Sold my Two Rock/Marshall, Fractal AX8, Helix..now I'm here :)

Hey everyone,

It’s been a long journey for my search in what really matters. I won’t bore you with the details, but I used to love my tube amp heads + massive pedalboard, until I got the Fractal AX8 then realized I probably don’t really them anymore. The cost/benefit vs portability wasn’t even enough to keep them all. When I wanted to have a dual amp combo sound but couldn’t do that with my AX8, I sold it and go a Helix.

Now, after trying the Nolly and Plini VSTs, I sold my Helix and put in the pre-order for the Quad Cortex. I’m looking really forward to potentially getting one, but am wondering (maybe for me, now that I’m not playing out as much), what’s maybe the point?

This is more of a curiosity/discussion/wish list kind of post, but I wanted to maybe post about it. The VSTs are great for playing in and recording (I have the output of my recording interface direct to my FRFR which is sounding great), but the appeal of live playing needs something more. I know everyones wants MORE of everything (from the wish list thread)…MORE amps, MORE cabs, MORE preset slots. I honestly, don’t. When I had either of my setups, I had a maximum of maybe 5-6 amps that i used (2-3 for each clean and crunch), and maybe 2-3 cabs total (that I just liked the sound).

What I really liked about my live setup was the flexibility and dynamics of sound fo everything. Meaning, I had to possibility to go sonically as crazy or as wild as I waned to while being able to go back to my base tone pretty easily. I don’t know how the Neural DSP community will take to this, but I just wanted to say in my own opinion: I think the list of amps and cabs looks already great. I saw ideas about a looper and drummer built into and I think that would be great. My only pedal I have kept now (besides the Digitech Trio and Boss RC-3 looper)is the Adrenalinn III because of the drum machine and the sounds you can get out of it.

What I would like is a way to create a loop with sounds that don’t even sound like a guitar, then use my guitar tone over it to solo. This is how I practiced and got the most out of my journey. What I mean by that, is like the arpeggiator, step sequencers, filters, and all other kinds of things that are in the Adrenalinn III which allow great sonic variety. That’s just what I would like to have, even if it’s like 5-10 at most of them, because it would give me a whole amusement park to play with on top of the incredible sounds of what I got out of the VSTs already.

Thanks for listening!

1 Like

Hello manubsingh2. I am on the fence. I sold my Axe Fx3 my Mesa boogie Mark V and I am currently playing through a Kemper and I have been in the waitlist for an FM3 since April 27th 2019 so my invite should be by the end of this month but I will be passing to wait for the unit with the headphones. My question is given your use of modellers how do you compare the sound and feel and response of the dsp plugins to your ax8.

Thanks , Rod

Hey Rod,

Why are you on the fence for the Quad Cortex? And can I ask why you sold the AXE FX3 and you wanted to wait for the FM3? Is it just the fact that it’s a pedal and not a rack? I thought about the FX3 a few times but decided probably not for me. The FM3 wait is ridiculous, and out of sheer principle at this point I would’ve moved on from it (I sold my AX8 around the launching time of the FM3 because I realized it was obsolete technology, amongst the other reasons I listed above).

I was considering Kemper too, but like I said, it’s the dual amp combination that I realized with the AX8 that I couldn’t give up. I also have an Atomic Amplifire which is in my current setup right now, just to get me through the lag time. It’s…not bad. Esepcially the dumble amp.

To answer your question:
-Sound-wise, I think AX8 was a bit richer. I feel like the Neural DSP VSTs hit the tones they are searching for quite well, but there was a depth to the AX8 that I see missing a little bit (on the VSTs). I’m also more of a blues player, and the warmth of the tube was my everything, even on cleans.

-The feel for the Neural DSP is way better though (check out this article as a reference for what I agree is a big problem for the Fractals: https://www.guitarworld.com/news/john-mayer-these-are-the-three-things-amp-modelers-havent-got-right-yet). More below.

-The response is quite good on the Neural DSP, probably the same or are on par with Fractals, except for the fact that I think I have bit too much latency on my guitar interface and it causes a bit of lag. I’ll fix that soon and it’s not a problem with the software I don’t think.

So basically as you can see from those responses, which are all good questions, the reason I considered the Neural DSP the most, as well as would consider the Quad Cortex is because the feel. I watched that video by Rhett (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J02heFTwEXY) on how to make my Helix sound and feel more “real,” and it worked…only to some extent really. I even posted in the Helix forums to see how I could refine it more, such as trying to work with my Marshall Cab instead of the FRFR it would help (it…sort of did, but limited other things). For me with my tube amps, I just miss that feeling the most and from anything I experienced so far, Neural DSP is the closest to what I’m looking for. At least with the current VSTs. If the Quad Cortex can offer me that, and more like what I listed above, then it’s probably a no question for me. If it’s just offering more amps and cabs then I may not be as inclined because that’s not going to add anything to my current setup.

Thanks,
Manu

Hello Manu, thanks for responding. To start, I sold my FX3 simply because it was my intro to modelling and to be honest I did not give it the time it deserved to dial things in. I grew impatient and went to the kemper. The Kemper is a great unit but the profiles always seem to be “just about” what I want and there really isn’t any changing that with the eq without drastically changing the sound. I have been on the Fm3 waitlist since April 27/2019 so my time is approaching. The one thing I am finding about the fractal gear in comparison to the kemper is the fractal seems a little sterile and less organic. The Fm3 does act as audio interface and can be tweaked. After taking son time to watch some videos of the dsp plugins and the quad cortex it seems to posses that tube warmth that the I found I was missing with the fractal especially on cleans. Please keep in mind this is all subjective and the sounds I am chasing in my head may not be to taste of others. I am looking forward to the cortex because of the vast array of functions it can do. Everything from capturing to modelling. I also like the looks and seeming ease of use and intuitive layout.

Thanks, Rod

1 Like

Hi Rod,

Well yes, that’s why I asked, because the FM3 and FX3 run basically on the same system (minus a processor). So if it’s a sound/interface kind of issue, then my curiosity was that why would you even consider it?

Here’s the thing with most of these modelers…sure, they can all probably get a good sound for the most part, the issue really is whether or not you want to spend the time watching videos or tweaking these little factors to create the sound for yourself. Like you, I’m honestly not that interested in doing so, which is why I got rid of the Helix. I finally found some video on youtube about how a guy made great sounding dual cabs, but then I found myself just copying his same layout and that’s it. It could work, just I wanted to play and not get lost of the midst of the excessive tweaking over and over again.

Since Neural DSP is, at this point, quite late in the game, there are definitely factors that they could integrate into their technology which would provide them with a huge step-up for guys like us, and honestly from what I’ve interacted with, a large part of the market…but as I’n only recently introduced to this company, I don’t know how receptive or willing they would be to do so.

If any Neural DSP folks are listening, I’m here and happy to contribute.

Manu

1 Like

Hello Manu, thanks for responding. I enjoy reading your posts and I do agree with your point about the Fm3 sounding and behaving the same way as the Fx3. From what I have seen from clips of namm videos on the cortex the unit seems to be fairly user friendly and my hopes are that it behaves like an amp when dialing in tones. I like you want to spend my time playing and not searching for rig profiles or spending countless hours tweaking.

Thanks Rod

1 Like

Hello, I just spent some time listening to the bogner shiva clean channel. I listened to multiple clips of the amp, and both the model done by fractal as well as dsp. I must say that the dsp was incredible close. It has the booming lows and had the bite in the high end where as the fractal seemed rather bland. The response to picking on the cortex played by Rabea at namm was incredible. The more I look into this product the more interested and excited I get about it. I have received my Fractal FM3 invite today and I am going to pass. I am thinking a deposit on the cortex is the way to go. I would like to say that I am in any way putting down anything fractal does but to my ears I was happier with the tones and response coming from the cortex, again this is all subjective.

Thanks, Rod

1 Like

Hey Rod,

I would suggest maybe something else as an alternative, but just go with me on this one… I think the Fractal has a return policy for 30 days, and if not you could just as easily sell it if you want to. The $200 deposit for the Quad Cortex is refundable…so rather than cold “x” on the invite, I would actually suggest trying out and giving time to the FM3. You don’t really lose much at all if you do.

Previously in my journey of guitars/amps/tones, I would agree with what you said (after watching tons of videos, etc), but now being much more of a veteran, I would say that you may or may not know or can trust any demo–your style and playing is a unique feature that they can’t know, really. Those Fractals and Quad Cortex could be played through two entirely different setups in the videos that you saw (like different FRFRs, direct out, different guitars, or maybe through an amp) and unless you were the one playing each one with the same entire rig and each setup back-to-back with the only variable changed is the QC vs Fractal, I would you say you could not entirely know yet. The feel is your feel. This is a fact that I overlooked before and now realize the truth of.

Now, I also say this knowing that I am leaning towards the QC as well, but as it’s an in-production unit, I know that it could also very well change and/or may not even come to existence for a variety of reasons, so for that I keep a different idea in my back pocket just in case…the reason I kind of made this thread in the first place (that I need an incentive outside of the VSTs to consider buying it when complete).

Further on the previous point, you should also check out a guy on the Fractal forums with the username “yek” (I think it was) who made just awesome variations of the amps that really brought them out to life and it may be something worthwhile looking into before really x-ing the FM3 invite. When I used the stock presets on the AX8 they were just garbage to me, but yeks presets were something quite special and I found myself actually wanting to play after that because of the life they brought from them. Also, I don’t know if you dug into their forums during your time with the AXE FX III, but the support on them is quite out of this world in terms of how well their community is. Something I feel is definitely missing a bit over here…

So, I know that i’m playing devil’s advocate a little bit on this one, especially on a Quad Cortex forum, but I would really honestly suggest getting your hands kind of dirty before fully deciding or committing just yet. It’s just something I’ve learned, and since you have the opportunity to try one with a new feel, I would say give a shot my friend because you never know how each one could play different with your whole setup and I just wanted to say that.

Also, what kind of output are you using? FRFR? Cab?

Thanks,
Manu

2 Likes

Hello Manu, wow. Where do I start? Honestly that was very well put. You made some excellent points and I agree with all of them. Upon taking another look at it per your suggestion I do think that I will give the FM3 a shot. I have made some excellent contacts in the Fractal forum over the last month which is something that I did not do with my prior experience with Fractal. I am familiar with yek and I do agree with you that they have some great support on their forum and the layout of their forum seems to be a little more user friendly. I am currently playing through my Sony profession studio monitor headphones as I sold my Friedman asc112 to help fund a pair of Adams a7x studio monitors which I will be ordering shortly. I do agree with you about the resale of the FM3 and if it doesn’t work out the loss would be no lore than renting a helix for those months. I do think that I am still going to put a deposit on a cortex and as you also said it is fully refundable.

Thanks, Rod

2 Likes

Hey Rod,

I’m glad I got through man. Honestly, why not just play around with it for a few months then move on if you feel like it, right? If the Quad Cortex was already developed, it’d be one thing, but I’ve worked in startups before and you know well, things change, especially during this pandemic. I still hope that it’ll be awesome, but I honestly wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket just yet.

I would do the following:
-Look into the Atomic CLR instead of the Adams a7x because people over there love it and really promote it for some reason. Ask them why maybe (there’s also two version I believe, and make sure you get the right one). It goes at about $1k, but it’s the top one out there. If you want something less costly the Yamaha DXR10 ($500) or QSC K12 ($750) are both good options

-Post over the FM3 forum and tell them about your experiences with the AXE FX3 and why you sold it. You can ask where you can find some good options for presets that will make it sound more lively. They’ll probably ask you questions like what are you playing out of because the signal path of guitar -> Fractal -> Output is pretty straightforward, and each piece of that puzzle makes a difference. See if they have the yek-modified presets or you’ll probably get recommendations on the Austin Buddy Naked Amps (he basically just tweaked the amps to get the best settings possible for them). It’s been some time since I sold my AX8 so maybe things changed, but they can definitely guide you a bit more on there.

-Speaking of guitar, make sure that it also has the right setup for what you want. I don’t know if you ever looked into pickups swapping and all that, but I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking guitars (all the way down to neck/body woody, nut width, etc) and finally found more of what I liked when I did.

Since it’s just you and me basically posting on this forum from what I can see, I’ll probably stop visiting around here much more until more significant progress is made on the QC. Feel free to shoot me a message or two and keep me updated on what you and if I can help. Enjoy the playing brother and rock on!

Manu

1 Like

Take care my friend. Stay safe and healthy.

Rod

1 Like

“For some reason” = superior clarity and fidelity. If your goal is to maximize the “more realer” experience (as is common among Fractal owners), they’re hard to beat.

I own a pair of CLRs and the sonics on those speakers is unparalleled. Personally, I love the way they sound but am less enamored of the way they look (found myself wishing for something more like a traditional guitar cab) and find the form factor awkward to deal with when loading in/out. I prefer the look and form factor of the PowerCab but its FRFR performance isn’t in the same ballpark as the CLR.

1 Like

Any recommendations for studio monitors. I do not play out and this is strictly at home in a small studio.

Thanks, Rod

Nothing wrong with the Adam’s you’re looking at. Definitely would recommend a 7-8" woofer, particularly since you’re probably going to use them more like mains than near field monitors.

If you can afford them yam hs7’s or 8’s are outstanding. I’ve seen guitar center run buy-one get one 1/2 off, which is how i got mine and was the best deal i’ve seen on these monitors.

I’m keeping my main tube amps in the studio, but my Kemper Rack, Axe II , Boss Gt 1000 and a few others will most likely be replaced with a couple Neural units, If it can capture the sounds of my amps… :slight_smile:

At the moment I am preparing to pull the trigger as soon as I can. I am selling a few amps and one of my Kempers. If the QC can keep up with the beauty of the Kemper sound with its own capture function I will sell my second Kemper for a second QC, I am quite sure. Kemper us too slow with gear innovations although its support and development of that first unit is really superb. No other product has been getting better and better during 10 years!