Kemper vs Axe FX: Why don't I see anyone *creating* music with the Kemper? Is it exclusively intended as a device for performances?

  • Hey guys, I am strictly a bedroom guitarist at the moment and I have been trying to decide between the Kemper and the Axe FX II. I play guitar daily for extended periods of time and the tone matters to me a lot (it puts me in a really bad mood if my guitar doesn't sound good for whatever reason that day X/ ) so I am fine with shelling out a good bit of money for an amp. I have a set of M-Audio studio monitors that I play through that sound pretty good. It seems to me that all professional musicians I have seen using the Kemper Profiler use it exclusively in a live setting, as opposed to in a home audio setup. Conversely, I have seen many prominent guitarists such as Misha Mansoor and Sithu Aye using Axe FX rigs in their home audio setups (and I believe Sithu uses it to record the guitars for all his albums).

    I actually bought a Kemper a while back from August Burns Red's guitarist Brent Rambler so I had access to really good rigs and tones that I did enjoy at the time, but I started to regret the financial hit from the purchase and I sold the Kemper shortly after buying it. Point being that I still have access to all of those tones via backup if I wanted to go the Kemper route. Then again, I saw ABR live a few weeks ago at Warped Tour and I noted that their lead guitar (played by JB Brubaker through an Axe FX) actually sounded way better than Brent's which is going through a Kemper! Brent would be playing breakdown rhythms and JB would be doing leads and then as soon as JB came into play the breakdown and the guitars synced the mix sounded so much better, which made me reconsider buying a Kemper again even if I have Brent's tones. This experience also made me think about why the rhythm guitarist would be using the Kemper and the lead guitarist would use the Axe FX... rhythm guitar is LAME... jkjk.

    I am now in a more comfortable financial situation and I am trying to decide between these systems, or to go with something much less expensive like the JST Toneforge Misha Mansoor audio plugin.

    If anyone can shed some light on the distinction between the purposes of each respective device and which route I should take given my personal situation it would be much appreciated!!!

    Thanks :)

  • Hi there,

    I can certainly relate to the dilemma of making a serious financial commitment to a platform one has not exhaustively explored beforehand (gear hands-on experience completely unattainable where I reside). At this point, we both can only make conjunctures about the platforms. Myself, I am debating between the KPA and the Helix; at this point I've ruled out the FX III based on practical considerations (sounds great, though).

    As a side note, I would caution anyone from making generalizations. Good tone in objective terms does not really exist - there is no absolute reference model for it (but certainly, there are good guidelines how to craft one!). When we listen to our favourite recordings, or the artists whom we idolize, it is not that uncommon to hear subpar guitar tone, yet the music is what shines through. What I am reading from your description is that you prefer the lead guitarist's tone, and it so happens that he utilizes the FX III; thus the latter has more appeal to you - I get it.

    Now, the ultimate question is how you intend to use the gear. Will you require portability? Are you comfortable spending minutes (hours) creating patches that you would consider record-level quality? To share my experience, not that long ago I bought a GT-1000 by BOSS. I tinkered with it (I like that), loved the form factor, as well as the overall tone, but eventually ended up returning it. Reason? It was consuming too much time from my playing/practice routines - that can add up to serious hours per month when you like to alter the settings. In this sense, the Kemper may feel a better proposition than any modelling gear in general (feels and looks like an amp). Finally, will you require hundreds of guitar amp models/cabs to experiment with? Will you be utilizing a guitar cab, or an FRFR? The list goes on, and on, I know.

    Realistically speaking, with the right amount of experience you'll be comfortable to dial in great tone and make cool patches with either platform. What I would personally consider in the decision-making process is the user interface (vital for efficient patch creation), ease of re-amping (recording), and routing options.

    Good luck!


    When it comes to the tone, go for the jugular!

    Edited once, last by mmmaslowski: Added missing piece of information. ().

  • It seems to me that all professional musicians I have seen using the Kemper Profiler use it exclusively in a live setting, as opposed to in a home audio setup.

    I actually bought a Kemper a while back from August Burns Red's guitarist Brent Rambler so I had access to really good rigs and tones that I did enjoy at the time, but I started to regret the financial hit from the purchase and I sold the Kemper shortly after buying it.

    You enjoyed the tones you had then, and you've got a backup and the financial "hit" no longer matters to you.

    So, obviously I'd say go Kemper.

    If anyone can shed some light on the distinction between the purposes of each respective device and which route I should take given my personal situation it would be much appreciated!!!

    The purposes are the same; there's no distinction between home or live use or rhythm or lead playing.

  • As I understand it the Kemper was basically created for the studio. It just so happens it works like a dream live :-)

    As has already been said above, both Kemper and Axe (and Helix too) are fantastic tools for live or studio. They are all more than capable of creating great tones. Tone is subjective so the fact that one guitarist used an Axe and had a tone that you preferred ofver another guitarist using a Kemper tells us nothing about the capabilities of either unit; just that in that particular situation you preferred one pver the other. I may have felt the same or felt the complete opposite but that is just personal taste.

    For me the biggest difference in the various options is the workflow/user interface. Kemper suits the way I work and lets me get great sounds super fast. Others may prefer crafting a sound by tweaking every imaginable parameter in a model. Whichever works for any individual is fine by me. The objective is simply to get sounds that you like and make music. For me the less time spent cresting the sounds, the more time to actually play guitar. But that’s just how Kemper works for me. Others can get get great sounds from Axe or Helix just as quickly as I can from Kemper.

    The main thing to realise is that there is no difference in their intended use (ie stage v studio) just differences in how they achieve the end result.

  • It seems to me that all professional musicians I have seen using the Kemper Profiler use it exclusively in a live setting, as opposed to in a home audio setup.

    Underlined the keywords there. There are far more live pics/videos available online than of musicians homes. :)

    But for your situation, since you'll still most likely be wondering about the Axe if you get another Kemper, can you borrow both from a local store and try them out at home through your monitors? Is your room acoustically treated and the monitors elevated? That will also play a big impact on the sound quality.

  • I have the Kemper and the AXE III, I just sold the XL. I'm an at home player, playing through ADAM A-7s. All I can say is that there are profiles and presets from both units that I love, so I go back and forth between the two. It's awesome to have both units because both platforms have tremendous communities and offerings. I am in tone heaven! Total bliss, I could play all day!
    If I had to choose just one, it would be very difficult, but I would get all of my needs with the AXE in terms of effects and routing. I've been with Kemper from the beginning, so obviously I have no real complaints about this unit.
    The prices for an XL right now are crazy low! You could probably save a couple hundred bucks by going with AXE

    "Heavy Metal does have a message for the rest of the world: Fuck You!" -Sebastian Bach

  • I haven't played any fractal products, so can only speak for the Kemper.

    It is phenomenal live (a set up time of about 3 minutes, stereo FX and I know 80% what I will sound like FOH) and in the studio I know 100% of the time what I will sound like on record.

    I can't ask for more really!

    I'm sure that Fractal products offer the same kind of consistency so I am sure you can't go wrong with either - but what drew me to Kemper first of all (apart from being 10.3kg in a flight case - so it can be carry-on luggage for fly dates) is that I could profile MY gear and 'take it with me' in such a compact format.

    Then I realised there were many people doing it much better than me - so I started using their is just a fabulous bit of kit!

    PRS Custom 22's - Fender Strats - Diezel VH4 - Carol Ann OD2 - Toneking Imperial MK2 - Colin the Kemper - CLR Neo ii.

  • ...It seems to me that all professional musicians I have seen using the Kemper Profiler use it exclusively in a live setting...

    Plain simple wrong :thumbup:
    Tesseract moved to Kemper recording Sonder (there is even an Acle Kahney profiles pack from the man himself), the latest Alice Cooper studio album was done with a Kemper, Accept, Testament...

  • I got both. For me i get better tone with kpa when i use it for rehearsal. I use a matrix gt 1000 through a marshall 4x12 and i cant really get that fat thump through the axe as i can with the kpa. But when connectig the units for recording through the soundcard, both is very good and i can get great tones from both. Maybe i need to spend more time with the axe for reheasal but i have no power for that.

  • There's many factors in live performance that can affect tone. I wouldn't base your decision on Kemper/AxFx on the show you saw.

    Best thing would be to try both units in your setup and see which is better for you.

    I tried a Helix, couldn't get along with it and sent it back. For someone else the Helix may be perfect.

  • The problem is that playing on your own is that you judge the tones from that solely. Sure everyone want great tones on their own too to make one inspired. I know we guitarists strive for the holy grail tone all of our lives and frankly it's an illusion. How many tones on records we love are not the greatest on their own? It's together with the rest of the instruments that makes it great. Too many guitarists worry more about their tone than making better music. That's all that matters, the music. The average listener don't care about the guitar tone. Why you preferred the AXE was becuase his tone/playing and not the gear. It's almost never about the gear. There are some free profiles here on the forum others download and love and some of them have sounded terrible for me and some great. It's all about personal taste.

    Think for yourself, or others will think for you wihout thinking of you

    Henry David Thoreau

  • I can only echo what the others are saying. We don't have an Axe but I would be shocked if you could not get any tone you want out of the Kemper.

    From what I gather on this forum the difference is the workflow. Don't underestimate the workflow! If you get enjoyment out of tweaking options to make things sound even better to you, probably the Axe is what you want. If you want a few dedicated knobs and buttons and don't want to descend into menus to change every aspect of the device, the Kemper is hard to beat.

    For us - I play with the kids at home - it is turn it on, while waiting for it to boot tune up and then let's play. We rarely touch the device, just change from rig to rig and maybe turn the reverb ad delay knobs a little.

    The laptop that I have connected to the Kemper has Waves Tracks Live running, recording both the DI and the "real" sound. It is extremely convenient to record every noodling we do and can re-amp in seconds if we don't like the sounds.

    Monkey_Man, that picture with that huge screen looks photoshopped - like those advertisements of backyard pools with mini-people swimming inside. :)

  • LOL Naa... it's real, mate. It's definitely Devin in his home studio... with a Kemper.

    I remember a few years back he added a Kemper to his live rig for amp tones and figured he'd continue to use an Axe for FX. Can't say what's happened since then as it was a while back and I honestly couldn't give two hoots. If realistic amp tones without the need for mic'ing matter to him, I'd say he'd stick with Kemper.

  • If a price of Kemper or Axe would be even a potential "financial hit" for me, I'd stick to plugins. If you are after a particular artist tone you like, buy the same gear they use or pretty much anything starting from sub $100 plugins to expensive valve amps rigs can get you in the ballpark tone. The gear (inc. digital) got really good last 10 years or so.

  • It really just depends. The design of each caters to a particular type of guitarist. You can sort of see how a device that promises to faithfully recreate any specific tone you give it would appeal more to people with a lot of tube heads. That's the reason I use it; I can use my Savage 120 or whatever amp, get a cool tone, and then profile it and use it for further recording or live. The AxeFX models amps, so you get total control over a virtual version of a set of amps, which would appeal more to people without a lot of heads (although there is overlap between each group). That being said, the Kemper is wonderful for studio use as well in it's own right, hell, since it isn't limited by it's amp sims. you in theory have a far larger tonal palette to work with. Tons of bands have tracked with Kempers, probably more than any of us realize. Here's a song by one of my favorite bands, for instance, tracked entirely with a Kemper:

  • I own the KPA, have owned any number of boutique tube amps, and have friends with the AXE III and AXE II FX. I primarily do live work.

    As a live rig, I have never had any other guitarist that wasn't impressed with the tone of my KPA, and more than one who later purchased the KPA and a FRFR speaker to replace their own tube rig. If you can't make the KPA sound good live, it isn't the KPA. It may well be the speaker you are using for it though. If you use a bad PA (going direct in), or a bad FRFR that you mic into the PA, both the KPA and Axe will sound like crap. Your tone is no better than the weakest link.

    I am about to have a "Guys Night Out" at my house with many different musicians having many different rigs. I haven't done this for >10 years, but all of my musician friends all have different rigs now, so it is time :). I am completely sure that the night isn't going to be dominated by tube amps though. My KPA, another person's KPA, an Axe III, and many tube amps will be on the docket for A/B comparisons.

  • I don't recognise this as the case. I have seen photos galore of professionals using Kempers, including the aforementioned Devin Townsend. On Faith No More's last album, the guitars were recorded completely through a Kemper. I do think that Fractal's endorsement program means that it's difficult to open guitar magazine and not see an advert full of artists claiming they use an AxeFx but even those cam be misleading if you look into how those artists use them.