Always consult the Owners Manuals first

Axe-Fx III

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References

Forum discussions:

Reviews:

Axe-Fx III rigs

View pictures of Axe-Fx III-based rigs

About the Axe-Fx III

Platform

"It's a new platform. It will grow over time. It was time for an updated platform. TigerSHARCs are discontinued, the interface was dated, etc. The III is what the II would be if we could've upgraded the hardware via a firmware update." source
"Remember it's a lot of work migrating stuff to a new architecture. The III is a brand-new platform. Just as the II had dozens of firmware update the III will receive many updates and there's so much power there that we can improve everything over time." source
The Axe-Fx III was designed so that single preset can be thought of as an entire rack full of processors. Each virtual processor has up to four presets. So if you were trying to do spillover in a rack you would use two reverb processors. source
"The only product more transparent than the FX-8 is the Axe-Fx III." source

Specifications

Dimensions and weight:

  • Width: 19.00" (482.60 mm).
  • Height: 5.16" (131.10 mm). That's 3U.
  • Depth:
    • 11.530" (292.87 mm) including front handles and rear jacks.
    • from the faceplate to the rear jacks: just under 10" from the mounting face of the faceplate to the edge of the jacks. source
  • Weight: 15 lbs 2.4 oz (6.87 kg).
"Large screen meant we had to make it 3U. But it's much shallower than the II." source

Processors:

  • Two 1.0 GHz floating-point “Keystone” DSPs (2.8 times faster than the TigerSHARC DSPs in the Axe-Fx II).
  • Video display processor.
  • 500 MHz 16-core XMOS USB microcontroller:
    • Supports 8x8 audio at 48 KHz, 24-bits.
    • MIDI-Over-USB is about 10x faster than an Axe-Fx II.

Memory:

  • PC1600 DDR3 memory.
  • Hundreds of MB of FLASH memory.
  • Enough non-volatile memory for over 4000 IRs.

LCD display:

  • Custom-design full-color 800x480 TFT display.
  • Specifically designed to provide animation.

Analog I/O:

  • Audiophile-quality components.
  • Backup battery:
  • CR-2032.

More information about I/O

Manufacturing details

Product information:

"The audiophile-quality signal path features Burr-Brown SoundPlus and Analog Devices op amps, PPS film caps, a high-voltage bipolar power supply for low distortion and maximum headroom, and flagship-quality Cirrus Logic converters with fully differential input and output circuitry. A thoughtfully designed multi-layer circuit board features gold plating and extensive ground fill for low EMI and immunity to interference. This impressive level of engineering yields the most pristine sound quality, lowest THD, and lowest noise floor of any product we’ve ever created—by far."

"All knobs and buttons are backed by professional grade components with life expectancies in the millions."

"Internally, the unit features a DSP module that is made in the USA and mechanical design guided by years of experience designing dependable rackmount units for touring musicians."

Quotes:

"It was a monumental amount of work. The DSP board design was the most difficult hardware design we've ever done. It's a 10-layer board with all fine-pitch technology. Then migrating all the algorithms to a new processor architecture. The team did a phenomenal job." source
"The chassis and some of the boards are made in China. The DSP module is made in Merrimack NH, USA." source
"Roughly 50% (by cost) of the Axe-Fx III is made in USA. The chassis and simpler circuit boards are made in China. The DSP module is made right here in NH. source
"The Axe-Fx III is about 50% domestic content. source
"The front panel around the buttons is steel and covered with a polycarbonate overlay. The bezel is anodized aluminum." source
(about heat) "Less than an Axe-Fx II." source
"Designing a product is all about compromises. Do you want a phantom power mic input? Well that costs money. So either you have to raise the price of the product or cut costs somewhere else. For something that only a small percentage of people will use. Since we target the pro market our customers will likely use their own mic pre's like a Neve or API. So we don't include it and don't have to cut costs on other things." source
"The Axe-Fx III is assembled, programmed, inspected, and tested at our facility in New Hampshire." source
"FWIW the backlight in the Axe-Fx III is not PWM. I had the OEM change it to a circuit I designed. I eliminated PWM sources inside the unit wherever possible so as to keep EMI to a minimum." source
"In general I overdesign things. I.e. if a capacitor is used to filter a 5V rail most designers will spec a 6.3V part. I'll spec a 10V part. For electrolytic caps I always spec long-life and high-temperature parts. We always use ENIG (electroless nickel immersion gold) circuit boards with FR-4 cores, no phenolic crap or HASL." source

Processing and latency

(comparing to the Axe-Fx II XL+)
"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
(about latency compared to Axe-Fx II)
"They are the same. The converters are the limiting factor. It's already way faster than anything else." source


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Aliasing

Tests of aliasing performance

The display is a 800x480 LCD.

"You can turn it down but you can't turn it off. There is no danger of burn-in as it's an LCD not an OLED." source

The logo's backlight intensity is not adjustable.

The third "I" in the logo may appear less bright than the other characters when viewed from an angle. Nothing to worry about!

Powering on and off

There is power transient suppression circuitry, so that the Axe-Fx III won't make any loud pops when powering on/off.

"The III has power on/off detection circuitry that mutes the outputs when it detects a power transient." source

The Axe-Fx III has a universal power supply. Power consumption is less than 40 watts.

After booting, there are some background operations running.

"There is background stuff going on that finishes after a few minutes. Once the background tasks finish the GUI thread has more resources available." source

Firmware

The "DSP" firmware provides all the features. This is frequently updated.

There's separate firmware for the USB subsystem of the Axe-Fx III. This only needs to be updated when Fractal Audio says so.

The features of the FC controllers are included in the DSP firmware. But there's also separate low-level firmware for the FC controllers. Again, this only needs to be updated when Fractal Audio says so.

Connecting and setting levels

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See: Connecting and setting levels

Buttons, knobs, switches

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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 the 4 outputs.
(assigning soft knobs to amp controls) "That is the plan but we haven't implemented it yet. The hooks are all there in the firmware. The idea is a "Performance" page where you select up to 10 global parameters that you can adjust at any time." source

Shortcuts

VALUE wheel:

  • Press to change to the layout grid.

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

To switch presets:

  • Value wheel or NAV right/left button.
  • Foot controller.
  • MIDI.

Switch scenes

To switch scenes:

  • NAV buttons or soft knob.
  • Foot controller.
  • MIDI.

Switch channels

Channels.

Remote control

MIDI

Read this: MIDI

FC controllers

Read this: FC-6 and FC-12 controllers

Using the FX8 as a basic MIDI controller

Check this discussion

Using the MFC-101 as a basic MIDI controller

Read this: MFC-101 and Axe-Fx III

Using the RJM Mastermind

Read this: RJM Mastermind.

Migrating from Axe-Fx II to Axe-Fx III

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

FAQ (from the Owner's manual)

Q: What is “FRFR”?
A: FRFR stands for “full-range, flat response.” This acronym is used to describe a “neutral” speaker or speaker system that is designed to reproduce the entire audible spectrum of 20 Hz – 20kHz without emphasis. Examples of FRFR systems would include high-quality studio monitors and properly designed PA systems or monitors. Many manufacturers are also now offering FRFR systems designed specifically for direct guitar applications.


Q: Why all the technical terminology?
A: The language of the Axe-Fx III is for the most part the universal language of professional audio. This allows the Axe-Fx III to serve everyone across diverse communities of casual and professional players, producers, engineers, and beyond. The terminology and concepts you will use and learn are not unique to the Axe-Fx III either. Understanding them will help you master the craft of sound. At the same time, the Axe-Fx III is easier than ever, with dedicated hands-on hardware controls and a clear interface that doesn’t distract or disrupt the creative flow.


Q: How do I upgrade the firmware of my Axe‑Fx III?
A: Use Fractal-Bot.


Q: Can I load my presets from the Axe-Fx II, AX8, or FX8 into the Axe‑Fx III (or vice versa)?
A: No, presets are not cross-compatible, but you can generally transfer parameter settings by hand without unexpected results. As of this writing, all of the same amp models are present, and “factory” speaker cabs of the Axe-Fx II are present in the “Legacy” bank on the Axe-Fx III.


Q: My expression pedal isn’t working. What should I do?
A: Are you using a TRS cable? Is it connected to the correct port on the Axe‑Fx III? Is it actually an expression pedal? Did you set up a modifier?


Q: My Axe‑Fx III won’t start up correctly.
A: See “Recovery”.


Q: Can I use a computer or external MIDI controller to remote control the Axe‑Fx III?
A: Yes. The Axe‑Fx III has a rich MIDI spec which allows it to be remote controlled. Using a computer, you can use the built-in USB connection for “MIDI-over-USB”, rather than relying on a 3rd party MIDI interface.


Q: I’m hearing click and pops.
A: First, check all cables. You’d be surprised by how often a short can be found in a brand new or trusted cable. Then, check to see whether you are clipping the Axe‑Fx III inputs or outputs. Excessive CPU usage may also be to blame. Is the CPU meter at or near 90%? If so, you’ve overloaded the current preset. Try removing one block .

Pictures

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