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Just How Good is the Fractal Audio AxeFX?

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Just How Good is the Fractal Audio AxeFX?

This feature was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Pedals For Hire

The bedroom warrior is a shy but picky guitarist who cares just as much about their tone as anyone else that plays guitar, they just happen to be constrained by wives, children, work and neighbours when it comes to rocking out.

The market for feeding these soldiers of tone is large has been around for some time; the Line6 POD was released almost ten years ago. But there are many in the community (often hiding behind the anonymity of the internet) who would claim that nothing could match a proper tube amp.

…There is an amazing moment when you first strike a booming chord with the AxeFX that will blow you away. The hype is actually correct this time…

However, I have never heard this said of the Fractal Audio AxeFX. The AxeFX is a rack unit that emulates a plethora of amps from a Deluxe Reverb to cranked Marshall or an ultra high gain Mesa Boogie (70 amps currently). And it does this very, very well.

There is an amazing moment when you first strike a booming chord with the AxeFX that will blow you away. The hype is actually correct this time. Then you start playing with features; adjusting cabinets (over 39 built-in) and putting stompboxes into the chain (70 types of effect and 384 box presets). Add in midi controller support, an unlimited number of IR cabinets, freely available user patches with preset sounds, the ability to link the AxeFX to your amp in the effects loop or go straight to the PA and you have a very powerful machine.

And just to top this off, each firmware release is completely free and expands on what is offered – the joy on my face when the Bogner Shiva was included in v10 of the firmware still makes my cheeks hurt just thinking about it. Want to have a virtual garage fuill of old and new amps at your fingertips for recording? Got lots of different sounds to support with your band? Just want to be able to get a tube cranked sound through headphones? The AxeFX is what you want.

But more than all of this; each amp, cabinet or effect responds like you would expect it to. Reduce your pick attack and note blooms change, each change in an amp EQ adjusts the sound as if the amp itself was in front of you. Every guitarist who has played mine has commented on how incredibly natural it sounds, that word comes up regularly as the only way to really describe what comes through the headphones. I have yet to try some FRFR (Full Range Flat Respone) speakers to get a studio quality sound from the AxeFX. Recording is also a breeze, you can easily plug it into your soundcard and make all sorts of noises at any time of night and without destroying your eardrums.

A new version of the AxeFX has been announced recently, with the twice the power of the AxeFX Ultra which is generating huge interest in the community. Three years of R&D have gone into creating the AxeFX II, including something called G2 Amp Modelling Technology and Virtual Vacuum Tube. There are some other nice features as well, like a proper HQ headphone jack on the front and inbuilt USB support which both mean no additional equipment is needed).

They might be pricey, but for the cost of one great amp you get another 70 to play with (plus all the cabinets and stompboxes you can dream of). I’m going to wait to see what happens with this as my AxeFX Standard suits me just fine and I can’t justify the outlay right now.

But from the other point of view, the prices of original AxeFX’s will probably be dropping so this might be a great time to see what all the fuss is about. And what a fuss it is…

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About the author:

The Pedal For Hire penned articles featured on Guitar Jar were originally posted on the Pedals For Hire blog, and are re-used with kind permission.

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