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Drive block

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Contents

Drive block.PNG

The Drive block

Available on which products

  • Axe-Fx III: 4 blocks
  • FM3: 2 blocks
  • FM9: 3 blocks
  • Axe-Fx II: 2 blocks
  • AX8: 2 blocks
  • FX8: 2 blocks

Channels or X/Y switching

  • Axe-Fx III and FM9 and FM3: 4 channels
  • Axe-Fx II: X/Y
  • AX8: X/Y
  • FX8: X/Y

About drive modeling

Yek's Guide to the Fractal Audio Drive models

Forum member Yek has written a guide (PDF) that covers all the models in detail. Click on the image below.

Yeks Drives Guide.png

Pictures of the modeled pedals

Gallery of modeled pedals, by forum member MDProd

Factory presets

Many factory presets have one or more Drive blocks. Search the Factory presets page.

Modeling improvements in firmware Ares and later

"The drive block in the III uses a higher oversampling ratio and double-precision filters in some places compared to the II." [1]

Firmware Ares 3.02

This firmware introduced major improvements to modeling of drive pedals. Drive models based on op-amp and diode clipping topologies were been completely overhauled. This is referred to as: FASPICE. This includes all types based on the Tube Screamer circuit.

Important: these changes result in significant changes in sound, gain and level. Tips and tricks for Drive blocks prior to firmware 3.02 may not apply anymore. Also, demos and tutorials may not represent the current tone anymore.

Firmware release notes:

"Drive models based on op-amp and diode clipping topologies have been completely overhauled in firmware 3.02 and later.

For many types there is now a “Dry Gain” control. This parameter controls the amount of “dry” signal mixed with the “wet” (distorted) signal. For a Tube Screamer-based model this will default to 100% due to the topology. For other types this will default to 0. Values up to 200% are allowed. Note that the dry data is added before any tone controls and therefore is not exactly equivalent to a mix but rather replicates the behavior of analog circuits.

Drive types based on op-amp and diode clipping circuits now allow control over the type and quantity of diodes in the positive and negative polarity. For example, the user can select (2) 1N34A diodes for positive signal polarity and (1) red LED for negative. Experiment with the various diode types and quantities to obtain new and unique sounds.

The Basic GUI page now reflects only the controls found on the actual pedal. In cases where the actual pedal does not have any tone controls a simple Tone control is included for convenience."

The tone circuits of ALL drive types have been updated in firmware Ares 3.02 and later, and all models have been rematched to the original pedals. [2] [3]

The changes do not apply to the input boosts in the Amp block. [4]

More about FASPICE:

"New Drive block algorithm (FASPICE) implemented and working." [5]

"I've "cracked the code" on drive pedals and figured out a way to do a SPICE simulation in real time without using gobs of CPU. It's so simple I can't believe no one ever thought of it before but none of the papers even approach anything resembling the technique. This will bring "Ares" level modeling to the Drive block." [6]

"This algorithm applies to a particular set of circuits that incorporate diodes as a nonlinear component. SPICE modeling is particularly slow when modeling diodes due to convergence issues. However the diodes in drive pedals are used in such a way that there's a trick that can be employed to dramatically decrease the amount of CPU needed to simulate the circuit." [7]

"It normally takes a lot of CPU power to do a real-time simulation. The amp block uses an entire dedicated DSP. To do even a simple distortion pedal would normally require huge amounts of CPU. But I stumbled upon a simple trick that reduces it dramatically." [8]

(picture) "See the two diodes, D1 and D2? The type and quantity of these diodes (among other things that I can't reveal) affect the tone. D1 is the "negative" diode. It conducts when the voltage is negative. D2 is the "positive" diode. It conducts when the voltage is positive. In this schematic the diodes are listed as 1N34A but in the original Distortion+ they were actually 1N270. If you select the Plus Dist model and go to the last page in the UI you'll see the type of diode is 1N270. You can change the type and quantity which will change the distortion characteristics.

1N270 and 1N34A are Germanium diodes. They have a greater reverse saturation current (Is) and, hence, a lower forward voltage for a given current. This means they clip sooner. Silicon diodes, i.e. 1N4148, 1N916, etc. have a lower Is and a greater forward voltage. LEDs have yet a greater forward voltage (smaller Is).

This new firmware has 16 diode SPICE models that I collected from various sources that you can play with. 1N914 are often substituted for 1N4148 and vice-versa but they are slightly different so I included both. The original Tube Screamer had 1S1588 which, to my ears, are much different (better) sounding than 1N914 which are used in the newer Tube Screamers." [9]

Wikipeda: "SPICE ("Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis") is a general-purpose, open-source analog electronic circuit simulator. It is a program used in integrated circuit and board-level design to check the integrity of circuit designs and to predict circuit behavior."

Firmware Ares 10

Firmware release notes:

  • Improved Drive block. New diode modeling algorithm improves clipping accuracy especially for diodes with higher saturation currents, i.e. 1N270 and other germanium types.
  • Added D9E and D18 diode models to Drive block. These are Soviet germanium diodes valued for their smooth distortion characteristics.

"Firmware 10 uses new "FASPICE XD" modeling in the amp and drive block. It requires a bit more CPU but the accuracy is far better. I figured out a way to ensure that transcendental equations are always stiffly stable and converge in a fixed amount of time. Significantly faster and at least as accurate as trapezoidal, modified trap, gear, etc. algorithms. It dampens numerical ringing without the side-effect of damping actual circuit ringing. Once you see how it works it seems hard to believe that no one has thought of it before but I can't find a single paper or article that uses the technique. The only drawback is that frequency response is limited to about 1/2 Nyquist but since we oversample that's irrelevant. So that's why you get the "amp feels like it's going to explode" but without the noise and artifacts." [10]

The affected Drive models are: ([11])

  • Rat
  • Super OD
  • T808 OD
  • Fat Rat
  • Plus Distortion
  • Full OD
  • Blues OD
  • Shred Distortion
  • M-Zone Distortion
  • BB Pre
  • Eternal Love
  • Esoteric ACB
  • Esoteric RCB
  • Zen Master
  • FAS LED-Drive
  • Ruckus
  • FAS Boost
  • Timothy
  • Tone of Kings
  • Heartpedal 11
  • Jam Ray

Firmware Ares 12

The Drive block's EQ now supports placement pre- or post-distortion.

Firmware Ares 13

(release notes) "Improved Drive block modeling. New algorithm uses a novel solution to solve the nonlinear ODE of a diode clipper with memory (i.e. a capacitor). The accuracy of the diode I-V curve is also greatly improved. This new algorithm has the accuracy of implicit iterative solutions with speed rivaling explicit solutions. CPU usage is only slightly increased vs. the previous algorithm. Note that many of the Drive models will now behave differently and presets should be auditioned. The behavior of the tone controls in some models has also changed. Of note are the Timmy models where the tone controls are now faithful to the actual pedal and decrease bass/treble when turned clockwise.

The Drive block now features a “Bass Response” control for types based on the Rat, Tube Screamer and various derivates. In some models this is duplicated on the Basic page as it is the Bass/Voice/etc. control (and renamed accordingly). This function was previously provided by the Low Cut control. The Low Cut control is now a separate control that allows adjusting the input highpass frequency. Existing presets will automatically be updated with the new default value for the Low Cut control.

Added Bias control to GUI of all Drive block models."

More information

From a forum thread:

"It solves the nonlinear ODE using a novel technique."

"Personally I think it's noticeably better. I never used Drive blocks before and now I use them occasionally."

"They sound more "analog" and feel better. The old algorithm is the classic filter->waveshaper->filter technique. It's okay but I've long moved beyond waveshapers in amp modeling so it was time to do that in the drive block."

"We completely redid the drive block using a novel technique for solving the nonlinear ODE that you get with a resistor/diode/capacitor that's used in 99% of drive pedals. It results in much improved sound and feel." [12]

The changes in firmware Ares 13 for the Axe-Fx III were ported to firmware 3.03 (and later) for the FM3, including all drive types.

Firmware 17

"Added 1S1588T diode SPICE model to Drive block. This is the Toshiba version of the 1S1588 and is reportedly the diode used in the “best sounding” TS-808s. The T808 OD models have been updated to use this diode. Existing presets are unchanged."

"Added “Valve Screamer VS9” and "Maxoff 808" Drive models."

Drive block and CPU usage

The Drive models take up various amounts of CPU. The numbers are listed in Yek's Guide to the Fractal Audio Drive models (PDF).

CPU usage is amplitude dependent on the Axe-Fx II, AX8 and FX8. This means that CPU usage will change when you hit the strings (even with the Drive block in bypassed state). This does not apply to the Axe-Fx III and FM3.

Drive models in firmware Ares 3.02 and later require somewhat less CPU (1-2%) than before. Diode-based models in firmware Ares 13 and later require more CPU.

Drive types as input boosts in the Amp block

Some of the Drive models are available as input boosts in the Amp block. Read this: Input Boost

Distortion in the Cab block

The Cab block's Preamp page provides tools to simulate the distortion from mic preamps, channel strips and tape.

Drive block controls

"The Tone control works the same as the modeled pedal. The Bass, Mid and Treble controls are a generic EQ that can be used in addition to the Tone control to further shape the sound." [13]

In firmware Ares 3.02 and later, the basic GUI page reflects only the controls found on the actual pedal. In cases where the actual pedal does not have any tone controls, a simple Tone control is included for convenience.

(firmware Ares 13) "The Drive block now features a “Bass Response” control for types based on the Rat, Tube Screamer and various derivates. In some models this is duplicated on the Basic page as it is the Bass/Voice/etc. control (and renamed accordingly). This function was previously provided by the Low Cut control. The Low Cut control is now a separate control that allows adjusting the input highpass frequency. Existing presets will automatically be updated with the new default value for the Low Cut control."

Fuzz, buffers and impedance

Many fuzzes depend on a direct connection between the guitar pickup and the input of the pedal. A modeler gets in the way because its input is always buffered. Thuis means that a modeled fuzz will react differently than the actual pedal.

"The Fuzz in the Axe-Fx reacts as though there is a buffer in front of it (because there is). It's a limitation inherent to all modeling products. I modeled it using a nominal source resistance. I forget what I used for the source resistance but it was probably around 100K ohms. To really simulate it you would need a controller to simulate the changing output impedance of the guitar." [14]

"You can simulate the effect of a guitar into a Fuzz-Face using the Input-Z feature." [15]

"The problem is that the signal is buffered and there is no way to model the interaction of the pickups with the circuit." [16]

(firmware 4.00 for the Axe-Fx III) "Duplicating the behavior of a fuzz pedal requires that the pedal be the first non-bypassed block following the Input 1 block and the input block impedance must be set to Auto since fuzz pedals load down the guitar’s pickups."

Forum member AustinBuddy recommends setting Input Impedance to 90K in presets which have a fuzz model as the very first (non-bypassed) block. This doesn't apply to processors with a fixed input impedance.

Read this: Input impedance

Tips and tricks

Tighten the tone with a Drive block or Input Boost

A Drive block before the Amp block, with minimal gain, will tighten the low end of dirty amp tones. It also allows turning down gain in the Amp block. This works well in particular with Tube Screamer-based Drive types.

Alternatively, use a PEQ block, set to Blocking, copying High Cut and Low Cut values from a favorite Drive type. This will apply the same coloring as the drive, without the gain and CPU usage.

Firmware Ares and later also provides Input Boost types in the Amp block itself, see above.

Turn an Amp block into a Drive

Insert a second Amp block before the main Amp block, turn off its power amp simulation, and you have changed the amp model into a preamp / drive model. Set the main Amp block to a fairly clean tone for best results. Try this with these models: Euro Blue/Red/Uber, Friedman BE, Dizzy, 5153.

More information:

Add gain to high single notes with the Pitch Detector

Attach Pitch (internal controller) to the Drive parameter and use Slope in the modifier menu to fine-tune. This will add gain to single notes when played high on the neck.

More information:

Use a Drive type to warm up or soften a Synth sound

A Drive type, especially the RAT, is often used (in front of the Synth block) to warm up or often a synth tone.

Use Tape Distortion to add vintage flavor

The Tape Distortion, either before or after the Amp block, can add a vintage flavor to the sound.

Emulating other drives and devices

Note: because of ever evolving firmware, the suggested settings in the links below may not be accurate.

Videos

Leon Todd demos new Drive types

Parameters

Parameters table

Parameter Axe-Fx III / FM3 / FM9
Type yes
BASIC + EQ 1
Drive yes
Tone yes
Low Cut, High Cut yes
Bass, Mid, Mid Frequency, Treble yes
Graphic EQ: Off / POST / PRE yes
EQ 2
EQ yes
MIX
Input Select yes
ADV
Diode+ : Type, Quantity yes
Diode- : Type Quantity yes
Clip Type, Clip Shape yes
Bias yes
Bass Response yes
Dry Level yes
Slew Limit / Slew Rate yes
Bit Reduce yes
Sample Rate yes

Mix

Unlike other effect blocks, Mix at 0% in a Drive block is not equivalent to 100% dry signal ("True Bypass").

"The models let clean through even with the mix at 100%. It depends on the diodes though as to how much clean is mixed. Our models are based on the most common versions." [17]

"The mix control in the Drive block controls the ratio of clean to dirty in the distortion stage. It's not the same as the standard mix control in the other effects." [18]

The Mix control operates prior to any tone control. This lets you mix some dry in with the distorted signal but still maintain overall tone control.

Some players like to turn down the effects’s Mix level (80% or lower) to increase transparancy and decrease buzziness.

Note that Mix is different from the Dry Level parameter in diode/opamp-based drive types (see below).

Sample Rate

Use Sample Rate Reduction to intentionally allow aliasing, for creative effects.

Bass Response and Low Cut

Firmware Ares 13 changed the functionality of Low Cut and has added the Bass Response control.

“The Drive block now features a “Bass Response” control for types based on the Rat, Tube Screamer and various derivates. In some models this is duplicated on the Basic page as it is the Bass/Voice/etc. control (and renamed accordingly). This function was previously provided by the Low Cut control. The Low Cut control is now a separate control that allows adjusting the input highpass frequency. Existing presets will automatically be updated with the new default value for the Low Cut control.”

Bit Reduce

Use Bit Reduction to intentionally lower the resolution of the signal, for creative effects.

Slew Rate / Slew Limit

This probably refers to how fast the circuit can swing its output. If the signal to be amplified is too fast, the circuit will not be able to perform properly, only amplifying signals below the slew rate limit. Poor slew rate results in high frequencies not passing through the amplifier, and thereby limiting or muting high harmonics.

The Pro Co RAT is known for its poor slew rate, because of the LM308 op-amp being used. Read this

Explanation of Slew Rate in Wikipedia:

  • "In electronic musical instruments, slew circuitry or software-generated slew functions are used deliberately to provide a portamento (also called glide or lag) feature, where an initial digital value or analog control voltage is slowly transitioned to a new value over a period of time (see interpolation)"
  • "Slew-induced distortion (SID or slew-rate induced distortion) is caused when an amplifier or transducer is required to change output (or displacement), i.e. slew rate, faster than it is able to do so without error. At such times any other signals may suffer considerable gain distortion, leading to intermodulation distortion. Transient intermodulation distortion may involve some degree of SID and/or distortion due to peak compression"

Explanation of Slew-induced distortion in Wikipedia:

  • "Slew-induced distortion (SID or slew-rate induced distortion) is caused when an amplifier or transducer is required to change output (or displacement), i.e. slew rate, faster than it is able to do so without error. At such times any other signals may suffer considerable gain distortion, leading to intermodulation distortion.[1] Transient intermodulation distortion may involve some degree of SID and/or distortion due to peak compression"

Firmware Ares 10.01:

"Changed Drive block Slew Limit to Slew Rate and updated default value of the models. Existing presets will be updated to the new default value upon recall. Note that the parameter now controls the slew rate and lower values equal less high frequency response at high amplitudes and vice-versa (the action is reversed from the previous firmware versions)."

Graphic EQ

The 10-band Graphic EQ was added in firmware Ares and later.

The EQ is reset when changing the Drive type.

In firmware Ares 12 and later the EQ can be placed either PRE or POST distortion.

Dry Level

Even with Mix at 100%, clean level can pass through diodes. The Dry Level parameter in diode/opamp-based drive types (in firmware Ares 3.02 and later for the Axe-Fx III) determines the amount of clean level that passes through the diodes.

Release notes Ares 3.02:

"This parameter controls the amount of “dry” signal mixed with the “wet” (distorted) signal. For a Tube Screamer-based model this will default to 100% due to the topology. For other types this will default to 0. Values up to 200% are allowed. Note that the dry data is added before any tone controls and therefore is not exactly equivalent to a mix but rather replicates the behavior of analog circuits."

"If the Dry defaults to 100 then it's a Tube Screamer derivative. Tube Screamers use a non-inverting op-amp configuration with diodes in the feedback loop. This results in a transfer function that is Y = X + f(X) where f(X) is the distortion response. IOW they mix the dry signal with a distorted signal."

Drive models

BB Pre (BB preamp)

BB.png

Models this Xotic overdrive that has a preamp stage

Bender Fuzz (Tone Bender)

TB.png

Models the Sola Sound/Vox fuzz that Jimmy Page used to record "Whole Lotta Love"

Bit Crusher (custom model)

Custom model, which warms up a sound or deliberately degrades a signal by reducing number of bits or sample rate

Blackglass B7K (Microtubes B7K)

Models the analog bass preamp from Darkglass, famous for its overdrive and transparency

"Matches the real pedal. Real pedal has very low output. Don't know why they did it that way." [19]

Blues OD (Bluesbreaker (Mk1)

Models the Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal, Mk I, which produces the mildly overdriven valve sound of the 2x12 Marshall combo amp, used by Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Box o'Crunch (Crunch Box V1)

Models this popular "Marshall-in-a-box" pedal from MI Audio

Compulsion Distortion LP (OCD)

Models the popular Fulltone "Obsessive Compulsive Drive" OCD pedal, in Low Peak mode

Compulsion Distortion HP (OCD)

Models the popular Fulltone "Obsessive Compulsive Drive" OCD pedal, in High Peak mode

DS1 Distortion (DS-1 Distortion)

Models the popular BOSS distortion pedal, used by Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kurt Cobain

DS1 Distortion Mod (modded DS-1 Distortion)

Models a modded version of the BOSS DS-1

"I didn't model it based on any actual pedal. I made the model by taking the DS-1 and applying the Keeley "Seeing Eye" and "Ultra" mods." [20]

Esoteric ACB (AC Booster)

AC.png

Models the thick, light-to-medium overdrive ("Almost Clean") from Xotic

Esoteric RCB (RC Booster v1)

RC.png

Models the Xotic "Real Clean" transparent boost pedal

Eternal Love (Eternity)

LP.png

Models this clean boost, overdrive and treble booster from Lovepedal

FAS Boost (custom model)

A custom model, designed to boost vintage amps like Plexis

FAS LED-Drive (custom model)

Models LED clipping

FET Boost (custom model)

Models gentle and smooth FET clipping

FET Preamp (custom model)

Models a FET preamp, possibly similar to BOSS' FA-1 Fet Preamp

Face Fuzz (Fuzz Face)

FF.png

Models the Dallas Arbiter fuzz that Jimi Hendrix used

Fat Rat (modded RAT)

RAT.png

Models this modded version of the RAT that sounds fuller and smoother

Full OD (Full-Drive 2)

FD.png

Models this thicker and darker variant of the Tube Screamer, from Fulltone

Hard Fuzz (custom model)

Creates a hard-clipping, 60s-style fuzz

Heartpedal 11 (OD11/Amp Eleven)

Models the Lovepedal pedal that sounds like an overdriven tube amp

Hoodoo Drive (Voodoo Lab Overdrive)

Models this vintage overdrive

Horizon Precision Drive (Precision Drive)

Models the Horizon Devices pedal that sculpts metal and djent tones

Jam Ray (Jan Ray)

Models the boutique boost/overdrive from Vemuram which replicates the tone of driven blackface Fender amps from the '60s

M-Zone Distortion (MT-2 Metal Zone)

MZ.png

Models this classic pedal from BOSS which gets crushing metal tones from any amp, love it or hate it

MCMLXXXI DRV (1981 Inventions DRV)

Models this Pro Co RAT clone with different pre-distortion shaping

Master Fuzz (Maestro Fuzz-Tone FZ-1A)

MFT.png

Models the original Maestro fuzz pedal, used in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Maxoff 808 (Maxon OD-808)

Models the Maxon OD-808 overdrive, a close replica of the original Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, but smoother and with less midrange honk

Micro Boost (Micro Amp)

Models this popular MXR clean boost from the '80s

Mid Boost (custom model)

A custom model that boosts the middle frequencies

OD 250 (Overdrive Preamp 250)

Models the reissue of this DOD overdrive that pushes an already driven amp

OD 250 Gray (Overdrive Preamp 250)

Models the original gray version of the DOD overdrive

Octave Distortion (Octavia)

TO.png

Models the well-known octave-up fuzz from Tycobrahe, made famous by Jimi Hendrix

PI Fuzz (Big Muff Pi Triangle)

BMP.png

Models the famous saturated fuzz from Electro-Harmonix

Plus Distortion (Distortion +)

DIST+.png

Models this old MXR distortion box which gets more distortion from an already overdriven amp

Rat Distortion (RAT)

RAT.png

Models Pro Co's famous black distortion box

SDD Preamp (Korg SDD-3000 preamp)

Models the preamp in Korg's rackmount SDD-3000 digital delay, used by The Edge

Shimmer Drive (custom model)

Custom model, designed to boost models of vintage non-Master amps (Plexi, Vox, Fender)

Shred Distortion (Shred Master)

MSM.png

Models Marshall's distortion pedal for shredders

Sonic Drive (Sonic Distortion SD-9)

Models the distortion pedal from Ibanez that's popular among fusion players

Suhr Riot Ge (Riot)

Models Suhr's amp-in-a-box pedal, set to Germanium voicing

Suhr Riot LED (Riot)

Models the pedal set to LED voicing

Suhr Riot LED/Si (Riot)

Models the pedal set to hybrid LED/Silicon Diode voicing

Super OD (SD-1 Super OverDrive)

BSO.png

Models the competitor from Boss to the Tube Screamer, popular with high gain players

T808 Mod (modded TS-808 Tube Screamer)

TS9.png

Models a modded TS-808 for more bass, more gain, more transparency

T808 OD (TS-808 Tube Screamer)

TS9.png

Models the venerable Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer

TS9DX + (TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer)

Models the Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer in Plus-mode

TS9DX Hot (TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer)

Models the Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer in Hot mode

Tape Distortion (tape distortion)

TDST.png

Models the clipping of an overdriven reel-to-reel Ampex tape deck

Timothy 1 (Timmy)

Models this popular transparent boost/overdrive pedal (blue), designed by Paul Cochrane, with the clipping mode switch set to middle position (symmetrical clipping)

Timothy 2 (Timmy)

Models the version with the clipping mode switch set to top position (asymmetrical clipping)

Timothy 3 (Timmy)

Models the version with the clipping mode switch set to bottom position (symmetrical clipping, less headroom/diodes)

Tone of Kings (King of Tone)

Models this sought-after variant on Marshall's Bluesbreaker pedal from Analog Man

Treble Boost (silicon treble booster circuit)

TRB.png

Models a silicon-based treble booster

Tube Drive 3-knob (Tube Driver)

TD-3.png

Models the version of this pedal (which has a 12AX7 tube inside) with 3 knobs

Tube Drive 4-knob (Tube Driver)

TD-4.png

Models the version of this pedal (which has a 12AX7 tube inside) with 4 knobs, used by Eric Johnson

Valve Screamer VS9 (Tube Screamer TS9)

Models the famous Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Zen Master (Zendrive)

ZEN.png

Models the famous "Dumble-in-a-box" pedal, designed by Hermida and used by Robben Ford