Author Topic: NDGRD  (Read 1820 times)


  • Electron Doctor
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« on: September 11, 2016, 01:30:43 PM »
New Digital Guitar Rig Day

After a long period of trial and error and cold water feet I have sold my soul to the Digital Devil as I've finally managed to get my Axe-FX rig up and running.

One board to control it all!

Like with all my rigs this is not a straight forward thing. The rack contains three separate sound chains, Axe-FX, shimmer and Kaos Pad. It has my cab simulator which allows me to select between Axe-FX input or my old pedal board input into the Marshall 8008 poweramp.
The pedal board is pretty simple. A custom patch bay (top right) that has a switchable input between a Line6 G30 wireless input or regular cable input. Inside the patchbay is a AMZ buffer to split the signal. One leaves the board and goes into a volume pedal and then into the shimmer chain. The other goes into the board, from there into a custom switcher with two loops. Loop 1 has a Boss DD-7, which I use for looping, Loop 2 has the Boss DF-2 distortion feedbacker and the Whammy WH-1. From there the signal goes to the AMT WH-1 wah, into the TC Electronic tuner and then back into the patch bay into the Axe-FX.

The heart of the Machine

Below the Marshall poweramp is a custom made cab simular with 3 buffered inputs and balanced outputs. Each cab sim has a front and a back input, back is Axe-FX or shimmer, front is anything I want, but mainly my old pedal board. Once in there's an AMZ buffer that splits the signal into a regular output into the poweramp or a Marshall JMP1 cab sim into a THcustom balanced output into a XLR jack. Which should allow for both going straight into a mixing desk and still allow for a speaker cab on stage for stage sound.

Above the Marshall poweramp is a custom rack front panel with various in- and outputs. From right to left
- a powercon jack to supply power to the Samson powerbrite powerconditioner that powers everything
- a male XLR plug for the FASLINK connection to the MFC-101
- an empty jack, originally meant for something that fell by the wayside.
- a jack input for the shimmer path into the Verbzilla
- a USB jack to allow my laptop to be hooked up into the Axe-FX. Why on earth Fractal sticks the USB connection at the back of their units is a mystery to me, as it makes connecting a cable in the darkness that's usually the case of racks a friggin' nightmare. Let alone in the chaos of on stage.
- two XLR outputs for the Axe-FX into a mixing desk.
- two XLR outputs for the Kaoss pad to go into a mixing desk
- two speaker outputs for the Marshall 8008 poweramp.
No need to open the back of the rack, all access ports nicely and conveniently at the front.

Take it to the top

The top has a Kaoss Pad 3, getting MIDI signal from a Kenton wireless MIDI receiver, which in turn gets its input from a MIDI touch screen on my guitar via a Kenton wireless MIDI transmitter pack. Not the most modern technology at the moment as smaller MIDI wireless units are available. But they tend to be one on one units, whereas I have two Kenton transmitter packs which both work on the same receiver. From the Kaoss Pad the signal currently goes to two XLR outputs, but its unbalanced signal. I have a box to convert it into balanced using 2 THcustom balanced driver boards, but there's some major hiss on one of the boards that needs sorting out.
The Line6 Verbzilla I use for Shimmer. The Axe-FX could probably do it, but I like the idea of having a completely separate path. Plus it doesn't seem to be an easy path inside the Axe-FX. The signal enters the Verbzilla through the dedicated shimmer jack on the front access panel and goes into one of the cab simulator blocks at the bottom for both some cab simulation and balanced output.
The G-Lab MIDI switcher sits in the Axe-FX send return loop and has two loops. One is currently empty, the other has the Line6 M5. Because while the Axe-FX is awesome and can do a shitload of things, Line6 has some sounds the Axe-FX doesn't have and that I just want. The empty loop will probably be filled with an Eventide box, I'm not sure yet if it will be an H9 or my old Pitchfactor. Underneath the MIDI switcher is a Voodoolab Pedal Power Pro 2.

About the Axe-FX and MFC-101 switcher. It has taken me some time to get to know both units. There's 200 pages in the Axe-FX manual alone and some 100+ in the MFC-101 manual. Luckily, if you're used to Line6 software editing of your Pod units you can go a long way using the software editor for the Axe-FX, Axe-Edit. There is also a separate software editor for the MFC-101, but it's not free. And not very forgiving for novices. I recommend against buying it, although why its not free its a mystery to me. Definitely for advanced users only.

Coming from the Line6 Pod XT and HD500 the Axe-FX and MFC-101 do not compare favorably in user friendliness. Editing the Pods was a breeze compared to the Axe-FX. Of course it can do sooooo much more. Too much at times. And Fractal have made it way to hard to assign more then one function to a single switch, which was fairly easy in Pod Edit. I probably should learn to use the Scenes function for that, but that chapter excels in making things as complicated as possible.

Getting a clean sound was fairly easy at first, but getting a good drive sound was hard. I'm a drive pedals into a clean amp kind of guy and recreating that signal path in the Axe-FX was hard as it either didn't have the stomp box sims that I want, (no Stone Grey distortion, no MI Audio Crunchbox, no Wampler anything), and the ones that were on board never sounded as good as my real dirt boxes. Another problem I constantly ran into was CPU limits. It got to the point that I even installed a separate rack drawer with 4 of my favorite dirt boxes, each with a noise gate, to be used in the Axe-FX effects loop.

But that didn't really work out satisfactory either, as the dirtboxes were very loud and turning them down made them sound like shit, and the alternative, boosting the clean sound, didn't work out satisfactory either. So I went for a different approach. I took out the rack drawer (eliminating 10 kilos in weight) and changed my drive sound from drive pedals into a clean amp sim into a cranked Marshall JCM800 sim, boosted by a Tubescreamer sim for some more gain. Which is basically the sound I wanted to achieve via dirt boxes anyway. So having found my base sounds I could finally play around with all the other effects and I now have something that sounds usable. It was tested last week in rehearsal and overall held up pretty good.

I will probably continue to use my old pedal board, because if you want to jam in rehearsal looking for new sounds and songs presets are a hindrance whereas pedals give you complete freedom. But I'm also looking forward to see where the Axe-FX will take me, as I've barely begun to scratch the surface of what this thing can do.

In a way I've become full circle. 10 years ago I was using a multi-FX mostly, a Boss GX-700, then in 2007 I started to branch out into a simple pedal board for occasional small gigs, which grew out of control into the mother of all pedal boards. And now I'm back to using a multi-FX again.


  • Electron Doctor
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2016, 02:15:13 PM »
holy crap this thing is complex. Enjoy and have fun!
« Last Edit: September 13, 2016, 01:08:40 AM by m-Kresol »
I build pedals to hide my lousy playing.

My projects are labeled Quantum Effects. My shared OSH park projects:
My build docs and tutorials


  • Electron Doctor
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2016, 08:24:05 PM »
holy smokes!