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Review - Axe FX 3 - After a year of using it.

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Omri Bazelet

Inspired
I bought my Axe FX 3 Used a year plus ago from a friend of mine. Here's my summary about all the pros and cons that I expeirenced through that year. Some are great and some are totally critical and need an immediate update to 2021.

Let's start with the good stuff, because I believe that Fractal deserves a clean and true review.

1. The Forum - Unlike other brands that I used, this forum has proven Fractal's model and beliefs that the Ax3 is the device of the people. The quick responds to a user who thought he has found a bug, or things that they wish (mainly new amp models). It happens fast. truly fast. Unlike other brands which responds "We will check it and come back to you" the approach is "Bug approved and fixed for the next release". That's the power of true customer service and involvment from the CEO itself, not just a basic customer service worker - but the CEO itself! And it totally make the difference!

2. The sound - Simply the best sound that an amp modeler can achieve (yet)- Cygnus simply proved itself, and it was the same with Ares, and any other significant update that Fractal launch to their users. And when you think you achieved the maximum capability of the devices abilities - you simply wrong. Because, apparently - there are more things to improve each and every day. It benefits a lot of value and when you pay so much money for the AX3 - It's exactly what we expect at this price range. Endless possibilities, with more sound at the same device. It much more open than a Kemper or an Neural DSP Plugin and has that chest chug 3D Feel which others lack specially on low volumes.

3. Flexibility - The actual device it truly lightweight against and easy to carry onto a car backseat or garage. and not all - because of it's great processing power - it makes jams a delight experience with the ability to run up to 3 players at the same time (2 amps, one DI) and mixing onboard with the mixer block. You can also mod the amp blocks inside the advanced parameters and section without actually opening a true amp and pay an amp tech for modding it out. You can change the tube types and mod your pedals and effects as well!
That's alone makes a whole lot of fun and make a model sound like something better or different.

4. The effects - Hands down best reverbs and delays in a modeler. But compared to an analog reverb, I felt I needed to add a drive after it to give it that "analog bloom and warmth" that my rack analog reverbs had. The varient of Drive pedals, compressors, and Synth which are so much fun and excitement.

NOW, let's get a bit concretive, I know there's a lot of fan boys who will hate me, but those things need to be said.

1. The learning curve of the AX3 is way harder than it competitors. It took me 6 months to actually realise the basics of this device. Why people need to go to a Leon Todd video to find out that they need to change their AC Line frequency? Or else, using the device itself, and not Axe Edit is way to difficult and un-intuative - For example, scrolling for different presets. Why do I need to go one by one instead of getting a list of all my presets and scroll to the right one ASAP?
Or else - Why is the preset naming/scene naming isn't with the same window as the Signal Path window? So I can know what I'm editing without pressing exit so many times.


The AX3 and Fractal approach to UI needs to be way different and much more easier without a huge manual that every snob says that I need to read. I just want a truly low-tech signal path, why would I need to get 100 pages before I can do it? Amps and effects are truly low tech so anyone could simply use it.

Here are some ways I believe the AX3 and Fractal should work. and not just random ranting


1. When having a first boot/ Factory Reset - just like in your smartphone - A welcome guide that gives you an initial and first installment. The Interface will make an AI to set the first I/O Settings to get it straight for the beginning and have an I/O Patch for that guitar.
It will ask for your state to automatically set the AC Frequency Line for each and every country in the world.

2. No longer AX3 Edit, or FM3 Edit or Fractal Bot or more additional softwares. Just one - Fractal Edit. So I connect my future FM3 and AX3 to the same program.
A program that actually open in full window mode and capable of working in 60FPS to make the eq transition look and feel smooth, allow you to update to beta/full releases with Push notifications, install your USB Drivers and internal ones as well. And also backup presets and scenes, insert new ones as well.

Also, when importing presets, it needs to include the IR - It will search if it already exists, but if it doesn't it will ask if you want to install them onto your ax3.

3. When searching for an amp - I want my device to actually tell me what it is based of. Every modeler in the world have some sort of a short passage and explaination what is that model is all about. I truly don't need to go to a specific wiki or ask in a forum what you had created.

Also, and that the most difficult one yet. There are some amps that have different modes which modeled to a different amp model in the AX3. If you will actually make possible that the same channel will have all the mods avaliable in a switch thing. That's will be even more awesome.

4. An Official Fractal phone app editor (Not FracTool) - It's 2021, people are connected with their phones, Bluetooth models are relatively accessible and many amp builders such as Revv have them build in already, why Fractal isn't making the move? I know that you have a great and the best sound, but I think now it's the time the lay the leg from the sound and improve accessibility to a way better from their mobile phones.

5. New Layout grid. Helix, for example make it great
Name of the preset and the scene and below that you have the layout grid. without moving to much screens and having way too much procedures.

6. Also when in grid, I don't need a seperate page for having simple operations such as moving blocks. Pressing the rotary button twice and using the rotary button to move it where ever I want it. The operation of the device should as simple as using Axe Edit.

7. The marketing side of Fractal isn't strong as Neural DSP, Kemper or others. I think that Fractal need to focus their time and efforts on Marketing videos online, Official tutorials from Fractal themselves on their devices, more sponsered posts by youtubers and others. The only reason I believe that Neural has such a hype is because of their investment in marketing, tutorials and cooperating with others. If Line 6 can pay Revv to cooperate with them and create models that Revv approves, no reason that Fractal can't and make way superior than others.

That's pretty much it.
Make Fractal Big Again,
Omri.
 

TSJMajesty

Power User
As someone who has had the Axe III half as long as you (but long enough to understand it well enough to know what each of your comments means), I feel qualified to give my take, as it relates to (some of) your comments:

I came straight from tube amps only, never having used a piece of gear like this, so I can't compare it to how other modelers work. I.e., I had to learn everything from scratch.

About using the Manual: I completely disagree about the Axe being too hard to learn, takes 6 months to learn the basics, need to watch other users' YT videos (OK, putting a note about the AC line voltage on page 1 may be a good idea), etc. I knew I had to start with the manual, for the reason stated above, but so should everyone, and not just assume that you can figure it out "intuitively", because you're not new to modelers. I only had to get a few pages into the manual (we're all eager to get some sounds out of this thing!), and I was up and running.

Once I did that, then I wanted to learn how to tweak settings, turn on/off effects, save presets, etc., so I read a little further. I was fine. Does it appear that the instructions have been updated many times, and thus could use a complete going-over, from the perspective of a newb's eyes? Yes, I'll give you that. There are grammatical mistakes (I trip over sentences that don't have a comma where it should be, and personally, I believe the same attention to detail that is required to turn out a device such as this, should be extended to the literature that supports it! Guys, ya listening?), omitted words, the indentation conventions are convoluted, it has spelling mistakes, and it could be organized better.

While having a welcome "splash" screen may be nice, getting up and running was no problem for me. And remember, I'm (was) a total newb. It seems to me, you're either one of those people who don't read manuals, or figured you didn't need to, due to your previous experience, or a combination of both. Don't blame the unit, if you weren't willing to take 30 minutes to read.

Smartphone comments: Totally disagree. Screw having yet another app on my phone, that wants all kinds of permissions to everything else on my phone. You need a bigger screen to use the editor anyway, and most of the people this is marketed towards will already have a computer. And if you don't, you can do just about everything on the hardware. Support for a wireless tablet may be nice for the gigging musician, but I'm not sure. I would think that person will have already set things up, and use a foot controller.

As to:
using the device itself, and not Axe Edit is way to difficult and un-intuative - For example, scrolling for different presets. Why do I need to go one by one instead of getting a list of all my presets and scroll to the right one ASAP?
Un-Intuitive: meaning: Didn't read how to do something, now blaming the item.

You don't have to go one-by-one to navigate through presets. On Page 7 of the manual (which is in the "Introduction" section, which could have been reached within that first 30-minute reading assignment I mentioned earlier), it tells you how to do this. However, let's say you didn't read the first section of the manual, but instead figured you know enough about this type of gear to instead, use the Table Of Contents to jump to a particular topic... I tried this approach, and this is an example of where the manual needs some work. I scrolled down to Presets (in the TOC), then quick-jumped to that section, which tells me that the presets directory is arranged numerically, and how to change that setting to "Sort A-Z," but it does not tell you how to get to the Presets Directory.

Now, as I said before, could the manual be organized better? Absolutely. Perhaps the first few pages should show a list of the most basic, common, oft-repeated actions a user is likely to do. I would include things like, "How To Navigate To Presets", before I discussed the "Setup Page," as an example.

The software editors: Yeah, they need work. Fractal Bot has to be downloaded separately (edit: I was wrong. There is a stand-alone, but it is also embedded in Axe Edit), but once it is, it acts like any other Dialog Window. I don't agree however, with combining one editor for both Axe 3 and FM 3, but the 2 separate editors should be able to run at the same time without causing conflicts. (I thought I remembered reading someone had that issue, but maybe it was their other devices causing it, or I dreamed it.)

With only 6 months under my belt, I can't yet speak to features such as re-amping, using controllers, setting up MIDI, etc., so that's all I have.

I agree with some of what you said, but most looks to me like you want a PRO piece of gear to be able to be used simply by figuring it out yourself, which simply conflicts with the complexity of this unit. Maybe setting the manual up incrementally, in sections that take you deeper as you get more familiar would be more helpful..., I don't know. But for someone who was completely new to modeling when I bought the Axe, I'm generally very satisfied.
 
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Digital Man

Inspired
Hi. Nice review. Axe Fx is pretty easy. Turn it on, plug your guitar in (like any effects or amp) and run through the best sounding presets in the business (Fremen, Moke and Austin Buddy among others make amazing presets too). I think what you’re complaining about is that there are many other options available and that you don’t know how to take advantage of them and that this machine makes you feel like you don’t know as much as you thought. Cooper Carter has a masterclass and you should check it out. Also, start going through settings and try them for yourself. I was personally frustrated when I couldn’t get the chorus effect to sound like every other chorus out there. It frustrated me to no end! But you know what, all I had to do was cut the spread down to zero and blamo, there it was.
 

bjjp2

Power User
using the device itself, and not Axe Edit is way to difficult and un-intuative - For example, scrolling for different presets. Why do I need to go one by one instead of getting a list of all my presets and scroll to the right one ASAP?

On the device hit the arrow a few times to the right and you have a list of all your presets you can easily navigate through.
 

TSJMajesty

Power User
Axe-Edit and FM3-Edit can run at the same time with no problems. I do it all the time.



Fractal-Bot is embedded in both editors; Look under the Tools menu. It's also available as a separate tool.
My bad then. I seem to recall a thread where there were conflicts. I could've swore I had to download Fractal Bot separately. Maybe it was a driver update I'm thinking of..? I've covered a lot of new ground these last few months.
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
I know there's a lot of fan boys who will hate me
There's this mentality out there that you should be able to give criticism without engaging in discussion. And that anyone who engages in discussion around critical ideas is a "fan boy". That's a shitty way to shut down differing viewpoints and I got to say: it's pretty much not the way this forum runs.

If you post it, be ready to debate it. There's no room in this world for one-sided conversations. If you don't want to have a discussion, consider using https://support.fractalaudio.com instead of the thing literally called a discussion board to provide feedback.

People who don't agree with you aren't "fan boys". They just don't agree with you.

- For example, scrolling for different presets. Why do I need to go one by one instead of getting a list of all my presets and scroll to the right one ASAP?
You don't. From the main Home screen hit the Page >> button three times and you're presented with a list of presets you can you navigate with the dial or the arrow keys. Highlight the preset, press Enter, and it loads.

Why people need to go to a Leon Todd video to find out that they need to change their AC Line frequency?
This is a pretty good criticism. @Admin M@ it's way down on page 68 of the manual that you need to set this to match your country. Maybe there should be a quick start section up front for critical settings that need to be made based on the country you're in?

2. No longer AX3 Edit, or FM3 Edit or Fractal Bot or more additional softwares. Just one - Fractal Edit. So I connect my future FM3 and AX3 to the same program.
You can run multiple editors at the same time for different devices. So this really isn't a problem anyone has. And you won't either.

Also, when importing presets, it needs to include the IR - It will search if it already exists, but if it doesn't it will ask if you want to install them onto your ax3.
This has been discussed ad nauseum and there was a plan to fingerprint third party IRs for easier matching when presets are shared. As this is only a problem for non-factory IRs, you start down the path of the legalities of sharing non-factory IRs -- most aren't licensed for resharing. So the fingerprint idea is a pretty good solve that will help once it's implemented.

A device should make simple things first, then have the option of making advanced and parallel.
I disagree. That design approach is for consumer gear. Professional gear doesn't need to follow this approach at all. In fact, most professional gear does not.

6. Also when in grid, I don't need a seperate page for having simple operations such as moving blocks. Pressing the rotary button twice and using the rotary button to move it where ever I want it. The operation of the device should as simple as using Axe Edit.
This is an interesting idea. "Select" the block with a rotary encoder press and you're in "move block" mode. I can get behind this.
 
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iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
My bad then. I seem to recall a thread where there were conflicts. I could've swore I had to download Fractal Bot separately. Maybe it was a driver update I'm thinking of..? I've covered a lot of new ground these last few months.
You shouldn't run stand-alone Fractal-Bot and an editor at the same time. But, there's literally no reason for the average user to use standalone Fractal-Bot any more as it's built in to the editors now.
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
My bad then. I seem to recall a thread where there were conflicts. I could've swore I had to download Fractal Bot separately. Maybe it was a driver update I'm thinking of..? I've covered a lot of new ground these last few months.
If you're on Windows you have to load a driver.

The only conflict you'll find is if you're trying to use Fractal-Bot and one of the other editors to talk to the same device at the same. The first one to connect holds exclusive control of the device, as it should.
 

unix-guy

Legend!
The learning curve of the AX3 is way harder than it competitors

The AX3 and Fractal approach to UI needs to be way different and much more easier without a huge manual that every snob says that I need to read. I just want a truly low-tech signal path, why would I need to get 100 pages before I can do it? Amps and effects are truly low tech so anyone could simply use it.

A device should make simple things first, then have the option of making advanced and parallel
Others have replied to many of your thoughts/opinions.

I want to comment specifically on those I quoted above. My simplest response is this:

With great power comes great responsibility

All the things you like about it make the learning curve and manual reading a requirement. The Axe Fx III has the power to do all of those things and you have the responsibility (so to speak) to learn how to wield it.

As far as "simple at first"? Plug in your guitar, plug in your headphones, scroll the factory presets.

I'm going to step out now because I have a suspicion this thread is going to turn into a shit show quickly ;)
 
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Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
I disagree. That design approach is for consumer gear. Professional gear doesn't need to follow this approach at all. In fact, most professional gear does not.
I agree.

The Fractal modelers are very advanced tools, more so than any others on the market. I'd been working with different brands of modelers, including Fractal's, for years, and there's always a learning curve unless the modeler is so simplistic that it's basically worthless. Fractal's products have an incredible amount of flexibility and depth, and that means there's a lot of screens and a lot to learn. It behoves the user to read the manuals, Wiki articles and tech notes because the information contained in them is useful. People don't have to know everything to use them, but it's expected they will have taken a little time to at least read the introduction and basics and glanced through the manuals to know that the information is there so they can find it again, otherwise they can expect to get a RTFM-like comment when they ask something that shows they didn't even try; We try to be helpful and kind, but sometimes other people's kids....
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
Yes, but we want the same UI on both, I think?

But maybe one of the other knobs can do this.
My III doesn't have a click wheel, does that mean other IIIs shouldn't have a click wheel and get to use it in interesting ways? I think it'd be okay to diverge here between the III and the FM3.
 

Greg Ferguson

Fractal Fanatic
The AX3 and Fractal approach to UI needs to be way different and much more easier without a huge manual that every snob says that I need to read. I just want a truly low-tech signal path, why would I need to get 100 pages before I can do it? Amps and effects are truly low tech so anyone could simply use it.
You're not dealing with an amp and effects, you're dealing with an entire recording studio full of rack gear, amps, microphones, cabinets, mixers, etc. Would you walk into a studio and expect to use it without opening a manual?

An amplifier, on the surface, seems very simple until you want it to do something different than what the manufacturer wanted, then you have to coerce it to doing your will by adjusting its electronics, which implies knowing at least a bit about amplifier design and soldering, or the ability to follow a very technical schematic and the steps showing what to do. The Fractal modelers offer the ability to tinker inside the amps and effects, cabinets and their recording preamps, etc. just by turning knobs, but it really helps to have some inkling of what that knob affects. The unit won't break if you turn them but you can get sub-optimal results, unlike the "truly low tech" amps which most likely would spit fire and then go silent.

You can simply plug in and play, or you can treat the device as what it was designed for, but don't complain if you can't figure something out and need to read because it takes years to master these things and gather the associated knowledge.
 
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