The new Axe-Fx III Mark II is the latest in a line of legends—the world’s most powerful all-in-one processor for guitar, bass, and other instruments. Featuring our latest amp modeling technology, thousands of UltraRes™ speaker cab simulations, and industry-leading effects, the Axe-Fx III has more raw power and features than any guitar processor ever created. In comparison to the original, the Mark II features the following upgrades:
• New IPS Display offers improved contrast and viewing angles, plus more vivid colors.
• Adjustable RGB LEDs let you set the color and brightness of the front panel logo.
• Double the preset memory = space for 1024 presets.
• Increased flash memory for future updates.
“Axe-Fx III has so many upgrades and additions that this review could read like a joyless laundry list. But there’s nothing joyless about the user experience—it’s crazy fun. For most PG reviews, I usually spend about an hour recording demo clips. But with the Axe-Fx III, I ended up having so much fun I barely realized four hours had passed.”
“There’s much greater competition in the high end amp modeller market since Fractal Audio first arrived on the scene 10 years ago, but the Axe-Fx III cements its place as the market leader simply because of the sheer flexibility on offer. This is a serious – and mobile – piece of studio or live equipment capable of providing the tones for any musical project.”
“Other, more affordable units will probably scratch the itch for most players, but if you simply, positively have to have the best road-ready modeller in the world, then accept no substitutes…Fractal Audio has once again laid down the gauntlet for what the professional end of the modelling market should aspire to.”
“While dozens of new products touting the latest digital modeling technology caused me to finally question whether I should keep my collection [of 60+ beloved tube amps], only one product has caused me to seriously consider cashing in on my heads, combos and cabinets — the Fractal Audio Axe-FX III.”
The original Axe-Fx upended the industry by being the first device for musicians to put a military/industrial-grade DSP into a consumer product. Leveraging the power of this DSP allowed detail and realism that no other product had previously achieved. The Axe-Fx II expanded on this concept by putting two of those same DSPs to work. Continuing the legacy of this philosophy the Axe-Fx III harnesses the power of no fewer than four separate processors.
Two 1.0 GHz, floating-point “Keystone” Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) comprise the main audio engine. These processors are the most powerful DSPs available delivering over twice the performance of the DSPs used in our previous generation products. To feed these advanced processors we coupled 4Gb of blazing fast PC1600 DDR3 memory, hundreds of Mb of FLASH memory, a proprietary FPGA and a rich set of peripherals.
The stunning color display is controlled by a dedicated graphics processor while USB traffic and user interface tasks are handled by a 500 MHz, 16-core microcontroller providing smooth operation and robust USB performance.
CPU Performance Comparison*
A Powerful Interface Makes the Axe-Fx III
the Most Intuitive Product We’ve Ever Created
Dynamic Color Display
Controlling all this power requires an interface to match. A large 800×480 color display features 30 times the resolution of our previous model. Custom designed to provide more brightness and contrast than “off-the-shelf” displays, this new display is optimized for readability in the most difficult conditions.
Driving the display is a dedicated graphics accelerator delivering dynamic, animated displays. Unlike the mostly static displays in other products, the displays in the Axe-Fx III feature moving knobs, meters, graphs and other dynamic content giving the user valuable visual feedback at a glance.
Sleek Front Panel
Five push-encoders plus a main encoder allow rapid data entry and parameter control. Editing is fast and easy with minimum keystrokes needed to access and edit parameters. A stack-based menu system is quick and intuitive with the most-used menus no more than a couple button pushes away.
Placement of the knobs below the display gives direct access to five on-screen parameters at once, plus five “push” functions at the same time. Dialing in sounds has never been faster or easier.
A front panel LED meter bridge provides instant visual status for the inputs and outputs. The effects layout grid also features an intuitive “Meters” display which shows the input and output levels of each effect block at a glance. Additionally a dedicated Meters menu shows all analog and USB I/O levels for quick and easy troubleshooting of connection mistakes.
DIMENSIONS: Width: 19.00in (482.6mm) Height: 5.16in (131.1mm) Depth: 11.530in (292.87mm) including front handles and rear jacks Weight: 15 lbs 2.4 oz (6.87 kg)
Abundant I/O Provides Ultimate Flexibility
Vastly expanded input and output resources provide for ultimate flexibility. The Axe-Fx III features two instrument inputs: one on the front and one on the back with auto-switching capability. Inserting a plug into the front input jack automatically switches the unit to front input operation. Remove the plug and the unit switches to the rear input. Connect your wireless to the rear input and then plug into the front input to tune (using the new tuner display) or make quick adjustments. Unplug and you’re back to jumping around on stage with your wireless. Both inputs feature our Auto-Z technology which simulates the input impedance and subsequent pickup loading of typical stomp boxes.
An additional six analog inputs are available: one pair of balanced XLR/1/4″ combo-jacks plus two pairs of balanced 1/4″ inputs.
Analog output capabilities are similarly impressive with four fully independent stereo pairs: Output 1 features both XLR and 1/4” jacks for connection to FOH, monitors or other line level devices. Output 2 features a second set of XLR jacks and outputs 3 and 4 each offer a pair of Humbuster™ 1/4” jacks. Outputs 3 and 4 are designed for unity gain applications such as “the four cable method” or dual stereo inserts and can also be used as general-purpose outputs. Digital audio I/O is comprised of AES and SPDIF inputs and outputs. Clocking options include internal or external via SPDIF/AES input.
Two expression pedal inputs allow for expressive real-time control of parameters. Our new FASLINK II™ provides phantom power and bidirectional communications with the upcoming FC-6 and FC-12 foot controllers over standard XLR microphone cables. MIDI In, Out and a dedicated Thru provide easy integration with other gear in large stage rigs. Extensive MIDI support along with a dedicated MIDI block allows the Axe-Fx III to be the central hub of a MIDI-connected setup.
Input & Output Blocks
Routing flexibility is enhanced by unconstrained placement of input and output blocks anywhere in the routing grid. Want to insert different outboard devices at different parts of the signal path? No problem. Simultaneously process discrete stereo output for acoustic and electric guitars? Easy. Send stereo to front-of-house, plus a true “Wet-Dry-Wet” on stage while recording a DI for re-amping later? No problem! Each output pair also has its own dedicated front panel LEVEL knob for convenient control.
8×8 USB with Superior Performance
The Center of your Music Workstation
A 16-core, 500 MHz microcontroller provides 16 channels of flawless USB audio (8 in, 8 out) allowing the Axe-Fx III to be the center of your music workstation. The audiophile-grade signal path components and converters provide better audio performance than most dedicated USB audio interfaces. With 8×8 channels you can record multiple tracks of processed audio, DI signals, etc., while monitoring backing tracks, auditioning stereo reamps in real-time, and more. A USB audio sound source can even be placed on the grid with its own dedicated block. Windows 7/8/10 drivers are included, and the Axe-Fx III requires no driver on a Mac running 10.7.4 or newer.
USB In (from Axe-Fx III to Computer)
|1+2: Output 1|
|3+4: Output 2|
|5+6: Input 1 (DI for reamping)|
|7+8: Input 2 (for general use)|
USB Out (from computer to Axe-Fx III)
|1+2: Routed to physical Output 1 L+R|
|3+4: Routed to physical Output 2 L+R|
|5+6: Routed to the Grid via INPUT 1 block when its source is set to USB|
|7+8: Routed to the Grid via the dedicated INPUT USB block|
Audiophile Quality Signal Path
Fractal Audio has always operated with the belief that every component is critical. In the same way high-quality pickups, cabling, and components are vital in an analog rig, every piece of the Axe-Fx III is purposely designed to provide the utmost in performance and sonic integrity.
The audiophile-quality signal path features Burr-Brown® SoundPlus™ and Analog Devices® op amps, PPS film caps, a high-voltage bipolar power supply for low distortion and maximum headroom, and flagship-quality Cirrus Logic® converters with fully differential input and output circuitry.
A thoughtfully designed multi-layer circuit board features gold plating and extensive ground fill for low EMI and immunity to interference. This impressive level of engineering yields the most pristine sound quality, lowest THD, and lowest noise floor of any product we’ve ever created—by far.
Industry-Leading Amp Models,
Speaker Simulation, and Effects
State of the Art Amp Models
The power of the Axe-Fx III provides the perfect platform for our state-of-the art amp modeling. Picking up where our Quantum™ modeling left off, our latest modeling is the most expressive, musical, and accurate we’ve ever created. The amp block has been refined and improved, with features like a new streamlined interface built around the new 5-knob color display system, a new parametric pre-EQ, and four fully independent “Channels” with instant, seamless switching. As always, the preamp and power amp sections are independently modeled in painstaking detail. The results represent the next step forward in what has come to be known as “Fractal-Quality” amp modeling: a benchmark against which an entire industry measures itself.
Speaker Cabs Galore
The Axe-Fx III features our exclusive, proprietary UltraRes™ speaker simulations with over 2200 factory impulse responses (IRs) to choose from including all the IRs from the Axe-Fx II in a convenient “legacy bank” for easy migration. The redesigned Cabinet block features a 4-channel mixer based on our popular Cab-Lab™ software, providing the capability to mix and remix IRs on-the-fly as you would with real mics on a speaker cabinet. Factory content includes selections from the best of today’s IR producers and artists, including Fractal Audio, AustinBuddy, Celestion, ML Sound Lab, Ownhammer, Chris Broderick, John Petrucci, Chris Traynor & James Santiago, Valhallir, York Audio, Dr. Bonkers, and more. An additional 2,048 “User Cab” memories allow you to load Cab Packs (including any of those compatible with the Axe-Fx II) or 3rd party IRs, and a built-in utility allows you to capture and save your own speaker tones (now with 16 “Scratch Pad” locations!) Our celebrated Tone Matching block is also improved, now with the impressive ability to clone the tone of an amp or recording in UltraRes™.
The Axe-Fx III is an incredibly versatile multi-FX processor able to reproduce the sound of a huge array of industry-leading stomp boxes and studio effects. Or push into new territory with the ability to design effect sounds never heard before. Most effects can be dialed in with a single knob to make all required settings, or tweaked at the deepest level. We’ve expanded the number and types of effects available from our already impressive inventory. Each preset can contain, for example, four Drive blocks (each with four channels), four Delay blocks (again each with four channels), and so on.
Not content with just repackaging our algorithms, almost all our industry-leading effects have been updated to take advantage of the increased processing power. A dedicated Plex block features up to 8 delay lines in a feedback arrangement for ethereal “shimmer” effects. Our award-winning reverb algorithm has been updated and improved to provide even thicker, smoother reverbs. A new Pitch block with improved pitch detection provides whammy, double-tracking, harmony, detune and more with astounding tracking and fidelity. A new Real-Time Analyzer block provides detailed visual feedback of the audio spectrum. A stereo Looper provides over five minutes of recording time at full resolution with overdub and undo capabilities. And much, much more…
The routing grid has been expanded to six rows and 14 columns to take advantage of the increased power and effects inventory. Put up to six effects in parallel. Create four separate and independent effects chains. If you can dream it, the Axe-Fx III can do it.
Axe-Fx III Effects Block Inventory
Perform Perfectly with Presets,
Blocks, Scenes, and New “Channels”
The Power of Channels and Scenes
The Axe-Fx III Mark II stores a whopping 1024 presets, each one equivalent to an entire rig, whether as simple as just an amp, or as complex as a massive pedal-board and multi-amp rack system.
Our new “Channel” concept is a revolution in functionality. Each effect block has up to four channels with each channel containing a unique set of parameter values. Channel switching is instantaneous and seamless and can be done manually (via a foot controller, for example) or automatically when changing scenes. Channels can also be switched via MIDI for applications requiring automation.
Channels provide quick, easy parameter switching without the unwanted side-effects of preset changes (due to grid reordering). Set the Amp block so that Channel A is a “Deluxe Verb” model, Channel B is a “Plexi”, Channel C is a “Recto” and Channel D is “FAS Modern”. Then change channels instantly at the touch of a button.
Eight Scenes within each preset store the bypass state and channel for each block. Program each scene to be a different combination of channels and change the channel and state of multiple blocks rapidly at the touch of a button. Like channels, scenes can be switched via MIDI for automation applications.
By using channels and scenes a single preset can be used for an entire song, an entire set or even the entire show. No tap dancing required.
Built to Last… and Evolve
Fractal Audio is known for rock-solid reliability. The Axe-Fx III is housed in a rugged 3U steel chassis with a sleek anodized aluminum front panel. An illuminated “Axe-Fx III” logo proudly shows the audience your Fractal Audio colors. All knobs and buttons are backed by professional grade components with life expectancies in the millions. Redesigned buttons provide quiet, easy action and a look that matches the new, modern face. Internally, the unit features a DSP module that is made in the USA and mechanical design guided by years of experience designing dependable rackmount units for touring musicians.
Fractal Audio set a new precedent for the industry with the philosophy of free updates. Historically most companies have been content with one or two firmware updates over the life of a product (usually to fix bugs), or even charging a fee for updates. At Fractal Audio we believe a digital audio processor is a platform that grows as our knowledge and expertise grows. Just as personal computers receive frequent updates to improve performance and add features, we steadily release firmware updates to improve the capabilities of our products.
The Axe-Fx II series received no fewer than 29 major (and dozens of minor) firmware upgrades over its life cycle. The Axe-Fx III is designed with the same anti-obsolescence in mind. Our easy-to-use Fractal-Bot utility and robust update technology make firmware updates a breeze. A built-in backup firmware even allows recovery in the event of complications during update (power outage due to lightning storm, roadie tripping over power cord, electrician shutting off breaker, etc.).
World-Class Editor Software
Axe-Edit: Editor for Mac/PC
The Axe-Fx III would not be complete without Axe-Edit, our award-winning editor suite for Mac and PC. Axe-Edit is now presented in glorious hi-definition that scales cleanly to any size display. Veterans will find it very familiar, but more clean and comfortable. It includes a streamlined new interface with controls for all of the latest features of the Axe-Fx III, plus a convenient new “Quick Build” mode that allows you to build presets easily using drag-and-drop templates. Axe-Manage takes control of Presets and User Cabs, and a new Scene Manager takes charge of scene names and settings. Axe-Edit will be offered for Windows 7/8/10 and Mac OS X 10.7 or newer.