So, just bought a Kemper powerhead a week ago. I think I must have spent over 20-30 hours of researching all kinds of things about the Kemper and whether it would be a fit for me. I had a ton of questions and had to look so much things up, in the manual and deducting from posts on this forum, reviews, youtube... So I figured: I share what i've learned.
After all, if I would have found this thread 2 weeks ago, it would have helped me immensely.
Question 1: Should I get the powered version?
Yes, you should, so you can play on a traditional cabinet and it sounds awesome! Really no reason not to, unless you're only planning to use it in the studio or have other options. I cannot imagine a guitarist who would not rather have the powered version. I use it on a 1x12 Jensen Blackbird 100 Watt speaker and sometimes 4x12 Marshall 1960 V30's, both sound great with merged profiles, direct profiles and even studio profiles (with cab off).
Question 2: Is it worth it to buy it now as this thing is getting 'old'? Is it better to wait for a Kemper 2?
Kemper hasn't said anything about Kemper 2 and is still making great additions to the original. It sounds great, I can't imagine something that'll sound 'better' as with all that modeling stuff that keeps getting better, but never quite there (for me). So, no, you won't feel disappointed.
Question 3: Why is it so expensive? Is it worth the money?
This is something I could only know for sure when I had it and could play with it. I thought it looked a bit plasticy, but it is made out of solid material and feels very sturdy. What I like is that there are many knobs physical outputs (2 XLR main outs and 2 jack outs is great for me!). You can see that Kemper didn't save on these things, which is great! Everything seems to be well thought of. It does kinda look like a WO II military radio though..
Question 4: What is purecab?
Still no idea, but it adds something to the signal to get more of a 'real' cab or something like that. I don't see the point. The first time I hooked the Kemper to my studio monitors I was really dissapointed, I even wanted to return it. Then I found out that PureCab is globally on by default, so I turned it off and the sound became alive!
Question 5: How about the output section?
The output section is really advanced and easy to change and save for different environments. You can use different outputs at once and rout different things internally.
Question 6: Different kind of profiles? My preference.
So the Kemper is a profiler, I'm sure you know what that means, right? Simply put: it can imitate an amp on one specific setting. It can profile Amps (direct amp profiles) and amps with miced speakers (studio profiles).
Direct Amp Profiles are the usual 'head' and gives you the most authentic reproduction of an amp if you go straight to a cab. This is awesome for playing on a cab and sounds identical to the real amp. Yesss, that's right...
Studio profiles are studio sounds to go to the front of house (FOH) or straight into your computer for recording. These sound amazing and record ready, depending on the profile. You can however turn the cab off, then the kemper makes a real good approximation of what the cab added (however, this is not in any way, real information, it is a calculation by the Kemper). This way you can still use your cabinet, this sounds really good, but is not as authentic as a direct Amp Profile.
Pure Merged Profiles are for me, the most authentic, they are made differently and combine a Direct Amp Profile with a real information about the cab and mic. These are by far my favorites as they provide authentic tones for recording and also for the cab and live use. It is a pity that there are much less merged profiles out there, because in my eyes (ears) a merged profiles has no drawbacks. It is a perfect live profile as well as a studio profile. If anyone knows some good ones for me, please let me know!
Question 7: So what about the EQ and Gain on the Kemper?
You have to realize that this is not authentic, you are not in any way turning the knobs of the original amplifier. So different profiles from the same amp with other EQ and gain settings are more authentic. However, these knobs do their jobs really well, which is magic to me.
Question 8: Are the effects any good?
They are good and usable to serve the sound required. Very easy to find what you need and lots of tweakability. I don't use drives, but rather switch to a higher gain profile of the same amp.
Question 9: How does it feel to play the amps? Responsiveness and volume knob
I played a whole rehearsal (of a cover band!) on one profile of an EVH 5150 from M. Brett. Used the Volume knob for clean sounds, because I hadn't yet done any programming for that band, wanted to test it out first. The band thought it sounded awesome, I think this says enough... It feels dynamic, which is something modelling never ever has been able to do for me.
Question 10: Are Commercial Profiles better?
They are not better, there are really good free profiles out there. However, commercial profiles have lots of advantages over free ones:
-A professional profiler works systematic and gives information about materials used.
-You know for sure there is a consistent volume and sound idiom.
-Generally, they provide more profiles of the same amp at different settings
-Because of all this, less tweaking is required to get a good sound. There are other things to worry about!
This is enough for me to buy some commercial profiles. I love to have 30+ profiles of one amp made systematically with 2 cabs, it seems more real than 100's rigs of all kinds of amps, miced differently and other cabs, I lose track of what I'm doing with so many different impulses.
Question 11: Is tweaking required to get a good sound?
For me: NO, every profile sounded good going straight to my cab. However, some studio profiles were not great at all on my studio monitors.
With a humbucker guitar, all was good, but with my strat with noiseless pickups I had to lower the 'definition' a few times to get a usable sound.
All other knob fiddling wasn't necessary, and I must say that the sounds were always kind of usable in a given situation. There are a whole load of options, but they all have their purpose.
Question 12: Can I run 2 Amps within the Kemper?
Not really, but you can get the direct out and go to another physical amp. I want to go Kemper-> FOH and also Kemper-> Octaver -> Bass amp. I think it's possible, but still have to try it out.
Question 13: Can I use the same effects (in the Kemper) for all rigs?
Yes you can, there is a function called LOCK and it is geniusly simple!
Appendix 1: No, there is no editor
OK, That's enough for now. Hope someone finds this interesting. Still have a lot to try, maybe I'll add more stuff in the future if people find this helpful.