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FM3 information is being added as it becomes available, but it's preliminary and not final until release

FM3 processor

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NOTE: THIS PRODUCT HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED BUT IS NOT AVAILABLE YET

FM3-front.png FM3-rear.png

References

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Pictures of FM3 rigs

Owners of an FM3 proudly show their rigs

About the FM3

Introduction

Product announcement:

Amp Modeling & Multi-FX in a Compact Floor Unit

The new FM3 Amp Modeler/Multi-FX is a compact floor unit from Fractal Audio Systems. It features the company’s newest generation of amp modelling, speaker simulation, and effects processor technologies, all with the extreme sonic performance, features, and flexibility that guitarists have come to expect from Fractal Audio. The FM3 is powered by a 3-Core “Griffin” DSP with one ARM and two SHARC+ cores providing superior power in a compact format. A dedicated graphics processor allows the main DSPs to be focused on critical audio tasks.

The FM3 is housed in a durable steel chassis with protective endcaps. It features the same full-color display and familiar, easy-to-use front panel controls found on Fractal Audio’s flagship Axe-Fx III. Three onboard footswitches – each with variable-color LED ring and mini LCD display — provide both tap and hold functions, which can be customized to do different things on eight different switch “layouts.” In addition, a FASLINK II port allows the FM3 to be connected with up to two Fractal Audio FC-12 or FC-6 foot controllers, providing an exciting array of extended control options.

The FM3 features ARES Amp Modeling—the latest technology developed by Fractal Audio for the award-winning Axe-Fx III. ARES captures the subtle sonic characteristics of real tube amps, with 265+ models offering an impressive range of clean tones, elusive “edge of breakup”, and everything from warm, touch-sensitive overdrive to face-melting modern distortion. The FM3 also includes the entire speaker cab impulse response (“IR”) collection from the Axe-Fx III, with a stunning 2,200+ “Factory” choices and 2000+ “User” locations to store custom sounds from free or commercial packages. As a multi-effects unit, the FM3 includes a superb selection of Fractal Audio’s state-of-the-art effect algorithms: dazzling drive pedals, dozens of delays, reverbs, compressors, EQs, modulation effects, a looper, and more.

Like other Fractal Audio processors, the FM3 uses “Presets” built from “Blocks” on a “Grid” (4x12). Eight “Scenes” per preset can engage or bypass effects, switch effect “Channels”, adjust levels, and more. Fractal Audio’s flexible “Modifier” system enables easy real-time sound changes with onboard or remote controllers, switches or expression pedals. A precision full- screen tuner, two global equalizers, and a convenient Tap Tempo function are also built-in.

The rear panel of the FM3 offers an instrument input with Fractal Audio’s proprietary low-noise analog circuitry, plus stereo main outputs, a headphone output, MIDI In and Out/Thru, and a 48kHz SPDIF out. A second stereo pair of TRS Inputs and 1⁄4′′ Humbuster outputs can be used as a stereo effects loop, or for auxiliary purposes, such as sending one signal with speaker simulation to a PA, while a second signal without speaker sims feeds a power amp and guitar speakers on stage. 4×4 USB audio rounds out the I/O capabilities of this pint-sized powerhouse.

FM3-EDIT, a full-featured software editor, is included free. The FM3 is also fully compatible with Fractal-Bot for preset sharing, easy backup and restore, plus firmware updates in the tradition of continual improvement that has become a hallmark of Fractal Audio Systems. Above all, the FM3 was designed “by musicians for musicians” to deliver Fractal Audio’s uncompromising signature sound quality and rugged reliability in a compact, convenient, grab-and-go format that musicians are sure to appreciate and enjoy.

Direct Price: $999.99 (List Price: $1399.99) Availability: To be announced.

SUMMARY

  • FM3 is a compact floor unit with three onboard switches.
  • Uncompromising sound quality and road-worthy reliability.
  • Easy-to-use front panel interface, plus free FM3 Edit software.
  • Features ARES Amp Modeling developed for the Axe-Fx III.
  • Hundreds of accurate models with real tube amp sound and feel.
  • 2200+ Ultra-ResTM factory cabs and 2000+ user cab slots.
  • Impressive multi-effects capability based on Axe-Fx III.
  • 3-Core “Griffin” Processor plus dedicated GPU.
  • FASLINK II allows adding up to two FC-12/FC-6 controllers.
  • Ultra-low noise instrument input plus XLR stereo main outputs. • Additional Stereo I/O Pair, plus headphone & SPDIF outputs.
  • 4x4 USB Audio, 2 onboard switch/pedal jacks, MIDI In & Out/Thru

Platform

"The Axe-Fx III, FM3 and the other products in development all use the "Ares" architecture. This is a portable client-server architecture that allows easy porting of effects and models between hardware platforms. When we ported the Axe-Fx III models to the FM3 it involved nothing more than copying the file. We created the Ares architecture three years ago and all new products use it. It's a comprehensive hardware and software paradigm that allows any number of clients to communicate with a DSP server. The architecture supports multiple DSP cores. Clients can be located on the same core, a different core on the same IC, a different IC on the same board or on completely different hardware, i.e. an editor running on a PC or a foot controller. For example on the FM3 the UI is a client running on the ARM core. The Ares architecture is even processor agnostic. The Axe-Fx III uses TI DSPs while the FM3 uses Analog Devices. The Ares architecture was a huge undertaking with the ultimate goal of faster product development and easy synchronization of multiple product lines. It allows me to work on algorithms and new models and the engineers can then easily port those to the other products." source

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 11.2″ x 9.2″ x 3.5″ (283mm x 233mm x 88mm). The FM3 is the same size as the FC-6 controller.
  • Weight: @@ (3,2 kg)
  • Processors: SC587, a 3-Core “Griffin” DSP with one ARM and two SHARC+ cores. Dedicated GUI processor. Cabinet modeling runs in a CPU accelerator.
  • Screen: @@ x @@
  • Layout grid: 4x12
  • Sample rate: 48kHz (fixed)
  • Input impedance: fixed at 1 Megaohm
  • Headphones output: yes
  • Power supply: @@
  • LED-Ring amp controls: none
  • Fan: yes (thermostat-controlled)
  • Pedal ports: 2 (each port supports two pedals or switches)
  • USB: Type A and Type B ports

More in the Owner's Manual

Manufacturing

"There's only so much heat you can dissipate in a small chassis. Add to that the requirement for harsh environments (outside, on a hot day in direct sun) and you have to be careful. There actually is a fan in the unit but it's controlled by a thermostat and under normal conditions it doesn't run. Reliability is paramount in a product like this. You can't have it shutting down during a performance." source
"The main board is roughly the size of the base and is filled with components." source
"While the audio path isn't identical to an Axe-Fx III the quality of the path and components is comparable." source
(Does the FM3 offer same or better audio path quality (converters-secret sauce-noise) compared to Ax8?) "Better." source

Processing

The FM3 is powered by a 3-Core “Griffin” DSP with one ARM and two SHARC+ cores providing superior power in a compact format. The dedicated graphics processor allows the main DSPs to be focused on critical audio tasks. Cab modeling runs in an accelerator. Amp modeling runs on the 2nd core DSP.

"The processing power of an FM-3 is roughly the same as an AX-8." source
"It's not nearly as powerful as an Axe-Fx III but it's a cool little unit." source
"The FM3 is not as powerful as an Axe-Fx III. The Axe-Fx III has at least four times the processing power." source
"Uses an SC587. The SHARC+ core has essentially the same MFLOPs as the SHARC. The overall processing power is greater than an AX-8 because of the ARM which offloads all the housekeeping stuff, USB, etc." source
"(subject to change) We dedicate a core to the Amp and to Reverbs. Due to CPU limitations and not wanting to reduce Amp quality you can run 2 of the following 3 in a preset ( Amp, Rev1, Rev2 )." source
"It will support all the reverb types of Axe-FX3. You won't have to use spring reverbs to save CPU since the core can run the Amp and 1 reverb, and all the other blocks are on the other core." source
”The FM3's CPU utilization meters are normalized so that 100% represents the amount of the CPU that can be allocated to audio processing. So you can go right up to 100%. However, if you ever cross 100% things will get shut off without your consent so you still need to be careful.” source
(comparing the amp modeling to the Axe-Fx III) "They are the same quality. Certain features were removed to allow the algorithms to run including the bias tremolo, input dynamics processing, and several other inauthentic enhancements." source
"We removed all the superfluous stuff (bias tremolo, dynamic presence/depth, etc.) in order to get the core amp modeling to run on the slower processor." source
"The Axe-Fx III contains various algorithms that allow you to enhance the amp modeling that don't exist on a real amp. I.e. dynamic presence/depth, input dynamic processing, etc. These were removed to allow the core amp modeling to run on the lower-powered processor." source
(Cab block runs on CPU accelerator) "It's a CPU accelerator thing. A second Cab block would use a lot more than 3%." source
"FM3 CPU is normalized so it's tricky to get an apples to apples meter comparison with A3 for that reason among others." source
"FM3 has an additional core to handle UI/Midi/Footcontoller stuff so that freed up some CPU. We also moved the reverbs to the 2nd Sharc core with the Amp which freed up a lot of CPU for other blocks (Reverb uses a lot). Additionally a bunch of little optimizations you find while working in the code for a long time. 1% here, 1% there adds up." source
"(...) The DSP power makes it the second most powerful amp modeling product on the market behind only the Axe-Fx III. Adding another DSP would increase the price substantially. The increase would be more than the price of just the DSP since larger power supplies would be required, etc. This would price the unit above our target price." source
"The FM3 DSP is three cores and also supports floating-point, has dual DDR3 memory busses, hardware FFT and FIR accelerators, etc."source

FM3-Edit

Read this: Editors

Firmware

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Read this:

I/O connections

FM3-rear.png

Read this:

"The USB outputs (IN Endpoints) are Output 1 L/R, Instrument In and Input 2 Left." source
"The USB-A connector is for a FLASH drive to import/ export presets. However it’s currently not working yet." source
“The USB-A port can be whatever we want but it requires writing drivers (or buying them and hooking them into the OS). If the demand is great enough we can look into these things. Peripheral drivers are a lot easier than host drivers and USB-A is host.” source
(Can it be controlled with a regular MIDI pedal) "Of course." source
"The MIDI runs at 5V."

Presets

Number of presets:

  • 512

About the factory presets:

Effects list

Click on the image below:

Iii all-blocks-3x13.jpg

"The firmware is still beta so nothing is set in stone yet. (...) Due to the lesser processing power there are fewer instances of many effects, i.e. two instead of four. Channel counts are the same." source
"Only one amp block. (...) It does not have all of the Axe-Fx III effects but has the most important ones (no vocoder, etc.)." source
"We could potentially do two amp blocks but at reduced quality and I don't want to do that. Part of the problem with other modelers is that they don't oversample enough (and use single-precision in places where you need double-precision). Then you get complaints of artifacts and ear fatigue and all the other things associated with inadequate sample rate and word length. The vast majority of users only use one amp block so we wanted to make something with one very high quality "Ares" amp block." source
"Reverb uses a ton of CPU. On Axe-FX 3 the reverbs have a "Hi Quality" mode that makes them sound better at the cost of more CPU usage." source
"Currently (subject to change) we dedicate a core to the Amp and to Reverbs. Due to CPU limitations and not wanting to reduce Amp quality you can run 2 of the following 3 in a preset ( Amp, Rev1, Rev2 )." source
(Cab block runs on CPU accelerator) "It's a CPU accelerator thing. A second Cab block would use a lot more than 3%." source
(comparing the amp modeling to the Axe-Fx III) "They are the same quality. Certain features were removed to allow the algorithms to run including the bias tremolo, input dynamics processing, and several other inauthentic enhancements." source
"We removed all the superfluous stuff (bias tremolo, dynamic presence/depth, etc.) in order to get the core amp modeling to run on the slower processor." source
"The Axe-Fx III contains various algorithms that allow you to enhance the amp modeling that don't exist on a real amp. I.e. dynamic presence/depth, input dynamic processing, etc. These were removed to allow the core amp modeling to run on the lower-powered processor." source
"The FM3 has the Plex and Cloud reverbs. source
"You'll have 2 Drives. You can also have a 2nd reverb on presets that don't have an Amp." source
"Pitch block functionality will be identical. The only potential differences may relate to pitch detection since that functionality is actually outside of the Pitch block and is still being ironed out." source
"It looks like the looper will be 4 minutes." source

System reset

Read this: Reset system parameters

Buttons, knobs, switches

FM3-front.png

Navigate and operate

  • VALUE wheel, with push-button function (which can be disabled in Setup > Global)
  • NAV buttons. On the Home page these let you switch presets (left/right) and scenes (up/down)
  • PAGE LEFT/RIGHT buttons
  • HOME menu button
  • EDIT button
  • ENTER/EXIT buttons. ENTER also jumps to the layout grid from any screen
  • 5 rotary push-buttons (ABCDE) perform various functions in the GUI
  • Output level knobs for Output 1 and Output 2

Onboard switches

FM3-switches.png

Three onboard footswitches – each with variable-color LED ring and mini LCD display — provide both tap and hold functions, which can be customized to do different things on eight different switch “layouts.

The switches can be programmed:

  • switch presets
  • switch scenes
  • switch channels
  • switch layouts
  • turn effects on/off
  • perform utility tasks
  • etc.

For more information about the Tap and Hold functions, read this: Tap and Hold functions

External switches

The FM3 allows dual-button switches to be connected to each of its pedal ports.

These external switches can perform the same tasks as the onboard switches.

"Supports 2 pedals/switches." source
"You can plug in dual button footswitches into the pedal inputs." source
"External switches can do anything the "local" switches can." source
"Any button can be assigned to activate the tuner. source

Adding an FC controller

The FM3 can be expanded with up to two FC controllers.

FM-FC.png

"You can hook an FC-6/12 to it. So for small gigs/rehearsals use the FM-3 alone. For larger gigs connect an FC (or two)." source
"If anyone is curious the thought process was this:
  1. FM3 alone for rehearsals, small gigs.
  2. FM3 plus FC6/12 for larger gigs.
  3. Axe-Fx III plus FC6/12 for MSG. (Madison Square Garden)
Since the FC6/12 are "thin clients" you can exchange them with the Axe-Fx III and FM3 without having to do any programming." source
"FASLINK powers the first FC. FC setup is same as Axe-Fx III." source

Read this: FC-6 and FC-12 foot controllers

Shortcuts

VALUE wheel:

  • Press to switch to the layout grid (unless disabled in the setup menu)

HOME page:

  • Press ENTER to jump to the layout grid. Press EXIT to return to the Home screen
  • Use NAV LEFT/RIGHT to switch presets
  • Use NAV UP/DOWN to switch scenes
  • Press push-knob "A" to enter the Amp block's Edit menu
  • Turn knob "A" to switch scenes

AMP block > Output EQ:

  • Press ENTER to flatten the bands, and NAV UP/DOWN to change bands

LAYOUT GRID:

  • Press-and-hold ENTER to create (or clear) a series of shunts

Block Edit menu:

  • Keep pressing EDIT to step through the Edit menus of all blocks in the preset (top-to-bottom, left-to-right)

GENERAL:

  • Press EDIT after storing a preset to go right back to where you were
  • If you navigate anywhere from the Home page, EXIT will return you to the first screen of that page

CONTROLLERS:

  • Press TEMPO to open the Controllers menu

SEQUENCER:

  • Press ENTER to randomize

Switch presets

FM3-switches.png

To switch presets:

  • Value wheel or NAV right/left button
  • Foot switch
  • MIDI
  • Editor
"There will still be a brief silence between changing presets." source

More about Presets

Switch scenes

FM3-switches.png

To switch scenes:

  • NAV buttons or soft knob
  • Foot switch
  • MIDI
  • Editor

More about Scenes

Switch channels

FM3-switches.png

To switch scenes:

  • Soft knob
  • Foot switch
  • MIDI
  • Editor

Read this: Channels

Switch layouts

FM3-switches.png

Layouts on the FM3 are the same as on the FC controllers.

Read this: Layouts

Switch behavior

To be added @@

Control Switches

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Read this: Modifiers, Controllers and Control Switches

Help, no sound

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Read this: Troubleshooting