AX8. Seeing the pro's and con's for myself.

hobbes1

Member
Messages
3,267
After spending some time with one, I am impressed with the quality of the AX8 tones and build. Coming from a POD HD500, it is a noticeable step up in sound quality.

I have immediately noticed that, having my StageSource L3T on PA/Reference mode, I do not have to work hard to tame the top end like I did with the HD500. There is little to no shrillness on top, which is a refreshing change. I have not made it past the first eight factory presents; just spending time with those amps and effects, making some tweaks and changes, learning how to program with Axe Edit and some on the unit itself.

I have made some minor adjustments to amps and cabs, played around with X/Y and scenes and controllers (Roland EV-5). It's not as intuitive as I'd like and it's very deep but so far, I am getting good tones without a lot of work. I wonder if the lack of shrillness on the top end is what some people have referred to as the Fractal "darker" sound or signature sound. There have been some tweaks I've done that increased the treble and/or presence to give a bit more bite as the present might have been too dark for my taste.

I am still considering whether I want to keep it or not, but I can honestly say (FWIW), as a new Fractal customer, that I am impressed with the quality of Cliff's product. Well done.

What I am also wondering is whether or not the Helix will be a better fit for me. I'm not too interested in the deep dive, rabbit holes that Fractal provides for tone shaping controls. I want gear to sound good with minimal intervention. I'm a bit nervous re: Helix as, having followed many threads on here since day 1, it seems as though there are some who feel that Helix requires more intervention out of the box. Buying third party IRs, speaker/mic manipulation, global EQ cuts, etc. These are the things (even trying an EPSi) that I had to do to get my HD500 tolerable. It took a long time and a lot of work.

Anyway, just thought I'd throw out my $0.02 worth into the conversation. Peace.
 

shredmiyagi

Member
Messages
1,215
I'm contemplating buying one, and currently weighing the pros and cons. As a former Axe-FX 2 owner, I'm pretty well familiar with the amp and effect quality I'll get, although I understand there has been consistent/evolutionary improvement the last 1.5 years since I sold mine (although, I'll argue that while it perhaps keeps sounding "better", it's not re-inventing the sonic print, and honestly the Axe-FX Ultra was "good" from the get-go).

As I said back when the first prototype photos came up, I was more excited in theory with the FX/AX series, but the photo turned me off a bit. Considering there's no expression pedal and only 8 main switches, it's a pretty heavy/large box. I'm able to jam a lot onto my small pedalboards, and if I'm gonna need to bring my own cab/amplification to make a modeler sound good, then I might as well bring a small/1x12 combo and my PT-JR, which is cheaper, more comfortable and intuitive, and arguably sounds like the real deal (a Princeton, Boogie, Deluxe Rv., etc.)

Your main point, I'm also on-board with. I'm a big fan of quick on-board editing, easy-to-read screens/graphics, and like OP/you said, I'm not a fan of the "deep dive, rabbit hole" programming either. My 2c, but I believe in a straight-chain of high-quality boxes that have 1-2 knobs each. My original Fulltone Wah has zero controls on it. My DD2 has 4 knobs. My Princeton Reverb has 6 knobs, and that includes a reverb and 2 tremolo controls. My Whammy has a knob and footswitch. The Bluesky has 5 knobs and a few switch-options. I can make these amps and effects sound GREAT, and I don't feel anything missing from my life. I hate to sound so blunt, but why in god's name would I, the gigging guitarist (in many different situations/bands/line-ups/venue-types) need to get through multiple pages of modded tones for 1 of my 100s of amp selections, let alone each effect type? Even sound engineers don't "deep edit" their plug-ins and and hardware boxes. You use what sounds good and keep gain-staging.

So that's my beef with the "Fractal way". On the other hand, I completely understand the power and ability of having so many choices, and that's why I think the Axe-FX rack has become a popular unit for major touring acts and legendary guitarists. Your engineer/guitar-tech can help program the box and your effects for the entire show, and you don't need to do jack**** with the editors while you perform in gigantic arenas and stages. I'll just say though, I'm not a legendary guitarist, I'm a working player, and the reality is I'm maybe just not a great fit for the Fractal stuff.

But with all the negative stuff out the way... The versatility and overall quality of the product is extremely high. The reverbs, pitch, delays, drives, and mods are on-point. However, while the amps sounded good and don't need a lot of tweaking to sound really cool, I could never dial in my ideal "euphoria" tone like I could get with a real tube amp (Two Rock, Princeton, etc.). Seems we're talking about the same thing, but I miss the treble/sparkle (without any ear-fatigue). Again, I think it comes back to the complicated parameters at your disposal - many stages of multi-band EQs, output volumes, your choice of FRFR or cab amplification... it's indeed a rabbit hole.
 

Powderfinger

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,389
With AX8 Edit, setting it up is really easy once you get the hang of it. And as an Axe-FX and now AX8 user, I never "deep edit" anything. B/M/T and drive is all I adjust these days. But it's there if you want it. First I've heard of a Fractal "darker" sound. It can be as dark or shrill as you like. There are a million ways to manipulate frequencies in addition to B/M/T. You can use all sorts of EQs, hi-cut, low-cut, to tailor every frequency to your liking.
 

veritechc

Member
Messages
2,801
I have some of the same concerns you all do about the AX8. And as a Helix owner already I can tell you the editing on the Helix is dead simple. It reminds me of my first experience with my iPhone. I already knew how to use it. I literally had a useable tone created from scratch in the first 5 minutes with the unit.

I also have a Axe Fx 2. Great sounding unit. Axe Edit is great and truthfully the only reason I kept the unit. But the UI on the unit came from 1999.

Since @hobbes1 purchased a multi pedal I'll assume that live use is what he bought it for. With all the routing options, control, built in expression pedal, and ease of use I can't see how a Helix wouldn't be a better fit for him. Not to mention the Helix is the same price and you also add a USB recording interface and a company that chats with its customers all the time. Oh ya you mentioned that you have a Stagesource speaker. That you can plug into the Helix via line 6 link.

I'd say learn the AX8 a bit more but maybe go out and get a Helix to compare?
 

Fractal Audio

Member
Messages
1,157
I don't think insinuating that we don't communicate with customers is fair. We just don't use this forum as our forum is a better place for that sort of thing. If you spend some time there you'll see that I personally answer questions and interact on a daily basis as do several of the developers.
 

Danny W.

Member
Messages
885
I had an Axe-Fx II for almost five years. Over that time I never touched any of the advanced controls--in fact, I rarely even needed the normal amp controls. Just got the AX8 and don't expect to "deep dive" on that either, although with the amp controls and green lights right on top, I'll probably have to play with those a bit.

Let me point out that I've had a bunch of other modelers and found myself constantly turning knobs, real or virtual, in an attempt to get sounds I liked out of them. The Fractals are the first modelers I've ever had that sounded good without a bunch of tweaking. I could have stopped that sentence after the word "good."

Additionally, I've never had any dealings with a company that communicates more or better with its customers than Fractal, nor one that provides more updates, fixes problems faster or introduces more features for free after you buy its products.

Danny W.
 
Last edited:

Mr. Brady

Member
Messages
840
I was on the waiting list for the Ax8, but since the waiting list is moving fairly slowly I was watching for a good used Axe II to show up and I snagged it and and an MFC MkIII. In the almost two weeks I've had it, I found some very good tones just with simple amp/cab/reverb settings with now more tweaking that picking a cab, tweaking the mid, bass, treble, and gain. It's really simple for basic tones. I've only scratched the surface, but their are some great tones in there and it keeps getting better as I learn it.

I had my first gig this weekend with it and was a giant leap over the HD500 I'd been using for quick gigs. The responsiveness and ability to pick lighter and have it clean up was so much better than the POD. Plus the tone was nice, warm and fat. I wasn't fighting the fizz of the POD or thin cleans. It's the first time the same feel of having a tube amp was there while using a modeler live.

The MFC is very powerful and easy to set up after a quick tutorial. I'm really thinking right now, I'm going to keep the Axe II and pass on the Ax8 since with the combo of the II and MFC, I've got more power for some more complex presets, plus the USB recording. I've even learned the basic controls of the front panel on the AxeII and editing amp controls is a breeze once you know how to get to the amp. It's not that intuitive, but a piece of cake once i got the controls figured out.

I'm on the Fractal train. I just sold my AC30 today cause I can get the tones out of the Axe and my Alto and it's less noisy, not heavy, and dare I say, sounds better.
 

Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,889
I don't think insinuating that we don't communicate with customers is fair. We just don't use this forum as our forum is a better place for that sort of thing. If you spend some time there you'll see that I personally answer questions and interact on a daily basis as do several of the developers.
Paranoid much? No one said anything of the sort. THAT is one of people's biggest issues with you Cliff.
 

Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,889
Oh please. If you've been paying any attention at all, it's obvious that Veritechc was firing shots.
-
Austin
You guys really need to stop with the Fractal apologies. Cliff's a big boy. He can take care of himself. Take that personal stuff off board.
 

Pedal Dan

The Island of Misfit Pedals
Messages
11,787
You guys really need to stop with the Fractal apologies. Cliff's a big boy. He can take care of himself. Take that personal stuff off board. Cliff and his cronies can exercise their censorship on their own board.
I'm not apologizing. I own a Helix.

But I also want to be informed.
 

veritechc

Member
Messages
2,801
I don't think insinuating that we don't communicate with customers is fair. We just don't use this forum as our forum is a better place for that sort of thing. If you spend some time there you'll see that I personally answer questions and interact on a daily basis as do several of the developers.
Oh please. If you've been paying any attention at all, it's obvious that Veritechc was firing shots.
-
Austin
In no way was I firing shots or insinuating that Fractal didn't communicate with their customers. What I was saying is my experience with Line 6 has been above and beyond any expectations I have ever had with ANY company. That is all.

You all did read that I have Axe FX 2 and love it right?
 

Willowdale

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,972
What I was saying is my experience with Line 6 has been above and beyond any expectations I have ever had with ANY company. That is all.
If you feel that way & own an AFX, it could only be because you don't spend much time on the Fractal Forum, or simply haven't owned an AFX very long.

Fractal has set the bar for amazing customer service & totally free updates etc...

It was always common practice for Line6 most of the time to charge for amp & effects packs. Also updates/fixes were few & far between.......Cliff has literally responded & taken care of things the same day when possible so many times over the years, which is simply unheard of.

Line6 & Atomic are pretty much now expected to not even consider charging for additional amps/effects etc......

You can send Cliff a thank you note for the bar he has set that other companies must now follow.....
 
Last edited:

mikah912

Member
Messages
7,222
Looks like Cliff Chase is dead on about yet another thing: We do need to consider changing the name of this forum to The Squabble Page.

I mean, Jiminy Christmas..... It's getting hard to dispassionately discuss either of these products. I guess the Helix has now tagged in and taken the place of the KPA in these unending "Vs" threads?

I really don't get it. We can disagree with decorum, no?
 

hobbes1

Member
Messages
3,267
OMG. You guys GTFO of my thread! Take the bickering elsewhere as I don't want it in here.
Thanks, @cliffc8488 for chiming in. I know that you keep your finger on the pulse over here at TGP as well at the Fractal forum. I know being a small business owner can run you ragged and I have to wonder if you'd participate more over here (or your Admin staff) if there was less of the above bickering.

Anyway, I think the AX8 is a really nice unit and I have someone who has made me a standing offer (premium $$$) but I have yet to decide if I want to let it go and go to the back of the line if I regret it :)

My biggest concern is whether or not the Helix requires the same amount of work to get tones that are not shrill on the top end as well as having good feel, that I experienced with the HD500. I've no doubt, from watching many videos about Helix and watching user reports here, that the box is capable of some great tones. I would never be able to have both AX8 and Helix side by side on my dime as Marital Harmony trumps all :) The Helix team would (IMHO) have a true home run if they had curated a more solid selection of IRs for the cabs.

I have to say that Helix is compelling for some of the extras it provides (USB recording, reamping, ease of programming) but on the other hand, AX8 sounds quite good, right out of the box. The curated Fractal (and CURATED third party) IRs are, so far, excellent and make getting good tone easy. The biggest concern I have is being able to tweak effects or amps on the unit, on a gig. I suspect it would be a good while before I'd be totally comfortable with that...it was a looong time before I was that comfortable on the HD500. Lastly, my concern with Helix is that things like capacitive touch switches and the large, color screen and the joystick may be points of failure. With a new setup like that, time in the field is, IMHO, still early days to know how durable those things will be. Yes, I saw the vid of a L6 employee kicking around a Helix in the parking lot :)


edit: yes, I read my own signature line before I posted this and cleaned up what I REALLY wanted to say about the bickering :)
 




Trending Topics

Top