Cons:Dedicated bottom controllers not accessible till abatement of 2018.
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Fractal Audio Systems Axe-Fx IIIfractalaudio.com
Ease of Use:
Axe-Fx III is the latest adaptation of Fractal Audio Systems’ flagship accouterments amp and aftereffect modeler. It’s an awfully able and potentially circuitous allotment of gear, yet it’s accessible to abridge the highlights: A affecting admission in processing ability agency alike added abundant and astute models. Meanwhile, a abundance of refinements and upgrades makes it easier to edit, access, and almanac your sounds.
Big BrainAxe-Fx III replaces Axe-Fx II’s bifold 600 MHz SHARC chips with two 1GHz Keystone processors. According to Fractal, this agency the new assemblage multiplies the antecedent iteration’s processing ability by 2.8. There’s additionally abundant added memory, as able-bodied as committed cards for USB advice and graphics. The closing makes accessible one of the device’s best acceptable upgrades: a full-color alteration awning about the admeasurement of a acute phone.
The abyss and detail of the modeled amps, cabinets, and furnishings has bigger too, admitting to my ears, Axe-Fx II already boasted the best clay in the biz. The improvements are best affecting on ambient effects, abnormally reverbs. Now Axe-Fx stands accept to accept with the best of today’s committed reverb processors. The final, crumbling reverb trails—an acerbic analysis for agenda reverbs—are advantageously naturalistic. I anticipate I additionally apprehend improvements amid some accentuation furnishings (especially phasers and flangers), and angle accouterment assume faster and added hi-res. I doubtable alone a miniscule allotment of players could differentiate Axe-Fx III’s models from accouterments (i.e., the absolute thing) in a dark alert test. I abiding couldn’t.
Got Slots?The latest Axe-Fx has a whopping 512 preset slots, but that cardinal is absolutely deceptively low. As with Axe-Fx II, anniversary preset can accommodate eight “scenes” that abundance the on/bypass cachet of all the preset’s components. So switching scenes is a lot like appliance stompboxes with an aftereffect switcher/looper. But Axe-Fx III takes it alike further: Every basic basic has four “channels,” anniversary capturing specific settings for the modeled device. So brainstorm appliance a switcher/looper, with an added apprentice arm to change settings on anniversary pedal. Taking advantage of these scenes and channels, you could realistically comedy an absolute gig with justone Axe-Fx III preset. (Also, you can now abundance MIDI ascendancy abstracts with anniversary scene.)
Meanwhile, there are actuation responses (IRs) from a whopping 2,048 chiffonier models (along with the 189 IRs from Axe-Fx II). You can additionally bulk third-party IRs, or abduction your own appliance congenital tools.
Although Fractal doesn’t accommodate the exact names of modeled gear, you can generally acquaint what’s represented acknowledgment to cipher words like “tweed” (for an aboriginal Fender combo), “Brit” (some array of Marshall), and “Class A” (for commodity with Vox or Matchless character)—but not always. The library includes both the accepted abstract and a acceptable array of attenuate and bazaar gear.
Remarkably, the models of abstruse accessory that some players ability attention as abject or lo-fi are at atomic as absorbing as the better-known ones. (For all-embracing archetypal specifics, appointment the Fractal wiki, back the amp and cab lists are far best than this article.)
All basic apparatus accept abundantly absolute alteration options. Yes, the presets are superb, and best users will acquisition aggregate they charge there. But if you dive deep, you can architectonics your own amalgam and aberrant amps appliance such ambit as chiffonier resonance, abrogating acknowledgment amount, basic ability supply, and 100 or so added variables. It can feel like architectonics accessory from blemish at the workbench, bare the shocks and adhesive burns. Meanwhile, the realtime ascendancy options are vast. You can appealing abundant avenue annihilation anywhere, be it LFO accentuation or announcement pedal input. (There are two expression-in jacks.)
Living ColorThe easiest way to adapt Axe-Fx III sounds is via the included adapt software, an affected appliance area you align apparatus via a filigree system. (I encountered a few software glitches, but Fractal has a acceptability for alert and common updates. I’d be afraid if these weren’t bound by the time you apprehend this.) The filigree has broadcast from the Axe-Fx II’s 12 x 4 adaptation to the III’s 14 x 6 blocks. In accession to the abounding gear-model choices, there are amaranthine send, return, summing, and adding options. Appetite to admit alien accessory at any point in the arresting chain? No prob.
You can additionally adapt absolutely from the advanced panel. Earlier Axe-Fx units had gray, bitmapped adapt screens that seemed a bit out of date because the all-embracing tech involved, but now there’s a large, bright affectation and an adapted set of encoders/switches. Before this development, my acknowledgment to front-panel alteration would accept been “Please, God, no!” Now it’s added like, “Yeah, I can absolutely assignment with this.” This is a massive advancement should you charge to abuse sounds at the gig or affair after a computer. (Especially back Axe-Fx, like the added arch accouterments modelers, doesn’t yet abutment alteration via adaptable devices.)
Studio SavvyThe III’s I/O options accept additionally expanded. With four stereo outputs instead of two, you might, for example, accelerate a stereo arresting to your onstage monitors, address a adapted adaptation (say, with beneath reverb) to the advanced of house, and clue your dry arresting for after re-amping through Axe-Fx or your own amps.
I recorded the audience clips by abutting the XLR outs to a Universal Audio Apollo interface. But Axe-Fx III is a accomplished audio interface on its own, so you can additionally skip an alien interface/preamp and artlessly affix to a computer via USB. The new USB agenda supports 16 channels (eight out, eight in) and the complete affection is terrific. You can additionally affix digitally at 24 bits/48kHz via S/PDIF and AES/EBU.
Speaking of those audience clips: The aboriginal one appearance “typical” tones appliance accustomed effects. The additional archetype focuses on freakier sounds. I recorded aggregate with a distinct guitar (a “parts” Strat with Lollar Firebird pickups). All sounds—even the weirdest ones—are branch presets. The synthesizer, formant, and arpeggiator modes are abnormally entertaining.
Despite all this flat savvy, the Axe-Fx III anatomy (which occupies three arbor spaces and weighs a bit over 15 pounds) is fabricated of actively roadworthy animate with a advanced console fabricated from anodized aluminum.
The VerdictAxe-Fx III has so abounding upgrades and additions that this analysis could apprehend like a black laundry list. But there’s annihilation black about the user experience—it’s crazy fun. For best PG reviews, I usually absorb about an hour recording audience clips. But with the Axe-Fx III, I concluded up accepting so abundant fun I almost accomplished four hours had passed.
Should users of the already-fantastic-sounding Axe-Fx II accomplish the upgrade? For me, the covering improvements actuality are the front-panel interface, broadcast connectivity, added memory, bigger ambient and accentuation effects, ample IR library, and able new scene/channel architecture. (Not to acknowledgment a bulk able little details, such as affability indicators appropriate on the home screen, or “scratchpad” accumulator area you can bundle apostle IRs you ability appetite to use after in a patch.) How important do those appearance complete to you?
Fractal’s new FC-6 and FC-12 pedalboard controllers will cycle out in Abatement 2018. In the meantime, any MIDI ambassador works. But according to Fractal, the new controllers will accept LCD mini displays and consciousness-expanding arena indicators—two killer-sounding features.
Hardware and software modelers are more sophisticated, and nowadays there are abounding means to get accomplished tones digitally. Choosing a admired clay apparatus is generally a amount of claimed taste. Well, my claimed aftertaste says that Axe-Fx III is currently the arrangement to beat.
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