“I am shocked at how close the models are to the actual amps now. I’ve compared nearly every amp in
my collection (60+ amps) and it is amazing how close the modelling is to the actual amp.
This firmware, for me, finally proves my belief that an amp can be
fully modelled at a parametric level given an
accurate enough algorithm."
Instead of an introduction we decided to let Cliff Chase do the talking this time, as the new Firmware 15 is set to go down in history as the version in which the amp models were no longer distinguishable from the originals. This marks a point which for many years amp purists have believed to be unreachable.
The power amp stage has been reworked yet again, this time with the express intention of creating perfect realism. The above quote from Cliff Chase leaves no doubt as to his personal mission and perhaps we should therefore not be surprised that the Fractal Audio mastermind has once again been both busy and successful and has quite possibly created the final and most important update as far as playing feel and sound are concerned.
AS CRUNCHY AS HELL
The new power amp sounds even more authentic; there is more punch now and it is much crunchier when overdriven. Don’t forget that the amps are simulated in great detail: down to the circuitry and in many cases down to the individual components too, which explains why the current release notes contain information such as “improved cathode bias modelling – this improves so-called “Class-A” amps” or “improved Amp block output transformer modelling by improving the accuracy of the flux density vs intensity curve (B-H curve)” and so on and so forth. Adjustments and fine-tuning have been carried out at many points within the virtual amps, for example, the triode modelling now also incorporates reactive plate loading effects.
FOR SCHOOLED EARS ONLY
For us simple folk this just means that the Axe-Fx II has been improved in ways that very few people will notice. Everyone else was already happy anyway. However, the Master Volume control now has a much larger sweet spot, meaning that it is well worth playing with this control, even on those amps where you might have left it set for a long time now.
POWERFUL OUTPUT DYNAMICS
The Sat switch operation has been adjusted and now behaves exactly like the one in a real amp, as is the case with the tone stacks of many amp models. All amps have now received an output compressor, which allows powerful adjustments to the output dynamics. The Thunk parameter has been sent into retirement, as the many new improvements have made it redundant.
EASY AMP UPDATING
In order to benefit from all these improvements it is necessary, as always, to reset the advanced amp parameters. Up to now this has involved changing the individual amp model and then reselecting the one you want to use. Two new comfort-functions now make this task easier – at the bottom of the Utility/Preset menu you will now find a command to reset the advanced amp parameters of the current preset and one to reset them for all presets. And while we are on the subject of amps:
CAROL-ANN & JUNIOR
There are once again two wonderful new amps to explore: a model of the Carol-Ann Tucana 3 and a further model of the Blues Junior extend the already unbelievable selection of more than 180 frighteningly authentic amp simulations.
Another 14 UltraRes cabs from the latest Fractal Audio studio sessions are now on board. The works IRs from Version 9 and earlier in slots 119-132 had to go to make room for them. In the video on the right Morten Falk plays a few licks through the new UltraRes 1x12 and 2x12 cabinets..
MORE EFFECTIVE EFFECTS
There have also been some changes made to the effects:
Nearly all the equalisers have received a variable-Q EQ type, allowing the simulation of classic graphic equalisers that may be more familiar to many users.
The Chorus and Flanger blocks have been improved and now sound even juicier.
Usability has once again been improved, making the Axe-Fx II experience even less complicated.
There are now four Scratchpad IR locations as opposed to only one.
At least a dozen small errors have been corrected, which shows that the Axe-Fx II is still very much being further developed, but also proves that when bugs show up in the software, they are corrected very quickly.
On top of all this new factory presets designed to make best use of the new firmware have also been released. There is also a new firmware version for the MFC-101 and a new version of Axe-Edit completes the line-up.
As always the following applies: every improvement is also a change. Download the free update, install it and enjoy the fantastic sounds that are available – but don’t do it just before your next gig. Give yourself some time to explore the new possibilities and adjust your existing patches accordingly. Bon appétit!