers. I've never owned a separate amp and cab, or changed a speaker in a combo.

I'm going to try and repeat this process going through the world of Vox and similar amps, and then Marshall and similar amps, and try to nail down favorite versions of both. I don't really have a set idea of how much gain I want but I'm finding that once I set up any amp to sound really good, using the boost inside the amp block and the input trim is a pretty satisfying way to fine tune the drive level. Maybe I'll try higher gain amps last, I don't really use that much gain for my playing but it might be fun.

I guess I left out one killer "clean" sound I like, and that's the Friedman BE 2018 with my guitar volume turned down to about a 3. Amazing how clean it gets!


New Member
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.
Great write up! I use the same cans.

Not sure if you have tried this but if you go to the Dynamics page on the amp block and change the output compressor to “gain enhancer” it really makes headphones fill out, come alive, and gives you that sense of reinforcement. Just adjust the knob to taste. I normally keep it around 3.0-3.5. Very big positive difference to an already great tone.


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. :)
For what’s it worth, this is a very inspiring write up, I’m defiantly going to investigate some of these Fender patches and coming from a Marshall Amp user perspective I two have labored hard on reproducing the clean tone in the Fractal Sphere based on my physical JCM800s, (which may be a bit of an oxymoron to some) I had an AX8 and now have a FM3 so have had some time to tweak, FM3 sounds much better than the AX8, my physical Marshall speakers cabs are loaded with EVM12Ls and EVM12l Black Label, (way tighter cleaner sound than stock Celestion G12T-75) Since these speakers are not an option in the IRs of the FM3 I have had to tweak some of the amp gains to get that crisp sound I'm use to but overall I’m quite pleased with the sound of the 412 1960A 300w A51 cab and to have that on headphones in my little home office is nothing short of amazing.


The Shiva clean is crazy crazy good also for squeaky clean.

Me too.
I was like the OP wanting to use a Fender Clean.
When I was on the AxeFX II all my cleans were Fender based.
After getting my FM3 last week. I dialed up Band Commander, a Fender Deluxe & Tweed, AC20 Deluxe (not Fender), some Marhsall Amps for Dirty along with HBE & VH4. Took the FM3 to practice & the Shiver Clean was my clear winner & the "Lead" Scene which I now renamed "Rhythm" was my Dirty Winner. All the others got tossed...

Cool Trick:
Knowing what sounded best in the Band mix Duplicated that patch a bunch of times after adding a Looper post Amp & Cab block, played some Riffs with a 10 second pause afterwards. Played that Loop while changing Amps & Cabs to dial in new presets. The looper is essentially playing your reference tone that you know was a winner & you can dial new Amp/Cab combos to have at least the proper Level. I would play after the looping riff & sometimes on top of.
Using that method I ended up with a bunch of Shiver Clean patches with Rhythm & Lead Scenes with the Shiver Lead I started with & added a Recto & a Dirty Shirly. Also added a Fender Tweed that worked out well. Will see at Band Practice Friday.


New Member
Thanks for sharing your story, it was really interesting! My favorite clean amp has been 6G12 Concert with a Fender cab (from Fremen's picks) since AX8 but now with FM3 I have to try the other amps and cabs you mentioned.
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