Eventide H8000fw opinions?

Tony Scharf tony.scharf at outlook.com
Tue Sep 20 17:42:39 CEST 2022

As another Axe FX III owner, I have to agree with James on much of this.  My personal standards and level of detail requirements are lower and I use the Axe FX more or less to munge up my modular into unrecognizable goo…so take that into account, but I am very aware, every time I use it, that I am way outside the target market for this device.

There is also one other thing that bothers me:  The arbitrary limiting of how many of certain types of FX blocks you an have.  I realize, again, that I am not the target market for it, and my wish to push things into the realm of the absurd is unusual…but it’s so close.

That said, It is amazing.   I just really wish it had ethernet and AVD capability.   When an Axe FX IV eventually surfaces, I really hope it has that.


From: James R. Coplin<mailto:james at ticalun.net>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2022 10:26 AM
To: Music-bar<mailto:music-bar at lists.music-bar.org>
Subject: Re: Eventide H8000fw opinions?

Thanks to Joost for pointing out this hadn't gone to the list. Which I'm glad about because it was full of early morning typos made worse by the fact that the keyboard on my laptop seems to be failing. In any event, my long winded thoughts on the Axe-FX and other Fractal Audio products below...

The Axe-FX is brilliant at what it does, but what it does is aimed squarely at performing guitarists and not studio work. So, keep this in mind with my criticisms. Fractal Audio has decided and positioned its products for performing guitarists so my complaints/critique are from a perspective of using a piece of gear in a way that Fractal does not really say it is suited for. The Axe-FX is not advertised or marketed as a studio multiFX - and I think the distinction is important as you can't really fail at something you don't claim to do in the first place. Bottom line, the unit is amazing at what it does, but if you want to use it as a more general purpose studio fx, there are fairly significant limitations and problems. Also, we are well into the realm of subjective opinion when it comes to algorithm quality so this is entirely my subjective opinion and may very well not be your experience or opinion which is cool. So here is my long winded take down on the Axe-FX, a unit I love and also want to punch in the face sometimes.

The first immediate problem is IO or lack thereof. The Axe-FX has *8* analog ins and out.  4 stereo sets, each available individually in the signal chain, and you can loop in and out of the unit to your hearts content to incorporate any external pedals etc you have around. That's all well and good on stage with a bunch of pedals, amps, etc. In the studio though, its all about digital IO and this is where the Axe-FX fails pretty miserably. 1 AES or SPDIF in. 1. It is also maxed at 48k sample rates. By comparison, the H8000fw came out in 2005 and had 8 digital ins and outs in AES (both DB25 and XLR connectors), ADAT, S/PDIF, and even Firewire. All except the S/PDIF were up to 96k. The Orville which predates the H8000 by several years at least had 2 AES. The Kurzweil KSP8 of the same era also has 8 digital ins and outs in all flavors. So, not to put to fine a point on it, the Axe-FX digital IO was behind the times 17 years ago and is massively inadequate now. This is especially true given the sheer DSP power of the unit, it leads to real lopsided capability versus accessibility unless you stay in the analog realm. It would be very hard to impossible to utilize all the DSP of it on a single set of digital ins. The short outcome of this is that if you want to keep all your sends digital in the studio, you are going have to use the Axe-FX as a single processor which already severely limits it. Secondly, you are going to have you project at 48k or you are going to need some sort of a converter. The Axe-FX does have a USB interface but I found it insufficient as well. First off, I already have my main interfaces and I don't want to have to run aggregate or ASIO/4All drivers to mix and match. I also found the performance of the USB to be inconsistent and fiddly to work with. All of this is really a shame because a more robust set of digital IO would push this device into more studios. But, to be fair, Fractal has not positioned the Axe-FX as a studio piece so I get it why digital IO isn't a priority. It irritates and saddens me but I get it. This also makes it extremely expensive. It would be cheaper, and more capable, to purchase 2 of Fractal's cheaper FM-3 units so you could at least run 2 stereo chains digitally. You would lose some algorithms, and a good bit of power but would actually be able to utilize more DSP overall than a single digital chain in the Axe-FX 3.

If we look at the quality of the algorithms, its also a bit of a mixed bag. For anything "guitary" - amps, cabs, pedal emulations, etc. it is absolutely, hands down, stunning. Period. I've had the crankiest, purist guitar guys in the studio use it and come away with a changed attitude about digital emulations. I can't praise it enough in this area. Even using the "clean" amps and cabs, a boring synth or wheezy part can sound amazing and alive. I never really understood the big deal about amps and cabs until I had the Axe-FX. I had always used distortion pedals and things for that and so I though distortion was a fairly static effect. It wasn't until the Axe-FX I got to experience the breathing and interaction between volume and frequency and how distortions can move around and live in the signal. It was eye opening. If you want this, and you should, the Fractal products are amazing. If the Axe-FX is out of your budget, the FM-3 is killer and for a synth person should be a must buy. I have an FM-3 on my Rhodes and it is on my playing out rig. The Axe-FX stays in the studio. Seriously though, go get a FM-3. It's the cost of 2 nice pedals and offers way more capability in that price point than anything I can think of. Fractal should make either a single space rack or a smaller format desktop unit of the FM-3 aimed at synth and home studio people. Give it two stereo analog inputs and it would be gold. It has a mono in and a stereo in which is a bit annoying. Should have been 2 stereo but I digress.

Once we leave the guitar realm though, things are decidedly less great. The quality of the algorithms vary, I'd say its on par with my KSP8 but I don't think it's as good as the Eventide or my older Lexicon when it comes to pitch shifting, reverbs, and chorus. And while it emulates lots of classic effects, the emulation of studio versions of those effects are kind of OK at best. The emulations of guitar type verbs especially spring and plates are quite good on the Axe-FX. No real complaints there. The rooms are good to better but not amazing. Once we get to larger verbs, I find they just do not sound particularly good. They are fine, but nothing someone is going to hear and go "wow." There is magic voodoo sauce in the Lexicon and Eventide large verbs. The Lexicon verbs have this amazing "chorus"y undulation and movement that make them magic and Eventide verbs with their superiority in pitch shifting are all about sprinkles, sparkles, and infinite tones. The Axe-FX just isn't there yet and the big space type verbs on it have enough parameters that you think you should be able to get it dialed in but never seem to quite get there. Eventide just dominates pitch shifting so it's really not a knock on the Axe-FX, it is what Eventide does best. Their amps and distortions are largely garbage so there. Chorus is an interesting one. The Axe-FX emulates lots of vintage chorus pedals very well but not studio ones so much. I have or have had lots of studio chorus rack units through the studio and the Axe-FX just doesn't do them very well. It's a fine guitar chorus for that particular famous guitarist you are trying to emulate but not for that studio rack you are going after. Same holds for the delays. You want an emulation of an analog delay pedal? Axe-FX is great. Want to mimic a 2290, SRE-555, AMS Delay, etc? Nope. The tape delays in particular I've been disappointed in from both a sound and parameter quality. I've heard better emulations in the Strymon and Boss pedals than in the Axe-FX. The other area that I would like to have more of is in terms of modulation. The Axe-FX has a decent number of modulators, but they are more designed with a "what knob do I want to turn" perspective than what parameter do I want to modulate perspective. I am often frustrated to find that some parameter isn't available, or that things don't modulate the way you expect. The way random is implemented also is odd which can make it frustrating to add "wiggle" or drift to parameters. Further, the LFO are implemented strangely for time parameters in particular. Time is modulated by the slope of the curve, not the value of the curve. Therefore, you can't use a S&H type LFO to modulate time since the slope of all samples is 0. That's just plain weird. It's things like this throughout the unit that are frustrating. They seem like edge cases but I seem to bump into things like this all the time while programming.

Then we come to my last complaint. Guitar gear knowledge. Because of copyright and trademark, all the emulations in the Axe-FX are code names for the actual pieces. This is fine if you are a guitar wonk and know every pedal and cabinet ever made, but if you aren't, you are going to be frustrated. There is so much in the Axe-FX that just trying to find a basic or general FX you are looking for can be daunting. This is part because of this code naming but also because of the modeling. Say you want a flanger effect, you click on the spot in the chain where you want it and pick flanger. Now you are presented with a list of flangers. You want a Cuda, Scion, Pop, Spirit, Starship, or one of the other 31 or so models? Don't know the implications of those choices? Ok, just pick one and tweak away. Fiddle around with the model and you will soon realize that because it is a model of an actual thing, you get all the capabilities of  the model (at least ideally) but you also get the idiosyncrasies and quirks.  You've been fiddling around for a bunch of minutes on this flanger and now realize this is not what you are going for, and the model won't get you where you are trying to go. Pick another flanger model. Repeat. A day goes by. The depth and accuracy of the Axe-FX models are a double edged sword. If you know you really want that Electro Harmoix Electric Mistress Flanger and therefore also know that it's the Electric Mystery model on the Axe-FX, then all is good. Except, when it isn't. That might not be the flanger soundvyou are looking for and no amount of tweaking the parameters is going to get you where you want to be. Now something like the Eventide etc. has a more general flanger algo that will get you into the area or character of the flange you have in mind but not give you a good emulation of the actual EH Electric Mistress in particular. Sometimes, an emulation isn't what you are going for, but a general effect. It a general vs specific problem and in the studio, I generally find I want general FX solutions (except when I don't ) rather than a particular emulation. This problem exists throughout the Axe-FX because of the guitar focus. It isn't a bad thing necessarily. If you want those specific emulations you are gold. There are times though I just want a phaser, flanger, etc. I don't particularly care which pedal or rack specifically. This is just a personal workflow thing that clashes with the Axe-FX thinking. I can go the KSP8, Fireworx, Lexicon, etc. and get what I'm after pretty easily for that but the Axe-FX makes it less straight forward. Horses for courses and all...

So, all in all, the Axe-FX is amazing for the very particular things it does. Other than a few quibbles about particular models or algos here and there, it is a staggeringly powerful unit. The editor app is fantastic and you will not run out of capability on the Axe-FX unless you are really a super intense FX programmer and need things like VSIG and like to roll your own from scratch (although the AXE-FX has some primitive blocks that do allow you to do that). However, as a general purpose studio FX, it has limitation and problems. Most notably, the digital IO seriously hampers it to the point that it is essentially a stereo FX unit and the price point makes it a very expensive one indeed. If you run your studio sends as analog, this won't be an issue and there is more than enough analog IO for that. 8 ins and outs is plenty. The general algorithms are good to OK but not great. The amp and pedal emulations are great to amazing. It really is an example of a product that has been refined and adapted to its primary user base to high degree. So, if you are not this prime focus user group, there is going to be friction with the unit. Personally, I wish the Axe-FX would get a studio makeover because it could be an amazing studio piece but it definitely would not be a trivial undertaking. Things like the IO are a fairly trivial engineering technical change, but the other issues would require Fractal to engage heavily with a different user base and to rethink how to bridge performing guitarists and studio users for a workflow and user experience perspective through out design and implementation. This would be a fairly substantial undertaking. For most people, the FM-3 would be a nearly perfect fit but it also has minor IO issues. It has a mono and a stereo input. This really should have been two stereo input sets and two stereo output sets so it could be run as 2 stereo chains which would make it an amazing live FX unit. It is a hair under powered to run as two independent stereo units, you def will run out of DSP but not cripplingly so. I've found for most general purpose stuff I've been able to get by on it. I typically have reverb or delay pedals available to augment it so it's been workable. The FM-3 should be in every synth rig though. I can't think of anything more competent in the price range despite my IO and DSP quibbles with it - they are just that quibbles. So, I love what the possibility of the Axe-FX represents which makes my disappointments without so much more sharp as there is so much potential left on the table. It's hard to complain so fiercely about something so great. I have enormous respect for Fractal and the Axe-FX isn't leaving my rig. My complaints are largely from a very particular user and use case which admittedly, Fractal are not trying to fill. That's not a failing on their part. It's not what the Axe-F was intended for. However, it certainly COULD be with changes and therein lies the frustrations and why I'm considering other units to fill in the voids and leave the Ae-F as my stereo amp, cabinet, stomp box chain thing and not use it as my main general multiFX in the studio.


Joost Schuttelaar wrote on 9/20/2022 3:56 AM:

On 20 Sep 2022, at 04:35, James Coplin <james at ticalun.net><mailto:james at ticalun.net> wrote:

As far as the Axe-FX III is concerned, it's brilliant, I have one, and it's not going anywhere thanks to a really great guy on this list Everyone should get one and I'm sure Chicago Tony shares this opinion with me.

I was under the impression that a modern FX like the Axe-FX III does everything the H8000 can do, and more? Modern beefy chips, et al.

Or are there still some secret sauce algorithms out there, that are not covered? It can’t be about patents anymore (like the physical modelling, autotune & FM stuff in the past)...

Matt Picone wrote on 9/18/2022 11:02 AM:

I have a lot of experience with the H8000. I was one of the beta testers during its development. What are you going to do with it?

(Shameless plug: have you checked out the Axe-Fx III?)
On 9/17/22 6:55 PM, James Coplin wrote:
Thinking of selling my Kurzweil KSP8 and replacing it with an Eventide H8000fw. Anyone have first hand knowledge about the H8000fw? It's a bit of a budget stretch and I don't want to get it and then dislike it.


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