It's a surprisingly light unit. Looks really cool too, and with the front handles it's really easy to install in a rack top-down. I have yet to install it in any rack just yet, but I had a lot of fun with it this afternoon plugged through my 2:90 and 4x12 cab.
One important lesson I learned quickly, keep the poweramp sim on, even if you're running through a power amp. It just sounds more real that way. Otherwise it's way too sterile. Cab sims off though, for now.
The amp modeler:
I tried out a bunch of these and wound up gravitating towards the TriAxis and Rectifer models (of course), but over time I'll get more used to the Engl and Fryette models. Right now I can't get them to sound good just yet, but I'll keep experimenting.
One thing I found really cool is that it really does model the amplifier and how it reacts to low, mid, high, etc. For example, on the Triaxis model, killing the bass, turning down the mids and the treble up to about 6 or 7 with the graphic EQ on in a Mark-esque V sounds about 90% of the way there to my old Triaxis sound (seriously, no shit!). The retifier sounds sound good with the bass about 3 and the mid and treble up a bit, with the gain about 7 or so, much like the real amp heads. The Triaxis knobs and EQ did not work well with the rectifier sounds, and vice versa. That's great IMO. it shows really diverse emulation of the different preamps.
Now the question everyone wants answered... Does it sound like a tube amp? My simple answer? No. But it's really close. Closer than you might think. It's a better solid state sound than any Rocktron unit I've played, but it's not up to Mesa quality at the preamp level. It is really close though, and the only noticeable difference IMO is the high end presence area, which holds the tell-tale solid state buzzyness.
It's 90% there. Really. It sounds really good, but if I were judging just preamps, I'd take the real Triaxis over the emulation every time. This however is not just a preamp, so it's other qualities make it a sure-fire winner IMO. I still haven't dug into the "advanced" settings for the amp models yet, so I reserve the right to change my mind on this too
Now I'm not talking about the cleans at all, those sound absolutely phenomenal, and are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
Now the effects:
absolutely 100% top notch. This kills every TC and Eventide unit I've ever had the honor of playing. The reverb KILLS the reverb on the G-Force, and I loved that reverb. The "Crystal" effects you can add to reverbs and delays are truly awesome and you have to hear them. I must record some clips for you guys. The pitch shifting is great because you can throw it before the preamp stage and with many of the effects you can run multiple instances. The choruses, phaser, flanger, and EQ are all fantastic and I can't say enough about how wonderful this unit is in the effects department. Bottom line, if you haven't played an Axe FX, you haven't played the best in the guitar effects business.
The arpeggiator is a ton of fun too, especially the Vai-like patches and the one called "Lazy guy's arpeggiator" where you play one note and it runs a full major/minor arpeggio for you awesome!
Want to have some real fun, run the arpeggiator after a delay and before a reverb. Wow that's a cool sound.
I have not had a chance to try out the cabinet emulators, but I will shortly. Just judging by the controls on them, they look really powerful and I'm sure they're top notch as well, but i will get to judging that part of the unit more this weekend.
It's the G-Force interface, taken to the next level. The Fractal Audio guys have obviously used the TC gear before, as the interface is nearly a 1:1 re-creation of the TC interface. I love it. It's got the 4 routing lines, and it's really easy to cross, mix, and move effect blocks around. Saving and recalling is super easy as well, and the only time I had to crack the manual out to solve something was when I couldn't figure out how to turn the "bright" switch off on the amp model.
So bottom line, the interface is the TC G-Force interface, made more user-friendly, more powerful, and overall more intuitive.
Overall I'm really impressed with this unit. In a perfect world I'd run a Triaxis with it and have it all, but being as I'm also a big fan of great solid state tones I'm really happy with this unit as the centerpoint of my rig and sound for the foreseeable future.
This is just my first impression of the unit after spending about 6 hours with it this afternoon. I'm sure there will be a ton more to come when I have more time!
obligatory grainy cell phone pic:
Oh and I want to agree with Shannon's assessment too, the Fractal guys are definitely big Van Halen fans as there are about 5-10 Eddie presets to start with. They're all top notch and absolutely nail the "brown" sound.