HOW MUCH ROOM DO YOU NEED FOR 258 TOP-CLASS GUITAR AMPS?
WELL, AS ALWAYS WITH SERIOUS SCIENCE,
THE PROPER ANSWER IS:
To store this many traditional tube amps you would need a cubic space with edges 30 m. You could easily fit the Brandenburg Tor or the Arc de Triumph inside a cube that size (but you would have to take the amps out first, of course).
A RUCKSACK FULL OF DREAMS
With the Axe-Fx II XL+ and the AX8 you don’t need quite as much space, because these little black boxes already contain 258 first-class amp simulations. And this means that the above-mentioned armada of amps can now fit inside a fairly small rucksack. Welcome to the century where dreams come true!
WE WON’T MENTION IT
And of course, these two fantastic devices are what this is all about, though we won’t mention that the tube-amp monolith would cost 400 times as much as our humble Fractal rucksack. Nor will we mention that it would weigh at least 1200 times as much. After all, we don’t want to harp on about how portable and easy on the back an Axe-Fx II XL+ or an AX8 is. And we certainly won’t talk about how much more dramatic the price difference becomes when you consider the 184 guitar cabinet simulations that the Fractal devices contain. Oh, and then there’s the most complete set of effects you can imagine – we’d better keep quiet about that, too. Instead of all that we’ll concentrate on the large number of advances that have been made since our last article. Yes, it’s all about firmware updates and once again the changes go way deep.
GIANT STEP – QUANTUM 7
The new Quantum 7 Firmware provides two new amps, a further version of the Dirty Shirly amp and a model based on the modified JCM 800 Santiago #34. It’s astounding that there are still some amps left to model – many people don’t realise that there are so many different tube amps at all. Should any of our readers have had the good fortune to have played all the originals that the 258 amp simulations are based on, we would love to hear from you!
One of the focus points in the further development of the Axe-Fx II and AX8 this time has once again been the amp simulations. In line with the motto: ‘better is the enemy of good’, many aspects of the amp algorithms have been reworked.
The phase inverter modelling has been greatly improved, providing thicker power amp distortion and more variation in the harmonic spectrum when the input signal varies. This leads to a better playing feel and a sound with more punch. Single note solos now sound sweeter.
The output transformer modelling has also received some love and now offers tighter and smoother bass when the virtual power amp is driven into distortion. This increase in accuracy means that a few adjustments to the tone controls may be necessary for some presets.
The Amp block’s output compressor has also been improved. The result is more musical compression that reacts more quickly to sudden changes in pick attack.
Once again improvements have been made to the cathode follower modelling, this time leading to tighter bass and ‘chunkier’ tones. This is especially noticeable with simulations of amps that use cathode followers. These amp models have been reworked with updated parameters to make full use of the changes. More information can be found in the release notes.
The overwhelmingly positive reception of Quantum 7 by Fractal users has led to support for earlier modelling versions being removed. This has freed up memory for further amps, cabs and new features. And there is another advantage: the smaller the size of a new firmware, the greater the likelihood of it still being compatible with older versions of the Axe-Fx II. This means that users of the very first Axe-Fx IIs can still look forward to continuing firmware updates.
As already mentioned, quite far-reaching changes have been made this time and, as always in such cases, it is a good idea to reset the advanced parameters of the Amp block. To do this simply select another amp type and then reselect the original amp type. Then just save your preset and you are good to go.
AFTER THE AMP IS IN FRONT THE CAB
Quite a bit of work has been done at the interface of the amp and the loudspeaker cabinet. In a real-world setup there is considerable interaction between the two of them.
Certain characteristics of the cabinet will influence the way the power amp behaves and vice versa. The simulation of this interaction has been reworked for maximum authenticity.
The Motor Drive algorithm, which controls the way the loudspeakers in the cabinet compress, has also been made more authentic.
Although these algorithms are technically part of the amp modelling, many users will instinctively look for them in the Cab block. Therefore, the controls to adjust these parameters can be found in both the Amp and Cab blocks.
And talking of cabinets, not only the above-mentioned Motor Drive simulation is newsworthy, but also the fact that the amount of resultant compression can now be directly read in both the Amp block (PWR DYN page) and the CAB block (MIX page).
XL and XL+ users also receive five new cab sims that cover every taste. Anyone employing User Cabs should be aware that this means the user cab positions will shift to accommodate the new cabs.
Fractal Audio’s technology is way ahead of the competition, but Cliff Chase is not yet ready to rest on his laurels - other blocks have also been improved:
Two new distortion types have been added since our last article.
The Drive block has been further improved.
The Comp block has also undergone improvements.
Two new compressor types have been added.
Some of the delay types have received a new ‘Input Diffusion’ parameter.
THE BEST AXE-FX II XL+ AND FX8 OF ALL TIME
A couple of dozen bug fixes complete the list of changes this time. And so once again the Axe-Fx II and the FX8 can now be updated with the best firmware version there has ever been. The two computer editors, Axe-Edit and AX8-Edit for PC and Mac are already compatible with the new firmware.