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Amp modeling progress

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About amp modeling

Overview of Fractal Audio's advancing amp modeling, starting with the Axe-Fx II, based on the firmware release notes and quotes.

"The hardest part of modeling an amp is getting the various controls to match the actual amp. If you don't care if the tone, drive, etc. controls behave the same it's much easier as we have software that learns the input EQ, output EQ and gain. The problem is then people go "the model doesn't sound the same as my amp if I turn the drive all the way up and bass all the way down". So to accurately model the control behavior we need a schematic and the actual amp (as the schematics often don't indicate the pot tapers). Truth is amps are more similar than people think. You can make almost any high gain amp sound like any other high gain amp with a few EQ tweaks which is basically what the designers do. For example a Bogner is basically a boosted Marshall with a different treble pot taper. Another popular new amp is basically just a JTM45 clone with a couple minor changes. In fact the schematic I got from the designer was a JTM45 schematic with markups. The scary thing I've learned is that a lot of these amp "designers" don't really even understand what they are doing. They don't have degrees in engineering and lack even basic circuit theory. They take existing designs and tinker with them changing circuit values. The basic topology of the amps are unchanged. So many of these new amps are nothing more than clones of old designs with some minor changes. Things you can do in the Axe-Fx with all the EQ options available. There are only a handful of guys that really understand circuit theory and know what they're doing: Alan Phillips from Carol-Ann, Stevie Fryette, John Suhr, and several others. The vast majority are glorified technicians that are just making clones of existing designs with minor modifications. A good example is the Marshall 18W. There are numerous clones and amps inspired by this design. The problem is that the original design is flawed. You can make that amp sound much better with some minor changes to the phase inverter (or grid stoppers) but none of these amps do that. They all use the same PI design which overdrives the snot out of the power tubes making the amp shift into Class-B operation resulting in fizz and crackling on the decay." source
"The biggest source of inaccuracy in our modeling is the fact that the speaker impedance is unknown. For each model we assume an impedance based on the speaker that is likely to be used with the amp. Even then impedance will vary from speaker-to-speaker. The difference between the assumed impedance and the actual impedance is small but audible. Tone Matching will correct this error. The amp controls will still behave the same and match up with the actual amp well." source

MIMIC

Multi-Point Iterative Matching and Impedance Correction (MIMIC) is a technology that identifies deviations in the response of the simulated amplifier to the actual amplifier and generates corrective data bringing a level of accuracy that has been heretofore unachievable. MIMIC was introduced in firmware 10.

MIMIC whitepaper (PDF)

If Power Amp Modeling is off, the pertinent aspects of MIMIC are defeated. source

"The whole impetus for V10 was actually due to the Rectos. I hooked up my Dual Recto one day and was A/B'ing to the Axe-Fx. The real amp had this fizz and sizzle on the notes whereas the Axe-Fx did not. If you play a single note you can hear a crackling noise on the decay, almost like frying bacon or something. The Axe-Fx was more of a smooth fuzz on the decay. Outside of a mix context that sizzle can be a bit annoying but in a mix it cuts like mad. Anyways I sat there wondering why the Axe-Fx lacked this sizzle. No amount of tone matching would recreate it. So I wrote a statistical analysis module (it's hidden in the TM block btw) that allowed me to compare the distortion profile of the real amp to the model (there's a hidden switch that gathers statistics along with tone match data). I was a bit shocked at the results. The real amp had a much harder clipping profile than the model. So I tested a bunch more amps and found the same thing. Then I decided that the best thing would be to simply compare the statistics and then have a feedback loop that adjusts the parameters until the statistics match. This, along with the other stuff in the whitepaper, was the foundation of MIMIC."
"I wrote a statistical analysis module (it's hidden in the TM block btw) that allowed me to compare the distortion profile of the real amp to the model (there's a hidden switch that gathers statistics along with tone match data). I was a bit shocked at the results. The real amp had a much harder clipping profile than the model. So I tested a bunch more amps and found the same thing. Then I decided that the best thing would be to simply compare the statistics and then have a feedback loop that adjusts the parameters until the statistics match. This, along with the other stuff in the whitepaper, was the foundation of MIMIC."
"MIMIC is distortion profile and frequency response matching. Hidden in the debug version of the firmware are special test tones and analysis modules that allow me to compare the real amp to the model." source

Firmware 4 and earlier

Amp modeling in the Axe-Fx II was originally called G2 and Virtual Vaccuum Modeling modeling (see Fractal Audio website). Part of it was ported back to Standard/Ultra firmware 11.

"As you listen to clips from modelers what you start to recognize is a certain "stationary" aspect to the tone compared to the every-changing tonality of a tube amp. Another thing is finger response. With a good tube amp you can vary the tone quite a bit just by how you fret the note and attack it. Modelers tend to make every note sound the same. So I tested some hypotheses and came to the conclusion that it's because a real vacuum tube has a transfer function that is not static. The transfer function is dependent on time, frequency and amplitude. Where you really hear it is in the in-between regions where the tube is just starting to distort. At first I tried some dynamic transfer functions but that was a lesson in futility. So then I created the VVT stuff. In VVT there is an actual vacuum-tube replica in software. You enter the values of the resistors and capacitors on the grid, cathode, etc. and it behaves just like a tube complete with Miller effect, cathode memory, etc. The problem is that it requires an obscene amount of horsepower so the only solution was a dedicated DSP. The other big part of the G2 sound is the output transformer modeling. The OT distorts and as it distorts its inductance decreases which changes the bandwidth and loop characteristics." source

Firmware 5

"The new firmware (V5) is all about dynamics. The power amp modeling was totally rewritten. If you listen to those early VH albums you can hear the amps knock and ring when he hits them hard. Lots of work went into discovering why that happens and replicating it. It's due to several factors: the power supply sagging, the bias point shifting as the supply sags, the screens ringing and power compression in the speakers." source
"Much improved grid modeling in Amp block preamp and power amp stages. New modeling very accurately replicates grid conduction and resulting bias excursion. This results in a more dynamic, thicker and bouncier tone. The power tube grid conduction parameters are exposed to the user in the GUI. The Bias Excursion parameter controls how much the grid voltage droops when the grids conduct. The Excursion Time and Recovery Time parameters control the time constants associated with the excursion."
"Added dynamics processing to Amp block. A new tab, “DYN”, in the amp block, allows adjusting various parameters of the dynamics processor along with several other parameters related to amp dynamics. The Dynamics parameter controls the amount of dynamics processing and models the interaction between the power amp, power supply and loudspeaker under high power-level conditions. The Dynamics Time parameter (ADV tab) controls the time constant of the associated processing."

Firmware 6

  • Reworked power amp modeling based on new research. The power amp modeling has been totally rewritten based on “amp matching” studies. This includes improved output transformer saturation modeling.
  • Most amp models have been matched to their respective physical amps. Exceptions are those models which don’t have a physical counterpart, i.e. FAS MODERN, etc. The matching data is integral to the amp block and is transparent to the user. This has increased the size of the firmware slightly and also uses the master DSP for part of the calculations which increases the CPU load associated with the amp block slightly.
"Almost everything has been reworked. Almost all the "real" amps are "matched" to the actual amp. This involved much more than just Tone Matching. It also included gain matching, harmonic content matching, tone-stack matching, etc." source

Firmware 7

  • The dynamics processing of the amp block was totally rewritten for this release. A complex set of formulas was developed that completely describe the various voltages in a tube amp. Unlike other modelers that simply model an amps dynamics as a first-order compressor, the Axe-Fx II now accurately models the complex interaction of the power tubes with the surrounding circuitry including the power supply and screen voltage network. You may notice a difference in the feel of the various amp models. Please refer to the descriptions below to understand the operation of the various controls. Doing so will enable you to adjust the dynamics to your personal preferences.
  • Improved preamp modeling. Harmonics now move more with input level which results in a more open and less congested tone.

Firmware 8

  • Improved phase inverter modeling provides “juicier” tone when PI is driven hard (MSTR set high).
  • Doubled resolution of internal amp matching data.
  • Added input matching data to many amp models. While this may not be audible in many cases, especially for higher gain amps, it does affect the feel.

Firmware 9

  • New power amp modeling with improved dynamic response. This new modeling features improved transformer/plate interaction modeling resulting in better feel and a punchier response. The Supply Sag parameter is more responsive as a result. Additionally, crossover and transformer hysteresis distortion modeling is improved resulting in more overtones when playing softly. This improves controlled feedback performance and yields a more aggressive tone at lower Power Tube Bias settings. Note that Version 9.xx is slightly quieter so don’t be swayed by Fletcher-Munson effects when evaluating differences.
  • Greatly improved cathode follower modeling. The cathode follower modeling now varies the amount of distortion in addition to compression. This results in a more dynamic attack, improved feel and more “punch” and “thunk” (since this also creates low frequency energy into the power amp). The amount of cathode follower affect is controlled, as always, by the COMP parameter in the Amp block. Note that the higher the COMP value, the more effective distortion on sustained notes. Therefore as you increase COMP, you may want to decrease Drive. Also note that excessive values can result in pumping or blocking distortion. Note that the “cathode follower effect” occurs even in common cathode stages as well so even amps that don’t have cathode followers may exhibit some cathode follower-like effect.

Firmware 10

  • Implemented “Multi-point Iterative Matching and Impedance Correction” technology (MIMICTM P.A.F.) to amp models. MIMIC applies analytic signals to an amplifier and captures the fine nuances of each amp at various points in the circuit and corrects each model vs. its theoretical implementation. In some cases the difference can be substantial, in other cases the difference is minimal. This depends on the layout of the amp and the various parasitics involved. MIMIC has the advantage of applying these corrections at the appropriate location in the amp model rather than as just an output EQ so that the various controls of the model behave virtually identically to the actual. For example, the Modern modes of a Dual Rectifier are highly sensitive to Master Volume with the tone becoming thicker as the MV is increased. MIMIC preserves this behavior rather than just getting louder as the Master Volume is increased. The equalization correction portion of MIMIC processing can be turned off in the Advanced menu tab of the Amp block, if desired. Note that the nonlinear correction and other aspects of MIMIC are integral to a model and cannot be turned off. In many cases the equalization correction can be subtle and many not be immediately audible when switched on or off.
  • Updated numerous amp model details in light of MIMIC's identification of deviations between the models and actual amps.
  • Tweaked power amp modeling slightly to increase even-order harmonics. This makes most models “sweeter”.
  • Improved triode modeling removes “glare” from distortion yielding greater clarity and string separation.
  • Improved power tube modeling gives more punch and pop, especially to tones that rely on power amp distortion. Additionally this provides a more dynamic response, better touch sensitivity and improved pick attack.
"The models are statistically matched to the amps in both frequency response and distortion profile. In some cases this gives a certain sizzle. Some may not like this but it is accurate."
"The amp modeling in V10 is very similar to V9. There are only a few changes to the algorithms. The big difference between V9 and V10 is the inclusion of the MIMIC data and many of the cabs were remixed. Of those two the remixed cabs will be far more audible. So to get that V9 sound the most important thing is to go to the cab block and select the equivalent V9 cab(s). These are indicated by "(V9)" in the name. For example, if you preset is using "1x12 Brit G12H30" it has a remixed cab. Therefore change the cab to "1x12 Brit G12H30 (V9)". source

Firmware 11

  • Improved pre-amp algorithms.
  • Improved cathode follower algorithm. There are three parameters exposed for the cathode follower algorithm: Cathode Comp (which is also the COMP knob), Cathode Time and Cathode Ratio. Cathode Comp sets the amount of compression. Cathode Time sets the attack time of the compressor. Cathode Ratio sets the maximum amount of compression with lower values giving more compression.
  • Improved power amp algorithms. New algorithms yields smoother highs and more open sound.
  • Exposed “MV Cap” parameter in Amp block. This parameter sets the value of the bright cap across the Master Volume pot and is located in the Advanced menu.

Firmware 12

  • Improved Amp block power supply current draw modeling which improves “feel”.
  • Improved Amp block phase-inverter-to-power-tube-grid interaction modeling which improves transient response resulting in faster attack. This also improves the clarity of notes especially when using heavily overdriven power amp settings.
  • The Amp block “Grid Modeling” parameter has been renamed and repurposed. The new name is “Modeling Mode” and offers the following choices:
    • Authentic – Replicates a tube amplifier with the utmost accuracy.
    • Grid Cond Off – Turns off grid conduction modeling in the power amp modeling. This reduces blocking distortion.
    • Smooth – Sets Triode Hardness to the minimum value essentially creating an ideal preamp and turns off grid conduction modeling in the power amp. This removes most of the “nasty” distortion that tube amps create.
    • Ideal – Removes most of the “warts” from the modeling which includes grid conduction, output transformer distortion, bias shifting and AC power supply modeling. Supply sag, screen voltage effects and crossover distortion are still modeled.
    • Ideal/Smooth – Same as #3 but also sets Triode Hardness to its lowest value. This is in essence an ideal preamp plus an ideal power amp.
  • The audibility of these settings is dependent upon the particular amp model and various parameters. The use of these modes in conjunction with other parameters can yield idealized tones not achievable with real tube amps. The first two choices duplicate the previous behavior of the deprecated “Grid Modeling” parameter so no changes are required to existing presets. Note that when “Ideal” is chosen the global Modeling Version parameter is irrelevant.
  • Greatly improved “cathode squish modeling” for cathode biased power amp models. This improves the feel for affected amp types, i.e. Class-A, Mr Z, etc. Two new parameters have been added which allow the user to alter the pertinent variables: Cathode Squish and Squish Time. Cathode Squish sets the amount of bias shift due to cathode voltage rise and Squish Time sets the time constant of the cathode network. These parameters are set to default values upon selection of an amp type. Setting Cathode Squish to zero defeats the cathode squish modeling.
  • Preamp modeling now uses screen voltage from power amp in calculations rather than operating independently. This improves feel as preamp voltage will drop with power amp sag. The effect is more noticeable as Supply Sag is increased. Note that preamp sag has a long time constant and, as such, the initial pick attack is relatively unaffected while sustained sounds undergo compression. This results in a “chewier” sensation.
  • Improved single-ended power amp modeling.
"The harder the virtual power amp is driven the more noticeable the improved preamp modeling will be. Before I was treating the models as separate preamps and power amps as though you were using a rack system with a preamp unit and a power amp. I did some tests and noticed that there is quite a bit of interaction between the power amp and preamp in an integrated amp (combo or head). So now the modeling feeds the power supply voltage from the power amp algorithm back into the preamp algorithm. As the B+ sags (and the screens droop and bounce) the preamp is affected as it will in a real amp. What happens is that as you hold a note or chord the B+ sags. The preamp voltage sags as well but at a slower rate due to all the extra capacitance and resistance between the screen voltage and the preamp tubes. Eventually the preamp voltages sag enough to compress 10-20% depending on the amp. This is a couple dB or so of compression. It's a slow compression though so your pick attack is unaffected. I don't think I hear much, if any, difference but the feel is definitely different. It feels a lot easier to play like I don't need to press on the strings as hard. I imagine the low end will be affected as the compression will cause less drive into the power amp and therefore less saturation at the resonance of the speaker."

Firmware 13

  • Improved power amp modeling via improved modeling of the plate impedance of the power tubes. This gives tighter bass (less flub) and warmer highs when the virtual power amp is heavily driven (higher Master Volume settings). This also improves the feel and dramatically increases the “3-dimensionality” of the tone. The plate characteristics are adjustable via the new Dynamic Damping parameter. This parameter defaults to the appropriate value when an amp model or power tube type is selected.
  • Added selectable power tube types for Amp block. Available types are: EL34, EL84, 6L6, 6V6, KT66, KT88, 6550, 6973, 6AQ5 and 300B (triode). Also available are an ideal tetrode and ideal pentode. The power tube type defaults to the appropriate type when the amp type is selected but may be overridden by the user. The power tube type presets the Dynamic Damping parameter as well as several internal parameters.
  • Added Preamp Sag parameter to Advanced menu in Amp block. This parameter allows turning the preamp sag modeling on or off. Turning it off replicates the behavior of separate preamp and power amp. Turning it on replicates the behavior of an integrated tube head or combo amp.

Firmware 14

  • Improved Amp block triode model. New model more accurately replicates behavior when triode enters saturation. This results in a warmer and punchier tone with smoother distortion characteristics.
  • Improved tone stack accuracy at extreme knob settings (i.e. when Treble is near maximum) by accounting for impedance loading. In most cases this is barely audible but for certain tone stacks that are heavily loaded there may be a small change in tone, especially as the tone controls are set near their minimum or maximum values.
  • Improved power tube grid conduction modeling. This more accurate modeling improves dynamic response resulting in a more powerful tone and feel. This also improves post-PI Master Volume behavior.
  • Removed “Dynamics” control from Amp block. This control is no longer deemed necessary due to the improvements in the underlying modeling.
  • Renamed Amp block “Comp” knob “CF Comp” since this knob controls the amount of compression in the Cathode Follower (CF) modeling.
  • Improved Amp block power amp dynamic impedance modeling.
  • Improved Amp block X/Y switching time for presets with high CPU usage.
  • Improved Amp block power amp dynamic impedance modeling.

Firmware 15

  • The amp modeling improvements have resulted in a significantly increased “sweet spot” for the Master Volume control. Previous advice to keep the Master Volume low for high-gain amp types no longer applies and, in fact, increasing the Master Volume can result in better tone (more bloom and swirl) and much better feel (due to power supply sag). Therefore most non-MV amps now default to a higher value than previously. This may result in louder preset volume which will necessitate reducing the Output Level to compensate.
  • Improved Amp block virtual power amp algorithm. The new algorithm improves realism and offers much more “punch” and a “crunchier” tone when overdriven.
  • Improved cathode bias modeling. This improves so-called “Class A” amps (e.g. Mr Z Maz 38, AC-20 Dlx, etc.).
  • Improved Amp block output transformer modeling by improving the accuracy of the flux density vs intensity curve (B-H curve) and resulting primary inductance. Because of this, the default Transformer Drive value for many amp models has been changed. Existing presets will be automatically updated to the new default value upon recall.
  • Improved Amp block feedback network accuracy especially for those amps that have depth networks. This causes the Presence and Depth controls to interact (as they would on a real amp) but yields greater realism.
  • Improved Amp block power supply accuracy. This provides more open, less compressed response. Because of this, the default Supply Sag for many amp models has changed. Existing presets will be automatically updated to the new default value upon recall.
  • Improved Amp block triode modeling. Models now incorporate reactive plate loading effects.
  • Improved Amp block Hi Cut control accuracy.
  • Changed Amp block so that Presence control is set to a default value when an amp model is selected. This is done because many amps, i.e. Double Verb, Deluxe Verb, et. al., have no presence control and the value should be set to zero for best accuracy. On the other hand some amps, i.e. Jr. Blues, 65 Bassman, et. al, have fixed presence networks. The Presence control will default to the appropriate value for these amps. For amps that do have a presence control the Presence parameter will default to a value that is deemed typical for the model.
  • Added Power Amp Bias parameter to Amp block. This parameter can be used to adjust the offset voltage of the virtual power amp (this should not be confused with the Power Tube Bias parameter which sets the quiescent operating current of the virtual power tubes). Power Amp Bias allows the user to vary the symmetry of the clipping of the virtual power amp. A value of zero produces nearly symmetrical clipping which will produce very little even harmonics. Higher values will produce increasingly asymmetrical clipping which increases the amount of even harmonics. Small amounts of even harmonics can make the power amp distortion sound “warmer” and more bell-like while higher amounts will give a “fuzzier” tone. Most amps have some amount of offset and the amp models will default to a typical value. Note that this parameter is only applicable for push-pull power amp types. For single-ended power amps the Power Tube Bias parameter sets the symmetry (as always).
  • Added exact tone stack solutions for all amp models with treble roll-off networks, e.g. PVH 6160, Triptik, Tucana, 5153, etc.
  • Changed Amp block Sat Switch operation. Sat Switch now operates like actual amp. Note that this will cause a reduction in level when the switch is engaged (as in the real amp).
  • Added “Out Comp” (Output Compression) control to Amp block. This parameter controls a compressor specifically tailored to reducing the output dynamic range of the Amp block. Note that this compressor runs in the master DSP and if set to a non-zero value will increase CPU usage. The Out Comp parameter controls the amount of compression (compression ratio). In the Advanced menu the user can also adjust the compression threshold via the “Comp Thrshld” parameter, if desired. The bar graph at the bottom of the menu displays the amount of gain reduction.
  • Removed Amp block Thunk parameter. This processing operation is no longer deemed necessary due to the improved Amp block algorithms.
  • The Amp block Modeling Mode choices have been reduced to “Authentic”, “Smooth”, “Ideal” and “Ideal/Smooth”. In “Smooth” mode Triode Hardness is set to minimum. In Ideal mode grid conduction is defeated. In Ideal/Smooth mode grid conduction is defeated and Triode Hardness is set to minimum.
  • Renamed “Damping” control in Amp block to “Neg Fdbk” (Negative Feedback) as this is a more accurate term.
  • Amp block Sat Switch now has three settings: Off, On (Auth) and On (Ideal). On (Auth) replicates authentic saturation circuit behavior and will lower the volume out of the virtual preamp. On (Ideal) replicates the idealized behavior present in Version 14.xx and earlier firmware.
  • Improved Negative Feedback calculation accuracy by including virtual feedback of phase inverter.
  • Improved Amp block Dynamic Depth algorithm. The new algorithm uses the low- frequency speaker information from the speaker page to set the inverse-homomorphic filters resulting in a more musical control.
  • Improved Amp block cathode follower. New algorithm includes loading on previous triode plate and resulting effect on distortion characteristics.

Firmware 16

  • Improved Amp block cathode follower model. New model includes effects of grid resistance which results in more accurate clipping characteristics.
  • Improved Amp block virtual power tube model. Improved algorithm more accurately models plate current vs. grid voltage yielding a more accurate transfer function which results in more pleasing power amp distortion and improved feel.
  • Improved Amp block virtual power tube interaction with virtual output transformer. This yields improved low-frequency accuracy and feel. Furthermore this improves the output waveform accuracy resulting in much improved interaction with the cabinet block. IRs should now sound fuller and more resonant with more “thunk” and “knock”. The Low Res parameter in the Spkr tab can be used to increase or decrease the amount of knock.
  • Added Power Amp Hardness parameter to Amp block. This parameter controls the hardness of the virtual power tube grid clipping. Models default to “Medium” and any presets created with earlier firmware versions will be set to Medium upon recall.
  • Improved Amp block output transformer modeling. New algorithm more accurately simulates effects of inter-winding capacitance and the resulting load on the virtual power tubes. This results in improved high frequency response. Tones have more “chime” without being harsh. This is especially noticeable for amps with low negative feedback or when the Presence is turned up high.
  • Added Slope parameter to SPKR page in Amp block. This parameter allows fine adjustment of the high-frequency impedance of the virtual voice coil (which affects the slope of the impedance curve). A speaker voice coil is “semi-inductive” due to eddy current losses in the motor. This presents an impedance to the power amp that isn’t fully inductive nor fully resistive. The amount of resistive loss varies by brand and type. Reducing the Slope simulates a speaker that is less inductive, increasing Slope simulates a speaker that is more inductive. Typical speakers range from 3.0 to 4.5 with the median being about 3.7. Lower values yield greater midrange while higher values are more scooped and sizzly.
  • Added “Dynamics” control to amp block. This parameter controls a dynamics processor that can be used to alter the dynamic response of the amp algorithms. When set below zero the amp compresses resulting in a smoother, less dynamic sound. When set greater than zero the amp expands resulting in a punchier, crunchier and more dynamic sound. Note that extreme values can have undesirable side-effects such as pumping and clipping.
  • Added AC voltage control to Amp block. This parameter, called “AC Voltage (Variac)” in the Advanced menu sets the relative AC line voltage into the amp simulation implementing a virtual “Variac”. Note that normally the volume would vary with the Variac setting in a real amp but the simulation compensates for the volume change by applying the inverse. This mitigates having to manually compensate using the Output Level.

Firmware 17

  • Added “DYN EQ” GUI page to Amp block. This page now holds the Dynamic Depth, Dynamic Presence, Character Amount (Char Amt, previously named “Character”) and Character Freq parameters as well as two new parameters: Character Type and Character Q. Character Type selects between a shelving behavior or a peaking behavior. The previous behavior was always shelving. Character Q controls the bandwidth of the response when the peaking behavior is chosen. The Character parameters now control a powerful dynamic equalizer that can be used to achieve tones and feel impossible with a real amplifier. Negative values of the Character Amount along with a peaking behavior result in midrange scoop where the scoop increases as you play harder. Positive values result in a midrange boost as you play harder. Experiment with the frequency, Q and amount to achieve interesting dynamic response.
  • Improved Amp block power supply modeling by accounting for DC sag due to quiescent bias currents.
  • A “Presence Shift” switch has been added to certain “USA” amp models (those based on amps with a “Pull Shift” on the Presence knob). This switch is found under the Presence control and replicates the behavior when the Presence knob is pulled out on these amps. Note that the behavior of this switch is authentic and may result in volume reduction when active since the negative feedback is increased which lowers the loop gain.
  • Improved power amp screen grid and anode voltage dependence calculations. This results in more “open” tone and improved dynamic response especially when the virtual power amp is overdriven. This has necessitated changes to the default Cathode Squish value for the some models. Existing presets will have the Cathode Squish value updated automatically upon recall.
  • Improved power amp cathode squish accuracy by accounting for dependency on bias point.
  • Improved power amp modeling. This results in better touch sensitivity, more explosive dynamics and improved low note clarity when the virtual power amp is driven hard.

Firmware 18 (G3)

  • This firmware incorporates all-new amp modeling algorithms. With this update the Axe-Fx II now incorporates our “Generation 3 (G3) Amp Modeling Technology”. G3 modeling improves upon our previous modeling with better touch sensitivity, better dynamics, better distortion texture (or “grain”) with less fizz, more crunch and improved frequency response accuracy.
  • Added “Preamp Tube Type” parameter to Amp block. “Modern” (default) selects a triode characteristic representative of modern production tubes. “Vintage” selects a characteristic typical of tubes produced in the 50’s and 60’s. “Long Plate” replicates the softer saturation characteristic of so-called “Long Plate” triodes.
  • There are now only two Preamp Tube Type options in the Amp block: Short Plate and Long Plate. The Vintage type has been removed. Short Plate is similar to the previous Modern model but has the improved saturation characteristics that were developed for the Long Plate model.
  • Improved power tube grid conduction modeling. This yields better dynamics and edge-of-breakup tones, particularly when the virtual power amp is being overdriven.
  • Improved Amp block phase inverter model by incorporating effects of power supply sag.
  • Improved Amp block output transformer model by incorporating secondary losses.
  • Improved Amp block power tube transfer functions.
"G3 modeling is a proprietary technique that learns the characteristics of a nonlinear circuit." source
"I have three units here in my lab. One has 17.04 and the other two have 18.00. A/B'ing them it's immediately apparent and as Manny noted the most apparent thing is the punch in the chest aspect. That's exactly what I mentioned about a week or two that I noticed being the biggest difference. You can feel the speakers "jump" for lack of a better term. One caveat, though, is that punch is dependent upon MV. The higher the MV the more punch but too high and things can get stuffy and/or raspy. You have to find the sweet spot and that depends on the other controls as well as your guitar and playing style. The higher the MV, the more the power supply sags and bounces. That power supply sag and bounce is partially what contributes to the punch." source
"You should notice better midrange and treble clarity on certain high gain amp models compared to the beta. I did a lot of critical listening and comparing of the new algorithms over the last few weeks and noticed a tiny bit of "signature" to the sound. I traced that to the triode cutoff formula being too "soft". The new formula removes that signature which also yields increased clarity and string separation for models that rely on preamp distortion." source
"In general the improvements are subtle but there should be improvements in the "bounce" and slightly smoother power amp distortion. I realized I wasn't accounting for the fact that bias excursion is a function of the B+ voltage. I also derived more accurate formulas for the behavior of the various power tubes when they enter saturation. The improved OT modeling results in fewer ultrasonic overtones which, while inaudible on their own do result in more intermodulation "garbage" when playing multiple notes so you should hear better string separation and chord clarity." source

Firmware 19

  • Improved Amp block power tube plate current calculation. This results in increased clarity, improved feel/attack and better edge of breakup distortion texture. The default Power Tube Bias values have been updated to reflect this change and existing presets will be updated automatically to the new values.

Firmware Quantum 1.x

  • This is the initial release of our “Quantum” firmware. Quantum represents a milestone in amplifier modeling technology. Our new Real-Time Spice (RTS) algorithms offer a degree of accuracy not found in any other product.
  • New RTS triode models. There are three new triode models based on our new algorithms: 12AX7A (default), ECC83 and 7025. The previous models are still available and may be selected with the Pre Tube Type parameter. Note that the models have all shifted and if you were using a model other than default previously you will need to adjust your preset to the desired model.
  • The “CF Comp” parameter has been renamed “Preamp Comp” to better explain its function.
  • Added new Preamp Compressor Type “Comp Type” parameter to amp block. There is a new menu page that contains Preamp Comp, Comp Type, Dynamics, Preamp Bias and Output Level (the last repeated from other menus for convenience). Preamp Comp Type selects between “Authentic”, which accurately models the compression in a tube amp, and “Ideal” which is an idealized distorting compressor. The idealized type is more focused and has tighter bass whereas the authentic type is bolder and looser. High gain players may prefer the ideal type due to its tight character.
  • Added a new mode to the “Character” controls in the Amp block. A Char Type of “Dynamic” engages an exciting new mode of tone control. This can be used to fatten or scoop the tone as a function of picking strength. For example, set the Type to Dynamic, Char Freq to 450.0, Char Q to 0.7 and Char Amt to 4.0. This will cause the tone to get fatter and thicker as you play hard but without getting honky when playing soft.
"Personally I consider Quantum the biggest improvement from previous firmware than any other release. The day I first got it working I was so shocked at how good it sounded I jumped out my chair. I then crafted an email to Matt with the title "I did it!!!". I'm sure he'll be happy to verify." source
"Q1.01 models the power tube plate current slightly more accurately than Q1.00. It's a subtle difference but some may prefer the more idealized sound of Q1.00 so I made it a menu option." source
  • (1.03) Improved triode grid conduction model. This improves edge-of-breakup tones as it keeps the distortion on the edge of breakup more and improves high-gain tones as it tightens up the bass. Also improves feel and dynamic response.
  • (1.03) Improved cathode follower model. This improves harmonic accuracy yielding less “glare”, more detailed treble (more “chime”) and more bite. The previous cathode follower model can be selected from the Global menu by choosing a Modeling Version other than 1.03.
  • (1.04) Improved triode saturation modeling based on new measurements. The new modeling results in more accurate saturation behavior which, in turn, results in smoother overall distortion characteristics and more accurate harmonic content. Due to the new algorithm the default Preamp Hardness value is now 6.0.
"Tube amps are amazing in some ways. The just naturally do the right things. One of these things is that the grids sort of "self-align" so that the distortion stays on the edge. You can tell when a modeler isn't modeling this right as you will get fizzy decay (some people erroneously call this "crossover distortion") and flubby bass. If you can't boost treble without it getting harsh then it's not modeling the grids properly. If you need to put a shelving EQ to roll off some bass before the model then it's not modeling properly. With this latest version of Quantum you can put an EQ after the amp or cab and crank the highs as much as you want without it getting harsh and causing ear fatigue." source

Firmware Quantum 2.x

  • Improved tube modeling. New algorithms uses more accurate plate current formulas based on actual measurements rather than theoretical values. This results in smoother, thicker distortion and better dynamic response.
  • Improved power supply modeling. New algorithms improve sag and feel. For convenience the virtual power supply voltage (B+) can now be monitored on the PWR DYN tab of the amp block. When the Supply Sag control is selected the gain reduction meter will display the supply voltage in dB relative to the idle voltage.
  • Improved cathode bias algorithm for “Class-A” amp models (i.e. Class-A 30W, AC- 20 Dlx, etc). In conjunction with this the Cathode Squish parameter has been repurposed as “Cathode Bias” and controls the value of a virtual cathode resistor. A value of 50% is “optimum” and biases the power tubes at true Class A operation (neglecting any bias shifting due to supply sag, screen droop, etc.). Values greater than 50% increase the resistance and therefore bias the power tubes “colder”. Values less than 50% bias the tubes beyond Class A. In a real amp this would probably destroy the tubes but that limitation does not exist in our virtual amp. Most real amps of this type actually operate far below Class A and the default values for the models will reflect this. Note that the Power Tube Bias value should be set to 1.00 for these amp types (since that parameter controls the grid voltage and the grid voltage is at a maximum in these types of amps).
  • Further improvement of preamp tube models based on measurements. The existing theoretical models, i.e. “Modern”, “Vintage”, etc., have been removed. There are now six extremely accurate preamp tube types: 12AX7A, ECC83, 7025, 12AX7B, ECC803 and EF86. Note that the EF86 type has been normalized to have roughly the same gain as the triode types.
  • Improved power tube saturation modeling. This yields warmer, “tubier” distortion. The PA Hardness parameter is automatically set for each power tube type but may be overridden if desired.
  • Improved tube interaction modeling. A new parameter, “Harmonics”, controls the amount of interaction. Higher values yield softer distortion. The default value is set for each amp model but may be overridden.
  • Improved virtual output transformer saturation modeling.
"The previous firmwares were based on theoretical tube models. One thing I began to notice is that the theoretical models simply weren't agreeing with measurements. So after much research we realized that the theoretical models are just that, theoretical and that real tubes do not behave exactly as theory predicts. I can't reveal the details of what aspects don't agree and why those aspects are important. Q2 is based on the actual tube curves which gives a different character to the distortion and a more bouncy and responsive feel." source
"Many of the amp models had their speaker parameters updated based on new measurements." source

Firmware Quantum 3.0

  • Improved Amp block output transformer modeling. New model more accurately simulates dynamic core losses and leakage inductance. The “Xfrmr Grind” knob controls the intensity of the effect. Higher values result in more high frequency response and a more “open” sound. Very high values can yield a raspy, spitty tone common in vintage and/or low wattage amps. Modern “big iron” amps tend to have low values. Note that the audibility is dependent upon how hard the virtual power amp is driven and is more noticeable as the MV is increased. Also note that the effect in real amps is highly dependent on the speaker. Some speaker/transformer combinations exhibit significant high frequency dynamic boost while other combinations yield almost none. As always use your ears as the final determinant.*
  • Improved triode plate modeling for cases when plate load is complex.

Firmware Quantum 4.x

  • Improved power tube plate current vs. grid voltage accuracy. New models more accurately reflect how the response is higher order at lower grid voltages and “relaxes” into a lower order response at higher grid voltages. This improves feel when the virtual power amp is overdriven and improves harmonic content accuracy.

Firmware Quantum 5.x

  • Improved preamp tube modeling for tubes driving cathode followers. In models that use cathode followers this results in warmer distortion with smoother decay. The shape of the cathode follower distortion can be adjusted with the new “CF Hardness” parameter found on the Advanced tab in the Amp block.
  • Increased maximum amount of virtual power amp sag in Amp block. The maximum amount of sag is now twice what was previously available. Existing presets will automatically be adjusted to compensate for the increased range of the Supply Sag control, i.e. if the Supply Sag was set to 8.00 it will be adjusted down to 4.00 so as to yield the same amount of sag. High values of Supply Sag can be used to make the feel “easier” and/or replicate the behavior of other products that intentionally exaggerate compression.

Firmware Quantum 6.x

  • Improved Amp block output transformer to power tube interaction modeling. This results in less “smear” in the overtones when the virtual power tubes are driven into clipping.
  • Improved Amp block plate clipping modeling. New algorithms more accurately replicate the gradual onset of clipping and never fully hard clip resulting in a more dynamic and “open” tone. Note that the increased dynamics may result in some amp models having higher peak volumes which can result in clipping with existing presets. To remedy this simply turn down the Level control in the Amp block.
  • Recalculated Amp block preamp tube parameters. The “12AX7A SYL” (Sylvania 12AX7A) is now the default type as we think it sounds the best.
  • Improved background calculation accuracy for cathode follower parameters.
  • Improved speaker overdrive modeling in Amp block. New algorithm captures the “throaty” sound of an overdriven speaker along with the gentle compression. The “Spkr Drv” (Speaker Drive) parameter has been moved to the Spkr tab on the Amp menu. NOTE: If you are using Speaker Drive in existing presets you should audition these presets and adjust the parameter as necessary as the sound and behavior of the algorithm is considerably different than before. NOTE: Setting this parameter to higher values will simulate a blown speaker.
"The preamp modeling in 6.00 is the same as 5.xx except the parameters for the default tube type (12AX7A SYL) are different. The Sylvania 12AX7A is more nonlinear than other 12AX7As which results in more dynamics but will also result in more "background" distortion because the waveform is being distorted even when it isn't being clipped. The JJ version is more linear which will result in a tighter tone and less background distortion but less dynamics. For 6.01 I've also added back the old 12AX7B type which is the most linear of the types and clips hard. People who play with lots of gain tend to like this as it results in tighter tone and more aggressive harmonic content. There are two primary parameters associated with our preamp tube models. "Preamp Hardness" determines how abrupt the tube clips when it enters the saturation region. There is another parameter that determines how nonlinear the tube is between cutoff and saturation. This is currently not exposed to the user but I've been contemplating adding it. I've also changed the default type for British amps to the ECC83 model as these amps typically were equipped with ECC83s (duh). The ECC83 was the European equivalent of the 12AX7A and tended to be a bit more linear and clip a little harder." source

Firmware Quantum 7.x

  • Improved phase inverter modeling in Amp block. This provides thicker power amp distortion. New algorithm also includes bias shifting which results in more harmonic spectrum variation with input amplitude. This improves feel, “knock” and creates sweeter single note soloing. The new “PI Bias Shift” parameter controls the amount of phase inverter bias shift. Note that some real amps are “spitty” in nature due to PI bias shifting, i.e. Trainwrecks, and the new algorithm is designed to replicate that behavior accurately. If you find the behavior undesirable reduce the PI Bias Shift value as desired although this will reduce authenticity.
  • Improved output transformer modeling. This results in tighter, less boomy and smoother bass when the virtual power amp is driven hard. Note that this change may be significant and initially alarming with certain amp models. While the new algorithms are much more accurate they may be disconcerting to those who are accustomed to the old algorithms. In these cases the user may want to decrease the Transformer Drive and/or Low Res parameters in the amp block at the expense of accuracy. It is recommended instead, however, to readjust other parameters in the preset (i.e. Drive, BMT, etc.) which will achieve more authentic results.
  • Improved Amp block cathode follower modeling (again). This results in tighter bass and “chunkier” tones. As a result nearly all amp models that use cathode followers have been reworked with updated parameters. It is recommended that the model be reloaded by deselecting and reselecting the desired model which will load the pertinent default values. Models that have benefited the most from this include:
    • Bogfish
    • Brit 800
    • CA3+
    • Cameron CCV
    • Corncob
    • Dizzy V4 Blue
    • Dizzy V4 Silver
    • Herbie
    • Recto1 and Recto2
    • Solo 88, 99 and 100
  • Changed default value of Speaker Drive to 0.5. When selecting an amp model the Speaker Drive parameter will now default to a value of 0.5 which is commensurate with a small amount of speaker breakup. Adjust this value to taste, if desired. If using the Axe-Fx II with a power amp and conventional guitar speakers you may want to reduce this value as the guitar speakers will impart their own distortion.
  • Fixed mistake in preamp compression algorithm.

Firmware Quantum 8.x

  • Improved amp modeling. Improves clarity and sounds more “open” especially for non-MV amp models or when the MV is turned up.
  • The bias excursion values for most amp models have been updated based on new measurement techniques. Existing presets will automatically be updated to the new values.
  • Fixed minor bug in Amp block output transformer modeling which caused slight attenuation of upper treble frequencies. This results in clearer, more chimey tones.

Firmware Quantum 9.x

  • Removed the “Motor Drive” and “Transformer Grind” algorithms and associated parameters from the Amp block. These have been replaced by the new “Speaker Compression” algorithm. This algorithm models the interaction of the power amp with the power compression of the virtual speaker. The “Spkr Comp” parameter controls the amount of virtual speaker compression. This value defaults to 3.0 when the Amp block is reset. It does not get reset when changing the model. If using the Axe-Fx II with a tube power amp and conventional guitar cab you may want to reduce this value to 0.0. The gain reduction meter shows the amount of virtual power compression (select the Spkr Comp knob to monitor the gain reduction). Typical guitar speakers compress between 3 and 6 dB depending upon construction, age, volume, etc. The default value is conservative and yields about 3 dB of compression. Note that the Master Volume control will interact considerably with the Speaker Compression algorithm as will the Presence and Depth controls. Higher values of Master Volume will cause more virtual speaker compression.
  • Minor change to the phase inverter algorithm. source
  • Improved Speaker Compression algorithm so that the change in the speaker impedance is accounted for.
  • Improved power amp modeling.
  • Disabled Amp block active Presence control if power amp modeling is bypassed because too many customers not realizing the feature exists.
  • Improved speaker compression modeling and interaction with power amp. This results in a more dynamic response.
  • Changed default cathode follower hardness (CF Hardness) to 0.75 to align better with measured values.

Firmware Ares 1.x

  • Initial release.
  • Improved Amp block output transformer modeling.
  • Added Tilt EQ to Amp block Input EQ types.
  • Added Boost Type and Boost Level to Amp block. There are seven boost types: Neutral, T808, T808 Mod, Super OD, Full OD, AC Boost and Shimmer. All boosts act as “clean boosts” replicating the oft-used “Drive on 0, adjust Level as desired” boost technique. The boost allows boosting the amp block without requiring a separate Drive block. The Boost Level parameter controls the amount of boost.

Firmware Ares 2.x

  • Improved Amp block speaker dynamic parameter modeling. The new Speaker Compliance parameter controls the nonlinear behavior of the virtual speaker. Existing presets will load with this parameter at 0.0 and will be unchanged tonally from the previous firmware (IOW your presets will not be altered). Selecting a new amp model or resetting the block will set the value to 5.0 which is a typical value for guitar speakers.
  • Improved Amp block cathode follower modeling.
  • Improved Amp block phase inverter modeling.