Something New to Spend Your Money On: Axe-FX Presets

Literally my first thought when I signed up for this gig writing for Gear Gods was “okay, I guess I’m going to have to write about the Axe-FX more than I’d like.”


So here we are, another day, another Axe-FX post. What’s going on with the ubiquitous digital modeller? Born Of Osiris‘ Lee McKinney is selling his presets for $20. Take a guess as to how the fans reacted? If you were to posit that some would be upset that McKinney is charging for something that other people have released for free, and then others retorted that no one’s forcing you to buy it, congratulations. You’ve been to the internet before.

I’d like to largely sidestep that argument, because by and large arguing capitalist ethics with the web is about as enjoyable as puppyslaughter. Besides, pandora’s box has been opened. Either this is a success and every band will do it, or it fails and that’s that. Instead, let’s look at this from some hopefully more interesting angles.

1) Correct me if I’m wrong, Fractal users, but there’s no copy-protection on a preset, right? So if this becomes a thing, won’t going to torrent sites and getting artists’ tones for free be another thing that immediately follows that first thing? Will we see an Axe-FX III with wifi that authenticates your purchases? I’d love it to have 24-hour check-in that fails right before a gig, locking out your patches.

2) In even my limited time as your impresario here at Gear Gods I’ve covered quite a few Axe-FX rigs. Know what most of these metal bands are using as their presets? A Dual Rectifier or 5150 model with a fake Tube Screamer in front of it, into a fake Mesa/Boogie 412 cab. Yes, yes, I know that there are various mic placement settings (how many of them are a fake SM57 I wonder?) and you have EQ options, but that leads me to my next point…

3) I’m kind of afraid that as Axe-FX usage moves from large touring bands to the younger ones who are influenced by them, artist presets (either sold or given away) are going to lead to some terrible mixes. Different guitars, different playing styles, and different musical situations require different tones. I know you love that Meshuggah sound bro, but Meshuggah’s tone is tailored for Meshuggah songs. Your band isn’t Meshuggah…. uh, unless your band is Meshuggah, in which case ohmygodthisisawesomemeshuggaharereadingmywebsite!!!!

4) This is my biggest gripe: you should be seeking out your own goddamn tone. Your band’s sound is a big part of your identity. There’s plenty of good arguments for amp modellers, but metal is homogenized enough as it is when bands use the same gear and rip off the same riffs. But if everyone is using the same settings? Will Superior Drummer presets be passed around in the same way? I can’t wait until there is essentially one metal recording to rule them all. We’re already uncomfortably close to that horizon.

Sure, some of these points are hyperbolic, and bands will always need to separate themselves from the crowd. And some scenes, like the stoner and doom genres, have largely turned their backs on digital gear (and to be fair, things can sound similarly homogeneous if everyone’s using the same vintage Sunn and Ampeg heads). I guess I’m just hoping that more artists will look start ignoring the “modeller” part of “digital amps.” Digital can be an infinite canvas, so let’s see less still-life emulation and more creative expressionists.

Source: Lambgoat

Written by

Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.

Latest comments
  • The artist presets aren’t a bad starting point, but anyone that uses an AxeFx will tell you that a preset that sounds good with one guitar usually sounds like shit with another. Lol if you think anyone’s gonna pay for these things though, and good luck saying that some sort of intellectual property right subsists in your preset you’ve sold if someone just turns around and posts it on the Fractal Forum. Any change at all to the gain, EQ, or any of the multitude of variables that go into a preset, and it’s not even the same preset anymore.

    • Hey Devil! Funny seeing you here.
      Totally agree that the preset is a starting point and that guitars, strings, pickups, picks and most importantly the player are all big factors in tone. I haven’t really heard BoO but I can imagine that the tone is that original.

  • He’s going to sell exactly one, then everyone will have it 30 seconds later.

  • They need the money to pay back the touring guitarists they’ve ripped off.

    • haha yah I saw that just now. well, that was quick. Bet he made a cool $20 though. Probably got hisself a happy meal, and he’s chowing down right now, thinking, “Suckers could have had it for 10! I LOVE MCDONALD’S!!!!!!”

  • You know, there are virtual synths that people use to make electronic music. Audio engineers are always making new presets for those and selling them. I could totally see a time when everything was starting to turn digital, and everyone who was used to using analog was getting pissed. It just seems like the same thing, except now everyone on this side of the fence is being exposed to the same sort of issue. I do think its hokey to sell a single preset for $20, and extremely vain, considering it probably wasn’t even him who made the tone. Keep in mind it was probably the recording engineer. And where I totally agree that a guitarist needs to find their own sound, sometimes, they would rather go for a really popular sound. Just like in, there will always be people who just wanna make what their perception of “the best” is. It is what it is… I personally don’t use presets. This was just an interesting read. My band just recorded a single, and our guy used axe fx. And the only issue that I have is that on the recording, everything does indeed sound extremely tight, and in a way that the amp head and cabinet that the guitarists use on stage may sound nothing, literally nothing like they do on the album.

    • Oh, and I’m a drummer, so this doesn’t even effect me! Haha

    • Most people run their Axe FX direct through the PA system, so it actually does sound exactly the same live. And why do you assume he didn’t make the tone? Periphery makes their own tones, why couldn’t Born of Osiris?

      • I’m saying for my band. Cause they used axe fx on the album and they have Marshall and orange amps. So live I imagine it’s not going to sound the same. Of course if axe fx is used with the same settings for both it’ll sounds the same. And I’m not saying anything about these bands specifically not making their own. I’m just saying that in a lot of cases where the recording engineer or the producer does all of the settings, those guitarist’s shouldn’t be selling sounds that someone else made for them.

leave a comment