#1
Back in June I decided that the oodles of money I planned to spend on buying/building equipment to make my Marshall JCM2000 combo more versatile was not remotely worth it. Because it didn't have a serial effects loop I would have had to turn it into a head unit, rack it, run it through an attenuator, then power amp it into a cab to get the kind of routability I wanted. As much as I like the Marshall sound, I was trying to coax all sorts of more Fender-ish and Mesa sounds out of it by using a MIDI-controlled equalizer, and although I was meeting with some degree of success I couldn't help but wonder if there was a better way. I was also tired of constantly having to retube and worry about tube rattle from my combo amp.

I slowly came to the realization that I had an emotional attachment to my Marshall that had to be severed. It was a good rock amp, but it wouldn't cut the mustard for what I was trying to use it for. For the price it had been a steal,but maintaining it and making it do what I wanted would be very costly and a pain in the ass. I considered my alternatives, and my mind drifted to the Axe-Fx. An Axe-Fx is essentially a boutique guitar processor/modeller with really high-quality effects and amps - a "POD on steroids," if you will. I am familiar with it because a few progressive metal bands I like use it (Animals as Leaders and Periphery), but it also has a bevy of more traditional amplifiers modelled on it and can be used for more conventional applications. I thought of all of the pros of using such a setup:

-Ultimate routability
-Direct-to-board capability
-Ability to run vocals, bass, etc (if using a PA cab)
-Every amp I could ever want
-Size (2U rack unit and optional cabinet vs 8U and a combo amp)
-Cabinet modelling
-Crazy effects not possible with my G-Major and all.


I quickly itemized the total cost of my current rig to determine what I would have spent in the end to build my JCM2000 rig:

Marshall JCM2000 DSL401 + repairs, tubes, etc. : $~800
Rack and power conditioner: $100
TC G-Major: $250
Rane MIDI equalizer: $60
DOD Noisegate: $40
Various pedals (DynaComp, Blue Box): $100
Attenuator and solid-state power amp: $500
2x12 cab: $400
MIDI footcontroller: $150

This ended up adding up to almost $2500. I did the math for an Axe-Fx setup:
Rack, power conditioner: $100
Axe-Fx Standard: $1500
SS Power amp and PA cab: $500
MIDI footcontroller: $150

This was almost the same price, if not a bit cheaper. The choice became clear. I ended up either selling or loaning out on an extended basis all of my amassed gear (with the notable exception of the Phase 90, which I still have for sale). I got an Axe-Fx, ART SLA-1, re-used my Furman M-8x and Peak FCB4N, and a Yamaha S112V PA cab. Now that I finally bought a proper rack, the rig is finally complete! Most importantly, however, my beloved JCM2000 went to a good home in the form of my friend Mike, who is just a mere bus ride away up here at college.

..and now for pics and review!

Old rig (sans the JCM2000 combo):

New rig:


A few images showing the sheer editing depth of the Axe-Fx:




I wasn't super impressed with it when I got it because I simply ran it through my Marshall (since I still had it at that time), but once I got a PA cab and a power amp I was absolutely HOOKED. Although I had heard it recorded, I was now hearing it for myself, and let me say that the hype is 100% true. So long as you get the settings right, the amp simulations sound 100% genuine, and sometimes they sound even more perfect than the real amp. Tonally it's absolutely everything I could ever hope for and more.

For both live and studio use, I am more than pleased with its performance. I play and dabble in a wide variety of genres, from jazz and fusion to rock and metal, and this unit can handle it all. Over the summer I played in an indie/alternative band and a post-hardcore one, and while I was struggling to tweak my Marshall for both of them through bizarre EQ curves and noisegate settings, I was able to dial in simple patches in my Axe-Fx and footswitch them at the gig. I won't lie - there is a medium-steep learning curve associated with using the unit, but once you get the hang of it and hear it through a few different amplification setups tweaking it is a relative breeze. After a few weeks I was able to dial in a sound not unlike my Marshall, and now that I've had the unit itself for a few months I've come up with all sorts of sounds I've only dreamed of.

From a performance and gigging perspective, I can get to gig volume in a medium-sized room in between 1/2 and 3/4 volume, and the power amp offers 260 watts in bridged mode - more than enough for any of my needs. Unconventional for guitar setups, I play though a PA cabinet that replaces what guitar cabinet I would have since the Axe-Fx has cabinet simulation built in, and at gigs where there is a house PA I simply run an XLR cable from my rig to the mixing board. Both times I went to the studio to record all I had to do was the same - instead of spending half an hour hotplating an amplifier and mic'ing a cab I was able to pull sounds out incredibly fast. On my one studio session I actually added a bunch of ambient sounds that we didn't plan on because I was able to route the effects much faster than having to drag out a pedal, plug it up, and dial the settings.

What I find most relieving, however, is the fact that I no longer have to deal with tubes. Although they certainly do sound appealing, the weight, maintenance and cost associated with them has forever jaded me. Retubing and biasing my Marshall every 9 months got to be quite a pain, and having to lug it to the repair shop two or three times was not very fun either. Currently the only problem I have with this rig is that sometimes the power amp's volume knob is a bit touchy, but I've solved that by leaving it wide open and controlling volume with the Axe-Fx's volume pot.

After having used a more "traditional" tube rig for two years and upgrading to this, I'm gonna go ahead and say that this is truly the future of guitar playing. I cannot distinguish the Axe-Fx from a real tube amp at this point when it's properly tweaked (big emphasis on that last part... the stock patches and my first ones were pure trash). Although it isn't for everybody because of the tweakability required to get good tones out of it, it is absolute sonic nirvana. The ability to have what amounts to almost a million dollars' worth of effects and amplifiers in a 2U rack space is also a considerable cost savings.

If you are considering spending any more than $1500 on a guitar rig, I would SERIOUSLY suggest taking a look at the Axe-Fx, since it's well-supported and, in my opinion, superior in every way possible (except for visual aesthetics... but if you're more concerned with the look of an amp on stage than your tone then you have your head pretty far up your own ass). Although it seems costly and you may be tempted to think that it's a piece of gear reserved strictly for professionals or tonal purists who have the money to drop on it, it's actually within many peoples' reach when you consider how much people spend on a Peavey/Marshall head, a 4-space rack full of BBE crap and a $200 tuner, etc. I'm 19 years old and in college and I STILL was able to wrangle one... it just takes a little paradigm shift.

TL;DR - I bought an Axe-Fx. I'm not looking back. If you're gonna spend any sizeable amount of money on a new guitar rig you should consider it too.

Also, if anybody wants to hear studio clips of it my indie-ish band has 3 songs I recorded with it, and my postcore band's demo should be finished in the next day or two - just ask.
Steinberger GU/Spirit w/ Moses Graphite neck, EMG 81-85
"Fireball" Pacer/RG hybrid

Furman Power Conditioner
Axe-Fx Standard
ART SLA-1
Yamaha S112V
Peak FCB4N
Last edited by Mo Jiggity at Sep 8, 2010,
#2
looks like a sweet rig, i might have to look into it as my tastes vary too much for one normal amp
#5
To be honest, not everyone wants or needs the sheer versatility of the Axe-FX. There are plenty of people who play just one genre of music, and for them the Axe would be a bit of a waste, since they would only ever access one aspect of it. I can't see someone like Angus Young using one, really. Also, there's just as many people deconstructing their tube rigs as people selling off their Axe and rebuilding.

Glad you've reached tonal heaven, though.
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Quote by Flux'D
Gay & Lesbian I think, the box smelled funny
Greg what did you send me??
#6
AxeFX is simply orgasmic. Sounds like an amazing rig and i'm a lil jealous ;-)

I too am wooed by the digital world (upper level modelling not so much the lower-end modelling) and all it has to offer. I am always paranoid about potential tube failures etc. and would love to have a nice digital rig. I am not so into rack preamps though so i'd want an 'amp' version. Unfortunately companies like Line 6 (who have traditionally made what im looking for e.g. HD147 and Vetta) have seemingly stopped backing their amps with upper level modelling in favour of their lower-end POD 2.0 modelling (Spider and Spider Valve). I kind of hope they make a new Vetta and drop the price dramatically or introduce a new Flextone/HD147 type head. Anyways enough of my rambling... great rig, glad you're happy with it!!! :-D
#7
Quote by Raijouta
To be honest, not everyone wants or needs the sheer versatility of the Axe-FX. There are plenty of people who play just one genre of music, and for them the Axe would be a bit of a waste, since they would only ever access one aspect of it. I can't see someone like Angus Young using one, really. Also, there's just as many people deconstructing their tube rigs as people selling off their Axe and rebuilding.

Glad you've reached tonal heaven, though.


Believe me, I am already too aware of this. As I pointed out it's definitely not for everybody. Lots of people are pretty content with spending 99% of their time actually playing guitar instead of dicking around with equipment, and if they play only one or two genres then it's almost certainly more feasible for them to just have one amp. I used to fall into the latter category, but in the past two years my playing diversified. My review is targeted more towards people who spend lots of money on a rig only to realize that they could have something arguably better-sounding and more versatile for cheaper.

**EDIT:

Quote by AkiraSpectrum
AxeFX is simply orgasmic. Sounds like an amazing rig and i'm a lil jealous ;-)

I too am wooed by the digital world (upper level modelling not so much the lower-end modelling) and all it has to offer. I am always paranoid about potential tube failures etc. and would love to have a nice digital rig. I am not so into rack preamps though so i'd want an 'amp' version. Unfortunately companies like Line 6 (who have traditionally made what im looking for e.g. HD147 and Vetta) have seemingly stopped backing their amps with upper level modelling in favour of their lower-end POD 2.0 modelling (Spider and Spider Valve). I kind of hope they make a new Vetta and drop the price dramatically or introduce a new Flextone/HD147 type head. Anyways enough of my rambling... great rig, glad you're happy with it!!! :-D


Line 6 is releasing an entirely new series with something called the HD500 as the flagship product at the end of this month. It'll have the stomp section from the M13 and 16 entirely new amp models. Google and you can read about it. People speculate that it'll rival the Axe for half the price... somehow I doubt it will, and the particular array of amps they chose does not altogether appeal to me or strike me as anything more than representing the same crop of Marshall/Mesa/Fender and a few random boutique amps. I think it'll be 3/4 as good for half the money though, and therefore a potentially better deal for many players.
Steinberger GU/Spirit w/ Moses Graphite neck, EMG 81-85
"Fireball" Pacer/RG hybrid

Furman Power Conditioner
Axe-Fx Standard
ART SLA-1
Yamaha S112V
Peak FCB4N
Last edited by Mo Jiggity at Sep 8, 2010,
#8
Line 6 is releasing an entirely new series with something called the HD500 as the flagship product at the end of this month. It'll have the stomp section from the M13 and 16 entirely new amp models. Google and you can read about it. People speculate that it'll rival the Axe for half the price... somehow I doubt it will, and the particular array of amps they chose does not altogether appeal to me or strike me as anything more than representing the same crop of Marshall/Mesa/Fender and a few random boutique amps. I think it'll be 3/4 as good for half the money though, and therefore a potentially better deal for many players.


yeah i've recently heard about that. from the pictures i've seen (assuming they're real) it looks like a multi fx pedal board much like the X3 etc. with supposedly reworked modelling of their XT/X3 models. it's great but again i prefer the traditional 'amp head' setup.
#9
Since this thing is not a traditional amplifier, and I know next to nothing about it, I wonder if you can answer a few questions I have?

Mainly, does it respond to pick attacks and rolling back the volume knob like a traditional amp (i.e. will it clean up when the volume is rolled back, and sound more aggressive with a stronger pick attack)?

And I also know nothing about rack mounted gear...
Considering that, can you use stomp boxes with it (or any rack gear)? Would you even need to?

Having said that, happy new gear day!
Does anyone know the song that goes: ba ba bah, ba ba buh, bu ba bum, ba ba bah, ba bu buh, bu bu bum, bu ba bu bu bum baam?
#10
Congrats, the AxeFX is awesome, really like the sounds this thing makes
Call me Dom
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well if lbj pokes his head in here and there's no nuts shit's gonna go doooooooowwwwwwwwwn.



{Pedalboard Thread Native: The Muffin Man}
#11
Quote by Peeno
Since this thing is not a traditional amplifier, and I know next to nothing about it, I wonder if you can answer a few questions I have?

Mainly, does it respond to pick attacks and rolling back the volume knob like a traditional amp (i.e. will it clean up when the volume is rolled back, and sound more aggressive with a stronger pick attack)?

And I also know nothing about rack mounted gear...
Considering that, can you use stomp boxes with it (or any rack gear)? Would you even need to?

Having said that, happy new gear day!


It most certainly responds as such. I recently made a patch with a low-gain Plexi amp model that cleaned up once you rolled the volume down halfway on the guitar. Works great for all sorts of classic rock... highly dynamic. The feel is definitely there.

As for your other question, rack equipment technically only means that it's in a different form factor, so using stomp gear with it is more dependent upon what it specifically is. If it's a regular ol' analog preamp, then it might be warranted. With a unit like this, however, it is not, since 95% of stomps can be replicated with the built-in effects. Many rack units do, however, come with MIDI control - an option which is not generally available on the majority of stomp effects.
Steinberger GU/Spirit w/ Moses Graphite neck, EMG 81-85
"Fireball" Pacer/RG hybrid

Furman Power Conditioner
Axe-Fx Standard
ART SLA-1
Yamaha S112V
Peak FCB4N
#13
nice setup! thank you for posting the pictures of the settings you can tweak, i was curious about it

the day i understand the GT-10 is the day i would consider an Axe FX(or maybe if i learn how to play guitar ^^)
#14
I love the idea and execution of Axe FX, but the one thing that seems to be on the weak side is the display. It would be unreal if they made an Ipad app where you could access all the settings and use that as a controller, with a large touchscreen.
#15
Nice!

Axe-FXs are awesome. Eventually, I'll probably end up selling most of my amps and getting an Ultra, but until I've ruled out all amps within it's budget for my tone, it'll be awhile haha.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#16
Ultras are going for $2000 new now? They look so awesome but I'd probably go crazy for the first couple months tweaking to the point of ear fatigue. Do want, though.
#17
Quote by Avedas
Ultras are going for $2000 new now? They look so awesome but I'd probably go crazy for the first couple months tweaking to the point of ear fatigue. Do want, though.

Thought they went up to $2100? Oh well. Pricey, but I won't be paying $2000
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
Last edited by MatrixClaw at Sep 9, 2010,
#18
Quote by mattocaster99
I love the idea and execution of Axe FX, but the one thing that seems to be on the weak side is the display. It would be unreal if they made an Ipad app where you could access all the settings and use that as a controller, with a large touchscreen.

Great idea. Hell even an IPhone or similar. The Iphones screen is bigger than the Axe

Hey Mo Jiggity - you had $800 down for fixing the DSL including tubes. What the heck was wrong with it
#19
Quote by mattocaster99
I love the idea and execution of Axe FX, but the one thing that seems to be on the weak side is the display. It would be unreal if they made an Ipad app where you could access all the settings and use that as a controller, with a large touchscreen.

There's a computer application that does that, since not everyone wants to waste money on an oversized iPod touch.

I believe Fractal is also coming out with their own MIDI controller.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#20
Quote by Raijouta
To be honest, not everyone wants or needs the sheer versatility of the Axe-FX. There are plenty of people who play just one genre of music, and for them the Axe would be a bit of a waste, since they would only ever access one aspect of it. I can't see someone like Angus Young using one, really. Also, there's just as many people deconstructing their tube rigs as people selling off their Axe and rebuilding.

Glad you've reached tonal heaven, though.


Indeed. I have the rack setup in my sig below and I literally use 4 patches total. Thats it. An axe FX would just irritate me in all honesty as I do not need that tweakability. Personally I just prefer to just find an amp that I like, mess around with all the dials and buttons on the front. Find the tone I like then slap some effects on. I don't even use the post EQ on my prophesy...... I think my sound would degrade if I used an AxeFx as opposed to what I use now.

If you need versatility there is nothing that compares to the Axe, but if you only need a few different sounds then a good tube amp can still be much better.

HNGD however, its great to find your dream sound isn't it?
My Gear

Ibanez J Custom RG8570Z-BX - BKP Warpigs
ESP Eclipse II Full Thickness - BKP Nailbombs
Fender Mexican Strat - BKP Trilogy Suites.

Axe FX II - Matrix GT1000FX - Rocktron All Access.

Stinnett M7 in the works
#21
Quote by 311ZOSOVHJH
Great idea. Hell even an IPhone or similar. The Iphones screen is bigger than the Axe

Hey Mo Jiggity - you had $800 down for fixing the DSL including tubes. What the heck was wrong with it


$400ish for the ampl $100 for the new speaker, $300 for all of the repair visits and new tubes.
Steinberger GU/Spirit w/ Moses Graphite neck, EMG 81-85
"Fireball" Pacer/RG hybrid

Furman Power Conditioner
Axe-Fx Standard
ART SLA-1
Yamaha S112V
Peak FCB4N
#22
When you say you can get gig volumes for a medium sized room at 1/2 or 3/4 volume... what does that mean? Turning the voume 3/4 of the way up, or 3/4 of the way to 1?
#23
congrats on the new gear.
I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
#24
Quote by Mo Jiggity
$400ish for the ampl $100 for the new speaker, $300 for all of the repair visits and new tubes.


Sounds pretty overpriced to me. Why was it $400 for the amp though? Did you need to replace the OT and PT and also do circuitry work? There's no reason why it should be THAT expensive unless your amp was literally bricked.
Quote by DeathByDestroyr
What the hell is a G&L.



Quote by Flux'D
Gay & Lesbian I think, the box smelled funny
Greg what did you send me??
#25
So how do you have your midi controller set up with it? Like what have you assigned to the switches on it? I'm really interested in a set up like this, but I'd like to hear more info about how people set up their midi portion.
Gibson Les Paul Studio Deluxe/Ibanez RGA42/LTD EC401vf
Into:
Whammy IV>Pitchblack>Dunlop 536Q>Fulltone Fulldrive 2>Hardwire TL-2>MXR 10 Band>Line 6 M13
Into:
80s Carvin x100b w/ cab
#27
HNRD!

I've been humming and hawing over an Axe-FX for sometime now. How much money I plan to spend on my rig in the somewhat near future makes me think about picking it up even more.
#28
Quote by Mo Jiggity
It most certainly responds as such. I recently made a patch with a low-gain Plexi amp model that cleaned up once you rolled the volume down halfway on the guitar. Works great for all sorts of classic rock... highly dynamic. The feel is definitely there.

As for your other question, rack equipment technically only means that it's in a different form factor, so using stomp gear with it is more dependent upon what it specifically is. If it's a regular ol' analog preamp, then it might be warranted. With a unit like this, however, it is not, since 95% of stomps can be replicated with the built-in effects. Many rack units do, however, come with MIDI control - an option which is not generally available on the majority of stomp effects.


Thanks for the reply.

That sounds awesome! A truly remarkable piece of equipment.
Does anyone know the song that goes: ba ba bah, ba ba buh, bu ba bum, ba ba bah, ba bu buh, bu bu bum, bu ba bu bu bum baam?
#29
Wouldn't it sound even better if you bought a tube power amp?

HNRD anyways!
#30
The Axe-FX models a complete amp, including power section breakup if you want it, the idea is to amplify it as cleanly as possible because it gives you control over every aspect of the sound. Poweramp breakup AFTER the unit probably wouldn't sound that good.

Happy New Axe-FX Day! If I wanted versatility, I'd probably go straight for one.
#31
another awesome option for everyone to consider is the Digidesign Eleven Rack, its similar tot ehe AxeFX but about half the price. Both are awesome units.
Call me Dom
Quote by Dmaj7
I don't know how to count canadians, the metric system is hard

Quote by gregs1020
well if lbj pokes his head in here and there's no nuts shit's gonna go doooooooowwwwwwwwwn.



{Pedalboard Thread Native: The Muffin Man}
#32
Quote by monkey_dancer
The Axe-FX models a complete amp, including power section breakup if you want it, the idea is to amplify it as cleanly as possible because it gives you control over every aspect of the sound. Poweramp breakup AFTER the unit probably wouldn't sound that good.

Happy New Axe-FX Day! If I wanted versatility, I'd probably go straight for one.


Gotcha!
#33
I want an AXE so bad. I'm jealous....

Congrats man!
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#34
Quote by MatrixClaw
I believe Fractal is also coming out with their own MIDI controller.

Yeah, they are. They're also making a new unit similar to the AxeFX, but without any amp modelling, just effects. Should be pretty sweet.
#35
Quote by littlephil
Yeah, they are. They're also making a new unit similar to the AxeFX, but without any amp modelling, just effects. Should be pretty sweet.


Now this I find very interesting....... Depending on the price of it I may very well treat myself to one!
My Gear

Ibanez J Custom RG8570Z-BX - BKP Warpigs
ESP Eclipse II Full Thickness - BKP Nailbombs
Fender Mexican Strat - BKP Trilogy Suites.

Axe FX II - Matrix GT1000FX - Rocktron All Access.

Stinnett M7 in the works
#36
Quote by littlephil
Yeah, they are. They're also making a new unit similar to the AxeFX, but without any amp modelling, just effects. Should be pretty sweet.


Would definitely make sense for guys like John Petrucci and Steve Vai, who only use theirs for effects anyway...

Sounds interesting, I may have to look into that when I upgrade from my Midiverb.
Quote by DeathByDestroyr
What the hell is a G&L.



Quote by Flux'D
Gay & Lesbian I think, the box smelled funny
Greg what did you send me??