IN KEEPING WITH THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, FRACTAL AUDIO MASTERMIND
CLIFF CHASE TREATED HIMSELF TO SOME QUIET TIME
FOR INNER REFLECTION.
And what came of it is once again remarkable: after the holiday Cliff Chase surprised the Axe-Fx community with yet another new firmware version, which once again contains improvements that really can be heard. The obvious question of “How can something that's already perfect be improved upon?” is one we looked at in detail here.
MASTER VOLUME FROM A MASTERMIND
This time the most noticeable improvement has been to the master volume control. The 'sweet spot' is now considerably wider, meaning that the virtual pot offers great sound over a much larger range. Many of the amp models that previously sounded slightly harsh at maximum volume can now be tamed a little, another indication that the Axe-Fx offers more than the originals, indeed an audible one: many amps now sound more open.
CAN DISTORTION BE TOO AUTHENTIC
A new 'grid modeling' parameter in the amp block allows the deactivation of grid modeling in the power amp. This can be done to eliminate some high-frequency distortion that is there in the original amps, but that some players find undesirable. There is no right or wrong here, just set it to suit your taste!
One of the previous firmware updates, 3.03 (it was released after our article on Firmware 3.0) introduced a further very clever improvement, the automatic high-res mode. When a patch only uses one amp, the internal sampling rate is automatically doubled. This results firstly in even higher fidelity and secondly in a greater resistance to aliasing.
In principal aliasing can occur whenever an analogue signal is processed digitally and is a typical bugbear of digital signal processing. While aliasing was never really a problem with the Axe-Fx, the new high-res mode has banished it forever.
...AND ANCIEN TAPE ECHO
The delay and multidelay blocks now have a 'real' Tape Echo with the completely realistic behaviour of a mechanical tape echo effect, including all the relevant controls. Okay, we're exaggerating a little bit here – random failure of the mechanical parts has not been implemented;-), but the analogue sounds available, especially those caused by variations in tape speed are fascinating.
MORE OF EVERYTHING
A few effects have been given extended controls and yet more parameters have been opened up to remote control via modifiers.
Support for MIDI control has also been extended. The user manual will shortly be updated accordingly and will then be available for download.
So, the best Axe-Fx ever has once again become that little bit better and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that this continuous trend towards optimisation and perfection will be carrying on into next year.