Fractal Audio Axe-FX III review

(Image credit: Fractal)

I love everything about my collection of amps (currently numbering more than 60 of them), including how they sound, look and even smell. I’m even willing to put up with them when their controls get scratchy or they blow an obscure NOS tube that’s expensive or nearly impossible to replace. I even love how the glowing tubes warm up my basement in the winter during prolonged jam or recording sessions. While dozens of new products touting the latest digital modeling technology caused me to finally question whether I should keep my collection, only one product has caused me to seriously consider cashing in on my heads, combos and cabinets — the Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. Fractal’s previous flagship units, the Axe-FX II and IIXL, are still quite impressive, but technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the first Axe-FX II’s release in 2011, and that progress truly shows in the Axe-FX III. The unit is packed with so many upgrades and improvements that I’m going to skip many of the finer details and focus on the unit’s broader appeal.

FEATURES One of my biggest beefs with the Axe-FX II was that it wasn’t particularly easy to operate or program from the front panel display alone. The Axe-FX III’s full color display is a vast improvement over its predecessor’s, and the operating software is much more intuitive and easier to navigate as considerably more info is displayed on a single page instead of hidden deep in layers of pages. Of course, Axe-Edit III editor/librarian software provides the greatest ease of use and programming power, but whereas the editing software felt like a necessity before, now users won’t feel at a disadvantage when using the Axe-FX III without a computer nearby.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.