Properly Monitoring the Kemper via Headphones

  • Hey guys,


    I have problems to properly monitor my Kemper via Headphones and need some help here.


    I'm using a Focusrite 2i2 for quite some time now and im sending my kemper into it and from there
    to my Studio Monitors. This works good so far. The problems start with my headphones. I'm using high
    impedance headphones with 250 ohm. The 2i2 has no chance in driving them properly. Its bus powered
    so its clear where the problem is coming from.


    Today i tried a way more expensive audio interface from Presonus with the hope that this would solve my
    issue. But that was a big NO.
    The headphone amps on the Presonus are way more powerfull so they get pretty loud but at the same time
    they still sound absolutely shit. Sorry but this is not acceptable in such price range.


    I tried the Presonus 1824 to be even clearer here.


    Compared to the build in headphone amp of the Kemper the ones on the Presonus are complete garbage.


    So what is this ? What is the magic behind the Kempers headphone output ? Why does it sound so
    absolutely genius while other audio interfaces can only disappoint in that regard ?


    I taught spending more Money on an Interface would provide more quality but thats just not true.


    I want to be able to monitor the Kemper directly from an interface in the same quality as i'm getting from the
    Kemper itself.


    Can you tell me what way to go from here ? The monitoring with my Studio Monitors works ok with the 2i2
    so far but my Beyerdynamic Headphones make totally clear what i'm missing in quality when not using the
    Kempers Headphone Output.

  • maybe space parameter, under output there is an one called "space" can be added to headphones only if you want and it is to give a little reverb feeling that helps indeed to add the "space" over the headphone


    i played sometimes in my headphone 250ohms like yours and sounds ok for some profiles and not for others, fact is that over headphones sounds like if monitor cab is off, i think that is because headphones are real FRFR so they can sound more complete and different than regular studio monitors


    i personally only enjoy my kemper properly when played over 12 inches speakers (stereo in fact) then it rules


    but my recordings and studies over headphones and studio monitors are sounding very good too...

  • You could always grab yourself a cheap little headphone amp, that should do the trick. It seems the 2i2's are inherently weak on the headphone side of it.

    Sorry but cheap is the last option i wanna take into consideration.
    I just got myself a 500€ interface with pretty loud headphone amps but thats basically all. They are loud but sound complete garbage.
    I need a unit that sounds at least as good as the on in the kemper.


  • Ok i kinda have to correct myself.


    I just sat down and try to figure out why the headphone out of the Kemper sounded to much more appealing then the one
    on the interface. the space parameter you mentioned is indeed a factor but not the actual problem here.


    If i turn off any modulation or Reverb/delay in my rig they both sound the same so not the problem with the interface.
    Its more the Problem that the Kemper sending you whole effects chain way more direct and louder on the headphone out
    than on the spdif out...


    Why is that ? how can i correct the level of intensity of reverb and delay on the outputs of the kemper ?

  • What kind of S/pdif cables are you using? If you take the main outs from the KPA to your interface are you still getting poor sound?


    It doesn't seem to me that the interfaces are the problem. I've had good results with even a budget interface.

  • What kind of S/pdif cables are you using? If you take the main outs from the KPA to your interface are you still getting poor sound?


    It doesn't seem to me that the interfaces are the problem. I've had good results with even a budget interface.

    Its hard to tell what causes the problem.
    If i dial back my effects chain an go with pure amp sounds both units sound very similar thats ok for me.
    But if i use the full effects chain the Kemper Headphone out is way better and direct in terms of presenting the effects.
    And if i have to much gain in the rig or it goes to loud the Headphone out on the Presonus tends to distort the sound.
    Its not clipping cuz the input meter is at half not even close to clipping. Its more the Headphone amp that starts to
    distort the sound with is pretty nasty.


    So the Presonus has definitely its flaws but the Kemper isn't representing correctly and i can't find the reason the effects
    are represented different on the headphone out compared to the spdif out or the main out.

  • Regarding the representation of effects: Both, delay and reverb inside the Kemper, are stereo effects. The headphone out of the Kemper is stereo as well. Those stereo effects sound much better and more audible when monitored in stereo. Therefore I could imgane that maybe you're not monitoring in stereo via your interface. Check the settings of your interface as well as the output settings of the Kemper.

    I could have farted and it would have sounded good! (Brian Johnson)

  • As Michael_dk said, the SPDIF out could well be the problem. It needs to be set to "Master Stereo" on page1/7 of the Output menu.


    If that is set correctly, check the settings in the Focusrite interface.Also, check the settings. I'm using an old Saffire which is configured via the Mix Control interface. Make sure that isn't set to mono on the channels that the Kemper is going through and/or the main outs.


    Finally, if you are running through a DAW like Logic etc make sure you haven't set something to mono accidentally in the DAW itself.

  • As Michael_dk said, the SPDIF out could well be the problem. It needs to be set to "Master Stereo" on page1/7 of the Output menu.


    If that is set correctly, check the settings in the Focusrite interface.Also, check the settings. I'm using an old Saffire which is configured via the Mix Control interface. Make sure that isn't set to mono on the channels that the Kemper is going through and/or the main outs.


    Finally, if you are running through a DAW like Logic etc make sure you haven't set something to mono accidentally in the DAW itself.

    All good points here :-)

  • Hi guys thanks for the interest in helping me out here ;) Thumbs up for you folks.

    What ‘source’ is the spdif out on the kemper set to? Please double check (in output/master menu)

    Hi all my output channels are set to Master Stereo. I already triple checked all output parameters.

    Regarding the representation of effects: Both, delay and reverb inside the Kemper, are stereo effects. The headphone out of the Kemper is stereo as well. Those stereo effects sound much better and more audible when monitored in stereo. Therefore I could imgane that maybe you're not monitoring in stereo via your interface. Check the settings of your interface as well as the output settings of the Kemper.

    Hi I already tried three different ways to monitor the Kemper through the Presonus.
    First via Spdif which is giving me pretty nasty performance in the DAW due to the fact that there are periodically apearing artifacts while monitoring or recording.
    Second via XLR on Master Output which is giving me a stable signal but with the described representation of the effects chain.
    Third and this one might be a bit weired I send the Stereo Headphone output split to to Line Input channels of the presonus.


    So I take care to send every output of the Kemper in Stereo and spliting them in the Presonus to discrete channels to i can pan them and monitor left and right channel isolated
    and in the mix.


    What i found out is that the representation of the Headphone output is different only when I plug in my Headphones directly into the Kemper.


    So basically


    KEMPER FRONT HEADPHONE OUTPUT -> HEADPHONES (BEYERDYNAMIC 250 ohm) sounds absolutely amazing


    KEMPER FRONT HEADPHONE OUTPUT -> STEREO SPLIT TO PRESONUS LINE INPUT 1/2 -> HEADPHONE OUPUT PRESONUS (same headphones) sound way less appealing


    Its like there is so much from the reverb / delay effects missing it just sounds wider directly from Kemper to Headphones.


    So i guess there is definitely something missing in the signal spectrum but it might be the headphone amp.


    Can someone explain from his/her own experience what happens if the headphone amp isn't specifically designed to drive high impedance headphones ?


    Maybe thats the reason I'm missing so much from the orignial Signal due to the fact that the Presonus Headphone output just simply can't run the 250 ohm headphones.


    From the Presonus specs:


    Headphone Outputs

    Maximum Power 150 mW/channel (60Ω load)
    Frequency Response 20 Hz - 20 kHz (unity gain)
    Dynamic Range 103 dB (A-weighted, 1 kHz, unity gain)
    THD + N 0.250% (1 kHz, 150 mW, unity gain)
    Impedance Working Range 32Ω to 600Ω


    So the interface can definitely handle the 250ohm headphones but is there another limiting factor ?

    As Michael_dk said, the SPDIF out could well be the problem. It needs to be set to "Master Stereo" on page1/7 of the Output menu.


    If that is set correctly, check the settings in the Focusrite interface.Also, check the settings. I'm using an old Saffire which is configured via the Mix Control interface. Make sure that isn't set to mono on the channels that the Kemper is going through and/or the main outs.


    Finally, if you are running through a DAW like Logic etc make sure you haven't set something to mono accidentally in the DAW itself.


    Hey, as said before i made sure that im running on Master Stereo on every output im sending to the Interface and I ran them in both linked stereo channels
    and discrete left/right channels and sent them to an output mix.


    I need to figure out whether the problem lies in the stereo splitting or the headphone amp not being capable of driving the headphones properly.
    See description above.

  • Ok, first: When monitoring/recording via SPDIF make sure that the KPA is master and interface is slave, choose matching sample rate on each unit and set both devices to 24 bit. Try to lower/raise the buffer size of your interface to get rid of artifacts, clicks and whatever noise. Second: Maybe there's no need for splitting channels as most interfaces and DAWs offer stereo channels by grouping two channels.


    Regarding XLR: On some interfaces mic preamps are automatically engaged when seeing XLR on the inputs. Your signal can be too hot then.


    I'm far from being an expert in this regard so I hope I'm not too wrong with what I've written.

    I could have farted and it would have sounded good! (Brian Johnson)

  • Ok, first: When monitoring/recording via SPDIF make sure that the KPA is master and interface is slave, choose matching sample rate on each unit and set both devices to 24 bit. Try to lower/raise the buffer size of your interface to get rid of artifacts, clicks and whatever noise. Second: Maybe there's no need for splitting channels as most interfaces and DAWs offer stereo channels by grouping two channels.


    Regarding XLR: On some interfaces mic preamps are automatically engaged when seeing XLR on the inputs. Your signal can be too hot then.


    I'm far from being an expert in this regard so I hope I'm not too wrong with what I've written.

    I will take a look at the spdif and the matching of the devices didn't knew that.


    On the presonus you can turn on phantom power and switch from instrument to line level.


    I guess i would need a referenz amp for the headphones to see were the problem starts to screw up the sound.
    Don't get me wrong it sound still good on the interface but there is this last 5% of the sound missing that makes a huge difference for me.

  • Not sure if switching from line to instrument level avoids that mic preamps are engaged when seeing XLR at the input. Keep away your fingers from phantom power, it's only for certain microphones.


    All in all I think that it's a setting thing.

    I could have farted and it would have sounded good! (Brian Johnson)

  • Not sure if switching from line to instrument level avoids that mic preamps are engaged when seeing XLR at the input. Keep away your fingers from phantom power, it's only for certain microphones.


    All in all I think that it's a setting thing.

    Might be possible i have the feeling i don't know shit how to operate the kemper properly ^^

  • I’ll go and check in a moment and report back.


    I have Kemper, Focusrite Safire (pretty standard headphone amp) and an old Mackie 8 bus mixer which is designed for hi impedence headphones. Although not great cans for moniting i havea couple of pairs of DT100 which are either 250ohm or 600 ohm versions so should at least be able to tell what difference the amp/impedence match makes.

  • I’ll go and check in a moment and report back.


    I have Kemper, Focusrite Safire (pretty standard headphone amp) and an old Mackie 8 bus mixer which is designed for hi impedence headphones. Although not great cans for moniting i havea couple of pairs of DT100 which are either 250ohm or 600 ohm versions so should at least be able to tell what difference the amp/impedence match makes.

    That would be very interesting. Please test the Kempers headphone amp how it drives the different impedance headphones and compare them to the Mackie

  • OK, just done a short very unscientific test with the three headphone amps mentioned. I used a set of 250ohm DT100, 38ohm ATH-M50X and 22ohm Shure SE425 for comparison


    The first thing I noticed is that the "space>HeadphoneOnly" feature on Output Menu Page 5 makes a significant difference at anything other than minimal values. If this is ticked then the signal going to the KPA headphones will clearly sound different than that being sent to the SPDIF or XLR Main outputs. I set it to 0 and unticked the box to take that out the equation completely. I also sent both SPDIF and Main XLR outputs for completeness. I didn't notice any clear difference between the XLR and SPDIF signals.


    The most obvious finding is that the Kemper has a pretty powerful headphone amp. Which becomes even more noticeable with higher impedence headphones.


    Using D100, the Focusrite at full volume was only a fraction of the level of the KPA. I had to turn the KPA down to between -6 and -8db to get a fairly similar volume. The two did sound slightly different. To me the KPA sounded a little fuller and smoother but it was fairly subtle. With the Mackie I could drive the headphones even harder than the KPA but nothing close to destruction. Again, there was a slightly different sound quality (in fact I think even though the Mackie is designed specifically for high impedence phones, the sound was noticeably harsher than the other two).


    It is almost impossible to accurately match the level of all three exactly so some if not all of any difference in sound quality might simply be the slight differences in volume; I can't say for sure. Our ears can often interpret imperceptible differences in level (a fraction of 1db louder) as being better or fuller even though we don't think it is actually any louder. It is entirely possible that is all that I was hearing.


    With M50X all three amps were able to drive them to a reasonable level. I still had to turn the KPA down to get close to matching the Focusrite at full blast but the difference was probably a little less than with the DT100. The Mackie was capable of pushing much louder and even overloading the headphones with the lower impedence of the M50X. In this case I thought the sound difference between headphones was pretty much negligible and again may just be a slight difference in volume.


    When I switched to SE425 the KPA was able to go almost painfully loud. Focusrite was still quieter but also pretty loud. The Mackie was in danger of making the SE425 explode at way below maximum output. Again in the is example any sound differences appeared minimal other than the obvious differences in volume.


    In summary, I think there might have been a slight difference in sound quality with high impedence headphones where the KPA sounded better than the Focusrite interface. However, it could just be confirmation bias. In either case any difference was small enough that it wouldn't bother me either way and I would be happy to use either KPA or Focusrite. I would also be happy to use the Mackie with any of the headphone but with caution for lower impedence sets as they can get dangerously loud. Any differences is no where near as extreme as when I tried the DT100 with the headphone out of my Mesa Boogie Mark V:25. In that case the amp couldn't really drive a decent signal level at all. However, with the M50X it was plenty loud enough.


    Not sure if any of that helps or not ;-)