Fractal Audio Systems FM3 review (2023)

MusicRadar Verdict

Compact and portable but packing enough functionality to for the gigging musician to use it as an all-in-one rig, the FM3 is another exceptional offering from Fractal. And it's a little more approachable in terms of price, too.

Pros

  • +

    Great sounds quality.

  • +

    Massive variety of amps and effects.

  • +

    Deep editing encouraged.

  • +

    Portable but not cramped.

  • +

    Headphone output and audio interface.

  • +

    Lots of functionality from just three footswitches. Expandable foot-switching.

  • +

    Computer-based editor is easy to use.

Cons

  • -

    Audio recording/playback glitchy at the moment.

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Jump to:

  • What is it?
  • Performance and verdict
  • The web says
  • Hands-on demos
  • Specifications

What is it?

You don't have to speak to too many touring musicians to chance upon one who has based their whole rig on Fractal's Axe-Fx amp modelling and multi-effects technology.

For those musicians, Fractal's tech takes the pain out of loading in and out while placing a comprehensive array of amp models and effects to play with. The convenience is hard to argue with. And yet, if the quality of the digital modelling lags that of the original hardware, the whole concept wouldn't fly.

The big story with Fractal's Axe-Fx suite is how it marries this convenience, with the all mod-cons approach to connectivity and configurability, with quality of sound. It is remarkable, beyond question. But it's not cheap. An Axe-Fx III rackmount unit plus any one of the accompanying FC-6 or FC-12 controllers is too pricy for all but the pros. That's where the FM3 comes in.

It's not quite as powerful as the flagship Axe-Fx III units but it has DSP magic in abundance, with the same same ARES amp modelling technology in place. The connectivity options are typically generous: effects loop, USB, headphone output, expression pedal inputs, FASLINK II port.

The latter is particularly useful, supporting the connection of up to 24 additional footswitches in the form of the FC controller units, while the USB connection allows you to perform deep edits via computer or use the FM3 as an audio interface.

Performance and verdict

Build quality is exceptional, as is the design, with each footswitch featuring a variable-colour LED ring and mini LCD display, allowing for fully customisable tap and hold functions. The FM3 is designed to be giggable, its a heavy duty steel enclosure protected with some very tough rubber end-caps that also stop the unit from slipping underfoot.

(Video) Fractal Audio FM3 Demo // What it is, what it does, and why we love it

Size-wise, it's the same as the FC-6 controller. In terms of layout, it should be very familiar to Axe-Fx users, with the same display and control layout. Like its rackmounted sibling, the FM3 has 512 onboard presets, variations for each.

Presets are constructed from blocks arranged in a 12x4 grid. It is all digital, but it helps to think of it as a physical signal path, in which you connect your effects and patches via virtual cables. The options allow you to split these signal paths, run them in parallel. This is an eminently customisable piece of gear.

Fractal Audio Systems FM3 review (3)

Again, this is like the Axe-Fx experience, though downscaled. There is no vocoder, for instance, but you will find all the essentials. Making do with two Drive blocks and two Delay blocks instead of the four apiece? That's no umbrage.

Dive into the blocks and you will find a wealth of amp model options. There are 269 amp models here, 43 models in the Drive block. You get all the factory cabinet options from the Axe-Fx III and there are 1,024 User Cab slots to save your own.

The blocks themselves have up to four channels. For instance, one Delay block could give you four different delay pedals, or you could arrange the same delay pedal with four different settings. You might have heard people talking about Fractal's Scenes feature – these operate much like presets nested within another preset.

With a maximum of eight per preset, it offers you plenty of scope for fine-tuning a preset; for example, you have a high-gain metal preset, and each Scene can add a different EQ, some modulation or compression... Variations on a theme, which can be very useful when tone hunting, likewise when arranging a set-list, allocating a preset for a set and then cycling through the Scenes for different tracks.

Knowing what's what is easy enough, with the 800x480 colour display readable in low-light or daylight situations alike.

While there are only footswitches, there are plenty of ways to use them. The options can be bamboozling at first, so it pays to be organised. The Tap and Hold functions are configurable by the user and each open up different functions. There are eight different switch layouts that offer a dozen footswitch opens, each performing their own function.

Arranging these footswitches might take some forward planning, but that is no different to the Axe-Fx user experience; it is intuitive, but with options comes that certain responsibility to your sound, finding out what it needs and where to store it on the unit.

Also consider...

Fractal Audio Systems FM3 review (6)

Kemper Stage Profiler
Despite a couple of niggles, the Kemper Stage is an awesome all-in-one floorboard that we’d happily recommend as the core of any digital rig.

Line 6 Helix
The Helix is a real powerhouse that can be used on its own or as the centre piece of an extended gear system.

In terms of sound? Well, you will no doubt have read artist testimonials as to the quality of the tones. But they really are exceptional. With so much to get into, the factory presets are as good a place to start as any.

Some are dead simple – one amp, a little reverb. Others have more complex signal paths, with heavily processed guitars running through an effects arsenal containing but not limited to reverb, delay, compression, EQ, filter, chorus, flanger, phaser, pitch-shift, rotary, tremolo, synth and wah.

You will find all your favourite guitar amplifiers at the touch of a button, with the usual suspects from Marshall, Fender, Vox et al joining more boutique offerings. As for preset building? Well, it's a cinch to put one together, but like anything with Fractal, there is a rabbit hole, and you can go as deep as you like.

At the time of going to press, our only real concern was a little glitching with audio recording and playback but this is being addressed by Fractal via a firmware update. Once that's patched, it's hard to find fault in a design like this. It makes for an awesome self-contained live rig and is so portable. Alternatively, use it as a tooled up multi-effects station and incorporate that with your amp. Either way, it's a very classy unit indeed.

MusicRadar verdict: Compact and portable but packing enough functionality to for the gigging musician to use it as an all-in-one rig, the FM3 is another exceptional offering from Fractal. And it's a little more approachable in terms of price, too.

The web says

"The FM3 is the best opportunity yet to buy into Fractal modelling and is likely to give you all the tones you’ll need for recording, complete with the ability to dive deep and tailor sounds to the nth degree.

"For live work it ticks all the boxes as a compact self-contained ‘fly rig’ that you can just stick in a backpack and run into the PA or FRFR speakers for a fully processed amp/effects/mic’d speaker sound, but it also has the flexibility to slot into a conventional amp and pedals setup as a source of high-class effects."
Guitarist

"Whether you are using the FM3’s USB audio capabilities to get professional guitar tones straight into a laptop, packing it into your carry-on luggage for a European tour, or simply using it as the ultimate headphone amp, this compact and fully featured unit has you covered and then some."
Guitar

(Video) Fractal Audio FM3 - Using it Live - METAL

Hands-on demos

Leon Todd

Ola Englund

Fractal Audio Systems

Specifications

  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Amp and effects modelling floorboard
  • FEATURES: 3-Core ‘Griffin’ DSP with 1x ARM and 2x SHARC+ cores, 4-in/4-out audio interface, tuner, looper, MIDI, 512 preset slots
  • CONTROLS: Level 1, Level 2, 3x footswitches, 5x soft knobs (A, B, C, D, E), Value knob, 4-way cursor, 4x buttons, ground lift switch
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard guitar input, standard stereo phones output, XLR Main outputs (L&R), standard Out 2/FX Send (L&R), standard In 2/ FX Return (L&R), Pedal 1, Pedal 2, FASLINK II, MIDI In, MIDI Out/Thru, USB x 2, S/PDIF digital out
  • POWER: IEC mains supply
  • DIMENSIONS: 281 (w) x 236 (d) x 103mm (h)
  • CONTACT: Fractal Audio Systems

Fractal Audio Systems FM3 review (7)

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(Video) Fractal Audio FM3 - Brief Overview
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FAQs

Does fractal FM3 have a looper? ›

FM3. The FM3 and FM9 allow the onboard switches to be assigned to Looper functionality, or you can assign these to a connected FC controller.

When did the FM3 come out? ›

Enter the FM3, unveiled in April 2019 but only recently available to the European market.

What is a FM3 guitar? ›

The FM3 is a compact all-in-one processor for guitar, bass, and other instruments. It features Fractal Audio's industry-leading Cygnus amp modeling, UltraRes™ speaker cab simulation, plus an incredible collection of legendary stompbox and studio effects, all based on our award-winning flagship the Axe-Fx III.

Where are fractal audio products made? ›

The chassis and some of the boards are made in China. The DSP module is made in Merrimack NH, USA.

What does Ed Sheeran use to loop? ›

Ed Sheeran's looping station is a custom-built board he has dubbed the Chewie II. If you want to replicate his sound, the best option is to use what he used before he had his own unique board, the Boss RC30 looping station.

What guitar looper does Ed Sheeran use? ›

Ed Sheeran's Chewie II Monsta Looper is a lot more than just a loop pedal. It's basically a MIDI footswitch that controls a software plugin called Mobius 2 VST – this is running through Ableton Live.

What is the difference between FM3 and FM9? ›

FM3 has no Vocoder, no Tone Match, no IR Capture, no Real-Time Analyzer, no IR Player, no Crossover, no Dynamic Distortion. FM9 has no Vocoder, no Tone Match, no IR Capture, no Real-Time Analyzer, no IR Player, no Dynamic Distortion. There are less instances of certain blocks on the FM3 and FM9.

What is FM3 and FM2? ›

Foreigners who travel to Mexico on business on a regular basis, or occupy positions in Mexican companies should obtain an “FM3” visa. Permanent residence rights under an “FM2” visa are available to foreigners who have lived at least five years in the country and fulfill the legal requirements.

Does the fm3 take pedals well? ›

Honestly, in my experience, the FM3 takes the pedals better than a solid state amp, but not at the same level of a tube amp. I don't have the same nuances I get with my Mesa Mark V, but it is better than the Marshall MG. I hope it make sense and it may help. Anyway it is not bad.

Who owns Fractal Audio? ›

It's a dream job! It certainly sounds it, how long have you worked with Fractal Audio? Aside from Cliff Chase, the founder of the company, and Danielle Chase, I am the senior employee, having been with the company for about 12 years.

What fractal Does John Mayer use? ›

This was prompted by some nice quotes that he recently provided to Guitar World about having used the Axe-Fx III on his new album Sob Rock. We're honored that he continues to be inspired by the unit! Replaced the static image with a video of a song from the new album where the Axe-Fx was used.

Who is Fractal Audio? ›

Fractal Audio Systems was founded in 2006 to create the revolutionary Axe-Fx line of preamp/effect processors. Guitarists everywhere have since embraced Fractal technology. At Fractal, we are dedicated to quality without compromise in the pursuit of “eXtreme digital technology.”

What loop does Ariana Grande use? ›

Grande utilizes the RC-505 for singing and layering vocals.

What is the easiest looper pedal? ›

The best looper pedal will likely vary depending on what you need from it, however, it's hard to deny the TC Electronic Ditto X2 the top spot. It's easy to use, you can load and save loops via USB, plus there are some really neat effects on board that can inspire another level of creativity.

Why does Ed Sheeran keep changing guitars on stage? ›

Why Does Ed Sheeran Change Guitars? Ed Sheeran regularly changes guitars during a live performance to access different tunings and different guitar tones. Many of his songs use different tunings so he has different guitars set to each tuning needed. Changing guitars keeps the performance running smoothly.

What is the best looper for sound quality? ›

Best looper pedals: Product guide
  1. Boss RC-1 Loop Station. The best looper pedal overall, and an industry standard. ...
  2. TC Electronic Ditto X4 Looper. ...
  3. Boss RC-10R Rhythm Loopstation. ...
  4. TC Electronic Ditto+ ...
  5. Boss RC-500. ...
  6. Electro-Harmonix 720 Stereo Looper. ...
  7. Pigtronix Infinity Looper 3. ...
  8. Hotone Wally Plus.
19 Oct 2022

What pedal did the Beatles use? ›

Other fuzz pedals the Beatles are said to have used include the Vox Tonebender, and a Fuzz Face, during the later, Let It Be era. All those pedals are very basic, harsh effects with no tone control.

Does Ed Sheeran use a 3/4 size guitar? ›

In summary, Ed Sheeran uses 3/4 size guitars, most notably the Martin LX1 series, with which he has a variety of signature models including the new Martin Ed Sheeran Divide Signature Edition Guitar. Sheeran is not just one of the biggest names in music right now - he's also one of the most influential.

What is AXE FX? ›

In the simplest terms, the Axe-Fx II is a rack mountable preamp and effects processor. But that description barely scratches the surface of what this thing does. What makes the Axe-Fx II remarkable is that it's powerful enough to replace a lot of traditional amp/effects/cab setups.

What is an R 02 visa? ›

The R-2 visa is a US temporary visa that authorizes the spouse and unmarried child (below 21 years) of an R-1 visa holder to enter into the United States. The R-2 status holders can stay in the country as long as the R-1 visa holders remain in legal status.

How can I leave Mexico with a temporary residency? ›

If you need to travel outside Mexico while your residency visa application is in process, it is important to apply for permission to leave Mexico at the INM office, or through an Immigration Specialist. It may take up to 7 days to issue a letter of exit/entry permit.

How long can a US permanent resident stay in Mexico? ›

This document is valid 180 days after arrival. Keep in mind that this means you're allowed to stay in Mexico 180 days in Total.

What 5 pedals should every guitarist have? ›

Five Pedals Every Guitarist Should Own
  • TUNER. It doesn't matter how good your tone is; if you're not IN TUNE you're going to sound BAD! ...
  • FULL RANGE OVERDRIVE. You may notice we specified “full range” on this option (think Fulltone OCD or similar). ...
  • 3. “ AMP LIKE” DISTORTION. ...
  • CHORUS. ...
  • DELAY.

What is the easiest multi-effects pedal to use? ›

Factoring in both price and power, our number one choice for the best multi-effects pedal is the Line 6 Helix LT. Blending performance, easy usability, and an impressive array of sounds, it's well worth the investment to help augment, shrink, or replace your existing rig.

What effect pedals does Joe Bonamassa use? ›

Joe Bonamassa's Pedalboard

Juice comes from a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus.

What does a Fractal Audio Processor do? ›

It accurately recreates the sound and feel of tube amps and can “tone match” the sound of your live amp or a recording. It is ideal for both stage and studio use, with heavy-duty construction and a high-quality, low-noise design.

How much does the fractal FM9 cost? ›

Above all, the FM9 was designed "by musicians for musicians" to deliver Fractal Audio's uncompromising signature sound quality, fantastic features, and roadworthy reliability in a highly portable format that musicians are sure to appreciate and enjoy. Direct Price: $1,599.99 - Availability: NOW SHIPPING.

What does an audio interface allow you to do? ›

What does an Audio Interface do? Audio interfaces convert microphone and instrument signals into a format your computer and software recognize. The interface also routes audio from your computer out to your headphones and studio monitors.

Can you plug mic directly into audio interface? ›

To connect a dynamic microphone to your computer, plug an audio interface into your computer, and then use your microphone's XLR cable to connect the mic to the audio interface. Then, go into your computer's settings and change the input to the audio interface.

Is Fractal a good company? ›

Is Fractal a good company to work for? Fractal has an overall rating of 4.0 out of 5, based on over 1,397 reviews left anonymously by employees. 85% of employees would recommend working at Fractal to a friend and 79% have a positive outlook for the business. This rating has been stable over the past 12 months.

Is Fractal an American company? ›

Based in Gothenburg and with offices in the US as well as Taiwan, Fractal Design has gained a global reputation for innovative design, elegant aesthetics and solid build quality. Fractal Design products are available in over 45 countries worldwide, and are still growing.

Is Fractal an Indian company? ›

Fractal Analytics was the second Indian company to enter the Unicorn club in 2022 after raising $360 million from TPG Capital Asia.

What is the most popular fractal? ›

The Mandelbrot set's boundary is the most famous fractal. The set is known for its stunning aesthetic beauty, as well as its deep significance for the study of dynamics and chaos theory. The set is generated from an incredibly simple rule and yet displays infinite depth and complexity.

What is special about fractal? ›

A Fractal is a type of mathematical shape that are infinitely complex. In essence, a Fractal is a pattern that repeats forever, and every part of the Fractal, regardless of how zoomed in, or zoomed out you are, it looks very similar to the whole image. Fractals surround us in so many different aspects of life.

Is heart beat fractal? ›

The cardiovascular system exhibits fractal complexity at every level and systematic analysis has the potential to identify pathological patterns of cardiac 'decomplexification' (such as the loss of heart-rate variability in heart failure) or 'hypercomplexification' (such as the excessive trabeculation in left ...

Which is better Zs or fractal? ›

Fractal Analytics's brand is ranked #- in the list of Global Top 1000 Brands, as rated by customers of Fractal Analytics. Their current valuation is $1.00B. ZS 's brand is ranked #871 in the list of Global Top 1000 Brands, as rated by customers of ZS .

Is fractal better than Zs? ›

ZS Associates scored higher in 3 areas: Compensation & Benefits, Career Opportunities and Positive Business Outlook. Fractal scored higher in 5 areas: Culture & Values, Work-life balance, Senior Management, CEO Approval and Recommend to a friend.

Can I put looper pedal in effects loop? ›

You can also put it in between effects depending on what sound you want it to capture. When it's in your effects loop, you have the flexibility to turn your reverb and modulation effects on/off to affect the overall sound. These days, more and more loopers have stereo potential.

Is there a looper pedal on Spark Amp? ›

There's no looper in Spark. We recommend using 'Smart Jam' if you'd like to jam with yourself! Was this article helpful?

Does the Spark Amp have a built in looper? ›

It's worth noting that the looper function is only available on AIRSTEP and AIRSTEP Lite, the AIRSTEP Spk Edition only controls the Spark Amp, not the Looper App or anything else. The AIRSTEP series is an unprecedented foot controller, which can control almost all music-related devices and software around you.

Is the AXE FX 3 worth it? ›

The Axe FX 3 is still a great modeler and FX processor, and if you have no interest in profiling and you're simply looking for some excellent amp and FX models, it's hard to beat, but it's hard to ignore how much better the sound and feel of Neural Capture profiled amps and FX are than the digitally modeled IRs.

Is it worth using FX loop? ›

An FX Loop is essential an insert point in your amplifier circuit that allows you to insert a piece of gear after the preamp circuit, but before the power amp circuit. Some guitar players are happy to run everything into the front end of the amp, and others prefer to insert certain effects types into the loop.

Do AXE FX 3 presets work on FM3? ›

The FM3 and FM9 cannot import the 3rd and 4th IR in the Cab block of an Axe-Fx III preset. The FM3's Delay block doesn't support diffusion and the 3rd LFO.

What is the easiest looper to use? ›

BEST GUITAR LOOPER PEDALS FOR BEGINNERS
  • ELECTRO HARMONIX NANO LOOPER. The good people at Electro Harmonix have consistently created easy to use guitar pedals that sound amazing. ...
  • BLAXX LOOPER MINI. ...
  • BOSS RC-5 LOOP STATION. ...
  • Mooer MML1 Micro Looper Pedal. ...
  • MXR M303 CLONE LOOPER PEDAL. ...
  • Boss RC300 Loop Station Guitar Pedal.
11 Jan 2017

What do musicians use to loop? ›

Loops can be created using a wide range of music technologies including turntables, digital samplers, looper pedals, synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, tape machines, and delay units, and they can be programmed using computer music software.

What kind of amp did Mark Knopfler use? ›

In contrast to his massive haul of vintage guitars, Knopfler's amps have remained relatively simple. A Fender Vibrolux and a Fender Twin Reverb were the backbone of early albums. Then he had a Mesa/Boogie MkIIB (around 1982) and he later switched to Soldano SL0 100s.

Can you use real pedals with Spark Amp? ›

Using other Pedals with the Amp

You can put any other physical FX pedal in front of the amp if you want to (Wah, Pre-amp, Noise gates, Compressor etc) but there is no FX loop so you can't insert FX after the amp FX in the signal chain.

Is it better to use the effects loop on an amp? ›

Effects loops are very useful if you use the gain from your amplifier with reverb, delay and modulation pedals. If you use a distortion/ overdrive pedal through a clean amplifier, then it's fine for your reverb, delay and modulation effects to go in-front of your amp, as opposed to in an effects loop.

What amp did Clapton use? ›

It is with Fender amps however that Eric Clapton is best associated. And again, over the last five decades, Clapton has played a wide variety of different Fender amps. However the two that have arguably had the greatest impact on his tone are the Fender '57 Custom Twin and the Fender '57 Custom Champ.

What amps did Hendrix use in the studio? ›

Early in his career, Hendrix played Fender and Sunn amps, among others. But in most photos that were taken of him onstage, he is holding a Strat in front of Marshall stacks with Super Lead or JTM45 heads. Let's look a bit closer at the JTM45.

What amps did Creedence Clearwater use? ›

In the days of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty was known to use a Kustom K200A-4 for many of his hit recordings with the band such as Green River.

Videos

1. Fractal FM3 - My Verdict after Gigging with it
(John Nathan Cordy)
2. Axe-Fx III vs. FM9 vs. FM3 - The 5 Big Differences -- Fractal Fridays with Cooper Carter #2
(G66)
3. My First Look & Impression | FRACTAL FM3!!
(Jason Sadites)
4. Fractal Audio FM3: Exploring Exclusive Models & Features!
(Plague Scythe Studios)
5. Fractal Audio FM3: Demo & Review (with both rock and jazz tones!)
(Leo Gibson)
6. Neural DSP Quad Cortex vs Fractal Audio FM3 (with extensive sound and feel test)!
(Leo Gibson)
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