The sounds of Axe-Fx are now available in a compact pedalboard format.
Fractal Audio System’s rackmount Axe-Fx units awakened many players to the possibilities of modeled amps, cabinets, and effects. Nowadays many touring players, seduced by Fractal’s realistic modeling, travel with compact digital rigs in lieu of cumbersome amps and cabs. Fractal expanded into the pedalboard format with their FX8, which provided Axe-Fx effects minus the amp and cab modeling. Now AX8 adds those missing amps and cabs as the company's first "all-in-one" unit—at some $500 less than FX8’s original price.
The AX8 amp modeler and multi-effects pedalboard is almost a pedalboard version of Fractal’s flagship Axe-Fx II modeler. The main difference: less CPU. That means the sound quality is identical, but you just can’t pile on as many simultaneous models (though you can create parallel effect chains using a single amp model.) But there’s plenty of juice for most applications, and AX8 sells for nearly a grand less than the big box.
More on the Floor
Many will flip for AX8’s form factor, nearly identical to the FX8. Measuring roughly 16" x10" x 4" and weighing less than 12 pounds, the board fits into backpacks and overhead bins. Mind you, it has no built-in amplification—you must connect to a PA or full-range/flat-response amplifier. (Plugging into a conventional guitar amp might yield cool sounds, but you would need to disable the AX8's onboard sims to avoid stacking amp coloration on top of amp coloration.)
Despite its size, AX8 offers comprehensive connectivity, with 1/4", XLR and S/PDIF outputs. A USB jack lets you connect to a computer (which is almost essential, as we’ll see). There are MIDI in and out jacks. You can connect up to four controller pedals (not included). There’s also a programmable stereo effects loop for inserting external hardware. (One odd omission: there’s no headphone jack.)
The build is beautiful. Steel and aircraft aluminum form the rugged chassis. The silent relay footswitches have no mechanical connections to fail. The knobs feel substantial. A folded steel bar doubles as a handle and protection for the surface hardware. The power supply is built-in.
AX8 can save 512 presets. Each preset can include eight “scenes”—patches that use the same virtual components as the master preset, but with alternate settings. Each footswitch can also toggle between two stored settings when pressed for several seconds. (You might, for example, store high- and low-gain amp gain settings on a single switch, or alternate trem speeds.) The USB link makes it easy to load, archive, and exchange presets.
AX8’s sounds are superb, thanks to a great-sounding signal path and ultra-detailed models. The fat, three-dimensional tones have stunning dynamic range. Delicate playing sounds … delicate, with detailed, naturalistic decay. There’s no hint of the squashed, boxy feel you get from some modelers. On a clean setting, you feel every playing nuance, each subtle scrape of finger or pick. Many new users will strum a chord or two and think, “Yup, I’m convinced.”
Metal, prog, and shred guitarists are among Fractal’s biggest fans, and macho high-gain rigs predominate among the presets. But AX8 is equally adept at clean, rootsy, and lo-fi tones. Many AX8 settings suggest John Petrucci, Steve Vai, and Mastodon. But it can also do Pops Staples and Curtis Mayfield.
The number of available amp, cab, and effects models is some huge integer I already forgot. Think of it this way: There’s a vast amount of raw material here, and you can manipulate it in a vast number of ways.
Creating models is more subjective than many realize, so please indulge a few subjective impressions: The individual amps and cabs are shockingly realistic. But the virtual components don’t always interact as they do in the analog world. For example, most AX8 amp models (especially high-gain ones) aren’t as responsive to variations in touch and guitar settings as their analog equivalents. And it’s tough to get a clean-to-apocalyptic range of tones using only your volume knob like you can by, say, plugging straight into a great tweed or plexi.
Meanwhile, the fine-sounding effects can match most sounds you’d create with an analog pedalboard, but they don’t always interact in the same ways and often omit signature quirks. For example, the analog delay model faithfully mimics the spectrum of a BBD chip, but cannot capture the chip’s unique distortion. The Fuzz Face provides Hendrix-y bulk, but lacks the hair-trigger dynamic response of the real deal. The Muff model spews volcanic fuzz, but doesn’t include the signature scooper-duper tone stack.
But believe it or not, these aren’t really criticisms. You can create many of the “missing” characteristics cited above, but you might have to do it on AX8’s digital terms. Fortunately, they’re highly agreeable terms.
You can access every AX8 function without connecting to a computer—but it won’t be fun. The sole visual feedback is a small, low-res LCD screen that reminds me of programming a Yamaha SPX-90 in 1987. Fractal expects users to do the dirty work by connecting to a computer. If you hate that notion, consider this a warning flag.
Fortunately, once you fire up the included editing software, life is grand. The AX8-Edit software (for Mac and PC) boasts a large, lucid layout and intuitive drag-and-drop operation. You arrange modeling blocks on a simple grid and click on a block to access its parameters. Of course, you don’t have to perform deep editing—you can do plenty of damage with presets only. But Fractal makes tone creation easy and fun. (Crucial wish list item: an iOS/Android editor for tweaking at gigs and rehearsals.)The amp and cab options are mind-boggling (in a good way). Amp parameters include not only the basics, but also such cool arcana as negative feedback amount, speaker distortion, and cathode squish. The cabinet options are equally impressive. These don't feel like static impulse responses (IR). Fractal has gone to great lengths mimicking the quirky and dynamic resonance—the thump—of physical cabs. You can also load your own cabinet IRs (or the add-on IRs sold separately at Fractal’s online store) and tweak them with the dedicated Cab-Lab app. Bravo!
Assigning external controllers is a snap, and you can route almost anything anywhere. You can even insert the effects loop send and/or return anywhere in the virtual tone chain. The list of effect types might seem meat-and-potatoes at first glance, but the endless editing and routing options can get deep. (Not so meat-and-potatoes: the cool pitch-tracking mono synth and powerful single-track looper.)
Even if you plan to use presets only, brace for a learning curve. But after a few hours you’ll probably get the hang of navigating banks, presets, scenes, and the X/Y footswitches, and feel confident making basic adjustments on the fly. And thank you, Fractal, for creating such a lucid and skillfully written operation manual.
AX8 is a landmark product release. The sounds are stellar. It’s compact and portable, yet it can be as open-ended and flexible as you desire. Its construction and ergonomics are top-notch. If you’re not already an Axe-Fx user, plan to a) spend at least a few days getting acquainted, and b) do most editing and archiving on a computer. If you invest the effort, AX8 is likely to reward you in spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts. And oh—it’s a bargain at $1,299.
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.