News

Firmware 11


THE NEW FIRMWARE 11 FOR THE AXE-FX II IS MARKED BY THE SIMULTANEOUS
RELEASE OF THE LONG-AWAITED AXE-EDIT 3.0

 BUT THERE ARE A FEW OTHER NEW THINGS TO REPORT ON - 
WHEREBY, WHAT DO WE MEAN WITH A FEW?

147 (ONE/FOUR/SEVEN)
Firmware 11 has raised the number of available amps to an incredible 147 models. The new Mimic technology which was introduced in the last major firmware update, seems to have made including new amp models even more fun for Cliff Chase – at least that’s the impression we get when even small intermediate updates bring a bunch of new amps with them.

POWERFUL CONNECTION
The large proportion of the new amps consists of ‘jumped input’ models. Back in the ‘good-old-days’ it was a popular modification to connect the two inputs of dual channel amps - if the amp happened to have four input jacks on the front panel it was a simple matter of connecting them with a jumper lead. The result was a slightly different tone and a bit of extra oomph from your amp, as you were effectively playing through both channels simultaneously. Firmware 11 now offers a whole series of such jumped amps. The Marshall corner is covered with the inclusion of the 1987X, Plexi 50W, Plexi 100W and Brit JM45 models and there is also a jumped Hipower model.

FROM CAROL ANN TO PAUL RUBY
And any others? Almost too many to list – boutique freaks will be more than happy at the inclusion of various channels of a Carol-Ann-Triptik a model of a Paul Ruby Rocket, two Komet amps and a further model of the legendary Dumble ODS-100.

 Johan Kriig (Norway) plays the new Axe-Fx II Model
of the Komet Concorde w. Firmware 11
 

 Johan Kriig tests the new Axe-Fx II Models of the Dumble OD100
and Dumble 4x12 Cab w. Firmware 11

FREDRIK THORDENDAL'S SPIRIT
The metal fraternity gets two new amps built to the specifications of Fredrik Thordendal as well as two new models of the Bogner Ecstacy using the amp’s ‘Modern’ setting. As an encore there is also now a FAS Modern II model, a Van Halenised version of the popular FAS Modern amp.

ROUNDING OFF
Two models featuring different modes of a Morgan AC20 Deluxe, a 1966 Fender Princeton Reverb and a normal channel of the Plexi 100W round off the new arrivals.

AUTOMATIC UPGRADES
The existing amp models have also been thoroughly reworked, with some remarkable results. The power amp simulation has been further optimized to produce even smoother highs and a more open sound, the amount of power stage distortion is now easier to control and a cut switch reduces the amount of bass frequencies entering the amp simulation, allowing a tighter sound with reduced flub.

SENSITIVE CONTROL
Amps that have separate controls for input drive and overdrive are now differentiated in the Axe-Fx II. This applies especially to Mesa Boogie Mark amps and Dumbles. This not only makes reproducing the sound of an amp by emulating the control settings easier, but also opens up more subtle control possibilities, as it is now possible to make adjustments between individual gain stages.

SOLDERED ON
The algorithms for the preamp simulation have also been improved, as has the cathode follower algorithm. New parameters have been opened for user-adjustment, allowing even more exact control and thus further increasing the Axe-Fx II’s creative tool-box. Even the value of the capacitor soldered on to the master volume control can now be adjusted.

INDIVIDUAL EQUALIZER
The equalizer in the Amp block now has a Type parameter and can be adjusted to have 5, 7 or 8 bands. While the latter two are simulations of popular stomp pedals, the five-band equalizer simulates the one found in Mesa Boogie Mark amps, both in frequency and control behavior. This is a function that was often requested and has now been implemented in the usual high quality.

SETTING THE TONE FOR EFFECTS
With all this elation at the myriad of amp-related presents it would be easy to forget that the Axe-Fx II is still THE effects device. And on this front too there is a continuous quest for perfection that results in regular, though mostly small, improvements.

DELUXE WAHWAH PARADISE
Soon after our text about Firmware 10 the WahWah block was reworked from the ground up. An improved transfer function produces a fatter, more authentic tone. Most guitarists will be more than happy with the new choice of available wah-types – there are eight classic and modern pedals to choose from and, yes, the all-important ones are in there. There are also a few hand-wired jewels that would cost an arm and a leg if you could actually find one for sale. These presets are, as always, open to your own customization so you can tune them further to suite your needs and preferences.

IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS REVERB
Long-standing glad guitarists and tech observers will no doubt remember that the reverb in the very first Axe-Fx Standard was already a reference and way ahead of anything else at the time. This is hardly surprising, as it all started for Fractal Audio way back in the day with some digital reverb algorithms. Meanwhile the reverb has undergone continuous development and has now, for the umpteenth time, received new algorithms that result in an even smoother tail response and a more natural sound. And as early digital is now becoming a kind of classic sound in itself, the Axe-Fx II also now offers a ‘Studio’ reverb type that simulates the sound of a classic digital studio reverb. The maximum modulation depth has also been increased, allowing more pronounced modulation effects to be incorporated into the reverb.

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Use of the Mix control in the Delay block has been made more user-friendly by making the perceived volume remain constant as the delay mix is altered. The graphic equalier in the GEQ block has received the same improvements as the aforementioned EQ page in the Amp block. The Filter block can now also work as a tilt EQ and the noise gate has also been improved. It now supports global blocks and has its own level parameter. 

CABS FOR ENTHUSIASTS
The frequency range over which the proximity effect occurs in the cab block can now be fine-tuned. Alongside five new cabinet simulations from the Producer Packs, Firmware 11 also brings back 14 types from Firmware 9 that were left out of Firmware 10 because they were considered unnecessary. However, they obviously had some enthusiastic supporters who missed them enough to make an outcry, the result being that they have been reinstated.

TONEMATCH PLUS
The Tonematch block now has two modes and can be optimized for use with offline sources (e.g. an existing recording) or live sources (played directly into the Axe-Fx). This results in better tone-matching in both cases.

EASY HANDLING
Few users would complain that the Axe-Fx II is difficult to use and we certainly don’t know of any other device that is so comprehensive yet still easy to program. However, Cliff Chase still listens to his customers and even here is constantly in the process of adding improvements based on the suggestions of users. Or perhaps that should be the other way around: it is because Fractal Audio listen to their customers’ suggestions and because nobody there is resting on their laurels that their products are so good. The following improvements to the user interface are all based on discussions on the forum:

  • The auto-engage feature for wah pedals and other MIDI-controllable parameters has been modified to also allow optimal functionality with ‘slow’ MIDI controllers.
  • The Level and Pan parameters in the Pitch block can now also be controlled via modifiers.
  • The process of determining tapped tempo has been greatly improved, so that the desired tempo is now recognized reliably and quick.

Many small improvements have been made to the device’s MIDI implementation. The USB buffer is now faster and more stable and can be monitored in the Utility/Status menu. Processing of incoming and outgoing MIDI messages has also been made more stable and new MIDI Sysex messages have been added.

ALL’S WELL THAT EDITS WELL
But there is another big piece of news: Axe-Edit, the editor for Mac and PC, is now available in Version 3.0 and is finally 100% compatible with the Axe-Fx II. All the MIDI improvements were necessary to ensure flawless operation of the two together and so it is no surprise to hear that Axe-Edit 3.0 will only work with an Axe-Fx II running Firmware 11 or later. We will be taking a closer look at Axe-Edit 3.0 in a separate article on g66.eu soon.

LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND
To keep the operating system of the Axe-Fx II lean and fast a seldom-used ability has been removed: presets created with very old firmware can no longer be loaded with Firmware 11. If you have presets that were built with a firmware version earlier than 6.0, whether they are on disc or on the device itself, you will need to update to Firmware 10.12 and then resave all of these presets. They can then be opened in Firmware 11 with no problems.

FINISHING POLISH
Once again there are, of course, many little corrections and optimizations and this highlights Fractal Audio’s approach to continuous support for and development of the Axe-Fx. More than 40 such fixes and finishes have been added to the release notes since we last reported on a firmware update.

Tyler Grund: "Enjoying all that firmware 11 for the Axe-Fx has to offer. Built this patch this afternoon to play 'Little Wing' in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hope you enjoy. All tones and effects came out of the patch created on the Axe-Fx II" - Tyler Grunds Axe-Fx II Website.

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Adam Cook: "Firmware 11 features a new 'jumpered Plexi' amp model. Perfect for playing Van Halen in your Basement! All guitar you're hearing is my guitar through the Axe-Fx II and into my computer."

{jomwebplayer type=youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGc1QhJOV-o}