Always consult the Owners Manuals first

Comparing the Axe-Fx III to the Axe-Fx II

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What's new or changed

For more information, read the Owners Manuals. Both manuals contain a summary of features.

Hardware:

  • The unit is taller, at 3U instead of 2U, but shallower, at 11.5” deep instead of 12.9”.

I/O:

  • There are 4 independent stereo outputs instead of 2, plus auto-switching front/rear instrument input (with "Secret Sauce IV") and 3 stereo inputs. INs and OUTs can be used in the usual ways, or paired to insert outboard gear in up to 3 stereo loops.
  • The red Output LEDs in the front panel meter bridge now light at -1 dBFS.
  • Inputs 2, 3 and 4 support guitar impedance.
  • The nominal level of Outputs 1 and 2 can be switched between -10 and +4 dB.

IMPORTANT: The III defaults to -10 dB, so its output level is lower than the II's!

User interface:

  • Instead of a RECALL screen, the Axe-Fx III has a HOME button. The new Home menu provides access to preset and Meters pages, with soft-button access to the tuner, layout, controllers, and setup menu.
  • Instead of a LAYOUT button, the Grid is accessed from a soft-button in the Home menu, or by pressing ENTER or VALUE while on the Home page. The Grid has new features like Zoom, CPU meter, and a mini tuner.
  • You can use old familiar workflows with the NAV buttons and VALUE wheel, but you’ll move much faster through editing if you try to use the five Push-knobs under the display.

Effects:

  • New blocks: Plex Delay, Ten-Tap Delay, Multiplexer, Realtime Analyzer, Scene MIDI block.
  • Authentic Tri-chorus type in the Chorus block.
  • 4 instances of Drive.
  • 4 instances of Delay.
  • 2 instances of Feedback Send/Return.
  • Pitch block: 4 voices. Pitch block has its own pitch detector.
  • Improved Reverbs.
  • More Looper time.
  • Tone Matching in UltraRes.
  • Tuner: improved tracking, works on any input.
  • Compressor: "RMS" is the same as "Fast RMS" in the AX8 and Axe-Fx II. "E-L Panel" mode added. Filter parameter has been replaced with EQ-ing tools.
  • Drive: higher oversampling ratio and double-precision filters in some places.
  • The output level of some effects / effects types has been changed, such as Resonator and Studio Compressor.
  • Vocoder has 24 bands.
  • Some effects have their own envelope follower, such as Plex Delay.

Modifiers and controllers:

  • The Controllers block has 4 channels, so the Envelope Controller can have 4 different settings per preset, for example.
  • 4 Scene Controllers.
  • Damping is replaced with Attack/Release.
  • To control the bypass state of a block using a modifier, you no longer modify the Bypass Mode parameter, but a dedicated Bypass parameter.

Presets, scenes, blocks and channels:

  • 14x6 grid.
  • 512 preset slots.
  • More CPU available per preset.
  • Inputs and Outputs must be placed on the grid as blocks.
  • Each Scene has its own customizable name.
  • Up to 4 Channels per block.
  • Presets no longer default to Scene 1 but now load whichever scene was selected when you saved them.
  • Scenes do no longer store the level of the output mixer.

Amp modeling:

  • "Ares" amp modeling.
  • Some parameters have been added. “Character” parameters are gone.
  • Pre-EQ controls have been added.

Cab modeling:

  • Mixes up to 4 different IRs at once.
  • Output level is automatically normalized.
  • Mic modeling has been removed, but "Proximity" remains.
  • Speaker Size parameter is gone.
  • There are now Factory 1, Factory 2, User 1 and User 2 banks, each with 1,024 IRs, and a Legacy bank containing all 189 IRs from the Axe-Fx II, and 16 Scratchpads.

Editors and foot controllers:

  • Editor software and foot controllers share control, updating each other seamlessly without re-sync issues or paused communications.
  • FASLINK II connects the Axe-Fx III to the new FC controller(s).
  • Axe-Edit III scales to hi-res displays.

MIDI:

  • Up to 8 MIDI PCs or CCs can be transmitted upon scene changes.
  • A PC can be transmitted upon preset changes.
  • The "Send Realtime SysEx" parameter is gone.
  • A PC can be sent through the MIDI OUT port upon preset changes.

Computer:

  • No driver required for Mac computers.
  • 8x8 USB Audio.
  • Faster MIDI-over-USB.
  • USB communications do not increase CPU load.

What's gone

  • The MFC-101's "Axe-Fx Mode" is no longer supported.
  • X/Y switching.
  • Swapping presets on hardware.
  • Recall Effect.
  • Global blocks (will be added later).
  • Quad Chorus block.
  • Multi Delay block.
  • FX Loop block.
  • Metronome.
  • Cab block parameters: Mic modeling, Motor Drive, Speaker Size.
  • Amp block parameters: Character, Pick Attack.
  • MIDI phantom power.
  • USB Adapter Mode.
  • Output level per scene.

Comparing the blocks

Comparison of available effects in each device.

The Axe-Fx II and Axe-Fx III cannot share presets electronically, but you can transfer sounds by re-creating them on the grid and entering parameter values, which match up identically or very closely.

Comparing sound quality

"III is a little punchier. I really notice it when I A/B between the III and II (or the AX-8). If you plug into one and then plug into the other it's not as noticeable but if you use an A/B switch it's a more marked difference." source
”Everything sounds better. I think a big part of it is the quality of the I/O. The I/O measures flatter and less distortion than my $2000 interface.” source
"It actually does sound a little better. The extra DSP horsepower means that we didn't have to make compromises in some of the algorithms. The amp modeling algorithm is very similar but there's a few places on the II where we had to make compromises to get the algorithm to run within the allotted time. Also the III has a higher internal oversampling rate and a higher bit depth on some calculations (64-bit vs. 40-bit)." source
"Better algorithms, higher upsampling, better analog I/O design."