Atomic Amplifire - First Impressions

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by Scott Peterson, Feb 27, 2015.


  1. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    [​IMG]

    Context:

    This is a preliminary first impressions thread; I will be doing an in depth review later in time.

    I put it on the little back up board (PedalTrain PT Jr) (as shown) I normally have the Tech 21 FlyRig5 that has been holding down the backup rig spot for me; I added the Tech 21 Midi Mouse to change presets.

    On this board I have the pedal form factor receiver for my GLXD; in my "A" rig I have the normal receiver on a rack try. I have to just link the transmitter to this receiver and it's good to go. This receiver is cool because it has a built in tuner to boot.

    So the Amplifier in my case will be vying for my small "B" rig; the "A" rig is a fully blown Axe-FX II with an MFC-101 and 4 expression pedals (three of them with midi switches). I use the "B" rig as a backup that I leave in the car at every gig/practice/rehearsal and also as an alternate 'grab-n-go' rig when the bigger, heavier "A" rig isn't the right tool for the job.

    My requirements for the "B" rig are that it is light, small, portable and can be dropped into the other parts of my "A" rig - use the Atomic CLR as a monitor, be able to interface directly to FOH. I am very particular, demanding and specific in what I require from any rig I use and the tones matter to me more than anything else.

    I have a lot of experience running direct-to-FOH rigs and have always carried a back up rig though I have (luckily) never needed one yet on a gig (knock on wood). The main advantage that attracted me to the Amplifire is that it would offer more choice and capability than the Tech 21 FlyRig5 offers. Now; there is *nothing* wrong with the FR5. It's been rock solid, I've used it at rehearsals and on some pickup gigs by choice. I still am attracted however to what the Amplifier can offer in that same slot in my overall rig though.

    First impressions are first impressions. Here are some of my observations as bullet points:

    The Positives:
    • Lightweight yet sturdy
    • Pro quality amp tones
    • Cab IR Loading
    • Quick dialing of presets and tones
    • Working editor
    • Editor backup function/restore function (very important to me)
    • Interfaces with my other rig components well (wireless/wah)
    • Routing is configurable to a point
    • Switches are configurable to use
    • Two independent sets of stereo outputs
    • Given the feature set and goal of being simple; effects have some advanced features like ducking for reverb and delay
    • Love having three robust single band parametric EQ being configurable as pre/post amp block as necessary (old Rocktron trick that is powerful indeed)
    • Delay and reverb spillover available

    The Negatives:
    • Most basic of display screens
    • One modulation effect at a time
    • Effects loop - must choose between having a loop or using for expression pedals if you so choose to use them
    • Only three footswitches on unit means to fully utilize all capabilities you will need a midi controller and/or expression pedals
    • Delay subdivisions are globally set and not set per block (ie. 1/4 delays vs. dotted 8th) are either/or
    • To tweak anything without the editor beyond the amp block you have nested menus; though very fast to use here, they are nested menus which some people are almost allergic to.

    Quick Synopsis:

    Impressive tones right out of the gate. It sounds good. It feels good. (I particularly like the Twin and Plexi; two of my mainstay real world base tones). Even just raw tones - no verb, no delay, just amp & cab - sound pro-level good. This is NOT a toy. IR loading is great - editor makes this very simple and automatic; no tricky conversions or intimate file type of editing necessary. Editor available and easy to understand and use right from the jump. Being a modeling/digital product, love that I can backup/restore from the editor from day one. Given the stated development cycle updating is not stressful when you have a backup before you do an firmware upgrade (speaking from *lots* of experience here!). Having all the amp controls on the top of the pedal make dialing so fast and simple. Easy to see where the particular control is set via the easy to see and read display screen; but the screen is very small. Manual is easy to use and understand. Don't need an engineering degree or 'professional profiles' to get killer tones right from the jump; adding your own cab IR's is fast and makes for a quickly customized tone machine. I have extensive experience dealing with cab IR's (disclosure: beta tester for Red Wirez, Own Hammer and Fractal Audio) and the ability to add your own is truly worthy of note.

    For a brand new out-of-the-box product this is impressive. NO way around that. The promise it shows to further add amps and capabilities is great but you are not dependant on those promises to make this a serious value at a $600 price point.

    I've not seen a product yet that could not be improved. To hit the price point they have a small display screen, depend on a (simple) nested menu for any sorts of tweaking beyond the amp block. You do not need the editor to work with this, but it makes it very simple to do so. The editor is not long for pretty GUI stuff, but it is very functional. Straightforward, easy to understand without a manual. I was backing up and restoring, setting the function of the footswitches and working withing presets almost without blinking in minutes. The knobs make dialing stuff up very fast. Most of the routing possibilities are 'pre' or 'post' the amp block; pretty straightforward and easy to understand. The effects are workingman's tools - they are there, if you don't have a midi controller to turn things on/off then you'd be best setup to just do presets as you need.

    The three switches can be setup to do most anything on/off you want or tap tempo. To fully get working with this I highly recommend using at least some sort of midi switcher to change presets. The Tech 21 Midi Mouse works great right out of the box, no configuration necessary. Plugged it in and it worked. Done.

    It takes my Joe Gagan wah wonderfully. I am testing a very fully blown effects pedal (more to come on that separately; NDA at this point) from a different company and it works with THAT wonderfully.

    The key to any modeling product that does amp tones are... the amp tones. I have been running a FRFR direct-to-FOH rig since 2007 and dropping this in front of my studio setup or Atomic CLR works GREAT. The acid test is gigging the gear though. That is coming.

    Clips, video, etc.. to come.

    The First Impression Conclusion:

    Great value, pro-level tones, fast and easy to dial, nice and sturdy yet light, good balance of capabilities vs. price point; editor is straightforward and practical. It's always interesting to get something you have zero experience with and see how quickly you can get inside of it and understand how to get the tones you need/want from it. They struck an impressive balance of value for money and adding the cab IR loading is a stroke of genius that lives up to the billing.

    At this point - very early in the game - I am impressed and happy. I love and enjoy my "A" rig and adding serious versatility and power to my "B" rig is a luxury more than a necessity for me; but it is welcome and I'm digging it so far. I will be doing a much deeper look at this in the weeks, months moving forward and will be reviewing this in the real world from a workingman's gigging perspective.
     
  2. yurka723

    yurka723 Member

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    Awesome review Scott!
     
  3. fakeox

    fakeox Member

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    Thanks for this Scott!
     
  4. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    Only took three posts before this question. ;) :D

    In the end, I don't play gear if it doesn't inspire me. The AFXII based rig is my "A" rig because I honestly love that rig in any circumstance and situation. It's always inspiring and I've gigged weekly since 2007 with some form of a rig based around the different generations of the Axe-FX and been very vocal about my experiences with it on forums for many years now. That thing has proven itself to me time and time again. Real world, down-n-dirty, bloom off the rose nuts-and-bolts workingman's gigging experience. Lots of hours with that rig and I truly love the thing because it does everything I want a rig to do for me. Key point, "...lots of hours...".

    That said, the Amplifier is a new product and does not purport to nor be an AFXII. I have no qualms about gigging this. Will it 'feel' right at home but not on the gig? Can't tell you that yet. To me, there's no way to gauge any gear without properly and honestly testing it. Unfortunately, that takes me time. That's just me.

    Too often you get the honeymoon 'box opening' reviews - like mine above - and can draw too many conclusions. I don't play that game and never bit on it when others do it. From the: "Blew me away!!!" to the: "Sucks like dyson on steroids!"

    I will post a full *review* and call it that once I get some hours, days and weeks in. My review might take a month or two. I've had gear in here for 2-3 months before I posted anything about it; this box struck me with how fast it was to just drop into the FR5's place and go. Boom. People have been PM'ing and emailing me yesterday and today. So I wrote down my impressions and posted the OP.

    I'll answer the question and more after I have thoroughly tested in the real world over time. This is a preliminary first impressions thread, nothing more. Don't read too much into what I'm posting here because there is nothing between the lines.
     
  5. wcfields

    wcfields Member

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    Only one modulation effect at a time? Wonder if there are plans to overcome that.
     
  6. Lain

    Lain Member

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    Thanks for taking the time to write this. :aok
     
  7. speedyone

    speedyone Supporting Member

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    Please, PLEASE, do not interpret my question as something meant to stir the pot!

    I have no allegiance to tubes or digital, just what I LIKE.

    Scott, you know as well as I, that the Axe is held up as the ONE digital modeller that CAN sound completely "realistic". There's no harm in my asking if the Amplifire can tick the "yes, it can sound like a real amp box".
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  8. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I'm not interpreting your question in any manner; just answering what you asked. The road to hell (on a forum) is paved with (assuming others') intentions. ;)

    The Axe-FX II is one digital modeler that can sound completely realistic. It is not and has not the "ONLY" one to do that though; be careful with absolutes. Anyone playing that game is in trouble before the word go. :eeks

    Regarding the Amplifire, yes, it sounds like a good amp that is properly mic'd up. IMHO, there's no denying it based on my first hand experience with it thus far. If you want 'amp in the room' you can turn off the cab block (or route out of the loop) or route one of the sets of outputs to not have cab and run to a power amp and guitar cabs. That's a very nice feature to have in a $600 box; but I will not be testing that function/feature personally.
     
  9. RLD

    RLD Member

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    Not trying to stir the pot eh?
     
  10. dshobe

    dshobe Rocky Mountain Way

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    Thanks for the initial thoughts. This thing looks fantastic!
     
  11. speedyone

    speedyone Supporting Member

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    Oh geez. Erasing my post further up, because I am not a jerk, and I have no dog in the fight.

    Getting my Amplifire Monday and hope I like it.
     
  12. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    No one's called you a jerk, named or fought your dog or asked/wanted you to delete anything.

    I hope you like the Amplifire too.
     
  13. Crow

    Crow Supporting Member

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    Scott - Thanks so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it! I have one coming early next week.
     
  14. speedyone

    speedyone Supporting Member

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    That's the one thing about really enjoying music-- it's easy to get passionate and/or defensive about it! Plus, it's easy for people to misinterpret dry humor, sarcasm, whatever, via typed exchange.

    I really love gear, and I have no qualms comparing one thing to another. But unfortunately, there are certain brands/holy grail pieces which illicit strong responses. I just think it makes rational sense to compare "the most highly acclaimed digital modeller(s)" with each other to see if it is possible for technology to produce an equally great tone for less money.

    Back on topic, I love IRs! Can't wait to try some acoustic IRs through the Amplifire...
     
  15. AminorZmajor

    AminorZmajor Member

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    Excellent review! Thanks Scott.
     
  16. BCy2k

    BCy2k Member

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    Thanks for sharing your initial thoughts on the AmpliFire, Scott. Much appreciated.

    All you folks who already have yours are sort of making me anxious with anticipation - must gather my calm, slow down & breathe :p
     
  17. Reverb Kick

    Reverb Kick Member

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    May I ask a rather silly question about Amplifire?

    Is this device like a RP360 but with a ton more horsepower and development? I like what the rp does as far as being easy to transport and provides a multi solution for my jamming sessions. But I'd of course like something much much better. This sounds like it could be it. Thanks in advance.
     
  18. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    Generally speaking, yes.
     
  19. mralmostpopular

    mralmostpopular Member

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    Great thoughts, Scott. It seems like we're in agreement on the pros and cons of this unit. It'll be interesting to see how they develop this unit, and whether they'll knock a few of the downsides off the list.
     
  20. birdie_in_texas

    birdie_in_texas I can haz virgins? Silver Supporting Member

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