I truly believe before buying new gear you need to do proper research. To many times have I just impulse bought something because I wanted it at the time but later regretted the purchase because it wasn’t the greatest. Reviews are important, and while you shouldn’t rely solely on them I thought it would be great to feature products on this site to help those who may be in the market for new gear. We at FGR Music Group put together a team of experts to review gear so the next time you are searching for that right piece of equipment you have a place to go for honest feedback from guys who use it daily and aren’t getting paid to sell this stuff.
Today’s author is Paul Mitro who is a producer, sound engineer, and entrepreneur. He currently owns Paul Mitro Productions, and co-own Old Bear Studio in Batavia NY, and Frontier Production Company in Buffalo NY. He has been doing live sound and producing music for over a decade and has worked with many top bands over the years. Paul is currently using the Fractal Audio AX8 Amp Modler/Multi-FX Processor and I know personally how much he loves it.
The Fractal AX8 and why I chose it as my go to pedal.
In my current band, Tetelestai, we all use amp simulators and in ear monitors (via our split snake and mixer) which go direct into the PA when we play. Previously I had been using the Line6 X3 for live performances and while that unit was working perfectly (even at over 10 years old) I felt it was time to replace it and upgrade to something from this decade. The two necessities were the need to receive MIDI commands and that it be built like a tank for traveling use.
At this point the industry has gotten to a point where a lot of the amp simulators are extremely similar where they can load multiple IRs (impulse responses), be controlled via midi, and have incredible amp modeling abilities. Pretty much as long as it can load an IR, you should be able to make a usable modern tone.
I chose the Fractal AX8 based off some research that I did and a lot of trusted friends who had them and raved about them. What stood out to me right away about the AX8 was its form factor and build quality. It is small enough to fit into a standard 19’ rack and built so you could stomp on it and not have to worry about crushing the buttons.
I’m not a huge fan of the user interface, although it is totally usable if you take the time to learn it. The majority of the time I use the computer interface to program the pedal and I absolutely love it. It’s very simple and took a whole 10 minutes to to figure out.
The current live show Tetelestai runs is all set to a click track which allows me to program MIDI commands to send out of out track computer and change patches on the AX8. What this means is I can focus more on playing and less on the technical end of the show. This setup requires more time programming on the front end, but allows for a very fast setup and implementation of a very professional and consistent production on stage. In short the only time I need to touch my AX8 during our show is to tune.
While the unit would fit into a equipment rack, I op’ed to travel with the unit in a knockoff pelican case from harbor freight. This allows my to bring the board home for writing and recording. It fits like a dream and the case is very road worthy.
I made up a 35’ “snake” that contains the IEC cable for power, MIDI cable, audio in (from the wireless receiver that lives in our IEM rack), and audio out to the split snake (also in our IEM rack). In this configuration I only need to run one cable to the board which speeds up setup and lowers the need for troubleshooting should something not work. The snake fits in the fake pelican case with the AX8 so I only need my guitar case and the pelican case when I go to a gig.
On the off chance the band plays at a location that doesn’t have a PA that can support more than vocals I have the pedal programmed so that the ¼ output is coming directly out of the amp simulator and bypassing the IR loader that acts as the cabinet. This signal can go directly to a power amp and into the guitar amp. Going the route of the Fractal AX8 can be a solid solution for those who need portability without sacrificing on build and audio quality.
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts! Do you use the Fractal AX8? If so what do you think of it? Head over to the Fractal Audio website to find out more information on this pedal and all the other products they have!