Gear used in this article:
Axe-Fx II – Full Range & Guitar Amp/Cab setup
Many people like to have their Axe-Fx tone and effects play through their favorite guitar amp and cab on stage for the “amp in the room” sound as opposed to the “studio recorded” sound that the full-range Axe-Fx signal can produce through a full-range monitor speaker. Additionally, instead of mic’ing their cab as they would with a traditional amp/cab setup, they want to send the full-range Axe-Fx signal to the front-of-house (FOH) mixer for the audience to hear.
This can be done by having 2 sets of outputs: one with a cabinet simulation (Cab block) and another without a cabinet simulation (going to the on-stage amp and cab).
To do this, you’ll have to place the FX Loop block in all of your presets and use Output 2 to send the non-cab-sim’d signal to your amp and cab. Output 1 will be used for the full-range signal with the cab sim.
First create your full-range setup. This should have a Cab block in the layout.
Most presets are created with the Cab block immediately following the Amp block. This is logical, as there is usually nothing in between a physical amp and cab. However, in the Axe-Fx, the Cab block doesn’t need to be placed directly after the Amp block. You can have Shunts (the blank connected spaces) or other blocks like Delay or Reverb placed in between the Amp and Cab blocks, and the sound will not be different at all (unless you use the Motor Drive parameter in the Cab block. Read more on the Wiki about Linear and Time Variant blocks). This is what will allow us to send a cab simulation to Output 1 (represented by the Output block on the far right of the layout) and no cab simulation to Output 2 (represented by the FX Loop block).
The easiest method is to move the Cab block so it is last in the layout. However, note that if the Cab block is set to Mono, any Stereo information coming into that Cab block will be summed to Mono, and therefore your entire tone will be Mono at Output 1. To avoid this and preserve the Stereo signal, the Cab block must be set to Stereo; set the pan for the Left and Right cabs the way you want, as a Stereo Cab block does not default to hard left and hard right panning. You can also use 2 Mono Cab blocks that are hard panned left and right and have their Inputs set to left and right respectively. In short, if you only use 1 Mono output to FOH or a single full-range speaker, you can use a Mono Cab block. If you run Stereo to FOH or to 2 full-range speakers, use a Stereo Cab block.
Insert an FX Loop block after the Amp block, but before the Cab block. (You may have to move your Cab block to make room for the FX Loop block.)
Now Output 1 will have the cab sim, but Output 2 will not have the cab sim. This is because the Cab block is not feeding into the FX Loop block (which represents Output 2) – it is after the FX Loop block, so its effect on the tone is not “heard” by Output 2. Be sure to turn up the Output 1 and Output 2 volume knobs on the front panel to send signal to your other gear.
This is the basic setup for a full-range cab sim’d signal to Output 1 and a non-cab-sim’d signal to Output 2. From here we can do a few things:
Adding Effects to Both Output 1 and Output 2
Let’s say we want to add reverb to both Output 1 and Output 2. Simply place a Reverb Block before the FX Loop block. Remember, anything before the FX Loop block will be sent to Output 2 (and Output 1, simply because it connects to the far right Output block).
Adding Effects to Output 1 Only (FOH)
Now let’s add reverb to Output 1 only, but not Output 2. To do this, add a Reverb block after the FX Loop block – just like we did with the Cab block. Because the Reverb block is after the FX Loop block, its effect on the tone is not “heard” by Output 2. But it is present at Output 1 because it connects to the Output block. You can have other blocks that only affect the Output 1 signal by placing them after the FX Loop block, like Enhancer or EQ.
Adding Effects to Output 2 Only (On-stage Amp & Cab)
If you want to add Reverb to Output 2 only, but not Output 1 (adding it to your on-stage amp, but not to the FOH signal), you’ll have to put the FX Loop block in a parallel row instead of adding it in series and in the same row as everything else. The connection point still matters as it did above: you want to make the split/connection before the Cab block so its effect on the tone isn’t “heard” by Output 2.
Make sure that the FX Loop block does not get connected back to the main row or to the Output block on the far right – the Output block represents Output 1. Placing the FX Loop block in the last column will always automatically connect it to the Output, so avoid the last column. If you must place it in the last column, you can turn the Level parameter on FX Loop block Mix page down to -80dB; this isn’t completely muted, but is usually quiet enough to not cause problems.
Now we can place a Reverb block before (to the left) of the FX Loop block. This reverb will only be heard from Output 2, the on-stage amp and cab. We can also put other blocks before the FX Loop block if we want, like EQ or Delay.
Remember, the Output block represents Output 1 and the FX Loop block used in this manner represents Output 2. Anything connected to the Output block will go to Output 1. Anything connected before the FX Loop block will go to Output 2. This is why it’s important to make sure the FX Loop block is not connected to the Output block, as the effects intended only for Output 2 will incorrectly be connected to the Output block (and Output 1).
Also note that the Output 2 Echo function (formerly known as Copy Out 1 to Out 2, changed in Firmware Version 12.03) cannot be used since there is an FX Loop block used in the presets, and the FX Loop block always overrides the Echo function.
Power Amp Sims
In addition to cab sims, sometimes you may want Power Amp sims present at Output 1 but not at Output 2. This is a bit more complicated and requires the use of 2 separate Amp Blocks.
The split must be made before the Amp block. Place a 2nd Amp block in the adjacent row (usually placed under the 1st Amp block), then connect the block to the FX Loop block, of course making sure that the FX Loop block does not connect back to the main row or to the Output block.
The top Amp block must have its Supply Sag parameter set to any numeric value – this enables the Power Amp sim. The bottom Amp block must have its Supply Sag parameter set to P.A. Off, the fully counter-clockwise setting – this disables the Power Amp sim.
Many people find that the Power Amp sim is desirable for both full-range speakers and guitar amps with cabs, however some do not like the extra “color” that the Power Amp sims add when using guitar power amps like the Mesa 2:Ninety.
Any blocks added before the Amp block split will be present at both Output 1 and Output 2 – but due to the nature of the Amp block, these blocks will be summed to a Mono signal. Any blocks added after the main row/top Amp will only be present at Output 1. Any blocks added after the adjacent row/bottom Amp will only be present at Output 2. Therefore if you want to add reverb to both signals, you have to use 2 separate Reverb blocks. This complicates things as you tend to run out of blocks and CPU very quickly, so many people don’t go through the trouble of “turning off” Power Amp sims to Output 2.