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

TubeStack

Inspired
Having spent many years lugging a heavy, stupidly loud (if you want it to sound good), somewhat unreliable AC30 around to various gigs and rehearsal rooms, I can concur on all their points. I remember a fun time where the rectifier fuse blew before going on stage. The only way to replace it is to literally take the chassis out.
Maybe for the AC30, but I never had a comparable problem with a 2204, Dr Z Remedy, or Mesa Electra Dyne... all nothing but amazing experiences, and tons of gigs.
 

japri

Member
My honest opinion after playing in working bands for 30 years: I played tube amps for over 20 years (fenders, Mesas, Marshalls). I switched to Fractal about 6 years ago with an FXII first and then the Ax8. I have had the AxIII for about 2 years now. I originally made the switch because I was having issues with tube amplifiers being affected by fluctuating power supplies in some of the bars and smaller rooms we play.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. I tried an FXII and I wasn't really impressed by the tone at first but I really liked the fact that it sounded consistently good, even when the power was weak or fluctuating the room. Honestly, I didn't really understand how to properly use the FxII when I had it. I bought the Ax8 and invested some time to get to know the unit. I used the Ax8 with a Matrix SS amp and a Matrix 2x12 cab and I absolutely loved the tone and feel. Honestly, not quite the same feel as a really good tube amp but the benefits far outweighed the small difference in feel. I was not able to use the cab sims because of the amp but I never had a problem creating very convincing and consistently great sounding tones. To me there wasn't much difference between that and my Mesa. I started gigging with the AxIII about a year and half ago. I bought a Mission Gemini II to be able to take advantage of the Cab sims. I invested a lot of time learning how to use it. I use the Gemini II for small room and bar gigs and go direct toFOH for festivals and larger stage gigs. In both cases, I have been very happy with the tone. The feel of the AxIII has definitely improved and to my ear sounds better than the Ax8, especially with the firmware updates in the last 12 months. I occasionally miss my Triaxis and Stereo 2:90 power amp. The tone was really amazing when it was working right but there are trade offs in life. My current rig sounds great in any room and direct and it's a heck of a lot easier to load in/out. I can get incredible tones with great feel and amazing effects that sound consistently great in any setting. To me, that has made me a believer in amp modeling. The technology was great 4-5 years ago. It's even better now. I played through a Helix while sitting in with a friend and it sounded OK but not great. It's not fair for me to try to compare the Helix based on playing it for 10 minutes.

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. ---> this is so true... I live in Indonesia, it's worst. voltage varies 170 - 240 it really affects the sound. especially in the evening. I can feel it most in my mesa boogie mkIV.

Adding stavolt / main power regulator will help, but when ever the volatges changes the amps acting weird, because the mechanism is using a motor to adjust the tap in the transformer.

Because the tube amp using transformer - resistor / inductor to control the voltages, it's not regulating it. so whenever the main voltages changes the whole amp sound changes.

@Mark AI
The feel in axe FX is like real. I think if you dont like axefx III cygnus sound you probably dont like the real tube amp too... . I tried helix a few times but not impressed.
 

fsharpminor

Inspired
here's my two pence (cents) worth. For me its always direct to FOH for the audience. The engineer just says its better to mix in a big sound where the guitar is not always out front (its very much an ensemble), guitar is the leading instrument only when playing lead. But i just prefer to have the air move behind me when I am playing. Its force of habit. I even miss it when I am on in ears. So out 2 I have two seperate solutions. Big gigs with crew I run into the return of my mesa mark iv or a carvin xt100 head going through a matrix nl212 lightweight cab. The reason is they both have graphic eq over the power amp enabling me to quickly dial in my sound to be comfortable on stage without affecting the FOH and without diving into menus. The other reason Is I have other people to carry all of that heavy gear....i'm not getting any younger and thankfully the days of lugging heavy gear are over. For smaller gigs/fly dates/festivals rehearsals its a seymour duncan 170 into whatever cab is available onstage or a neolight 1/12.

For me the axe/fm3 feels great, plenty tube-ry enough for me. I trust the engineer to deal with the direct sound and I get compliments so that bit is excellent and predictable.

Stage sound. Both sound great. The tube amps look better on stage (important because we are in the entertainment business) and to me running through the tube amps feels maybe 5% better but that could well be old age predjudice and confirmation bias. Both of those things are not enough for me to put up with carrying heavy gear any more.
 

reclavea

Power User
I love my FM3 too, but what's all this “frustration, burdensome, annoying problems” with your tube amp? Was it a cheap one? Seems exaggerated.

I can't say I've ever been frustrated or annoyed with any of my tube amps, which have been Marshall, Mesa, Orange, Dr Z. They've all been very reliable and enjoyable.

Mesa Mark III!!!

Super killer amp!

Weighs a ton! Long head with a separate 2x12

Tube sensitive if not the right batch or manufacturer!

Differing venues was hit or miss! Unpredictable!
 
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squealie

Experienced
I wouldn't expect AXE III (which I have not got a chance to really try out) to provide obviously better feel when compared to AXE8, FXII or Helix, simply because the power section is outside of unit, and it always comes down to a SS power amp!

The 'feel' comes down to so much more than all of this.

The cab, the room, how warmed up you are, how mad your woman is...

The 'feel' of the Axe3 aint elusive. It's the player.
 

Rusty Riffs

New Member
My honest opinion after playing in working bands for 30 years: I played tube amps for over 20 years (fenders, Mesas, Marshalls). I switched to Fractal about 6 years ago with an FXII first and then the Ax8. I have had the AxIII for about 2 years now. 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. I tried an FXII and I wasn't really impressed by the tone at first but I really liked the fact that it sounded consistently good, even when the power was weak or fluctuating the room. Honestly, I didn't really understand how to properly use the FxII when I had it. I bought the Ax8 and invested some time to get to know the unit. I used the Ax8 with a Matrix SS amp and a Matrix 2x12 cab and I absolutely loved the tone and feel. Honestly, not quite the same feel as a really good tube amp but the benefits far outweighed the small difference in feel. I was not able to use the cab sims because of the amp but I never had a problem creating very convincing and consistently great sounding tones. To me there wasn't much difference between that and my Mesa. I started gigging with the AxIII about a year and half ago. I bought a Mission Gemini II to be able to take advantage of the Cab sims. I invested a lot of time learning how to use it. I use the Gemini II for small room and bar gigs and go direct toFOH for festivals and larger stage gigs. In both cases, I have been very happy with the tone. The feel of the AxIII has definitely improved and to my ear sounds better than the Ax8, especially with the firmware updates in the last 12 months. I occasionally miss my Triaxis and Stereo 2:90 power amp. The tone was really amazing when it was working right but there are trade offs in life. My current rig sounds great in any room and direct and it's a heck of a lot easier to load in/out. I can get incredible tones with great feel and amazing effects that sound consistently great in any setting. To me, that has made me a believer in amp modeling. The technology was great 4-5 years ago. It's even better now. I played through a Helix while sitting in with a friend and it sounded OK but not great. It's not fair for me to try to compare the Helix based on playing it for 10 minutes.
Nail on head..... Pro's outweigh cons.
 

Stratman68

Axe-Master
I am so glad I "Stopped" chasing\looking for my guitar tone many years ago. Guess to each his own, which is a good thing!
 

skolacki

Experienced
I know what you are saying, but I keep my favorite tube combo nearby and I fire it up once in a while, and it reminds me the feel difference every freaking time...

I need to do that. Play through my tube rig. It’s been a long time. It’s a great sounding amp, a homebrew jumped 50watt Plexi-ish build. I do kind of forget the Fractal isn’t real. It sounds and feels like an amp to me. Having a consistently good tone, and the variety and customization would make it tough to go back. But this weekend I’ll fire up the tube amp. I have never AB’d the modeler against the real deal so I’ll see if I can match it.
 

Mark Al

Inspired
I need to do that. Play through my tube rig. It’s been a long time. It’s a great sounding amp, a homebrew jumped 50watt Plexi-ish build. I do kind of forget the Fractal isn’t real. It sounds and feels like an amp to me. Having a consistently good tone, and the variety and customization would make it tough to go back. But this weekend I’ll fire up the tube amp. I have never AB’d the modeler against the real deal so I’ll see if I can match it.
Depending on your circumstances, you might be in for a treat/surprise ;-)
 

tysonlt

Experienced
I haven’t fired up my HRD in years - I don’t want to tempt myself to going back! Sure don’t miss lugging it around and wondering what mood the tube gods are in.
 

DBraz

Member
This "real tube" vs Axe FX argument goes on and on... :)

FWIW I spend as much time tracking at home as playing live these days. When I am tracking the AXE FX 3 is unbeatable. It does everything required and so effortlessly.

Live? I really tried the FRFR-only solution but was always left unsatisfied. I have for some time used an Lxii with traditional Bogner cabs and it sounds incredible. I can send a feed with a cab sim too. I've had many positive comments on how good my tone whether recorded or otherwise. The different amp sims seem to translate well.
 

Mark Al

Inspired
This "real tube" vs Axe FX argument goes on and on... :)

FWIW I spend as much time tracking at home as playing live these days. When I am tracking the AXE FX 3 is unbeatable. It does everything required and so effortlessly.

Live? I really tried the FRFR-only solution but was always left unsatisfied. I have for some time used an Lxii with traditional Bogner cabs and it sounds incredible. I can send a feed with a cab sim too. I've had many positive comments on how good my tone whether recorded or otherwise. The different amp sims seem to translate well.
Well your Lx II is powered by 6L6 power tubes…

The tube feel is largely from the tube power section.

But yeah, for tracking or recording purpose, Axe III makes so much sense, but for playing out, I took my tube combo amp and a small analog pedal board, which is quite portable and sounds/feels satisfying.
 

skolacki

Experienced
Depending on your circumstances, you might be in for a treat/surprise ;-)

I ran my tube rig yesterday. 1st time in awhile. Sounded huge with great bottom end. It’s a homebrew jumped 1987 into a 212 Celestion cab. It was a pain since my pedals aren’t on a board so I had to put it all together. When I hooked up my amp switcher to AB the 2 rigs, I had a nasty ground loop going. So instead of figuring that out I just went back to my FM3 and Celestion F12 cab. One thing I noted was the amp/cab had a lot of compression going on. Something I don’t get on the FM3. The FM3 is a lot tighter. I don’t use compressors at all so it was all in the amp and speakers. Not sure of how or where to mimic that compression, or if I even need it.
 

Mark Al

Inspired
I ran my tube rig yesterday. 1st time in awhile. Sounded huge with great bottom end. It’s a homebrew jumped 1987 into a 212 Celestion cab. It was a pain since my pedals aren’t on a board so I had to put it all together. When I hooked up my amp switcher to AB the 2 rigs, I had a nasty ground loop going. So instead of figuring that out I just went back to my FM3 and Celestion F12 cab. One thing I noted was the amp/cab had a lot of compression going on. Something I don’t get on the FM3. The FM3 is a lot tighter. I don’t use compressors at all so it was all in the amp and speakers. Not sure of how or where to mimic that compression, or if I even need it.
It highly depends on what power amp you used in driving your FM3 and F12 cab.

Class D SS power amps is worst in term of feel, in my experience. Class A/B SS power amp is a little better. But tube power section is still far superior.
 

OrganicZed

Power User
I ran my tube rig yesterday. 1st time in awhile. Sounded huge with great bottom end. It’s a homebrew jumped 1987 into a 212 Celestion cab. It was a pain since my pedals aren’t on a board so I had to put it all together. When I hooked up my amp switcher to AB the 2 rigs, I had a nasty ground loop going. So instead of figuring that out I just went back to my FM3 and Celestion F12 cab. One thing I noted was the amp/cab had a lot of compression going on. Something I don’t get on the FM3. The FM3 is a lot tighter. I don’t use compressors at all so it was all in the amp and speakers. Not sure of how or where to mimic that compression, or if I even need it.

Try adding a bit of speaker compression (in the amp block).
 

skolacki

Experienced
It highly depends on what power amp you used in driving your FM3 and F12 cab.

Class D SS power amps is worst in term of feel, in my experience. Class A/B SS power amp is a little better. But tube power section is still far superior.

I’m running a class D amp. It was local and cheap. Jimmy Herring runs the same amp for his wet speakers, which I was happy to see. I’d like to have an AB amp but they’re pricey. Class H sounds interesting as well.
 

skolacki

Experienced
Try adding a bit of speaker compression (in the amp block).


I’ll do that, thanks. Seem to recall Cliff saying that wasn’t needed anymore. I haven’t touched that one yet. My amp sounds great and so does the modeler. The amp was squishy though. If I hadn’t switched to a modeler I doubt I would have noticed it.
 
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