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The Elusive "Tube-ry Feel" of Axe-Fx III

Joe Bfstplk

Fractal Fanatic
I always thought the solo from "Another Brick On The Wall" was the ideal strat through an amp sound and used it as reference to dial my strat sound. Turns out not only was that not a strat, it was a Les Paul with P90's, but it was also not an amp. He plugged straight into an SSL. My point is sometimes we get so caught up thinking about what an amp sounds like that we don't really know. I think the Fractal stuff feels like an amp. I felt the Kemper felt like an amp too. But other people think only an amp feels like an amp. Not trying to rant or be unhelpful. Just some ideas.
IIRC, the engineer mixed the compressed clean guitar with a bit of amp sound to achieve the final result....
 

RoketRdr

Inspired
My point is sometimes we get so caught up thinking about what an amp sounds like that we don't really know.
Exactly. Its all subjective and relative anyway. I was a tube amp/pedal board guy for decades and got converted to modelers because it got proven to me that it was all in my head and if you can dial up the tone you want what difference does it make if its from a tube amp, SS amp or a modeler? But this whole nonsense that the Fractal units don't sound "tubey" is laughable. Thats just uninformed and/or lazy user error.
 

Mark Al

Inspired
Exactly. Its all subjective and relative anyway. I was a tube amp/pedal board guy for decades and got converted to modelers because it got proven to me that it was all in my head and if you can dial up the tone you want what difference does it make if its from a tube amp, SS amp or a modeler? But this whole nonsense that the Fractal units don't sound "tubey" is laughable. Thats just uninformed and/or lazy user error.
Hold on a second, my friend, not so fast :)

First of all, I wouldn't say the "feel" discussion is all in the head, I am sure MANY would disagree with you on that.

Secondly, I never intended to claim AXE III sounds not tubey, on the contrary, as I am waiting for my FM3, I'd like to learn people's experience when they claim it does! I was hoping people who had such experience would chime in to explain and articulate what the feel means subjectively for them. To that end, I have tried to explain what the feel means to myself personally a few times above in this thread ;)

Thirdly, "uninformed and/or lazy user error"... 🤨

Lastly, in my mind, tone and feel though closely related, they could often be orthogonal. IMHO, tone is more about the sound and EQ characteristics, and both the player and listeners can reason about how the tone sounds, while the feel is often only directly perceivable by the player him/her-self.

In my experience, the feel mostly lies in the interaction between my finger and the actual power amp response. But perhaps, I am missing other aspects of feel other folks are referring to, hence this thread.

Especially for folks who experience the FEEL of AXE III have improved over the course, I'd love to hear you articulate what that means subjectively for you. :)
 

Dukehunt

Member
I've been a tube amp player all my life, tried the line 6 path many years a go and didn't work for me, but since choosing the Fractal path, FXII and now an FXIII my tube amps will stay under the stairs until I either give them to my sons or sell them. Heck my sons all use modellers too so no hope in trying to give them away to them.
As for feel, I thought it was between my brain, my soul and my hands...am I missing something ?
And the FXIII just keeps getting better...
 

TG3K

Power User
...Meanwhile I'd love to understand/hear more specifically what the feel improvement you guys are discussion. To me basically, the feel is how volume dynamic responds to my finger when clean, and how distortion responds to picking when dirty. The response curve is highly non-linear, spacious for exploration and feel right at home with a good tube combo, like the 64 Custom Deluxe Reverb besides me right now :) The SS's dynamic jump and responds too immediately, leaving less room for me to explore that dynamic range...
I'm pretty sure you'll be happily surprised to seen now responsive (and natural-feeling) the FM3 feels, even through a neutral solid state power amp. The Axe-Fx III (and I'd expect the FM3) models the interaction between the preamp and power amp sections of each tube amp model. The non-linear response you mention is there. It responds to pick attack like you'd expect from a good tube amp on a good night. And that response is adjustable, too, if you want to go into deep tweaking. (Something I haven't found necessary, especially with the III.) It responds to the guitar's volume and tone knobs very naturally, too. The depth and breadth of the responsiveness in the Axe-Fx III is one of its great qualities.
 

reclavea

Power User
When I first got the Axe Ultra and subsequent FW updates I was captivated by the tones and elimination of all the frustration, burdensome, annoying problems and maintenance issues with my tube amp
I admit that the “feel” or any lack thereof escaped me as a result and thought how can it be possible to improve this thing!

It then became apparent the tones could be pretty much easily dialed in and that the “feel” & aitr ...etc would be forthcoming improvements.

With further fw updates and then the AxeII and now the AxeIII....the improvements came in subtle and dramatic fashion.

Yes, tone and feel are very subjective...and I been playing professionally for many decades!....

Wish I had the axe in my early 20s!!! I don't think my bones and muscles will be aching as much today!
 

craiguitar

Power User
Any external power amp is there to add volume.
^^^This^^^

Additionally, When I was using tube pre & power amps, the issue I had was, I don't play with a lot of stage volume, never have. So I was never pushing a power amp section into its proper working range.
Therefore those amps tended to sound a little too thin and didn't add the note bloom that is so often associated with power sections. With the Axe-Fx and a neutral SS power amp I can push the modelled power amp section nicely without worrying about everything appearing too loud on stage. Plus, the direct signal I send to the desk and monitors also benefits from this, which is a very nice way to keep everything sounding right.
 

DLC86

Fractal Fanatic
I bought an axe fx III exactly 1 year ago, previously I had the axe II and then an ax8.
With those, after some time of owning and using them and despite sounding pretty good, I noticed I was almost "forced" to play in a different way compared to my old Hiwatt amp, I tended to dig in more with the pick to compensate for something missing in the tone.
After some investigation I found out that happened cuz I was missing some "bloom" and fatness, and the attack seemed too fast and too high in volume.
I was able to partially replicate that by tweaking some advanced parameters speaker comp, speaker drive and dynamic depth for example.

I don't know if those are the same things you define as "feel" but they probably are for me.

Then I switched to the axe fx III and the first thing I noticed when I fired it up was that the feel I struggled to get on the ax8 was available right out of the box with no tweaking.
I can't be sure if it's now identical to a tube amp, cuz at this point I haven't played a one for a few years, but my memory tells me it's much closer than the ax8 was even after those tweaks.
With a few further adjustments to the speaker parameters and the addition of the impedance curve of my personal cab I consider it perfect now (at least for now).

PS: among those I've tried, the only other amp sim that comes close (but still not the same) to the axe fx III in terms of (what I consider) feel is Mercuriall Spark set at the highest quality, maybe you could try that in the meantime to get a rough idea of what improvement to expect.
If you have a PC powerful enough to try it with an acceptable latency, it's a quite heavy plugin
 

ak301

Experienced
I always thought the solo from "Another Brick On The Wall" was the ideal strat through an amp sound and used it as reference to dial my strat sound. Turns out not only was that not a strat, it was a Les Paul with P90's, but it was also not an amp. He plugged straight into an SSL. My point is sometimes we get so caught up thinking about what an amp sounds like that we don't really know. I think the Fractal stuff feels like an amp. I felt the Kemper felt like an amp too. But other people think only an amp feels like an amp. Not trying to rant or be unhelpful. Just some ideas.
The DI'd Les Paul track was sent through a valve amp later on as DG didn't like the purely DI'd tone, so there is a valve amp tone there.
The famous funky Dm chord was his No1 1954 Strat DI'd

To the OP, I had a HX Stomp for a while. And though very impressive and capable of superb tones, I could never shake the digital quality and slightly cold vibe I got when playing it. I compared similar tones with my AX8 and the Fractal always seemed closer to a 'real' valve amp. To my ear it always seemed a more organic sound, and Yes I know 'real' amps are electrical devices.
Since getting a III I'll say the newer unit is even more responsive, I use my guitars volume a lot to control the amount of dirt and I was genuinely very impressed how naturally well the III cleans up.
And the responsiveness to pick attack is exceptional

Like anything musical this is a subjective matter. The FM3/III might not work for you, but then again you may be as happy with what a Fractal can do as many on here.

As you're waiting for the FM3 to be available to you, what about seeing if there are any instrument hire companies that have a III you can rent out for a week - I was going to do that with a Kemper, purely as I've always wondered what they're like, but this was just before I got my III and I'm too busy enjoying exploring the III's capabilities
 

App12

Inspired
Hold on a second, my friend, not so fast :)

First of all, I wouldn't say the "feel" discussion is all in the head, I am sure MANY would disagree with you on that.

Secondly, I never intended to claim AXE III sounds not tubey, on the contrary, as I am waiting for my FM3, I'd like to learn people's experience when they claim it does! I was hoping people who had such experience would chime in to explain and articulate what the feel means subjectively for them. To that end, I have tried to explain what the feel means to myself personally a few times above in this thread ;)

Thirdly, "uninformed and/or lazy user error"... 🤨

Lastly, in my mind, tone and feel though closely related, they could often be orthogonal. IMHO, tone is more about the sound and EQ characteristics, and both the player and listeners can reason about how the tone sounds, while the feel is often only directly perceivable by the player him/her-self.

In my experience, the feel mostly lies in the interaction between my finger and the actual power amp response. But perhaps, I am missing other aspects of feel other folks are referring to, hence this thread.

Especially for folks who experience the FEEL of AXE III have improved over the course, I'd love to hear you articulate what that means subjectively for you. :)
These two (Clappers and Captain) struggled to tell the difference between a real amp and in this case, a KPA, while playing both. So I do think that a lot of it is in one’s head. And when you do a blind test where someone else does the changing for you most are going struggle, even with “the feel”. Maybe you are just exceptionally sensitive and can do this more than most (and I don’t say this sarcastically, I do believe that some like you can be more sensitive to this than others)

ps sorry if this has been posted already, I did not read the whole thread
 

curious

Experienced
You couldn't use cab sims because of the amp? That seems confusing...
@unix-guy you're correct. I should have said I could use the cab sims but the speaker I was using (non-FRFR) was coloring the sound so the cab sims would not sound exactly as they should. At that time, I only used a few presets and found it best to turn off the cab simulation.
 

ak301

Experienced
These two (Clappers and Captain) struggled to tell the difference between a real amp and in this case, a KPA, while playing both. So I do think that a lot of it is in one’s head. And when you do a blind test where someone else does the changing for you most are going struggle, even with “the feel”. Maybe you are just exceptionally sensitive and can do this more than most (and I don’t say this sarcastically, I do believe that some like you can be more sensitive to this than others)

ps sorry if this has been posted already, I did not read the whole thread
I've heard that Dave Friedman was played a recording of a real Friedman and one done by an AX8, and couldn't tell the difference
 

bdrepko

Fractal Fanatic
I originally made the switch because I was having issues with tube amplifiers being affected by fluctuating power supplies in some of the bars and smaller rooms we play. In some cases, I would have to try several outlets to get one that wouldn't make the amp sound like crap.
Exactly the reason I made the move to modelers. I could not get a consistent sound in the various clubs I was playing. One night it was beautiful organic sounds the next night it was fingernails on a blackboard. Very frustrating. The other guitarist in the band had a Line6 AxeSys 212 which was the very first Line6 modeler. He was able to coax some pretty good sounds and was able to do it night after night consistently. That was when I made the move into modeling and bought a Flextone 2.
 
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Geoff

Member
My 2cents having owned and used both Helix and Fractal. My modelers started with Zoom and then HD500x. With those I could never get to the point where I really liked working with them, but they got the job done and learned a lot. my gig and practice requires going direct (mostly IEM).

Helix came along and I was WOW-ed, it had that elusive “feel” that prior modelers missed (think palm muting) and a great interface. Plus a wonderful interface. I loved Helix until I compared it with Ax8 A/B for a month at home.
I kept the Ax8 for a variety of reasons, feel and sound being the main one (helix tuner mess, less tweaking of presets and IRs on AX, footprint smaller on AX). I think this depends a lot on an individual’s style, for example I like a lot of muting with each hand, slightly crunchy amp. Please be clear I’m not trying to disparage the Helix, it’s great, I just found the Ax8 better for me. I sold the Helix, got a Stomp a couple years and use it as iPad interface, effects when use amp, DI backup, bass rig - very cool and flexible device.

Now I just got my AXIII, haven’t used it much yet, but I’m sure it will be awesome. Feel like I've been through a lot of upgrades the past 5 years, so hope to stick with this for a while longer.

One thing I find interesting is that if I record something in either Stomp or Ax8, then go back a day or two later and listen to it casually, I don’t hear much difference or preference. I may not be able to tell you which one was used. Both were dialed the way I like them. However, what is different is that I usually have more fun playing, and prefer the sound and “feel” of the Fractal while recording it. There is just some special “feel” going on with the modeling that makes it more fun to play and "real", particularly with the mid-higher gain amps.

I wonder what someone who never played a good real tube amp would think?
 

srf399

Member
I've played since the 80's and had Mesa's...Marshalls....Fenders....Bogners.... and I wouldn't take one of those amps over the AxeIII !!!

The Supply Sag and B+ Time Constant are my secret weapons when it comes to the feel of the amp. I love those!!!
It can turn any amp into a nice expressive buttery feel IMO.
 

Feflicker

Inspired
Am I the only one not constantly tweaking my presets? I usually turn it on and say "yep, still sounds incredible" then play my guitar. The only time anything gets tweaked, and its usually jist the output EQ on the amp block, is after firmware updates.

This has been the main selling point to me for fractal. I used to turn knobs on my tube amp, always having to compromise in some way. With the fractal Im able to control my tone like Im in a studio environment, eqs, filters, passes, cuts, gates, etc. It always sounds good, very consistent from day to day.
 

Genghis

Power User
I could never go back to the limitations of a tube amp. I don't feel like I'm missing anything in the feel, and I know I would feel pretty stifled if I were limited to the knobs on the amp, and a handful of physical pedals with limited options.

Not saying I dive deeply into the advanced settings, but there are a few key options that I use regularly and have come to rely on for sculpting the sounds I am trying to acheive. Tone stack gets me in the ballpark, then a few adjustments on some other items, pre-EQ, speaker impedence curve, and last but not least, a few minor tweaks to the amp blocks graphic EQ and I'm set. But I know a lot of guys very much prefer to just fire up an amp and turn 3 knobs and play.
 

Syrinx

Inspired
The OP feels like nothing gives the tube feel that his Helix does, but why is this part being overlooked?

"On the other hand, when plugging my Helix into the power section of a Tube amp, I find that feel is there. "

He's not getting the tube feel from the Helix, he's getting it from an actual tube power amp. That's not a valid comparison to the other modelers unless they are also run through a tube power section.
 
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