EVER SINCE THE AXE-FX FIRST BECAME AVAILABLE CLIFF CHASE HAS MADE IT A TRADITION TO
CONCENTRATE ON PARTICULAR AREAS OF THE SYSTEM FOR EACH FIRMWARE UPDATE.
FIRMWARE 7 IS ALL ABOUT IMPROVEMENTS IN PREAMP AND POWER
AMP SIMULATION AND SOME FANTASTIC NEW AMP MODELS.
SEVENTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
Ever since the first Axe-Fx exploded onto the scene Cliff Chase has made a tradition of incorporating a noticeable improvement to particular areas with each firmware update. For us it becomes more difficult each time to find the right words to describe these improvements - but it seems it really is possible to make such a good system even better. The new Firmware 7.0 for the Axe-Fx II is an update that is all about the subtle nuances of preamp and power amp modelling.
While Firmware 5 concentrated on power amp dynamics and Firmware 6 introduced the incomparable Tone Match Block, this time it’s the turn of both the preamp and power amp stages and in particular the subtle effects that make the difference between a good amp and a very good one. The sort of things that most modellers don’t even attempt to replicate.
First of all the compression behaviour of each preamp was exactly modelled. Only a few preamps really produce any noteworthy compression, which is why this point is generally ignored completely in the modelling world. The Axe-Fx II has now been given a COMP parameter to control the amount of preamp compression. This defaults to the amount produced by the original amp, but can be varied as desired by the user. The time response of the compression can be controlled with the new PREAMP DYN TIME parameter.
As with a real preamp the overtones it produces change according to the strength of the input signal. This means the tone becomes more open, less cloaked. Just like with the power amp simulation, the behaviour of the screen grids in the tubes has been modelled, which improves both the dynamic response and the playing feel and opens up the tone even more, especially at high master volume levels.
The DYNAMICS parameter of the power amp can now be set to negative levels, which increases the available dynamic range. In other words, in this case the tone will not just be twice as loud when you strike the strings twice as hard, but even louder. Who wouldn’t like to be pounced on by his amp every now and then? Well, here you are: Firmware 7 gives it to you!
There is a model of the Friedman Dirty Shirley Amp that we’re sure will win many fans. At low gain levels it sounds direct and open, rather like a Vox AC30, its crunch sounds are nicely juicy and high gain is in there too, but always with tone that is both open and full.
Two very tasty delicacies are the models of the Divided by 13 CJ 11 and the Suhr Badger amps. These two alone are reason enough for updating to Number 7 - fabulous amps!
The Drive block allows not only bit reduction but now also sample rate adjustment. This means that even the sound of many other modellers can be reproduced ;-) But lower sample rates don’t just allow ‘vintage’ sounds from the early days of digital effects, but also way-out sounds for special effects. A new NULL clip type turns the Drive block into a distortion-free booster. New drive models of an Xotic RC Boost and a Hermida Zendrive extend the virtual stompbox palette.
The Reverb block, which has been an excellent effect since the early days of the Axe-Fx, has been further improved and is becoming more and more of a room simulator. But hey, the ground-breaking Quantec Room Simulator from the early 1980s cost around 12'000 dollars - this update, once again, costs nothing!
Two new parameters, LF Time and LF Xover adjust the reverb profile of the low frequencies. This allows more natural reverb simulations because many rooms reverberate low frequencies for longer.
The reverb types have been overhauled and use new algorithms, so here is a tip that has been useful for the Amp blocks for a while now: for optimal results the Reverb block should be reset before any editing is done. Simply set the TYPE parameter to another value and then set it back to where it was.
The new firmware adjusted factory presets are available now and, as always, can be downloaded free of charge here.