The Axe-FX is a Monster - Here's Why...

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by Scott Peterson, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    What you present to the audience hearing your guitar signal is almost never what you hear standing next to your amp. And even those guys caught up in that - and on that point - fail to realize is that 99% of the time they don't hear their amp directly either; it's on an angle to their ears. (And sometimes ripping full blast into the backs of their knees). Your 'real' tone is what you here right in front of your speaker, with it aimed squarely at your melon.

    When recording or playing live, EQ is used to carve, boost, and space out different musical elements to make them standout, blend or better work together. Outside of only a few places, the entire 'direct from the cab to the audience' is not what is presented to the listener. What is presented is processed (digitally or otherwise) with EQ, limiters, compression and more.

    Your pedals and amps are tools in the actual entire toolbox used to both create and present your tone and timbre as a musician in an ensemble to the listening audience. And proper use of each tool individually and then corporately as a whole is what both shapes and delivers your tone.

    The key here and the whole 'monster' concept is that folks cannot grasp what the Axe-FX, beyond other modeling solutions, has to truly offer. It's not a 'replace your Soldano with this preset' thing. It's about a toolbox that has so much to offer if you have the proper understanding, grasp and knowledge to utilize it to create and craft your guitar tone.

    As a matter of philosophy, see the Axe-FX as a toolbox and not as a 'amp modeler' to get your mindset right about what it really is. That marketing speak has folks pulling their hair out trying to replicate analog amps using the same exact settings, etc.. The Axe-FX is a different beast; it has a massive array of tools to use to shape your tones.

    What does that mean? For example it is not 'wrong' or complicated to simply drop a PEQ in after your cab and modify it to taste. Try it in your DAW; just take your recorded tone and use a PEQ in your DAW to shape it to your preferences and goals; then drop inside your Axe-FX and replicate that curve with a PEQ block in your signal chain after the cab. You'll be amazed. It's almost like chiseling out the perfect tone 'sculpture' with chisels instead of just using hammers.

    You'll see folks react to something like that with, "well, I just want to use an amp and cab block to get there" when in analog, you need to EQ most everything you've ever recorded or mixed live. The bands that sound the worst, almost universally, are bands where the backline supports the room and the instruments are not in FOH. Factors like directionality, beaming, phase cancellations, and all sorts of issues come into play that almost always make for a trainwreck of a mix; and it shifts as you walk around in the room.

    That's one topic, and not the thrust of this thread or post. But it illustrates a fundamental separation of what 'purists' of any ilk don't comprehend. The greater picture when presenting music; be it recorded in the mix, or live on the gig.

    Jay Mitchell put it this way on another thread here in regards to this, and his point is well stated: "The Axe-Fx does both (emulate and create tones), albeit with a requirement for a higher level of user involvement than simple plug-and-play. If you think about it, that's really no different from physical amps, cabs, and processing gear. The players who have created definitive sounds have all done their homework, both in learning to play the instrument and learning to use and/or modify the gear. The notion that you can purchase those results with no effort on your part is the sort of naive myth that appeals to kids and hobbyists who are the core market for cheap all-in-one processors, but it is a myth nonetheless. You'll never get either your own signature sound nor the sound of your personal guitar hero without expending some of your own blood, sweat, and tears."

    I know I set folks off when I post things about the Axe-FX, especially on this board. But this isn't hype, this isn't hedging and this is what I was trying to say a long time ago when I first grasped what the Axe-FX really is. This thing is a 'monster' because it is far more than a 'preset in a box'. You get a toolbox with a lot of very powerful, complex and deep tools. You have to bring the carpentry skill and ingenuity to make it work for YOUR personal situation. It's a blank canvas, with the paints and brushes. But it is NOT paint by numbers.

    Trying to help.
     
  2. re-animator

    re-animator Senior Member

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    i'm glad you found something that works so well for you and does what you want it to.


    but my approach, as well as many other players', is just completely contrary to this, as a matter of personal philosophy - even at an artistic level.

    some people like their rigs to be a well-oiled machine. others want it to be a loud box with attitude sitting at the edge of the stage.




    imo, your sound should never have to be "explained."
     
  3. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    That's an interesting sentiment, but it raises the question of why you choose to participate in an online forum, where the only available means of communication - elucidation and explanation via typed text - is precisely what you say should never be necessary.
     
  4. Dr Git

    Dr Git Member

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    I see your point as well as Scott's but, your ear and "learning your tool" is my best advise. I remember growing up and hearing Nick Moroch (Lenny White, David Sanbourne, Countless studio work, etc) for the first time in his living room. We were both around 18. I just started playing and Nick was already better than I am at 53 today. Anyway, Nick made a Fender Twin Silverface sound as good as anything i heard today with no pedals. Just the fender and a Les paul and his amazing technique, as well as his ear. With that said, I think some guys could buy a Axe FX, 11R or any of the better modelers, and still not make them sound great...Feel Blessed that you guys do them justice...
     
  5. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    couple of observations...

    First, I don't think I accept the premise that anyone who is not 100% sold on the Axe-FX now (even for what Scott describes as its larger utility, not merely a modeler), is necessarily a "purist."

    I've played gigs without any amp at all (something as simple as a Yamaha DG Stomp w/ a pedal or two running into a slightly crunchy amp/cab setting) and it sounded great (so my friends in the audience told me, confirming what I thought I heard from the stage); and have done some excellent recording direct thru "models" with no amp.

    I think we get off the mark right away by binary thinking (purist v. non purist) and that undermines the ability to have a discussion without taking sides.

    It also may be unfair to go after re-animator for his opinion when there is a whole world of discussion possible here on any number of topics that doesn't necessarily relate to "explaining" one's sound. That post may not have been intended to sound that way, but it seems a bit sharp and could be seen as saying that someone with re-animator's view has no business even being here.

    Jumping to such implied criticism of others' opinions could possibly be seen as dismissive (some folks are worthy of being here, others are not) and perhaps confrontational, which is ironic given Scott's point about being more open-minded about what the Axe (or any similar tool) can do for one's sound, beyond just "modeling."

    Just observations, I don't want to sidetrack from Scott's primary point (the whole range of things beyond just emulating the sound coming out of "the box" being relevant), which I agree with.
     
  6. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    There's really no way around verbal explanations in this medium. If someone were to say that you really shouldn't need to justify or defend your sound, I'd say "Amen, brother" to that sentiment. Explanation, OTOH, is pretty much all we have here. Absent that, we might as well all surf somewhere else.
     
  7. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    I'll accept that semantic difference, though I don't think any 3 of us might agree on what exactly it means, and move on...
     
  8. re-animator

    re-animator Senior Member

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    i like the digital forum because i learn about digital recording solutions, and ways to get good sounds on headphones and through monitors when amps aren't practical (and like i've said many times, i do think axe is very useful in many contexts).


    I just wanted to offer the opinion that there's no sense in explaining the hyper-tweakability of an axe setup to people who are diamaterically opposed to that sort of approach. my amp doesn't even have an EQ.




    *i am also a pod user and have recorded a lot of quality sounds with digital gear, but my preferential approach lies with simplicity.
     
  9. Baba

    Baba Supporting Member

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    Good stuff Scott. I can't seem to make much of anything sound good, the less knobs and parameters, the better for me!
     
  10. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    You are reading intent where there is none.

    The loudest 'detractors' of the Axe-FX are indeed purists; but that is a term chosen in humor, not condescension nor meant to imply what you perceived it to be, 'dismissive'.

    And therein lies the problem of even trying to discuss anything of depth sometimes related to this topic because these tangent 'debates' seem to flare with such miscommunication.

    Please Jon, lighten up. My entire post and the intent behind it is this: change your mindset about what the Axe-FX is and can do and perhaps you'll understand where my 'monster' thread titles actually came from. The Axe-FX isn't a monster out to eat tube amps. It's a VERY well stocked tool box for developing and finely tuning a guitar signal from pedals to amps to cabs to other effects and tools. This isn't about other modelers, it isn't about 'digital sucks', isn't about anything other than that. If you buy a box full of tools and do not understand or want to use the tools in the box, then either you have the wrong set of tools for you or you need to investigate each tool individually in order to understand using them to do your work. For example, using a a chisel and hammer instead of a just a hammer. Both will 'reshape' your clay, but one is a proper use of the tools at hand. I am saying, "look at the tool set".

    I did not mean nor imply (at least on purpose) any sort of dismissive tone by using purists, so please don't get caught up in the wordplay. There isn't any.
     
  11. jimfog

    jimfog Senior Member

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    "When something DOESN'T work, why do so many fight it?"

    :D
     
  12. Ben R

    Ben R Member

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    :huh

    Ummmm... I don't think that Scott ever said that it did.

    What's being explained is why he feels that the product is so great. ...And, why the fact that it can take a little bit of time to fully understand how to get the most out of it is worth it. He's also explaining why certain people seem to not understand the reasons why their criticisms of the AXE FX are flawed. It's a discussion of how and why it's incredibly useful to him - especially in light of recent discussions that have gone on here.

    The sounds speak for themselves. You don't have to explain sound clips or live demos.
    .
     
  13. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    :aok Thank you. That indeed is exactly what I am saying.
     
  14. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    That's quite a bit more specific than your previous post. If you're opposed to tone controls, I can see where the Axe-Fx would potentially not be attractive to you. If you feel that you can produce all the sounds you want with minimal tools, then you're all set.

    It's worth noting that, while you may not be comfortable with the use of tone controls in amplifiers, you can rest assured that someone made a set of tonal decisions about the amp(s) you play. If you happen to concur with their decisions regarding voicing and feel, count yourself among the very fortunate; you've got a soulmate in the designer of your amp.

    I not only use all the controls available in my tube amps, I analyze the amps' designs and modify them to make them sound and feel more to my liking. This has been my accustomed procedure for more than 30 years. The Axe-Fx facilitates that procedure in a way that is simply impossible in a physical amp.

    Once I've completed a set of mods to an amp (or an amp block configuration in the Axe-Fx), I don't tweak beyond that point, and using the tool is then trivially simple. IOW, one approach to achieving maximum simplicity is to begin with a complex set of parameters and then to optimize them in pursuit of a specific goal. The result can be quite simple, whereas the process of achieving that result never is. If you need not be bothered with the complexities of your tube amp(s), it is only because someone else has done so for you, and in so doing has taken away some of your freedom to "roll your own," as it were. Parallel to the Axe-Fx, that works for some players, but not for everyone.
     
  15. re-animator

    re-animator Senior Member

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    i just wanted to explain that there is a whole different mindset out there that just disallows the use of something like axe fx. i find it a little silly that there are so many posts that seem to implicitly argue that everyone should use an axe fx (or perhaps more accurately everyone should "consider" an axe).

    Yeah you have unlimited room to explore with something like axe. you can get a ton of sounds that are limited just by your imagination.

    but i feel like you can get the same with a tube amp, and control it with your right hand and not a list of menus.

    i don't like to engineer sounds, some people do. i just like to make them happen with my playing. i think that's just a reason axe doesn't work for some people.




    there's just different approaches to painting your sound. there's no right or wrong. i just take issue with some people insinuating that certain groups are inferior because their approach to making music just doesn't measure up.
     
  16. JoeB63

    JoeB63 Supporting Member

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    Not to disagree with anything Scott said, but I do think we've all been to live shows and have heard great guitar tones from out in the audience (even in ye olden days, before digital processing or even before big fancy PAs), and I really doubt that the guitarist was hearing a significantly different sound on stage than was the audience.

    In other words, tube amps (and SS amps) can work too.
     
  17. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    Your statement implies a belief in either-or, and I strenuously disagree with such a notion. It is possible to do both: to "engineer" sounds as well as use your playing skills in their creation.

    Given nothing but a conventional amp, a guitar, and a cable, I pride myself on my ability to produce a wide range of musical styles and sounds. I learned to survive this way as a professional musician many years ago, in situations in which there were no alternatives. I still retain those skills, but I have technical chops as well. Given my druthers, I apply my technical skills in support of musical ones.

    We are in complete agreement. There is no right or wrong here. However, I have seen no such insinuations in this thread.
     
  18. BSHARP

    BSHARP Member

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    Rule #1. - Never disagree with anyone that has more posts than you do!
     
  19. Turbo Gerbil

    Turbo Gerbil Member

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    This is implying that its not possible to setup an amp model on the Axefx that can be controlled with pick attack, knobs, etc. The amp models in the AxeFx are plenty responsive enough to sit on one patch and run it exactly as you would a single channel tube amp. I don't use alot of patch changes myself, I prefer to just have a few "rigs" that I like and then control those rigs using pick attack, vol knob, drive boosts, etc, just like the "real" amp rigs would be.

    Once its setup, its no more complex than a normal tube amp.
     
  20. Baba

    Baba Supporting Member

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    Yes, but I think you and he are talking about two different things, and I think I'm more on his side of thinking. One or both of you can correct me if I'm wrong.

    I think what he was saying about 'engineering' a sound, he meant spending a good amount of time tweaking parameters to come up with a preset.

    I have become worse and worse at this as the years have gone on, and grow VERY tired of it. I currently own a GSP1101, and even as simple as that piece is, I end up tweaking EQ or changing a cab here and there, because it's not 'there' yet.

    I already made a pact with myself, that if I ever got an Axe, one of YOU guys would be setting presets for me, I just want to play the damn thing!

    Hopefully, that is what re-animator meant, and if not, that's where I'm coming from.

    Regardless, at the end of the day, as has already been said, there is no right or wrong way, just whatever way you are doing it and getting to where you need to be.
     

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