• We would like to remind our members that this is a privately owned, run and supported forum. You are here at the invitation and discretion of the owners. As such, rules and standards of conduct will be applied that help keep this forum functioning as the owners desire. These include, but are not limited to, removing content and even access to the forum.

    Please give yourself a refresher on the forum rules you agreed to follow when you signed up.

User Comments, Recommendations, Pros and Cons

troystetina

New Member
Hello all,

I'm a new convert to Fractal Audio as of this year, and I wanted to contribute my experience to y'all. First of all, a bit about myself: I wrote the first widely published metal guitar methods back in the late 1980s and my method "Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar" become a 'must have' for a lot of shredders over the years... a big part of the guitar technique lexicon. I've published about 40 books in guitar instruction and they've done well... still selling after 30+ years. For the last 5 years or so, I've been working on Speed Mechanics 2 (book/video system) and just wrapping it up now. (If you want more background just google me).

Anyway, I decided on Axe FX III and snatched one up on eBay less than a year ago (there was a wait list at the time for new). And, as I'm sure will come as no surprise here, I was blown away of course. Patches are as good as my mic'ed Engl or Marshalls, but SOOOOO much easier and quicker! Before this I was using a VOX tonelab for quick/easy modeling. So the choice was either to take the quick and easy way and allow tone to suffer, or deal with my amps and mic'ing and all the headaches and limitations that go along with that. It's time consuming in any case, at least to pull a good tone.

So I played with Axe FX a while and loved the tones. Did a tone/gear video for my Patreon members where I talked through the history of what I've used, what I look for in a tone and how I shape tone, as well as demonstrating a few sounds out of Axe FX. (BTW, I sold a few for y'all, which I'm more than happy to do... I like recommending great products as well as using them.) And I also bought an FM3 shortly thereafter so I'd have something for live performance without having to take the III out of studio. (Wish I'd waited for FM9 now). Now I'm basically re-recording at least half of Speed Mechanics 2 using the Axe FX III, and saving my patches, as I intend to make them available to folks using the new method. Also looking to self-release another instructional series even more advanced in early 2022 with Ax Fx. And I just put out an EP using it as well. So I'm into it...

But enough about the glowing Axe Fx can do no wrong... The one area I find very cumbersome is the way the patches/scenes work. In particular, I can't seem to get it through my head that tweaking a setting in one scene affects the settings in all the other scenes (that use the same device)... especially since those other scenes are "out of sight, out of mind." Now I certainly understand the concept here, that Fractal is trying to make it replicate a real rig. But what this really does is confine us to the LIMITATIONS of a real rig, which is unnecessary and counterproductive IMO.

Why? Well, it's unnecessary because it's not a real rig... so software could be designed to allow each scene to stand on its own, remembering its own tweaks. And it's counterproductive because, speaking for myself at least, I'm wanting to save what I've got and then tweak to test for an improvement. So if the scenes each remained as I had set them, I could easily pop back and forth and decide if it was a gain or loss. But I cannot tweak without affecting my previously set scenes. How can I tweak the settings of one scene WITHOUT affecting the others? Only by swapping in a the same amp (into A, B, C, or D) in the new scene and configuring it from scratch! A lot of "back and forth" then, to check each setting... huge pain in the butt and very inefficient.

Of course, it's possible to copy the entire preset but this doesn't allow me to group similar tones together, which I dislike from an organizational standpoint. If, however, the scenes did not step on one another, it would be a much preferred solution because then I could tweak variations of a given amp, varied effects, etc., and when I get exactly what I like, copy that bit out into another preset for live usage.

And that brings up another problem of the "rig based" logic that insists on shared settings. I get my amp/scene perfect, let's say a high gain tone, and then in another preset I've finagled a great, lush clean tone. Now for a particular song, let's say I want to create a preset that combines these scenes. Unless I'm missing something, it's not possible to copy a scene into a different patch. That sucks! And it's a direct result of the scenes not being independent. So I have to manually recreate every aspect of one of those amps to get that scene into the new preset. Then, later I decide... hmmmm... I'd rather try a USA clean instead of a Jazz Chorus clean. Again, can't just find my "go to" perfected clean tone scene from my favorite preset, copy it, and drop it next to my gain tones. So this creates a whole set of difficulties that are unnecessary.

The ideal solution, from a user standpoint would be to make the tweaks on each scene independent. Does that force us to give up anything? No. Because if you indeed WANT the tweak to affect another scene, just copy and paste. Done! But with each scene standing on its own, we could tweak scenes for a variety of tonal variations with a given preset, as well as copy and drop scenes within other patches as we see fit!

The current procedure is extremely burdensome IMO. To set up patches for a real, live performance I imagine it would literally take me weeks the way the current setup is. Plus it would make quick "on the fly" swaps to test out different amp combinations virtually impossible. Once it's set, it's great. And the global overrides are awesome. But the hampering of the shared scene problem is significant and only works to our disadvantage.

Of course, for now, I'm just using it in a studio environment, so it's less of a problem in this situation at least. And the advantages so far outweigh my complaints that I feel a bit sheepish even saying. Nevertheless, I just wanted to give you my real world feedback to consider for added "ease of use" in future products. In any case, thank you for creating this product. I will continue to recommend it highly.
 
Hi Troy, welcome to the Fractal world! Fwiw, I studied with Tony Burton in the mid-eighties and thus am long familiar with the work you speak of.

I hear you on the frustration. Sounds like you want scenes to behave more like independent presets, which is where limitations come up, with less shared resources possible. Have you explored scene controllers?
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
Welcome!

There's history here to be aware of about how things evolved to where they are.

Foremost: if every scene was independent then a scene would just be a preset. And we already have presets.

Scenes are lightweight in the parameters they can control for a very specific reason: scenes can be changed between much faster than presets because fewer things can be changed from scene to scene. They solve a specific problem.

If you make scenes equivalent to presets you lose this advantage.

Edit: @rockstarjazzcat beat me to it! :D And they added a great suggestion: look into scene controllers if you want to do more from scene-to-scene. Of course, they come with their own maintenance issues. But they do allow for more scene-to-scene control.
 

troystetina

New Member
Scene controllers? Can you supply a link? Much appreciated! I'd like to check into any tools that would ease these issues.

Regarding history... understood. Always a reason why things are as they are.

Regarding independent scenes being presets, not necessarily. If scenes were fully independent in all respects, yes, that's true. But I am simply suggesting that the scenes remember their own tweaks. That's not the same as presets. In this scenario, scenes could all still share the same resources (same amps, pedals, etc.), but say one scene had gain set to 6, and I could set another to 8. That allows tweakability AND backward movement to A/B sounds with greater flexibility. Is this really so much more complex as to be unworkable, technically speaking?

In any case, I suppose there is still no efficient workaround merge scenes from different presets? That is my 2nd big problem, in terms of practical application.
 

troystetina

New Member
Oh jeezz... who is that kid????!!!
Welcome Troy!

Might I recommend saving your favourite sounds as blocks in the block library? Easy recall anywhere, and you can save the whole block or just the channel.
OK, I don't understand what the block library is. Sounds like this will allow me to merge sounds in new presets.
... ah, I see why I never figured out the library... just checked out both the Manual and the Blocks Guide and nowhere in either does it explain what the block library is or how to use it. No directions even on the download page of the software. Are there some instructions? Could someone please post a link? Probably fairly simple, but I'm slow when it comes to software
 
Last edited:

Budda

Fractal Fanatic
Oh jeezz... who is that kid????!!!

OK, I don't understand what the block library is. Sounds like this will allow me to merge sounds in new presets. Thanks!!

Im not at my workstation right now, but in axe edit you'll see "block library" at the bottom left-hand corner. Click "save" and it will let you name the block and decide channel vs whole block.

Im not sure if block library is accessible on the unit itself though as I primarily use axe-edit and havent saved a lot of blocks yet.
 

JoKeR III

Power User
Regarding independent scenes being presets, not necessarily. If scenes were fully independent in all respects, yes, that's true. But I am simply suggesting that the scenes remember their own tweaks. That's not the same as presets. In this scenario, scenes could all still share the same resources (same amps, pedals, etc.), but say one scene had gain set to 6, and I could set another to 8. That allows tweakability AND backward movement to A/B sounds with greater flexibility. Is this really so much more complex as to be unworkable, technically speaking?
This is where Scene Controllers can be very useful, having different gain levels per scene, as well as using different Channels of a block per scene.
 
Oh jeezz... who is that kid????!!!

OK, I don't understand what the block library is. Sounds like this will allow me to merge sounds in new presets. Thanks!!
Between block libraries and scene controllers to check out, you’ll likely have slightly different suggestions regarding the same as you’ve suggested here. I look forward to hearing how it goes. Lots of great resources out there, @2112, @Cooper Carter, @RoshRoslin, et al., and that “et al” list is huge! (Apologies to the obvious giants I’ve left out!)
 

JoKeR III

Power User
Oh jeezz... who is that kid????!!!

OK, I don't understand what the block library is. Sounds like this will allow me to merge sounds in new presets. Thanks!!
The Block Library is stored on the computer in the Axe-Edit III folder. It allows you to save a block that you've tweaked to your liking, allowing for quick import into different presets. It now allows individual channels to be saved as well.
 

Moke

Axe-Master
Vendor
Reading through the whole manual Maybe a couple of times would be a huge benefit.

About channels... In the Editor, you can copy and paste any channel into another channel, so that you are not starting over. This includes pasting into another preset.
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
@troystetina I want to amend my earlier post: it's not possible with the current operating system of the unit. The way it is now, it grew semi-organically. First we had presets. Then we got channels (X/Y). Then we got scenes (8). Then we got more channels (4, sometimes more). At every step, these changes appeared as incremental upgrade steps to the user base and there was a clear forward upgrade path that we all traveled along that let us easily migrate from current presets to new presets without a lot of hassel.

What you're asking for is probably possible, but it wouldn't be an incremental change to the basic OS of the system. It'd likely be a big re-write.

So never say never. Maybe we'd get to what you're asking for some day? I have no idea what kind of tricks Cliff and crew are working on next.

All that being said, if you think about, you can have exactly what you're asking for today. Yes! It's entirely possible to have every scene's settings be independent.

You just have to limit yourself to four scenes.

If you're willing to live with just four scenes per-preset, you can place every block on the A channel in Scene 1, B channel in Scene 2, C channel in Scene 3 and D channel in Scene 4.

If you do this, for every block, all the settings on every block are truly scene idependent the way you're asking.

If you go beyond 4 scenes, of course, you now have to make decisions and share block settings between scenes.
 
Last edited:

Dave Merrill

Fractal Fanatic
I always thought the channels idea was to provide reuse of block settings between scenes. For example, you can set up a plex verb channel for deep space transcendence, then reuse it in multiple scenes, without making redundant copies that don't inherit the improvements you make to one of them.

I find that sort reuse very helpful, not an obstacle.

The places I most often want full scene independence are amp and drive blocks, so in my most kitchen-sink-y presets I use two of each, one on at a time. Each scene gets its own amp and drive channels, no overlap. Super simple and clear, though obviously you give up a lot of possible amp/drive block combinations if you stick to only one drive block on at a time, and one specific drive channel per scene/amp channel.

Make sense?
 

Dave Merrill

Fractal Fanatic
Yea, me too. But I can see how some people would like the same number of channels as scenes for complete scene-to-scene independence.

Actually, that's probably the most logical next step on the incremental change journey we've been on to date: channels matching the number of scenes.
Actually, when the unit and software can support saving that many parameters, and loading presets with them in timely fashion, channels become an unnecessary level of abstraction, leading to questions just like the one in this thread.

Helix just lets you edit any parameter in any scene and that's it, scenes are completely independent, no such thing as channels.
That's way simpler for users I think.

OTOH, Helix does have a limit to the number of individually-edited parameters in a patch, 32 if I remember right (it's been a while...).
That's a fairly high number for Helix, but the Axe has waaay more parameters.
Helix also doesn't have generic amp blocks -- each block in a preset is one type of amp, maybe with different settings, but still that model, which is enormously more limiting than the Fractal approach.
 

troystetina

New Member
Thanks to all here for the insights and links. A lot to digest, so I'll be digging into this over the next week or so.

Regarding reading the manuals: First I did read the manual cover to cover first, then I read it a second time with the unit in hand, testing out stuff. I also went over the blocks guide and read through all of Yek's Guide to the amp models. Still, those resources failed to teach me what I'm looking to accomplish. I mean, it's one thing to learn the functions of the unit... it's another to design a work flow based on that which accomplishes my goals and organizational needs. And this is made even more difficult by the fact that the unit is so flexible.

In any case, there was nothing anywhere about saving blocks in a library, what the library is or how it functions. It guided me to creating scenes within a preset. So the concept of swapping out entire block setups (which I'd call a "rig") eluded me. In fact, in retrospect, I think it never occurred to me because I the blocks guide is all about digging into the INDIVIDUAL blocks, not about saving them as groups... in other words, I read all that thinking in terms of the nitty gritty, which I largely glossed over because it's self evident. It didn't approach blocks as potentially being the basis of an organizational system. So this thread has opened up that option, which I think will resolve the main thrust of my goal here.

BTW, perhaps a manual for the software could be developed? At least for me, it's far from intuitive. I'm not getting the library aspect at all because it's not starting with a library; there is no example to begin with.
[UPDATE: I googled 'how to use Axe Edit' and found a manual... it isn't on the fractalaudio.com page of downloads however ???? Just an oversight I suppose, or am I blind?]

I very much like the idea of starting with CHANNELS and then building scenes from those (and limiting each preset to 4 scenes based on 4 channels) as a work method for my goals. Then I won't be stepping on my other scenes (independence). Then, maybe for each of those scenes I could set up a dry version and a wet version, knowing they are just two variations of the same thing. That is something I can understand, and I find that useful at times to bounce between wet and dry.

Certainly writing manuals is itself an art, and overall I'd say these are pretty well done, especially considering the complexity and flexibility of the unit. Still a few fairly big holes though IMO.

When I first got the III, I also gave some feedback suggestions immediately about the interface itself. And I'm wondering what all of you here think of these. Namely:

1)
The 'enter' and 'edit' buttons could/should be the same button, applied universally... I'm constantly hitting the wrong one to get inside this or that element. In fact, the large Value knob should be a pressable button that engages the enter/edit function. And we just eliminated 2 buttons. Now I can turn the big knob to land on whatever element I want to change/edit/enter, then press it and get inside to adjust parameters.
2)
Next, there is also some problems of inconsistent labelling. For example, the "Page" buttons prominently labelled. They change what is described as "tabs" in the manual. Well, if they are tabs, then it should be a "Tabs" button. Please use the same terms consistently. This will make everything easier to assimilate. Along the same lines, when I hit the "Store" button, it shows a page that gives me 'Save' function? Well pick one... store or save... but not both. It just makes things seem more complicated and obtuse.
3)
Finally, I realize that the ABCDE knobs at the bottom of the screen double many of the functions on the right. Doubled functions are more confusing than learning one method of navigation. Visually oriented thinkers will tend to stick with the patterns they learned in the navigational hierarchy, and jumping to use these knobs seems very difficult to me because of that fact. Since the options of those 5 knobs change constantly, it is very difficult to learn to use them effectively. That is, by their nature they require me to READ and figure out what it means and what I need to hit to get there. Well, that's fine for "deep" editing, but not good to use for navigation because its "unreliable"... I mean it's context dependent (always changing) so I cannot learn a physical pattern to navigate where I want to go, a pattern that over use and repetition will quickly become engrained in motor skill muscle memory (ya know, like playing the guitar!) We are physical-pattern based thinkers for the most part. So I for one, and I think most other guitarists out there would agree, that intuitive, simplified navigation on the right side, and then using the rotary knobs for deep editing would make more sense.

Basically, due to these "poor" navigational issues, I've completely given up on trying to edit on the unit itself and use the software exclusively. But I imagine this will be a serious problem when I go to play a live show and find myself needing to tweak something on the unit!!!

Thoughts?

Troy
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom