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YAAEHST (Yet Another Axe FX Holy $#!+ Thread)

Disconnector

Inspired
Hi there!

So I've been haunting this forum for years and saving my shekels . . . and about a month ago I finally ordered and received my XL+.

I started out in modelling with a Pod HD500 and it really soured me on digital gear for recording. Finally I bought an 11R and I designed some sounds in it that are pretty darn awesome to be honest. I've used the Singtall presets as well and have found tones that really fit my style of music. But since Avid has pretty much given up on the platform PLUS I'm a true delay whore (the AF2 multi-delay is MIND BOGGLING) I figured I'd give the AF2 a spin. I figured if I didn't dig it I could at least turn it over on Ebay for what I paid for it right?

Let me just say this before I start - while I truly dig high-gain tones (HOLY CRAP THE EDDIE VAN DANZI SETTINGS ARE KILLING MEEEEEEE - ) my *style* of playing just doesn't lean that way. I tend towards mid-gain and clean with a lot of atmosphere. Most of the really smoking reviews of the Fractal stuff really leans into the gain side of the house so I had to keep an open mind.

When I first got the device and got it wired into my studio (Universal Audio + Mackie MR8 Mk2s) and fired it up I honestly wasn't blown away. I ABed it with my 11R and while its was realistic it didn't just slay me. The presets are well thought out and not overly insane (I'm looking at you Line6) but there was something missing that at first kind of made me look at my $300 second hand 11R and go hmmmmmmm.

Then I started actually digging into Axe Edit and found that you can really design *your own sound* in the AF2. I started tweaking power amp parameters (lots of gold here - especially the bias settings and negative feedback) and pre-amp parameters (cathode follower settings and tonestack exchanges stand out here for me so far). Then I discovered the endless power of the almighty IRs and cab-lab remixes. HOLY CRAP FOLKS!

After about a week of dabbling about an hour a day just for giggles I switched back to the 11R and ABed them again . . . and I was FLOORED by the difference. I spent over a year carefully crafting tones on the 11R and the AF2 was CRUSHING then in every way. wow wow wow!

It's super realistic and just *feels* right. The 11R feels to me like I'm playing a recording sometimes - the action of your fingers doesn't seem to make the sound change like it does on a real amp. Not all of the 11R patches are this way but especially with high gain it just feels a bit disconnected. The AF2 feels like its directly attached to my fingers. I've been thinking of ways to verbalize what I'm hearing. I own a '67 Super Reverb that I dearly love and I never could capture a certain sound in the 11R that I hear when I place in the room with that amp. There's like a very faint octave up that fades in as the sound decays - it sounds like a female choir is following your chords. It's an amazing sound that i never can seem to capture in a mix. The AF2 HAS that sound in spades! Add in the insane delay and reverb sounds PLUS a huge palette of modulation effects - I'm left speechless. The drives are amazing - I'm dumping my extensive pedal collection on Ebay. This thing is bad-ass awesomeness. Seriously.

Higher gain stuff has this as well - the decay of the note sounds *sweet* and not grainy like it was on the 11R.

I'm just dipping my toe in the water but I can say this - my AF2 is going to provide years of eye opening, heart pounding, nut crushing awesomeness. Thanks Cliff and crew - you have something special here!!

Disconnector
 

smfelton

Experienced
When I got the 11R (and I've owned 2) I was amazed as it was the first modeller that 'felt' like playing an amp, I then got a KPA and made some of my own profiles and the accuracy was phenomenal, but eventually I managed to get an Axe FX, this 'felt' better, and sounded more like anything else I had played through. I hope that I never have to part from it. Nothing compares as far as I'm concerned period.
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
As it was for others here, the 11R was my path back to digital guitar processing. Done right it did sound good. The Axe Fx has kept it on the shelf since arriving, and I see no change in that coming.

Very glad to hear you are enjoying your Axe Fx. It only gets better in my experience.
 
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ChrisCG

Experienced
I would bet your reaction is pretty in line with what most people go through as they come from line 6 or one of the other digital devices. I came from a tube amp set up I have always been a tube amp guy and after a week I sold my live rig that I had been using for a couple years and really loved. It was a H&K switchblade head and a 5150 III cab, such a great combo. But after a couple days I just knew my XL could get me any tone I wanted. That was 19 months ago and I have zero regrets.
 

shasha

Fractal Fanatic
I had an Ultra for several years and sold it when the AxeFX2 was announced. I bought an 11R to hold me over and it was pretty hard to get used to coming from the FAS world, but I managed to get some decent sounds out of it. I ended up waiting for a little longer than expected and I got more comfortable with the 11R. When I finally came up on the wait list I really thought that I might just stick with what I had because the price difference was pretty significant, but I went ahead and ordered thinking that I would A/B the two and if there wasn't enough of a difference I would sell it on e-Bay and probably make a few bucks in the process.

So it came in, I wired it up in my rack and it within 5 minutes I knew that the 11R was never going to be turned on again. That was with one of the really early fw versions too; it's evolved into something that I can't even describe at this point.

I'm not one to bash other products, but I've got a folder with all of the updates since v13 and there are 94 files in that folder. The 11R had one update and I had to pay for it. Completely different business models and I know which one I prefer. Its been like getting a new unit every every month. We're not talking bug fixes either; we're talking about improvements and new features. There are probably still things with the 11R (just like a lot of other products) that have never been fixed.
 

Hellbat

Fractal Fanatic
My 11r is my emergency back up rig if something horrific happens to my Axe FX 2 and I can't get it repaired/replaced before a gig. I'd like to replace it with an AX8 when I can spare the funds though.
 

Max_H

Inspired
I love reading about people enjoying the axe fx. It gives me hope for the future of tone.

\m/
 

mrserv0n

New Member
Coming from using an eleven rack for over 5 years. I just got an AX-8 a couple days ago and doing A&B comparisons because I wanted to tell my self the 11R was just as good so I didn't have to migrate all my years of patches. But its not even close really. After two days, I am convinced and keeping the AX-8.
I wanted to get my Billy Idol songs setup for today's task. I opened AX editor, select one of the Friendman H2 amps, Set the input drive to 7.5, Put on a 4x12 v30/mixed cabbed. And Done. It nailed it. Threw on some delay, reverb and a small boost and DESTROYED my old Rebel Yell patch on the 11R in less than 10 minutes. That sold me on the unit. I am now willing to move my rig over.
I could write pages on the differences but its all been said. Only negative I have on the AX-8 is that its not a sound card like the 11R. But I felt is was priced fairly given its a pedal board too. A nice one at that.
 

SwigglesRP

New Member
I've been lurking and reading these reviews and I really appreciate your write-up. I think the most helpful/relatable Axe-buyers for me have been folks like you who move through the various brands. I've been working on the sim-side for ages, POD Farm, Guitar Rigs almost like you had with the POD and 11R and I'm very curious how the leap will be!
 

Rexgtr

Experienced
Great review of a great piece of musical gear.

Before the AxeFx II I had Guitar Rig, VG-88. I purchased and returned a Line6 Spider. With Guitar Rig I was really impressed, Rolands COSM just does nothing for me, Line6 I always noticed digital ugliness with pick squawks/squealies.

Its a great feeling when you get an AxeFx II and realize you can now sell off racks, pedals and a few amps.
 

sumitagarwal

Inspired
After years of Eleven Rack'ing I just took delivery of an Axe-FX II XL last night and started off my first few hours of A/B testing. I think I've got a lot more of that in store this weekend, and still need to learn a lot about the Axe. Running the Eleven Rack into the Axe so they're both using the same cab IR's.

That said, on my higher gain stuff (JCM800, Bogner Red, SLO) I notice a cut/grind on the Eleven Rack that I'm finding personally appealing, which may be the "grain" that Disconnected described in the OP. On the Eleven Rack I never really cared for aggressive pickups like EMG's because they sound downright nasty to me, so I have mostly sweet vintage Alnico II pickups, and my main guitars are 90's Les Pauls with '57 Classics in them.

I sort of suspect that sweet A2 humbuckers work synergistically with the aggressive grain on high-gain Eleven Rack settings for great results, but not on the Axe-FX?

For reference, my favorite balls-out rip-your-head-off ton on the Eleven Rack is: PAF Les Paul --> Grey (Ross) Compressor with compression set to minimum, output set to max --> JCM800 with maxed out pre and power gain --> Vox Alnico Blue 2x12 cabinet IR. Yes, I know it seems like a weird chain but it sounds like an old homeless man on bath salts and I love it.
 

zenaxe

Fractal Fanatic
After years of Eleven Rack'ing I just took delivery of an Axe-FX II XL last night and started off my first few hours of A/B testing. I think I've got a lot more of that in store this weekend, and still need to learn a lot about the Axe. Running the Eleven Rack into the Axe so they're both using the same cab IR's.

That said, on my higher gain stuff (JCM800, Bogner Red, SLO) I notice a cut/grind on the Eleven Rack that I'm finding personally appealing, which may be the "grain" that Disconnected described in the OP. On the Eleven Rack I never really cared for aggressive pickups like EMG's because they sound downright nasty to me, so I have mostly sweet vintage Alnico II pickups, and my main guitars are 90's Les Pauls with '57 Classics in them.

I sort of suspect that sweet A2 humbuckers work synergistically with the aggressive grain on high-gain Eleven Rack settings for great results, but not on the Axe-FX?

For reference, my favorite balls-out rip-your-head-off ton on the Eleven Rack is: PAF Les Paul --> Grey (Ross) Compressor with compression set to minimum, output set to max --> JCM800 with maxed out pre and power gain --> Vox Alnico Blue 2x12 cabinet IR. Yes, I know it seems like a weird chain but it sounds like an old homeless man on bath salts and I love it.

Advice (FWIW): Stop A/Bing. Just dial and learn the Axe from the ground up. I don't see much point in trying to emulate specific presets on an 11R with an Axe for anything other than FX settings (if you want something that sounds/works like an 11R you have it already (and you could get four or five more of them for the price of an Axe)).

When I got my II, I was disappointed because I sat that there and A/B'd against my deeply dialed Ultra. I had to let the old unit go and work with the thing to move forward. In retrospect, that period was a waste of time.

I have gone through many rigs, for some reason it is much harder to let the modelers just be themselves. When I've gotten an amp or preamp, I never sit there and try to make it sound like my other amp(s). I try to make it sound awesome and see what it can do, if it doesn't wow me, it eventually goes to someone else. For some reason with the modelers (probably because they claim to sound like other gear) the absolute first instinct is to jump right down that rat hole of connecting sh*t together and going back and forth.
 
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sumitagarwal

Inspired
Advice (FWIW): Stop A/Bing. Just dial and learn the Axe from the ground up. I don't see much point in trying to emulate specific presets on an 11R with an Axe for anything other than FX settings (if you want something that sounds/works like an 11R you have it already (and you could get four or five more of them for the price of an Axe)).

When I got my II, I was disappointed because I sat that there and A/B'd against my deeply dialed Ultra. I had to let the old unit go and work with the thing to move forward. In retrospect, that period was a waste of time.

I don't agree with that at all. A/B'ing taught me the importance of the Speaker page in the Axe-FX Amp block. On the 11R I took care to match the cab type to the speakers in the IR I was using (even if you have cabinet turned off in the global settings, you can leave resonance modeling on, but the preset needs to still have the cabinet enabled). This makes a huge difference. I really wish the Axe-FX had a good way to copy or use Speaker page presets, since on the 11R that's essentially what I have access to.

Based on the above 11R experience I went ahead in the Axe-FX and manually set the JCM800's Speaker page to the values found in the AC-30 model. Time consuming, but it made the JCM800 way more enjoyable for me. This to me is a big problem with the Axe-FX: you can easily change out your speaker IR, but without tedious tweaking the power amp will still interact with it as if it were a different speaker.
 
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zenaxe

Fractal Fanatic
I don't agree with that at all. A/B'ing taught me the importance of the Speaker page in the Axe-FX Amp block. On the 11R I took care to match the cab type to the speakers in the IR I was using (even if you have cabinet turned off in the global settings, you can leave resonance modeling on, but the preset needs to still have the cabinet enabled). This makes a huge difference. I really wish the Axe-FX had a good way to copy or use Speaker page presets, since on the 11R that's essentially what I have access to.

Based on the above 11R experience I went ahead in the Axe-FX and manually set the JCM800's Speaker page to the values found in the AC-30 model. Time consuming, but it made the JCM800 way more enjoyable for me. This to me is a big problem with the Axe-FX: you can easily change out your speaker IR, but without tedious tweaking the power amp will still interact with it as if it were a different speaker.
By all means continue to waste your own time then. Just friendly advice based on decades of experience and six years with Fractal devices. Maybe your learning style is completely different; you seem to think you understand 'the problem' with the complex device you just took delivery of a couple of days ago so rock on. Internet advice is free.
 

sumitagarwal

Inspired
By all means continue to waste your own time then. Just friendly advice based on decades of experience and six years with Fractal devices. Maybe your learning style is completely different; you seem to think you understand 'the problem' with the complex device you just took delivery of a couple of days ago so rock on. Internet advice is free.

I don't really appreciate the suggestion that just because I'm new to the device my thoughts and impressions are somehow invalid, especially since I feel it gives me outside perspective on how improvements can be made. And anyways, it appears this is a workflow (playflow?) issue others have also identified: http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/amp-speaker-page-matched-to-cab.100886/

I'd be curious though, based on your six years of Fractal experience, what's been your approach to managing power-amp/speaker resonance interaction when switching IR's?
 

zenaxe

Fractal Fanatic
I'd be curious though, based on your six years of Fractal experience, what's been your approach to managing power-amp/speaker resonance interaction when switching IR's?
I use the methods Cliff has described on the forum.

And speaking of wasting time. I am not interested in getting in an internet debate with you, and am not going to respond further to you. Just trying to help a newbie. Again, if you enjoy a workflow that I personally consider to be a waste of time; knock yourself out.
 

sumitagarwal

Inspired
Honestly, I think the easiest way to tackle this would be to just add a way to copy+paste all settings from a given page inside a block instead of all settings for the entire block. Would alleviate switching up speakers and would have benefits throughout all other blocks as well.
 

Rex

Legend!
...what's been your approach to managing power-amp/speaker resonance interaction when switching IR's?
Pick a likely amp. Then pick the IR that gets you closest to the sound you want.

Go back to the amp, and dial it in. That can include selecting a different amp model. It can also include dialing in the SPKR page.


Note that the 11R may model speaker resonances, but that's an EQ thing only. It doesn't model the reactive load that the speaker puts on the amp, so it doesn't model the way that affects distortion at different frequencies. Identical settings between the two devices won't give you identical results.
 

sumitagarwal

Inspired
Considering the general consensus around the Axe-FX modeling (especially around here) I feel like I must be crazy but... I find that the 11R appears to respond more dramatically to rolling down guitar volume knobs, at least the Super Reverb, JTM45, and even the JCM800. on the JCM800 the same quality makes it possible to "dig in" on your pick attack, though the 11R model definitely has less gain than the Axe-FX model.

It's entirely possible that the 11R is exaggerating this behavior to an unnatural level. Has anyone else had a similar experience where they could more easily modulate between clean and overdrive directly from their guitar on the 11R? Note that I feel it's crucial to try this with third-party IR's since the 11R stock cabs really do sh*t all over the inherent tone modeling.

One reason I think this is kind of interesting is the most frequent differentiation I hear about the Kemper vs the Axe-FX is that the Kemper also reacts more markedly to guitar volume knobs and pick dynamic changes.
 
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