Blown away by fractal audio’s amp modeling

hellzington

Active member
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.
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."
 
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acidvoodoo

Active member
I’ve been thinking about an Axe FX unit for years, this thread might push me to finally try one out. Can anyone tell me why GC has a bunch of used FM3’s for $1400 when Fractal has brand new ones for $1100?
 

Shask

Well-known member
I got a FM3 recently, and I have had an Axe-FX II for like 10 years. The FM3 is a great little unit. Sounds and feels good, and so convenient to have so much in such a little package.

I think the FM3 sounds better than the Axe-FX II into studio monitors or headphones. I think they both require a lot of EQ tweaking to sound 'right' into a poweramp and guitar cab.
 

PBGas

Well-known member
Great units! Lots in the box to work with!
I ended up buying one of the real amps because of the sim in the Axe III.
Once I got the real amp, I sold the Fractal! I have a few other reasons for that as well but was never not happy with the unit I had.
I ended up picking up a Quad Cortex to profile the 2 amps I have. I like the size of the unit better as well for smaller shows and rehearsals.
 

jchrisf

Active member
I have a variac'd JCM 800 with the master cranked through two cabs, one with Greenbacks and the other with G12T-75's and it sounds insane.
I always thought using a variac just allowed you to crank the amp at lower volumes. Does it change the tone too?

But that is a really cool feature on Fractal's units. You can put a Jose mod on any amp and apply all kinds of different mods that people do to real amps... helps you hear how it will sound and decide if you want to do it to your real amp before you actually do it. I would think the great people here would love that.
 

mooncobra

Well-known member
I played an axe3 through the
Mighty vintage vht power amp. It sounded good and felt ok. We aren’t talking Billy Bladez levels of magical time, but it’s getting there, and the mighty vht power amp gave it some decent amp feel. Out of all the modelers, the axe through a vht power amp has been the best I’ve heard.

The Kemper with its own power amp, to me at least, really harshed my mellow. It felt like a line 6 practice amp and sounded decent.

The axe sounded really good. By far the best modeler I have heard.
 

lessarti

Well-known member
Ok I have to ask to the people that know more of this stuff etc. I use a Line 6 GX studio interface with the "pod farm 2.0" plug in or whatever it is called officially for guitar amp models..

This is probably very dated, as far as what is offered nowadays.
What and how do the fractal models work, are they the same idea in the sense that you buy their device and use 1/4 input jack plug with usb plug in to the cpu ? Or otherwise?

I am kind of curious. If the amp model tech nowadays is 95% there in sound, then it kind of makes sense to have a newer modeler for recorded tones and gives you available access to many cool sounds without blowing through gear/$$$
 

Racerxrated

Well-known member
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.
This is what has taken over for me as my fav ever tone...my 72 with 2 stacked OD pedals. Just amazing when you can let it loose.
 
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jbru91

Member
I own a ton of amazing amps but I decided to buy a brand new Fractal Axe FX III Mk II Turbo a month or so ago. Although I have a UA Apollo Twin X Quad and good studio monitors, I really wanted to be able to get that "amp in the room" sound and feel, so I bought a Mission 2x12 FRFR to go with it.

I have to say, I'm very impressed. I'm not getting rid of all my amps -- to me, they're not mutually exclusive; just two different tools that both have positives and negatives -- but the Fractal sounds great through the Mission 2x12. The Fractal is very sensitive to pickups: the gain levels change with hotter or cooler pickups, just like a real amp; and rolling the volume down reacts just like a real amp, which I hadn't experienced in previous modelers I had tried. I also really like being able to adjust the grid bias, variac, power supply, speaker compression, etc. It makes for some awesome sounds: I have a variac'd JCM 800 with the master cranked through two cabs, one with Greenbacks and the other with G12T-75's and it sounds insane. The effects are all studio-quality and the reverbs and delays sound far better than any Line 6 products I've tried in the past. The UI is also very intuitive and set up just like a real rig, which makes it easy to use.

Perhaps my only "complaint" is that most the amp models are a bit "hot." Meaning, they have way more gain on tap than the actual amps. For example, my 2550 on the lead channel with the gain at 6 is equivalent to about 4 on the Fractal's Jubilee model. To combat this I usually lower the Input Trim parameter to .7 - .8 which usually brings it in line with the real amp.

Your amp collection is seriously impressive. Well done.
 

mnemonic

Active member
Ok I have to ask to the people that know more of this stuff etc. I use a Line 6 GX studio interface with the "pod farm 2.0" plug in or whatever it is called officially for guitar amp models..

This is probably very dated, as far as what is offered nowadays.
What and how do the fractal models work, are they the same idea in the sense that you buy their device and use 1/4 input jack plug with usb plug in to the cpu ? Or otherwise?

I am kind of curious. If the amp model tech nowadays is 95% there in sound, then it kind of makes sense to have a newer modeler for recorded tones and gives you available access to many cool sounds without blowing through gear/$$$

Pretty much but the fractal stuff isn’t a plug-in so you don’t need to attach it to a computer (but you can to record or if you want to use the computer editor).

I used PodFarm and a toneport DI about 9 years ago before I got an axe FX II, it’s like comparing apples to spaceships, with podfarm you got pretty basic controls over everything, with the axe FX stuff you have more advanced controls as well as pages and pages of advanced controls.
 

gbsmusic

Well-known member
They really are incredible! And they are constantly upgrading to make them sound better, they have come a long ways in the last 10+ years
 

turboblues

Active member
I use my time to play guitar, not tweaking parameters etc.
Done that circa 1990, when I was using all kinds of rack stuff, preamps, effects...
I was tired of that.
Now I only have 3 amps (that I know through and through) and some pedals and my time spent on tweaking has been reduced to a few seconds.
I am a guitar player not a computer programmer. 😁
 

hellzington

Active member
I always thought using a variac just allowed you to crank the amp at lower volumes. Does it change the tone too?

But that is a really cool feature on Fractal's units. You can put a Jose mod on any amp and apply all kinds of different mods that people do to real amps... helps you hear how it will sound and decide if you want to do it to your real amp before you actually do it. I would think the great people here would love that.
A variac changes the tone, usually adding a little gain and compression. The lows and highs get rounder and softer. It also makes the amp feel very "squishy" under your fingers. It's part of the secret of the EVH "Brown Sound."

I agree that the Fractal can definitely be a gateway to buying the real amps based on the models or testing mods, settings changes, bias changes, etc. It's amazing the difference things like that make on some of the amps, especially the older ones from the 60s and 70s.
 

hellzington

Active member
Ok I have to ask to the people that know more of this stuff etc. I use a Line 6 GX studio interface with the "pod farm 2.0" plug in or whatever it is called officially for guitar amp models..

This is probably very dated, as far as what is offered nowadays.
What and how do the fractal models work, are they the same idea in the sense that you buy their device and use 1/4 input jack plug with usb plug in to the cpu ? Or otherwise?

I am kind of curious. If the amp model tech nowadays is 95% there in sound, then it kind of makes sense to have a newer modeler for recorded tones and gives you available access to many cool sounds without blowing through gear/$$$
The Fractal I bought (Axe FX III Mk II Turbo) is a rack unit and is similar to any other tube preamp (e.g., ADA MP-1, JMP-1, Bogner Fish, etc.) in the way it physically operates. You plug into the guitar input on the front of it. There are many options to get the sound out on the back: 1/4" balanced, XLR, USB, etc. There is also an optional foot controller that I purchased, which allows you to change everything with your feet and even plug in expression pedals for wah and volume.

The way I am running it is stereo out into an FRFR (Full Rage, Flat Response) speaker cabinet. These are different from guitar cabinets; they are more like PA speakers. They produce the full 20-20k frequency response without any EQ or coloring, just like a PA speaker would. (This is the opposite of guitar speakers which only produce a very limited frequency range of around 70-6k, and are deliberately EQ'd/colored.) There are a lot of FRFR speakers on the market. Some look more like PA speakers and some look more like guitar cabinets. I have the Mission Gemini 2x12 (specs here) that is and FRFR cabinet designed purposely to look and feel more like a guitar cabinet. It has a built in 220w solid state stereo power amp and is plenty loud. It also has an knob on the back called the "EmPower" knob that makes the cabinet sound, feel, and respond more like a guitar cabinet. You can just roll in as much of it as you want. All the way down is fully flat FRFR and all the way up is 70-6k like a guitar cabinet. I tend to leave it at around 10:00, so it's mostly in FRFR but has a little guitar speaker "flavor." However, I have noticed it's very useful as you turn the volume up: it cuts out the very hissy and noisy upper frequencies that we aren't used to being replicated when we have a loud amp and giant cabinet in the room. So my rule is: as volume goes up, EmPower knob also goes up.

That said, you can run this unit many other ways. You can run it right into your mixing desk and do recording with it. You can run it into your audio interface and get the sound into your DAW. (I believe it even has a built-in audio interface!) You can even forget the modeling and just use it as an effects unit with a regular tube amp, which many pros do.

This is the first modeler I've messed around with since the mid-2010's and I have to say, they have come a LONG way. They used to sound pretty good, but didn't feel or respond like a tube amp; especially if you were a player that uses their volume and tone knobs a lot. Those days are gone. The Fractal responds 99% just like my tube amps when I compare them side by side. They're responsive to pickup output and picking dynamics now, and even get the little things right like the transients when you dig in with the pick on an old Marshall model. Like I said, I'm not getting rid of my tube amps but I'm pretty impressed. I think the fact that artists who previously refused to use modelers are now using them -- like John Mayer -- goes to show you how far they've come. I'd recommend getting one!
 

lessarti

Well-known member
The Fractal I bought (Axe FX III Mk II Turbo) is a rack unit and is similar to any other tube preamp (e.g., ADA MP-1, JMP-1, Bogner Fish, etc.) in the way it physically operates. You plug into the guitar input on the front of it. There are many options to get the sound out on the back: 1/4" balanced, XLR, USB, etc. There is also an optional foot controller that I purchased, which allows you to change everything with your feet and even plug in expression pedals for wah and volume.

The way I am running it is stereo out into an FRFR (Full Rage, Flat Response) speaker cabinet. These are different from guitar cabinets; they are more like PA speakers. They produce the full 20-20k frequency response without any EQ or coloring, just like a PA speaker would. (This is the opposite of guitar speakers which only produce a very limited frequency range of around 70-6k, and are deliberately EQ'd/colored.) There are a lot of FRFR speakers on the market. Some look more like PA speakers and some look more like guitar cabinets. I have the Mission Gemini 2x12 (specs here) that is and FRFR cabinet designed purposely to look and feel more like a guitar cabinet. It has a built in 220w solid state stereo power amp and is plenty loud. It also has an knob on the back called the "EmPower" knob that makes the cabinet sound, feel, and respond more like a guitar cabinet. You can just roll in as much of it as you want. All the way down is fully flat FRFR and all the way up is 70-6k like a guitar cabinet. I tend to leave it at around 10:00, so it's mostly in FRFR but has a little guitar speaker "flavor." However, I have noticed it's very useful as you turn the volume up: it cuts out the very hissy and noisy upper frequencies that we aren't used to being replicated when we have a loud amp and giant cabinet in the room. So my rule is: as volume goes up, EmPower knob also goes up.

That said, you can run this unit many other ways. You can run it right into your mixing desk and do recording with it. You can run it into your audio interface and get the sound into your DAW. (I believe it even has a built-in audio interface!) You can even forget the modeling and just use it as an effects unit with a regular tube amp, which many pros do.

This is the first modeler I've messed around with since the mid-2010's and I have to say, they have come a LONG way. They used to sound pretty good, but didn't feel or respond like a tube amp; especially if you were a player that uses their volume and tone knobs a lot. Those days are gone. The Fractal responds 99% just like my tube amps when I compare them side by side. They're responsive to pickup output and picking dynamics now, and even get the little things right like the transients when you dig in with the pick on an old Marshall model. Like I said, I'm not getting rid of my tube amps but I'm pretty impressed. I think the fact that artists who previously refused to use modelers are now using them -- like John Mayer -- goes to show you how far they've come. I'd recommend getting one!
Oh man, really appreciate the reply, but damn it this is steering me into looking for an fractal or similar product for purpose of home use in my daw vs line 6 studio gx interface thingy. I love the idea of getting the axefx ii or something and having 95% same tone/sound/feel hopefully, for countless great sounding amps without buying them all. I can get my fix of diff flavors on the cheap.
 

glpg80

Well-known member
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.

And that’s exactly why I won’t ever buy one. I don’t care how fake real they get. This fully admits that they sound like straight up ass without tweaking and everyone knows it.

What fractal needs to do is now pull back completely on all of the “tweaking”, make all of those parameters auto adjust when simple knobs are turned, or here’s a crazy concept - create a unit with knobs to turn instead of buttons to push. If they want to model an amp then quit making the GUI so old and beta version 1. Fractal is it’s own worst enemy. Early on you needed to have access to all of those parameters to make them sound remotely good. Now that they actually can sound great, they need to remove the need to adjust all of the amp specific parameters that need setting and just make the damn things adjust realistically as a real amp does in the room. I bet if they cleaned up their interface and got away from needing to use a fucking laptop they’d have a product that many of us non-tweakers would consider investing in. Until then I’ll keep playing the real deal because they just work. No tweaking needed.
 

easstudios

Active member
What fractal needs to do is now pull back completely on all of the “tweaking”, make all of those parameters auto adjust when simple knobs are turned, or here’s a crazy concept - create a unit with knobs to turn instead of buttons to push. If they want to model an amp then quit making the GUI so old and beta version 1. Fractal is it’s own worst enemy. Early on you needed to have access to all of those parameters to make them sound remotely good. Now that they actually can sound great, they need to remove the need to adjust all of the amp specific parameters that need setting and just make the damn things adjust realistically as a real amp does in the room. I bet if they cleaned up their interface and got away from needing to use a fucking laptop they’d have a product that many of us non-tweakers would consider investing in. Until then I’ll keep playing the real deal because they just work. No tweaking needed.

I totally understand this stance, but I think the parameters Fractal offer are largely to account for the variables that will always be there with real amps. Different valves, bias settings, cabinet loads, voltages, component tolerance drifts. If you forgo these, then it may only be accurate to a handful of amps out there for each model. Real amps can be used in so many different ways and that’s why they all sound a little different to each other.

There’s plenty of other modellers that IMO sound just as good that offer a simple control layout. Fractal fills a niche for people who want the extra controls and options, or specific models that they offer.
 

glpg80

Well-known member
I totally understand this stance, but I think the parameters Fractal offer are largely to account for the variables that will always be there with real amps. Different valves, bias settings, cabinet loads, voltages, component tolerance drifts. If you forgo these, then it may only be accurate to a handful of amps out there for each model. Real amps can be used in so many different ways and that’s why they all sound a little different to each other.

There’s plenty of other modellers that IMO sound just as good that offer a simple control layout. Fractal fills a niche for people who want the extra controls and options, or specific models that they offer.
I don’t think it takes hours and hours to tweak the settings you’re talking about to make them sound “from good to great” that has been mentioned before. I think the settings I’m talking about and everyone else is quietly admitting without stating the obvious is adjusting transformer core saturation levels or dubiously microscopic analog amplifier effects that are minuscule like tolerance levels of resistors as you’ve mentioned.

I do not desire to invest that much money and then invest that much time. I’d rather lug my amps and rack. Shit just works out of the box. The difference of tweaking a real amp versus one in the models is that out of the box amps can sound great. Tweaking doesn’t make the out of the box less great, it just makes a great amp sound different. None of my amps have HAD to have something done to it to change it from good to great, which is where modelers fail in providing so much bloat to settings that absolutely must be touched to sound great, otherwise it will sound like ass.

I stay away from modelers because my real amps do just fine live, under a mic, or anywhere else. They just work.
 

easstudios

Active member
I don’t think it takes hours and hours to tweak the settings you’re talking about to make them sound “from good to great” that has been mentioned before. I think the settings I’m talking about and everyone else is quietly admitting without stating the obvious is adjusting transformer core saturation levels or dubiously microscopic analog amplifier effects that are minuscule like tolerance levels of resistors as you’ve mentioned.

I do not desire to invest that much money and then invest that much time. I’d rather lug my amps and rack. Shit just works out of the box. The difference of tweaking a real amp versus one in the models is that out of the box amps can sound great. Tweaking doesn’t make the out of the box less great, it just makes a great amp sound different. None of my amps have HAD to have something done to it to change it from good to great, which is where modelers fail in providing so much bloat to settings that absolutely must be touched to sound great, otherwise it will sound like ass.

I stay away from modelers because my real amps do just fine live, under a mic, or anywhere else. They just work.
I don’t disagree at all there - I prefer real amps, and it’s just less to think about or have doubts about.

I do accept that for many people, the compromises of digital are minuscule compared to the benefits - real gear will always be the benchmark for me, but it helps me understand analog and digital better if I embrace both
 
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