IS IT POSSIBLE TO TALK ABOUT A NEW FIRMWARE RELEASE THAT IS BOTH SO
FAR-REACHING IN ITS MUSICAL POSSIBILITIES AND NAMED QUANTUM,
WITHOUT USING THE PHRASE ‘QUANTUM LEAP’?
PROBABLY NOT. WE DECIDED
NOT TO EVEN TRY.
Even for Fractal Audio themselves, Quantum is a milestone in amp modeling. At the core of the new firmware are new algorithms for circuit simulation in real time (Real-Time Spice), providing a degree of accuracy previously unheard of in any product.
HOW MANY MILESTONES WAS THAT NOW?
According to Fractal Audio mastermind, Cliff Chase, Quantum is the single biggest improvement there has ever been in any of the many firmware updates for the Axe-Fx. By now you may well be starting to wonder just how many ultimate breakthroughs we are planning to report on, but in reality it’s not really like that. For most of the many satisfied users the Axe-Fx has long-since caught up with its real amp counterparts in terms of sound and playing feel. There are, however, still a few die-hard sceptics, for whom the Axe-Fx just doesn’t quite sound like a real amp. But their numbers have been dwindling with every new firmware release and we are pretty sure we’re not exaggerating when we say that Quantum is going to change a lot more people’s minds.
TRIODES WITH CHARACTER
An important part of the new algorithms is the remodelling of the most popular preamp tubes, the 12AX7A, ECC83 and 7025. As every improvement is also a change, and some users are so happy with their existing sound that they don’t want anything to change at all, the old models are still selectable. The ‘Character’ controls in the Amp block now have a new mode called ‘Dynamic’. This, together with the other ‘Char’ controls, allows you to influence the tone of the amp through the dynamics of your playing. This is something you definitely have to try out!
The power of the advanced parameters in the Amp block is generally underestimated. While the amps in the Axe-Fx sound good right from the word go, and have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, now and then you might want a particular sound, perhaps one you’ve heard before or simply the one you can hear in your head but have never managed to achieve. This is where the advanced parameters can work their magic and it is well worth taking the time to study how they can affect your sound. And Quantum has brought many changes here, too.
- Alongside the previously mentioned Dynamic Character mode you an now select the type of compression in the preamp and have the choice of ‘Ideal’ or ‘Authentic’.
- These parameters are now grouped together with the highly powerful bias settings on a new menu page called ‘PRE DYN’.
Just what can be done with these settings is impressively shown off in this video on how to recreate Van Halen’s early brown sound. A second video goes on to describe how to set up the relevant effects.
NOT ONLY BETTER, BUT MORE TOO
Quantum brings four new models of the much-loved Marshall JMP-1 rack preamp with it. And because the Amp block in the Axe-Fx is always complete, all of these models have been paired with a typical 100W Marshall power amp from the same era. This should correspond to the typical setup that made the JMP-1 so successful in its day.
A new Fender Vibroverb based on a Custom Reissue has also been added to the portfolio, which now consists of a grand total of 223 top-class amps. We’re not 100% sure, but we could swear the housings of the Axe-Fx units started to bulge when we installed Quantum on them…
More amps have received the G3 treatment and because Quantum has added even more life to every amp model, we recommend going through all of your favourite amps once again, if only for the pleasure of discovering that they now sound even more life-like.
THREE-DIMENSIONAL CABINET SOUND
The Cabinet block now has a ‘Dephase’ control. This allows you to remove the ‘phasiness’ that can occur when recording an IR, thus making the cabinet sound more ‘in the room’. Just try a few different settings – you won’t have to wait long for an ‘Aha!’ experience.
THREE 30 TON TRUCKS
Owners of XL or XL+ models can look forward to an additional 20 cabinet models from the Universal Noise Studios 4x12 Cabinet Pack. On top of this the number of User Cab slots has been doubled to 1024. This means that these devices now contain more than 200 cubic meters of loudspeaker cabinet, which corresponds to the carrying capacity of about three-and-a-half 30 ton trucks, unfortunately meaning that G66 will now have to add on a delivery surcharge of 10'000 Euros for every new Axe-Fx II XL+… Just kidding, of course, but this does show what transport advantages there are in owning an Axe-Fx when compared to the traditional analogue world. Who travels to a gig with more than one truck just for guitar cabinets?
As always the list of changes is completed with a few small improvements to the user interface and one or two bug fixes. It is certainly worth mentioning that the highly intuitive update program Fractal Bot is also available for download in a new version and that the much-loved Axe-Edit has been updated for use with Quantum.
And so there’s now nothing to stop you from enjoying yet another perfect update. As always, it’s a good idea to allow enough time for the entire procedure of updating, testing, laughing in amazement and then tweaking. Bon appétit!