Hands-On Review:ToneWorks AX3000G
Putting the power of Korg REMS modeling at your feet
By Brad Squiers
The AX3000G is a powerhouse floor pedal processor that gives you state-of-the-art amp, cab, and effects models in a live-performance-friendly format. Having had the chance to put the AX3000G through its paces, I found it to be a killer unit. It is a perfect tool for the guitarist who wants to record great-sounding tracks, especially in a home studio setting, and it has the operational ease that makes it perfect for live gig use.
The first thing I did with the unit was choose the right output mode. Because different amps have different effects on your sound, the AX3000G lets you select an output optimized for either an open-back U.S. combo, open-back British combo, or a closed-back stack. Since I was playing a Canadian-made combo, I chose a fourth setting for line output. This is an output for direct recording or for plugging into the power-amp input of any combo. I plugged into the effects return and was ready to go.
Tones for the choosing
The AX3000G comes with 96 ready-made presets that quickly give you a taste of its range and possibilities. I spent an hour just clicking through them. The presets give you plenty to work with as is-everything from 16 stages of drive to monster hi-gain sounds to amplified acoustics. All of the presets can be modified extensively by tweaking parameters, or you can just switch off effects used in the preset or switch on a new effect to modify their sound instantly.
Overall there are 72 amp, cab, and effects models to play with (11 amps, 16 cabs, 11 classic pedals, 11 delays, 11 modulation effects, 11 types of reverbs, and noise reduction), plus 96 memory locations for storing your modified or self-constructed presets. The effects are excellent in quality, and in addition to all the standard stuff, there are some pretty wild Korg creations that are unlike anything you normally hear.
Play it like an instrument
The expression pedal can be used in all the usual ways for volume and wah; but it can also be used for almost every parameter of every effect to vary it in real time. Choose an echo effect or a flanger, for example, and assign its "manual" parameter to the pedal, then you can use the pedal to vary the sweep of the flanger or the timing of the echo while you play. You can use the pedal to control the length of reverberation or the speed of a chorus, flanger, or phaser, and this dynamic use of an effect can transform normal solos into solos that bring down the house. In a sense, you play the AX3000G as if it were an instrument.
The AX3000G gives you another way to vary effects while you're playing. It's called the Expression Step Sequencer (ESS). It will automatically change parameters in either a fixed or random way. You program up to eight different values for an effect parameter and choose one of seven play modes including forward, backward, alternate 1/2, random, alternate 1/2 (one shot), or forward (one shot). When you trigger the ESS, it goes through change steps in the mode you have chosen. You can control the speed at which the changes take place, either with the expression pedal or the control switch. You can also choose the "smooth" setting to specify how smoothly the steps change. The ESS can give solos an added tonal richness and texture, and you can use it with pitch shift to create trills and synth-like arpeggios from one played note.
Some devices that are this sophisticated are also difficult to program and operate. The AX3000G isn't. The amp and effects are selected with rotary knobs. The gain, volume, and EQ knobs also serve a number of other purposes when you are programming various effects, but the functions for each effect are listed above and below the knobs so you always know what you are doing without referring to a manual.
The AX3000G is also designed for easy stage use. The display is big, bright, and easy to read. The footswitches for turning effects on and off are labeled and have LEDs that light up when an effect is activated. A program footswitch performs numerous functions on the fly. For instance, it can be used to switch an effects block on or off or trigger the ESS.
Another onstage amenity is an easy-to-read tuner that automatically appears whenever you mute the AX3000G. There's also a little feature I especially like: the lock. With the key lock on, the knobs and buttons won't change, even when some joker reaches onto the stage and gives them a twist.
Hearing is believing
The AX3000G sounds are fantastic, and if you consider the unit's modest price tag, the sounds are amazingly fantastic. It features Korg's advanced REMS modeling technology, so the sounds have depth and complexity. The amp models are convincingly real and the effects are top quality-including the reverbs where lesser effects units fail.
I give the AX3000G a thumbs-up on all counts. It is designed for smooth onstage performance. It is a powerful studio tool. lt has more ways of altering the sound in real time than any other similar unit. It can be played immediately without any tweaking, but it offers deep editing to the tone freak who wants things just right. It makes operation easy with labeled controls, and includes software for editing and archiving on computer. It receives and transmits MIDI messages to control other devices. It has S/PDIF digital output for direct recording to a computer or digital recorder. It gives you all the great amps and effects sounds you could ever wish for, and it does all this for a relatively easy price. Besides all that, it's a lot of fun.
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