Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all you had to take with you to a gig or to the studio was a small box that you just had to connect up and you’d be ready to play within a couple of minutes? With everything you needed, with all the options you could imagine and with sounds that you can’t even begin to imagine yet? And all this in a quality that causes dropped jaws and looks of disbelief everywhere? We think this dream is possible. Science fiction was yesterday, now it’s 2015. The Axe-Fx II/XL+ is here. For you.
The Axe-Fx II XL+ is a digital multi-effects processor for guitar: it can hold its own in any studio/recording/live situation and always stands out due to its high quality in every respect. Components, sound, variability, connections – all of them are the best there is. The Axe-Fx II XL+ is completely programmable with free routing of all effects and can be controlled externally in almost every way. Despite all this it is unbelievably easy to use, which soon makes it a central component of your sound. Whether used as a complete solution that replaces an entire rack full of equipment or integrated into such a rack, the Axe-Fx II XL+ can be perfectly tailored to suit your needs. Without having to make any compromises.
The Axe-Fx II XL+ is both a multi-effects device and a guitar preamp and thus a complete solution for all types of guitar signal processing. Many bass players also use Axe-Fx IIs and there have even been sightings of use with pedal steel guitars, cellos and clarinets. All the classic effects and many more besides are included and can be “wired up” pretty much any way you like.
The unprecedented power of the hard and software in the Axe-Fx II XL+ allows the simultaneous use of many effects, often in multiple instances. Two drives in parallel, two wahs working oppositely left and right, four equalisers at various points in the signal chain, all this going into two amps and four cabs, plus as much chorus, reverb and delay as you can stomach… The Axe-Fx II XL+ offers all of this and much more.
It is extremely hard to think of a guitar-based use that the Axe-Fx II XL+ is not easily capable of handling. But then again, that’s what it was designed and built for!
The Axe-Fx II XL+ has been designed without compromise to meet the highest quality standards in every respect. For every single hardware component the very best available option was chosen, without any bean-counters raising their hands to object at the costs. That is why it is so quiet, that is why it sounds so good and that is why using it is so much fun.
Truly authentic sounding, virtually latency-free audio signal processing requires advanced software programming and complex algorithms. And for such software to do its job properly it needs a suitable hardware environment to work in. The Axe-Fx II XL+ therefore contains not one, but two of the most powerful Analogue Devices DSP chips that money can buy. Only such a high-performance hardware platform is good enough to support the superior software of the Axe-Fx II XL+, as powerful software requires powerful processors.
Whereas with many other products the quality of a component is often decided by someone in the purchasing department, with a controller looking over his/her shoulder, things are different with the Axe-Fx II XL+, where optimum performance and the best possible sound are the goals, regardless of cost. And while programming the algorithms the work is not finished when the effect sounds more-or-less like the original, but when it sounds exactly the same and when all the criteria concerning variability and musicality have been met.
All this means that from the low-noise input through the A/D converter and the unique algorithms to the numerous outputs, the signal chain is completely without compromise and will never impede your creativity in any way.
Whether in the studio or live, the Axe-Fx II XL+ is optimised for every situation. The multitude of connections leave nothing to be desired. It can easily be integrated into both analogue and digital studio setups, as well as complex live rigs. Alternatively it can be used as a super-versatile stand-alone solution.
The Axe-Fx II XL+ has more connections than you could shake a stick at – the back of its 2U rack housing is covered with them. With some of these sockets you can even select on a preset to preset basis where in the signal chain they should be placed.
In principle all you need is a guitar and some way of amplifying everything, assuming you don’t want to use the headphone jack. For many guitarists the Axe-Fx II has thus become the “big replacer” – plug in the power cable, guitar in at the front, XLRs out from the back to the PA and you’re ready to go in just a few seconds. It’s the live performer’s dream come true!
But the classic 4x12 look and amp feel are possible too: simply turn off the power amp and cabinet simulation and play through a valve power amp and a real cab. The direct feed to the mixing desk can still use the power amp and cab simulations.
You can even use the Axe-Fx II XL+ as a preamp and to simulate stomp box effects such as drive pedals, then go into your tube amp and simultaneously use the Axe-Fx II in the effects loop of the amp, for example for delay and reverb effects.
In the studio the Axe-Fx II XL+ can be connected to the digital world via S/PDIF, AES/EBU or USB.
The Axe-Fx II XL+ works entirely digitally. Its central heating system consists therefore not of tubes, but of two high-performance processors. The way tubes and the other components of tube amps work has been comprehensively researched and is well known. Now, in the year 2014, it is quite possible to calculate and reproduce every aspect of such processes – provided the right hardware and the correct calculation methods are employed. Of course, it is still anything but easy – as the rather less than satisfactory efforts of many other companies have proven and, indeed, unprecedented amounts of research were necessary to achieve the simulation quality of the Axe-Fx II. But those who have heard what it can do and have experienced for themselves how directly it follows your playing know one thing for sure: the hard work has paid off. And vacuum tubes were yesterday…
The Axe-Fx II XL+ allows the setting of every single parameter in every block to be saved so that you can recall them exactly at a later date. And not only that – the placement of the effects and the way they were wired up is also saved. Even with all this variability the Axe-Fx II nevertheless offers amazing user-friendliness and ease of use. In its XL+ version it has 768 user preset slots, with each one capable of storing a completely wired-up guitar rig with all the bells and whistles and all the required settings.
Straight out of the box 384 of these slots are taken up with factory presets that either demonstrate the various different amplifier models or provide examples of complicated routings that you can then integrate into your own patches. For every single preset slot there is a backup that allows you to restore either the most recently saved backup version or the works sound. This means you can experiment as much as you like without having to worry getting to a gig and finding your sounds have disappeared.
Many effects blocks have two completely independent channels (X/Y). Switching between X and Y allows more versatile use of presets, thus reducing the number of different presets you actually need in any given situation.
In the Axe-Fx II XL+ you can place any of the almost 80 effects blocks freely within a 4x12 grid system, meaning you are not limited to a few variations that the manufacturer thought would be enough for you. If you want to send your guitar signal into a cabinet first, then through two delays and two amps in parallel and finally into a wah, just go ahead. It’s no problem. The signal levels are automatically adjusted internally, so there is no need to worry about ohms and voltages and the like – your virtual amp will not explode if you feed its input with the output of another virtual amp.
The stereo effects loop can also be placed anywhere within the routing grid, making it an easy job to integrate the unit into a larger rig.
As for the internal signal flow, the Axe-Fx II XL+ has four completely separate stereo paths, enabling highly complex setups with different signal processing for each path. Here again the Axe-Fx II XL+ requires no compromises from you, but rather offers a platform that can set your creativity free.
Almost every parameter in the Axe-Fx II XL+ can be controlled in a number of different ways, be it automatically via MIDI, manually via an external controller such as an expression pedal, via internal controllers such as the built-in oscillators, via time-based controllers or via the intensity or pitch of the notes you are playing.
In the studio MIDI automation is often useful and we know some solo entertainers who program the required sound changes into the MIDI data of their backing tracks to enable automatic program changes when performing live.
A simple touch wah (the louder you play, the more it wahs) is easy to set up, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps you would like to have less reverb when you play low notes? Or maybe you fancy a seamless blend into another amp with a completely different sound when you play further up the neck? Or how about creating a super-dynamic amp that automatically turns up the master volume when you dig into the strings more? All of this and much more is no problem at all!
For all its variability and complexity the Axe-Fx II XL+ is nevertheless easy to use – we know of a good few devices that can do less but are harder to operate. Every effects block has a start page with the most important and often-needed controls. Most of the time just using these parameters will give you the sound you are looking for, especially as many effects blocks have a range of standard types to choose from. For example, if you choose the Cry Baby setting in the wah block, all the parameters will be set to make the wah sound like that original. You can now leave it at that and have a first-class Cry Baby wah pedal at your disposal, one that sounds just like the real thing. However, you are still free to adjust a whole host of parameters as you wish.
The Axe-Fx II XL+ doesn’t force you to start tweaking parameters that you don’t understand. Instead it keeps things simple, but still allows those who wish to do so to adjust whatever they want to. Complexity on demand, if you like. This means that no one needs to be afraid of using an Axe-Fx II and good tone does not require a degree in rocket science.
The four quick control knobs on the front panel simplify the editing of sounds and can be assigned to whichever effects you like to allow 'on the fly' editing.
Anyone who has searched through 1000 satellite channels for something worth watching knows that quantity doesn’t always relate to quality. Sometimes, however, you can find a large number of good things together. Some people, for example, really are rich, beautiful, intelligent and healthy. In this respect the Axe-Fx II XL+ is rather like having two proverbial birds in the hand.
The simulations in the Axe-Fx II are scarily close to the real-life originals on which they are based. Every single amp model in the Axe-Fx II is a unique masterpiece of sound quality. Nobody would be surprised if there were therefore only a handful of amps to choose from – but the astounding reality is over 200 top-quality amps plus over 150 fantastic cabinet simulations! Quality and quantity – combined without compromise in the Axe-Fx II XL+.
The proprietary techniques such as G3 Amp ModelingTM and MIMICTM even go so far as to authentically simulate the various circuitry quirks and “faults” of the original tube amps. The measured voltages and frequency response at various points in the circuit are stored in the Axe-Fx II and continuously compared with those produced by the simulation. This even allows the simulation of parasitic elements that were not intended by the makers of the original amp, but that still have an audible impact on the tone produced, resulting in an amp simulation that is just like the original, warts and all.
On top of all this, the Axe-Fx II XL+ offers the playing feel and directness of a real tube amp. The unbeatably low latency of only 2 ms equates to a distance of 68 cm from the loudspeaker.
Although the Axe-Fx II XL+ is already extremely highly developed, Fractal Audio never stop working to find ways of doing things even more effectively. Firmware updates with extended and improved effects, new amps and cabinets and much more are released regularly.
In line with the customer-friendly policy at Fractal Audio, these updates are always provided for download free of charge, so that your Axe-Fx II XL+ will always be the best possible Axe-Fx II XL+.
Meanwhile various models of the Axe-Fx II have been released.
Axe-Fx II (original)
Axe-Fx II Mark II
Axe-Fx II XL
Axe-Fx II XL+