LET ME AXE YOU SOMETHING
The Axe-Fx II XL+ uses the same DSP and offers the same amp modelling capabilities as the Axe-Fx II Mark II but it adds expanded memory, new I/O ports and other upgrades. There’s FASLINK port for connection to the MFC-101 Mark III floor controller over conventional XLR cables; dedicated MIDI in/out, and THRU jacks compared to shared out/THRU in the Mark II; two onboard ‘pedal’ jacks compared to one in the Mark II; primary value entry via optical encoder with a lifespan of 1,000,000+ rotations; ‘Secret Sauce III’ instrument input with an even lower noise floor; 128 Mb of non-volatile Super-Flash memory for storage of up to 512 presets and 512 user cabinets (with plenty of reserves for future expansion); double-capacity preset size for expanded functionality including X/Y switching on more blocks and more instances of effects; built-in backup firmware to allow for recovery in the event of complications during update; and of course backward compatibility with Axe-Fx II Mark I/II presets via Axe-Edit software.
Onboard you’ll find over 200 simulations of classic guitar and bass amps, more than 130 speaker cabinet sims plus 512 memory slots to expand your tone with new Cab-Packs or user packs, 25 drive pedal sims, hundreds of effects including stompboxes and studio compressors; onboard stereo effects loop for adding external unit, and the Tone Matching feature, which lets you call up a sound from a recording or actual amp then let Axe-Fx duplicate it.
IT’S MY AMP IN A BOX
Fractal have done such a great job of capturing everything about how an amp and cabinet should sound that it takes a real tone-hound to spot the differences between a recording of the real thing and a recording of an Axe-Fx. Okay, so it doesn’t make your pants flap and it doesn’t smell like burning tubes and hot Tolex, but in terms of comparing the sounds on record it’s extremely convincing. And the Axe-Fx isn’t just for those who like to create alien soundscapes with pitch-shifted delays and swirly phasey synth effects. There’s as much care taken in the accuracy and response of the vintage amp simulations as there is for the crushing high gain tones. You can program a whole set’s worth of preset changes and delay times synced up via MIDI so you don’t have to do any pedalboard tap dancing if you want to, but you can also use it as the ultimate ‘set-and-forget’ amp.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you can deal with the extra steps required to edit your sound (and it’s worth it) and aren’t intimidated by all the buttons and lights, the Axe-Fx II XL+ does everything you might require of a portable amp/ effects/foot-controller rig. It does it in so small a space that you could quite literally t one into your hand luggage. There will always be a very important place for real tube amps, but the Axe-Fx has shown that there’s definitely a place for digital control too, with equal parts reverence for classic tones and daringness to create new ones.
For more details on the range of Fractal Audio Systems products, head to independentmusic.com.au.