For those who may be interested, I've come up with what I think is a fairly innovative solution to the overall Kemper workflow and pedal board integration. I've had the Kemper now for almost 4 years (hard to believe!), and I've experimented with countless configurations from a traditional pedal board in 4CM with wet effects in the stereo loop, to no pedals (KPA only), and everything in between, up to and including running the Axe FX III in 4CM around the Kemper, and at one time, the Axe FX8. After all of this tinkering and buying and selling, and rebuying, and reselling, I've landed on what I believe is likely to be my final iteration.
My tenets most important findings after years of experimentation:
1. Zero sound degradation. The KPA sounds very pure and complete to my ears on its own. Often, pedals only serve to add to compression, or noise, or muddy up the sound when compared to a good set of profiles that cover the gain ranges and sweet spots of a boutique or vintage amplifier. Furthermore, cabling introduces signal loss, so my solution involves the absolute bare minimum required to integrate pedals with the KPA.
2. Don't replicate anything the KPA can already do as well, or better than external gear, for your playing style. This includes reverbs, delays, EQs, and modulation effects for me. I've owned much of the best modern gear (boss, Fractal, others), and I think the KPA every bit as good, or better. Yes, you can argue that XYZ chorus is better than what the KPA offers, and maybe you really "need" to have it, but be honest with yourself. Is it really better, and different enough to justify the expense and the added operational complexity?
3. Only use pedals that add something unique and improve or add flavor to base amp tones. I love boutique pedals, and I own about 30, but they don't all improve on my sound when I objectively AB test at a constant volume level. I only use a unique set of pedals that compliment my playing and that the KPA doesn't replicate.
4. Make maximal use of the KPA's power. MORPHING! You can often achieve cooler, wilder, crazier effects using what the KPA has on board, and morphing with an expression pedal than you could ever get to with XYZ pedals. The KPA can act as a control center for your pedal board telling it what to turn on and off via midi per slot in performance mode. This is a tremendously powerful and simplifying feature. Details on my set up below.
5. Get your amp tones dialed in, first. Spend more time tweaking the definition, clarity, and EQ controls and make sure the amp sounds right to your ears before you supplement it with pedals. Don't try to use a pedal to make a profile sound like a gained up amp when a gained up amp profile sounds better on its own anyway! Spend more of your hard earned money on profile packs from the likes of Tone Junkie, Michael Britt, Selah Sounds, or Dr. Z than you spend on external gear. Do you have 50 pedals you could sell to buy another sweet guitar? DO IT!
5. Keep it simple, focus on playing. When I'm on stage, I don't want to have to think much about turning effects on and off. I make those decisions at home, and only make minor adjustments on the fly. I let the KPA do all the hard work, and I'd rather spend my time actually playing guitar, than playing with pedals...
My gear and why I use it:
1. KPA + Remote, two expression pedals (almost always volume and morphing)
2. SoundSculpture Switchblade 8F. This is the hub of my pedal board. Not enough people know about the incredible work these guys do (http://www.soundsculpture.com). It a) sounds pristine b) allows for any routing configuration you can imagine, internally (e.g., series, parallel, or both) and externally and c) stores presets that are midi PC controllable via the KPA.
3. Line 6 G50 Wireless. I hate cables, and I think this unit sounds absolutely as good or better than any high end cable I've ever owned.
4. Eventide Power Max and supplemental Rockboard power supply. The Eventide is configurable in any voltage necessary, and powers the Rockboard to pick up a couple of extra pedals.
5. My pedals:
- EHX Pog 2: The KPA has come along way, but I still think the Pog sounds better. I love having 8 presets. I can get that Scott Holiday octave grind, or a really churchy sound if I want it.
- Lazy J Cruiser Deuce: It sounds incredible, and is full frequency. https://www.vintageguitar.com/19339/lazy-j-cruiser-deuce/
- Seafoam Low Tide: Also sounds amazing, and quite different from anything I've heard before. https://seafoampedals.com/coll…oducts/low-tide-overdrive.
- Vemuram Shanks 4K: Just a killer fuzz/distortion. http://www.vemuram.com/shanks-4k.html
- Analogman Bad Bob (mini): There's something unique about this booster. It seems to take out the very lowest frequencies and push the mids just slightly. http://www.analogman.com/badbob.htm
- Xotic EP Booster: Fat, warm, and stacks really well with the Bad Bob. http://xotic.us/effects/ep-booster
- Origin Effects Cali76 Compressor: Mostly for slide playing. About to be replaced by the Origin Sliderig. https://origineffects.com/product/cali76-compact-deluxe/
My set up:
My pedal board is actually a pedal case! I use the Gator Cases molded shallow because they're super rugged and stackable. Pedals, loop switcher, power, and wireless are all in a 3U case that sits on top of the KPA, which is in a 4U with a Furman M-8X2 power conditioner. I only need to plug in the Eventide power supply and the wireless when setting up. I then plug in a midi cable out of the KPA into the Switchblade, and I'm done. The whole thing takes me 3 minutes to set up or tear down, and I can easy fit the foot controller and expression pedals in the 4U case.
I run the Switchblade (which all of the pedals are looped into) though a mono effects loop in the Stomps section. I find that the mono loop sounds best for this set up. The wireless unit goes to the front KPA input so that I can easily switch the loop on or off from the floor controller. The KPA send midi PC to the Switchblade as mentioned and tells it which preset to pull up per slot in performance mode. I have about 50 pre programed pedal configurations which I made using the Switchblades software editor (example would be the Bad Bob and the EP Booster in parallel - sounds killer). I just choose the one that fits the song/part best, program the KPA to switch that preset on, and I'm done.
Pics below. Happy to answer any questions if you're interested in a similar design.