Fractal AX8

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nick79nick79 Frets: 163
I was set on getting a Helix LT, but kind of had a curveball in that i've been looking at the AX8. I know nothing really about Fractal stuff, anyone here got one/had one and can chip in with you think? 
Would be using it along with some kind of FRFR speaker and through a pa, and also at times as a pedalboard through my tube amp. 
Cheers!
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  • simonksimonk Frets: 1282
    I had both a Helix and and AX8 at the same time, and kept the Helix. I preferred the sound of the Helix and usability wise the Helix is streets ahead.
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  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 2298
    I’ve been gigging with an ax8 since they were released.   Sounds fantastic and if you use the editing software it’s very easy to set up.   
    Is there anything specific you want to know?
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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2125
    Two different opinions, which is exactly what you get from owners of the respective units.  I’ve had a Helix for 3 years and love it, but I’m sure the Axe is more than capable too
    theres plenty of evidence around that they both sound great
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  • exocetexocet Frets: 667
    edited March 15
    nick79 said:
    I was set on getting a Helix LT, but kind of had a curveball in that i've been looking at the AX8. I know nothing really about Fractal stuff, anyone here got one/had one and can chip in with you think? 
    Would be using it along with some kind of FRFR speaker and through a pa, and also at times as a pedalboard through my tube amp. 
    Cheers!
    I've owned all 3 (FX8, AX8 and Helix). Now I only have the Fractal units...picked up an AX8 this week.

    It's really down to personal preference.

    The Helix didn't work for me, I didn't recognise the sounds that it produced as a complete modeller (FRFR) or as a straight up MFX unit, it felt like a waste of money to me and I sent it back quickly for  refund.

    The FX8 produced more "natural tones" out of the box to my ears anyway. I like the FX 8/AX8 construction / layout but the UI is very poor compared to the Helix which is a dream to work with.

    I bought the AX8 to give modelling another chance. Plugged it in to a DXR 12 monitor and was able to get useable tones very quickly.

    You really need to try these things out for yourself, everyone has different tastes / willingness to tweak settings etc.
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  • kjdowdkjdowd Frets: 636
    I prefer the fractal sounds to helix, but helix feature set and on box UI better. Axe edit is good tho. I still think my best live sound was with the Ax8 (this is vs both helix and tube amp with pedals) but I’m guessing only I really noticed the difference...
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  • GadgetGadget Frets: 649
    I've not used one personally, but I have a friend in a pro touring band and he uses one live.
    I think, therefore.... I... ummmm........
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  • nick79nick79 Frets: 163
    Cheers guys. From watching demo's on youtube i seem to prefer the AX8 amp modelling, but i'm also aware that i might think differently if i tried them out and heard them myself. I think a big plus point for the Fractal is that its got amps that really float my boat, such as the Diezel, Mesa 2c+ and such like. 
    But i like the UI with the Helix.....
    How easy it to program the AX8 without hooking it up to a PC? Easy enough to knock up a patch whilst in a rehearsal room for instance? 
    I could try a Helix fairly easily in a shop, but i've no idea where i could try an AX8. Seems theres only one supplier for the whole of Europe? 
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  • exocetexocet Frets: 667
    edited March 14
    nick79 said:
    Cheers guys. From watching demo's on youtube i seem to prefer the AX8 amp modelling, but i'm also aware that i might think differently if i tried them out and heard them myself. I think a big plus point for the Fractal is that its got amps that really float my boat, such as the Diezel, Mesa 2c+ and such like. 
    But i like the UI with the Helix.....
    How easy it to program the AX8 without hooking it up to a PC? Easy enough to knock up a patch whilst in a rehearsal room for instance? 
    I could try a Helix fairly easily in a shop, but i've no idea where i could try an AX8. Seems theres only one supplier for the whole of Europe? 
    Programming the AX8 via the UI can be done but it's a steep learning curve. The editor program is very good.
    That said, once you have your presets in place, on the fly tweaking can be simple because you have dedicated manual knobs for gain, TMB, master volume etc that are easy to use so making adjustments is easy during a gig situation.
    You are correct that there is currently only one EU distributor (G66), they are a pleasure to deal with and do offer a 30 day trial. Not sure if / when Brexit will change that because they are based in Germany. 
    Think carefully about your requirements. Do you need modelling? If not the FX8 or Helix Fx could be an option. To me, modelling means investing in more kit, FRFR active speakers or a separate  power amp with speaker cab of choice. Right now, I'm simply looking for flexibility, I play in a band with a PA so will use that and a DXR10 onstage monitor. However, I'm not about to sell my amps.
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  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 2298
    I’d agree with that.   I regularly alter my patches at gigs and rehearsals.   Editing a sounds is pretty easy to do just a bit laborious compared to using the pc.    
    I wouldn’t choose to make a complicated preset using scene controllers and complicated routing using the onboard screen but it can be done.   
    There is also a way to use an iPad with a 3rd party app called fracpad but I haven’t felt the need to try it yet.   
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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2125
    nick79 said:
    Cheers guys. From watching demo's on youtube i seem to prefer the AX8 amp modelling, but i'm also aware that i might think differently if i tried them out and heard them myself. I think a big plus point for the Fractal is that its got amps that really float my boat, such as the Diezel, Mesa 2c+ and such like. 
    But i like the UI with the Helix.....
    How easy it to program the AX8 without hooking it up to a PC? Easy enough to knock up a patch whilst in a rehearsal room for instance? 
    I could try a Helix fairly easily in a shop, but i've no idea where i could try an AX8. Seems theres only one supplier for the whole of Europe? 
    Thing is, there are a load more Helix users out there so a loud more online clips on YouTube.  That means there are a load more bad ones, so I wouldn’t pay much attention to those, 
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  • BeexterBeexter Frets: 308
    I bought an AX8 brand new a couple of years ago and it was a leap of faith as I couldn't try it first due to the supplier situation you've mentioned. I'd listened to countless YouTube videos and comparisons with Helix and always preferred the sounds of the AX8 so stumped up the cash. It's the most I've ever spent on a single piece of music gear but
    I'm really glad I did as it sounds brilliant.
    It is much easier to set up patches using Ax8 Edit on a pc but it can be done on the unit itself,  it's just nowhere near as easy as the Helix interface (I've got an HX FX) but then what is?
    Once you have a patch set up though, it's as easy to tweak as regular pedals in my opinion. The "amp" controls are always accessible too as they are all specific rotary controls .
    The great thing is that you can do really deep editing if you want to, or , keep it simple and just twiddle stuff that you would on a regular amp and pedals. Fabulous bit of kit.
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  • nick79nick79 Frets: 163
    That's true John. To be honest i'm taking those demo's with a pinch of salt, i know that things may well sound differently 'in person'.
    I definitely want to go down the modelling route, i've a lovely non master volume amp and 4x12 cab that i love, but its not really practical  for home use late at night, and its a pain in the arse to drag to band practise every week. So i thought get a modeller, an FRFR such as the Headrush 112 or similar and use that at home (or with headphones), band practise and the odd gig where a 4x12 isn't practical. 
    I don't mind spending a bit more for the Fractal if its worth it to me, i think i'm going to have find a way to try them both, or if not just pick one and see how i get on. 
    Thanks for all the insights, you've been very helpful :)
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  • BeexterBeexter Frets: 308
    @nick79 one thing to note after reading your last post is there is no headphone out on the AX8....
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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 947
    Beexter said:
    @nick79 one thing to note after reading your last post is there is no headphone out on the AX8....
    The main outputs will drive headphones pretty easily, just needs a Y cable.
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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2125
    Yes, plenty of ways to use headphones, that’s not a showstopper.  I’m totally happy with Helix, but sure if I’d gone ax8 then I’d love that too, and do like the smaller format.

    i would say ‘trying both’ should be done over an extended period, it’ll tanke a week or two to get the best out of either
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  • gearaddictgearaddict Frets: 765
    With the AX8 - how easy is it to get a usable good-sounding patch? Do you have to have eq blocks to get it sounding good or is it as simple as dropping an amp and cab in the chain and adding pedals to taste?
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  • exocetexocet Frets: 667
    edited March 14
    With the AX8 - how easy is it to get a usable good-sounding patch? Do you have to have eq blocks to get it sounding good or is it as simple as dropping an amp and cab in the chain and adding pedals to taste?
    Depends upon your tastes. Personally, the simple Amp, Cab + Pedal works for me but strictly speaking, all of these are “EQ” blocks in some form of other.

    All I can say is that in my experience I was able to achieve more natural sounding drive tones from both FX8 (in front of a real amp) and AX8 with Amp block + Cab modelling (FRFR) than I was with the equivalent options with Helix. 

    But it it still goes back to personal preference and what works for you. Some may completely lose the plot trying to configure an FX or AX8.
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  • StuartMac290StuartMac290 Frets: 768
    I have both an FX8 and an AX8, and have compared them both directly with several Helixes that bands have brought to my studio. Sound-wise there's honestly no comparison, the Fractals blow the Helix out the water, to the point a Helix has yet to actually make it onto a record made here.

    Yeah, the interface is easier to use, but so what? Is that really the point?
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  • I have both an FX8 and an AX8, and have compared them both directly with several Helixes that bands have brought to my studio. Sound-wise there's honestly no comparison, the Fractals blow the Helix out the water, to the point a Helix has yet to actually make it onto a record made here.

    Yeah, the interface is easier to use, but so what? Is that really the point?
    Are you referring to the amp sims or the effects. Or both?

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  • thomasw88thomasw88 Frets: 906
    I had the FX8 and have HX.  Not really interested in amp modelling as I like amps.  

    The FX8  sounded absolutely brilliant in the house, but live/rehersal I was constantly tweaking it.
    The intereface is not the most intuitive. 
     The HX sounds are in the main just as good, and I  prefer the drives on the HX .  I use it with one of my bands happily.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 20716
    I have both an FX8 and an AX8, and have compared them both directly with several Helixes that bands have brought to my studio. Sound-wise there's honestly no comparison, the Fractals blow the Helix out the water, to the point a Helix has yet to actually make it onto a record made here.

    Yeah, the interface is easier to use, but so what? Is that really the point?
    Are you referring to the amp sims or the effects. Or both?
    My take on it- I have the Helix, FX8, Axe FX II and a Kemper.
    The best amp sounds are the Kemper and the Axe FX II.
    The FX8 sounds incredible going into an amp but has no modelling.
    It works better than the AX8 if you want to use 4 cable method with a real amp.

    The AX8 sounds the same as the Axe FX II, it has one DSP rather than two, so you don't get as many blocks.

    I like the Helix because it is self contained with the built in expression pedal, has some nice amp models (Placater in particular) but it doesn't hang with the Fractals for lower gain sounds or time based effects IMO.

    I bought the Helix to use whilst my studio shipment was being moved from the UK to Singapore and it did what I wanted well at the time but it is time to move on.
    I'm in the process of selling the Helix and Axe FX II to go to the Axe FX III, which should tell you something.

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  • simonksimonk Frets: 1282
    This is why, if you’re undecided which way to go, you need to try both really. That’s what I did... ran Helix and an AX8 side by side for six months and picked which I preferred overall. Yep, I lost money on the AX8 when I moved it on but it’s a process I’m glad I went through as I’m not constantly wondering if the grass is greener over in Fractal land.
    The bottom line is both units are capable of sounding stellar so there are no bad choices to be made here really. 

    FWIW I thought the FX8/AX8 drives and delays were the weakest points. Others may love them though, and that’s the beauty of choice.
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  • StuartMac290StuartMac290 Frets: 768
    I have both an FX8 and an AX8, and have compared them both directly with several Helixes that bands have brought to my studio. Sound-wise there's honestly no comparison, the Fractals blow the Helix out the water, to the point a Helix has yet to actually make it onto a record made here.

    Yeah, the interface is easier to use, but so what? Is that really the point?
    Are you referring to the amp sims or the effects. Or both?
    Both. The FX8 doesn't have any amp sims, but used in front of an amp it sounds notably better than the Helix. In a great room with a great mic into a Neve preamp, it was just a far more convincing sound generally.

    The reverbs and delays in the FX8 made me sell my Strymons. It's a mystery to me why the FX8 is so cheap used!
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  • I had a Fractal Axe FX II XL (same engine as the AX8 by all accounts) for a year before selling it to get a Axe FX III and got fed up of the wait so bought a Kemper. Before buying the Axe FX, the closest I could get to trying one was to spend a hefty amount of time playing on a Helix, it's digital, so made sense to see if I liked that before making the switch.

    The Helix was great. UI was great. Sounded good and I could get 85% of the way there, to the tones I liked.

    I bought the Axe FX II and it changed the game, sounded incredible.

    I had to use the PC editor because dialling in the Axe FX from the panel was an absolute ball ache. Something they've kind of improved on the III.

    The Kemper seemed to sound better, to my ears. That's subjective and controversial, but that's my opinion.

    I briefly had an Axe FX III, because GAS, and hated it. The sound wasn't what I expected.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 20716
    I have both an FX8 and an AX8, and have compared them both directly with several Helixes that bands have brought to my studio. Sound-wise there's honestly no comparison, the Fractals blow the Helix out the water, to the point a Helix has yet to actually make it onto a record made here.

    Yeah, the interface is easier to use, but so what? Is that really the point?
    Are you referring to the amp sims or the effects. Or both?
    Both. The FX8 doesn't have any amp sims, but used in front of an amp it sounds notably better than the Helix. In a great room with a great mic into a Neve preamp, it was just a far more convincing sound generally.

    The reverbs and delays in the FX8 made me sell my Strymons. It's a mystery to me why the FX8 is so cheap used!
    It is too complicated for most people I think.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • WazmeisterWazmeister Frets: 4571
    edited March 15
    Having owned AX8, FX8, All the Helix and Kemper, my thoughts echo StuMac...

    Kemper is the best amp sounding of the lot.

    Reverbs and delays are stunning on the FX8. The FX8 also has instant unity volume - a remarkably under valued feature.... the looper is the best I’ve used.

    The a Helix has the best and most creative UI; by far. The convinience and create options really help it...But sound wise, for my ears and for non obvious generic rock sounds, the Helix is no where near the FX8.

    If i has to buy again, I’d use the FX8 into my real amps. 


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  • StuartMac290StuartMac290 Frets: 768
    The Kemper does have better amp sims than the Fractals - not by a huge amount, but they are a little better.

    The effects on the Fractal are miles better though, and since I never use modellers for recording, the Kemper holds no appeal for me.

    I do love the AX8 live though, it's such a hassle-free set up.
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  • Jonathanthomas83Jonathanthomas83 Frets: 2101
    edited March 15
    I disagree that the Fractal effects are "miles better" than Kemper. I find them superb. Recently acquired a Big Sky and have been back and forth with that and the new Kemper reverbs and the Kemper sounds more natural to my ears. 

    I often struggled to get what I wanted out of the Fractal reverbs, as good as they were, and I really think they are great. Delays are superb, but again, Kemper delays have served me equally as well, if not better...but that could be because I'm a better programmer now. Chorus ...prefer Fractal. Phaser...prefer Kemper. Flanger...prefer Kemper. Wah...prefer Kemper. Pitch...Kemper all day long. Compressor...again, can't tell because I programme better these days, but Fractal were good.

    Anyway, this is way off topic, apologies.
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  • John_AJohn_A Frets: 2125
    John_A said:
    Two different opinions, which is exactly what you get from owners of the respective units.  I’ve had a Helix for 3 years and love it, but I’m sure the Axe is more than capable too
    theres plenty of evidence around that they both sound great
    That'll be 20 different opinions, Helix is best, Axe is best, Kemper is best and if you hang around long enough there'll be Amplifire is best too.

    IMO they are all so good, if you cant get a great sound out of them buying another brand wont help
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  • exocetexocet Frets: 667
    John_A said:
    John_A said:
    Two different opinions, which is exactly what you get from owners of the respective units.  I’ve had a Helix for 3 years and love it, but I’m sure the Axe is more than capable too
    theres plenty of evidence around that they both sound great
    That'll be 20 different opinions, Helix is best, Axe is best, Kemper is best and if you hang around long enough there'll be Amplifire is best too.

    IMO they are all so good, if you cant get a great sound out of them buying another brand wont help
    Exactly - there's no best / worst - it's just what works for you and your circumstances. What I will say is that going from standard amp / standard pedals to either modelling or even just MFX unit in front of standard amp - it takes time to establish a familiarity with the kit irrespective of which manufacturer. Be prepared to invest time and more than likely more cash (in the case of FRFR) in order to meet your tonal expectations. 
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