This is also true in my experience. You have to really drill down into the sub-menus in order to get the most out of the Axe FX. YouTube videos have been priceless for this. There's great ones from The Studio Rats and Brett Kingman that taught me a lot about what parameters to change and why we're doing it. The Fractal message boards and the Wiki page is also super helpful. It's interesting to hear the designer's takes on various amps, how they work in the Axe FX, and the best way to manipulate them. If you're a knob tweaker, then you'll really like how deep you can go into sculpting your tones. But getting into "the weeds" of all the parameters is how the pros take tones from "good" to "great."There are 2 guys who play full time in my area who use Fractal and their live tones are just incredible. I do know that each of these guys will readily stipulate that their tones are the result of hours and hours of tweaking the drill-down menu parameters - the stuff 90% of users never get to. I don’t know how it ‘feels’ to play when feeding the monitors and Front of House with no amp or cab. It may have that ‘sterile’ feel that you just have to get used to. But again, these guys’ live tones are killer.
I do think if you feed any full-amp ‘simulated‘ signal (AIB pedal / Fractal / Kemper) through glass tube power and into a 4x12 with dedicated ‘guitar’ speakers, it can really bridge the gap. My favorite rig right now is my BE OD DLX pedal feeding my Non-MV 1973 Marshall 50 watt. As you bring the power section of the Marshall into play, the sound and feel is just incredible.