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Axe-FX III: First impressions from a long-time Helix user

texhex

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
884
You may want to take a computer with you for your first sound check. The front panel works well but it does take some time to master it and just starting out I found it to be a little frustrating at times.

This was before performance mode was introduced and I don’t know what it was but I tended to think the Enter button and the press on the large scroll wheel would do the same thing and I would end up getting into edit mode by accident. The flow of the front panel controls is still annoying to me at times but it’s my own issue, sometimes I can’t get past Exit, Home, Edit and Enter not doing what I think they will do vs what they actually do. I need to go full front panel edit mode only for an extended period of time for some muscle memory brain training.
 

LqdSndDist

Member
Messages
1,336
Remember scenes can have a lot of power....

You can change channels for any and all blocks, you can bypass any effects, you can have scene controllers change parameters etc.... all with the press of a button.

So with one tap you can engage a second amp, change the channel on a second amp, add a delay, reduce the reverb depth, kick in a boost etc. Super powerful stuff
 

bigfoamfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,925
Just tried my FC6 yesterday and it's amazing. The displays are very clear and easy to see from the floor. Really looking forward to gigging with my III now

Being the singer and guitar player, Scenes are everything to me. I messed with RJM's and other generic MIDI controllers but they were a pain to integrate and program. The FC-6 is plug and play
 
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metropolis_4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,891
You may want to take a computer with you for your first sound check. The front panel works well but it does take some time to master it and just starting out I found it to be a little frustrating at times.

This was before performance mode was introduced and I don’t know what it was but I tended to think the Enter button and the press on the large scroll wheel would do the same thing and I would end up getting into edit mode by accident. The flow of the front panel controls is still annoying to me at times but it’s my own issue, sometimes I can’t get past Exit, Home, Edit and Enter not doing what I think they will do vs what they actually do. I need to go full front panel edit mode only for an extended period of time for some muscle memory brain training.
I don't think it's just your issue, the buttons on the front panel are not intuitive. Especially HOME, EDIT, ENTER, and EXIT. I've been spending some time editing all from the front panel too to acquaint myself with it. Every time I do I find myself missing the hardware layout of the Helix. I think it was laid out in a much more intuitive way.

Cool, thanks for the link!

Just tried my FC6 yesterday and it's amazing. The displays are very clear and easy to see from the floor. Really looking forward to gigging with my III now

Being the singer and guitar player, Scenes are everything to me. I messed with RJM's and other generic MIDI controllers but they were a pain to integrate and program. The FC-6 is plug and play
I also love the color LEDs when I'm singing and playing! A lot of times I can't look down at what I'm stepping on, and the colors are easier to see in my peripheral vision.

This was something that drove me crazy with older gear like the HD500.

Back when I used amps and pedals, I used to have an entire pedalboard of all Boss pedals for singing gigs because the colors were so easy to see in my peripheral vision!
 

nicolasrivera

Member
Messages
6,657
TL;DR:
:dude:cool::D:aok



A few of my first impressions after day 1 with the Axe-FX III:

1. Modulation Effects

I know this is an odd place to start, but one of the first things that blew me away was how good the Chorus and Flange effects are! This is the first time I've EVER heard "analog" chorus/flange in any piece of digital gear that actually sounds like analog chorus/flange!

It does that awesome thing that good analog chorus/flange does where it expands the sound and makes everything fatter and fuller.

2. Drive Pedal -> Amp Synergy

The way the Drive blocks interact with the Amp is the best I've heard in a digital unit.

This is another thing that has never quite sounded right to me in every other digital unit I've tried. Somehow drive pedals and amps never seem to work together; instead of blending into each other, it always sounds like the sound of the drive pedal is sort of sitting on top (or next to) the sound of the amp.

Back in my tube amp days, hitting a pushed amp with a drive or a fuzz was my primary approach. With digital gear, I've adapted and switched to a more amp-based approach and basically stopped using drive pedals because it just didn' t work the way it used to in Analog World.

The Helix was better than most in this area, but still didn't quite feel right to me.

The first time I threw a Drive in front of a pushed Vox in the Axe it was like that scene in Ratatouille where Ego takes a bite and has a big flashback of his childhood. Memories of what that pedal -> amp approach used to sound like came flooding back to me and put a huge smile on my face.

I think I'm going to be changing back to a more pedal based approach again based on what I'm hearing.

3. Scenes are ok, Channels are awesome!

Scenes on their own are nice, and I probably wouldn't keep the Axe if they didn't exist. But they aren't as good as snapshots. They're sort of like snapshots-lite. I definitely miss a lot of the things I was able to do with snapshots in the Helix.

Channels on the other hand are awesome! Having 4 channels on each block is so nice; changing between two amps, or two pedals is a big part of what I used snapshots to do. And then I'd have to have two blocks side by side, or set up a B path for the second one. Channels make it so much easier to manage that!

4. The Grid is cool... and not cool

I have mixed feelings on the grid thing. I get the approach, and I do appreciate some of the extra flexibility it allows for in signal chain creation and routing. But, it can also be annoying when you're just trying to get something set up quickly. Running shunts and cables is annoying. I find myself missing the quick ease of the Helix signal chain much more often than I find myself enjoying the grid flexibility.

I wish they had a couple default grid layouts you could start from. Kind of like the layouts for the FC pedals. It would be so nice to have a default layout that just included an Input block at one end, an Output block at the other, and a complete chain of shunts in-between. That would save so much time in creating new patches.

5. The FC Pedals are excellent!

At first the whole control thing was weird to me in the Axe. With the Helix, there is a direct connection between the foot controls and the patches. It took some orientation to get used to the controller being so separate from the unit and patches/presets. I'm starting to like some aspects of it now though. I am starting to see benefits from having my controller being decoupled from my patches.

I like the separate tap/hold operations, and while the scribble strips and color LED's are nothing new to me, I appreciate them greatly nonetheless.

Also, I don't know what black magic it is that makes it possible to run and power the whole thing from a single XLR cable, but that is one of the coolest things ever! Major kudos for that one!!

6. Editor and Workflow

The editor is not bad. I still like HX Edit better, but the Axe editor is entirely useable. It has a bit of an old-school Windows vibe/sheen to it, but that's ok. It's intuitive enough and I like how everything is laid out and organized.

The pick-lists are sometimes obnoxious. Especially cabs! :bonk

Editing on the hardware isn't bad, but there are some things that aren't intuitive, some things that are janky, and there are a few too many deep menu dives for me. I'm a little concerned about editing on the fly at gigs... we'll have to see. I'm thinking I'll probably bring my laptop with me to the first rehearsals and shows I do just in case. This is where the Helix still feels lightyears ahead of the Axe to me. I seriously miss the on-the-fly editing ability of the Helix.

7. Amp/Cab

The amps and cabs sound phenomenal. Easily the best I've heard. Period.

One thing I really miss from the Helix is the ability to choose either separate amp/cab blocks, or a single combined block!

On the Axe, it can be annoying to have to change parameters on two separate blocks every time I want to change amp models. It makes auditioning amps a serious hassle! First I have to dig through the huge pick list of amps. Then, I have to change to the cab block and try to search for the cabs in a ridiculous list of cab IRs. It's basically made me resort to using 3 external IRs for everything and never touching the Axe cabs. What I've heard of them is great, but I don't have time to dig through that crazy list of cabs. It's easier to just set an IR, and then tweak the amp to get what I want from it.

I seriously wish they had an option to auto-switch the cab to the cab for the selected amp model. Like a toggle switch in the Cab block that could turn this on if desired.

It was so much easier to audition amps in the Helix to find the sounds I wanted when I was building tones for a show!

8. Bass and Acoustic Processing

For bass, it seems... utilitarian? It can work, but it's pretty limited unfortunately. The models that are there sound good (some better than others), but there are so few of them, and some glaring omissions. Obviously it's a tool made for electric guitar, and just has enough bass stuff thrown in to get by for the guitarist who occasionally plays bass. At least that's what it feels like to me.

I like Helix much much better for bass. I would easily recommend the HX Stomp over the Axe to any bass player!

For acoustic it's pretty good. I like the sound of the EQ and compressors a lot. I actually like the compressors in it better on acoustic than I liked them on electric!

I have some mastering plugins I use in Ableton that I think might edge it out in terms of pure sound quality for acoustic, but overall it's very good!

----------------


I've only been using the Axe for a day or so. I've got a first rehearsal and run of shows starting this weekend, so I'll get a chance to try it out in the wild soon! I'm looking forward to it, but also kind of nervous.

First impressions compared to the Helix are about what I thought they'd be: The Axe edges it out in most areas of pure sound quality, but the Helix still reigns supreme for UX/UI and workflow!

I think as a dedicated electric guitar processor, the Axe is a great choice. But another thing I've come to appreciate with the Helix is how unbelievably flexible a tool it is. And with things like Command Center, I still think Helix is the more versatile tool. If you're using something as a single piece that is integrated into a larger rig, or a guitar processor to integrate into a multi-instrument or synth rig, I think the Helix is the better choice.


Final Verdict:


Welcome to the cool side.
 

Guitardave

Member
Messages
9,893
I don't think it's just your issue, the buttons on the front panel are not intuitive. Especially HOME, EDIT, ENTER, and EXIT. I've been spending some time editing all from the front panel too to acquaint myself with it. Every time I do I find myself missing the hardware layout of the Helix. I think it was laid out in a much more intuitive way.



Cool, thanks for the link!



I also love the color LEDs when I'm singing and playing! A lot of times I can't look down at what I'm stepping on, and the colors are easier to see in my peripheral vision.

This was something that drove me crazy with older gear like the HD500.

Back when I used amps and pedals, I used to have an entire pedalboard of all Boss pedals for singing gigs because the colors were so easy to see in my peripheral vision!
Yep! The Fractal UI remains a weaker point of the products.

Hopefully they'll hear all that feedback and rethink their UI programming on future units. It's a big deterrent for a lot of people.

I'm really tempted to get the FM3 but each time I think about navigating it I think I should pass. I'll like how it sounds, but won't take it out of the house to a gig.

There's a whole bunch of the industry that still has bad interfaces.
 
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bdrepko

Member
Messages
2,369
Was never a problem for me. I have yet to change anything at a show. Volume and BMT are taken care of at the board.
 

OPENYOUREYES

Member
Messages
1,651
Nah, fam. This hypothetical you mention makes no sense.

First of all, there is no Fractal equivalent to the Helix Floor. Fractal doesn't have a converged device with all of the switches, integrated expression pedal and mega floorboard form factor as the Helix. The Axe-FX III is a RACK UNIT, which I - and a whole lot of other dudes - have no interest in. Pairing it with a FC6 or FC12 just makes it too big for most of my applications.

Now, the FM3 is about as close as you can get, even though it's on the compact side. That's why I jumped on the list within minutes of them announcing it. But it's going to sit alongside my multiple HX units (LT, Stomp, Native). The AX8, which I owned, really liked and sold, didn't make me reject Helix. Owning a Kemper, which I owned, really liked and sold, didn't make me reject Helix. Neither will owning an FM3. I can't open up multiple FM3s within a DAW mixing session like I do with Native. I can't keep an FM3 permanently stashed in a super, super tight jam space I work in with my friends like I do my Stomp. At the end of the day, these are just digital amp makers, really. Having more than one is as fun as having more than one amp in real life.
disagree. If the axe3 was 1500.00 I think quite a few would get it instead of the helix "if" THEY could only afford one unit.
 

handyman

Member
Messages
1,492
I don't think it's just your issue, the buttons on the front panel are not intuitive. Especially HOME, EDIT, ENTER, and EXIT. I've been spending some time editing all from the front panel too to acquaint myself with it. Every time I do I find myself missing the hardware layout of the Helix. I think it was laid out in a much more intuitive way.
I agree about the edit and enter buttons being in unintuitive places. You'll get used to it after a few days of using it, though. Otherwise the on device UI is pretty straightforward.

If it makes you feel any better, the III's on device UI is WAY better than the Axe FX II or AX8. I had the AX8 for almost 2 years and never really go the hang of editing on the device. I'm perfectly comfortable with editing my patches on the fly on the III now, especially with the new performance menu.

Axe Edit is still the best way to do big changes, of course.
 

mikah912

Member
Messages
6,878
disagree. If the axe3 was 1500.00 I think quite a few would get it instead of the helix "if" THEY could only afford one unit.
Would they also get the $499 foot controller and whatever they'd have to pay for an extra expression pedal? Helix sales seem to indicate not being that the Floor waaaaaaaay outsells Helix Rack - and that COMES with the foot controller bundled!
 

JiveTurkey

Trumpets and Tants
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,909
To be fair, axe III w/foot controller is more like $3K
What about in Canadian dollars? I think a certain Canadian someone is gone for the time being and can't confirm up to the minute prices.
 

mikah912

Member
Messages
6,878
Or Helix was 2099
There is clearly advantage to having a lower price, but that's true pretty much true regardless of the product or industry. Is it the only advantage for a Helix Floor versus a Fractal Axe-FX III? Absolutely not. For one, Fractal has no comparable converged device, so there's no 1:1 comparison to make. They don't have an equivalent to Native either.

If price parity or undercutting was all it took for things to radically change, why wasn't there a seismic shift away from Helix when the AX8 dropped at a lower-than-Helix-Floor price? Seems like I recall the AX8 had two different price drops over its life span. The Helix price has only gone up $100. And you can't say it's because of the LT because Frank says that full Helix Floor is still the best seller of the product family.

It's just an overly reductive line of reasoning.
 

Dan Desy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,213
What about in Canadian dollars? I think a certain Canadian someone is gone for the time being and can't confirm up to the minute prices.
Maybe he’s busy praising the PEDD?

For the record, i’m Canadian too. But I’m not offended.
 




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