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Difference between revisions of "Amp block"
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When using an [[Connections_and_levels#Power_amp_and_guitar_speaker|external power amp and a traditional guitar speaker cabinet]] to amplify, make sure that Speaker Drive is disabled in the Amp block. This parameter should be used only with cabinet models.
Cabinet modeling should be disabled altogether when using a traditional guitar speaker cabinet, either by bypassing the Cab block(s) in the preset, or by turning off Cabinet Modeling in the Global menu.
When using a non-neutral tube power amp, turn off Power Amp Modeling, Speaker CompressionSpeaker Compliance . When using a solid-state power amp, you don't have to turn off these controls.
When using a non-neutral tube power amp, turn off Power Amp Modeling, Speaker Compression
Also take a look at the Output Mode setting in the Amp block.
Also take a look at the Output Mode setting in the Amp block.
<blockquote>"If using a
<blockquote>"If using a amp into a traditional cab be zero. If using a amp into a traditional cab be zero." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/axe-fx-iii-firmware-2-00-public-beta-2.144615/page-2#post-1710669 source]</blockquote>
==Preamp and power amp sections can not be split==
==Preamp and power amp sections can not be split==
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==Resetting amp models==
==Resetting amp models==
There are various ways to set the Amp block parameters back to default, with different results
There are various ways to set the Amp block parameters back to default, with different results
'''By selecting another amp type and then back to the original one (= soft reset or re-select)'''
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* Advanced page > Output — nothing
* Advanced page > Output — nothing
Master Volume is always defaulted when you re-select an amp type. This is important, because it can make your presets louder or softer, and change the sound.
'''By resetting the entire Amp block (= hard reset)'''
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'''What to do when new firmware is released'''
'''What to do when new firmware is released'''
'''How to save and re-apply your current settings'''
'''How to save and re-apply your current settings'''
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'''When you're using a power amp and guitar cab'''
'''When you're using a power amp and guitar cab'''
* Speaker Drive — users of traditional guitar cabinets need to set this to 0
* Speaker Drive — users of traditional guitar cabinets need to set this to 0
* Low Freq and High Freq Resonance —
* Low Freq and High Freq Resonance — pre-set at which the virtual amp resonates with the cab model. When using a real cabinet, you'll want to replace this with the realresonant frequency
* Speaker Comp — default value is 3, but if you use a tube preamp and/or a traditional speaker cab, you’ll want this set to zero
* Speaker Compliance — default value is 5, but if you use a tube preamp and/or a traditional speaker cab, you’ll want this set to zero
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* '''Input block level''': increase Level in the Input block to increase the signal strength entering the grid.
* '''Drive block''': insert a Drive block before the Amp block. Select a type such as FET Boost or Tape Dist for a clean boost and attach a pedal to its Drive parameter. Or set a Drive block to TS808 or something similar with Drive all the way down and Level turned up to tighten low end.
Enhancer''': this control simulates the acoustic reinforcement of a loud amp coupling into the guitar which also adds gain.
<blockquote>(Jay Mitchell) "Cascade one amp block into another. Turn off "Sag" in the first one. Now you've got an extra preamp feeding your amp, which opens up an incredible spectrum of gain staging. For example, think Twin Reverb preamp, with Plexi tonestack set to "post," feeding a Plexi 2 with default settings. The possibilities exceed anything one person could hope to explore in a lifetime. You can get it awfully close. You want to minimize the effect of the preamp in Amp 2. To do this, set the 2nd Amp's Bright to off, MV to a high value and find a neutral setting for the tone controls in the 2nd Amp. Then use Drive in the 2nd Amp for your MV. The amp types you choose for this arrangement will make a huge difference, as will quite a few parameter settings."</blockquote>
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[http://forum.fractalaudio.com/tech-notes/95018-understanding-all-different-gain-controls.html Cliff's Tech Note about the different gain controls]
<blockquote>"The amps clean up exactly like their analog counterparts. This is a common complaint with modelers because people use more gain because they listen at lower volumes. With a real amp the volume is loud which provides acoustic reinforcement to the guitar which enhances sustain. At lower volumes this is missing so people increase the gain." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/the-axe-and-guitar-volume-controls.145331/#post-1718891 source]</blockquote>
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<blockquote>"Here's a little trick to enhance the "clean up with guitar volume knob" thing. In the Amp block go to the Dynamics page. Set the Compressor Type to Feedback. Turn up the Output Compression to taste. Notice that when you play harder the amp will distort more. Now you can use the Input Drive and/or Trim to reduce the input gain so that when you play softer or roll off the volume the amp will clean up. Real amps get this from power supply sag but this requires the power amp be driven hard which can get muddy. This trick allows you to get that same response without cranking the Master Volume." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/clean-to-mean-w-the-volume-knob.144394/ source]</blockquote>
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<blockquote>"Noise isn't modeled. All preamp tubes have separate heating elements. This is called "indirect heating". Directly heated cathodes are no longer used except for rectifier tubes. Regardless direct or indirect heating has no effect on the noise floor. Noise is due to the random motion of electrons in a conductor. You can't "reject" it. You can lower the noise floor by keeping resistor values low (since noise is proportional to resistance) and by paralleling the input triode. No modeler models noise. The dominant source of noise in any amp, whether real or virtual, is usually your guitar (or rather its pickups). A 10K ohm pickup will have -114 dBv of noise at room temperature. Modern A/D converters, when properly designed, can exceed this so the dominant source of noise is your guitar. This noise is then amplified by the amp (that's why they call them amplifiers). If the amp has, say, 60 dB of gain then that noise is now -114 + 60 = -54 dBv. Gain it up another 20 dB with the power amp and now you're at -34 which can be quite audible. The situation gets worse as you roll off the volume in your guitar as you then introduce more resistance. A typical guitar pot is 500K ohms with an audio taper. If you roll the volume pot down to 8 or so you can easily introduce another 100K of resistance into the signal path. This will increase the noise to -94 dBv which becomes -14 after amplification. Really noticeable then. Bottom line: if you have too much noise you have too much gain. Learning to play with less gain will improve your technique and the quality of your tone. Gain just masks poor technique and reduces clarity, string separation and dynamics." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/which-models-have-the-lowest-noise.124597/#post-1481877 source] </blockquote>
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<blockquote>"Be sure to set your Input Trim properly. If you are using single-coil pickups then you want to increase the Input Trim. This will optimize the S/N Ratio. With a properly optimized SNR the Axe-Fx has less self-noise than your guitar." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/best-low-watt-amp-model-to-build-do-it-all-preset-by-altering-guitar-volume-knob.122796/#post-1460865 source] </blockquote>
==INPUT DRIVE + OVERDRIVE + MASTER VOLUME==
==INPUT DRIVE + OVERDRIVE + MASTER VOLUME==
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<blockquote>"The Presence control on the Axe-Fx is more linear. The Presence control on most amps does nothing for the first half of its rotation or more. I made it so the Presence control actually does something when you turn it. Therefore you typically need to set the Presence control lower than you would on the amp." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/axe-fx-3-not-sounding-as-good-as-expected.149078/page-13#post-1770766 source]</blockquote>
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<blockquote>"That's one of my go-to tweaks. The amount of treble peaking needed for an amp at a given drive is highly dependent on the guitar. For example my guess is that the AFD100 was designed around a Les Paul. With my Suhr it's much too bright because that's a very bright guitar. So one of the first things I do with the AFS100 model is turn down the bright cap a bit." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/firmware-1-11.140004/page-2#post-1660177 source] </blockquote>
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<blockquote>"Changing the power tube between pentode and tetrode doesn't change the sound in the same way actually changing tubes would because it only changes the distortion curves. It does not change the transconductance so the transformer matching is constant. When you put different power tubes in an amp the difference in tone isn't due to some inherent difference in the "sound" of the tubes. It's mainly due to the different transconductances. The transconductance of an EL34 is about 30-40% more than the transconductance of a 6L6 ([http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/preamp-tube-types.94404/#post-1131521 edited]). This means that the plate current will be twice as great for a given grid voltage. This makes EL34s sound "more midrangey" and 6L6s sound "tighter" or "fuller". The truth is that if you bias them correctly and compensate for the difference in transconductance you will hear very little difference. Unfortunately you can't compensate for the transconductance easily in a real amp without changing the gain of the phase inverter and/or putting in a different output transformer." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/mark-v-tone-match.75082/#post-924520 source]</blockquote>
==POWER TUBE GRID BIAS==
==POWER TUBE GRID BIAS==
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<blockquote>"For as long as I can remember I've always biased my amps around 60% of maximum dissipation. But I just ran across a site that claims 70% is optimal for a Class-AB amp. So I tried it on my go-to Plexi patch and I do believe it sounds better. Set Power Tube Grid Bias to 0.7 to do this." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/hmmmm-bias-point.154630/post-1838912 source]</blockquote>
<blockquote>"For as long as I can remember I've always biased my amps around 60% of maximum dissipation. But I just ran across a site that claims 70% is optimal for a Class-AB amp. So I tried it on my go-to Plexi patch and I do believe it sounds better. Set Power Tube Grid Bias to 0.7 to do this." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/hmmmm-bias-point.154630/post-1838912 source]</blockquote>
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# Negative Feedback. Negative feedback linearizes the power amp. At some point, though, the power amp then runs out of headroom and goes into clipping. The more negative feedback the more linear the response and the more abrupt the clipping. Less negative feedback, smoother clipping.<BR>
I often turn P.A. Hardness down, usually between 3-4, because I like the smoother sound." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/power-amp-hardness.152582/post-1815292 source]</blockquote>
[http://forum.fractalaudio.com/cliffs-notes/79697-about-negative-feedback.html Cliff's Tech Note:]
[http://forum.fractalaudio.com/cliffs-notes/79697-about-negative-feedback.html Cliff's Tech Note:]
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<blockquote>The range of the Transformer Match control has been reduced to 0.5 to 2.0. Existing presets will have this value reset to 1.0."</blockquote>
<blockquote>"the by a . .a . of power is the to the power . , , is the the that to the ." [://forum.fractalaudio.com/---.source] </blockquote>
<blockquote>"in and . .. The .. The the the .
to . to the .//. ./-this .
a the the .. the "" is .
"the in the ." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/----./post-source]</blockquote>
==POWER TUBE HARDNESS==
==POWER TUBE HARDNESS==
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<blockquote>"(...) Another option is to change the supply type to DC. This will eliminate any ghosting and give you a more "ideal" response. Most modelers use a DC power supply model but I've found that an AC supply model is key to achieving that last few percent of realism. The supply ripple is a big part of why old amps sound the way they do. Most guitar players actually like a percussive attack so that's why about 10ms has become a de-facto standard." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/i-had-a-b-time-constant-epiphany.106309/#post-1271768 source] </blockquote>
<blockquote>"Ghost notes are intermodulation distortion between the power supply ripple and the audio. There are several ways to reduce it:
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==LF RESONANCE + FREQUENCY + Q
==LFRESONANCE + FREQUENCY + Q==
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this at zero when using a guitar speaker cabinet.
<blockquote>(firmware 6.02) "Improved speaker overdrive modeling in Amp block. New algorithm captures the “throaty” sound of an overdriven speaker along with the gentle compression. The Speaker Drive parameter has been moved to the Spkr tab on the Amp menu.</blockquote>
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<blockquote>"The easy way to understand compliance is to think of a spring. In Physics 101 we're taught that F = kx but that's an ideal spring. A real spring is nonlinear. Eventually you get to a point where compressing or stretching the string you run out of travel and the force goes nonlinear. A speaker is the same way. The suspension is essentially a spring and the greater the displacement the greater the force trying to restore the cone to its rest position. The compliance parameter controls how stiff that suspension is." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/axe-fx-iii-firmware-2-00-public-beta-2.144615/page-6#post-1711452 source]</blockquote>
Sets the output transformer bandwidth.
Sets the output transformer bandwidth.
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<blockquote>(firmware 10.10) "Transformer distortion modeling is now independent of transformer match value. Before the amount of distortion was also dependent on the match value making adjustment more difficult."</blockquote>
=Input EQ page=
=Input EQ page=
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==OUTPUT COMPRESSION + TYPE + THRESHOLD + CLARITY==
==OUTPUT COMPRESSION + TYPE + THRESHOLD + CLARITY==
of gain , at the of the .
A modifier can be attached to Output Comp.
A modifier can be attached to Output Comp.
Output of the block.:of.
<blockquote>() "of . , , . ." [://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/--------./post-source]</blockquote>
<blockquote>(firmware Quantum 7.02) "Improved Amp block output compressor. New algorithm is more musical and reacts faster to transients. If you are using this in your presets it is recommended to audition your presets and readjust as necessary. The Gain Reduction meter now shows the total gain including the makeup gain." "Non-zero values increase CPU usage. "The effect of the compressor setting can be watched on the DYN page of the Amp block."</blockquote>
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<blockquote>"Output Comp is compression ratio. Ratio = 1 + 3 * comp/10. Attack and release are fixed. Threshold is adjustable in the advanced menu." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/ouput-comp-recommendations.87494/#post-1058766 source]</blockquote>
<blockquote>"If you set the Compressor Type to Feedback and turn up the Output Compression you will get more distortion as you play harder. So you can create an amp that cleans up more when you play lightly or roll of the volume." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/feedback-parameter-in-amp-block-output-compressor.101388/#post-1216109 source]</blockquote>
<blockquote>amp andamp . . ." [http://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/------./ source]</blockquote>
a the . .. at .
<blockquote>"'s to the " ..
the Compressor .the . the ./gain
the the cleanup the hard. you get the ." [://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/------./source]</blockquote>
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The default value, FRFR, is the classic mode and designed for use with monitors or recording.
The default value, FRFR, is the classic mode and designed for use with monitors or recording.
The SS PA + Cab mode is intended for use with a solid-state power amp and conventional guitar cab. In this mode speaker compression modeling behaves differently relying on the speaker for compression while still simulating the interaction with the power amp. NOTE: this mode is not intended for use with current drive power amps, i.e. tube power amps, Class-D current feedback amps (Quilter Tone Block), etc. NOTE: this mode CAN be used with FRFR monitors in high volume applications where the monitor’s speakers are compressing thereby achieving a more dynamic response."</blockquote>
=Advanced page — Tone and Gain=
=Advanced page — Tone and Gain=
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<blockquote>"A snubber is a network used to reduce high frequencies. The term is a bit misused in tube amps. Typically a snubber is used to absorb transients in power circuits (like when a switch opens/closes). In a tube amp the "snubber cap" is a capacitor across the plates of the phase inverter (PI). This reduces the gain of the power amp at high frequencies. It was originally used to prevent the power amp from oscillating. Some modern amps employ large values for tone shaping." [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/axe-fx-iii-firmware-version-5-05.149428/page-6#post-1773475 source]</blockquote>
==TONESTACK TYPE +
==TONESTACK TYPE + FREQ + LOCATION==
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==POWER TUBE BIAS EXCURSION==
==POWER TUBE BIAS EXCURSION==
the grid bias shifts when the virtual power tube grids are
==EXCURSION TIME + RECOVERY TIME==
==EXCURSION TIME + RECOVERY TIME==
=Advanced page — Output=
=Advanced page — Output=
Revision as of 10:16, 20 November 2019
- 1 The Amp block
- 2 About amp modeling
- 2.1 Introduction
- 2.2 Fractal Audio's amp modeling progress
- 2.3 Differences between Fractal Audio's modelers
- 2.4 Yek's Guide to the Amp Models
- 2.5 Power Amp Modeling: turn off when using a tube power amp
- 2.6 Turn off speaker-related parameters when using a tube power amp and traditional cabinet
- 2.7 Preamp and power amp sections can not be split
- 2.8 Using one or two Amp blocks
- 2.9 Dialing in the amp block
- 2.10 Switching between amp sounds
- 2.11 Authentic or idealized amp simulation
- 2.12 Authentic or ideal amp controls
- 2.13 Resetting amp models
- 2.14 Frequency respons and polarity of amp models
- 2.15 Increasing or decreasing amp gain
- 2.16 Clean up with volume control
- 2.17 Bi-amping
- 2.18 Replicating the sound of the Kemper profiler
- 2.19 Noise, fizz, crackle, sizzle, intermodulation distortion, crossover distortion, papery buzz
- 2.20 Glossary of common amplifier terms
- 2.21 Tutorials and demos
- 3 Parameters
- 4 Type page
- 5 Tone page
- 6 Preamp page
- 7 Power Amp page
- 8 Power Supply page
- 9 Speaker page
- 10 Input EQ page
- 11 Output EQ page
- 12 Dynamics page
- 13 Advanced page
- 14 Advanced page — Tone and Gain
- 15 Advanced page — Preamp
- 16 Advanced page — Cathode Follower
- 17 Advanced page — Power Amp
- 17.1 MASTER VOL TRIM
- 17.2 MASTER VOL CAP
- 17.3 MASTER VOL LOCATION
- 17.4 PRESENCE FREQ
- 17.5 DEPTH FREQ
- 17.6 POWER AMP CATHODE RESISTANCE
- 17.7 POWER AMP CATHODE TIME CONSTANT
- 17.8 PHASE INVERTER BIAS EXCURSION
- 17.9 POWER TUBE BIAS EXCURSION
- 17.10 EXCURSION TIME + RECOVERY TIME
- 17.11 SPEAKER IMPEDANCE CURVE
- 18 Advanced page — Output
- 19 Legacy parameters
The Amp block
Available on which products
- Axe-Fx III: 2 blocks
- FM3: 1 block
- Axe-Fx II: 2 blocks
- AX8: 1 block
- FX8: no
Channels or X/Y switching
- Axe-Fx III and FM3: 4 channels
- Axe-Fx II: X/Y
- AX8: X/Y
About amp modeling
Read this: Amp and Cab modeling for beginners
Fractal Audio's amp modeling progress
Differences between Fractal Audio's modelers
The flagship processor is the Axe-Fx, currently the III, which provides the most advanced and complete "Ares" amp modeling.
The FM3 offers the same quality of amp modeling and firmware, but due to its lesser processing power, some features may not be available.
(comparing the amp modeling in the FM3 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
(FM3) "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
(FM3) "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 same applies to the previous hardware generation. The AX8 skipped some of the features present on the Axe-Fx II.
Yek's Guide to the Amp Models
Descriptions of the amp types:
Power Amp Modeling: turn off when using a tube power amp
When using a tube power amp for amplification, disable power amp modeling. Of course, in some specific cases: YMMV. Also, some tube amps, such as Fryette's Power Station and LX-II, are designed to have a neutral impact on the sound and allow Power Amp Modeling to be enabled.
There are two ways to turn off power amp modeling:
- turn off Supply Sag in the Amp block (display shows: "p.a. off")
- disable Power Amp Modeling in the Global menu
The result is not exactly the same:
"If you shut the power amp modeling off from the Global menu, it is not exactly the same as turning it off by setting Supply Sag to zero. This is because the virtual power amp always runs. So if you shut the power amp modeling off from the Global menu, the supply will still sag resulting in a more compressed response. If the Master is set high the sag can be quite pronounced." source
Turning off power amp modeling is not the same as bypassing the Amp block. If power amp modeling is disabled, preamp modeling will still run.
When power amp modeling is disabled, Depth and Presence are disabled (Quantum 9.03 and later), and Master Volume changes into a simple volume control. Before Quantum 9.03, Presence turned into a shelving filter when power amp modeling was disabled.
When using an external power amp and a traditional guitar speaker cabinet to amplify, make sure that Speaker Drive is disabled in the Amp block. This parameter should be used only with cabinet models.
Cabinet modeling should be disabled altogether when using a traditional guitar speaker cabinet, either by bypassing the Cab block(s) in the preset, or by turning off Cabinet Modeling in the Global menu. When using a speaker that's been designed for FRFR, don't turn off Cab Modeling.
When using a non-neutral tube power amp, turn off Power Amp Modeling, Speaker Compression, Speaker Compliance and Cabinet Resonance. When using a solid-state power amp, you don't have to turn off these controls.
Also take a look at the Output Mode setting in the Amp block.
"If using a solid-state amp into a traditional cab I would recommend Speaker Compression and Compliance not be zero. If using a tube power amp into a traditional cab all should be zero." source
Preamp and power amp sections can not be split
The Amp block provides the virtual preamp and the virtual power amp. Parameters for both are provided.
Power amp modeling can be disabled (globally or per-preset), but there's no way for the user to separate both sections. This also means that you can’t switch between (virtual) power amps for a given amp model.
"It's not impossible but it has implementation difficulties. The main problem is that the amp block is nonlinear and therefore oversamples the data. Any effect inserted between the virtual preamp and power amp would need to also run at the oversampled rate which means many times the CPU usage. For example, if the amp block is running 8x oversampled then the CPU usage for any effect inserted would by 8x as much (I'm not going to disclose our actual oversample rate). The other way is to dowsample back to native sample rate, run the effect(s), and the upsample again. No problem right? Except the no-free-lunch theory gets in the way. Downsampling and upsampling add latency." source
If a power amp model without preamp is required, for example when connecting an external preamp, the Tube Pre amp model can be used, with its tone controls set at default.
"Yes, the Tube Pre model is neutral." source
Using one or two Amp blocks
A preset on Fractal Audio's amp modelers can have one or two Amp blocks.
One of the two DSPs on the circuit board runs the amp modeling. Adding a 2nd Amp block increases total CPU usage just a little.
Axe-FX II and III — two Amp blocks
FM3 and AX8 — a single Amp block
(Axe-Fx II) "There is actually a small amount of processing for the amp blocks done on the master DSP. That, along with inter-DSP communications, uses about 2% of the master DSP." source
When using a single Amp block in the Axe-Fx II, the Amp block runs at double the internal sampling frequency. This happens automatically; there's is no parameter. Main benefit of this is less aliasing in high gain models. This does not apply to the Axe-Fx III.
(Axe-Fx III) "The reason I haven't added a third amp block is that I would have to reduce the oversample rate for all the amp blocks when three are in use and this would be detrimental to sound quality." source
(FM3) "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
(Axe-Fx II, firmware 3.04) "In high-res mode the internal sampling rate is doubled so as to provide greater fidelity and resistance to aliasing. This mode is automatic and is selected whenever there is only one amp block in the layout grid. Adding a second amp block will revert to normal resolution. Note that switching between presets with differing number of amp blocks may introduce an additional delay as a “soft reset” of the amp blocks must be done whenever changing the resolution.
(Axe-Fx II) "The oversampling rate is cut in half when running two amps. It's probably not noticeable. Even when running at half, it's as fast or faster than every other product available." source
(Axe-Fx II) "I don't hear a difference but some claim they can. A single amp block runs the amp simulation at 16x oversampling. Two amp blocks run each simulation at 8x." source
Switching between two Amp blocks in parallel rows, is the fastest way to switch between amp sounds without a gap.
- When using a single Amp block in a preset, always use the first instance (AMP 1), or you might experience a "pop" when switching to that preset.
- When using two Amp blocks, always run them in two parallel grid rows. Never place them in series on the same row.
- When switching between two Amp blocks in parallel rows, make sure to set their Bypass Mode to Mute, to prevent bleed-through of dry signal from the bypassed Amp block.
- Adding a Drive block in front of only one of two Amp blocks in parallel rows, with both Amp blocks engaged, may cause phase cancellation because of latency. Solution: add a bypassed Drive block to the other row.
"Don't put amp blocks in series. Especially when one is clean and the other is high-gain. Always put them in parallel and set the bypass mode to Mute." source
"NEVER put amps in series. Put them in parallel and set the Bypass Mode to Mute." source
Dialing in the amp block
Be aware that the choice of a cab (IR) in the Cab block has much more impact on the sound than tweaking controls in the Amp block.
"One of the things I've found really useful about these (far-field IRs) is they are a good starting point for dialing the amp block in. Near-field IRs can have excessive bass and/or treble. To compensate we might end up doing strange things in the amp block which throws off the distortion character and feel. When using a far-field IR it's very similar to how the amp sounds through a conventional cab. So what I'm doing is using one of the far-field IRs to start, dial in the amp block and then choose a near-field IR. I then adjust the low/high cuts in the cab block rather than adjusting the amp block." source
Switching between amp sounds
Here are the most common methods to switch between different amp sounds:
- use different Presets
- switch between two Amp blocks in a preset via MIDI (not on AX8)
- switch between two Amp blocks in a preset using Scenes (not on AX8 or FM3)
- use X/Y switching in a single Amp block (not on Axe-Fx III)
- use Channels with a single Amp block (Axe-Fx III only)
- use Scenes and a Scene Controller with a single Amp block
- use two amps and the Multiplexer block to cross-fade (Axe-Fx III only)
The time to switch between scenes and presets depends on available CPU and effect settings (bypassed or not, X/Y states and channels).
"Our modeling is very detailed and whenever the amp model changes the "virtual circuit" needs to be reconfigured. We can switch quickly but often this causes clicks and pops due to the reconfiguration. So the amp block needs to run silently for a bit so things will settle. Then we unmute the block. This mute period is what you are hearing. Most other products just use a fixed algorithm and change the input/output EQ and gain. With this type of algorithm you can switch quickly without clicks and pops but, of course, you don't get the realism and detail." source
Channels switching on the Axe-Fx III is very fast.
"The "gap" is arbitrary and is simply the time to fade down the old amp and fade up the new amp. You HAVE to do some ramp-down and ramp-up or you'll get artifacts as the gain can be completely different. If you just instantly switch from a clean amp to a distorted amp or vice-versa you'll get a pop. That's just basic signal processing." source
"Feels seamless to me (and faster than any of my channel switching amps) but everyone has different definitions." source
"Any faster than that and you risk pops or clicks if the levels and/or gains are markedly different. You can't change the laws of nature." source
"On the III it mutes just the block so the reverb and delay are unaffected." source
Authentic or idealized amp simulation
"Accuracy, warts and all. Otherwise people compare against the real amp and say "it doesn't sound the same". The FAS models are idealized and have some of the "design flaws" removed or reduced." source
Authentic or ideal amp controls
Axe-Fx III and FM3 — if "Tone Control Display" in the Global menu is set to AUTHENTIC (default), only those controls present on the actual amp are displayed. When set to IDEAL, all tone controls are displayed. Also, when set to AUTHENTIC, the Bass, Mid and Treble controls are reset to default values when changing models to ensure accuracy for models that may not have these controls.
The Amp block has one or two gain (Input Drive, Overdrive) and tone (B/M/T) controls, similar to the equivalent real amps. The range and behavior of those controls is about the same as on the real amp, with the exception of Master Volume, Presence and Depth.
If the real amp has two gain controls, the one closest to the 1/4" input is modeled as (Input) Drive in the model. The other one is Overdrive.
If the real amp has two inputs (f.e. Low and High), the model is based on the high input. Set Input Trim to 0.500 to get the equivalent of using the low input.
If the original amp doesn't have a Bright switch but the model has, the switch corresponds to either a hardwired bright switch on the inside of the amp or it selects the amp's Bright channel (if there's not a separate model of the Bright channel).
For quick access to the Amp block:
- Axe-Fx III — use the controls on the Perform screen (if assigned). Or from the Home screen: push Page Right and then the button for AMP 1 or AMP 2.
- FM3 — click push-knob "A" on the Home screen
- Axe-Fx II — assign a Quick-Jump button (X/Y) to the Amp block in the I/O menu
(firmware 6) "In general most knobs now behave exactly like the actual amp when possible. In a few instances there may be minor discrepancies between the knob position of the model and actual amp due to programming constraints and/or peculiarities of the actual amp (such as poor potentiometer tolerance). Due to variations in presence circuit topologies the taper of the Presence parameter, in particular, may vary between the model and the actual amp. In other words, a different setting on the model may be required to achieve the same response as the actual amp. In most cases however, the Drive, Treble, Mid, and Bass knobs will be accurate to within 10% of the actual amp."
"The tapers of the controls isn't really MIMIC per se. It's just me doing the dog-work and measuring the tapers. So, in that regard, the tapers match my amps. However manufacturers are notorious for changing tapers, sometimes right in the middle of a production run due to part availability. Furthermore the tapers in the Axe-Fx assume "true" logarithmic pots. Consumer-grade log pots are not true logarithmic, they're a crude approximation. At noon on a pot you'll get a nearly perfect match assuming the pot has 0% tolerance. As you deviate from noon there may be some error due to the approximation in the actual amp. As you get to the ends of the travel the error will decrease to zero. At any point there shouldn't be more than 10% or so deviation between the Axe-Fx knob position and the real amp. Master Volume tapers are NOT matched. If they were the amp volumes would jump all over the place when you switched amp types. IIRC I use a Log10A for the MV." source
"In most cases the knobs do translate. Usually within 10%." source
"If an amp has just "Tone" then that's mapped to Treble. Leave bass and mid at noon." source
"If the amp has no Master Volume, set the MV to 10 (the model will default to 10 when you select it). If the amp has no midrange control, set the MID to 5.00. If the amp only has a "Tone" control, set Bass and Mid to noon and the Treble control is your tone control." source
"Master Volume tapers are NOT matched. If they were. the amp volumes would jump all over the place when you switched amp types. IIRC I use a Log10A for the MV." source
"The only controls that do not necessarily match are the Presence and Master Volume. The Master Volume taper is the same for every amp. This was done to provide some consistency in finding the "sweet spot" of power amp break up and to prevent wildly fluctuating volume levels. The Presence control has a reverse log taper which gives the control a more reasonable behavior than that of most tube amps. A typical tube amp's Presence control does nothing over the first 80% of it's rotation which is stupid." source
"Presence and Depth controls may not match the taper of the actual amp. On most amps the Presence control does nothing until you turn it almost all the way up. This seems a bit silly so we make the Presence behave more logically. Same goes for the Depth control. Drive, Bass, Mid and Treble will match the actual amp within the tolerance of the pots. Another caveat when comparing amps: many times the knobs aren't "centered". IOW if you put the Treble knob at noon it isn't actually at 50%. You can see this by turning the knob all the way down and all the way up. It may not be symmetrical. This happens when the pots don't have a flat spot and/or the pot is rotated within the mounting hole." source
"IMO accuracy is paramount and that's why we've devoted so much in resources to that end. The purpose of a modeler is to model amps as accurately as possible. Now it's impossible to account for component tolerances and tone controls can vary as much as 20% or more between two same amps. We therefore model all amps assuming the tone controls are "perfect" ((IOW if the amp was designed with a 500K pot we use 500K even if our reference amp is off by some percentage). We also don't match the Presence and MV tapers for previously discussed reasons. In some cases the Depth taper does also not match although this is infrequent. However you can be assured that even if the tapers don't match the models will match at the extremes of the control range and therefore the model is accurate but there may not be a 1-to-1 correspondence between the amp's knob and Axe-Fx's knob, i.e. Presence on 7 on the amp may be 5 on the Axe-Fx but 0 on the amp will be 0 on the Axe-Fx." source
"Internet wisdom states that no two amps of the same type sound the same. That is true, but the reasons are far more simple than many would have you believe. Tales abound of esoteric effects such as wire dress, transformer orientation, phase of the moon, etc. And while these do have some effect, it is arguably inconsequential relative to the single biggest source of deviation: tone control tolerance. I've spent the last ten years modeling tube amps and the number one thing I see is that tone controls are very inconsistent devices. First of all the tolerance of the control is typically 20%. That's plus or minus 20% so 40% total. A 100K pot can be as low as 80K or as high as 120K. This is contrast to the tolerance of a typical passive component which is 5% or less (usually much less IME). Secondly the resistance at the midpoint can vary widely. A Log10A pot should be 10% of the resistance at midpoint. But, again, this can be off 20%. Let's take the case of a bass control which is typically wired as a rheostat. On one amp the pot might be 10% high and the midpoint 10% high. Therefore with the control at noon (assuming, say, a 1M pot) the resistance will be 121K. Another amp off the assembly line might be 10% low. Therefore the pot will be 81K. That's a 40K difference between the two amps and that's not even worst-case. Now you can make the amps sound the same by simply turning down the control on one and/or turning it up on the other." source
"You'll never get the knobs to correspond exactly. Commercial quality potentiometers are terrible. They vary widely in both end-to-end resistance and resistance at midpoint. Variations of +/- 20% are common (that's 40% total!!!). The Axe-Fx always assumes an ideal potentiometer, i.e. a pot where the end-to-end and midpoint resistances are exactly the specified value. Furthermore commercial "audio taper" pots are not truly logarithmic. They use a crude piecewise approximation. The virtual pots in the Axe-Fx are true log. This is the #1 reason for the whole "no two amps sound the same". In fact they probably do sound the same but you need to adjust the pots on one (and possibly quite a bit) to make it sound like the other. For example if a tone control is at noon (5.00) on one amp you may need to set the other amp to anywhere from 3.00 to 7.00. This applies to any product that uses potentiometers, including drive pedals. This also means when matching any virtual amp/drive/etc. in the Axe-Fx to a real-world counterpart that you may need to deviate significantly to get the same sound. For example, to get our reference Dual Rectifier's orange channel to match the model I need to set the model's treble control to around 4.0 (with the amp's treble at noon). This is because the pot in the amp has a significant deviation from the intended resistance at the midpoint. It's a 250K linear taper pot but it reads around 100K/150K when set to the midpoint. This is quite typical of commercial quality pots." source
"A typical pot used in a guitar amp has a tolerance of ±20%. On top of that there is the matching of the taper. The taper can also be off as much as 20% at the midpoint. So if we take, say, a 100K linear taper pot that's perfect it will have a resistance of 50K at the midpoint. We assume perfect pots in the models. However an actual amp may have a pot that's low by 20% so that would be 80K. If the taper is perfect then it's only 40K at the midpoint (20% error). If the taper is off then it might only be 32K at the midpoint for a total error of 36% (!!!). To get the same response on the model you would need to set that control to 3.6 instead of 5.0. That's an absolute worst case and I've never seen that but I routinely see pots that are 20% off at the midpoint." source
The range of the Drive taper in the Axe-Fx is 0-10. Volume knobs on Fender amps go from 1 to 10. This translates to:
- Fender 1 = Axe 0.00
- Fender 2 = Axe 1.11
- Fender 3 = Axe 2.22
- Fender 4 = Axe 3.33
- Fender 5 = Axe 4.44
- Fender 6 = Axe 5.55
- Fender 7 = Axe 6.66
- Fender 8 = Axe 7.78
- Fender 9 = Axe 8.89
- Fender 10 = Axe 10.00
"For a Fender the controls go 1-10. On the model they go 0 - 10. To replicate the amp's controls multiply by 1.1 and subtract 1.1. I had the amp set to 6, 6, 6 and set the model to 6, 6, 6 and there was too much bass and gain. But the correct value is 5.5, 5.5, 5.5." source
Resetting amp models
There are various ways to set the Amp block parameters back to default, with different results:
>> By selecting another amp type and then back to the original one (= soft reset or re-select)
IMPORTANT: if "Tone Control Display" in the Global menu is set to AUTHENTIC instead of IDEAL (Axe-Fx III and FM3), a "soft" reset of the Amp block will also reset Bass, Middle and Treble to their default values!
The list below (last checked in March 2019) shows which parameters are affected by a soft reset, following the order of the pages of the Amp block in the Axe-Fx III:
- Tone page — Input Trim, Presence, Depth, Bright, Master. And also B/M/T if Tone Control Display (Global menu) is set to: Authentic
- Preamp page — everything, except Boost Type and Boost Level
- Power Amp page — everything, except Bias Trem Freq
- Power Supply page — everything
- Speaker page — everything
- Inout EQ page — everything, except Q
- Output EQ page — everything
- Dynamics page — everything, except Speaker Compression, Speaker Time Const, Level
- Advanced page — EQ on/off, Output Mode
- Advanced page > Preamp — everything
- Advanced page > Cathode Follower — everything
- Advanced page > Power Amp — everything
- Advanced page > Output — nothing
Note that Master Volume is always defaulted when you re-select an amp type. This is important, because it can make your presets louder or softer, and change the sound.
>> By resetting the entire Amp block (= hard reset)
- Axe-Fx III hardware — Press LAYOUT, select the Amp block, press the RESET soft knob
- Axe-Fx II hardware — Press LAYOUT, select the Amp block, press EDIT, then double-click the BYPASS button (not: FX.BYPASS)
- AX8 hardware — Select the Amp block on the layout screen, press EDIT, then press SHIFT followed by double-clicking EDIT button
- Software editor — Select the Amp block and then select Reset Block or Reset Current Effect Type from the menu (or press CTRL-I or COMMAND-I). Note that the Reset Block and Reset Current Effect Type commands do exactly the same, when its comes to the Amp block
- Other methods — Various firmware versions have provided other methods to reset parameters. Including entries in the Global menu and the Amp block that allowed selecting different modeling versions, and a command in the Utility menu
What to do when new firmware is released...
How to save and re-apply your current settings...
- Fractal-Bot — Save and load entire banks of presets, and firmware
- Software editor — Export (save on disk) a single preset, and load a single preset (including ones from a bank)
- Recall Effect (if available on your device) — Load the values of an AMP block from one preset into another (not on Axe-Fx III)
- Global Blocks (if available on your device) — Save Amp block settings to different instances of a global block
When you're using a power amp and guitar cab...
- Speaker Drive — users of traditional guitar cabinets need to set this to 0
- Low Freq and High Freq Resonance — these are pre-set frequencies at which the virtual amp resonates with the cab model. The values depend on the selected Speaker Impedance Curve on the Speaker page of the Amp block (firmware Ares 11 and later). When using a real cabinet, you'll want to replace this with the "real" resonant frequency of the cabinet.
- Cabinet Resonance: this determines the amount of cabinet resonance (firmware Ares 11 and later).
- Speaker Comp — default value is 3, but if you use a tube preamp and/or a traditional speaker cab, you’ll want this set to zero
- Speaker Compliance — default value is 5, but if you use a tube preamp and/or a traditional speaker cab, you’ll want this set to zero
Frequency respons and polarity of amp models
"The frequency response is identical to the actual amps modeled. That is part of the modeling process. The models are EQ-matched to the amps and the data stored in the firmware." source
"Even without matching the modeling is so accurate now that any deviations are less than 1 dB." source
"All amp models have the same polarity so that you can mix them without weirdness." source
Increasing or decreasing amp gain
There are many ways to increase or decrease amp gain.
IMPORTANT: adjusting Input Level in I/O does not affect amp gain!
- Input trim: Input Trim in the Amp block lets you decrease or increase the level of the signal going into the Amp block. The difference between the High and Low inputs on a Fender amp is around -6 dB, which equals to Input Trim at 0.500.
- Drive parameters: each Amp block has one or two Drive parameters controlling the amount of gain. You can assign an external controller to vary the gain.
- Global amp gain: adjust the global Amp Gain parameter in the Global menu (Axe-Fx II and AX8 only). This parameter lets you adjust the range of gain of the amps in all presets. This is also possible per preset via the Input Trim parameter in the Amp block.
"The global Amp Gain is for people who use different guitars and want the input gain to be the same even though the guitars have different outputs. The unity gain feature in the II doesn't allow for this. It makes sure the signal your guitar puts out is what the input to the grid sees while still making sure the A/D converters get a good signal." source
"They (Amp Gain and Input Trim) are basically the same thing. The global Amp Gain has a smaller range as it's designed for fine-tuning between guitars whereas the local trim allows you to radically alter the response of the model." source
- Master volume: increase Master Volume for more power amp distortion. Increase Mstr Vol Trim on the Advanced parameters page to increase the range of the master volume.
- Boost: engage Boost in the Amp block to crank the input level into the Amp block. Alternatively use a Filter or Volume block for the same task.
- Bright switch: engaging the Bright switch may increase gain with some models.
- Saturation: engage the Sat(uration) switch in the model.
- Input block level: increase Level in the Input block to increase the signal strength entering the grid.
- Drive block: insert a Drive block before the Amp block. Select a type such as FET Boost or Tape Dist for a clean boost and attach a pedal to its Drive parameter. Or set a Drive block to TS808 or something similar with Drive all the way down and Level turned up to tighten low end.
- Pitch Follower: attach the Pitch internal controller to the Overdrive control. Demonstration by Leon Todd
- Gain Enhancer: this control simulates the acoustic reinforcement of a loud amp coupling into the guitar which also adds gain.
(Jay Mitchell) "Cascade one amp block into another. Turn off "Sag" in the first one. Now you've got an extra preamp feeding your amp, which opens up an incredible spectrum of gain staging. For example, think Twin Reverb preamp, with Plexi tonestack set to "post," feeding a Plexi 2 with default settings. The possibilities exceed anything one person could hope to explore in a lifetime. You can get it awfully close. You want to minimize the effect of the preamp in Amp 2. To do this, set the 2nd Amp's Bright to off, MV to a high value and find a neutral setting for the tone controls in the 2nd Amp. Then use Drive in the 2nd Amp for your MV. The amp types you choose for this arrangement will make a huge difference, as will quite a few parameter settings."
(Jay Mitchell) "Start with Tape drive, set the clipping mode to "HV tube", Drive moderate, Level as appropriate for the amp block it's driving, and you'll have another tube gain stage, complete with EQ."
To control the low end:
"If you want less distortion on low notes, there are several ways to achieve this:
- Use the Low Cut
- Increase Definition
- Increase Xfrmr LF.
The first two reduce low frequency content going into the preamp, the last one reduces it going into the power amp (there's a hidden low-cut between the preamp and power amp but the user doesn't have access to this). So it depends on where you are getting the distortion from. If it's mostly preamp distortion, use #1 or #2. Otherwise use #3. You can add bass back with the Depth knob or in the EQ page. The default settings are accurate for the amp being modeled. As amps become more modern, it seems people's taste agree with yours and many modern amps feature aggressive low-cut and then add bass back in the power amp. So what you are doing is "modernizing" your amp. For example, the HBE has a very high low-cut and then adds bass back with a fixed Depth circuit." source
Clean up with volume control
"The amps clean up exactly like their analog counterparts. This is a common complaint with modelers because people use more gain because they listen at lower volumes. With a real amp the volume is loud which provides acoustic reinforcement to the guitar which enhances sustain. At lower volumes this is missing so people increase the gain." source
"It's actually one of the things we test when creating models. We even go beyond that. We compare the harmonic spectrum at various input levels as well to make sure the distortion characteristics change in the same way. And you can't do this with just a sine wave, you need to test both harmonic and intermodulation products." source
"Here's a little trick to enhance the "clean up with guitar volume knob" thing. In the Amp block go to the Dynamics page. Set the Compressor Type to Feedback. Turn up the Output Compression to taste. Notice that when you play harder the amp will distort more. Now you can use the Input Drive and/or Trim to reduce the input gain so that when you play softer or roll off the volume the amp will clean up. Real amps get this from power supply sag but this requires the power amp be driven hard which can get muddy. This trick allows you to get that same response without cranking the Master Volume." source
"One often hears pundits proclaim "Modelers don't clean up when rolling off the volume knob". While this may be true of some products we actually test and compare this to our reference amps. We measure the THD and output volume at different stimulus levels to ensure that the response is the same. The reason for this myth stems from acoustic feedback. Real amps are LOUD. Modelers are usually played at much lower volumes.
Consider the following [https://forum.fractalaudio.com/attachments/volume_myth-png.58779/ diagram: volume_myth.png]
This is a block diagram of a model of what happens when playing a guitar with a speaker. Vg is the signal generator (your guitar). Sound waves from the speaker are fed back to your guitar and add to that signal. This signal is then attenuated by the the volume pot, k. The signal is amplified by the amp gain, A. Some portion of that signal is fed back, B.
The formula for a closed loop system like this is Acl = kA / (1 - kAB), where Acl denotes the closed loop gain. The open loop gain is given by Aol = kA.
Let's consider some examples.
In the first example let's assume the amp gain, A = 10, the volume knob is wide open, k = 1 and a mere 2% of the signal is fed back, B = 0.02. Using our formula we get: Acl = 10 / (1 - 10 * 0.02) = 12.5.
The open loop gain is Aol = 10.
That tiny 2% of feedback has INCREASED the effective gain by 25% (!!!). If the amp is approaching distortion then it will get more distorted.
Now consider what happens if we roll of the volume knob a bit. Let's assume everything else is the same but we set our Log10A volume pot to halfway which means k = 0.1. Now we get: Acl = 0.1 * 10 / (1 - 0.1 * 10 * 0.02) = 1.02 and Aol = 1
Rolling our volume knob to halfway now only gives a paltry 2% of gain increase for the same amount of acoustic feedback. So when the volume knob is wide open the amp has effectively almost 25% more gain than when rolled off halfway!
Now let's look at what happens when we lower the amount of feedback which would occur if we turned down the volume of our speaker. Let's leave everything the same but reduce our feedback to 1%.
Our first example with the volume pot wide open now becomes: Acl = 10 / (1 - 10 * 0.01) = 11.1 Aol = 10
And our second example becomes: Acl = 1.01 Aol = 1
So we see that the closed-loop gain is highly dependent upon the speaker volume. Simply reducing the speaker volume by 6dB lowers the effective gain increase considerably.
When playing with a loud amp the positive feedback from the speaker into the guitar effectively increases the gain of the amp when the volume control is wide open. As you roll the volume control off the amount of gain increase is lower. This gives the ILLUSION that the amp cleans up more when you roll of the volume but it's not the amp that is cleaning up, the signal into the amp is lowered more than if there were no feedback.
When using a modeler people almost always have the volume lower because amps are too loud. Lowering the volume reduces the feedback which in turn lowers the gain enhancement. To compensate people raise the gain of the model but now when you roll off the volume it doesn't clean up as much because the gain is higher. IOW, to compensate for the reduced feedback the user increases the gain, say, 25% to get the same effective gain as the loud amp but when rolling off the volume the amp gain is still 25% higher so it doesn't clean up as much.
P.S. An interesting result occurs if we let B = 0.1: Acl = 10 / (1 - 10 * 0.1) = 10 / 0 = infinity. This is what happens for controlled feedback. The closed loop gain approaches infinity and the loop becomes unstable and oscillates. That's why controlled feedback is easier to obtain at higher volumes, the feedback coefficient is greater. Another way is to move closer to the speaker. Since sound pressure is inversely proportional to the square of the distance moving 50% closer results in four times the feedback!
You can simulate this by using the Output Compression control and setting the Compressor type to "Feedback". It won't simulate controlled feedback. It does a good job of simulating gain enhancement."
Replicating the sound of the Kemper profiler
"The Axe-Fx III models are extremely accurate. The Kemper has its own vibe which a lot of people like. It's characterized by lots of midrange compression. You can replicate this on the Axe-Fx by setting the Output Compression type in the Amp block to Feedback and dialing in ~6 dB of compression. Adjust to taste. The distortion of the Kemper is smoother than a real amp as well. You can replicate this by decreasing the Power Amp Hardness." source
Noise, fizz, crackle, sizzle, intermodulation distortion, crossover distortion, papery buzz
Fizz and crackle are terms to describe certain things people hear when playing an amp model.
Fizz is high-frequency noise or hiss, which almost seems detached from the basic sound, floating above it. It's only there briefly after striking a chord or tone, like some kind of interference. Best heard when playing a model with power amp distortion.
Crackle is a side-effect of the initial attack, which halts but not gradually, it kind of stutters before it stops. Best heard when playing a clean amp model at high master volume.
People play through their Axe-Fx and AX8 devices, hear fizz or crackle, and think there must be something wrong with the modeling or their settings. In fact, they are listening to the realistic equivalent of a real amp, because real amps also generate fizz and crackle. You need to listen very closely to the guitar speaker to hear it. That's why you'll hear it better through a modeler, because these emulate a close-miked guitar sound when using cabinet modeling.
Fizz and crackle attribute to the authenticity of amp modeling. They also help to make the guitar stand out in the mix.
"Fizz is desirable. Almost all high gain amps use a lot of feedback on the last triode stage to make it as "hard" as possible. This is typically done by using no cathode cap or a small cathode cap. You never see big cathode caps on the last stage of a high-gain amp. This gives lots of negative feedback and makes it clip harder. Another technique is to use negative feedback to the grid. This is done in 5150-based designs which makes the stage clip even harder. The last stage of a 5150 basically looks like a diode clipper. The harder the clipping the more overtones that are created and the better the tone cuts. Without those overtones your sound is lost in the mix. Amp designers know what they are doing. Trust them." source
"If you start trying to dial out what you call "fizz" and "artifacts" you're going to end up with a tone that doesn't cut. It might sound good to you but it won't fit in the mix. That fizz and sizzle is what makes those classic rock tones work. Listen to some isolated tracks of VH and AC/DC and you'll hear a ton of high-end sizzle. In the mix, however, it's not noticeable. If you remove it then the guitar sounds dead." source
"Fizz on the decay is natural and it's what tube amps do. If you don't like it you can reduce the Triode Hardness but then it won't cut in the mix as well." source
"The "fizziness" of clipping is determined by how "hard" the clipping is. There are three primary places that clipping occurs in a tube amp: the preamp tubes, the phase inverter and the power tube plates. Preamp tube clipping can range from soft to hard depending upon the design. Phase inverter (PI) clipping, which is actually the power tubes grids clipping, is very hard. Power tube clipping ranges from soft to hard depending upon the amount of negative feedback in the power amp. Preamp tube clipping is comprised of cutoff, which is soft, plus saturation, which tends to be hard. Actual saturation rarely occurs because most preamp stages are designed such that the grid clips before the tube enters saturation. Grid clipping is hard. Local negative feedback is used in the form of cathode caps to shape the response of a preamp stage. If there is no cathode cap then there is negative feedback at all frequencies which increases the hardness of the clipping. The last stage usually dominates the clipping. Some amps have no cathode cap on this stage, e.g. JCM800, and therefore have hard preamp clipping. The Axe-Fx II does not expose the negative feedback settings for the preamp stages to the user, these are hard-coded. Reducing the Triode Hardness parameter will soften the clipping more-or-less depending upon the particular amp model. In a typical tube amp the power tubes start to clip right about the same time the PI/grid clipping occurs. This is intentional so as to get the most power from the tubes. However some amps are intentionally mismatched as the designer's intent was to get more power tube clipping than PI clipping (i.e. Trainwrecks). The Transformer Match parameter adjusts the relative onset of power tube vs. PI/grid clipping. Lower values will cause the PI/grid clipping to occur before power tube clipping. Higher values will cause the power tubes to clip before the PI. Note that the power tube plates follow the impedance curve of the speaker so while the PI/grid may be designed to start clipping first, this only occurs in the midrange. At frequencies above 1 kHz or so the power tubes clip first since the voltage on the plates increases as a function of the speaker impedance. The first thing to clip tends to dominate as once you enter clipping the effect of clipping elsewhere is diminished. Negative feedback around the power amp attempts to linearize the transfer function. The more negative feedback the more the power amp is linearized. However this also causes the clipping to become harder. A power amp with no negative feedback will go into clipping softly. As you increase the negative feedback the "knee" gets sharper. The Damping parameter is the negative feedback control. Higher values give more feedback and harder clipping. Presence and Depth work by modifying the negative feedback. As you increase them the feedback gets less so by turning up the Presence you get softer clipping in the power amp. Therefore to decrease the hardness of the power amp clipping: reduce Damping, increase Presence, increase Transformer Match. To reduce preamp clipping hardness reduce Triode Hardness. There is no parameter exposed to adjust the PI hardness. HOWEVER, the relative hardness of clipping is not all that audible. You have to listen closely. The IR is far more important in the final result. Some IRs let through a lot more high frequencies and therefore sound more fizzy. Furthermore overanalyzing this is inadvisable. Many amps are specifically designed to clip hard as this gives a more aggressive tone that fits better in the mix. Some amps actually attempt to increase the hardness of the clipping as much as possible by using diode clipping or using very high values of negative feedback (i.e. Modded Marshalls, Camerons, 5150 III). Listening at low levels fools your ear. Our ears are more sensitive to midrange at low listening levels. This means we hear the clipping differently than when listening at the actual level the real amp would be generating." source
"When listening to things at a low volume fizz will be more noticeable. Power amp distortion can be particularly fizzy but we don't notice it because the amp is usually really loud when the power amp is distorting." And: "I was sitting in my chair about 3 feet from a 4x12 A/B'ing a JCM800 to the prototype Axe-Fx II some years ago. I was astonished at all the grit and fizz coming from the amp. The model was way too smooth. I sat there just playing a major 3rd interval listening to the crackle from the amp whereas the model did not have this. The big thing was the crackle on the note decay. The amp sounded like frying bacon as the note died out. It would go "gcchhhh crackkklleee bzzzzzz". I grabbed other amps and noticed the same thing from all of them. It was then that I realized I had a lot of work to do and spent a couple years researching how to make a digital amp modeler replicate all that stuff. All that stuff, though, gives you note separation and helps you cut in the mix. It turns out that tube amps do strange things when overdriven and those old concepts of soft clipping circuits are wrong. Tube amps get nasty and clip very hard and very asymmetrically." source
"I prefer the "fizz" on probably because I grew up with it. I just like the extra grit. When you're playing in a group context that grit seems to make the guitar cut better and fills out the sound. Without it things sound sterile. I spent months trying to capture that. One day one of my employees came by the lab while I was working on the new algorithms. I was trying to explain the grit to him that I heard in my JCM800. "Hear that sizzle on top of the notes? Hear that raspy, bacon frying sound? That's what modelers are missing." So I spent months figuring out where that came from and how to replicate it. All IMHO." source
"The "buzziness" of IM is a function of the "hardness" of the clipping circuit. The first thing you need to do is determine what is distorting: preamp or power amp. Power amp distortion is typically harder than preamp distortion due to global negative feedback. If you are using a modern amp model, i.e. something with a Master Volume, then there is a very good chance you might be overdriving the virtual power amp. In this case simply lowering the Master Volume will reduce IM. If it's preamp distortion then you can reduce Preamp Hardness or experiment with the Preamp Bias to change the distortion character. The Axe-Fx II is extremely accurate. Understanding how real amps work will allow you to adjust things to achieve your ultimate tone. To put this to rest (again, for the umpteenth time): http://www.fractalaudio.com/tmp/blues_jr.mp3. One clip is the amp, the other is the model. All controls set the same. The reason that it's more "noticeable" with modelers is that there is a lot more high frequency content in a typical IR. When you listen to your tube amp through its speaker you are in the far field and usually somewhat off-axis. There is less high frequency content reaching your ears compared to what a microphone records. Go put your amp in an isolation room and listen to it through the control room monitors. You'll be astonished at what you hear." source
"The "buziness" of IM is a function of the clipping hardness. As I stated before you need to determine whether you are getting power amp or preamp distortion. In general preamp distortion is softer but not always. It depends on the circuitry. You can reduce the clipping hardness with the Preamp Hardness and Power Amp Hardness parameters. This ONLY changes the shape of the virtual tube though. The final clipping behavior is also dependent on the surrounding circuitry which the user has no control over. For example a JCM800 preamp actually clips pretty hard because there is no bypass cap on the last triode's cathode. Therefore there is a lot of local negative feedback on that stage which makes the resulting transfer function "harder". In contrast a 1959SL Plexi has a bypass cap which softens the transfer function. Power amp clipping behavior is dependent upon the amount of global negative feedback. The less feedback the softer the distortion. That's why "Class A" amps have softer clipping as they have no negative feedback. Fenders, otoh, typically have 3-6 dB of gain reduction which makes the power amp clip harder. Therefore you can reduce negative feedback to soften the clipping behavior if your distortion is coming from power amp overdrive." source
"Crossover distortion occurs when you play very lightly. To really hear the effect of crossover distortion turn the Power Tube Bias parameter all the way down and play lightly. You'll hear a scratchy sound. This occurs because the waveform gets a kink in it at the point where one tube stops conducting and the other starts. Some people actually like the sound and I've heard rumors that EVH liked his amps biased cold to get some crossover distortion. Output transformers can create a type of crossover distortion as well due to the BH curve being nonlinear at the origin." source
"It's called intermodulation. No only do actual amps do this, ANY device that distorts the signal will do this." source
A "Tweed" amp has a cathode biased power amp. Most Fenders are fixed bias but some of the earlier ones, like the 5E3, are cathode biased. Most cathode biased amps (often erroneously referred to as Class A) will go into Class-B operation when driven. Class-B operation creates crossover distortion. The reason a cathode biased amp goes into Class-B operation is because the capacitor in the cathode bias network charges up when the tubes conduct. For example with no input signal the voltage on the cap might be, say, 10V. When each tube conducts more current flows from the supply which charges the cap up and increases its voltage to, say, 20V. The bias voltage has effectively doubled which means the tubes are now biased very cold and the amp runs Class-B. When you stop playing the bias voltage settles back to 10V. Start playing again and the cathode cap charges up again. The time constant to charge the cap is on the order of milliseconds so it takes some time, it's not instantaneous. Some amps use separate cathode networks to reduce the amount of bias shift, i.e. Matchless, Bad Cat, etc. but this increases cost. The sound of Class-B operation is a raspy, fizzy, crackly sort of sound as crossover distortion creates a very different spectrum than clipping. Some people like the sound and there are actually pedals that intentionally create crossover distortion. Rumor has it that EVH liked his amps biased cold so he would get more crossover distortion. Crossover distortion is mostly in the high frequencies. When listening to the proverbial "amp in the room" the high frequency rolloff of the speaker will mask it to a great extent. Close micing an amp yields a lot more high frequencies which will make crossover distortion more noticeable. If you have an Axe-Fx you can experiment with the bias shift in these types of amps via the P.A. Cathode Resistance parameter. Turn it up and the bias will shift more resulting in more crossover distortion as the power amp is driven. Turn it down and the bias will not shift as much and the amp will remain in Class-AB operation longer. You can tell if an amp is cathode biased by the default value. If it is 0.0% then it's a fixed bias amp, otherwise it's cathode biased. Some amps exhibit this more than others. The Suhr Badger has a lot of bias shift but it's still a great sounding amp, probably because the conjunctive filter rolls off the high end which helps mask the crossover distortion." source
(about crackling sound through FRFR) "That's what amps sound like. Go put an amp in an isolation room with an SM57 on it. Listen in the control room. You'll hear the same thing. You don't hear it as much using a real guitar cab because the high frequencies are rolled off which softens the sound." And: "You're probably just hearing "tube crackle". This is most noticeable when letting chords ring out as the sound decays. It's more noticeable with FRFR because of the extended high frequency response of near-field IRs. Tube crackle occurs when playing more than one note typically. When you play multiple notes (as in a chord or even a diad) the amplitude "bounces" around as the multiple notes reinforce each other or cancel each other. The result is an envelope that is not uniform. The peaks of the waveform clip but the troughs do not. This causes a crackling sound when you get on the edge of distortion because the points at which distortion occurs are far enough apart in time to be audile. You can reduce it by softening the distortion. Reducing Preamp and/or Power Amp Hardness will reduce the crackling but this will deviate from authenticity." source
"Tube crackle is most noticeable when letting chords ring out as the sound decays. It's more noticeable with FRFR because of the extended high frequency response of near-field IRs. Tube crackle occurs when playing more than one note typically. When you play multiple notes (as in a chord or even a diad) the amplitude "bounces" around as the multiple notes reinforce each other or cancel each other. The result is an envelope that is not uniform. The peaks of the waveform clip but the troughs do not. This causes a crackling sound when you get on the edge of distortion because the points at which distortion occurs are far enough apart in time to be audile. You can reduce it by softening the distortion. Reducing Preamp and/or Power Amp Hardness will reduce the crackling but this will deviate from authenticity." source
"Firmware cannot add or remove noise. Anyone having noise problems needs to look elsewhere in their system." source
"Noise isn't modeled. All preamp tubes have separate heating elements. This is called "indirect heating". Directly heated cathodes are no longer used except for rectifier tubes. Regardless direct or indirect heating has no effect on the noise floor. Noise is due to the random motion of electrons in a conductor. You can't "reject" it. You can lower the noise floor by keeping resistor values low (since noise is proportional to resistance) and by paralleling the input triode. No modeler models noise. The dominant source of noise in any amp, whether real or virtual, is usually your guitar (or rather its pickups). A 10K ohm pickup will have -114 dBv of noise at room temperature. Modern A/D converters, when properly designed, can exceed this so the dominant source of noise is your guitar. This noise is then amplified by the amp (that's why they call them amplifiers). If the amp has, say, 60 dB of gain then that noise is now -114 + 60 = -54 dBv. Gain it up another 20 dB with the power amp and now you're at -34 which can be quite audible. The situation gets worse as you roll off the volume in your guitar as you then introduce more resistance. A typical guitar pot is 500K ohms with an audio taper. If you roll the volume pot down to 8 or so you can easily introduce another 100K of resistance into the signal path. This will increase the noise to -94 dBv which becomes -14 after amplification. Really noticeable then. Bottom line: if you have too much noise you have too much gain. Learning to play with less gain will improve your technique and the quality of your tone. Gain just masks poor technique and reduces clarity, string separation and dynamics." source
"There's not a modeler in existence that adds noise to match the noise of the amp being simulated. Noise is undesirable regardless of "realism". Hum and ghost notes are sometimes modeled but thermal noise never is primarily because the amount of thermal noise is partially dependent upon the resistance of the source (guitar pickup) which is a variable. Furthermore any modeler exhibiting that much thermal noise would be roundly criticized for being excessively noisy." source
"Crackliness of the note decay is dependent upon how hard the clipping is. If it's the power amp clipping this is dependent on the hardness of the power tubes (Power Amp Hardness) and the amount of negative feedback (less = softer). If it's the preamp clipping it's dependent on the hardness of the preamp tube (Preamp Hardness) and the negative feedback around the last stage (not user adjustable). A JCM 800, for example, crackles like crazy because there is a lot of feedback on the last preamp stage (since there is no cathode bypass cap). A Friedman BE-100 preamp is similar to a JCM 800 but it has a cathode bypass cap on the last stage and the resulting distortion is much smoother." source
"Blocking distortion occurs in older designs due to grid conduction. The grid gets forward biased which causes a net offset to develop on the coupling capacitor which, in turn, shifts the bias point. Modern designs incorporate various means of mitigating this (grid stoppers, for example). Some bias excursion is desirable though as without it the distortion can be "sterile". source
Glossary of common amplifier terms
Aiken Amplification maintains a collection of very informative technical documents:
Among these is a glossary of common amplifier terms, which is also included in Dave Hunter’s The Guitar Amp Handbook. Make this glossary your first stop when looking for a short explanation of something amp-related.
Tutorials and demos
Cooper Carter plays famous guitar riffs, using the amp models featured in Austinbuddy's Naked Amps TonePack (Axe-Fx III):
Descriptions of the amp types:
Note: switching between amp types will reset many Amp block parameters, as discussed above.
On the Axe-Fx III and FM3, the Tone page can be set to display only the controls available on the actual amplifier on which the model is based, plus Input Trim. This is referred to as authentic display, as opposed to ideal display. This is switched globally in the Global menu.
Lets you adjust the range of gain of the amp by increasing or decreasing the signal level at the input of the Amp block. It's the same as Amp Gain in the Global menu (not on Axe-Fx III and FM3), but Input Trim operates per preset instead of global.
Input Trim is different from Input Drive in that it does not interact with the surrounding circuitry to change frequency response as it is adjusted. Use Input Trim to adjust gain without also changing tone.
"They (Amp Gain and Input Trim) are basically the same thing. The global amp gain has a smaller range as it's designed to be for fine-tuning between guitars whereas the local trim allows you to radically alter the response of the model. The local trim is equivalent to -20 to +20 dB." source
If the real amp has two inputs (f.e. Low and High), the model is based on the High input. Set Input Trim to 0.500 to get the equivalent of the Low input.
To translate Input Trim values to dB, use this formula: "20 * LOG10(trim value)". In other words: calculate the LOG10 result of the input trim value, and multiply this with 20. Use the LOG10 function on a scientific calculator. Examples:
- Input Trim at 0.500 = -6dB, because: 20*LOG10(0.5)
- Input Trim at 4 = 12dB, because: 20*LOG10(4)
In the Input Trim's modifier menu, a controller can be attached to create a variable boost. This includes Scene Controllers. Translate scene controller settings to Input Trim values.
"You might want to convert the Input Trim parameter to dB if you're used to thinking of it that way. As a rule of thumb, every 2x multiplier = +6dB boost. In other words, Input Trim = 4.0 produces a +12dB boost." Handy calculator. source
"Input Trim is something you shouldn't play with normally unless you want to deviate from the actual amp. Input Trim allows you to reduce or increase the gain of the virtual amps input buffer. This is analogous to changing the type of tube for V1 in an actual amp. Some people like less gain for V1 so will replace a 12AX7 with a 12AT7. Some people want a little more gain." source
"The Axe-Fx II contains a parameter known as "Input Trim". This is just a straight gain control at the very front of the amp block. It has a range of 0.1 to 10.0 (-20 to +20 dB). So what use is a straight gain control at the front? Doesn't the Input Drive do the same thing? The short answer is "no". The long answer is "probably not". On many amps the Drive knob, which may also be called Gain or Volume, has what is known as a "bright cap" across the physical potentiometer. This capacitor shunts high frequencies around the pot so that the Drive control is not a straight gain. It has an associated frequency response. As the Drive is turned down more high frequencies are shunted around the pot which results in a net treble boost. If the Drive is turned all the way down the treble boost is maximum, if it is turned all the way up the treble boost is zero. The roots of the bright cap are due to manufacturers trying to compensate for different types of guitars. Guitars with single coil pickups tend to brighter but with less output. The user would then turn the Drive knob high on the amps. Conversely a guitar with humbuckers has more output but sounds darker. To compensate the user would typically turn the Drive down. This will result in a treble boost compensating for the darker response. The Input Trim control allows one to fine-tune the amount of treble boost first and then adjust the amount of distortion. So it is probably more correct to think of the Drive control as a combination Drive/Treble control. With this in mind experiment with the Drive control combined with the Input Trim. Indeed some manufacturers have actually implemented separate Drive and Trim controls on their amplifiers. For example the Fryette (VHT) Deliverance has two controls: a Gain knob and a Cut knob. The Gain knob has a bright cap across it while the Cut knob is just a straight volume adjustment. The purpose of these two knobs is exactly as described above." source
"The Input Trim control allows you to adjust the input attenuation without changing the frequency response. If you turn down the Input Drive and the model has a bright cap the amp will get brighter. Now you may like the brighter tone but wish there were more gain. Input Trim allows you to increase the gain without changing the tone. Conversely you may like the darker tone with Input Drive set high but wish there were less gain. In this case you can lower Input Trim. Most real amps do not possess an Input Trim control. Instead they usually have a switch or two input jacks that select between a high-gain and low-gain input. Almost invariably the difference between these two jacks is 6 dB. All the Axe-Fx amps are modeled using the high-gain input or switch position (if any). To simulate the low-gain input set the Input Trim to 0.5 which is 6 dB less". source
"It controls the voltage divider into V1. Many amps, for example, have two 68K resistors feeding V1. If you plug into the High input the resistors are in parallel and the gain is 1.0. If you plug into the Low input the resistors are in series and the gain is 1/2. Input Trim is a more flexible way of accomplishing the same thing but without being constrained to only two gain values."
"All the models assume the "Hi" input on the amp was used if there are multiple inputs. If the amp has a Lo input this is typically half the sensitivity so you would set Input Trim to 0.5 to replicate. The beauty of Input Trim is you can set it to any value you like rather than being stuck with a switch with only two values." source
"Be sure to set your Input Trim properly. If you are using single-coil pickups then you want to increase the Input Trim. This will optimize the S/N Ratio. With a properly optimized SNR the Axe-Fx has less self-noise than your guitar." source
"0.5 is equivalent to using the Low input jack on amps. If you are using high-output pickups it's often better to use the Low input to get into the sweet spot of the bright cap. source
INPUT DRIVE + OVERDRIVE + MASTER VOLUME
Input Drive, Master Volume
Vintage amps don't have separate gain (drive) and master volume controls. Master Volume defaults to "10" in these models. Use Input Drive to control the amount of preamp gain/distortion as well as volume on non-Master Volume amp models.
Treble peaker circuits found on the drive or volume control on many amps is also modeled. This can be heard as the low frequencies are attenuated more than the highs when the drive is turned down (and vice versa).
"For clean tones the Drive control should be set fairly low and the Master set very high. On a real "Blackface", for instance, the Master is essentially maxed since that amp has no master volume. A Blackface typically achieves full power at around 10-11 o'clock on the volume (Drive). It's also insanely loud. Beyond that everything starts to saturate and clip. If you set the Master low and the Drive high, for clean tones, the low end will tend to get muddy. Good cleans are obtained with little, if any, preamp distortion and a nice amount of power amp distortion. Power amp distortion has a much different character and tends to be glassy and bouncy. Preamp distortion is rougher and more compressed."
"The real key is to adjust the relative amounts of each. You want to balance preamp and power amp distortion for the best tone. What I do is start with the MV low and turn up the drive until I get the desired amount of gain and sustain. Then turn up the MV until I get the desired compression. Then fine-tune each." source
(firmware 10) "Amp models now default to a starting Master Volume setting when selected. Also, the proper setting for non-MV amps is now a Master Volume setting of 10.0. Non-MV amps, therefore, will default to a value of 10.0 when selected. If more MV drive is desired for non-MV amps, the new MSTR VOL TRIM parameter in the Advanced GUI page can be used to increase (or decrease) the Master Volume. The starting MV value for non-MV amps is roughly the “sweet spot” for the amp. This is the point where the power amp starts to contribute to the tone and feel of the amp. Decreasing the MV will typically cause the amp to get brighter and less compressed and increasing the MV will cause the amp to get more midrange focus and more compressed. As always, your ears should be your guide."
(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."
The MSTR VOL TRIM parameter in the Advanced GUI page can be used to increase (or decrease) the Master Volume.
"Just multiplies the MV by the amount. You only need to use it if you want more power amp drive and your MV is already at 10. IOW, if MV is 10 and you set MV Trim to 2.0 then the MV will be 20." source
"Master Volume tapers are NOT matched. If they were the amp volumes would jump all over the place when you switched amp types. IIRC I use a Log10A for the MV." source
"The Master Volume (MV) DOES affect the tone. It sets the level into the power amp modeling. The Level control has no affect on the tone. For MV amps, i.e a 5150, adjust the MV until the desired amount of power amp distortion is obtained. Most MV amps rely on preamp distortion and don't produce much power amp distortion. If you turn the MV up too high on them the tone will get muddy and flubby. Non-MV amps rely primarily on power amp distortion so you need the level into the power amp to be hot enough to push the power amp into distortion." source
"I just start low and bring it up until I get the desired compression. Then I chug the E string and if it's too buzzy or flubby I drop it down a bit. For tight, high-gain stuff you want to keep it low. For liquid, spongy tones you want to set it higher." source
"MV is the most important Amp block control for tone. You have to find the sweet spot. Start at 3 and increase until desired compression is reached. Stock presets are set to sweet spots, subjectively (based on the guitar used and personal opinion). Do not use MV for volume and don't turn it up too much (unless it's a non-MV amp). If an amp has Input Drive and Overdrive controls, use Input Drive for tone shaping and Overdrive as a flat gain control."
"As you increase the MV you drive the virtual power amp harder. As you drive the virtual power amp harder the frequency response becomes more dynamic, just like the real amp. And, just like a real amp, there is a sweet spot where the compression, dynamic frequency response, distortion, etc. just feel "right". The particular settings for the sweet spot depend on the Input Drive, tone controls, etc. so there are no hard-and-fast rules. So, as always, use your ears. And don't be afraid to use your ears. You'll be a better player when you learn how the controls interact and how to find the sweet spot. The great players in guitar history new how to work their amps. They didn't rely on someone else to tell them where to set the knobs, they learned themselves." source
"With Version 13.xx firmware the constraints on MV are lessened. Due to the improved power tube modeling you can increase the MV more without the tone getting flubby or harsh."
"The way I dial in the MV is to turn up the MV until the amp stops getting louder. This is the point at which the power amp is saturating heavily. Then I back it off until I get the right amount of preamp and power amp distortion. That's the sweet spot where you get the tone and the dynamics. Too little MV and it's all preamp distortion and there's not much dynamics. Too much MV and the power amp is clipping too much and it can get flubby and/or harsh. Just as with a real tube amp you have to get the power amp cooking to get the best tone and feel. Get that power amp working hard and the supply bouncing around and things get nice." source
"The taper of the MV on the Axe-Fx does not necessarily match the taper of the actual amp. We use the same taper on every model. IIRC it is a Log10 taper. Many amps use a taper that is more abrupt than that for marketing reasons. For example, a Blues Jr has a linear taper MV. This means the amp is near full volume when the MV is at 3. This gives the impression that an amp is "loud". When the unsuspecting customer is testing the amp and it gets really loud with the MV on 2 the customer instinctively goes "wow, this amp is loud, it must be good". Anyways we use a consistent Log10A taper on every model. In general this means you need to set the MV higher than you would on the real amp. For example if the real amp has a linear taper halfway on the model would be equivalent to 1 on the amp (assuming the amp is calibrated from 0 - 10). The taper of a logarithmic pot has the nomenclature LogXA where 'A' indicates audio and X is the percentage of the element resistance from wiper to CCW terminal with the pot at 50% rotation. So a 1 Megohm Log10A pot would have 100K between the wiper and the CCW terminal when the pot is at "noon"." source
"All Axe-Fx models have been "modded" to include a Master Volume. Setting the MV to 10 effectively removes it from the circuit." source
"Those amps (JCM, SLO) are all designed to get their character from power amp distortion. If you don't push the power amp all you are hearing is the preamp which is voiced to be trebly. The power amp then compresses the highs and the sound gets fatter." source
"I was helping a customer out yesterday. He was complaining about lack of feel and thinness. I asked him what his Master Volume was set at. He said 1.5. I asked "why so low?". He said "because that's where I set it on the real amp". I explained that the MV on the Axe-Fx has a much gentler taper than real amp and that 1.5 on the real amp is probably around 5 or more on the Axe-Fx. So he cranked the MV up and exclaimed "wow, that's what I'm looking for!". The MV taper on the Axe-Fx is a Log15A taper. This means the output is 15% of the input when the "pot" is at noon. Most amps use a higher taper than this, say 30A or even a linear taper. This is done as a marketing ploy. The unsuspecting customer sets the MV to 2.0 and goes "wow, this amp is loud". Thing is the amp doesn't get much louder. This also makes adjustment difficult because most of your volume range is constrained to a small fraction of the dial rotation. The Axe-Fx uses a gentler taper so that you can fine-tune the MV easier. So don't be afraid to crank that MV up. When the MV is turned up the virtual power amp works harder which causes the virtual power supply to sag which adds compression which adds feel. It also thickens up the tone when you play harder because the power amp is distorting. You'll get much better results if you learn to find the sweet spot. While playing, turn up the MV until the volume stops getting louder. At this point you are driving the power amp into heavy distortion. Now back off the MV until you get the desired tone and feel. With practice you'll learn to identify how much the power amp is being pushed and where the sweet spot is." source
"If you want the best tones out of the Axe-Fx you should stop copying photos of knob settings and learn how the knobs work. MV is one of the most important knobs as it controls how hard the virtual power amp is driven. Learning to find the sweet spot is an exercise that will pay handsome dividends. Take the JCM800 model. Set the MV very low, say 1.0. Play for a while. The sound will be harsh and scooped with a stiff feel. Turn the MV up to 5.0. Notice how there is more midrange and a softer high-end response, more compression and a better feel. Turn it up all the way and it will get fuzzy and indistinct. A real amp does the same thing. Learning to dial in the MV is among the most important abilities to harness the most from your Axe-Fx." source
"The Master Volume (MV) controls how much signal level is sent to the power amp. Many vintage amps have no MV control and the power amp runs "wide open". Modern amps often get their distortion from the preamp and the Master Volume then allows the user to control the volume of the amp. The Master Volume in the Axe-Fx II, as well as on real amps, is probably the singular most powerful control in the amp block. As the Master Volume is increased the virtual power amp begins to distort. The virtual power amp also begins to sag and all sorts of beautiful magic occurs. The tone becomes more focused, the dynamic response changes, the note attack is accentuated, etc.”
“MV is the one knob that everyone should master (pun not intended). It sets the amount of power amp drive which, in turn, controls how much current is drawn from the power supply which causes the supply to sag. The trick is to find the sweet spot. Too much MV and it can get too compressed. To little and the amp will be stiff and too scooped. The MV works just like a real amp's MV except it won't get deafeningly loud if you turn it way up.” source
"With high-gain amps I start with the MV very low, say 2.0. Dial in the tone and gain and then bring the MV up until you hit the sweet spot. Back off the gain a bit if it's too gainy at that point.” source
"One common theme with new users is the "blanket over the sound" complaint. Often this is due to excessive Master Volume values. The Master Volume behaves just like the actual amps. However, unlike an actual amp, if you put it on 5.0 it won't cause your cat to hide for several days. This can cause the user to set the value too high as the physical feedback of painfully loud sound is not present. As you turn up the Master Volume many amps get darker and the bass gets mushy. The key is to find the sweet spot. Do this exercise: Take an amp like the HBE. Set the MV to around 2.5 and turn the Level to a comfortable volume. Turn the Presence up to around 8.0. Copy the settings to "Y" by double-clicking the "Y" button. Now you have the same amp model and values in X and Y. Turn up the MV in Y to, say, 6.0 and lower the Level until the volume is the same. Go back and forth between X and Y and notice how much darker Y is. This occurs because the virtual power amp is distorting, and quite heavily. Due to the impedance curve of the virtual speaker load this causes the bass and high treble frequencies to clip but not the midrange. The result is, naturally, compressed bass and high treble which can sound muddy and indistinct. Modern MV amps are not designed to overdrive the power amp considerably. They are designed to get most of their distortion from the preamp and then adjust the MV until the power amp just starts to clip which is the "sweet spot". Some amps, like the Recto Modern, will distort the power amp at very low MV values, around 2.0. In real life these amps are painfully loud at these settings but in our virtual world we are unaware of this because the Level control allows us to adjust the volume to any arbitrary level. Some modeling products intentionally limit how hard their virtual power amps can be overdriven. Even with the MV on 10 the virtual power amp is not being overdriven that much. Of course this is unrealistic. Our modeling is accurate and with the MV on 10 you will get the same amount of power amp distortion as the real amp when set to 10. With this great power comes great responsibility and that responsibility is understanding how the control works and how to set it properly." source
"A little trick you can do to get the "bounce" of high MV without the muddy bass is to reduce the LF Res value on the Spkr tab. This will reduce the amount of bass clipping in the virtual power amp allowing you to turn the MV up. You can also reduce the HF Res to reduce the amount of treble clipping." source
"At low MV the source resistance into the PI is low which raises the highpass frequency due to the coupling cap and raises the lowpass frequency due to the Miller capacitance and snubber. As you increase the MV the source resistance increases which decreases both of these things. As you keep raising the MV the source resistance then starts to decrease as you get above 50% of the pot value." source
"The Master Volume behaves just like the actual amps. However, unlike an actual amp, if you put it on 5.0 it won't cause your cat to hide for several days. This can cause the user to set the value too high as the physical feedback of painfully loud sound is not present. As you turn up the Master Volume many amps get darker and the bass gets mushy. The key is to find the sweet spot. Do this exercise: Take an amp like the HBE. Set the MV to around 2.5 and turn the Level to a comfortable volume. Turn the Presence up to around 8.0. Copy the settings to "Y" by double-clicking the "Y" button. Now you have the same amp model and values in X and Y. Turn up the MV in Y to, say, 6.0 and lower the Level until the volume is the same. Go back and forth between X and Y and notice how much darker Y is. This occurs because the virtual power amp is distorting, and quite heavily. Due to the impedance curve of the virtual speaker load this causes the bass and high treble frequencies to clip but not the midrange. The result is, naturally, compressed bass and high treble which can sound muddy and indistinct. Modern MV amps are not designed to overdrive the power amp considerably. They are designed to get most of their distortion from the preamp and then adjust the MV until the power amp just starts to clip which is the "sweet spot". Some amps, like the Recto Modern, will distort the power amp at very low MV values, around 2.0. In real life these amps are painfully loud at these settings but in our virtual world we are unaware of this because the Level control allows us to adjust the volume to any arbitrary level. Some modeling products intentionally limit how hard their virtual power amps can be overdriven. Even with the MV on 10 the virtual power amp is not being overdriven that much. Of course this is unrealistic. Our modeling is accurate and with the MV on 10 you will get the same amount of power amp distortion as the real amp when set to 10. With this great power comes great responsibility and that responsibility is understanding how the control works and how to set it properly." source
"MV increases the power amp drive. If the power amp is distorting then the apparent volume will decrease as the MV is increased. It's impossible to predict how much the volume will decrease because it's dependent on dozens of other things like the Input Drive, BMT, pickup output, presence of Drive block, etc." source
"The Master Volume is the only knob in the amp models that may not have the same taper as the real amp. All the models use the same taper (10A IIRC) for consistency. Many amps use a more abrupt taper for marketing reasons. A more abrupt taper gives the impression that the amp is louder. source
Input Drive, Overdrive:
Some models have Input Drive and Overdrive controls.
If the real amp has two gain controls, the one closest to the 1/4" input is modeled as Input Drive in the model. The other one is Overdrive.
(firmware 10) "The Amp block now differentiates amps that have both Input Drive and Overdrive controls, i.e. Mesa Mark series, Dumble, etc. When a model is selected for amps of this type, the menu shows both controls. For other types the menu shows only the Input Drive control (which was formerly called simply “Drive”). The Overdrive control defaults to noon when amps with this control are selected. As such, any presets based on these amps may need to be updated as this control was not present previously and the amount of drive may differ now. Note that these two controls are applied to the appropriate point in the circuit for the amp being modeled, i.e. for Dumble-style amps the Overdrive is prior to the last triode stage. In Mesa Mark amps the Overdrive is applied prior to the third triode."
"Input Drive increases the gain amount as you rotate the knob clockwise. As the gain increases the tone is shifted from a treble and upper mid emphasis, which produces an up front sparkling tone, to a lower mid and bass emphasis, which produces a thick meaty tone. Overdrive increases the gain amount as you rotate the knob clockwise but with no alteration of the tonal balance. Different combinations of Input Drive and Overdrive settings will have a dramatic effect on the response of the amplifier and the personality of your instrument. It is easy to get familiar with the action of these controls and you’ll be amazed with your ability to make any guitar sound mellow, fat, soulful or aggressive." source
"Input Drive is the modeled amp's gain, drive, volume, etc. control. It adjusts the attenuation at the input to the amplifier gain stages after the input buffer. On a Marshall Plexi, for example it is the "Loudness" control. On a typical Fender amp it is the "Volume" control. On many high-gain amps it is called either "Gain" or "Drive". On a real amp this is implemented using a variable resistor called a potentiometer. Many amps include a "bright cap" on the drive control which is a small value capacitor placed across the terminals of the pot that bleeds treble frequencies through as the gain is reduced. Sometimes this bright cap is switchable via a switch on the amp. Sometimes it is fixed."
"In a typical amp Input Drive is called various names (Drive, Volume, Gain, etc). It is the knob closest to the input jack. In many cases this potentiometer has a bright cap on it so the frequency response will be dependent on the knob position. In some amps there is also a second drive control. This is your Overdrive knob. It does not have a bright cap so it only affects the gain." source
"Sometimes they're labeled Gain, sometimes Drive, sometimes Volume. On an Soldano X88 they're labeled "Preamp"." source
"Some amps possess an attenuation control between the later gain stages. Examples of the are the Mesa/Boogie Mark series, Dumble ODS and others. This control allows the user to vary the gain staging. The Input Drive can be turned up and the Overdrive turned down so that the earlier stages distort more and the later stages distort less and vice-versa."
The range of the Drive taper in the Axe-Fx is 0-10. Volume controls on Fender amps go from 1 to 10, or 11 or 12. Go here for the translation of the real controls to the model.
You can attach a Scene Controller to Input Drive, and then use scenes to vary the amount of amp gain. Or use an internal or external controller instead. Note that with some amps models this bumps CPU usage.
"Depending upon the amp model it can take a lot of CPU to calculate the Input Drive network. Some amps have simple networks that are rapidly solved. Others, like the Hook Lead and Rhythm models have complex networks that require more math. If you attach a modifier to the Input Drive it is constantly recalculating the network which increases CPU usage." source
"Some amps have complicated input drive circuitry that requires a lot of calculations. Adjusting the Input Drive control can result in crackling as the time required to recalculate the network is long. Don't attach a controller to the Input Drive on these amps." source
"Takes a lot of math to calculate the Drive. Not a bug." source
BASS + MID + TREBLE
The exact frequency and phase response characteristics of the tone stacks on the original amps is modeled.
If the real amp doesn't have one or more of these controls, like a Mid knob, leave it at default (Mid: noon).
"Setting bass and treble to zero on a passive tone stack tells you nothing about the response of the midrange control. On a Fender setting bass and treble to zero turns the midrange into a volume control. On a Marshall it turns it into some weird highshelf/lowpass thingy. A passive tonestack is a very different animal than active tone controls with well-behaved frequencies. Download and play with Duncan's TSC to see the effects." source
The Bright switch is not to be confused with the BRIGHT knob (Axe-Fx III: High Treble) which is a shelving filter between the preamp and power amp (see below).
The Bright switch is either:
- the virtual equivalent of a bright switch (pull or toggle) on the real amp, or
- the virtual equivalent of a bright cap on the volume or gain control of a real amp, or
- the virtual equivalent of a hard-wired bright switch inside the amp, or
- a method to change to the Bright channel of the original amp (if the original amp has a Normal and a Bright channel/input, and only the Normal channel/input has been modeled)
Bright caps are used to compensate for guitars with weak pickup loads, increasing treble as gain is decreased. It also changes the mids, which affects gain too.
If the modeled amp has a hard-wired treble peaker, the default state of the virtual Bright switch is ON.
Turning up the amp's Drive or Master may decrease the impact of the Bright switch, depending on the amp type.
The effect of the Bright switch on the tone can be controlled through the Bright Cap value parameter.
Some amp types, such as a Plexi, have a very high Bright Cap value, which has a large impact on the amount of gain.
"If an amp doesn't have a bright switch, the operation of of the models' bright switch is undefined. I chose what I considered a reasonable value for the bright cap but if that doesn't satisfy the user then they are free to change it to a different value." source
"The Bright switch always controls the bright cap on the input volume". source
"The Bright switch switches in/out one or more capacitors on the Input Drive network." source
"The Bright Switch models the "bright cap" across the drive/gain/volume/comodjulator pot. Some amps have no bright cap, some amps have a hardwired bright cap and some amps give you a switch to turn it on/off. A bright cap increases treble as the pot is turned down. The original impetus for this was that guitars with weak pickups tend to be brighter and guitars with hot pickups tend to be darker. So you're likely to turn the gain up for the guitar with weak pickups which reduces treble response. On the guitar with hot pickups you're likely to turn the gain down which increases treble response to counteract the darker tone. If the amp has no bright cap the Bright Switch defaults to off. If the amp has a hardwired cap the switch defaults to on. If the amp has a switch it defaults to whatever we felt sounds the best. Our particular JCM800 reference amp has no bright cap because someone removed it. However the model has the switch on because that's the way the amp would've come from the factory. There are actually 11 different (IIRC) bright cap models in the Axe-Fx/AX-8. The earliest bright cap circuits were just a cap from the input terminal to the wiper. Over time designers have developed more complex circuits with resistors in series with the cap, another cap from the wiper to ground, treble peakers before/after the pot, etc. The user doesn't have the ability to select the model though, it is hard-coded into each model." source
"Those amps have a "bright switch" that is permanently on but there is no physical switch on the actual amp. The capacitor is hard-wired." source
PRESENCE + HIGH CUT
This is a high-frequency tone control for the power amp section. It boosts (or cuts) the upper frequencies from the virtual power amp by varying the negative feedback frequency response.
If Negative Feedback (Damping) is zero, Presence changes into High Cut, a high-shelf EQ.
When power amp modeling is turned off, Presence is disabled (Quantum 9.03 and later). Before Quantum 9.03, Presence turned into a shelving filter when power amp modeling was disabled.
The range (min/max) of the Presence knob in the model is the same as the range of the real Presence knob on the modeled amp. But the visual position of both knobs doesn't necessarily match, because the taper is not the same.
With some USA amp (Mesa Boogie) models, the Presence knob can be engaged to enable the "Presence Shift" function.
The Presence control in the Amp block behaves like the actual amp rather than an idealized version. The Presence Frequency parameter is now a frequency multiplier rather than an absolute frequency as the frequency of the presence circuit depends on the Presence control position. The Presence Frequency parameter works by scaling the value of the virtual presence circuit’s capacitor value. Setting the Pres/Depth Type parameter to Active or Active Pres will override the authentic modeling and implement an ideal presence circuit with fixed center frequency.
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.
"The Axe-Fx II presence operates just like a real amp and modifies the virtual power amp feedback. This actually does create a sort of "magic" since it changes the shape of the distortion vs. frequency. That's the advantage to the nonlinear feedback network that the Axe-Fx uses. Negative feedback makes the distortion transfer function "harder". The presence control reduces negative feedback at high frequencies. This increases the treble but also softens the transfer function so you get more highs but the softer distortion reduces the amount of harsh overtones." source
"The effect of Presence and Depth is consistent with the behavior of the real amp and depends on the amount of negative feedback. As you decrease negative feedback the presence and depth controls have less effect (as in a real amp). Also, as you increase Master Volume the presence and depth may appear to be less effective (key word is "appear") as the power amp distorts more and this masks the effect of the controls." source
"A tube amp's presence control is basically a type of treble control. It affects a higher range of frequencies and operates on a different principle but the net effect is an increase in high frequencies. There is also a slight increase in distortion in the higher frequencies since the power amp becomes less linear for those frequencies". source
"HiCut is dependent upon Damping, just like a real amp. Hi Cut is modeling the Miller capacitance at the input to the Phase Inverter. The more negative feedback, the less the Miller capacitance." source
"Presence and Depth controls may not match the taper of the actual amp. On most amps the Presence control does nothing until you turn it almost all the way up. This seems a bit silly so we make the Presence behave more logically. Same goes for the Depth control." source
MIMIC whitepaper: "Note however that the taper of the presence (and depth) control can deviate from the actual amp. In our tests we found that the presence control on many amps did nothing for the first 80% of its rotation and all the action occurred in the last 20%. We feel that this design anomaly is undesirable and therefore did not model that aspect."
(firmware 15) "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."
"The Presence control on the Axe-Fx is more linear. The Presence control on most amps does nothing for the first half of its rotation or more. I made it so the Presence control actually does something when you turn it. Therefore you typically need to set the Presence control lower than you would on the amp." source
(about the Hi-Cut taper) "This cannot be changed as it would break existing presets." source
This is the same as Presence (see above) but it handles the low frequencies.
Like Presence, Depth is disabled when power amp modeling is disabled.
"Excursion = Depth. Manufacturers like to give this control fancy names (Excursion, Whomp, Resonance, etc., etc.) but it's just a Depth control." source
"Depth = Resonance = "Whomp" = whatever colloquialism the manufacturer can think of. Depth differs from Bass in that it is applied in the power amp as opposed to the preamp. It is done by modifying the feedback network. Less lows are fed back thereby increasing bass response in the power amp. It is analogous to Presence except it affect bass instead of treble. If you look at the Axe-Fx II's menu you'll see the tab says "PWR AMP" thereby indicating it is a power amp control." source
"Many amps have no depth circuit, e.g. Fenders, most Marshalls, and generally most older designs. In these cases the Depth knob will default to zero indicating the amp has no depth circuit. Some amps have a fixed depth circuit, e.g. 5153, Freidman BE/HBE, Dirty Shirley, TripTik, Tucana, et. al. In these cases the Depth knob will default to a value that corresponds to the fixed circuit. Finally some amps have a variable depth circuit, e.g. 5150, Diezel, et. al. In these cases the Depth knob defaults to a non-zero value that I think sounds good but that's just my taste. The choice of IR and the monitoring system can greatly influence the amount of perceived bass. The desired amount of bass is a preference. If you are into "classic" tones then a Depth of zero would be a logical choice." source
"Depth does not work at a Damping of 0 since Depth modifies the feedback and there is no feedback." source
"The effect of the Presence and Depth is consistent with the behavior of the real amp and depends on the amount of negative feedback. As you decrease negative feedback the presence and depth controls have less effect (as in a real amp). Also, as you increase Master Volume the presence and depth may appear to be less effective (key word is "appear") as the power amp distorts more and this masks the effect of the controls." source
"I look at the Depth knob as a starting point. Just because the 5153 has a fixed depth circuit doesn't mean you can't adjust the knob. The only reason that it is fixed on that amp is there wasn't enough room to put in separate knobs for each channel. The 50W version has an adjustable Depth (it's called resonance and the knob is on the back). The original 5150 had adjustable Depth. The designers choice isn't necessarily best. It depends on the cabinet (or IR) and your personal preferences. Short answer: use your ears. I think too many people are scared to use their ears. But if you constantly rely on the ears of others you'll never learn how to create your own signature sound." source
The Output Level parameter in the Amp block controls not just the level of the Amp block. It's also the recommended control to set the overall level of the preset, to match it to other presets and to prevent digital clipping.
The Level control has NO effect on the tone!
"The amp block is always the place to set your volume. The Level control is repeated at several places in the amp block menus for convenience so you don't have to keep switching pages. The Level control has no affect on the tone." source
INPUT BOOST + BOOST TYPE + BOOST LEVEL
This increases the signal level at the input of the Amp block.
AX8 and Axe-Fx II — Boost is fixed at 12 dB.
Axe-Fx III and FM3 — You can choose between several types of boost (see below). These all act as clean boosts, replicating the oft-used “Drive on 0, adjust Level as desired” boost technique. This allows boosting the Amp block without requiring a separate Drive block. The difference between the various types is the EQ (frequency response) of each model. The Boost Level parameter sets the amount of boost. Using an input boost instead of a separate Drive bock saves CPU.
Input boost types:
- Neutral (same as on AX8 and Axe-Fx II)
- T808 Mod
- Super OD
- Full OD
- AC Boost
- FAS Boost
- Grinder: based on Fortin's Grind pedal. It incorporates Fortin's favorite 6IRTH and 6RIND settings. This type is not available as a type in the Drive block.
- Treble Booster
- Mid Booster
- CC Boost: "I took a PEQ one day and was using at a boost. At one point I got something that sounded really good to me so I made it into a boost." source
The changes to the modeling of drives in firmware Ares 3.02 and later do not apply to these input boost types. source
"The amp boosts are just the frequency shaping part of the drive. The clipping stuff is removed. It's analogous to turning the Drive knob all the way down and using the pedal as a clean boost." source
SATURATION + SATURATION DRIVE
Saturation is the virtual implementation of the famous Jose Arredondo modification of a Mashall amplifier.
Enabling it decreases power amp smoothing, resulting in meaner distortion. This switch is enabled at default in certain models such as Cameron ch. 2 amp. Try it with amp types such as JCM800, Friedman and Mesa Mark. With amp models that have no preamp gain, such as Plexis, saturation has no effect.
SAT DRIVE controls the amount of saturation. The value varies per Amp model.
The two available saturation types, AUTH and IDEAL, only differ in volume level.
(Firmware 15.01) "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."
(firmware 18) "The parameter Sat Drive controls the amount of "saturation" when the Sat Switch is on."
"It switches in a zener diode clipping stage right before the tone stack. This is the so-called Jose Arrendondo Mod." source
"The Sat (saturation) circuit is located between the preamp and power amp. If the model doesn't have much preamp gain, e.g. 59 Bassguy, then the sat switch will have little effect. A real amp would exhibit the same behavior. Amps like this get all their distortion from the power amp." source
"Sat switch works on all amps. However if an amp is getting its distortion from the power amp, i.e. Plexis, etc., then the affect may not be noticeable since the power amp distortion will mask any distortion occurring prior. Sat switches are typically employed on amps with master volumes for just this reason." source
"It always works. If you turn down the MV its affects may be more noticeable. Be aware that a Plexi has low preamp gain and you may need to set Sat Drive quite high to get any saturation. The classic "Arredondo mod" involves adding a "saturation circuit" and a master volume as the sat circuit's affects are masked if the power amp is heavily distorted." source
"The sat switch is located at the output of the preamp. If the distortion is coming from the power amp, i.e. a Plexi, then the effect is not very audible in Authentic mode (just as it would in a real amp)." source
When engaged, it shifts the center frequency of the tone stack, emphasizing the midrange and adding “body”. It's similar to the FAT switch on a Mesa Boogie or Bogner. A popular control for lead tones, especially with Mesa Boogie models.
"The Fat switch simply alters the tone stack treble capacitor. So the effect depends on the location of the tone stack." source
"The Fat Switch multiplies the tone stack treble cap by four. Depending upon the type of tone stack, tone control settings, position, etc., etc. the effect can be more or less noticeable." source
"The Fat switch changes a value in the tone stack which changes the response of the stack, shifting the mid dip down and making it less pronounced. The Tonestack Freq. parameter frequency scales all the reactive components in the tone stack which is something quite different. source
This reduces the amount of low frequencies going into the amp block. It is a first-order shelving filter (high-pass) at 120 Hz. This can be used to achieve a “tighter” tone and to reduce low-end “flub”.
Cut is similar to increasing Low Cut Frequency, but still retains some low end so it doesn’t get thin.
"You can use a Filter block before the Amp set to Shelving if you want to add more flexibility to what the Cut switch is doing in the Amp block." source
"120 Hz is where most amp designers put it. A typical cathode bypass has the pole at approx. 85 Hz. Assuming 6 dB gain reduction that puts the center frequency at 120 Hz." source
"The bass cut switch is before the distortion so it will change the feel and breakup characteristics. The bass cut is basically intended to give you that Tube Screamer with Drive on 0 sound without having to use a dedicated Drive block." source
"Cut engages a lowshelf filter at the input. This would be analogous to partially bypassing the input buffer cathode on a tube amp." source
PREAMP TUBE TYPE
This lets you switch the virtual preamp tubes.
(firmware 18.04) "“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."
(firmware 18.06) "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."
(firmware 18.08) "There are now four Preamp Tube Types:
- Short Plate: an accurate model of a modern “short plate” production 12AX7.
- Long Plate: an accurate model of a classic “long plate” 12AX7.
- Modern: An idealized 12AX7 model. This is the same model from version 18.04 firmware. This model is useful for high gain tones that can benefit from the increased clarity and string separation.
- Vintage: Another idealized 12AX7 model also from version 18.04 firmware. Has a softer breakup than the Modern model. Useful for “vintage” tones where more base nonlinearity is present."
(firmware Quantum 1.00) "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."
(firmware Quantum 2.01) "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."
(firmware Quantum 6.01) "Updated all models to use an appropriate Preamp Tube Type when selected. I.e. British models will now use the ECC83 when selected."
"The primary controls to adjust the saturation behavior are Preamp Tube Type, Preamp Hardness and Preamp Bias." source
"The parameters for the 12AX7 were extracted from an RCA 12AX7A. The ECC83 was a Mullard." source
"The 7025 was a Sylvania." source
"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
"People claim that preamp tubes sound different. They have no sound. They might have different characteristics though which cause the CIRCUIT to sound different. They might have more or less gain, or more or less capacitance, etc. It's such a crap-shoot though. Switching around tubes until you believe it sounds better. I prefer a more scientific approach. What are you trying to achieve? Okay, then lets reduce this coupling capacitor a bit." source
Sets the value of a virtual capacitor to determine the sonic effect of the Bright switch.
"That's one of my go-to tweaks. The amount of treble peaking needed for an amp at a given drive is highly dependent on the guitar. For example my guess is that the AFD100 was designed around a Les Paul. With my Suhr it's much too bright because that's a very bright guitar. So one of the first things I do with the AFS100 model is turn down the bright cap a bit." source
(about Input Trim) "0.5 is equivalent to using the Low input jack on amps. If you are using high-output pickups it's often better to use the Low input to get into the sweet spot of the bright cap. source
This parameter is named HIGH TREBLE in firmware Ares.
Previously called: Bright knob.
This "high treble" control is an extra tone control. It's a shelving filter between the preamp and power amp and can be used to darken or brighten the output of the preamp. It replicates the “Presence” control in the Mesa Triaxis preamp when set to negative values (the Presence control in the Triaxis is a high frequency cut shelving filter).
Do not confuse this with the Bright switch (see above).
"The Bright Knob is an active fourth tone control at high frequencies. Think of it as "High Treble". You can use it to add a little zing to a preset or remove harsh high frequencies. You can also use it to simulate the behavior of the Presence control on a Triaxis (which is really just a high cut). Turn it down to simulate "Presence" settings less than 10." source
Power Amp page
POWER TUBE TYPE
Changes the characteristics of the virtual amp power tubes. Choices include (depending on. hardware and firmware): 6AQ5, 6L6/5881, 6V6, 300B (triode), 6550, 6973, EL34/6CA7, EL84/6BQ5, KT66, KT88, KT77, 5881, 6L6GB, as well as “ideal tetrode” and “ideal pentode”.
Example: the Euro Blue and Red models are based on the Bogner Ecstasy 20th Anniversary model, which is an amplifier with 6L6 tubes. This parameter lets you change the virtual power tubes to EL34 tubes.
(firmware Ares 10.00 for Axe-Fx III) "Selecting a Power Tube Type loads the “knee voltage” for the power tubes and this voltage can be adjusted up or down using Power Tube Hardness. Higher values yield a lower knee voltage and more abrupt clipping and vice-versa. Existing presets will have Power Tube Hardness reset to 5.0 upon recall."
(firmware 10) "Added Tube Type parameter to amp block. This allows selecting Tetrode (i.e. 6L6, KT66, etc.) or Pentode (i.e. EL34, 6BQ5, etc.) power tube types. The type defaults to the appropriate value when a model is chosen but may be overridden by the user."
(firmware 13) "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."
"The tubes are "normalized" so that you don't have to do anything to the transformer. The internal values for the power tubes are based on typical transformer values. For example, the values derived for the EL34 are based on a primary impedance of 3200 ohms (assuming one pair of tubes). The impedance ratio of the transformer affects the values slightly as the plate impedance is reflected to the secondary (or the load is reflected to the primary) and the ratio therefore affects the interaction." source
Cliff's Tech Note: "You'll often read that 6L6's sound "full" whereas EL34's have more midrange and other colloquial descriptions of the tone of a power tube. These myths are perpetuated by forum dwellers, uninformed tube "experts" and even amp manufacturers as marketing tools. Well, the fact is that power tubes do NOT sound different. They do not have any intrinsic tone. "But I can hear the difference when I change to a different type of power tube. How can that be?" A power tube has a very flat frequency response and they all clip roughly the same. If you put a resistive dummy load on a tube power amp (assuming it doesn't have any intentional frequency shaping) it will measure very flat. However a speaker is not a resistive load. A speaker is a highly reactive load. As I've mentioned in the other threads in this forum section a speaker has an impedance that is sort of scooped at the midrange frequencies. It is the impedance of the speaker that affects the tone of the amp and different types of power tubes react differently with that impedance. As I've mentioned before a power tube is nearly a current source. The operative word here is "nearly". No power tube has an infinite plate impedance and that's why power tubes sound different. A current source has infinite output impedance, an actual power tube has a finite output impedance. The output impedance of a power tube (or any active device for that matter) is defined as delta V / delta I which is the change in voltage vs. the change in current. Let's take a 6L6 for example. Let's assume that the tube has a quiescent operating point of 300V and let's assume we swing +/- 100V around that point. If we look at the plate graphs for a 6L6 at a bias of -10V we see that the plate current at 200V is 95 mA and at 400V it's 105 mA (roughly). Using our formula for impedance we get 200/0.01 = 20 Kohms. Now let's take an EL34. At 200V the current is 130 mA and at 400V the current is 150 mA. The plate impedance is therefore 10 Kohms which is half that of the 6L6. This lower output impedance "de-Q's", or flattens, the speaker impedance. Essentially the EL34 has a higher damping factor than a 6L6. This higher damping factor reduces the mid-scoop due to the speaker impedance. This makes the tone have more midrange. There's a little more to it as the output transformer plays a role as well and 6L6 power amps typically have a slightly higher impedance ratio. There's also different operating voltages and bias points but I'm trying to keep this simple. You can simulate changing power tubes in the Axe-Fx by simply increasing or decreasing the LF and HF resonance values."
"Changing the power tube between pentode and tetrode doesn't change the sound in the same way actually changing tubes would because it only changes the distortion curves. It does not change the transconductance so the transformer matching is constant. When you put different power tubes in an amp the difference in tone isn't due to some inherent difference in the "sound" of the tubes. It's mainly due to the different transconductances. The transconductance of an EL34 is about 30-40% more than the transconductance of a 6L6 (edited). This means that the plate current will be twice as great for a given grid voltage. This makes EL34s sound "more midrangey" and 6L6s sound "tighter" or "fuller". The truth is that if you bias them correctly and compensate for the difference in transconductance you will hear very little difference. Unfortunately you can't compensate for the transconductance easily in a real amp without changing the gain of the phase inverter and/or putting in a different output transformer." source
"There won't be the same variation you would get by substituting in a real amp because the transformer matching stays consistent. IOW, if you put an EL84 in a Plexi the transformer matching is going to be way too low because the transconductance is very different. The power tube models normalize the transconductance so switching power tubes also effectively installs the correct output transformer For example, a pair of EL-84s want around 8K primary impedance. A pair of EL-34s want around 3.2K. If you put EL-84s in a Plexi the transformer will then be very undermatched (and probably burn the tubes up). In the Axe-Fx if you change the tube type to EL-84 you get all the parameters of an EL-84 but the virtual transformer will be changed so that the matching stays the same. You will get the crunchier tone of the EL-84 though since its knee voltage (kvb) is roughly half that of an EL-34." source
"There are a variety of parameters loaded when a tube type is selected. Hardness, which is inversely proportional to the knee voltage, is exposed to the user as it is the most audible." source
(about Mesa's Mark IV Pentode/Triode switch) "There isn't any way to run the virtual power tubes in triode mode... but you can change the Power Tube Type to "300B" which is a triode. When you run a pentode (or beam tetrode) in triode mode you connect the screen to the anode which effectively defeats the screen. This lowers the output impedance of the plate significantly which, in turn, lowers the output impedance of the amp itself making the voltage output less dependent on the speaker impedance. Using the 300B tube type should get you pretty close." source
"The Axe-Fx automatically adjusts the output transformer to match the power tubes so the difference isn't nearly as apparent as it would be if you were to change the tubes in a real amp. In other words a pair of EL-34s wants to see about 3200 ohms whereas a pair of 6L6s want to see about 4000 ohms. The Axe-Fx III automatically increases the transformer matching if you change the tubes from EL-34 to 6L6. I've been debating removing this "mu normalization" but it would break existing presets where people had changed the tubes from the default type."
"All the tube models are "normalized". IOW if you change tube types the bias current stays the same, the transconductance (mu) is the same, etc. All that changes are the tube parameters that determine the shape of the I/V curves. The reason for this is you would never but EL-84s in an amp designed for 6L6s. First of all they wouldn't fit, but more importantly the bias circuit would be all wrong and the transformer impedance ratio would be way off. It would sound completely wrong. What you mostly hear when you swap tubes in a real amp is the change in the transconductance and concomitant transformer mismatch. The curves aren't really all that much different. In fact the parameters for 6L6s and EL34s aren't all that different aside from the mu. A JJ 6L6GC has roughly the same parameters as a Mullard EL34. kvb for both is around 30V, the big difference is mu which means a pair 6L6s want a primary impedance of 4K whereas a pair of EL34s want around 3.2K. If you put 6L6s in an amp designed for EL34s the OT will be undermatched which will make the amp sound more "open" and the power amp won't distort as much. You also run the risk of redplating the tubes because you might go outside the SOA.So, all this being said, the biggest tools in your arsenal are the Transformer Match and Speaker Impedance parameters which can be used to simulate different matching." source
POWER TUBE GRID BIAS
Owner's Manual: "Sets the bias point of the virtual power amp. Lower values approach pure Class-B operation. Higher values approach pure Class-A operation."
"Turn up Power Tube Grid Bias. In real life that is tough on tubes as it makes them run very hot." source
"For as long as I can remember I've always biased my amps around 60% of maximum dissipation. But I just ran across a site that claims 70% is optimal for a Class-AB amp. So I tried it on my go-to Plexi patch and I do believe it sounds better. Set Power Tube Grid Bias to 0.7 to do this." source
(Is it possible to simulate the Class A-mode for the Mesa Mk 4 (for example) "Yes, turn Power Tube Grid Bias all the way up." source
Controls the amount of negative feedback (aka "damping") in the power amp simulation. Higher values give a tighter and brighter sound but can sound harsh at very high master volume levels. Lower values give a loose and gritty sound and feel.
Changing Negative Feedback (Damping) between 0 and other values will change the display on the hardware, and switches the Presence control between "Presence" and "HiCut". Damping at zero disables the Depth control.
Adjusting this parameter will have impact on the amp's output level. If the power amp is saturated, both Damping and Level must be increased to maintain the same level.
"The Axe-Fx attempts to normalize the volume as you change the damping. (...) However, if you are driving the "power amp" hard the equation falls apart because it assumes linear operation. Therefore there may be some volume change. This is done since otherwise you would constantly have to adjust your output volume as you change the damping. Unfortunately it is impossible to predict how saturated the power amp is since that depends on input level. The compensation isn't perfect, the idea is to minimize the volume fluctuations since without compensation the volume would fluctuate wildly." source
"When you set Damping to 0 Presence becomes a Hi-Cut so if you have the Presence turned up you'll lose high end when you turn Damping to 0. Also, Depth does not work at a Damping of 0 since Depth modifies the feedback and there is no feedback." source
"Another factor which controls power amp hardness is Transformer Match. There are two primary distortion mechanisms in a power amp: grid clipping and plate clipping (PI clipping notwithstanding as this is only audible with a post-PI MV). Grid Clipping is extremely hard, almost a hard clipper (i.e. if(x>a) then x=a). Plate clipping is much softer. However most power amps are slightly undermatched which means the grids clip before the plates clip, but only at those frequencies where the speaker impedance is "nominal". At high frequencies (above 1kHz or so) the rising impedance of the speaker causes the plates to clip before the grids. At the low frequency resonance the plates also clip first. If you increase the transformer matching the plates will clip earlier and, since plate clipping is softer, the distortion will be softer. So turn up the Transformer Match and turn down Negative Feedback for softer power amp distortion." source
"There are a two things that determine the smoothness of the power amp distortion:
- Power Amp Hardness. As you've discovered turning it down makes it smoother (obviously). The value controls the "kvb" of the tube model. It's the "knee voltage" for the plate. The formula for plate current is Ip = f(Vg1, Vg2) atan(Vp/kvb). The lower kvb the more abrupt the transition into clipping. Power Amp Hardness is the inverse of this normalized to the plate voltage.
- Negative Feedback. Negative feedback linearizes the power amp. At some point, though, the power amp then runs out of headroom and goes into clipping. The more negative feedback the more linear the response and the more abrupt the clipping. Less negative feedback, smoother clipping.
I often turn P.A. Hardness down, usually between 3-4, because I like the smoother sound." source
"Increasing neative feedback flattens the frequency response and increases linearity. You can achieve similar results by flattening the impedance curve in the Speaker page and increasing Power Tube Hardness." source
"The Axe-Fx II allows the user to fine-tune the amount of negative feedback in the power via the Damping parameter. The term damping refers to the fact that increasing negative feedback lowers the output impedance and therefore "dampens" the response of the speaker. Power amps often specify their output impedance in terms of "Damping Factor" which is the ratio of the load impedance to the output impedance. The higher the damping factor the less the speaker impedance influences the frequency response. Let's examine what happens as you adjust the Damping parameter. As we increase the Damping we increase the negative feedback. This does several things:
- LOWERS THE GAIN of the power amp. This causes the power amp to not distort as easily since the signal is amplified less and therefore it won't clip as easily.
- Increases the linearity of the power amp. This reduces harmonic distortion but makes clipping "harder" as the transition to clipping is more abrupt.
- Flattens the frequency response. This makes the frequency response more linear and widens the bandwidth. The peaks in the frequency response due to the speaker impedance are flattened and broadened.
As we decrease Damping we decrease the negative feedback which does:
- Increases the gain of the power amp. The causes the power amp to clip more readily.
- Decreases the linearity of the power amp. This increases harmonic distortion and softens the transition into clipping.
- Increases frequency response distortion. The response becomes more scooped and the bandwidth is reduced.
Many guitar players like the sound of amps with no negative feedback. The Vox AC-30 is the classic example of an amp with no negative feedback. The power amp distortion is soft and the scooped response along with lots of harmonic distortion give a bell-like tone for high frequencies and warm low frequency response. The drawback to this is that the low end can get muddy as the low frequencies clip readily due to the frequency response distortion. These types of amps typically do not work well for high-gain tones although there are notable exceptions, i.e. the Dual Rectifier which uses a high-power power amp and bass reduction in the preamp to compensate for the increased bass response. Fender and Marshall amps (and their derivatives) use varying amounts of negative feedback. The amount of feedback in Marshall amps was all over the map in the early years and seems as though the builders didn't really adhere to rigorous documentation and revision control. As such there can be quite a bit of variation in the sound of these early Marshalls. So what is the correct amount? There is no definitive answer however there are some guidelines. For more vintage tones less Damping is typically desirable. This gives softer power amp breakup and more "baseline" distortion. For modern, high-gain tones more Damping may be desirable as these tones typically rely on preamp distortion and the power amp is desired to be neutral (which many players describe as "tight"). As stated before the Dual Rectifier in modern modes is a bit of an enigma. The power amp in this mode uses no negative feedback. You can hear this as an increase in volume when you flip the switch to Modern (remember that negative feedback reduces the gain so turning it off will increase the gain). I have read some users recommending increasing the Damping to reduce the amount of power amp distortion in, for example, Fender models. I do not endorse this viewpoint. The distortion is primarily reduced because the gain is reduced but the power amp will sound more "sterile" due to the increased linearity and flatter frequency response. A better solution is to simply lower the Master Volume. This drives the power amp less while retaining the baseline harmonic distortion, softer transition into clipping and more scooped frequency response. Modification of the error signal is commonly employed in guitar amps. This was first employed as the ubiquitous Presence control. The presence circuit reduces the amount of feedback at higher frequencies. Since the gain of the power amp is inversely proportional to the amount of feedback, reducing the amount of feedback over only a certain range of frequencies will therefore increase the gain of the amp at those frequencies. The presence control therefore boosts high frequencies. This concept was extended to low frequencies via the Depth or Resonance control. Basically these controls are bass and treble controls for the power amp but operate by reducing the feedback for those bands. On most amps setting these controls fully CCW will basically remove them from the circuit. Turning them CW will reduce the feedback in the prescribed bands thereby increasing the gain of these bands. An exception are Boogie (Mark series) power amps. The presence control in these amps is more complex and the flattest frequency response is achieved with the knob set to noon. Turning the knob CCW will reduce the treble response. Turning it CW will increase it.
Note that these all interact with the Damping control. To hear this reduce the Damping to a value just greater than zero. Note that the Presence and Depth controls will have almost no effect. This is logical since B (beta) is nearly zero and we can't reduce it further."
Controls power amp clipping. It's an extremely powerful parameter. Lower values cause power tubes to clip later and therefore the phase inverter and grid clipping becomes more predominant. At higher settings, power tubes clip sooner and the Resonance settings on the Speaker page become more pronounced. For optimum results bring up the Master until the desired amount of power amp distortion is achieved, then adjust Matching until the character of the distortion is as desired. The various LF and HF Resonance parameters interact strongly with this parameter.
Decrease the value to make the amps sound broader.
"What to use Transformer Match for: The turns ratio of transformers varies by manufacturer, era, etc. For example the original Drake transformers used in old 50W Marshalls had a primary impedance of 3.5K. Some newer transformers have an impedance of 3.2K, about 10% less. To replicate this set Transformer Match to 0.9. This will give a more "open" sound but also a harsher distortion. Increase matching to simulate a higher primary impedance. This will give a more compressed and smoother distortion. Some amps intentionally overmatch their transformers (Trainwrecks) which gives them their characteristic sound." source
(firmware 3.0) "This is an extremely powerful parameter that sets the relative output transformer primary impedance which in turn controls how easily the power tubes are driven into clipping. The higher the Master Volume setting the more pronounced the effect of this parameter. Decreasing the matching causes the power tubes to clip later and therefore the phase inverter and grid clipping becomes more predominant. Increasing the matching causes the power tubes to clip sooner. At lower settings the speaker resonance will be more pronounced, at higher settings the speaker resonance will be less pronounced. For optimum results bring up the Master until the desired amount of power amp distortion is achieved, then adjust the matching until the character of the distortion is as desired. The various LF and HF resonance parameters interact strongly with this parameter so be sure to experiment with those as well when crafting your ideal tone. The value of this parameter is relative to the actual transformer matching which is set internally and not directly exposed. The value is reset to 1.0 whenever they amp type is selected."
"Very powerful control. Use in moderation. It changes the turns ratio of the virtual output transformer. Primary impedance is a function of turns ratio. As you increase the turns ratio you increase the impedance by the square of the turns ratio: Zp = N^2 * Zs. An easier description: Increasing Transformer Match -> Thick. Decreasing Transformer Match -> Scooped." source
"One of the most powerful controls in the Amp Block Is Transformer Match. If you want a more "open" sound and feel, turn it down. If you want more compressed sound and feel, turn it up. A little goes a long way. Note that this control has more or less effect depending upon the setting of the Master Volume. Transformer Match has more influence at higher MV values and vice-versa. If you turn TM down, you may want to turn MV up to compensate and vice-versa. Turning it way up (around 2.0), for example, simulates the sound of running an 8-ohm speaker on the 4-ohm tap." source
"Don't overlook this parameter when your MV is set high. It is extremely powerful. A little in either direction can make a big difference. If you want a more open tone, turn it down slightly. If you want more compression and sustain, turn it up a bit. This parameter is essentially a "turns ratio" for the OT." source
"Higher values are "warmer" but more compressed. Lower values are more open but harsher. Only small adjustments are needed. Transformer Match is the single most powerful advanced parameter when dealing with non-MV amps (i.e. when you have the MV cranked)." source
"The most powerful advanced parameter is Transformer Match. When people try different tube brands or rebias their amp to use a different type of tube they make all kinds of hyperbolic claims about those tubes but it isn't really the tube that made the difference. Well it is but it's not because the tube is doing something special. It's simply because the tube has a different transconductance (gain). Amp designers choose an OT turns ratio such that the amp is "matched" to the load. However "matched" is a nebulous term since tube gains vary, speaker impedance is variable and bias point is adjustable. Therefore there is no absolute turns ratio that ensures perfect matching. Matching implies that the swing at the power tube grids just pushes the plates to the rails. If the output transformer is undermatched, the grids will clip before the plates hit the rails and vice-versa. Designers also select the turns ratio based on personal preference. Some designers prefer undermatched OT since this gives a more "open" sound, while others prefer overmatched since this gives more touch response. For example, a Trainwreck is highly overmatched. For a given OT, if the tubes have higher gain than originally then this effectively overmatches the OT and vice-versa. Now this matters most for non-MV amps that get their distortion from the power amp, i.e. old Marshall, Fender, etc. So... if you are going to experiment with any advanced parameter, start with Transformer Match. A little bit in either direction can make a big difference. Note that the Transformer Match parameter is relative to the internal value." source
"Transformer match has nothing to do with the physical size of the transformer. It is the turns ratio. The higher the turns ratio (higher Transformer Match) the higher the reflected impedance from the speaker and vice-versa. The higher the value the sooner the power tubes distort. The optimum turns ratio is such that the maximum power can be obtained. Tube amps tend to be slightly undermatched though since the speaker impedance is not constant. This varies with the make/model of amp and is encoded in the model data. The size of the transformer is dictated by the necessary power handling. You can simulate smaller/larger transformers by adjusting the Transformer Drive parameter." source
"The internal default value is based on the amp that was modeled and an assumed speaker voice coil resistance of 0.8 times the nominal impedance. I.e., if the speaker is rated at 8 ohms the assumed voice coil resistance is 6.4 ohms. Some speakers are slightly below this, others are above. 16-ohm Celestion Greenbacks, for example, are about 12 ohms so that would 0.75 times the nominal impedance. To simulate this you would reduce the matching to 0.75/0.8 = 0.9375. If you find yourself lowering this value consistently then your Master Volume is too high (assuming it's a MV amp). If it's a non-MV amp and you still find yourself lowering this value then you'll probably find the tone harsh or too scooped at loud volumes. In general I find people set the MV too high on MV amps. I think they don't realize that most MV amps achieve full volume around 2-4 on the MV knob and then it's just compression after that. Amp makers are partly to blame here as they do this on purpose to make their amps seem louder than they really are. Of course the sweet spot is that point at which the power amp starts to compress so you want to set the MV high enough to get into the sweet spot. It's a psychological thing. People always like a more "open" sound even though they don't really understand what makes a tone "open". When you lower the Transformer Match you reduce the power tube compression of the lows and highs. The problem is humans naturally gravitate to this to the point that they will make the tone excessively "open" and then it doesn't fit in the mix. I do not recommend deviating much from 0.9 - 1.1. Of course there are no rules. With real amps some people like that more open sound and achieve it by plugging their cab into the higher impedance output, i.e. plugging an 8-ohm cab into the 16-ohm jack. This would be equivalent to setting the match to 0.5. SRV liked it the other way round IIRC which would equate to a match value of 2.0." source
"Guitar folklore has it that SRV and Joe Walsh intentionally mismatched their speaker impedance. I imagine others have done this. The general idea is you plug an 8-ohm speaker into the 4-ohm jack or vice-versa. The Axe-Fx allows you to replicate this behavior using the Transformer Match control. To simulate plugging an 8-ohm speaker into the 4-ohm jack set Transformer Match to twice it's current setting (i.e. 2.0). For the other way around set it to half (i.e. 0.5). And you don't have to worry about frying your OT." source
Cliff's Tech Note: "One of the most important "advanced tweaks" in the amp block is the Transformer Match parameter (XFRMR MATCH). This control sets the relative turns ratio of the virtual output transformer. Each amp model has a default turns ratio embedded in the model data. The Transformer Match parameter adjusts that ratio relative to this default value. Turning it down reduces the ratio and makes the transformer "undermatched". Turning it up increases the ratio and makes the transformer "overmatched". Why is this important? In a "classic" designed power amp the transformer turns ratio is selected to provide the full power the output tubes are capable of to the load. IOW, when the tubes are delivering their maximum current the voltage at the plates is near zero (the voltage swing is maximum) for the NOMINAL speaker impedance. If the transformer is undermatched the tubes won't fully saturate. If the transformer is overmatched the tubes will saturate early. Most guitar amps are slightly undermatched. This wouldn't really matter than much if the load were a simple resistance but a speaker is a reactive load. As mentioned in my other posts the impedance has a low-frequency resonance and a high-frequency boost. If the transformer were perfectly matched then the plate voltages would reach maximum excursion when the current was at a maximum only at those frequencies where the speaker impedance equals the nominal impedance. When the speaker impedance is greater than the nominal impedance the tubes saturate early. This has the effect of distorting the highs and lows before the mids. If you decrease the matching the highs and lows don't distort as quickly and the amp will sound more "open". However the distortion can be harsher since power tube current limiting is harder than voltage limiting. If you increase the transformer matching the highs and lows will distort sooner and the amp will sound more "compressed. The resulting distortion will be smoother due to the softer nature of the voltage limiting. As explained above a classic design selects the turns ratio to give the maximum power for the nominal speaker impedance. However the "nominal" speaker impedance is just that and the actual speaker impedance varies considerably from model to model. The impedance of a typical 8-ohm speaker can vary 20% or so. If the actual impedance is lower then this effectively undermatches the transformer and vice-versa. Furthermore the transconductance and maximum current capability of the power tubes varies. For example, the amp models in the Axe-Fx that use EL34s were modeled with Mullard tubes (as these are considered the best sounding). A set of JJ EL34s will actually produce slightly more current and saturate earlier. This effectively overmatches the output transformer. Some amps deliberately overmatch the output transformer, i.e. Trainwrecks. This results in a smoother power amp distortion with more compression of the highs and lows. The amount of overmatching is considerable, typically about 50% Now, the effect of the transformer matching is only evident when the power amp is distorting. Non-MV amps get most of the distortion from the power amp so the effects of altering this parameter should be readily apparent. Master Volume amps get most of their distortion from the preamp so the effects of altering this control may not be as noticeable if the MV is turned down. Small adjustments can make a big difference. I typically never adjust more than 20% (0.8 to 1.2) and usually less than 10%. If you find your tones are slightly too open and harsh turn up the Transformer Match slightly. Conversely if you find your tones too compressed turn it down a bit. Be warned that turning it down may seem to sound "better" because the volume will increase (our old friends Fletcher and Munson again) but then when you play loud it will be boomy and harsh. You want some of those high and lows to be distorted early so that things aren't too scooped."
"Another factor which controls power amp hardness is Transformer Match. There are two primary distortion mechanisms in a power amp: grid clipping and plate clipping (PI clipping notwithstanding as this is only audible with a post-PI MV). Grid Clipping is extremely hard, almost a hard clipper (i.e. if(x>a) then x=a). Plate clipping is much softer. However most power amps are slightly undermatched which means the grids clip before the plates clip, but only at those frequencies where the speaker impedance is "nominal". At high frequencies (above 1kHz or so) the rising impedance of the speaker causes the plates to clip before the grids. At the low frequency resonance the plates also clip first. If you increase the transformer matching the plates will clip earlier and, since plate clipping is softer, the distortion will be softer. So turn up the Transformer Match and turn down Negative Feedback for softer power amp distortion. However... designers know all this and they design an amp to sound best in a mix (at least the good ones do). Soft clipping sounds great when you are playing by yourself but as soon as you are in a band context the sound gets lost since hard clipping helps cut through the mix. Amps designed for rock typically have harder clipping than an amp designed for blues or jazz. A 5150, for example, has an extreme amount of negative feedback which makes the power amp very linear and clips very hard. A Deluxe Reverb, otoh, has low negative feedback and large cathode bypass caps on the last preamp stage. This makes the clipping softer and the sound less "clear"." source
Firmware Ares 9 for the Axe-Fx III:
"New power amp modeling algorithm. This new algorithm now also separates the transformer matching from the speaker impedance. A new parameter, Speaker Impedance, allows adjusting the relative impedance of the virtual speaker. For example, to simulate connecting a 16-ohm speaker to an 8-ohm output set Speaker Impedance to 2.0. Transformer Matching, on the other hand, changes the impedance ratio of the virtual output transformer."
"Prior to 9.xx the "matching" was controlled by a single Transformer Match parameter. 9.xx introduces a new Speaker Impedance parameter. The distortion of a tube power amp is dependent upon the load presented to the power tubes. The overall sound, however, is also often dependent upon the voltage at the speaker since that voltage is fed back to the input." source
Firmware Ares 10 for the Axe-Fx III:
The range of the Transformer Match control has been reduced to 0.5 to 2.0. Existing presets will have this value reset to 1.0."
SPEAKER IMPEDANCE (SPEAKER DC RESISTANCE)
Introduced in firmware Ares 9 for the Axe-Fx III:
A better name would be: Speaker DC Resistance. More information
"What to use Speaker Impedance for: The actual impedance of a speaker can vary quite a bit. For example a Celestion Greenback is available in 8 and 16 ohm versions. The 8-ohm version has a DC resistance (DCR) of 6.57 ohms. The 16-ohm version has a DCR of 12.13 ohms. The Plexi models in the Axe-Fx assume 16-ohm speakers were used as the Marshall cabs used 16-ohm speakers.
The DCR normalized to the speaker impedance is therefore different for the two versions. For the 8-ohm version the DCR normalized to the impedance is 6.57/8 = 0.82. The 16-ohm version is 12.13/16 = 0.76. The relative impedance is therefore 0.82/0.76 = 1.08. Therefore the 8-ohm version of the speaker will increase the voltage at the primary by 8% which means the power amp breaks up a bit earlier (more gain). To simulate this increase Speaker Impedance to 1.08.
All the models use a DCR commensurate with the original speakers when available. For amp heads with no matching cabinet the DCR is assumed to be 6.7 ohms. I contemplated naming the control "Speaker DCR" but figured that was too vague but it's actually a better description of what the control does (and the internal parameter name is speaker_dcr).
Another use for Speaker Impedance is to simulate intentional mismatching. SRV, Joe Walsh, etc. would intentionally mismatch their amps by connecting the speaker to the "wrong" output jack. For example, to simulate connecting a 16-ohm speaker to the 8-ohm output jack set Speaker Impedance to 2.0 (or 1.9 in the case of a Greenback)." source
POWER TUBE HARDNESS
Firmware Ares 10.00 for Axe-Fx III:
"Due to the changes in the power amp modeling algorithm the Power Tube Hardness parameter now behaves differently. Selecting a Power Tube Type loads the “knee voltage” for the power tubes and this voltage can be adjusted up or down using Power Tube Hardness. Higher values yield a lower knee voltage and more abrupt clipping and vice-versa. Existing presets will have Power Tube Hardness reset to 5.0 upon recall."
Before firmware Ares 10.00 for Axe-Fx III:
Controls the hardness (shape) of the virtual power tube grid clipping. Higher values have a more abrupt transition into saturation. This parameter changes automatically when switching virtual power tubes.
"The hardness is tied to the tube type. I.e., if a model uses EL84s the default hardness will be 2. Different tube types will default to different hardness." source
"You can control the "shape" of the preamp and power amp distortion. The Preamp Hardness parameter controls the shape of the triode emulations. The lower the value the softer the distortion. The Power Amp Hardness controls the power amp clipping but that often is not noticeable because negative feedback around the power amp makes the distortion harder. Therefore you can make the power amp distortion softer by reducing Negative Feedback. A good example of this is a JCM800. A JCM800 has very hard preamp distortion (since there is no cathode bypass cap on the last stage) but has low negative feedback which softens the power amp distortion. The trick with that amp is to get the amp into the sweet spot by increasing the MV until you are getting some power amp distortion which softens the preamp distortion. Another factor which controls power amp hardness is Transformer Match. There are two primary distortion mechanisms in a power amp: grid clipping and plate clipping (PI clipping notwithstanding as this is only audible with a post-PI MV). Grid Clipping is extremely hard, almost a hard clipper (i.e. if(x>a) then x=a). Plate clipping is much softer. However most power amps are slightly undermatched which means the grids clip before the plates clip, but only at those frequencies where the speaker impedance is "nominal". At high frequencies (above 1kHz or so) the rising impedance of the speaker causes the plates to clip before the grids. At the low frequency resonance the plates also clip first. If you increase the transformer matching the plates will clip earlier and, since plate clipping is softer, the distortion will be softer. So turn up the Transformer Match and turn down Negative Feedback for softer power amp distortion." source
(firmware Ares 6.01) "As you decrease Power Amp Hardness now the volume won't decrease, it'll just get smoother. I like reducing it on "Class A" amp types sometimes." source
"There are a two things that determine the smoothness of the power amp distortion:
I often turn P.A. Hardness down, usually between 3-4, because I like the smoother sound." source
POWER TUBE MISMATCH
Use this to simulate a gain mismatch between the virtual push and pull power tubes. It's said that SRV mismatched his amps deliberately.
A value of zero represents perfectly matched tubes.
BIAS TREM FREQUENCY + BIAS TREM DEPTH
Not supported on the AX8 and FM3.
Bias Tremolo, based on varying the bias of the virtual power tubes. The tremolo action is different than other types of tremolo and the amount of tremolo varies with a multitude of variables. Most importantly the tremolo is “self-ducking” and decreases at higher signal amplitudes. Bias tremolo is a somewhat crude tremolo circuit and its interaction with the power amp depends on many things including damping, bias, etc. On some amps high values of bias trem depth can result in excessive crossover distortion. On other amps the amount of tremolo can vary greatly between loud and soft playing. All this, however, is part of the allure of bias tremolo as it results in a particularly “organic” sound. Control of the bias tremolo is afforded by the Trem Freq and Trem Depth parameters. A modifier can be attached to Trem Depth to facilitate engaging and disengaging the tremolo via footswitch or for other applications.
When power amp modeling is disabled, the bias tremolo won't work.
Bias Tremolo is also available as a type in the Tremolo/Panner block in firmware Ares.
"If the power tubes are being overdriven the bias tremolo can add lots of crossover distortion." source
"Bias trem doesn't work well with all amp models. It depends on the model and this is precisely why bias trem wasn't offered on every amp ever made. It works best on amps that are biased hotter and that don't have much gain. Even a Deluxe Reverb doesn't work that well with bias trem because the power amp overdrives too easily. That is why an actual Deluxe Reverb uses an optical trem instead." source
"Bias trem works by modulating the power tube grid bias. One of the side-effects is that the effect becomes less pronounced as you play harder which makes it basically "auto ducking". Also since it's modulating the bias it gives an almost Univibe like effect since the phase changes a bit too." source
"Bias tremolo works by modulating the quiescent operating point of the power tubes. With a single-ended power amp with negative feedback the gain doesn't change much as you change the operating point, hence the tremolo effect is subtle. Bias tremolo works best on amps with little to no negative feedback." source
Power Supply page
SUPPLY TYPE + AC LINE FREQUENCY
Switch between AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current).
AC LINE FREQUENCY is not the same parameter as AC LINE FREQUENCY in the unit's Global menu.
Cliff's Tech Note about ghost notes: "A phenomenon present in some vintage amps is an artifact known as "ghost notes". Ghost notes are the result of intermodulation distortion between the note being played and ripple on the power supply. The ripple is at 120 Hz because the AC voltage is full-wave rectified. So there are frequency components of 120 Hz and its harmonics in the power supply. These frequency components mix with the note being played and create new tones that are not harmonically related to the note being played. Since it is intermodulation distortion, tones are created at the sum and difference frequencies. For example, if you play a D at the seventh fret on the G string this is 294 Hz. The intermodulation will create new tones at 294 - 120 = 174 Hz and 294 + 120 = 414 Hz. The harmonics of the note being played also factor in. The aforementioned D will also produce tones at multiples of 294 Hz and these mix with the 120 Hz and its harmonics. The G string above the 5th fret is most prone to this because of the harmonic spectrum of those notes. The amount of ripple on the supply is a function of the supply impedance. More capacitance and less resistance will reduce the ripple. Conversely less capacitance and/or more resistance will increase the ripple. You can adjust these values in the Axe-Fx using the Supply Sag and B+ Time Constant parameters. Supply Sag adjusts the virtual resistance of the power supply. B+ Time Constant adjusts the resulting time constant of the supply resistance and capacitance, i.e. as you increase the sag the time constant stays constant (capacitance decreases). To counter this increase B+ Time Constant. Old 100W Plexis exhibit this the most of any amp I've seen due to the high resistance of the power supply transformer. Our reference 100W Plexi has so much power supply resistance that the power supply sags up to 120V! This along with only 50 uF of power supply capacitance leads to prominent ghost notes."
(firmware 10) "Amp block power supply modeling now models AC rectification and resulting supply ripple (if Pwr Supply Type is set to ‘AC’). The power supply type can be selected between AC and DC with the Pwr Supply Type parameter. The line frequency can be selected with the AC Line Freq parameter. Note that high values of Sag along with low B+ Time Constant values can cause “ghost notes” when the supply type is AC (as in a real amp). Lower B+ Time Constant values will make the amp feel “faster” but too low can cause ghost notes."
"The most notable thing would be the ghost notes. There is also a slight difference in feel." source
"Those old amps make ghost notes. My 100W Plexi has some ghost notes that are louder than the fundamental. The easiest way to eliminate them (if you don't like/want them) is to simply set the Supply Type to DC. However, IMO, the ghost notes are a large part of the character of these designs and removing them isn't desirable. Don't over-analyze it. Recognize that certain designs produce ghost notes and embrace it." source
"100 watters are usually worse because they have lighter filtering (50 uF vs. 100 uF) and draw more dynamic current." source
(about the frequency) "One of the reason amps in Europe sound different than US." source
"(...) Another option is to change the supply type to DC. This will eliminate any ghosting and give you a more "ideal" response. Most modelers use a DC power supply model but I've found that an AC supply model is key to achieving that last few percent of realism. The supply ripple is a big part of why old amps sound the way they do. Most guitar players actually like a percussive attack so that's why about 10ms has become a de-facto standard." source
"So I was testing the next beta and selected the AC-20. Was hearing a lot of ghost notes compared to the old algorithm (in the debug build I can select between algorithms with a hidden parameter) and figured that couldn't be right. Hooked up the real AC-20 and, sure enough, ghost notes galore at the same settings." (...) "If you don't want authentic ghost notes set the Supply Type to DC." source
- Change the supply to DC. This will completely eliminate it as there will be no supply ripple.
This controls how much the virtual power supply sags. Higher settings simulate higher power supply impedance, and thus greater tube plate voltage “droop,” for a more compressed feel. This is a complex interaction between the master volume, transformer matching and screen network. Depending upon the amp you may even feel the screen voltage bounce if the screen network is underdamped (amps with chokes can often be underdamped). The screen network parameters are automatically set when the model is selected and cannot be altered by the user. In general, the more heavily driven the power amp section, the more effect the control has.
Sagging softens the pick attack, coupled with a swelling rise in volume after the initial drop of the note.
High values of Sag along with low B+ Time Constant values can cause “ghost notes” when the supply type is AC (as in a real amp). Lower B+ Time Constant values will make the amp feel “faster” but too low can cause ghost notes.
- Change the supply to DC. This will completely eliminate it as there will be no supply ripple.
"Supply Sag models the power supply resistance. This includes the power transformer, rectifier and any other resistances before the filter caps. The higher the resistance, the more the supply droops when current is pulled from it by the power tubes. The more the supply droops, the spongier the feel." source
(Quantum 2.0) "The power supply sag is now incredibly realistic and far superior to the "expander/compressor" techniques used in other products. Learning to adjust the pertinent parameters can make a good tone great. Supply Sag is the most fundamental of the power supply controls. It controls the virtual resistance of the AC input. In a real tube amp the supply sags due to a combination of power transformer resistance and rectifier resistance. Increasing Supply Sag increases this resistance and vice-versa. The higher the resistance the more the supply sags and the more bouncy and spongey the amp will feel. I like to increase Supply Sag a bit and reduce gain. You can monitor the virtual supply on the hardware by selecting the Supply Sag parameter. The gain reduction meter will display the supply voltage in dB relative to idle." source
(Quantum 2.0 release notes) "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."
Turning Supply Sag to zero disables the power amp modeling in the Amp block in the preset. The control has no effect at all when Power Amp Modeling is switched off in the Global menu. When power amp modeling is disabled, Depth and Presence are disabled (Quantum 9.03 and later), and Master Volume changes into a simple volume control. Before Quantum 9.03, Presence turned into a shelving filter when power amp modeling was disabled.
"If you shut the power amp modeling off from the Global menu it is not exactly the same as turning it off by setting Supply Sag to zero. This is because the virtual power amp always runs. So if you shut the power amp modeling off from the Global menu the supply will still sag resulting in a more compressed response. If the Master is set high the sag can be quite pronounced." source
You use Supply Sag to simulate different rectifiers.
"Reduce to simulate solid-state, increase to simulate tube." source
B+ TIME CONSTANT
This interacts with the Supply Sag control because it makes the virtual power supply response slower or faster. When the supply is fast the amp will sag rapidly accentuating the pick attack and compressing after. Most guitar players like this, but setting it too fast will cause excessive AC ripple and ghost notes. For convenience the virtual power supply voltage (B+) is shown as a meter on this page when the Supply Sag control is selected. (The meter shows dB, relative to the idle voltage.).
"B+ Time Constant is the time constant associated with the Supply Sag parameter. The power tubes draw current from the supply. The supply has a finite resistance. As the power tubes draw more current the supply voltage droops. The rate of change of the droop and recovery is dictated by the supply capacitance. The product of the resistance and capacitance is the time constant. It's typically around 10 ms. You can vary this using the B+ Time Constant parameter. It is not a simply compression though. As the supply sags, the headroom is reduced but many other things happen. One thing that happens is that the screen voltage droops. The screen voltage is derived from the B+. However the screen has it's own dynamic response, which is often 2nd-order since there is often a filter choke. If you listen carefully to the models with a filter choke you can hear the screen voltage "bounce" when you hit a power chord. The damping of the screen filter is not exposed to the user. When the screen voltage droops, the power tube gain decreases. It effectively shifts the bias point. There is quiescent draw from the supply as well. As you increase the bias (Power Tube Bias) the quiescent draw increases which decreases available headroom. The Axe-Fx II does not model all this stuff with compressors, like other products do. It actually uses a differential equation for the supply and the current from the power tubes. It then solves the equation at each sample instant to find the supply voltage and screen voltage." source
"The effect of lower B+ is equivalent to increasing Transformer Match. A lower B+ means the plates clip sooner which is the same as increasing the turns ratio on the transformer. This is assuming that you rebias since typically lower the B+ affects the bias." source
"The attack comes first as things compress. Then the supply bounces due to a much slower time constant. Compression time constants are in the neighborhood of a few ms, B+ time constants are typically 10-20 ms. You can adjust these on the Advanced page. Many amp designers like a "fast" power supply but if you lower the B+ time constant too much you get ghost notes." source
"The higher the value the stiffer the power supply. This will result in less compression from the power amp. "Most" guitar players prefer a value around 10ms as it it accentuates the attack without excessive ghosting. It seems as though you prefer less attack so raising the value will accomplish that. Another option is to change the supply type to DC. This will eliminate any ghosting and give you a more "ideal" response. Most modelers use a DC power supply model but I've found that an AC supply model is key to achieving that last few percent of realism. The supply ripple is a big part of why old amps sound the way they do. Most guitar players actually like a percussive attack so that's why about 10ms has become a de-facto standard." source
(firmware 10) "High values of Sag along with low B+ Time Constant values can cause “ghost notes” when the supply type is AC (as in a real amp). Lower B+ Time Constant values will make the amp feel “faster” but too low can cause ghost notes."
"B+ Time Constant controls the capacitance of the virtual power supply. The more capacitance the "slower" the supply and vice-versa. Most guitar players like a fast supply but too fast will cause excessive AC ripple and create ghost notes (although I think a little ghost note is cool). When the supply is fast it will sag rapidly accentuating the pick attack and compressing after. This parameter works in conjunction with Supply Sag parameter. The time constant remains constant so if you increase Supply Sag the virtual capacitance decreases." source
- Change the supply to DC. This will completely eliminate it as there will be no supply ripple.
Sets the relative AC line voltage into the amp simulation implementing a virtual “Variac”. Normally the volume would vary with the Variac setting in a real amp. The simulation compensates for the volume change by applying the inverse. Some additional level correction may be required.
A Variac is said to be required to achieve VH's "Brown" sound. Try it at 75% with a Plexi.
"The whole amp voltage is reduced." source
"The Spongy/Bold switch (on a Mesa) is basically a Variac." source
"It's impossible to compensate exactly. Some manual adjustment of the volume may still be required." source
SCREEN FREQUENCY + SCREEN Q
These parameters set the resonant frequency of the virtual power tubes’ screen filter, and the Q of that filter.
LF/HF RESONANCE + FREQUENCY + Q
Note: in firmware Ares 11 and later, these parameter values depend on the selected Speaker Impedance Curve in the Amp block.
A loudspeaker voice-coil presents an inductive load to the power amp at high frequencies. This inductive load, in conjunction with the output transformer capacitance, creates a high-frequency resonance at the specified frequency.
The default LF and HF Resonance settings in an amp model are based on the typical guitar cabinet for that amp. When using a solid-state amp and a traditional guitar speaker for amplification, you can achieve better results by finetuning these LF/HF settings, using one of the methods described in the quotes below.
"The speaker tab is not an EQ. It allows you to adjust the impedance that the virtual speaker presents to the virtual power tubes. In most cases the resulting EQ is quite different than the impedance curve since negative feedback flattens the response. If you turn the damping all the way down then the EQ will be close to the impedance curve (but still influenced by the transformer)." source
"There are certain aspects that simply can't be modeled and require user intervention. For example, a speaker has a low-frequency resonance. A tube amp will create a higher output at that resonant frequency. The Axe-Fx has no way of knowing what that resonant frequency is and defaults to a value that is common for the speakers that are typically used with that amp. However, if you drive that speaker through a solid-state amp you won't excite the resonance unless you adjust the Speaker Resonant Frequency to match it." source
"One way to find the SRF is to put a Filter block after the amp block. Set the type to Peaking, Q to 5 or so and Gain to 10 dB. Start with a Freq. of 50 Hz. Play some chugga-chugga and slowly adjust the Freq. until you hear and feel the cabinet resonate. Make a note of the frequency. Remove the filter block and set the amp block SRF to match. 4x12s typically have an SRF of between 80 and 120. Open back cabs are typically a bit lower." source
"LF: in general the Q is between 2 and 2.5. The Hi Freq is usually between 1 and 1.5 kHz. Hi Freq sets the critical frequency (or corner frequency) of the inductive portion of the loudspeaker's response. The critical frequency is the frequency at which the reactive component of the impedance is equal to the resistive component. This is found by fc = R/(2*pi*L). For a typical speaker R is around 6 ohms and L is around 0.75 mH. Therefore fc = 1270. Jensens tend to have higher inductance so that would move this value down. Eminence speakers tend to have lower inductance so that would move this value up. Celestion does not publish their values so I used Eminence values when calculating the defaults. You'll notice the Marshally stuff has fc around 1500 which is consistent with a typical Eminence copy of a Greenback. => You cannot obtain speaker impedance via audio stimulus and microphone measurement. Impedance is defined as voltage divided by current so you need to measure the current vs. applied voltage across the frequency range of interest. I have the equipment to do it, and have measured many speakers, but the average person do esn't have the equipment nor the knowledge to use the data. The influence of speaker impedance is generally not that great. The exception are amps with no negative feedback. In these cases the speaker impedance has a much more pronounced effect on the overall response. These amps include Vox, Matchless and most other "Class-A" designs. As soon as you add negative feedback the response flattens considerably. However... Presence and Depth reduce negative feedback so if you dial significant amounts of those in then the speaker impedance becomes a factor again. All-in-all you only have to be in the ballpark. 1500 Hz is a good starting point for Hi Freq. Adjust up or down slightly by ear. I don't believe that 3000 Hz is accurate. I've never seen a speaker that would have the corner frequency that far out. => As I explained a few posts up I wouldn't set Hi Freq outside the range of 1.0 to 1.6 kHz. Vibroverb model is an exception (800 Hz) since it had a more voice coil inductance. => I call it critical frequency since it is similar to the critical or corner frequency of a filter. I had to come up with some way of setting the loudspeaker inductance relative to the resistance. Frequency seemed to make more sense. I thought about an inductance parameter but figured that would be too nebulous. At the default settings the impedance rise of the simulated voice coil matches very close with published data. I have overlaid the modeled impedance curve with published data and it is a very good fit. For example, take the JCM800 model. The graph on the SPKR page has a scale of +20 dB at the top. Look at the response at 2kHz. It's roughly 1/4 of full-scale which equates to 5 dB. If we look at the impedance curve for a typical 8-ohm speaker we see that the impedance at 2 kHz is roughly 13 ohms. For a 6.5 ohm voice coil (typical) this means that the voltage at the speaker is 6 dB higher at 2 kHz. Pretty darn close to what the graph is showing. While there is no high-frequency resonance in the speaker itself, a resonance IS formed due to the winding capacitance of the transformer. This capacitance resonates with the voice-coil inductance. => The negative feedback is set in the Advanced menu. The SPKR page only sets the impedance curve of the speaker/OT combo. The values chosen are prototypical for the speaker used with the modeled amp. You should not need to vary these parameters much IMO. I only ever vary Low Freq and High Freq. Whenever I'm matching an amp I adjust Low Freq to match the resonance of my reference cabinet. I occasionally vary Hi Freq to get more or less midrange bite." source
"The default LF Resonance is based on the cab most likely to be used with that amp. For example, if you select a Twin Reverb model it will use the resonance data from the Twin Reverb amp that we used as the reference (we measured all the cabs as well as shooting IRs). Your 1960A cab probably has its resonance around 80 Hz so ideally you would want to do exactly what you did. The ultimate solution would be to measure the LF resonance but that requires special test equipment. I've found that you can usually find it by ear though. As you adjust the LF resonance you'll hear the cabinet sympathize. There is no way around this at the moment as no modeler can measure the impedance of a guitar cabinet (despite any claims to the contrary). Note that this is not applicable when using FRFR and IRs." source
"The resonant frequency goes up when mounted in a cabinet. It doesn't need to be spot-on. If you are within 10% you'll be fine. If you want to be anal about it you can use an impedance analyzer. This is what we use: Dayton Audio DATS Dayton Audio Test System 390-806." source
"Guitar folklore has it that SRV and Joe Walsh intentionally mismatched their speaker impedance. I imagine others have done this. The general idea is you plug an 8-ohm speaker into the 4-ohm jack or vice-versa. The Axe-Fx allows you to replicate this behavior using the Transformer Match control. To simulate plugging an 8-ohm speaker into the 4-ohm jack set Transformer Match to twice it's current setting (i.e. 2.0). For the other way around set it to half (i.e. 0.5). And you don't have to worry about frying your OT. BTW, for this to be audible the Master Volume needs to be set very high so that you are clipping the (virtual) output tubes. Most amps set the impedance ratio of the OT so as to get maximum power from the power tubes (within the SOA). Some amps intentionally mismatch the OT to give more control over the distortion by riding the volume control, i.e. Trainwrecks. Most amps actually slightly undermatch the OT as the speaker impedance is greater than nominal outside of the midband. Trainwrecks are overmatched." source
"Most guitar speakers are roughly the same when it comes to the high-frequency reactive behavior. The impedance increases starting around 1 kHz and then increases at 3-4 dB/octave. This is due to the voice coil inductance. A pure inductance would increase at 6 dB/oct. but there are eddy current losses that make the voice coil look "semi-inductive". The Axe-Fx II models this with a high-order lossy inductor model. The low-frequency response of guitar speakers, however, varies greatly between speakers of different makes and models. This low-frequency response is a sharp resonance typically in the range of 50-150 Hz. The magnitude of this resonance varies from several to 20 times the nominal impedance. The impedance of a speaker influences the response of a tube amp since a tube power amp is essentially a transconductance amplifier. It creates a current for an applied voltage. This current in turn creates a voltage across the speaker terminals that is dependent upon the impedance of the speaker. Therefore the power amp will resonate at the resonant frequency of the speaker. This causes certain notes to become emphasized as they excite the resonant frequency. Negative feedback around the power amp will reduce the amount of resonance but not all amps use negative feedback (i.e. Vox). The increased voltage amplitude at the resonant frequency also causes the power amp to clip sooner at the resonant frequency. Think of it this way: if the power tubes are swinging, say, 200 V at the midrange frequencies, they will swing X times more at the resonant frequency where X is the ratio of the resonant impedance to the nominal impedance. So if the resonant impedance is 10 times the nominal impedance the power tubes will want to swing 2000 volts. This is impossible so they will clip. For high-gain tones this can cause the tone to sound muddy or feel spongy. For lower gain tones this can thicken the tone and make it feel, well, more spongy. Cabinet/speaker IR data does not contain the impedance information. The only way to obtain impedance data is to measure the current vs. voltage vs. frequency (despite what modeler advertising literature would like you to think). The Axe-Fx uses default values of LF Resonant frequency and impedance for each amp model. For models based on combo amps these values are derived from measurements of the actual amp's speaker. For models based on amp heads the values are based on measurements of the cabinet most likely to be used with that head. You can adjust the frequency and impedance to suit your taste. Reducing the impedance (Low Res) will reduce the bass response and can give tighter bass. Raising the impedance will increase the bass response and can give a fuller sound. Altering the frequency (Low Freq) will change the frequencies at which the power amp resonates and tuning this to the key you are playing in can be an effective strategy, e.g. set it to 82 Hz if playing in E. Don't be afraid to try drastic settings. Try turning Low Res all the way to zero. Compensate by adding some bass with the Bass knob or the EQ section. As I mentioned earlier the LF Resonance will cause the power amp to clip earlier than it will when amplifying midrange frequencies. Turning down the Master Volume will increase the headroom in the power amp and reduce this clipping. Furthermore the Transformer Match also influences when the power amp clips. So there is a relationship between LF Res, MV and Transformer Match. Many manufacturers publish impedance data for their speakers. Eminence and Jensen and probably others publish detailed impedance data. You can look at the impedance plots and set the resonance parameters to match (roughly). The Low Res parameter is indicated from 0 to 10 and sets the resonance in dB from 0 to 24 dB (dB is a ratio of powers so it's not really the proper units for this but that's semantics). For example, the Jensen P12N has resonant frequency of about 100 Hz so you would set Low Freq to 100 Hz. The impedance at this frequency is about 40 ohms. To get the Low Res amount use the formula (20 * log10(Zr/Rdc)) / 2.4 where Zr is the impedance at the resonant frequency and Rdc is the DC resistance. For this speaker Low Res is then (20 * log10(40/6.2)) / 2.4 = 6.7. A power amp isn't perfect though. Winding resistance in the output transformer increases Rdc, typically by a couple ohms. Therefore our above example would become (20 * log10(40/8.2)) / 2.4 = 5.7. The exact value isn't overly critical though and all this is subtle nuances. The resonance Q is a bit more difficult to calculate. It is derived from the bandwidth at the points where the impedance "gain" is the square root of the resonance impedance gain. IOW, if the impedance is, say, 10 times the nominal impedance then the bandwidth is given by the frequencies where the response is 3.16 times the nominal impedance. For our example the resonance gain is 5 (40 / 8 = 5). So the bandwidth is the frequencies at which the impedance equals sqrt(5) * 8 = 18. From the graph this is approximately 75 Hz and 130 Hz. Q is defined as f0 / bw so our resulting Q is 100/60 = 1.67. Most speakers have a Q of around 2.0 or so. Again the exact value isn't overly critical and don't be afraid to try extreme settings (you can't break anything). Finally, just because real speakers behave like this doesn't mean we have to adhere to this behavior. Perhaps a better speaker has no resonance (Low and High Res are zero), or maybe the Q is a lot lower or higher. In our virtual world we can design a speaker that is impossible to construct in the physical universe. tl;dr version: Mess with Low Freq and Res if you want, or not." source
"The speaker page is the impedance vs. frequency. For a guitar amp with no negative feedback the voltage frequency response of the power amp will very closely match this since the power amp is basically a current source (V = I * Z). There will a slight reduction in the peaks as the output impedance isn't infinite but it is very high and will therefore be very close." source
"This post is aimed at those who use a solid-state power amp into a conventional guitar cab. As is described in the post "About Speaker LF Resonance" a guitar cabinet has an impedance resonance in the low frequencies. This typically falls in the range of 50 to 100 Hz. A tube amp, being essentially a current source, will have a voltage output that follows the impedance curve. Speakers, being electromotive devices, respond to applied electromotive force (EMF) which we know as voltage. A solid-state power amp is a voltage amplifier and, hence, will not be influenced by the impedance of the speaker. When using a solid-state power amp into a conventional guitar cabinet the experience will be different if the simulated speaker in the Axe-Fx II is not adjusted to match the actual speaker. Whether or not this is important is up to the individual but I imagine a lot of the posts about "in-the-room using power amp and cab is not the same" are due to this. Unfortunately the Axe-Fx II cannot measure the speaker impedance characteristics as it is not directly connected to the speaker. No device can measure the speaker impedance without being directly connected to the speaker, despite what their marketing claims may infer (cough, ahem...), since impedance is, by definition, V/I and we cannot measure these unless connected to the speaker terminals. The only truly accurate way to set the simulated speaker is to measure the speaker being used with an impedance measuring device. These can be had relatively inexpensively in the form of the Woofer Tester 3 (from Dayton Audio IIRC). You can also make your own using a small value resistor (0.1 ohms or so) in series with you power amp and measure the voltage across the resistor. The next best method would be to estimate the impedance using published data from the speaker manufacturer. If the make and model are known the data may be available. Add approximately 10% to the published resonance frequency if the speaker is in a sealed box. The worst method, and the subject of some contention, is finding the resonance by "feel". No power amp has perfect damping. If you put a sine wave (use the Synth block) into the speaker you may be able to observe or feel the resonant frequency. The cone will have increased excursion at this frequency. Of course you may just be feeling the room resonance. I have used this technique successfully on several speakers but it takes practice. The main drawback is that the magnitude of the resonance is unknown. The Axe-Fx II's Low Res parameter is displayed in dimensionless units from 0 to 10. Each unit corresponds to 2.4 dB of impedance "gain". We define this as a gain since the our current source power amp will experience a voltage gain. This is relative to the DC resistance of the speaker. For example, if the speaker's resistance is 6 ohms and the impedance at resonance is 60 ohms then our impedance gain would be 20*log10(60/6) = 20 dB. Dividing by 2.4 gives a Low Res value of 8.3. Since a tube amp isn't a perfect current source these values should be reduced slightly. The exact value of the Q isn't too important. About 2.0 is a good starting point. Adjust up or down to taste. If you are anal more information is in the aforementioned post about deriving the value of Q. Once the simulated speaker is set correctly you may notice a difference in low-frequency behavior and pick attack." source
"The default values in the amp block are based on the measured impedance of the most commonly used speaker for the selected amp. If it is a combo amp then the values are derived from the speaker that was in the cabinet. Most people who capture IRs are unable to also capture impedance data." source
"In the SPKR page of the Amp block are various parameters. I've talked about low-frequency resonance in another post. In this post I will address high-frequency resonance. As with LF resonance the high output impedance of a tube power amp causes the frequency response to follow the impedance of the speaker. There are two primary components: LF resonance and a high-frequency boost. The HF boost is due to the inductance of the voice coil. At the frequency where the voice coil reactance is equal to its resistance the impedance will start to rise. If this were a "pure" inductance it would rise at 6 dB per octave. However eddy-current losses in the motor cause this inductance to be "semi-inductive" and the impedance typically rises between 3 and 4 dB per octave. Different brands and models of speakers behave differently. You can look at the spec sheet for a speaker to get an idea as to the behavior of the speaker. The formula for the break frequency is given by f = R / (2*pi*L). For example, if the voice coil inductance is 1 mH and the resistance is 7 ohms then the break frequency would be 7/(6.28*0.001) = 1.1 kHz. The Axe-Fx II allows you to adjust the virtual voice coil via the HI FREQ and HI RES parameters. The HI FREQ parameter sets the "break" frequency which is the frequency where the inductive reactance equals the voice coil resistance. For most speakers it is around 1000 Hz. It is lower for larger speakers and higher for smaller speakers usually. The HI RES parameter sets the rate at which the impedance increases. The default value of 5.83 is around 3.5 dB per octave. If you want a smoother sound you can increase HI FREQ and/or decrease HI RES. If you want more highs or "chime" you can decrease HI FREQ and/or increase HI RES. Experiment with different values to get a feel for the response. Note that the amount of feedback (Damping parameter) will influence the behavior of these controls. With no feedback (Damping = 0) the frequency response follows the impedance curve virtually 1-for-1. As Damping is increased the frequency response flattens and the impedance curve has less influence on the response. As with all things in the Axe-Fx, use your ears." source
(answering: once I know what frequency to pick for my cab, and roughly which amount and Q to use, is it ok and expected to use the same settings for every amp model?): "Yes, keep the same settings for all models." source
(firmware 5.02) "HF Resonance is similar to the previous control but only changes the slope of the resonance. The default value is consistent with the typical “semi-inductance” of a speaker voice-coil. Varying this value will change the high-frequency load presented to the virtual power tubes."
"Negative feedback does not affect the speaker impedance. Speaker impedance is an independent variable. The default values are based on the speaker cabinet most commonly used with the amp. In the case of a combo it's the internal speaker. For heads it's the mating cabinet, if one. A typical speaker has a low-frequency resonance with some frequency, Q and magnitude. The Q is typically around 2, frequency around 100 and magnitude around 12 dB. These values are dependent upon the speaker construction and, to a lesser extent, the cabinet. The voice coil inductance causes the impedance to increase at high frequencies. Unlike a pure inductance which would increase at 6 dB/octave, voice coil inductance is semi-inductive and typically increases at 3-4 dB/octave. The "break" frequency is dependent upon the actual inductance and is adjustable. The Axe-Fx is unique in that it lets you adjust these values. Most products just use a fixed curve." source
"The voltage at the output of a tube amp is a function of the speaker's impedance curve. The impedance curve is set in the SPKR tab of the amp block. Real speakers respond to the VOLTAGE at their terminals, not the current. The amp block creates a virtual voltage which is a function of the amp model and the impedance curve. The cab block uses IRs which represent the measured sound from the speaker vs. an applied voltage at the speaker terminals. The aforementioned virtual voltage is sent to the cab block which then produces an audio signal by convolving the virtual voltage data with the IR. As I said in my previous post the IR is largely independent of it's impedance curve. The impedance curve can then be seen as just another tone and feel shaping tool. Bass too prominent? Turn down LF Resonance. Want more midrange? Lower HF Res Freq. The degree to which the impedance curve affects the output of the amp block is a function of the power tube type and the amount of negative feedback. The less negative feedback the more the impedance curve influences the output. Since Presence and Depth work by reducing negative feedback at high and low frequencies respectively, increasing them will also increase the influence of the impedance curve at those frequencies. The dynamic impedance of the power tubes also affects the output. A power triode, for example, has a much lower plate impedance than a tetrode or pentode and, therefore, the output will be mostly independent of the speaker impedance." source
"You can simulate changing power tubes in the Axe-Fx by simply increasing or decreasing the LF and HF resonance values." source
"(Quantum 2.0) "Many of the amp models had their speaker parameters updated based on new measurements." source
"If you want simulated power amp breakup, turn Power Amp Modeling on and then go to the SPKR tab in the amp block and turn the Low and High Res parameters all the way down so that you get a flat response. This will let you use amps that get their distortion from the power amp, i.e. Fenders, Vox, etc." 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
Introduced in firmware Ares 11. This determines the amount of resonance, depending on the selected Speaker Impedance Curve in the Amp block.
Set this at zero when using a traditonal guitar speaker cabinet.
(firmware 6.02) "Improved speaker overdrive modeling in Amp block. New algorithm captures the “throaty” sound of an overdriven speaker along with the gentle compression. The Speaker Drive parameter has been moved to the Spkr tab on the Amp menu.
"The range of the speaker drive parameter is far greater than you would be able to push any real speaker before it self-destructed. If it doesn't sound good set that high, simply turn it down." source
(about using Speaker Drive with a traditional cab) "I would say no. Your guitar cab is already distorting so you would be adding more distortion on top. As always, though, let your ears decide." source
"There are architectural reasons for Speaker Drive being in the Amp block." source
"Speaker Drive models the magnetic compression (which is actually distortion) that occurs due to the nonlinear speaker excursion vs. applied voltage. Motor Drive models the change in power transfer due to heating of the voice coil. When the voice coil heats up the speaker sensitivity decreases, in some cases quite dramatically." source
"Speaker distortion is flubby, flabby and farty. The Axe-Fx II and III can simulate that, if desired, using the Speaker Drive parameter in the Amp block. I always set it to zero." source
Even if you never touch most advanced parameters in the Amp block, don’t overlook Speaker Compression, aka the “chunka chunka” parameter. It models the interaction of the power amp with the power compression of a virtual speaker. 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. Master, Presence, and Depth will interact considerably with Speaker Compression, with higher causing more compression. A gain reduction meter shows the amount of Speaker Compression when this parameter row is selected.
This parameter does not reset to its default value when changing the Amp Type.
Set the parameter to zero when using a tube power amp and traditional guitar cab. No need to change its setting when using a solid-state power amp.
This parameter replaces former parameters Motor Drive and Transformer Grind in the Amp block.
(Quantum 9 release notes) "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."
"I call this one the "clanka-chunka burning love" firmware." source
"Notice how the low end goes "chunka chunka" and the top end "clanks". Pick squeaks are also more prominent." source
"What I love about Speaker Comp is how it brings out the "chirp" on the unwound strings. Listen to all those great classic Marshall guitar tones and there's that chirp." source
"To really get the effect of speaker compression try the Speaker Compression knob. This behaves similarly to the output compressor but also "feeds back" to the power amp. As the speaker compresses the power amp behavior changes." source
"If using a tube power amp into a traditional cab all should be zero. If using a solid-state amp into a traditional cab I would recommend Speaker Compression and Compliance not be zero." source
Axe-FX II and AX8: n/a.
Set Speaker Compliance to zero when using a tube power amp and traditional guitar cab. No need to turn it down when using a solid-state power amp.
(firmware release notes) "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."
"The easy way to understand compliance is to think of a spring. In Physics 101 we're taught that F = kx but that's an ideal spring. A real spring is nonlinear. Eventually you get to a point where compressing or stretching the string you run out of travel and the force goes nonlinear. A speaker is the same way. The suspension is essentially a spring and the greater the displacement the greater the force trying to restore the cone to its rest position. The compliance parameter controls how stiff that suspension is." source
Sets the output transformer bandwidth.
""XFRMR LF" sets the low frequency -3dB point of the output transformer. Most transformers actually have a very low -3dB point (contrary to internet wisdom) however their full-power -3dB point is significantly higher. The Xfrmr Drive control sets the full-power -3dB point." source
Models core saturation in the virtual output transformer. Higher values simulate a smaller, more easily saturated transformer.
"Transformer Drive models the core saturation in the output transformer. The Drive increases the amount of core saturation." source
"Don't overlook this when striving for "vintage" tones. I was playing around with this last night and it's very powerful in making edge-of-breakup tones sound like an old, well-played amp (if that's your thing). The higher you set the drive the more it saturates the virtual transformer's core. It doesn't affect the B+, that's done with the Sag parameter." source
"The size of the transformer is dictated by the necessary power handling. You can simulate smaller/larger transformers by adjusting the Transformer Drive parameter." source
"Part of the sound of certain tube amps, particularly those who derive their distortion from power amp overdrive, is attributable to the output transformer. The distortion produced by an overdriven output transformer isn't particularly pretty but it does play a role in the tone and without it the distortion would not be authentic. When a transformer is overdriven the iron core saturates. This happens because all the magnetic domains are aligned with the field and no more can be "rotated". In engineering terms the flux density (B) no longer increases linearly with the flux intensity (H). Since a transformer presents an inductance to the power tubes the flux intensity is inversely proportional to the frequency applied. Therefore the distortion increases at lower frequencies. Manufacturers frequently specify the frequency response of the transformer at its rated power. For example Hammond specifies most of its output transformers of having a bandwidth of 70 Hz to 15 kHz (re. 1 kHz +/- 1 dB) at rated power. The bandwidth of the transformer, however, will be much greater when operated below it's rated power. The Axe-Fx II allows the user to adjust the amount of output transformer saturation via a parameter called XFRMR DRV (Transformer Drive). Lower values decreases the amount of distortion, higher values increase it. The parameter is normalized to a rated-power lower-frequency cutoff of 40 Hz, i.e. a value of 1.0 means that the virtual output transformer will have a lower cutoff frequency (-3 dB point) of 40 Hz when the virtual power amp is operating at the rated power of the transformer. So, if the transformer has a rated power of 50W and the lower cutoff frequency is 40 Hz at that power, setting XFRMR DRV to 1.0 will duplicate that behavior. The formula for rated power cutoff frequency is simply D = f_c / 40, where D is the drive level and f_c is the desired cutoff frequency. For example if we wanted to duplicate the aforementioned Hammond transformer we would first need to find the equivalent -3 dB frequency which is roughly 3/4 assuming it's -2 dB at 70 Hz (since they strangely specify +/- 1 dB) which would be about 50 Hz. Plugging into the formula we get D = 50 / 40 = 1.2. As always use your ears. I personally prefer a setting of around 1.5 - 2.0 for clean-to-lightly distorted tones. I find it adds a bit of richness to the bass frequencies. For higher gain tones I prefer less as it can sound muddy. Note that the effect of output transformer distortion is highly dependent upon the how hard the virtual power amp is driven which is a function of Master Volume and overall gain. There are lots of strange things that happen with an OT saturates but those are trade secrets and I can't elaborate further." source
"Lowering the default value of Transformer Drive is similar to upgrading the hardware transformer. source
(firmware 10.10) "Transformer distortion modeling is now independent of transformer match value. Before the amount of distortion was also dependent on the match value making adjustment more difficult."
Input EQ page
Pre-EQ or Input EQ refers to the use of EQ to shape the guitar's tone before the distortion stage.
This was added to the Amp block with the arrival of the Axe-FX III. These parameters adjust a powerful set of filters at the input of the amp block, so its effect is heard before preamp distortion or a front-end tone stack.
Explained in-depth in Cliff's Tech Note:
- "As outlined in the MIMIC white-paper the fundamental paradigm of distorted guitar tone is EQ -> Distortion -> EQ. For higher gain tones the post-EQ is typically the tone stack and the Presence and Depth controls, when available. Therefore the user has access to the post-EQ but no control over the pre-EQ. One notable exception to this rule is the Mesa Mark series of amplifiers where the tone stack is located before the distortion.
- I suppose the ultimate amplifier would be one with dedicated pre-EQ and post-EQ controls although I can imagine many guitar players with looks of bewilderment when presented with such an amp. Indeed I believe there was an amp years ago that had separate input and output graphic EQs. I'm thinking it was made by Seymour Duncan but it was a long time ago so I'm not really sure. I don't believe it was terribly successful.
- So as we delve into the realms of higher gain tones we are the mercy of the amp designer and his choice of pre-EQ. The standard practice is to cut the lows before the distortion stages. There are various approaches to this: small coupling caps, partially bypassed cathodes, etc. These are simple methods and given the relatively simple nature of tube amps all we can really expect. Other popular pre-EQ techniques are shelving filters, i.e. the Marshall 470K, 470pF network and networks which roll off highs.
- The pre-EQ, along with the post-EQ, shapes the tone when the amount of distortion is low. As the distortion increases the tone becomes more dependent upon the post-EQ. Anyone who has adjusted a Mesa Mark series amp will attest to the seeming ineffectiveness of the tone controls at higher gains. They will also attest to the affect the tone controls have on the feel.
- So... the pre-EQ is an important part of the overall tone equation. We guitarists tend to focus upon the post-EQ and put graphic or parametric EQs after the amp but we neglect the pre-EQ. Therefore it is worthwhile to experiment with pre-EQ. The simplest approach to start with is using a graphic EQ before the amp block. Note how boosting or cutting certain bands affects the tone and feel. Note how the effect changes as the gain is increased or decreased.
- One popular studio technique in the 80's was to put a parametric EQ before an amp and boost a narrow band of frequencies. This gives a slight mid-emphasis to the sound and can be useful in helping the guitars stand out in a mix. This technique seems to have been lost over the years. Years ago Micheal Sweet from Stryper showed me the frequencies he used and IIRC he boosted around 800 Hz about 6 dB. I don't remember the Q but I would start around 1.4. Incidentally the frequencies he were boosting are just about the same as the frequencies that are cut by the tone stack. So when playing softly the net result is a flatter EQ. As you play harder the input EQ becomes less effective and the tone becomes more scooped.
- Pre-EQ can make amps sound warmer, or tighten the bass. It can be used to increase brightness without becoming harsh. Pre-EQ is also very useful with amps on the verge of breakup or mildly overdriven. Experiment with boosting frequencies to give your leads a more vocal character or make them more unique."
The Filter trick below can be applied using the Input EQ:
"This was a common technique in the 80's when tracking. If you have an Axe-Fx or other modeler with EQ options you can try it yourself. Put an EQ or Filter block before the amp. A parametric is best. Set the type to Peaking, Frequency to 1 kHz and Q to around 1 and gain to around 6 dB to start. Experiment with the parameters." source
TYPE + FREQUENCY + Q + GAIN
These parameters work together to define a powerful multi-mode filter that can be used for anything from a subtle bump to an extreme spike, or from gentle to extreme shelving.
Controls the amount of low frequencies the amp model sees. It's a blocking filter at the input, before distortion. It ranges from 10-1000Hz, with the lowest setting basically letting pass all the lows you feed it. The main practical use for this is to tighten flubby bass. It's commonly set between 10-200Hz.
Note: Low Cut on the Input EQ page is identical to Low Cut Freq on the Advanced tab. The parameters are linked.
"Low Cut Freq sets the -3dB point of a highpass filter at the input to the preamp. The default value is usually due to the coupling cap between the input buffer and first triode stage (but not always)." source
"Low Cut Freq controls a 1st-order highpass before the first gain stage." source
Adjusts the cutoff frequency of a low-pass filter. This filter is actually placed between the preamp and the power amp, so it has a more dramatic effect than an EQ that might be placed before preamp distortion.
A Tilt EQ that adds highs while cutting lows, or vice versa. Positive values increase the amount of upper overtone saturation whilst negative values reinforce lower harmonics.
Output EQ page
The Graphic EQ in the Amp block. The EQ type and location (POST or PRE) can be selected through the parameters EQ Type and EQ Location.
Tip: press Enter to reset all sliders to 0 dB (AX8 and Axe-Fx II only). Change the EQ type by pressing up/down.
The EQ can be turned off and on, also remotely.
- 8 Band Variable Q
- 7 Band Variable Q
- 5 Band (Mark): this emulates the response of the on-board EQ in the Mesa Boogie Mark series amplifiers. When selecting amp models based on Mesa amps the type automatically changes to 5-band
- 8 Band Constant Q
- 7 Band Constant Q
- 5 Band Constant Q
- 5 Band Passive
- 4 Band Passive
- 3 Band Passive
- 3 Band Console
(firmware 19) "Added EQ Location parameter to Amp block. The sets the position of the graphic EQ. The default value of “Post P.A.” places the EQ at the output of the power amp. “Pre P.A.” places the EQ between the preamp and power amp. The graphic EQ in the Amp block is fixed in position at the output of the power amp section."
Not available on the FM3.
Sets the strength of an input dynamics processor. When set below zero, the amp type 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 or clipping.
"Dynamics works at the input to the block. Negative values compress the input, positive values expand." source
"The Dynamics knob in the Amp block does the same thing as the Dynamics mode of the compressors." source
"The Dynamics type in the Compressor block is the same thing with more control." source
OUTPUT COMPRESSION + TYPE + THRESHOLD + CLARITY
This offers 3 types of compression or gain enhancement, at the output section of the Amp block.
OUTPUT — this simply compresses the output, similar to a Compressor block that follows the Amp block. It controls the ratio of a compressor specifically tailored to reduce the output dynamic range of the amp block. A gain reduction meter shows the amount of compression when this parameter row is selected. Setting this to a non-zero value will increase CPU usage. The Out Comp parameter controls the amount of compression (compression ratio). The user can adjust the compression threshold, if desired. The bar graph at the bottom of the menu displays the amount of gain reduction. A modifier can be attached to Output Comp. Output Comp Clarity affects Output Comp. It adjusts the bass response of the input dynamics and can be used to add clarity to the bass.
"The Output Compressor is a simplified version of the Compressor block." source
(about sonic difference between Output Comp in Amp block and Comp block after Amp) "No different other than lack of advanced controls. Attack, release, etc. are fixed." source
(firmware Quantum 7.02) "Improved Amp block output compressor. New algorithm is more musical and reacts faster to transients. If you are using this in your presets it is recommended to audition your presets and readjust as necessary. The Gain Reduction meter now shows the total gain including the makeup gain." "Non-zero values increase CPU usage. "The effect of the compressor setting can be watched on the DYN page of the Amp block."
"The compressor tries to apply make-up gain but it can only guess at the amount." source
"Output Comp is compression ratio. Ratio = 1 + 3 * comp/10. Attack and release are fixed. Threshold is adjustable in the advanced menu." source
FEEDBACK — this compresses the block output (see above), AND also applies dynamics to the input of the Amp block. You will get more distortion as you play harder and less when you play softer or roll back the volume.
"If you set the Compressor Type to Feedback and turn up the Output Compression you will get more distortion as you play harder. So you can create an amp that cleans up more when you play lightly or roll of the volume." source
GAIN ENHANCER — this simulates the acoustic reinforcement of a loud amp coupling into the guitar and enhancing the output signal. Introduced in firmware Ares 9.01. This is a very popular feature, especially when playing through studio monitors or headphones at not so loud volume levels.
"At gig volumes you probably don't need any Gain Enhancer. It's designed to simulate the acoustic reinforcement of playing loud. But there are no rules so try it." source
"Instead of reducing input gain you can increase the Compressor Threshold. (...) All it does is shift the curve. The compression ratio doesn't change so it's the same as lowering input gain." source
(York Audio) "Here’s a hot tip for the edge of breakup fans out there. Set the amp’s input drive to where it’s basically clean, then edge up the Gain Enhancer until it breaks up the way you want when you hit it hard. Playing hard gives you big juicy chords, and lighter pick attack cleans it up while still sounding full. You get more sustain than if you just set the input drive hotter." source
SPEAKER TIME CONSTANT
Adjusts the thermal time constant of the virtual voice coil, affecting the attack and release of virtual Speaker Compression. Lower values cause the voice coil to heat and cool faster and vice-versa.
(Added in Quantum 9) Related to Speaker Comp. When Speaker Comp is zero, Speaker Time Constant is not operational.
"It adjusts the thermal time constant of the virtual voice coil. Lower values cause the voice coil to heat and cool faster and vice-versa." source
"If Speaker Comp is zero the time constant does nothing. Any perceived difference is perceptual bias." source
"Time constant is dependent on the physical construction of the speaker." source
Also read the notes about the (removed) Motor Drive parameter.
Not available on the FM3.
Same as Dynamic Presence (see below), but for low frequencies.
(firmware 10) "Dynamic Depth: analogous to the Dynamic Presence control, this increases or decreases low frequencies when the virtual power amp is being pushed. While real amps don’t display this behavior, it is a valuable tone-shaping tool. Another way to look at it: a distortion-dependent bass filter."
Not available on the FM3.
Dynamic Presence models the output transformer leakage inductance that results in a brightening of the tone when the power amp is pushed. This control is set to a default value when the model is selected corresponding to the real amp, if applicable. Increasing this value results in a brighter response as the virtual power amp is pushed. When playing softly or at lower gains, the influence of this control is lessened. Note that this only affects the power amp modeling and is dependent on the degree of power amp overdrive. This control can also be set negative to cause the tone to darken when playing hard. This control can also be used to help “dial in” the sweet spot of an amp model. As the MV is increased an amp becomes more liquid, compressed and easier to play. However, the highs may get overly compressed causing the amp to sound too dark. The Dynamic Presence control allows you to get the desired power amp drive and liquid feeling and then bring the highs back without affecting the rest of the spectrum.
Another way to look at it: a distortion-dependent treble filter.
See Output Level (above).
Specifies which side(s) of the incoming signal should be processed by the Amp block (in mono).
Use this with two Amp blocks in conjunction with Left and Right Cab blocks, when using a single preset with two guitars. Or for stereo separation when running dual Amp blocks with a single guitar. Or to keep the stereo spread of a stereo delay placed before the Amp blocks.
EQ TYPE + EQ LOCATION + EQ OFF/ON
The Amp block's graphic EQ type and location (POST or PRE) can be selected through parameters EQ TYPE and EQ LOCATION.
The 5-band EQ is especially useful in models based on Mesa Boogie's Mark series.
- OUTPUT (default): EQ at the output of the virtual power amp.
- PRE PA: EQ between the preamp and power amp.
- INPUT: moves the Post EQ to the location of the Pre EQ: in front of the preamp.
(firmware 11) "Added EQ Type parameter to Amp block. This allows selecting between an 8-band, 7-band or 5-band EQ. The 7-band and 8-band types emulate popular graphic EQ pedals. The 5-band type emulates the response of the on-board EQ in the Mesa Boogie Mark series amplifiers. Note that 5- and 7-band types are non-constant-Q designs whereas the other types are constant-Q designs. When selecting amp models based on Mesa amps the type automatically changes to 5-band."
(firmware 15) "Added Variable-Q EQ types to Graphic EQ, Filter and Amp blocks. Many “classic” graphic equalizers use variable-Q designs which may be more familiar to some users as opposed to constant-Q filters. In the Filter block this type is selected by choosing the “Peaking2” type. The Graphic EQ block now has four constant-Q modes and four variable-Q modes. The Amp block now has three constant-Q modes and three variable-Q modes."
(firmware 15.04) "Added various “Passive EQ” types to Graphic EQ and Amp blocks. These EQ types are modeled after classic analog EQs and specifically tuned for guitar amp equalization."
(firmware 17) "Added “3 Band Console” types to Graphic EQ and Amp blocks. The EQ page of the Amp block now supports changing the EQ Type using the Up/Down Nav buttons. The type of EQ will be briefly displayed after it has been changed. The type is also briefly displayed when first switching to that page."
This finetunes the output of the Amp block for use with either FRFR gear (including mixing board) or a solid-state power amp + guitar cabinet.
Firmware Ares 1.16:
"Added Output Mode to Amp block.
The default value, FRFR, is the classic mode and designed for use with monitors or recording.
The SS PA + Cab mode is intended for use with a solid-state power amp and conventional guitar cab. In this mode speaker compression modeling behaves differently relying on the speaker for compression while still simulating the interaction with the power amp. NOTE: this mode is not intended for use with current drive power amps, i.e. tube power amps, Class-D current feedback amps (Quilter Tone Block), etc. NOTE: this mode CAN be used with FRFR monitors in high volume applications where the monitor’s speakers are compressing thereby achieving a more dynamic response."
Non-Class-D solid-state amps include: Matrix GT.
Class-D power amps include: Seymour Duncan PowerStage, Dayton.
Advanced page — Tone and Gain
This provides all tone and gain controls.
Advanced page — Preamp
LOW CUT FREQ
Same as Low Cut on the Input EQ page (linked).
HI CUT FREQ
Hi Cut Freq is a low-pass 2nd order filter positioned at the end of the preamp section. It will cut off all frequencies above the specified value. It ranges from 2000-40000Hz.
This parameter is different from High Cut on the Input EQ page.
(Quantum 3.00) "It's probably inaudible but there were a few amp models where the matching was indicating a loss of high-frequency response. This was traced to the high-cut filter. When the high-cut frequency is 20 kHz that means the response is 3 dB down at 20 kHz so you've still got some slight attenuation at, say, 15 kHz. So for the sake or accuracy it now goes to 40 kHz which pushes that pole well outside the audible range." source
"The high cut frequency is due to the snubber cap in the PI. Friedman's use 100 pF (or more) for the snubber cap. A DSL only uses 47 pF so, yes, you would need to double the high cut frequency to match." source
"A snubber is a network used to reduce high frequencies. The term is a bit misused in tube amps. Typically a snubber is used to absorb transients in power circuits (like when a switch opens/closes). In a tube amp the "snubber cap" is a capacitor across the plates of the phase inverter (PI). This reduces the gain of the power amp at high frequencies. It was originally used to prevent the power amp from oscillating. Some modern amps employ large values for tone shaping." source
TONESTACK TYPE + FREQ + LOCATION
Selecting the “ACTIVE” type gives each tone control +/– 12 dB boost/cut operation for up to twice the range of a typical amplifier. Since the active tone controls are more sensitive, small adjustments have bigger effects. For example, full PASSIVE treble for a high-gain British amp would be equivalent to only +5.0 dB ACTIVE, leaving 7 dB of additional headroom! Active tone controls do not interact like those of a typical amplifier, so when you adjust the treble, the mid and bass are not affected. This can make dialing in a certain tone easier and quicker than it might be with a PASSIVE tonestack.
Frequency sets the center frequency of the tone controls to determine their effect on the sound.
Location changes the location of the tone stack between PRE, POST, MID and END.
(firmware 6) "Reworked most tone stacks based on amp matching results. In general most knobs now behave exactly like the actual amp when possible. In a few instances there may be minor discrepancies between the knob position of the model and actual amp due to programming constraints and/or peculiarities of the actual amp (such as poor potentiometer tolerance). Due to variations in presence circuit topologies the taper of the Presence parameter, in particular, may vary between the model and the actual amp. In other words, a different setting on the model may be required to achieve the same response as the actual amp. In most cases however, the Drive, Treble, Mid, and Bass knobs will be accurate to within 10% of the actual amp."
With some amp sims, such as the Lonestar, moving the tonestack location results in loss of volume.
"Whenever you set the bass and treble to zero the tone stack becomes basically "flat" and the mid becomes a volume control. Most tone stacks behave this way." source
"Every amp model uses one of these tone stacks. Obviously as there are more models than tone stacks some models share tone stacks. If you set the Tone Stack Type to Default, the amp block will use the tone stack appropriate for that model. For example, the Plexi 50W models use the "Plexi" tone stack (not surprisingly). If you set the Type to Default then the selected tone stack will be the Plexi tone stack. If you set the Type to Plexi it will be the same tone stack. The reason I did it this way is so you don't have to remember what the default tone stack is for the model. Simply set the Type back to Default. BTW, the tone stack is one of the main things that gives an amp its particular voice. People wax on about NOS tubes and "vintage iron" and cloth insulation and other nonsense but at the end of the day it's 99% frequency response. The tone stack shapes the frequency response pretty drastically. Many so-called boutique amps are nothing more than a classic design with a tweaked tone stack. The Axe-Fx II is unique in that it is the only modeling device that accurately replicates a tone stack along with the interaction of the controls and influence of surrounding circuitry. I had to solve the mesh equations for each of the major tone stack types which wasn't easy. A tone stack is a 3rd-order network and coding that was a real challenge." source
"A Deluxe Reverb, for example, has no Mid pot but a fixed resistor. The value of that resistor is 6.8K. If you use a "Fixed Mid" tone stack the value of the virtual resistor will be 6.8K when the Mid control is at noon." And: "If you use a "Fixed Mid" tone stack the value of the virtual resistor will be 6.8K when the Mid control is at noon." source
"The Fat switch changes a value in the tone stack which changes the response of the stack, shifting the mid dip down and making it less pronounced. The Tonestack Freq. parameter frequency scales all the reactive components in the tone stack which is something quite different." source
"If you change the tone stack and don't change the frequency the tone stack will use the standard values. If you put a Dumble tone stack in a 5F8 you'll get a Dumble tone stack exactly as it is in a Dumble. If you change the frequency away from 470 Hz the tone stack values will scale." source
"If you change the tone stack and don't change the frequency the tone stack will use the standard values. If you put a Dumble tone stack in a 5F8 you'll get a Dumble tone stack exactly as it is in a Dumble. If you change the frequency away from 470 Hz the tone stack values will scale." and "Tonestack Frequency is just a set number for each model. I was trying to make things less confusing than 0.1 - 10. When you select a tonestack it loads a tonestack model which is a bunch of resistor and capacitor values. When the tonestack loads it frequency scales the values based on the entered Tonestack Frequency divided by the default value. The default value matches that of the default tonestack. If you never touch the Tonestack Frequency then the tonestacks load unchanged (i.e. 700/700 = 1). When you select a different tonestack it's center frequency may be different than the default so the displayed frequency doesn't reflect that." source
Allows turning on/off Preamp Sag modeling.
- OFF: replicates the behavior of separate preamp and power amp
- ON: replicates the behavior of an integrated tube head or combo amp
PREAMP TUBE HARDNESS
Previously called: TRIODE HARDNESS (before firmware 16 for the Axe-Fx II). source
This parameter controls how sharply the triodes enter saturation and can be used to simulate softer or harder tubes. The default value is 5.0 and is set to this value whenever the type is changed. The effect of this is subtle and most apparent at edge of breakup. Lower values give softer saturation, higher values give a more aggressive breakup.
"What the parameter does now is control the asymmetry of the triode model. The higher the value, the more asymmetrical the clipping." source
"Lower values will have less even and more odd harmonics. The smoothness/harshness of distortion is a function of the ratio of even to odd harmonics. The more symmetrical the clipping, the more odd and less even harmonics." source
"The default hardness value is based on the tubes that were in the amp being modeled. Most tubes fall in the range of 8 to 9. Perhaps old Mullards or Gold Lions or whatever are softer and would be equivalent to 5 or less. I don't know, I've never tested any. In general lower values will sound softer (naturally) but have less note separation. Higher values will give a more aggressive distortion and better note separation. There are no rules. Adjust the value to your personal preference. I doubt a real tube would ever be able to get to a value of zero but that doesn't mean it isn't a useable sound." source
"If you are right on the edge of breakup the triode hardness is very powerful as it controls the harmonic series. Higher values will cause the overtone series to have a less steep decay and will increase perceived "sparkle". Together with the preamp bias you can control how chimey and "round" the tone is (preamp bias effectively controls the ratio of even/odd harmonics)." source
"Triode Hardness at zero gives a smoother distortion with reduced upper harmonics. However if you carefully compare a real tube preamp with the Axe-Fx models you'll clearly hear the difference as you reduce Triode Hardness. It's even more apparent when you compare the distortion spectrum. It's yet even more apparent when you use measurement techniques that learn the proper value." source
"The primary controls to adjust the saturation behavior are Preamp Tube Type, Preamp Hardness and Preamp Bias. (...) Preamp Hardness allows you to adjust how soft the saturation is." source
"You can control the "shape" of the preamp and power amp distortion. The Preamp Hardness parameter controls the shape of the triode emulations. The lower the value the softer the distortion. The Power Amp Hardness controls the power amp clipping but that often is not noticeable because negative feedback around the power amp makes the distortion harder. Therefore you can make the power amp distortion softer by reducing Negative Feedback. A good example of this is a JCM800. A JCM800 has very hard preamp distortion (since there is no cathode bypass cap on the last stage) but has low negative feedback which softens the power amp distortion. The trick with that amp is to get the amp into the sweet spot by increasing the MV until you are getting some power amp distortion which softens the preamp distortion. source
"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." source
"0.00 is not symmetrical. In fact there is no value that is symmetrical." source
TRIODE 1 PLATE FREQ + TRIODE 2 PLATE FREQ
These parameters set the cutoff frequency of the last two triodes in the chain. Many amps have a capacitor across this triode’s plate resistor. This capacitor is used to smooth the response and reduce noise. You can adjust the amount of capacitance, and the resulting frequency, using these parameters.
"It sets the cutoff frequency of the resistor/cap combination on the plate of the last triode stage (the previous stages are not user adjustable). Most amps have no cap on the last stage but a few do. You can vary this parameter to simulate increasing/decreasing the capacitor value. The frequency is only approximate since the actual frequency varies with the bias point/cathode impedance/drive/etc." source
(firmware 2.0) "This parameter sets the cutoff frequency of the plate impedance for the next-to-last triode in the chain. Many amps have a capacitor across this triode’s plate resistor. This capacitor is used to smooth the response and reduce noise. You can adjust the amount of capacitance, and the resulting frequency, using this parameter. The last triode plate capacitor is also exposed: Triode2 Plate Freq."
Sets the bias point of the last triode (cathode follower not counted). Depending on the bias points of the previous stages, increasing or decreasing this value can alter both the harmonic content and the attack characteristics. Typically, if the previous stage has a negative bias then increasing this value will be more noticeable and vice-versa. This value is set to a default value for the model whenever the type is changed but can be overridden by the user.
"The further you move away from (roughly) zero the more even harmonics are introduced. It's an asymmetric transfer function, so you have to experiment." source
"The primary controls to adjust the saturation behavior are Preamp Tube Type, Preamp Hardness and Preamp Bias. (...) Preamp Bias adjusts the bias point of the last triode stage which will control the ratio of even/odd harmonics. Values around zero will produce mostly odd harmonics. As you deviate from zero you'll produce less odd and more even." source
"Bias points in an amp are important. The bias point of the last preamp stage is the most important. Therefore Quantum firmware exposes this bias point on the Pre Dyn tab as the Preamp Bias parameter. Most amps are biased slightly towards cutoff (negative). The closer you get to 0.0 the more odd harmonics and the fewer even harmonics. Experiment with this to craft your "Ultimate Tone" (TM, all rights reserved, use only as directed, these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA)." source
"The Preamp Bias control in the Amp block controls the operating point of the last virtual triode stage in the preamp. This is the most important stage wrt to the feel and texture of distortion. The earlier stages are important but generally not nearly as much and the bias points are not exposed to the user. The operating point of a tube determines the symmetry of the clipping. If the tube is biased exactly halfway between the supply voltage and ground then it will clip symmetrically (greatly simplified). If the quiescent current is reduced the tube will biased more towards cutoff. If it is increased it will be biased more towards saturation. In general cutoff is smoother than saturation but it depends on the external circuitry. Negative values of Preamp Bias bias the virtual tube towards cutoff and positive values toward saturation. Symmetrical distortion has lots of odd harmonics and very little even harmonics. The more asymmetrical the distortion the more even harmonics are introduced. Odd harmonics give clarity and a more aggressive, open tone but this can be cold and harsh. Adding even harmonics gives a warmer sound but too much and things can get muddy. Getting the right balance of even and odd harmonics is one of the keys to achieving "edge of breakup" tones. Experiment with the bias point to find your optimum tone. Things get especially interesting when a cathode follower is involved. You can tell if an amp has a cathode follower if the Preamp Comp parameter is not zero. The cathode follower interacts with the last stage and slight adjustments to the bias point can cause major changes in the distortion characteristics. For example, the Dizzy Blue models are biased near zero (0.08 IIRC). If you play lightly you'll hear the bass is kind of stuffy and tubby. Reduce the Preamp Bias a bit and you'll hear the bass clean up. Too negative, however, and the sound can get indistinct. The good amp designers understand the interaction between the last stage and the cathode follower and tune the bias point for the desired distortion characteristics. The cathode follower is a bit of an imperfect design though. It's great for vintage Plexi and other high gain sounds but its clipping behavior is not ideally suited to certain tones. Therefore the Comp Type parameter allows you to choose an idealized cathode follower with different distortion characteristics (Comp Type == Ideal). Note that the behavior of this type is similar to the algorithms used in profiling modelers and other products. Try using the Ideal mode. You will likely need to reduce the amount of Preamp Comp as this mode has much more compression. Even amps that rely mostly on power amp distortion can benefit from fine tweaks to the Preamp Bias point. Shifting the bias point changes the harmonics into the power amp which changes the distortion character of the power amp (albeit less significantly)." source
(firmware Ares 5.0 for the Axe-Fx III release notes) "The “Ideal” cathode follower type is no longer supported as it is incompatible and has been removed from the GUI."
"It's one of the main tools that amp designers use in voicing Marshall-style amps. For these amps you'll notice the amp gets tighter as you set Preamp Bias negative and chunkier for positive values. Too negative and things get thin and sputtery. Too positive and the lows get farty." source
Not to be confused with Bias Excursion on the Power Amp page, this is a separate parameter for the preamp. The higher the value, the more the bias shifts when the virtual tubes are overdriven.
Advanced page — Cathode Follower
CATHODE FOLLOWER COMPRESSION
Also known as: Preamp Comp, CF Comp.
This sets the amount of cathode follower compression. Defaults to zero when the amp (model) doesn't have a cathode follower.
"The Compression knob in the Cathode Follower section controls the behavior of the preamp's cathode follower. Without getting too technical cathode followers are nonlinear compressors. They distort the signal and the distortion increases as more energy is input." source
"All the Fender models except the 59 Bassman and 5F8 Tweed don't have cathode followers." source
CATHODE FOLLOWER HARMONICS
Simulates harmonics that occur naturally inside an amp as tubes interact. Higher values increase the interaction between virtual tubes, yielding “softer” distortion.
CATHODE FOLLOWER HARDNESS
For models that use cathode followers, this adjust the shape, warmth, smoothness and decay of cathode follower distortion.
"The displayed value is 7.5 but the internal value is 0.75." source
"It varies with brand of tube. The mean is around 7.5. Lower settings are smoother, higher settings are more aggressive." source
Firmware Ares 5 for the Axe-Fx III:
“Grid Clipping” parameter has been added which allows the user to adjust the grid clipping in the cathode follower. The default value reflects the “softer” response of classic British and American tubes like Mullard, Sylvania and RCA. Higher values simulate the response of modern Chinese and Russian tubes with more abrupt clipping."
"I personally like the Grid Clipping set low because it has the NOS tube vibe. High values remind me of JJ's and Chinese tubes which I'm not a particularly big fan." source
Advanced page — Power Amp
MASTER VOL TRIM
Adjusts the range of the Master Volume control.
MASTER VOL CAP
Sets the value of the bright cap across the Master Volume pot.
"Setting it to 1 pF defeats it." source
MASTER VOL LOCATION
Sets the location of the Master Volume control. Most amps have the Master Volume before the phase inverter (“Pre PI”). On some amps (like the “Class-A” types) the Master Volume comes after the phase inverter (“PI”). A third option, “pre-triode,” is the default for “Hipower” amp types.
"Most amps are Pre-PI, including Dumbles. Post-PI is rare and often does as a mod. This causes the PI to distort rather than the power tubes. It is a harsher sound." source
"Moving the Master Volume after the Phase Inverter. This causes the phase inverter to distort. It is a popular mod on amps. In the Advanced menu change MV Location to "Post-PI"." source
"Post-PI MV, Try It! Turns a lot of mid-gain amps into ripping monsters. I just tried it on the JCM800 and, dayum... The only caveat is that, like a real amp, the more you turn the MV down the less effective Presence and Depth become (since the loop gain is reduced)." source
"The swing of a properly designed PI is greater than the range of the power tube grids. For example a 6L6 will typically be biased around -50V. This gives a range of around 100V of swing at the power tube grids. A well-designed PI for an amp like this will typically swing at least 150V and usually closer to 200V or more. This means the grids clip before the PI clips. Then there are the power tube plates. Most designers choose the output transformer so that the plates just start to clip when the grids clip. This gives maximum power since current is maximum when the grids are driven to clipping so you want the plate voltage to be at its maximum excursion at this point. This is a matter of taste. Some designers slightly undermatch since the impedance of the speakers increases at low and high frequencies and this gives a more open tone. Others overmatch as this give a more touch-sensitive overdrive (i.e. Trainwrecks). When you put the MV after the PI you attenuate the signal from the PI going to the grids. This allows the PI to clip before the grids clip. The PI has a fair amount of negative feedback so it's a somewhat hard clipper which gives a fairly aggressive distortion." source
Sets the center frequency range of the Presence and Dynamic Presence controls.
Sets the center frequency range of the Depth and Dynamic Depth controls.
POWER AMP CATHODE RESISTANCE
There are two types of power tube bias: fixed bias and cathode bias. In a cathode-biased amp a resistor is placed between the power tube cathode and ground thereby self-biasing the tube. This parameter sets the value of the virtual cathode resistor. Higher values result in a more negative bias and push operation towards Class-B, resulting in more crossover distortion.
"Sets the cathode resistance of the power tubes. Should only be used with "Class A" amps, i.e. AC-20 DLX, etc. Lower values increase the bias current. Note that some amps have separate bias resistors while others have a shared bias resistor. The choice of split/shared is not exposed to the user." source
POWER AMP CATHODE TIME CONSTANT
Sets the time constant of the virtual RC cathode network for amp types that are cathode-biased.
PHASE INVERTER BIAS EXCURSION
Controls how much the virtual phase inverter bias shifts when overdriven.
POWER TUBE BIAS EXCURSION
The higher the value, the more the bias shifts when the virtual power tubes are overdriven. Bias excursion pushes a power amp from Class-AB operation towards Class-B operation, which can result in crossover distortion. A little goes a long way, but too much can lead to what is referred to as “blocking distortion” which can make an amp sound unpleasant.
"Bias excursion (in the power amp) occurs because the power tube grids forward conduct when the grid voltage is slightly greater than the cathode voltage. Now this isn't a problem by itself. However almost all tube amp designs use a capacitor coupled grid circuit. The phase inverter is coupled to the power tube grids via a capacitor.
When the grid voltage exceeds the cathode voltage, which is typically zero volts in a fixed-bias topology, the grid will become forward-biased and look like a low resistance. This clamps the grid side of the coupling capacitor. This occurs when the phase inverter signal is large and swings toward the B+ supply. When the phase inverter signal swings the opposite direction the grid stops conducting and the capacitor is no longer clamped. However there is now excess charge on the capacitor. During the time the capacitor was clamped charge was building up on the phase inverter side.
When the grid comes out of conduction that charge effectively reduces the power tube bias. For example, a typical 6L6 is biased around -50V. The clamping action would then push the bias voltage even more negative, say -75V. In some designs the the bias voltage can be reduced by nearly 100%! Since the bias voltage is shifted the phenomenon is referred to as "bias excursion".
Like cathode squish, bias excursion pushes the power amp from Class-AB operation towards Class-B operation. As we know Class-B operation has lots of crossover distortion. Now this may seem bad but, in fact, there are positive attributes associated with bias excursion. When designed correctly bias excursion can actually help an amp sound more "open". This happens because as the bias shifts the gain of the power tubes decreases. This in turn prevents the power tube plates from saturating as easily. However too much bias excursion leads to what is referred to as "blocking distortion" which can make an amp sound farty and generally unpleasant. Blocking distortion occurs when the bias shifts so much that the tubes are basically shut off for a period of time. If the capacitor charges up rapidly but bleeds off slowly, combined with lots of excursion, this leads to blocking distortion.
There are three associated parameters in the Axe-Fx II that allow you to alter the bias excursion behavior: Bias Excursion, Excursion Time and Recovery Time. Bias Excursion controls the amount of bias excursion. The higher the value the more the bias shifts when the virtual power tubes are overdriven. Excursion Time controls how rapidly the coupling capacitor charges when the virtual power tube grids are conducting. Recovery Time adjusts how quickly the excess charge bleeds off when the virtual grids are not conducting.
Preamp tubes also exhibit bias excursion and too much of it can cause blocking distortion. Like power tube bias excursion, though, a little bit can help. The trick is getting the right amount." source
(firmware 3 and 5) "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."
(about blocking distortion) "Old Fenders are particularly prone to this. Reduce Bias Excursion to reduce at the expense of accuracy." source
"Blocking distortion can be reduced by decreasing the Bias Excursion in the preamp." source
EXCURSION TIME + RECOVERY TIME
SPEAKER IMPEDANCE CURVE
Firmware Ares 11 release notes:
"Amp block now uses new high-order speaker impedance modeling. 52 speaker impedance models (and two LB-2 models) are included and can be selected using the Speaker Impedance Curve parameter (on the Advanced page). Selecting an amp model will load an appropriate default Speaker Impedance Curve for that amp model. The Cabinet Resonance parameter can be used to adjust the amount of cabinet resonance in the impedance curve."
The Speaker Impedance Curve parameter is also called SIC by forum members. It sets the desired impedance curve for the selected amp model. Together with the selected cab model (IR) in the Cab block, this parameter mainly affects "feel" and bass response.
You can choose from many provided curves. You can either choose a curve that authentically fits the selected cab model (IR), or another one that sounds and feels great.
The parameter Cabinet Resonance on the Speaker page of the Amp block lets you set the desired amount of cabinet resonance in the curve (default: 100%).
The Amp block in presets prior to Ares 11 also relied on an impedance curve. A gparameter in the Global menu lets you decide to keep using the old values or update the preset to the newer specs. Upon loading such a preset, the device can either automatically select the most fitting speaker impedance curve (you need to save the preset to make it permanent), or stick with the "pre-11" impedance/resonance curve.
Firmware Ares 11 release notes:
"Setting Global “Update Pre-11.x Presets Spkr Imp Upon Load" parameter to YES will automatically update the Speaker Impedance Curve for the Amp blocks upon preset recall to use an appropriate Speaker Impedance Curve for that amp model. Setting the parameter to NO will leave existing presets unaffected. NOTE: Setting this to YES will also cause the EDITED LED to light indicating the preset has been modified."
Advanced page — Output
This page contains the common Level, Balance, Bypass and Bypass Mode parameters.
CATHODE FOLLOWER TIME / RATIO
Removed in firmware Ares 5.
Not supported in firmware Ares.
"The "Character" parameters are two of the most powerful advanced parameters available but I bet almost no one uses them. My secret formula: Character Frequency: 3000 - 5000 Hz, adjust to taste, Character: -0.5 to -1.0, adjust to taste." source
"It is highly dependent on the amount of gain. This formula is designed for an "80's" lead tone. I use on for my JCM800 preset because I find JCM800s get shrill as you turn the gain up. It also works well with the SLO 100 and Recto models. The Character parameters control an "inverse homomorphic filter" which is a term I coined to describe a type of homomorphic signal processing. This filter is distortion dependent. The more distortion there is the more pronounced the effect of the filter. It's analogous to contrast and edge detection in image processing. The processing is dependent on the dynamic range of the image." source
(firmware Quantum 1.00) "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. "
Removed from the Amp block in firmware Quantum 9. It is still available as a parameter in the Cab block on the Axe-Fx II.
Models the effect of high power levels on the speaker.
(Quantum 7.0) "Improved Motor Drive algorithm. New algorithm more accurately models the compression of guitar loudspeakers by factoring in the reactive aspects of the compression. The Motor Drive simulation is available in both the Amp block and Cab block now. It is recommended to use the simulation in the Amp block when using an FRFR configuration as the Amp block simulation uses the speaker resonance information in the calculations whereas the Cabinet block uses fixed values. When using a conventional guitar cab, or a hybrid configuration with monitoring via a conventional guitar cab and speaker emulation to FOH, the Motor Drive in the Cabinet block can be used instead. The simulation in the Amp block also has the advantage of being independent of the block’s output Level control. Gain monitoring of the Motor Drive is available on the MIX page of the Cabinet Block and the PWR DYN page of the Amp block. In the case of the Amp block the monitoring is available when the Motor Drive parameter is selected. Note that typical guitar speakers have around 3-6 dB of compression when driven hard with American speakers being on the low end of that range and British speakers being on the high end. Some speakers can exhibit even more compression than this with compression amounts of 8 dB or more depending upon the magnetic materials used and the construction of the speaker motor. The thermal time constant of the virtual voice coil is adjustable using the “Motor Time Const” parameter. Typical guitar speakers are anywhere from 0.05 to 1.0 seconds depending upon the mass of the voice coil and the materials used."
"Set it to 4.5 and rip the knob off." source
When using two UltraRes cabs in a preset, don't use Motor Drive with only one of them, because this will cause a hollow sound.
"Motor drive isn't EQ. It models efficiency reduction due to thermal effects." [hhttps://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/anyone-using-speaker-drive-or-motor-drive-since-about-6-0.60651/#post-757563 source] And: "What I have found is that thermal compression is somewhat noticeable and measurable. This is modeled by the Motor Drive parameter." source
"Motor Drive will cause compression if not set to zero (as it models driver compression). Otherwise the cab block is completely linear and will not cause any compression." source
"Motor Drive simulates power compression due to voice coil heating." source
"Guitar loudspeakers are intentionally designed to compress. FRFR speakers do compress a bit but not nearly to the extent that guitar speakers do." source
"Makes edge-of-breakup tone stupid easy." source
"The thermal time constant of a typical guitar speaker is about 0.52 seconds. Magnetic time constants are zero." source
"So what I've done for the final release is put Motor Drive in BOTH the Amp block and the Cab block. If you're strictly FRFR then you can use the Amp block. If you are using a conventional guitar cab or a hybrid configuration (convention cab for monitoring and direct to FOH) then you can use the Cab block. Doing it in the Amp block also has the advantage that the speaker resonance information in the Amp block is used to calculate the frequency dependent heating whereas the Cab block uses a fixed set of data that is representative of a typical speaker. Finally I've made the time constant adjustable. I did some more calculations and measurements and found that a typical guitar speaker is actually lower than what I had previously calculated because thinner wire is used than I was assuming. Regardless you can now set the thermal time constant to get whatever response rate feels best. When using the Motor Drive in the Amp block it's before the output Level control so you don't have to worry about the behavior changing when you adjust the Level knob." source
"The actual value for a particular speaker is all over the map. The time constant is proportional to the mass and the thermal resistance of the voice coil. Both these values can vary widely. 200 ms is based on a typical theta of 1 degree C/W and a mass of 10g." source
"The formula is tau = M * C * theta where M = mass, C = specific heat of the voice coil material (typically copper) and theta = thermal resistance between the voice coil and the magnet gap." source
PI BIAS SHIFT
Not supported in firmware Ares.
(firmware Quantum 7.00) "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."
Not supported on the AX8 and firmware Ares.
Controls a sophisticated dynamic range processor that operates on leading edge transients. Negative values reduce pick attack while positive values enhance it.
"It doesn't have any particular frequency. Pick attack is impulsive so, by definition, it contains all frequencies. The standard approach to reducing attack is to use dynamics processing. The Axe-Fx II has a Pick Attack parameter which can be used to reduce the attack but the AX-8 does not have this parameter. You can try using the Gate/Expander to soften the attack." source
On the Axe-Fx III and FM3, turn down the various Bias Excursion parameters for a similar effect as decreasing Pick Attack. source
Removed in firmware Quantum 9.
(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. Note: The Transformer Grind parameter will be set to a default value and the Dynamic Presence parameter will be reset to 0.0 for any presets created with previous firmware."
"Transformer Grind is what you want to get that top-end sizzle. Dynamic Presence is one of my "Inverse Homomorphic" filters and only approximates the dynamic presence boost found in some amps. Transformer Grind is an authentic model of what actually happens in those amps." source
"Some amps interact with some speakers resulting in a dynamic high frequency boost. It creates an aggressive, biting distortion. It depends on the amp (the amp's output transformer in particular) and the behavior of the speaker as it deviates from it's rest position. You can simulate this using the Transformer Grind parameter." source
CATHODE FOLLOWER TYPE
Removed in firmware Ares 5.00.
"The “Ideal” cathode follower type is no longer supported as it is incompatible and has been removed from the GUI."
This 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.
Also known as Dynamic Impedance.
Removed in firmware Ares 10.00.
Controls the reduction in plate impedance as a function of grid voltage. Higher values result in a more focused and forward midrange.
(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. The power tube type presets the Dynamic Damping parameter as well as several internal parameters."