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Recording: Axe Fx or what?
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kirkelein
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28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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Recording: Axe Fx or what?

I just got my new guitar for recording some progressive metal (mainly) and I'm now looking at what to get for amplification. I'm mainly a composer and synthesist so I don't have a sweet old rig to record with and since I don't have room or neighbors that allow me to record a real amp I need to buy something else.

It has become clear to me that pretty much all of the plugins sound like arse, so I'm looking at hardware now. Axe Fx is the only digital alternative that sounds nice, but I've never been able to try one out in person, and I'm hesitant to order something this pricey based solely on youtube clips. I've tried Kemper and Elevenrack and they don't cut it. Are there any other options? And will the Axe Fx really be nice enough compared to a real stack, say a Mesa or Engl? I've tried those many times. I like those.

My guitarist friend uses his head through an attenuator, and I could possibly do the same thing. This would be less flexible, less portable and more expensive than an Axe Fx, but it could also sound bloody great. Has anyone else done this?
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28th January 2013
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there are a ton of discussions about this, but for me I would consider it a demo only device. Mentally I need an amp or else I can't convince myself it sounds as good as it could. If I were doing metal I would probably be fine with using the ax FX.
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kirkelein
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28th January 2013
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Thanks for the input. I found that the discussions I read were all positive towards plugins and regarding the Axe Fx as some prize piece that's even sweeter. I want a discussion about what can be done that's as good as the real thing, and based on the idea that plugins are far from it.
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28th January 2013
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NOTHING beats the real thing in my opinion... i have over 20 legit tube amps.... mostly vintage pieces, but have some soldanos and peavy, mesa stuff too for heavier stuff...

bought an axe fx 2 thinking it would be the end all and allow me to dump some of my less used gear...

had this axe fx for 2 weeks.... sold it... it made me want even more tube amps and apprecite the amps i already have... just doesnt have the same dynamics, i dont listen to what others say... for me and my ears, theres a reason so many companies still make tube amps...

if budget is an issue, maybe the axe fx is a way to go, but its a glorified line 6 (sorry!), and as another person said, its good for demos only... or maybe buried backing tracks...

i couldnt get anything to sit well enough in a track to blend and and sound legit...
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28th January 2013
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Great, that is exactly the kind of input I'm after. It is for demo (and possibly live) work, so it's mostly just up to me and what I'm reasonably comfortable playing and mixing with. I guess I'll have to find someone who owns one to try it out.

Instead of an Axe Fx I'm contemplating getting load box and a 5150 to run through it. I'd just use the FX in my DAW. It would probably be cheaper than an Axe Fx but I'm quite unfamiliar with that sort of setup.
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28th January 2013
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Get a Kemper Profiling Amplifier (the power amp version). That gives you the option often best quality DI for desk or directly powering a cab.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
Get a Kemper Profiling Amplifier (the power amp version). That gives you the option often best quality DI for desk or directly powering a cab.
Tried it. Sounds bad. I'd pay 4K SEK for it, not 13K. But I don't know how good the Axe Fx is. Maybe I'd just pay 12K for it and not the 20 they're asking. Maybe I'm up shit creek without a paddle.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
Tried it. Sounds bad. I'd pay 4K SEK for it, not 13K. But I don't know how good the Axe Fx is. Maybe I'd just pay 12K for it and not the 20 they're asking. Maybe I'm up shit creek without a paddle.
I'm surprised, what profiles did you try (and through what monitoring system). The KPA is pretty much universally regarded as the gold standard for amp sims. To my ears it sounds pretty much the same as my tube amps when recorded. Are you used to recorded amp sound? (It's possible to make the KPA sound like an amp on the room if you are prepared to push the same amount of air with a real guitar cab as a real amp, but you can't get that sound with anything otherwise).

The AxeFX will allow you to tweak and sculpt your own sort of sound, not necessarily constrained by the limitations of real world amps if that's what you're after. But it won't sound any better. DI from a load box won't be better either and certainly an isolation booth will sound bad. Your only real alternative would be to use a real amp and record it, which will be loud (unless you want lots of room sound).
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
I'm surprised, what profiles did you try (and through what monitoring system). The KPA is pretty much universally regarded as the gold standard for amp sims. To my ears it sounds pretty much the same as my tube amps when recorded.
I didn't really know what was what when I tried it. Monitors were nothing special, don't remember I reckon something 400-800€. The profiles were many user made, but I think a couple of the factory presets too. I was disappointed after the rep's praise, minutes later I took a few minutes with a dual rectifier, night and day, I was happy again.

The thing is, it's probably better for cleaner stuff, but as with all emulations I find that the distortion just isn't as round and full as it is with the real thing. Making metal this is a major problem.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
I didn't really know what was what when I tried it. Monitors were nothing special, don't remember I reckon something 400-800€. The profiles were many user made, but I think a couple of the factory presets too. I was disappointed after the rep's praise, minutes later I took a few minutes with a dual rectifier, night and day, I was happy again.

The thing is, it's probably better for cleaner stuff, but as with all emulations I find that the distortion just isn't as round and full as it is with the real thing. Making metal this is a major problem.
This sounds like you're comparing speakers rather than amps.

Try the KPA powered version with a real guitar cab (give Ola's recto profiles a try, and some of the amp factory profiles labeled TAF in the profile list).

Remember that with the recto the sound you hear in the room won't be exactly like the sound you get on record, most folk have their cabs on the floor rather than pointing directly at them, you have a whole signal chain in place too, and the real cab pushes a lot more air than your monitors. Most guitarists really get a shock when they hear their amp recorded for the first time.
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28th January 2013
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If you don't like the Kemper I don't know what else to recommend.

The only thing I would suggest, is something I'm thinking of doing, which is the H&K Tubemeister with the Red Box direct out; that way I still get to run through all the tube circuitry and hopefully preserve that warmth and saturation. I haven't been able to try this setup yet but it's high on my list and that is my hopes of what it would accomplish.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
This sounds like you're comparing speakers rather than amps.

Try the KPA powered version with a real guitar cab (give Ola's recto profiles a try, and some of the amp factory profiles labeled TAF in the profile list)
I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you suggesting that the profiles I tried didn't have any speaker simulation? The reason I'm looking at these options is above all because I cannot mike a cab in my home studio lest the neighbors sue me, so I need the simulation of power amp and cabinet. I could theoretically use a real tube preamp if the rest is taken care of well by emulation. In my experience the distortion from a preamp is very fuzzy and doesn't become what we know and love until it passes through both these stages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
Remember that with the recto the sound you hear in the room won't be exactly like the sound you get on record, most folk have their cabs on the floor rather than pointing directly at them, you have a whole signal chain in place too, and the real cab pushes a lot more air than your monitors. Most guitarists really get a shock when they hear their amp recorded for the first time.
Yeah, I have experience of recording amps so I know what you mean. Really I can get anything for my studio as long as it doesn't make too much noise.
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28th January 2013
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Originally Posted by Inverted314 View Post
If you don't like the Kemper I don't know what else to recommend.

The only thing I would suggest, is something I'm thinking of doing, which is the H&K Tubemeister with the Red Box direct out; that way I still get to run through all the tube circuitry and hopefully preserve that warmth and saturation. I haven't been able to try this setup yet but it's high on my list and that is my hopes of what it would accomplish.
That is precisely what I'm talking about. The key here is a really good speaker simulation, otherwise it will all sound like fuzz.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you suggesting that the profiles I tried didn't have any speaker simulation? The reason I'm looking at these options is above all because I cannot mike a cab in my home studio lest the neighbors sue me, so I need the simulation of power amp and cabinet. I could theoretically use a real tube preamp if the rest is taken care of well by emulation. In my experience the distortion from a preamp is very fuzzy and doesn't become what we know and love until it passes through both these stages.

Yeah, I have experience of recording amps so I know what you mean. Really I can get anything for my studio as long as it doesn't make too much noise.
What I mean is you're comparing the output of a couple of small studio monitors with probably a 4x12 cab. Any source will sound relatively thin through the studio monitors and any source will sound full through a 4x12 cab. Speakers make up the majority of any amps tone.

The KPA does indeed have speaker simulation (in fact it's the best I've heard), but it's a profile of a whole signal chain, not just a guitar amp. i.e. it makes a snapshot of the amp + cab + mic + some of the room frequencies that creep in through the mic + any pre-amps used for the mic. What you get is the sound of a signal chain rather than just the sound of the amp in your room right next to you, just as with any recording that's what you get, the KPA just stores a profile of that sound for recall.

If you want that "in the room" amp sound with the KPA (or any amp sim) then you literally have to disable the cab section on the Kemper and plug it into a real powered cab (or use the power amp version of the KPA with a normal guitar cab) and push that same sort of air as a real amp does. That sound only comes from actually pushing a lot of air, the best any sim can do direct is add in some reverb to give you the effect of an amp recorded in a larger room with the mic further back, but it's just not the same thing.
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28th January 2013
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OK, I'm with you. That would mean that the Kemper should sound (nearly) as nice in my headphones and in my mix as a miked amp. It didn't. Again, this is mainly the distortion sounding as digital as it always does.

I'm not comparing directly the feel of the Kemper through monitors to the Mesa (in this example) but more the specific structure of the tone. The harmonic content, the richness of the distortion, the lack of unpleasant overtones, even with extreme EQ settings. These are things that I associate with high end amplifiers and find severely lacking in emulations.

The clips at the bottom of this review demonstate pretty well what I mean with fuzzy unpleasant distortion. Not usable IMHO.

What I hear from clips of the Axe Fx though, is a smoother, nicer distortion. But it's very hard to tell. I've heard people get dreadful tones out of them as well, something that is just not possible on a real high end amp.
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28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
OK, I'm with you. That would mean that the Kemper should sound (nearly) as nice in my headphones and in my mix as a miked amp. It didn't. Again, this is mainly the distortion sounding as digital as it always does.

I'm not comparing directly the feel of the Kemper through monitors to the Mesa (in this example) but more the specific structure of the tone. The harmonic content, the richness of the distortion, the lack of unpleasant overtones, even with extreme EQ settings. These are things that I associate with high end amplifiers and find severely lacking in emulations.

The clips at the bottom of this review demonstate pretty well what I mean with fuzzy unpleasant distortion. Not usable IMHO.

What I hear from clips of the Axe Fx though, is a smoother, nicer distortion. But it's very hard to tell. I've heard people get dreadful tones out of them as well, something that is just not possible on a real high end amp.
I'm confused now, you said you listened to it through some monitors, now through headphones?

The distortion characteristic of any profile in the KPA determined by the amp and signal chain, I find it to be very close in terms of complexity and harmonic richness to the original amp sources.

The clips you linked were DI's of a real tube amp through a redbox it's an all analog signal chain (the speaker sim is just an eq curve in that instance), I agree it doesn't sound great, but no DI from amp solution does that I've experienced. They would sound a lot better with a touch of reverb. It almost sounds like you heard the Kemper with the cab section disabled (or with it disabled on the output going to the speakers). Modern amp sims can produce a lot of high end fidelity, that shouldn't be confused with digital fizz, the Kemper has a lot of detailed and clear top end available, some people get carried away with that as it cuts through a mix so easily, personally I find it gets a bit harsh and tiring on the ears when people dial it like that, but it's just like working with any real amp and easy to adjust.

My concern is that you'll find the AxeFX very similar to the KPA, the KPA is the state of the art with regards amp sim sound and authenticity to which the Axe has been trying to gradually get closer over the past year of firmware updates. Based on what you've been saying you may just not gel with any solution that isn't a real amp.

Do you have some clips of the sorts of sounds you do like? I have to ask, have you looked for clips of the Kemper? (There's plenty out there on Kemper's own forum and on The Gear Page). I'm just wondering exactly what tones you're after.
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29th January 2013
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Just my opinion here

i just sold my fractal axe 2 tonight, literally, kept my kemper, with the amp factory soundpack i love the sounds now

however, in the end i am buying a 65amps tupelo soon and going back to an amp.

i think the kemper with the amp factory profiles are the best sounds of any of these units. I will be keeping it and getting the 65amps.

anyway just my thoughts
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29th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
I'm confused now, you said you listened to it through some monitors, now through headphones?
No, headphones was just an example. I'm used to playing my guitar through amproom with headphones. Not a solution with a cabinet at high volume, was my point, it shouldn't make a difference in the character of the distortion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
The distortion characteristic of any profile in the KPA determined by the amp and signal chain, I find it to be very close in terms of complexity and harmonic richness to the original amp sources.
I found the distortion to sound roughly the same across different models, whilst EQ and harmonics were very different. IME there is an extreme difference between a jcm, a recto, a savage. That difference was not there in the emulations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
The clips you linked were DI's of a real tube amp through a redbox it's an all analog signal chain (the speaker sim is just an eq curve in that instance), I agree it doesn't sound great, but no DI from amp solution does that I've experienced. They would sound a lot better with a touch of reverb. It almost sounds like you heard the Kemper with the cab section disabled (or with it disabled on the output going to the speakers). Modern amp sims can produce a lot of high end fidelity, that shouldn't be confused with digital fizz, the Kemper has a lot of detailed and clear top end available, some people get carried away with that as it cuts through a mix so easily, personally I find it gets a bit harsh and tiring on the ears when people dial it like that, but it's just like working with any real amp and easy to adjust.
Yes, the DI of the HK was not sufficient. I am certain I've heard better speaker simulations before. The dist from that clip sounds like it's preamp out, with no power amp or speaker, and therefore inferior. You may be right that the Kemper it was not hooked up with speaker simulation engaged, this would be a fatal mistake. If the tone I heard was run through a real power amp and speaker I am sure it would have sounded pretty nice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
My concern is that you'll find the AxeFX very similar to the KPA, the KPA is the state of the art with regards amp sim sound and authenticity to which the Axe has been trying to gradually get closer over the past year of firmware updates. Based on what you've been saying you may just not gel with any solution that isn't a real amp.
That is what I'm afraid of, and you saying that Kemper is similar to Axe Fx is a very important point. That was not my initial understanding.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
Do you have some clips of the sorts of sounds you do like? I have to ask, have you looked for clips of the Kemper? (There's plenty out there on Kemper's own forum and on The Gear Page). I'm just wondering exactly what tones you're after.
This would be an example of something that sounds nice. Clean nice round distortion. This is with an Engl SE as far as I know.

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29th January 2013
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Thanks trock for the input. I will definitely have to check the Kemper out one more round.
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29th January 2013
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I use a Radial JDX DI and a load box with my tube amps, the JDX is a speaker-level DI with cabinet emulation. It works very well for me, but this is obviously a subjective thing. I have also had very good results with the Scuffham S-Gear plugin.
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29th January 2013
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Axe Fx II is an amazing piece of gear, if you cant get your own killer tone out of it and record an album with it, then maybe audio recording is not for you.
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29th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotaholic View Post
Axe Fx II is an amazing piece of gear, if you cant get your own killer tone out of it and record an album with it, then maybe audio recording is not for you.
I think this a fair statement.
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29th January 2013
Old 29th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
I found the distortion to sound roughly the same across different models, whilst EQ and harmonics were very different. IME there is an extreme difference between a jcm, a recto, a savage. That difference was not there in the emulations.
Have you done an actual side by side comparison of those amps? I've done several, and was always quite surprised how small the difference was. Using the same cab and guitar the difference between a Diezel Herbert and an Orange Rockerverb in a full band mix was a lot smaller than you'd expect.

The amp is only maybe 25% of the equation in the sound you're getting, speakers being the biggest part. With the mic+preamp color in the KPA, that goes even lower.
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29th January 2013
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You can record a great album with a POD if you know what you are doing

yes the fractal axe 2 I had and the standard I had, both of which i knew very well are fine pieces of gear. i didnt need it, the kemper, the eleven rack, the POD and all the rest. So i kept what worked best for me, the kemper.

no one ever said you cant get a great sound with it. i got tired of the endless updates, the reloading of cabs, the over writing the old presets i had, the editor not working still etc. but thats just me, some people love to tweak and love the depth of the unit, and i agree its got tons of stuff in it that are great.

for me and my limited time i have a few profiles on the kemper i dont need to do anything with and didnt need to touch at all right off the bat that i love and work for me.

in the end, even with both i am still buying a 65amps amp, as neither one to me give me that sound

really to each his own.
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29th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodebro View Post
I use a Radial JDX DI and a load box with my tube amps, the JDX is a speaker-level DI with cabinet emulation. It works very well for me, but this is obviously a subjective thing. I have also had very good results with the Scuffham S-Gear plugin.
That JDX looks interesting. But it seems it needs a cab to work? Could be a nice way to keep volume down when recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotaholic View Post
Axe Fx II is an amazing piece of gear, if you cant get your own killer tone out of it and record an album with it, then maybe audio recording is not for you.
I'm very tempted to take one home for the trial period.

Quote:
Originally Posted by col View Post
Have you done an actual side by side comparison of those amps? I've done several, and was always quite surprised how small the difference was. Using the same cab and guitar the difference between a Diezel Herbert and an Orange Rockerverb in a full band mix was a lot smaller than you'd expect.

The amp is only maybe 25% of the equation in the sound you're getting, speakers being the biggest part. With the mic+preamp color in the KPA, that goes even lower.
I'm not surprised. As I said earlier, it seems most preamps sound very fuzzy when not plugged in a power amp and speaker. And since this is the part that produces volume, this is where I need to focus my effort. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a be all end all solution to this, but maybe both KPE and Axe Fx does it good enough for me. KPA if indeed the speaker sim was disengaged when I tried it.
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29th January 2013
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Those 65's look real sexy!

I guess the conclusion is to give the KPA a real chance and if that isn't enough go for the Axe Fx. If I'm not satisfied with that, I guess I'd best just move my studio so I can get a real amp
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29th January 2013
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you could get all 3?

be a hero here, a true Gslut!
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30th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkelein View Post
That JDX looks interesting. But it seems it needs a cab to work? Could be a nice way to keep volume down when recording.
Yes, it needs some type of load as it has none. I'm pretty sure it was meant for live applications more than recording, but with a load box behind it (I use a Hot Plate), it works really well.
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30th January 2013
Old 30th January 2013
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It really depends on what you're planning on doing. If you want to avoid having to mess around with microphones and a room full of amps - the Axe-Fx going direct will work for you (not to mention all the effects and the fact you can order them in any way imaginable).

You should be able to get a number of killer sounds by plugging the Axe directly into your audio interface!
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