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Ultra Owner thinking of the big upgrade to the Axe Fx II XL+ -- Lots of questions!

Hi All,

Please forgive the length here and if I am not posting this in the correct section. I’m sure that some of this info could be found via doing a lot of forum searching, but I am a bit overwhelmed and have so many questions that I thought I might ask all of this in one thread and hope some kind folks could chime in and help a brotha out…

I am Axe FX Ultra owner (bought this when it was the latest greatest) and used to be active here, but have been away for quite some time and haven’t kept up with all the changes, upgrades, etc.

I am considering selling my Ultra and upgrading to the newest latest greatest (Axe FX II XL+) and had a few pre-purchase questions for the community here…

My usage will be primarily for direct recording. I currently have a nice selection of real world amps (Bludotone Ojai (Robben Ford Dumble Clone), Germino Lead55LV (’68 Marshall 50W lead spec Plexi), Fender Blackface Super Reverb, Mesa Lone Star, Mesa Mark IV, Mesa Dual Rectifier, Mesa Triaxis/2:90) as well as other assorted cabs, pedals, gear, etc. My desire would mainly be to replicate my real world amps (and a few choice others) for direct recording. The competition for upgrading to the latest Axe would be using my real world amps with something like the Suhr reactive load and using cabinet IR’s. Micing up is not an option for me too much these days, at least when working from home.

In general need a variety of tones from bluesy (Matt Schofield, Robben Ford, Jimi, SRV, Bonamassa, Trower) to prog metal (Petrucci/Dream Theater, Opeth, Pain of Salvation) to classic rock (David Gilmour/Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page/Zeppelin, Clapton/Cream—particularly live Wheels of Fire era)

First I’ll say that my Ultra has served me well. It has been a great direct recording solution. I don’t believe that it ever 100% sound or felt like my real world amps, but the convenience it offered was undeniable and it worked well in a mix. Still, whenever I wasn’t direct recording, I always found myself playing my real world amps as they just had the sound and feel that made playing both inspired and fun. If I’m honest, the Ultra never gave me that. And it wasn’t just the “in the room” difference.

So my first question is, how much better is the tonal accuracy and feel since the Ultra?

Has the ease of dialing tones in improved? Is the software editor (I’m Mac based) working well now? I am an uber-tweaker at heart, but have a lot less time these days (two small children), so need to play more and tweak less.

For the Mesa Mark IIC+ and Mark IV simms, is there an accurate Mesa 5 band EQ included within the amp model now, or is that something that still needs to be simulated with post amp EQ?

Does the Bludtone Ojai simm deliver the trademark reedy/fizzy top end ala Robben Ford’s later work?

Are the Fender amp simms greatly improved? I saw a particularly nice video demo of nailing SRV tones by Tyler Grund which seems to say, YES! (Very nice playing here, BTW)

Anything I should be aware of before making the plunge (new Axe Fx on the horizon soon, important bugs, etc).

Are the included IR’s good enough or would an immediate purchase of some of the Cab packs or 3rd party IR’s be strongly suggested?

Thanks in advance to everyone/anyone who can chime in!
-Matt
 

mwd

Power User
Honest opinion here. I got the Ultra when it came out. I still have it. I bought the XL about a year ago. I still use, and prefer, the Ultra for live use. It changes presets faster and there are some sounds that I personally feel have not been surpassed. Additionally there is a great deal of stability since firmware is done and fixed at 11.

Now for recording different story. The XL is more organic and realistic. It is jammed with great sounds. Sometimes almost too many. I use Mac and the software is awesome. The editor has come so far over the years. As to tweaking you will find any and all the tools that you need to dial in your sound. There seems to be even new groundbreaking firmware on the horizon so newer Axe owners will be in for a ride.

Yet if you don’t like to tweak, which I don’t much, there is a plethora of awesome sounds in the stock presets with minimal noodling required.

To me it is a recording beast. Further with the capability of tracking dry signal simultaneously and, the ability to use the AXE, via USB, as an audio interface puts it over the top. I read someone recently smacking it a bit as an audio interface but I find it to be outrageously quiet. No complaints here.

Cab Lab and Cab Packs I have them. I know they represent a great deal of work and they probably offer a lot but, Lord help us, at some point in time you gotta’ quit playing and start playing.
 

Rex

Legend!
So my first question is, how much better is the tonal accuracy and feel since the Ultra?
12.8 better. :)

Seriously, it's a big leap.


Has the ease of dialing tones in improved?
Most amp models sound great with hardly a tweak.


For the Mesa Mark IIC+ and Mark IV simms, is there an accurate Mesa 5 band EQ included within the amp model now,...?
Yes.


Does the Bludtone Ojai simm deliver the trademark reedy/fizzy top end ala Robben Ford’s later work?
"Reedy/fizzy?" I would've called it horn-like. All amp models are better.


Are the Fender amp simms greatly improved?
All amp models are greatly improved.


Anything I should be aware of before making the plunge...
Don't drool on the cabinet.


Are the included IR’s good enough...?
Yes.
 
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Lkdog

Experienced
Short answer as an XL owner who had an Ultra- yes it is better in most every respect.
I liked the Ultra, but it was not light years ahead of anything on the market.

I do keep one amp around.
 

Rexxyboy

Member
Just do it. Its a no brainer. AND there are still people on the hunt for old ULTRA's, so if you did want to sell it, that's a rebate right there.
 

Tsunamijuan

Inspired
I would say if your happy with aspects of the Ultra, don't sell it but keep it. The Axe-fx and the Axe-fx 2 are different beasts. I would still say get a axe-fx2, the dynamics and feel as a player are much better for some things. (matter of preference and all that).
 
For financial reasons, I would definitely need to sell the Ultra to be able to purchase the newest Axe.

It terms of the 1st and 2nd gen Axe units being "different beasts,"... I assumed that the 2nd gen was just an improved upon version of the 1st gen... Are there things that I should be aware of that are different but not necessarily better or things that I might have liked which are no longer present? Are there aspects of the Ultra that I might miss if I upgrade?
 

mwd

Power User
Are there aspects of the Ultra that I might miss if I upgrade?

If you can only have one and recording is your primary use most likely you will be better off with the XL. In my case the faster transparent preset changes and the stability of no more updates are very important to me as I am blending with a backing track. Additionally I actually prefer some of the effect presets like Poltergeist Pig, Crystal Echos, Subway Verb, Studio Lead, Carlos, Katie Song on the Ultra.

Understand the advances of the new FAS gear is stellar. They most definitely have not gone backwards but rather evolved into the 'two different beast' that Tsunamijuan mentions.

So now it's like someone asking 'do you prefer a Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul'?

Of course there is only one correct answer... 'yes'.
 

Hazar

Member
Long time Ultra user here and upgraded to an Axe FX II XL+ in January 2016. The "feel" of the Axe FX II is much better than it was with the Ultra. It is worth the upgrade without a doubt. I cant think of anything I miss with the Ultra. They are both incredible.
 

NickCapp

Inspired
I purchased an Ultra early last year, I played it for about 9 months and loved it. I didn't have the funding for the Axe Fx 2 when I made the purchase but really wanted the versatility. After using the Ultra for that time period, listening to everyone's Axe Fx 2 clips, and noticing the activity in community for Axe 2 users, I saved up and bought one. I sold my Ultra for more than I bought it for (thank you eBay bidding wars) and have been outrageously happy with the XL+ since December.

As others have said above, it's easier to get the sound you're after, the cabinet IRs are better, and the sound is more organic. The biggest thing for me though is the FEEL. I always achieved good tone out of my Ultra, but the FEEL was never what I get out of the Axe Fx 2.
 
Thanks a lot, guys! All very helpful! I think I'm talking myself into an XL+. =-)

I have no doubt the heavy tones (brootalz) and hyper cleans will be great. But I know the vintage and mid gain tones can be the toughest to nail down...

For those using vintage type tones, such as bluesy and 60's and 70's classic rock Fender and Marshall tones (think SRV, Jimi, Cream era Clapton, Trower, Pink Floyd, etc) and more modern bluesy tones (think Matt Schofield, Robben Ford, etc), are you pretty satisfied? Noticeable improvement over the Ultra as well?
 

Rex

Legend!
My brother, you worry too much. :)

This stuff is superb at low-to-mid gain. There's detail in there that you've never heard in a modeler, and enough room to dial in more grain and detail than you can achieve in a real amp, if that's your goal.
 

sam

Experienced
Huge improvements. The amps and modeling have gone from excellent to truly astounding. Someone recently said they had updated their Axe-FX II 66 times. Almost all of those updates probably included refinements and improvements to the amp modeling and there are so many more amps now as well.

Just do it!
 

steadystate

Fractal Fanatic
For me, the only "advantage" to the Ultra for live use is that its firmware is set in stone. That's it.

The II is superior in every respect. After using the II at home, I'm quite dissatisfied with my gigging Ultra. I only use it because recreating all of my presets from scratch on the II would take a very long time.

Play through a II. You will know within a few seconds if it is for you...and if there is no going back.
 

pauly

Fractal Fanatic
G'day Matt,

Do it Do it - The only thing you'll regret is taking the time to decide :)

Q: how much better is the tonal accuracy and feel since the Ultra?
A: 900 :) Well.... It's so much better, you'll wonder how it can be that good.

Q: Has the ease of dialing tones in improved?
A: I use Axe Edit (Software) via USB and it is genuinely like operating an amp - until you delve into the advanced parameters... then it's like having a soldering iron and some surpus caps & resistors :)

Q: Is the software editor (I’m Mac based) working well now?
A: I'm PC based, but make the assumption that it works almost the same on both platforms - It works very well.

Q: For the Mesa Mark IIC+ and Mark IV simms, is there an accurate Mesa 5 band EQ included within the amp model now, or is that something that still needs to be simulated with post amp EQ?
A: There is an EQ with the amp block, however I'm not sure if it's an accurate Mesa EQ. I'd speculate it's not, and is more generic.

Q: Does the Bludtone Ojai simm deliver the trademark reedy/fizzy top end ala Robben Ford’s later work?
A: Well... No answer - I don't know sorry

Q: Are the Fender amp simms greatly improved?
A: 2 years ago they were very good - now they are uncanilly accurate. The Fender amps are sensational in my opinion.

Q: Anything I should be aware of before making the plunge (new Axe Fx on the horizon soon, important bugs, etc).
A: That every minute you spend deciding, is a minute less to play with your new unit.

Q: Are the included IR’s good enough or would an immediate purchase of some of the Cab packs or 3rd party IR’s be strongly suggested?
A: They are great (The included IRs), however you can't have too much of a good thing. I have most of the cap packs, and the Ownhammer stuff. All good.

Hope that helps matt - Enjoy!

Pauly
 
Thanks everyone! This is all very much appreciated. Everyone's input is very helpful. I'm just hoping to sell my Ultra now so I can dive in! =-)

This is probably the best example that I currently happen to have on-line of what I was able to get out of the Ultra (this was still in the rough stage and you'll notice no bass guitar, etc) for the more modern tones...


These days, though, I'm finding myself playing more bluesy styles and using more vintage and mid gain tones, which was the hardest thing for me to dial in with the Ultra. I really look forward to what the latest gen brings!
 

NickCapp

Inspired
You won't be disappointed. If you cruise the Axe Fx II recordings you can find tons of stuff that will show the styles you mentioned above executed very well. I personally love the AC-30/DC-30, Fender Deluxe, Friedman amps, and Bogner Shiva models for the styles you've mentioned.
 

strat714

Experienced
Q: For the Mesa Mark IIC+ and Mark IV simms, is there an accurate Mesa 5 band EQ included within the amp model now, or is that something that still needs to be simulated with post amp EQ?
A: There is an EQ with the amp block, however I'm not sure if it's an accurate Mesa EQ. I'd speculate it's not, and is more generic.


Actually, there is an accurate Mesa 5 band EQ that is selectable for any amp type.
 
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