Axe FX II Gig Report - The Moment of Truth

IronWeso

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First some background for everyone:

I've been steadfast in my cautious optimism for years when it has come to digital amplification and modeling. I've owned some Rocktron stuff and Line6 stuff and it never really "worked" for me. Over time I found myself less and less impressed with the tonal palette these products offered. Part of this was due to the age of the products, simplicity, and another part the user being a noob with it. :lol:

That's when I switched to tubes for good. Or at least I thought. I love my JCM2000. It's extremely versatile. For those who don't know me, I play lead in a cover band. S.O.S - Alternative & Rock Cover Band from South-Central PA We cover a ton of rock/metal from the 70s to today including but not limited to: AC/DC, Metallica, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Poison, Alice Cooper, Mountain, Motley Crue, Buckcherry, Alice In Chains, Bon Jovi, Queen, Black Sabbath, Blink 182, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, Green Day etc. Having the JCM2000 was nice, I had the third channel mod done, adding in a few pedals and a rack effects unit and midi - I could cover everything. Using the clean, overdrive, and lead channels from the amp were key. I even had it modded by Voodoo Amps - a major overhaul to the amp. It sounds awesome.

After a while, the amp started to get stale. Like every guitar player here, I'm chasing "that" tone. Eventually I gave the Axe II a shot. It wasn't a clean win though. I was comparing the cost to other amps in the used $1200-1600 price range! But being that I am in a cover band, and not an original band, I need extreme versatility. One amp will not cut it. To say I am impressed with the Axe II is a vast understatement. I have a review somewhere floating around here for those interested.

Anyways, so I don't get off on too extreme of a tangent, while I have been impressed with the Axe II, it has been a subdued happiness due to one factor: I am a gigging musician. The Axe II is USELESS to me unless I can gig with it live as well as I did with my JCM2000 setup.

Now the GIG:
The setup was mostly easy. I have the Axe II mounted in my rack with my Power Station as a power amp. I used my 2x12 Avatar cab with Greenbacks. Pedalboard was slightly less, only had my G50 wireless, modded TS9 (which I didn't even use), Korg Pitch-black tuner, CAE wah, and most importantly a Rocktron Midi Mate. This setup is the same configuration as my tube setup. The only difference is 3 pedals missing from the pedalboard, and the rack obviously had the AXE in it, whereas the tube rack would have had the G-Major 2 instead.

My Axe FX II settings are fairly simple. Using the Midimate starting with #10 as to not lose a button to "0". First row of buttons:
10: fender clean setting with chorus
11: Plexi 50 Watt for classic rock
12: "Aldrich" setting - basically a modded JMP setting plus a Tubescreamer
13: JCM800 with delay and reverb for the 80s stuff
14: Engl for modern metal
Second row of buttons:
15: Preset number 11 with added volume and delay
16: 2 amp setting Fuchs and Dumble - clean overdrive
17: Preset #12 plus volume, chorus, delay. Tonal bliss :wow:
18: Preset #13 with more delay, overdrive and volume
19: Preset #14 plus delay and volume and tweaked mids

I also jumped to 20 and 21 for two Van Halen tunes. We didn't play any acoustic stuff, but I also have Preset #9 setup as an acoustic guitar. Sounds really convincing when I use my Carvin with coil tap!

I was going to bring my computer to edit settings but decided not to. A bold move, however I did my "homework" and jammed at practice with it three times prior to the gig. Due to this, I only needed to drop two channels by 1dB. There's some tweaking I will do today to the 80s channel. It either has too much reverb or not enough mids. It got lost in the band mix.

Overall I must say the Axe II knocked it out of the park. That gig was the most fun I have had in a long time. I'm still groggy from it. I guess it doesn't help when you play for 3+ hours either :)

All of the settings minus the aforementioned 80s channel were just about perfect. Audible, set nice in the mix, and most importantly felt and sounded like a tube amp. If I had any issues, they are on me for not preparing. But prepared I was. I have spent hours upon hours playing the Axe II over the past few months. But you know what the funny thing is? I have maybe spent one hour in total editing time with presets and channels. Everything I use was made by another user save for maybe one or two settings. (The Axe-Change is a glorious place). All I did was tweak them to my taste. I know a lot of you, including myself, mentioned "hours of tweaking" as an obstacle to obtaining a modeler as advanced as the AXE. But I really didn't spent much time at all. Seriously, maybe one hour over the past TWO MONTHS! :naughty:

Our band received a lot of compliments on our playing and sound (as usual :D :laugh2:) But I received my fair share of "wow your amp sounds good" from the one or two guitarists that happened to be present and a ton of other friends and fans. I had a ton of stage presence. Which, when you're at a bar, is necessary to keep people involved. Possibly the most stage presence I've had and I think that is partly due to being extremely happy with my sound.

I've said this in my review, I play a lot of guitar throughout the week. But since I have added the Axe II to my life, I've been playing a lot more. My chops were in a good place last night, my playing has never been so fluid.

In conclusion, now I'm playing 5 or 6 different amps instead of one (which was 3 channels). This makes playing in a cover band a lot more interesting for a lead player. Eventually I will get a FRFR cab and a power amp designed for the Axe II. The FRFR will allow me to use the hundreds of cabs in the Axe. I'm not even using those today since I have my greenback cab. Cab sims were off. I'm still just scratching the surface, but I like where I am headed in the "chase". :wave:

10430476_911161035649107_2993477716400832003_n.jpg


12801359_911160952315782_5963156644000654669_n.jpg


12802912_911160965649114_3598874403330341031_n.jpg
 

frankv

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First some background for everyone:

I've been steadfast in my cautious optimism for years when it has come to digital amplification and modeling. I've owned some Rocktron stuff and Line6 stuff and it never really "worked" for me. Over time I found myself less and less impressed with the tonal palette these products offered. Part of this was due to the age of the products, simplicity, and another part the user being a noob with it. :lol:

That's when I switched to tubes for good. Or at least I thought. I love my JCM2000. It's extremely versatile. For those who don't know me, I play lead in a cover band. S.O.S - Alternative & Rock Cover Band from South-Central PA We cover a ton of rock/metal from the 70s to today including but not limited to: AC/DC, Metallica, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Poison, Alice Cooper, Mountain, Motley Crue, Buckcherry, Alice In Chains, Bon Jovi, Queen, Black Sabbath, Blink 182, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, Green Day etc. Having the JCM2000 was nice, I had the third channel mod done, adding in a few pedals and a rack effects unit and midi - I could cover everything. Using the clean, overdrive, and lead channels from the amp were key. I even had it modded by Voodoo Amps - a major overhaul to the amp. It sounds awesome.

After a while, the amp started to get stale. Like every guitar player here, I'm chasing "that" tone. Eventually I gave the Axe II a shot. It wasn't a clean win though. I was comparing the cost to other amps in the used $1200-1600 price range! But being that I am in a cover band, and not an original band, I need extreme versatility. One amp will not cut it. To say I am impressed with the Axe II is a vast understatement. I have a review somewhere floating around here for those interested.

Anyways, so I don't get off on too extreme of a tangent, while I have been impressed with the Axe II, it has been a subdued happiness due to one factor: I am a gigging musician. The Axe II is USELESS to me unless I can gig with it live as well as I did with my JCM2000 setup.

Now the GIG:
The setup was mostly easy. I have the Axe II mounted in my rack with my Power Station as a power amp. I used my 2x12 Avatar cab with Greenbacks. Pedalboard was slightly less, only had my G50 wireless, modded TS9 (which I didn't even use), Korg Pitch-black tuner, CAE wah, and most importantly a Rocktron Midi Mate. This setup is the same configuration as my tube setup. The only difference is 3 pedals missing from the pedalboard, and the rack obviously had the AXE in it, whereas the tube rack would have had the G-Major 2 instead.

My Axe FX II settings are fairly simple. Using the Midimate starting with #10 as to not lose a button to "0". First row of buttons:
10: fender clean setting with chorus
11: Plexi 50 Watt for classic rock
12: "Aldrich" setting - basically a modded JMP setting plus a Tubescreamer
13: JCM800 with delay and reverb for the 80s stuff
14: Engl for modern metal
Second row of buttons:
15: Preset number 11 with added volume and delay
16: 2 amp setting Fuchs and Dumble - clean overdrive
17: Preset #12 plus volume, chorus, delay. Tonal bliss :wow:
18: Preset #13 with more delay, overdrive and volume
19: Preset #14 plus delay and volume and tweaked mids

I also jumped to 20 and 21 for two Van Halen tunes. We didn't play any acoustic stuff, but I also have Preset #9 setup as an acoustic guitar. Sounds really convincing when I use my Carvin with coil tap!

I was going to bring my computer to edit settings but decided not to. A bold move, however I did my "homework" and jammed at practice with it three times prior to the gig. Due to this, I only needed to drop two channels by 1dB. There's some tweaking I will do today to the 80s channel. It either has too much reverb or not enough mids. It got lost in the band mix.

Overall I must say the Axe II knocked it out of the park. That gig was the most fun I have had in a long time. I'm still groggy from it. I guess it doesn't help when you play for 3+ hours either :)

All of the settings minus the aforementioned 80s channel were just about perfect. Audible, set nice in the mix, and most importantly felt and sounded like a tube amp. If I had any issues, they are on me for not preparing. But prepared I was. I have spent hours upon hours playing the Axe II over the past few months. But you know what the funny thing is? I have maybe spent one hour in total editing time with presets and channels. Everything I use was made by another user save for maybe one or two settings. (The Axe-Change is a glorious place). All I did was tweak them to my taste. I know a lot of you, including myself, mentioned "hours of tweaking" as an obstacle to obtaining a modeler as advanced as the AXE. But I really didn't spent much time at all. Seriously, maybe one hour over the past TWO MONTHS! :naughty:

Our band received a lot of compliments on our playing and sound (as usual :D :laugh2:) But I received my fair share of "wow your amp sounds good" from the one or two guitarists that happened to be present and a ton of other friends and fans. I had a ton of stage presence. Which, when you're at a bar, is necessary to keep people involved. Possibly the most stage presence I've had and I think that is partly due to being extremely happy with my sound.

I've said this in my review, I play a lot of guitar throughout the week. But since I have added the Axe II to my life, I've been playing a lot more. My chops were in a good place last night, my playing has never been so fluid.

In conclusion, now I'm playing 5 or 6 different amps instead of one (which was 3 channels). This makes playing in a cover band a lot more interesting for a lead player. Eventually I will get a FRFR cab and a power amp designed for the Axe II. The FRFR will allow me to use the hundreds of cabs in the Axe. I'm not even using those today since I have my greenback cab. Cab sims were off. I'm still just scratching the surface, but I like where I am headed in the "chase". :wave:

10430476_911161035649107_2993477716400832003_n.jpg


12801359_911160952315782_5963156644000654669_n.jpg


12802912_911160965649114_3598874403330341031_n.jpg

Yeah John, I'm quoting your entire post cause I want to see you again. I have that same shirt BTW....

Awesome review. I can't say I am surprised cause you know I am not..
 

frankv

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Damn, silence is golden isnt it John.. Looks like you left them speechless. Good for you bro..
 

Case24

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Great review. Nice to hear how it works in a live setting.
 

Pwrmac7600

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Looks like its time to update your Bio on your bands page, lol
Rocktron and a boogie huh?
BTW how many Johns you got in that band anyway?:laugh2:
Who's this larry guy? He clearly needs to change his name to john.
 

cherrysunburst00

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YAY!!! I heartily approve. I'm a tube guy (but possibly open to that Marshall Code), but you modeller guys are SO NICE I consider it an honor to hang with you.

I guess the important for me is, Any UFO or Schenker?
 

IronWeso

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Damn, silence is golden isnt it John.. Looks like you left them speechless. Good for you bro..

I was beginning to wonder if it was possibly too long and people said "Ah **** it!" :laugh2:

Great review. Nice to hear how it works in a live setting.

Thank you. This was the most important test for me! I tried to paint a clear picture without going into to vast of detail concerning different frequencies. Ultimately anything you could write about using a new amp in a live setting could be applied here, that's how convincing it is!

Looks like its time to update your Bio on your bands page, lol
Rocktron and a boogie huh?
BTW how many Johns you got in that band anyway?:laugh2:
Who's this larry guy? He clearly needs to change his name to john.

I was wondering if anyone was going to see that!! Yeah it's been a helluva trek. The website hasn't been updated in a long while! :wow: Larry always goes "Hey John!" when we are all together just to see us all look up! :lol:

YAY!!! I heartily approve. I'm a tube guy (but possibly open to that Marshall Code), but you modeller guys are SO NICE I consider it an honor to hang with you.

I guess the important for me is, Any UFO or Schenker?

Well thank you Roland! No UFO unfortunately, but we do War Pigs, Living After Midnight and Breaking The Law. I know you love Sabbath and Priest!!
:dude:
 

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