Gear used in this article:
Axe-Fx III – Full Range setup
When playing our Axe-Fx, we want our sound to get out to the audience of course, but we also need to hear ourselves play! Traditionally, we would have our own guitar amp and cab on stage blaring behind us, or the sound engineer would send audio back to shared stage monitors from the main mixer. With the Axe-Fx, we have many more options for controlling the sound exactly how we want, and these days, many guitarists are bringing their own small speakers to monitor their guitar sound instead of relying on what the venue might provide.
The Axe-Fx III has more I/O than ever before, and we can use the multiple outputs to send signal to various places at the same time, like the PA system, a stage monitor, or any other speaker setup – each with their own separate volume control. There are different ways to do this, and this article focuses on Full-Range systems like Powered Speakers, Studio Monitors, or PA Systems, as opposed to a guitar amp head and guitar cab.
Option 1: Out 1 XLR & 1/4″
The simplest way to get the Full Range Axe-Fx signal to the Front-of-House (FOH) PA system and to on-stage full-range monitors is to use both XLR and 1/4″ outputs from Output 1. Many sound engineers are expecting a 1/4″ jack to go to a DI box, so you can give FOH the 1/4″ outputs and you can use the XLR outputs direct to your powered speakers or power amp. However, you can also do the opposite if you’d like: give FOH the XLR and use the 1/4″ outputs for your powered speakers.
With this method, the Output 1 volume knob on the front panel controls both the FOH feed and the on-stage monitors. Unfortunately this means using this knob to turn your monitors up when the band “suddenly gets louder after the first song” will also send more signal to FOH. This can possibly overload the FOH mixer, making you clip its input and sound bad. To avoid this, you can control your stage volume from controls on your powered speaker or power amp rather than the Axe volume knob. But sometimes these controls aren’t easy to get to during the gig, as they may be on the side or back of the speakers.
However, there is a way to control the FOH and stage monitors separately from the Axe-Fx.
Option 2: Output 2 Echo
The Axe-Fx has an option called “Output Echo” which means that a certain Output signal is “echoed” or copied to a different physical Output. Find it in Settings > Audio – set Output 2 Echo to “Output 1.” This means Output 2 will echo/copy Output 1 exactly.
Now the front panel Output 1 knob controls Output 1 and the Output 2 knob controls Output 2. Neat! Output 2 only has a pair of XLR jacks, which is usually the preferred method of connection, so just decide if you need Output 1’s 1/4″ jacks somewhere first.
Let’s say we decide Out 1 XLR goes to our on-stage monitors, and Out 2 goes to FOH. We can set Out 2 for whatever level the FOH mixer needs, then never have to touch it for the rest of the gig. Your sound engineer will love you for this one! Out 1 is our own speaker, and during the gig we can use the Out 1 knob on the front panel all gig long to adjust our volume up and down as needed without affect the FOH signal.
Note that you can still also use Out 1’s 1/4″ jacks just like before for 3 total pairs of stereo outputs – of course, Out 1 XLR and 1/4″ are still both controlled by the same Out 1 volume knob on the front panel.
Option 3: Multiple Output Blocks
The Axe-Fx III has 4 physical Outputs, each with a matching Output Block in the Layout. We can use all 4 Outputs if needed, each with its own physical volume knob on the front panel – that’s a lot of signal! This method is a bit more complicated, however it allows you to make changes to each signal path if desired.
In the previous example, we change a “Global” setting – Output Echo – which affected all Presets at once. This method needs to be set up per preset which is a bit more work, but offers more flexibility.
The Factory Presets use Input 1 and Output 1, which is the most simple way to pass audio in and out of the Axe, and most people make their own Presets the same way. To use the other physical Outputs, we simply need to add the corresponding Output Block into the Layout. Add them as you would any other block, but consider the connection and placement for different situations.
For a simple example, let’s just add Out 2 and Out 3 so they are an exact copy of Out 1. Just add them in any row parallel to Out 1 and connect them to the same last block before Out 1. Easy.
Now let’s say Out 1 goes to our on-stage speakers, Out 2 goes to FOH, and Out 3 goes to wireless In-Ear Monitors. Since we created our preset with Out 1 and the speakers, we know it sounds good already. But FOH says they want a little less high-end from our signal, and they don’t want to adjust their mixer (of course they’d say that!). Well that’s an easy fix. Simply move the Out 2 block to the right one spot, and before it add an EQ block of your choice – let’s go with a Parametric EQ.
After adjusting the block, you’ll see and hear that the EQ is only affecting Out 2. That’s because the Layout and signal path only has the PEQ block affecting Out 2 – it’s after everything else, but just before Out 2 only. You can add any other blocks the same way and they’ll only affect Out 2 in this example.
For Out 3, we’re in stereo IEMs, and we want MORE stereo. So we want to add an Enhancer block on Out 3 only – well you know what to do already.
Now this wide stereo image is coming to our IEMs (Out 3), our signal with a bit of high-cut is going to the FOH (Out 2), and our on-stage speakers are sounding good like always (Out 1). We didn’t use Out 4 in this example, but you can do the same thing there too.
For another example, consider a monster rig where Out 1 is FOH, Out 2 is your on-stage full-range speakers, and Out 3 is a sub-woofer on stage. Most of the night you’re playing guitar, but sometimes you play bass instead. Design your guitar Presets with only Out 1 and Out 2. But for your bass Presets, add Out 3 connected to that sub-woofer, and it will only activate when you’re in the appropriate Presets – you can get really creative with this!
The Axe-Fx II and other gear had similar capabilities, but the Axe-Fx III takes it to another level. We can have up to four discreet outputs, each with its own physical volume knob using various methods. Determine how complex your setup is to choose the right option. Just need to duplicate the signal to a bunch of speakers? Using Out 1’s XLR and 1/4″ jacks is super simple and easy to handle – no menu changes, and all off the same physical volume knob. Need separate physical controls? The Echo function works great. Have a crazy rig or need to adjust something on each Output? Use the Output Blocks in the Layout and tailor each signal path as needed.