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Well written comparison!

I would like to use the Ax8 at home and also at weekly jam sessions, although I'm skeptical about using it in band situations unless I buy a power amp or expensive FR speaker. From what you’ve said about the Alto speakers I’m concerned that I wouldn’t be satisfied with that setup (our drummer is pretty loud ;) but a better FR speaker setup is expensive. If I have to buy an expensive FR speaker then the cost is rising up towards the Kemper, which I can use with cabinets that I already own...but then I would have to buy a foot pedal with the kemper…then I go back to the Ax8 because it is less expensive and is in floorboard form…it’s a circular debate in my head =(

I've no experience whatsoever in playing direct/full range rigs – I’ve always used amps and pedals. I play weekly in a band and we play rock – classic to hard rock – and I like the thump of my 100 watt Legacy head and 2x12 cabinets so part of what I'm wondering is if it’s possible to get close to that amp ‘feel’ with the AX8.

I played my friend’s Kemper through my guitar cabinet and it was impressive – it thumped like a real amp but that was probably due to the speaker cab that it was pumping through. The Kemper actually has a guitar cab output but I don’t think the Ax8 has that so I am guessing that the Ax8 would have to be used with a power amp to be able to thump it through a guitar cab.

With that said, I’ve also read that using something like an Ax8 or Axe-fx in that application is not ideal and that they are better utilized with a FR speaker setup.

It’s all a bit confusing and these high end modelers are way too expensive to go and buy just so I can try them out and experiment, which is why I’m trying to learn as much as I can about them from people who actually use them =)

I have an AX8 and Helix. Wrote a comparison thread here:

Helix vs AX8 Review/Comparison

I no longer do any gigging so I just play at home through headphones and studio monitors (mostly headphones now since I have a newborn in the house). I played for years with a direct to FOH rig and a powered PA speaker for self monitoring (or just used the house monitors). The Alto stuff is good bang for the buck, but don't expect to use it as a back line amp if you're playing against a loud drummer or cranked tube amp on the other side of the stage.

I would ask how you would be most comfortable using it. Do you have any experience playing direct/full-range rigs? It is a pretty drastic change if you're used to standing next to an amp and cab.
 

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The ax-8 just models amps so you can use your own cab if you choose. You'd just need a power amp. You'd need FRFR if you would experiment with cabinet simulations.
I have a Boss GP-10 which models acoustics and synths so FRFR is really needed.
 

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You can buy an inexpensive power amp and use your cabs. It *might* sound better (or more sterile ;) ) with an FR setup, but I highy doubt it sounds bad pushing guitar gear.
 

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Discussion Starter #84 (Edited)
I would like to use the Ax8 at home and also at weekly jam sessions, although I'm skeptical about using it in band situations unless I buy a power amp or expensive FR speaker.
If you want to stay the more traditional route, you don't necessarily need to buy a new power amp. If you already have an amp with an FX Loop, you can just plug the AX8 straight into that. Voila! Free power amp.

I like the thump of my 100 watt Legacy head and 2x12 cabinets so part of what I'm wondering is if it’s possible to get close to that amp ‘feel’ with the AX8.
It might take some time to get used to the different 'feel' of a direct sound with cab IRs, so if I were you, I'd start off with a power amp (or fx-return) into a real cab. I would say the above is more than possible. It is very likely. In fact, there are a handful of Carvin Legacy models in the AX8 that I bet if you A/B'd them with your Legacy through the same power amp and cab in a blind test, you probably couldn't tell the difference. Are you selling your Legacy to pay for the AX8? If not, just plug your AX8 into the fx-return on your Legacy. If you're brave, use it in 4CM with your Legacy to experiment with the different preamp models on the AX8, while still having access to your good ol' Legacy.

With that said, I’ve also read that using something like an Ax8 or Axe-fx in that application is not ideal and that they are better utilized with a FR speaker setup.
Maybe. If I had to point to one thing that has a drastic impact on guitar tone, it is the speaker. So sure, going through a traditional cab does limit your freedom in terms of tone. But if you already love the sound of the cab you use, who cares.

Fun side note for people who want to experiment their guitar sound. Changing the speaker in your cab is the easiest mod to do, and in most cases it will have a far more significant tonal impact than most of the more common mods people attempt to change their tone without buying whole new products. Back on topic...

The benefits of FRFR are generally most apparent when you use effects-heavy sounds or need a very wide variety of tones, like one would in a corporate cover band or something like that. If you mostly use a handful of more traditional sounds, going through a traditional amp/cab isn't going to hurt you one bit.

I generally put it this way. Going FRFR leaves you with a final product that sounds like a recorded guitar coming through an FRFR speaker. It 'feels' like you're playing guitar and your amp is mic'd up in the next room, but you're hearing the mic'd guitar through the FRFR. Same as if you turn your amp way down on stage and mic it, then send that to the stage monitors. Using it with an amp and cab is just like playing through any amp and cab. It will be just as thumpy, punchy, insert another tonal synonym here.

The ax-8 just models amps so you can use your own cab if you choose. You'd just need a power amp. You'd need FRFR if you would experiment with cabinet simulations.
I have a Boss GP-10 which models acoustics and synths so FRFR is really needed.
The AX8 also has synths and other effects that benefit from full FRFR if you want to use them. You can also use it for acoustic modeling if you get (or create) some acoustic IRs.
 

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Thread revival =)

I've been seriously looking at the Ax8 - I'm getting tired of pedal boards, power supplies, amp heads and cabs and would love to go with something simpler. My buddy has a Kemper powerhead that I tried and it sounded great but at close to $3,800 CDN with the foot controller I can't afford it. The Ax8 retails for less than 1/2 the price of the Kemper at about $1,700 CDN and I don't need a separate foot controller with the all-in-one Ax8 floor package.

I am also wondering how people are using the Ax8 - are people using it with a power amp and a guitar cab or straight into a powered speaker. If going straight into a powered speaker then what kind of speaker are you using? Some of the powered speakers are so expensive that the total price is getting up close to the Kemper, which I could use with guitar cabinets that I already have.

Anyhow, though I would see if there are any more Ax8 updates and/or new users around here. Curious to learn more about this product =)
FYI, the $1,000 FRFR speakers you see are not your only option. They're certainly sexy as all hell and have lots of bells and whistles, but if you want to just amplify your modeler with a full-range speaker, look for some used keyboard amps. They're full range and pretty flat as well. I have an old Yorkville 100KB 3 channel keyboard amp that I use when I really want to have an amp on-stage with me instead of going through the monitors. Something like that is $200-300 used. Also, small powered PA cabs will work great, too. Find an E10P used for $400-450.

IMHO, the new batch of FRFR speakers that cater to the modeling crowd are overpriced and not worth it. You can get the same with a keyboard amp or monitor, chances are you might already have one, AND you can use them for other applications, too.
 

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Lots of good info - thank you for taking the time! I think your suggestion of using the modeler in the FX return of the Legacy and using my cabs would be a good place to start. Something like the Alto 112 FR speaker would make more sense at home at lower volumes where I wouldn't be playing beside a heavy hitting drummer.
I wish I could rent an Ax8 and try it with my rig and at home.
One more question if you're playing the Ax8 at home at low volumes how are you using it? Through studio monitors like krk rokits or a FR speaker?

If you want to stay the more traditional route, you don't necessarily need to buy a new power amp. If you already have an amp with an FX Loop, you can just plug the AX8 straight into that. Voila! Free power amp.

It might take some time to get used to the different 'feel' of a direct sound with cab IRs, so if I were you, I'd start off with a power amp (or fx-return) into a real cab. I would say the above is more than possible. It is very likely. In fact, there are a handful of Carvin Legacy models in the AX8 that I bet if you A/B'd them with your Legacy through the same power amp and cab in a blind test, you probably couldn't tell the difference. Are you selling your Legacy to pay for the AX8? If not, just plug your AX8 into the fx-return on your Legacy. If you're brave, use it in 4CM with your Legacy to experiment with the different preamp models on the AX8, while still having access to your good ol' Legacy.

Maybe. If I had to point to one thing that has a drastic impact on guitar tone, it is the speaker. So sure, going through a traditional cab does limit your freedom in terms of tone. But if you already love the sound of the cab you use, who cares.

Fun side note for people who want to experiment their guitar sound. Changing the speaker in your cab is the easiest mod to do, and in most cases it will have a far more significant tonal impact than most of the more common mods people attempt to change their tone without buying whole new products. Back on topic...

The benefits of FRFR are generally most apparent when you use effects-heavy sounds or need a very wide variety of tones, like one would in a corporate cover band or something like that. If you mostly use a handful of more traditional sounds, going through a traditional amp/cab isn't going to hurt you one bit.

I generally put it this way. Going FRFR leaves you with a final product that sounds like a recorded guitar coming through an FRFR speaker. It 'feels' like you're playing guitar and your amp is mic'd up in the next room, but you're hearing the mic'd guitar through the FRFR. Same as if you turn your amp way down on stage and mic it, then send that to the stage monitors. Using it with an amp and cab is just like playing through any amp and cab. It will be just as thumpy, punchy, insert another tonal synonym here.

The AX8 also has synths and other effects that benefit from full FRFR if you want to use them. You can also use it for acoustic modeling if you get (or create) some acoustic IRs.
 

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Discussion Starter #87
Lots of good info - thank you for taking the time!
If I have the time, I'm always happy to give it!

I wish I could rent an Ax8 and try it with my rig and at home.
If you get on the Fractal forums and ask around, you might find someone near you who might let you do that. Even ask to play someone's Axe-fx II. It's pretty much the same thing sound wise.

One more question if you're playing the Ax8 at home at low volumes how are you using it? Through studio monitors like krk rokits or a FR speaker?
FRFR = Full Range Flat Response, which is what studio monitors are supposed to be. So, both? lol

I use them with studio monitors or headphones. When I was gigging, I would use the house PA and bring my own powered monitor (like an Alto) to monitor myself if needed (depending on the venue and sound guy).
 

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Longtime Fractal guy here... I use my AX8 live with my band into real guitar cab, and at home with cab IRs into studio monitors for direct recording. It's just a great sounding, flexible all around awesome piece of gear, you can't go wrong IMO. I've used it direct FRFR, with real cabs AND into the frontend of real amps as a pedalboard replacement. If you know what you're doing it can service all these scenarios, astonishingly well.

I'll second the opinion that cab sim > FRFR will always sound different than a real guitar cab, after all it's the sound of a close mic on a speaker cone playing back through a FR speaker. I won't say it's better or worse, that's subjective. But the fact that it's different is... well... fact. If you are used to real guitar cabs, I'd suggest keeping them.

I've powered my guitar cabs with the tube output of my amp head (AX8 amp model into head fx return) as well as solid-state power (Matrix amp and the loop return of my SS Quilter Toneblock 201). It can work well in any of these setups, but I do end up EQing differently with the tube head, to compensate for the coloration it supplies compared to the relatively flat SS power.

Here's a shot of a gig a few weeks ago.. I'm the guy playing bass in front of the AX8 on the floor. (I switch between guitar and bass in this trio)
 

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Just a heads up the Line6 just announced a Helix plug in: $399 US. It does everything the Helix does but in a plugin format.

TG
$99 if you already own a Helix, which I happen to ;)

I think I'll end up buying it. That way I can leave the Helix in it's case at home and still plug-in to the computer and edit my patches, etc. without having my gear all over the living room floor! #HappyWifeHappyLife
 

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$399 is expensive for a plugin - that is considerably higher than the competitors (e.g. Guitar Rig is $199, Amplitube 4 is $149 and Overloud TH3 is $199).

Also, if someone already has a Helix and can record direct with it then why would they need to buy a $99 VST plugin to do what their hardware already does... or am I missing something here...

Just a heads up the Line6 just announced a Helix plug in: $399 US. It does everything the Helix does but in a plugin format.

TG
 

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$399 is expensive for a plugin - that is considerably higher than the competitors (e.g. Guitar Rig is $199, Amplitube 4 is $149 and Overloud TH3 is $199).

Also, if someone already has a Helix and can record direct with it then why would they need to buy a $99 VST plugin to do what their hardware already does... or am I missing something here...
I haven't used Amplitude or Guitar Rig in a loooooong time, so I can't speak to how they sound/work, but the Helix software is incredible. I've been using my Helix exclusively for about 4 months and every time I turn it on, I'm blown away by a) how it sounds, and b) what I can do with it.

Regarding the plugin for hardware owners, I would totally buy it. My live rig is damned heavy and my wife and I live in a 1 bedroom apartment. I've cut down on guitar gear as much as possible already, but having a large pedalboard in the middle of the living room floor isn't ideal. With the software, I'd be able to create and fine-tune my patches at my desktop without having to pull out the He-Man pedalboard rig. Then I can USB the playlist/presets over to the board when I need them. If I decide at the show that something doesn't sound great and I make changes, I can then send those changes back to the plugin version and go from there. Might not make sense of others who have dedicated music spaces, but for me, it would save a lot of time and effort hacing to unpack my gear and then pack it away when I'm done.
 

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I've heard good things about the Helix - but I am somewhat nervous about spending that much money on a Line 6 product. Plus the Helix is about $500 more than the Ax8. =o/
 

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I've heard good things about the Helix - but I am somewhat nervous about spending that much money on a Line 6 product. Plus the Helix is about $500 more than the Ax8. =o/
Check the specs and determine if it's worth the extra coin for yourself. Colour screen and arguably sexier design, more I/O (SPDIF in and out, AESBU, Mic input, AUX input, etc., 4 FX Loops, etc), built-in expression pedal, etc. It's a breeze to create patches, and the I/O alone makes it a standout for me. I can do so much with the Helix that I couldn't even come close to doing with the AX8. I'm really glad I didn't end up buying the AX8 when I was looking at one.

Sonically, I haven't had a chance to compare, but everything I've read says that at this level, whether it's Fractal, Kemper or Helix, they're all so good that you're basically choosing based on preferences and ergonomics and, for me, the ergonomics on the Helix won.
 

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Discussion Starter #96
Check the specs and determine if it's worth the extra coin for yourself. Colour screen and arguably sexier design, more I/O (SPDIF in and out, AESBU, Mic input, AUX input, etc., 4 FX Loops, etc), built-in expression pedal, etc. It's a breeze to create patches, and the I/O alone makes it a standout for me. I can do so much with the Helix that I couldn't even come close to doing with the AX8. I'm really glad I didn't end up buying the AX8 when I was looking at one.

Sonically, I haven't had a chance to compare, but everything I've read says that at this level, whether it's Fractal, Kemper or Helix, they're all so good that you're basically choosing based on preferences and ergonomics and, for me, the ergonomics on the Helix won.
Came in to basically say the same thing. I have both Helix and AX8 and would agree with your last statement. Pick the one that has the features you want/need, they all sound pretty damn good. With user IRs, Helix is as good as anything else, or at least close enough that it doesn't really matter. YMMV
 
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