The MFC-101 is Fractal Audio System’s MIDI Foot Controller intended for use with the Axe-Fx line of products.
Summary of Differences
Mark I: Original Version
Mark II: Changed ethernet jack to etherCON jack
Mark III: Upgrade to Silent Solid State switches, FASLINK jack added
The first version, now known as the Mark I, was announced in September 2010. This version is fully compatible with all Axe-Fx products as of October 2014 including the Axe-Fx II XL, Axe-Fx II Mark II and Axe-Fx II Mark I.
There are 17 “IA” switches which can be programmed to be Preset changes (starting from Switch 1) or Instant Access switches that can be programmed to control various parameters. There are 4 additional switches for System functions like Bank/Preset Up/Down, Edit mode and Reveal/Looper mode.
There are 4 ports for connecting Expression Pedals and 2 ports for connecting External Switches – up to 4 switches can be used with TRS or TRS-TS Y cables.
To interface with the Axe-Fx II line, there is an ethernet port for use with a standard CAT5-RJ45 cable that connects to the ethernet port on the Axe-Fx II (Mark I, Mark II & XL). Using and Ethernet cable from the Axe-Fx II to the MFC-101 will provide power to the MFC-101, so no power adaptor is needed for the MFC-101. (In fact, you CAN’T and shouldn’t use the power supply and ethernet cable at the same time.) In addition to the ethernet, there is a MIDI In and MIDI Out for use with any Axe-Fx product as well as with other MIDI devices. MIDI alone does not power the MFC-101, but using phantom power over midi, a 7-pin cable can be used to send power to the MFC-101 over the single cable. This port is also used for updating the device.
NOTE – The ethernet port is NOT compatible with anything other than the Axe-Fx II line – even if another amp has an ethernet port, this will not work and could damage either unit, as power could be sent over this cable. It is also not meant to connect to general computer ethernet devices.
The MFC-101 Mark II started shipping in August 2012. The only difference is changing the standard RJ45 connection to a more robust etherCON connector. This has a locking pin, similar to an XLR cable/jack. Standard ethernet cables can still be used with the etherCON jack, or etherCON cables with the XLR-style barrel can be used. (etherCON cables can NOT be used with the Mark I, as it only accepts standard ethernet cables.)
The MFC-101 Mark III was announced in October 2013. The most notable differences are the upgrade to Solid State switches that are “silent” – the Mark I and Mark II have a noticeable “click” feel and sound when the switch is pressed; the Mark III simply makes contact when the switch is pressed, almost silent. Another major difference is the addition of a FASLINK jack, a new, proprietary method of connecting the MFC-101 Mark III with the Axe-Fx II XL (or the Axe-Fx II Mark I and Mark II using FASLINK adaptors, ethernet to XLR). MIDI and etherCON ports are still present.
FASLINK uses a standard XLR cable for connection and bi-directional communication between devices. XLR cables are usually more available in performance situations versus long MIDI and/or ethernet/etherCON cables. So if something should happen to the cable intended for use with the Axe-Fx II and MFC-101, it’s usually easy to find another XLR cable to use. XLR cables of course also have the locking features on each side of the cable for secure connection, and the 3-pin design is less prone to damage versus the many fragile cables in an ethernet/etherCON cable.
The MFC-101 Mark III has a different update file versus the MFC-101 Mark I and Mark II, which share the same update file.