The battle to create the ultimate floor-based amp modeller and multi-effects processor just got a lot more intense with DSP heavyweights Fractal releasing the FM9.
Utilising the same audiophile signal path design as the rackmounted Axe-Fx III units, the FM9 uses a quartet of DSP cores to power the latest evolutionary step in its modelling technology, Cygnus.
Cygnus expands upon Fractal's SpectrumTrack technology, making its amp models even more realistic across all input levels, with particular attention paid to guitar amps with cascaded gain stages. “The result,“ says Fractal, “is truer and more dynamic 'voicing,' remarkable touch sensitivity, and exceptionally satisfying 'chugs.'“ Truly, a sentence to unite the blues-rock analogue tone chaser and the heavy metal extremist in celebration.
The FM9 arranges its amps into two blocks, with each having four channels capable of running any from over 280 vintage, modern, and original amp models. This vulgar display of amp modelling power is complemented by Fractal's UltraRes IR speaker cab sim tech, plus an eye-watering array of effects pedals and studio effects, and the capacity to expand the unit's functionality with FC footswitching.
The FM9 has the exact same Ultra-Res cab sim features as the Axe-Fx III, and is loaded with 2,200 factory cabinets with the space to upload a further user-created or third-party 1,024 Impulse Responses.
Effects pedals? There's heaps of them, with over 57 overdrive pedals alone, over 50 reverb pedals, dozens of delay pedals, a cornucopia of chorus pedals, all flavours of modulation, tremolo, compressors, wah pedals, EQ and filter options, plus a two-minute looper, rotary, synth, and “plex” effects including shimmer.
Those looking for a powerful pitch-shifting engine will not be disappointed. Fractal promises an “entire suite“ of effects, with detune, harmonising and virtual capo options.
Needless to say, there is an abundance of modern functionality baked into the FM9's design and all kinds of connection options, including Fractal's "secret sauce" 1/4-inch input which offers exceptional signal-to-noise performance.
You can run the unit pre- or post- or via the four-cable method, and its main stereo output has both balanced XLR and 1/4” outputs – either or both of which can be used as aux outs or sends – and there is a headphones jack for silent practice or monitoring.
Fractal's Humbusting tech is used on all 1/4" outputs, and in terms of digital connections you have a 48k SPDIF in and out, plus 5-pin MIDI In and Out/Thru. Hook up an external expression pedal via one of three onboard jacks. You can aslo use the FM9 as a high-quality USB audio interface – it has 8-channel recording and 8-channel playback capabilities.
Those who have played Fractal's FM3 amp modeller and multi-effects unit will find the unit's design familiar; the FM9 has the same road-worthy enclosure and vari-color LED ring footswitches and mini LCD display. Footswitches can be used as tap and hold functions and as with all Fractal products, this setup is wholly customisable, with deep edits made easy with the accompanying desktop software.
Can the FM9 unseat the Neural DSP Quad Cortex as this year's must-have amp modeller? Well, the gauntlet has been thrown. The Fractal FM9 is shipping now, priced $1,599. See Fractal Audio for more details.