QUANTUM 2.0, THE NEW FIRMWARE FOR THE AXE-FX II HAS ARRIVED.
TO FIND OUT WHAT ALL THE EXCITEMENT IS ABOUT,
JUST KEEP READING.
We musicians are in an enviable position. While other people have to do all sorts of hair-raising things to feel alive or to relax, we have our music. And we don’t need to look around for long to find new, cool people, because our music has a habit of serving up fine new friendships all the time. All we need to be is open. And since the Axe-Fx came into being, the lives of guitar and bass players have become even better.
And now, once again, there is reason to celebrate: Quantum 2.0, the new firmware for the Axe-Fx II, is here and the rest of this article will explain just why what was already so good is now even better.
HEAVEN IS FULL OF AMPS
Since the last time we got all axe-cited there have been a further 20 amp models added to the Axe-Fx II. That brings the grand total to a barely comprehensible 243 amps at the service of every Axe-Fx II user. If you wanted to just spend an hour trying out each amp and did that for eight hours a day, you would need a whole month to test all of them. The selection has become so comprehensive that to say “there’s something for everyone” would be the understatement of the century. Most of the new amps were already represented by models in the Axe-Fx II, but the newcomers concentrate on other channels or operating modes not previously covered. For a start there are four fabulous models from the Fender corner:
a Deluxe Reverb, a Super Reverb and two different models based on Twin Reverbs
In the Class A corner there is a further Vox AC30 model as well as a Morgan AC-20 Deluxe.
And from the boutique corner Cliff Chase has brought three more delicacies:
a Paul Ruby Rocket,
a Splawn Nitro with KT-88 power tubes
and a Bludotone Ojai
WANT SOME CRUNCH? TRY A PLEXI…
And you can have three new flavours:
a new model of a 50W Plexi with a second cathode bypass. This version was introduced in the early 1970s and gave a slightly brighter sound.
A 1970 Marshall 1959SLP 100 with a darker, smoother sound than earlier Plexis
and a 1972 50W Marshall Plexi with 6550 power tubes.
OR A BIT MOR GAIN?
Then how about four models of the four-channel 100W JVM410HJS Joe Satriani Signature amp?
Two new models of the much-loved Peavey 6505+ in alternative operating modes have also been added.
The clean channel of the Soldano X-88 is not really high-gain, but its inclusion does mean that all of this amp’s channels are now modelled in the Axe-Fx II.
A new home-brew FAS Hot Rod amp shows what Cliff Chase’s personal interpretation of a modified Marshall is like. You have to try this one!
TIME TO LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG
Let’s stay with amps for a while. Those readers who can’t wait to find out why what was already so good has become even better yet again are about to be satisfied.
Cliff Chase is a stickler for authenticity. At Fractal Audio every other parameter has to serve this one goal. In the past there have already been quite a few situations where a perfectly good-sounding algorithm was scrapped in favour of one that sounded more like the original because a more accurate method was developed. And in concrete terms one of these new methods is the ever-increasing replacement of theoretical mathematical models with actual physical measurements at specific points within the circuit. Two milestones in this development were the introduction of MIMIC and the ground-breaking G3 modelling.
Quantum 2.0 takes this concept of modelling based on real measurements rather than purely theoretical values to the next level; for the first time the complex interactions between individual components can be accurately modelled. For example, the plate current formulas are now so accurate that distortion has become smoother and thicker, with better dynamic response. New algorithms for power supply modelling improve sag and feel. The PWR DYN page of the Amp block now allows the user to monitor how much the virtual power supply voltage (B+) sinks, providing an indication of what effect certain parameter changes are likely to have.
The cathode-follower, triode saturation and triode grid conduction models have all been improved.
Algorithms for Class A type amps, as well as the various jumpered Plexi models have also received special attention. The result is a more realistic, slightly smoother distortion with accurate harmonic overtones, transparent treble and more bite. Tones on the point of break-up sound better and high-gain tones profit from a tighter bass response.
Playing feel and reaction to picking dynamics have been further improved. Test it turned up LOUD!
This time it is vital to reset your amp models. Not only the basic modelling methods have been modified, but also many of the actual amp models have been reworked. Therefore in every preset briefly select a different amp model before reselecting your amp of choice. This will reset some of the more important basic and advanced settings to their default values. Failure to do so might cause the reworked amps to sound strange.
Some of the existing 4x12 cabinet simulations have been replaced with improved models from one of the Cab Packs. On top of this the filter slope for the low and high cut filters can now be adjusted.
Those for whom the 180 included loudspeaker simulations do not provide enough options can easily stock up with fresh IRs from Fractal Audio or various other sources. At this point we would like to refer you to the brand new cabir.eu website, which offers exquisite cabinet simulations. The site is managed by an Axe-Fx user, Markus, who we have already published an article about and who also runs the German-speaking forum, axe-fx.de.
There is a whole bunch of new effects types to announce this time around.
The new “FAS Boost” pedal is an almost clean boost ideal for pushing vintage amps such as Plexis.
In total we are now looking at 34 different drive pedals. (Wow, who has 34 different drives on their pedal board?)
And then there are four new delay types.
Which brings us up to 18 delay models, not including the ten different multi-delays…
The CPU usage of the Phaser block has been reduced.
General CPU usage has also been improved.
When you consider all the fantastic things the Axe-Fx II can do, it remains surprisingly easy to use. Nevertheless, small improvements to its usability are regularly introduced.
The Output Level and FX-Loop user interfaces now show the active scene and allow direct scene selection via Quick Control knob ‘A’. This makes it much easier to set the output level per scene.
The Layout page now shows whether the selected block is set to X or Y (assuming the block supports X/Y). This is yet another small, but significant improvement that makes everyday life with the Axe-Fx II even more enjoyable.
THE LAST WORD
A total of 22 small bugs have been ironed out since we last reported on a firmware update. These are such things as incorrectly set standard parameters or noise when switching between certain amp combinations. More than enough good reasons for an update, then. However, please do not do it right before your next gig, but rather allow yourself some time to adjust your sounds to make the most of the new algorithms.
This update is free, as always, and can be downloaded here. And while you are at it, don’t forget to download the latest version of Axe-Edit (here), which works perfectly with all the intricacies of Quantum 2.0.