Korg's AX1500G floor-standing guitar multi-effects processor offers tons of tone for very few pounds.
The AX1500G is Korg's latest Toneworks effects processor. The feature list is impressive and its price puts it in direct competition with other similar units from Boss (ME33), Zoom (GFX4 and GFX8) and Digitech (RP300), as well as with the dedicated amp modellers.
It provides a combination of guitar amplifier and speaker modelling, plus a range of digital effects. The unit features 48 preset programs and a further 48 user programs, organised into banks of three. Each program is built from five effects blocks; Drive-amp, Cabinet, Modulation, Pedal and Ambience. The Drive-amp and Cabinet blocks have two channels which can have individual settings, but the last three blocks are single-channel and so share settings.
The AX1500G is housed in a sturdy metal case measuring approximately 43 x 18 x 6cm. Five footswitches dominate the front panel and an expression pedal fills the right-hand side. To the left of the expression pedal is an LCD panel, with a single-character LED display for the program number and two groups of four buttons used for configuration and editing functions. The remainder of the surface contains five retro-styled rotary switches, five large buttons and five conventional knobs. This section is where the majority of the sound editing gets done. LEDs are associated with many of the controls and provide very useful feedback on key settings.
The rear panel of the AX1500G is a fairly simple affair. Included are a quarter-inch jack guitar input, a left (mono) and right pair of quarter-inch jack outputs, a stereo mini-jack as an auxiliary input and another for the stereo headphone socket. There is no digital or MIDI I/O. The rear panel also houses the power socket for the supplied wall wart.
The AX1500G can operate in three modes; Play, Individual and Phrase Trainer. In the first two modes, the footswitches operate in different ways, primarily to give maximum flexibility in a live context. Phrase Trainer mode allows a musical phrase to be recorded via the rear-panel auxiliary input and then looped at various tempos as a practice tool. The footswitches are fairly small and quite close together, so if you wear size-12 hobnailed boots then you might struggle when it comes to patch selection at a gig!
Eleven related effects types are available within each of the five effects blocks. Both the Drive-Amp and Cabinet models cover similar ground to modelling units such as the Line 6 Pod, although the 11 models in each block mean there's slightly little less choice. The model names give a clear idea of what is intended, and there is also an acoustic model that will give an electric guitar some acoustic overtones. The Cabinet block provides a selection from 1x8 to 4x12.
The Modulation block covers the expected chorus, flanger and phaser territory. Also included are Octave, Auto Wah and Filtron effects, the last an extreme wah-wah process. The Pedal effects block includes functions for the expression pedal, but also gives access to the unit's sample-and-play options, where a phrase can be recorded and then replayed in various ways. Finally, the Ambience block includes a range of reverb and delay types.
In designing the program editing process, Korg have tried to keep things as simple as possible. Either turning one of the chicken-head knobs or pressing the large button immediately beneath it, selects that effects block for editing. The functions of the five standard control knobs then change depending upon the effects block chosen. For example, for the Drive-Amp block, these knobs control drive, output level, and treble, mid and bass EQ. Not all knobs are operational for each possible effect within each block, but the LEDs next to the knobs indicate which are active. A maximum of five editable parameters per effect might suggest a lack of flexibility, but the parameters chosen are very sensible and it does ensure editing is all very intuitive and user-friendly. The LCD provides feedback on the parameter being edited and the value set.
The presets demonstrate the variety of tones available from the AX1500G, although rock styles do predominate. With many of the presets, I found myself having to take some top end out to warm things up, but this will depend on the guitar used.
The cleaner programs (such as the Police-inspired 'Summer') were all based upon the Classic Comp amp model. For the Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach tones, the US Hi-gain model (as used in the '7-Stgtr' program) worked well. For something a little warmer and less overdriven, both the Tube OD and Top Boost models were effective (the 'Beetle' program, for example). With the effects turned off, a direct comparison between the modelling capabilities of the Korg and my own Pod v2 proved interesting. For overdriven tones, the Korg had a slight edge when clinically clean and super-compressed rhythms were required. Where the Korg perhaps didn't quite match the Pod was in those in-between tones. The smaller choice of amp models meant that the Korg had a little less flexibility in this area. In addition, the Drive control on the Korg did not seem to produce such a smooth transition between clean and overdriven tones as the Line 6 unit.
Given the price of this unit and the range of functions on offer, the quality of the effects is excellent. The treatments also represent a good balance between the bread-and-butter treatments and more extreme processes.
There is no doubt that this unit represents excellent value for money. If you want something for use just in the studio then, of course, the competition is pretty stiff. For example, the Behringer V-Amp and Johnson J Station are both being advertised in the UK in a similar price bracket. However, the AX1500G can certainly hold its own, given its rugged construction, ease of use, and considerable processing punch.
- Good range of sounds at a modest price.
- Solid construction and very simple to use.
- Small size of unit means footswitches are quite close together.
- Fewer rock presets might broaden the appeal during a quick shop demo.
An excellent all-rounder for both live and studio use which represents good value for money.