Kemper or Fractal

  • so what went into everyone's decision on buying either the toaster or the rack unit? Is it because the rack unit is newer and wasn't available at one time? I feel the rack version will be a little better just for portability and to protect it.

    The rack is easier to protect, but not to transport, imo. Not a huge difference, but it doesn't get much easier than grabbing a strap to lug the head around.


    That said, even though I'm just using it for band practice right now, I'm constantly terrified that I'll walk too close to a doorjamb, and rip a knob off my head, so I think some kind of protection is necessary for either one.


    The rack has some of the control/buttons/USB port/etc in the back, maybe a pain, but not a huge deal. It is also lacking most of the LED rings around the knobs, which would be a big bummer for me, not for some, but I really like them much more than reading the screen.


    Plus...the toaster just looks so damn good. The rack is boring to me. :D

    If I was on tour, I'd probably go with the rack though, just for integration into a flight case/size.


    Can't go wrong either way.

    Disclaimer: When I post demo clips for profiles, there will be some minimal post-processing, unless stated otherwise. I normally double-track hard L/R, and add to the main buss a small amount of EQ and a limiter/comp set pretty light as well. Sometimes I get test profiles in advance of release, though 90% of my clips will be from packs I have purchased.

  • I have a friend with the brandy new Axe FX III. We played a couple of weeks ago for around 5 hours between all our guitars, and both the Kemper and Axe.


    It was very clear to me that the Axe FX is editable in ways that the KPA can never be. It is simply a routing FX machine unlike any other on the planet.


    Now .... having said that, I am a gigging musician. I thrive on being able to get specific tones quickly, hone them in, and play. The KPA is the easiest machine to get a good tone out of regardless if it is a clean, a push, or down right high gain IME.


    The Axe is unsurpassed in its wealth of FX and processing. If you play with lots of efx, it is unsurpassed IMO.


    Rack or Toaster?


    I went Rack for gigging purposes. I created a patch panel on back that brings out exactly the outputs and inputs I need, then put an Ethercon connector on it for the Kemper floor controller to plug into (and added an Ethercon connector onto the end of my Kemper remote cable). This makes for a very robust, fast setup rig when gigging.


    Powered into a cab, or unpowered straight in/with a FRFR speaker?


    I have done both with my rig. I still have (and need to sell) a 2x12 VHT cab and power amp. I also have some Yamaha DSR112 powered speakers I use for my full PA.


    When using a cab, you are going to color all your tones with the tone of that particular cab. Sadly, there is no way to make a MESA cab sound like a Fender deluxe :)


    If you use the full profile and a FRFR speaker (or PA ... or both), you get the full effect of the profiles IMO.


    Good luck in your decision!

  • For live use ( which I use mine exclusively), I would suggest:


    Powered - purely for versatility and less to carry ( separate power amp). I often turn up to a festival, just plus straight into a guitar cab and done...I've never been able to rely on having the time to set up iem's or decent monitoring, Powered gives that option to easily run a backline. To me its a big benefit over the Ax and Helix ( having a built in power amp).


    Rack - you can safely transport it more easily. I also have a power conditioner and my wireless in my rack. So easy.


    Feel happy though that whichever way you go, you have options :)

  • I have the unpowered rack and it suits me fine because I use in ears live. It goes in a shallow 3u SKB Roto rack and can even be taken hand luggage on a plane. I have used it into a power amp, but would recommend getting the powered version if you want to use a cab regularly. It is a very lightweight option all in one for 600W.

  • so what went into everyone's decision on buying either the toaster or the rack unit? Is it because the rack unit is newer and wasn't available at one time? I feel the rack version will be a little better just for portability and to protect it.

    I used to drive a C5 Corvette, and my rig was a Voodu Valve pre with an EV power amp and a couple of other things in a four space rack, so I'd load the rack, a one 12 cab, a couple of guitars and be ready to rock. Quit playing for a while and in the interim got a C7 Vette (about the same color as that great looking classic Camero of yours).


    Decided it was time to get back out there, so before I looked for a band I did a test load of my rig. I could fit the cab. I could fit the rack. What I couldn't do was fit the cab and the rack at the same time. There may have been profanity.


    I bought a Vox AC15 combo and put together a small pedal board and it worked. Then I spent the weekend playing through my Marshall & EVH. When I went back to the Vox, it was less than impressive. About that time some people had mentioned the Fractal III and the Kemper so I listened to demos of both. There was no going back to the Vox rig after that, but I still had the problem of the rack not fitting.


    That's when I discovered that the Kemper head also came in a powered version. I had already decided to get one for the studio at least but quick measurements showed that yes, I could fit the head, and the cab, and the guitars, all at the same time. My credit card tried to quietly slide off into a dark corner. It was unsuccessful.


    All that said, if I didn't have transport constraints I would have gone with a rack version just because it's a more rugged case and stacks better. I did buy the bag for the toaster and I'm sure it will be fine. After all, the knobs are slightly more protected than my Marshall was. I just think it's cool that there's a choice, and both of them are good.

  • I used to drive a C5 Corvette, and my rig was a Voodu Valve pre with an EV power amp and a couple of other things in a four space rack, so I'd load the rack, a one 12 cab, a couple of guitars and be ready to rock. Quit playing for a while and in the interim got a C7 Vette (about the same color as that great looking classic Camero of yours).

    Chris,


    I lost interest in your guitar struggles as soon as you mentioned C7 vette....its the one thing that might make me give up playing and just drive :)


    Cars and guitars....the best combination!

  • I have the AFx II and the Kemper. I feel I can dial both of them pretty close to each other sound wise but the Kemper has certain advantages. The biggest is that the sound of the profile is always the same firmware to firmware. On the Axe it is almost never the same. Fractal users seem to love this but no one has any idea if it actually sounds more like the real amp modeled or if it just sounds different for the sake of sounding different. This leads to the next big advantage which is that’s there is not a lot of tweaking like there is on the Axe, trying different IR’s and tweaking it all over again. The new delays and the reverbs go a long way to closing the effects gap advantage and if the rumors about the other effects being reworked on the Kemper is true then that advantage goes away as well. The downside of Kemper for me vs Fractal is that the developments cycle to add or change anything is just glacial while at Fractal they are very responsive to ideas from the user base and have a lot of new requested features added with new firmwares. The Axe has a great editor as well while the Kemper has none. Personally I feel that overall Fractal also seems to have more respect for their customers than Kemper but that is my subjective point of view and does not change my opinion that the Kemper is the better buy.

  • the developments cycle to add or change anything is just glacial

    I'm a complete newbie here, so I don't know what the customer experience is like with Kemper as a company. That said, the way I pay for all these fancy toys is by writing software in the corporate world, which I've been doing for 30 years (okay, now I feel old). And the tech business is more in need of adult supervision than any industry on the planet.


    I share your impatience for new stuff, and I'm certainly not poking fun at you, but I live on the other side of the software fence and thus feel compelled to speak on behalf of my brethren, strange creatures though we may be.


    The normal life for me and pretty much any other developer is the same. Marketing staggers in after a three martini lunch and says they've announced this great new feature and promised we'll deliver it in a couple of months so we can preempt the competition. No one asks us how long it will actually take. We just get arbitrary deadlines pulled out of someone's posterior based on what they'd like to have happen rather than any resemblance that timeline might have to reality.


    And so, the death march begins. Nonstop overtime is expected (because yeah, you really want the code I write at 3AM after being sleep deprived for a month). Best of all, almost no shop on the planet invests in even one professionally trained software QA person. If it gets tested at all (and it rarely does), it's by the receptionist at the front desk because she can wiggle a mouse, and hey, how hard can testing be anyway? So, we get incredibly unrealistic deadlines, we're expected to work night and day to hit them, and there's little to no real testing.


    The end result is all too predictable. How much crappy software have you dealt with in your life that crashes, reboots your computer, loses your data, sets fire to your cat or in many other ways just kinda sucks? And yet, nothing ever changes because, you know, the Internet - we can just throw up a patch. Never mind that shoddy releases makes your company look like a drooling batch of complete idiots.


    Don't get me wrong. When it comes to new toys, features in software, etc. I'm every bit as demanding and impatient as the next guy. But I really, really hate dealing with crap software that was rushed out the door in a half baked state just because marketing wants to make a splash. Take the extra time to do it right. And for the love of small furry creatures from here to Alpha Centauri, hire some bloody testers to find the bugs before you release it. Do Quality Work. Just because it's software doesn't mean you get a free pass on that.


    Of course, back when I wrote business books I spoke about this at length, but I could just as well bark at the moon for all the good it does. Very few software companies take quality seriously. And Kemper? While I suppose it's just a stereotype, German engineering has a reputation for attention to detail. If that's truly the case with these guys then I'll take a tranquilizer, tap my little foot, and wait patiently for each new release. Because quality takes time. And yeah, absolutely, when compared to the sloppy practices of most dev shops that will definitely feel like a glacial pace.


    As developers, we're kinda screwed either way. Either people are unhappy because it takes too long to get something new out the door, or they're unhappy that what comes out the door has the distinct odor of methane. If the Kemper devs have chosen to do good work (and from what I've seen thus far that appears to be the case), then I admire them for sticking their necks out in an industry with the attention span of an over caffeinated Chihuahua.


    But, you know, other than that I don't have any strong feelings on the matter. :)

  • No offense taken. I don’t code but do hire a lot of developers for my various projects. In defense of companies that do develop on a fast schedule I don’t think it automatically means crappy results. Depends on the developer I guess and the team around them. Regardless, if you don’t mind glacial development schedules then it is one more plus for the Kemper.

  • No offense taken. I don’t code but do hire a lot of developers for my various projects. In defense of companies that do develop on a fast schedule I don’t think it automatically means crappy results. Depends on the developer I guess and the team around them. Regardless, if you don’t mind glacial development schedules then it is one more plus for the Kemper.

    Hiring and managing developers is like herding cats. I don't envy you the experience. :)

  • I'm not a great one for spending hours tinkering and want to play guitar, so I guess that is why Kemper suited me more than the modellers. Stability of the software and no wild changes leaving my whole live set behind is also what I need. The cautious approach to looking after the operating system at no extra cost is a benefit for me.


    I guess you just have to evaluate what your needs are and either will do the trick.

  • No offense taken. I don’t code but do hire a lot of developers for my various projects. In defense of companies that do develop on a fast schedule I don’t think it automatically means crappy results. Depends on the developer I guess and the team around them. Regardless, if you don’t mind glacial development schedules then it is one more plus for the Kemper.

    I also manage developers.... :)


    We don't know the inner workings of either organizations, so I would no speculate on that. I also can't speak about Fractal as never used their products.


    From Kemper perspective:

    1) They never over promise - the comms are limited which frustrates many people but it does mean they rarely let people down as they make few definitive commitments

    2) They do listen to their user base as the developments we have seen can be traced back to requests - we were asked about the design of the remote for example. The main debate is always the priority as everyone has a slight difference in what they want first

    3) Could they deliver stuff quicker? - I wish they would but I recognize there are limitations regarding resources so I do believe they do what they can as quickly as they are able within the resource constraints. what they do deliver though is always excellent and stable. I think they apply a lot of rigor which comes at a time price. I'd prefer that than a buggy/half finished system.

  • Chris - that is a given.


    The first 2 we always think help but rarely do...my wife was not woo'ed by my 400 BHP Audi or my 22 guitars...in fact, I'm not sure what woo'ed her come to think of it :)

    Whenever you figure out what did, let me know. I'm currently between models, and the Passenger Side Blonde option I ordered with the Vette has been on back order for quite some time now.

  • From Kemper perspective:

    1) They never over promise - the comms are limited which frustrates many people but it does mean they rarely let people down as they make few definitive commitments

    Having gone through pretty much every DAW out there over the years, I finally settled down with Steinberg's Cubase, another German company. They are also very limited in their communications. I don't know if it's a cultural thing or just the fact that they're smart. The road to hell is paved with vaporware promises that never end up in the release (or are so buggy that they do more harm than good).


    No software is bulletproof, as you doubtless know, but Cubase is among the more stable that I've used. From hanging out here I get the impression that it's the same for Kemper. That's actually a priority for me because one of the draws of the K is that I'm playing guitar through a computer, but I'm allowed to maintain the illusion that it's otherwise. I find that comforting somehow.

  • I own both. Kemper KPA Power and an Fractal Axe FX III. This doesn’t make me an expert. It just means that I have some experiences. I bought the two, to back-up each other, and to provide variability. I love both.


    The two companies, their products, and their forums, have very different personalities.


    Bottom line:

    Both sound great.


    The KPA requires very little tweaking. It can sound and feel almost like any amp ever made. Profiling is awesome. All of my amps now live inside my Kemper. The effects are great. My pedal board was immediately retired. The Fractal has virtually limitless ability to tweak and modify. It can sound and feel almost like any amp ever made. Some of the time-based FX are stunning. The models are great.


    Note: I don’t ever get too excited about overdrive modeling, because both systems allow me to model amps at full tilt, if called upon. So OD doesn’t matter. Unless we’re doing something that requires processing, then effects are not important.


    Neither devices can do a convincing Echorec. Without a real guitar cab on-stage, neither make that amp-to-guitar- to amp feedback magic.


    I’ve tried FOH and monitoring. I’ve tried FRFR speakers. To my ears (and based upon unknowing crowd comments in my case) the best combination is one output to FOH using great IRs and another output powered to my favourite guitar speakers in a cabinet for stage volume. I have a great IEM system. Thank god I don’t have to use it.


    Only the KPA can currently be used live without a third-party foot-control solution.


    If service is required, KPA has friendly and knowledgeable humans in Germany, who will answer a phone call. Fractal communicates by email and a user forum. It works, but be careful about what you say or ask. Their hair gets up in a blink.


    I am compelled to say this last bit. Despite great advancement, these devices come very close to the real thing. On recordings, they are indistinguishable from the real thing. But live and in-person, to me, there’s something about a real tube amp that is qualitatively discernible and yet difficult to describe. I can feel it when I play, and I can hear it if I’m in the audience. (You know when you call a company on the phone, and you get an automated system or the real thing? Unless you’re drunk, you hear the difference straight-away.) My tweed Fenders, old Marshalls, or the old HiWatt or Traynor cannot sound like a KPA or an AFIII. That’s for certain. But there’s something about these amps live, that win my ears (which in fairness are becoming more and more useless, lol).

    When will my talent upgrade be released?

    Edited once, last by skydog: Minor edit for clarification and grammar. ().