NMD - Axe FX III Mark II First looks

cybermgk

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My new Axe FX III came yesterday.

Spent hours playing through it, until my fingers hurt.

It is a phenomenal piece of kit.

If I hadn't already had an Axe FX II XL+, it would be a jaw dropping experience.

I'll do an in depth review, after more time.

For now I'll try to answer the question, If I have an Axe II, should I get the Axe III?

There is no simple answer. It depends.

I was A/Bing my Axe FX II XL+ running the Ares 2.0 Firmware (The Axe III models ported to Axe II). Does the III sound better? Feel Better? Yes. But it is not a major difference, I can hear it, but it is very subtle. I can't even find the words to describe it, except it is slightly more complex, 3D.

So, if you re running simple (and by that I mean, simple by Axe standards) presets, some in front FX, an amp. or even 2 stacked, post fx, simple to moderate signal routing, then you are likely going to be just as happy with an Axe II, particularly an XL or XL+.

Using an XL II, particularly an XL+ for a lot of people, on stage, or in the studio, you will be happy for years and years. I always thought mine was the equal, tonally, playability, feel, etc, of the tube amps I had, as well as the Kemper I had. It still is. It will be for years to come.

Granted, you would be stuck with the almost 300 amp models, the effects it had/has, as the Ares 2.0 is, as of now, the last firmware upgrade. Then again, the Ares 1.0 was supposed to be the last, when it was released. There are a LOT of Axe IIs out there. So who knows. Seems like the new platforms get primary attention right now.

But even with that the case, no more update, you can still tweak at such a deep level on everything, you can, for all intent and purpose, create new amp models, fx models, stomps etc. from exisiting models. When you can cange tube types cap values, etc. etc. you can make models sound a lot different.

So why get the Axe FX III?, Well, what the Axe III brings to the table is MORE.

It has more cpu horsepower, memory, amp models, presets, IRs, preset and IR storage capacity, i/o ports and signal path routing. When I go more in depth, I'll delve into some of that.

The Axe III has more and faster processors. They also split duty. So, for instance, unlike the Axe II, where the 2 processsors ran EVERYTHING, the III splits processing mong the processors. 2 are dedicated to the modelling, another runs the graphics, another handles the USB and user interface duties.

So, if you are a 'power user', or want more than one guitarist using the same unit on stage (possible with the III), or love to tweak, tone chase, experiment, need about as complex of signal routing as you can conceive OR must stack 4 amp models together (or route them crazyly), then yep, the III is worth the purchase. I fall into this category.

Things I really like (as compared to Axe II, and so far as there is a lot left to explore)

Shorter unit. Axe 2 needed a deeper, bigger rack case. Axe III fits in the less deep cases.

Front controls and Display. Yea, Display is more modern, crisper, color et al. But, I find it a LOT easier to actually use the front panel and not need Axe Edit. For instance Its very simple (as in a second or two) to bring up the amp controls one usually uses, gain, volume, eq, and use the quick control knobs that are right under the corresponding control on the display, and adjust. It is real easy to just pull up and find a preset from the front panel. All things I would never do on the Axe IIs front panel.

K, I do like the colors and look of the new front. The changing color Axe FX III looks cool.

Headphone interface is now the best I've heard on anything, as far as sounding like what I hear externally on Monitors or FRFR 2x12. VERY little difference (at east with my headphones), which means not having presets tweaked substantially different for each.

There are some new things in the models, a preset levelling tool and others I'll go to in depth at another time.

What I don't like
That it exists. Since it came out a little more than a year after I got my Axe FX II XL+, it gave me GAS

It's 3 rack units high. Granted it is why it's shorter in depth (see above), and is needed for the new screen.

All in all

I am pleased. If not for GAS for this, I would have been super happy staying with the Axe FX II XL+. But, I don't regret getting the III. AND, the planets did align to make it possible.

DSC05188sm.jpg


Kept the screen protect film on for awhile

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With the Axe II XL+ when I was A/Bing and making sure new Axe was gtg

DSC05193sm.jpg


Now, as King of the rack

DSC05197sm.jpg

DSC05198sm.jpg
 
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mdubya

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Thank you for that review!

Much appreciated. :applause:

The amount of fun one could have with that unit is staggering.
 

NeubyWanKaneuby

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That shorter rack space is calling out to me, but I'm happy with the sounds I get from the XL+.
Can't wait for the bigger review. Congrats!
 

Liam

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Hey cybermgk,

Glad to hear you like the Axe FX III. I have had mine for a little over 2 years now, and I love it. I think I was buying it to replace my Axe FX II XL, but that worked out approximately "not in the slightest", because when I got the FX III the foot controllers were not yet available, so I wasn't ready to go gigging with the new one.

Agree with everything you say about the comparison, but would add that now the FC-6 and FC-12 are available, as well as the new amps, new effects, more and better IRs and so on, this is for me the ultimate switching system as well as every amp and effect I could ever need in one box. I have an MFC-101 for the FX II, and it does pretty much everything I used to do with 11 pedals and a GigRig Pro 14. The FC-12 takes me to a whole new place. Theoretically I could be controlling around 200 different functions with those 12 pedals arranged into 8 different layouts with long and short press functionality. For now I'm generally accessing less than 30, but there isn't much I cannot get at with a little forethought and my feet.

Things that I love are that there is now an "authentic" page in the editing software that behaves exactly as the original amp's controls, then an "ideal" page that lets you into some deeper editing. I also love the headroom monitor, especially for older non-MV models, so you can get an idea of just how hard a time you are giving the power amp model while setting up the preamp. The preset leveler is a great feature as you say. I could kind of go on forever about some of this stuff. If you have stereo or headphones (doesn't work without) the 2290 delay is an absolute 1980s trip back in time. Finally FOUR channels in almost every block, so I'll be surprised if I can't do a whole gig with a single preset. I only used to use 3 or 4 presets on the Axe FX II, but between the extra channels and named scenes, you can do a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

Prepare to spend a bit of time figuring it all out, it's quite a trip!

Liam

(I'm thinking about keeping the Axe FX II and using as outboard for home recording. Effects, IRs, I might prefer just having it in the rack just in case...)
 

cybermgk

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Hey cybermgk,

Glad to hear you like the Axe FX III. I have had mine for a little over 2 years now, and I love it. I think I was buying it to replace my Axe FX II XL, but that worked out approximately "not in the slightest", because when I got the FX III the foot controllers were not yet available, so I wasn't ready to go gigging with the new one.

Agree with everything you say about the comparison, but would add that now the FC-6 and FC-12 are available, as well as the new amps, new effects, more and better IRs and so on, this is for me the ultimate switching system as well as every amp and effect I could ever need in one box. I have an MFC-101 for the FX II, and it does pretty much everything I used to do with 11 pedals and a GigRig Pro 14. The FC-12 takes me to a whole new place. Theoretically I could be controlling around 200 different functions with those 12 pedals arranged into 8 different layouts with long and short press functionality. For now I'm generally accessing less than 30, but there isn't much I cannot get at with a little forethought and my feet.

Things that I love are that there is now an "authentic" page in the editing software that behaves exactly as the original amp's controls, then an "ideal" page that lets you into some deeper editing. I also love the headroom monitor, especially for older non-MV models, so you can get an idea of just how hard a time you are giving the power amp model while setting up the preamp. The preset leveler is a great feature as you say. I could kind of go on forever about some of this stuff. If you have stereo or headphones (doesn't work without) the 2290 delay is an absolute 1980s trip back in time. Finally FOUR channels in almost every block, so I'll be surprised if I can't do a whole gig with a single preset. I only used to use 3 or 4 presets on the Axe FX II, but between the extra channels and named scenes, you can do a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

Prepare to spend a bit of time figuring it all out, it's quite a trip!

Liam

(I'm thinking about keeping the Axe FX II and using as outboard for home recording. Effects, IRs, I might prefer just having it in the rack just in case...)
Yep, I'm just starting to find some of the new stuff you can do. THough, It could easily be possible for both guitarists in a band to use just one preset, together, same Axe II for a gig.

Crap, I'm tickled pink you can have what amounts to the authentic page up on the screen, and use the knobs right below them to adjust the 'amp' like you would anything else. I already see what a boon the III is for a live musician. For Pro Studio work as well, to a lesser degree, where time IS money. For home studio, the II XL+ is just as usable.

But, yeah, I pretty much think the III is everything I could want and need for a LONG time to come.
 

Harley90

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"authentic page up on the screen, and use the knobs right below them to adjust the 'amp' like you would anything else. I already see what a boon the III is for a live musician. For Pro Studio work as well, to a lesser degree, where time IS money. For home studio, the II XL+ is just as usable."

Here is where I see the III being a winner, as a home player, I don't want to fiddle, just play...now that it has amp style adjustments, the appeal factor just went up for me. Tweaking with a knob array is why I have a Kemper....I see room for this now too.
 
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matthew bear

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"authentic page up on the screen, and use the knobs right below them to adjust the 'amp' like you would anything else. I already see what a boon the III is for a live musician. For Pro Studio work as well, to a lesser degree, where time IS money. For home studio, the II XL+ is just as usable."

Here is where I see the III being a winner, as a home player, I don't want to fiddle, just play...now that it has amp style adjustments, the appeal factor just went up for me. Tweaking with a knob array is why I have a Kemper....I see room for this now too.
I'm with you, I'd love to have both! I kept my Kemper over a used AXE II because my Kemper is powered, and I like using my real cab primarily. I miss the AXE quite frequently, though I'm not that into using editors all the time. the III looks to bring that ease of use a long way forward!
 

cybermgk

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"authentic page up on the screen, and use the knobs right below them to adjust the 'amp' like you would anything else. I already see what a boon the III is for a live musician. For Pro Studio work as well, to a lesser degree, where time IS money. For home studio, the II XL+ is just as usable."

Here is where I see the III being a winner, as a home player, I don't want to fiddle, just play...now that it has amp style adjustments, the appeal factor just went up for me. Tweaking with a knob array is why I have a Kemper....I see room for this now too.
Yea, that was the one thing about the Axe II, that always thought the Kemper had over it. I felt compelled to have Axe Edit up all the time.

Now, on the Axe 3, I'll often never have the laptop around. I can easily find a preset (And this with everything stock, no having all my favs together) in moments, and then a quick click click, and have amp controls right there, and knobs to turn and adjust EQ, gain, volume etc. All from the front of the Unit. Granted with my eyes, now, that means the Reading glasses or multi-focal contacts in, lol. I will say, you do need to spend time on the presets, to know what they are at first (but to me that's fun, just trying out different presets, seeing where it leads me), BECAUSE, damn it Fractal, what you call a preset is sometimes very easy to know what amp is at the center of it. But other times, conflammit, it is NOT what I would think at all.

I do really like the interface. For those NEW to the Axe, it is/was a smart move.
 

cybermgk

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I'm with you, I'd love to have both! I kept my Kemper over a used AXE II because my Kemper is powered, and I like using my real cab primarily. I miss the AXE quite frequently, though I'm not that into using editors all the time. the III looks to bring that ease of use a long way forward!
I would have loved to kept both too. I wrote a long dissertation on why I sold the Kemper, and kept the Axe II XL+ (what a shock, cybermgk writing a vomit of words, lol). But, I had to sell one, for the cash. Kempers were still selling used for a great % of new at the time, and the Axe III had already came out, so I felt it's resale price would be hurt. Looking back, with how long folks had to waitlist for the III, may not have been the smartest choice, if just based on that.

But, I also wanted the deep tweaking ability of the Axe WITH the larger IR, FX, Drive pedals etc. The 2 together is POWERFUL. I have essentially created my own drive pedals, and even 'modeled' some I have had, real pedals, using an existing Axe modeled pedal and how much you can tweak. Sometime using a couple of pedals together and tweaking. Same thing for AMPs as well, other FX etc. Plus the IR capture, tonematch, looper, di capability, etc. etc.

If I had had to just stick with what was left, and never be in a position to buy another, I made the right choice, for me with just the Axe FX II XL+. Plus, dammit, I hadn't had it that long at that time.

BUT, looking back, hindsight and 20/20 .... If I had kept the Kemper, and sold the Axe II, I would now have an Axe III and a Kemper. I wouldn't feel compelled to sell the Kemper. But, having an Axe II and Axe III, and not giging, just seems a waste. If I giged/played out more, more than the occasional small thing my Blackstar Modelling Combo couldn't handle, yeah I might use the Axe II out, and keep the III in the studio.
 


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