Axe-Fx II vs. Amplifire - Shootout & Comparison Clips

kleydj13

Member
Messages
1,607
The Shootout


This one is as much for me as it is anyone else. Had the Axe-Fx II for about 4 years now. Had the Amplifire for about a week. Tried to acclimate myself with the Amplifire and try it in a live situation before running this comparison. I'll only be keeping one of the two, so I'm as curious to hear the results as anyone.

I entered this shootout with the mindset that the Axe was the current champion and the Amplifire is the underdog. Unless the Amplifire can hang with the Axe I won't be keeping it. But to be fair I stuck to the amp models and tones available to the Amplifire. The Axe has a lot more 'flavors' of amp model to choose from. If you like blackface clean then you have the Twin, Deluxe, Princeton, Vibroverb, Super Reverb, Bassman, Bandmaster, boutique choices, etc... I didn't go into those sounds, so keep that in mind. Also the Axe is much more tweakable. Between deep parameter editing, tone matching, and IRs you can probably get the Axe to do whatever you want. I don't go into any of that. This is just focused on some core amp tones that the two share in common. Meat and potatoes fundamental guitar sounds.
Also be aware that I used a single Ownhammer IR from the free demo pack for every tone on both devices. It is entirely possible that a different IR would be required to really get the most out of a particular amp model, but they both load 3rd party IRs, so I wanted to remove that variable. The Axe has a bigger list of stock IRs.

My Reflections

This section is going to be my subjective impressions so far weighing my 4 years with the Axe, my week with the Amplifire, my live performance this weekend with the Amplifire, and the shootout video experience itself.

There were a few amps that went either way. The Twin on the Axe sounded great, but I didn't get a sound I loved on the Amplifire. The Deluxe was pretty much great on both, no winner here. The Bassman was very close. After listening to the clip I think I had a little more gain on the Axe, but I thought they both sounded quite good. I don't have a deep appreciation for Vox tones, so I'll let the clips speak for themselves. The Plexi was one I really wanted to hear. I thought the Amplifire took this round. Just sounded great to me. I think the midrange was scooped out a little on the Axe and it had less gain, so it could be an unfair representation. I'm actually doing another more focused comparison video on the Plexi sounds because that is my main amp for live use. Both the JCM800 and Rectifier are heavier sounds that I usually don't get into, but I liked the tones from both.

Overall I will say with confidence that the Amplifire is the real deal. It sounds very good. For the amp models it has, they all sound terrific. Within the scope of this video I think the Amplifire 100% hangs with the Axe. So if you're a meat and potatoes kind of amp guy then I'd go Amplifire for sure. The kicker though is that the Axe will go beyond the scope of this video. I'm honestly not sure if I could be as happy with the Amplifire if I didn't have all the different flavors or deep editing that the Axe provides. The Axe has some tremendously compelling anti-GAS measures here. There are more amp models and deep editing parameters than you even have time or energy to test. You can almost always chalk up a failure to get a tone to user error.

I kind of think of it like the Amplifire is a 24 count Crayola Crayon box and the Axe is a 64 count Crayola Crayon box. With the Amplifire you have the broad strokes covered. Everything you need. Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, etc... But the Axe gives you shades. You get Maize, Orange-Yellow, Goldenrod, and Dandelion. From a far they all look like a similar color, but up close there are subtle distinctions.

As I sit here and reflect, I find both to be very compelling for different reasons. The Axe is such a strong complete package. Great amp tones, lots of variety, deep tweaking potential, tremendous effects, great switching and routing capabilities. But the Amplifire is cheaper, smaller, what it does - it does really really well, it is more modular and can integrate into a pedalboard, and is a more straightforward tool.

Conclusion

So even though I started out thinking it was a battle, and for my wallet it truthfully is - in reality both are great and provide excellent choices for different reasons. I hope this comparison helps highlight those strengths so you can find the tool that is best for you.
 

teaburstlp

Member
Messages
90
I think the Axe sounds more realistic in terms of overall amp tone and having both, the effects on the Axe are better as well.
 

Art_Vandelay

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
255
To me, the most striking difference in your comparisons is that the Ax8 consistently sounds darker and the Amplifire brighter. That is consistent with my experience with the two units -- I'm often tweaking the Ax8 to brighten it up and tweaking the AF to tame the high end. It is interesting that that comes through even with the same IR (which is also consistent with my own experiences).

On the Amplifire, I almost always apply a high cut in the cab block at around 8 - 10khz, otherwise it can be a bit shrill. If I take it down further (4-5khz) it tends to sound closer to the out-of-the-box Ax8 to my ears, although that's often a little too dark for my tastes, particularly in a mix.
 

atquinn

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,748
You had some pretty different tones dialed in on the two IMO (generally more gain and less bright on the Fractal). But your conclusions were close to my own. I now have an XL+ and MFC. I had an Amplifire for a while and I thought it kept up just fine with the Fractal, but when I did close comparisons I actually thought the Plexi stuff (not super-hi-gain) sounded better on the Axe FX (of course there's always the question of "Which Plexi?" :D). The clean tones on the Amplifire were awesome; just as good as the Axe (though obviously not as varied) and the higain tones were awesome as well. At the end of the day, since I could afford it and because it made sense for my playing situation (Madison Square Basement :D ), I went with the Fractal. If I needed to save some money for some reason, I would be thrilled with the Amplifire (even more so than with an AX8 or Helix I believe). But when I had both, since there was no compelling reason for me to play both, I tended to stick with the Fractal since it can do all the Amplifire can do and more. Still I think there's no question at this point that base-tone-wise, the Amplifire is one of the "big boys" along with the Helix, Fractal stuff and Kemper.
-
Austin
 

kleydj13

Member
Messages
1,607
To me, the most striking difference in your comparisons is that the Ax8 consistently sounds darker and the Amplifire brighter. That is consistent with my experience with the two units -- I'm often tweaking the Ax8 to brighten it up and tweaking the AF to tame the high end. It is interesting that that comes through even with the same IR (which is also consistent with my own experiences).

On the Amplifire, I almost always apply a high cut in the cab block at around 8 - 10khz, otherwise it can be a bit shrill. If I take it down further (4-5khz) it tends to sound closer to the out-of-the-box Ax8 to my ears, although that's often a little too dark for my tastes, particularly in a mix.
I noticed that as well as a trend with how I set the amp EQ to try and match one another. The Amplifire needed some extra bass to not sound thin while the Axe needed to keep the bass in check.
 

thornie

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,399
Well done. I really appreciate how you went in order from cleanest amp to dirtiest. The Amplifire sounds fantastic.
 

kleydj13

Member
Messages
1,607
You had some pretty different tones dialed in on the two IMO
I noticed that as well after I had put all the footage together and listened critically. So I think it is a little on the 'quick and dirty' end of the comparison spectrum. But hopefully one can get some sense for the overall amp modeling quality comparison between the two. The Axe in particular could probably be tweaked in many different directions to really suit your tastes.
 

chrisjnyc

Member
Messages
6,778
Is it possible to use the same IR files between the Axe and AF? That would cut out some of the variables...
 

kleydj13

Member
Messages
1,607

Another comparison clip. This time focusing only on a mid gain Marshall Plexi tone. The preset on the Axe is the one I have been using for live use for months. Actually, some version of it has been my mainstay for years. Currently it is using the 1970 jumped Plexi from a recent firmware combined with a Marshall 4x12 Pre Rola IR that I believe is included in the factory IR list as a teaser for one of the new cab packs. The preset on the Amplifire is the one I have been using primarily since I got it combined with an Ownhammer free Mesa 4x12 IR. A good Plexi tone is pretty much a #1 priority for me in a modeler, so I felt a more in depth comparison was warranted.
 

atquinn

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,748

Another comparison clip. This time focusing only on a mid gain Marshall Plexi tone. The preset on the Axe is the one I have been using for live use for months. Actually, some version of it has been my mainstay for years. Currently it is using the 1970 jumped Plexi from a recent firmware combined with a Marshall 4x12 Pre Rola IR that I believe is included in the factory IR list as a teaser for one of the new cab packs. The preset on the Amplifire is the one I have been using primarily since I got it combined with an Ownhammer free Mesa 4x12 IR. A good Plexi tone is pretty much a #1 priority for me in a modeler, so I felt a more in depth comparison was warranted.
Another comparison that demonstrates what I experienced. If I dialed in Plexi tones I was happy with on both units and compared them, they were different in the exact way shown in your vid. I felt they were both good, but I felt the Axe Plexi was better in a side-to-side comparison. The Amplifire felt a bit thinner and lacking in depth in comparison. I never really tried to get the Amplifire to sound like the Axe FX because like I said, when playing in isolation (not doing a shootout), it sounded/felt fine to me.
-
Austin
 

chrisjnyc

Member
Messages
6,778

Another comparison clip. This time focusing only on a mid gain Marshall Plexi tone. The preset on the Axe is the one I have been using for live use for months. Actually, some version of it has been my mainstay for years. Currently it is using the 1970 jumped Plexi from a recent firmware combined with a Marshall 4x12 Pre Rola IR that I believe is included in the factory IR list as a teaser for one of the new cab packs. The preset on the Amplifire is the one I have been using primarily since I got it combined with an Ownhammer free Mesa 4x12 IR. A good Plexi tone is pretty much a #1 priority for me in a modeler, so I felt a more in depth comparison was warranted.
Is it me... I am digging the AF over the Axe.

I found the Ax8 to be a bit darker than the AF, and seemed to get lost in the mix with a loud band, or it took a while to tweak them on AX8
 

Willowdale

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,972
Although none of the plexi tones in these vids are dialed in to my liking, the Axe tones are fuller/more complex but the Atomic is more than fine enough for the budget &/or size conscious.....
 

teaburstlp

Member
Messages
90
I think the Axe again sounds more full and amp-like. Having both I understand the effects in the Axe are better as well. Is it safe to assume you picked the Amplifire based on the AXe being in the for sale section now?

Despite my comments above... and how close they are in tones, it shows how much of a bargain the Atomic is. with the right amount of tweaking (something I'm not very good at) I think they would be neck in neck...
 

kleydj13

Member
Messages
1,607
I think the Axe again sounds more full and amp-like. Having both I understand the effects in the Axe are better as well. Is it safe to assume you picked the Amplifire based on the AXe being in the for sale section now?

Despite my comments above... and how close they are in tones, it shows how much of a bargain the Atomic is. with the right amount of tweaking (something I'm not very good at) I think they would be neck in neck...
I have decided to go with the Amplifire for the time being. I do like the Axe-Fx quite a lot and would give it a slight edge in tone. In the head to head I think they're pretty dang close though. But the Axe is overkill for my current live needs. The Amplifire fits my situation better. Whatever edge in tone the Axe may have is getting swallowed up by poor live sound overall. And the Amplifire lets me carry 3 units easily in one trip (guitar gig bag, pedalboard, pa speaker) while the Axe required 4 (guitar gig bag, axe, fcb1010, and pa speaker). Both are great units though.

I foresee some day I pickup an AX8 though once availability settles down and used prices normalize.
 




Trending Topics

Top