Welcome to the New Kemper User Tone Guide.
This guide is meant for new and experienced guitar players alike. The purpose of this guide is NOT to discuss operational or functional issues but rather to provide a framework for understanding the way the Kemper Profiler “sounds” as well as provide insight regarding profile selection and an understanding of how selected profiles “sound”.
Part 1: Perception of Sound Tone is subjective.
Each individual has a particular ear shape, hearing range and EQ curve to their ears that may respond different tonally to each example given and may alter the results for some at the extreme end of the hearing spectrum. Tone is relative to the user. For the purposes of discussion we will refer to it as your “Tone Ear”. What may be pleasing to many may be unpleasant for some. Your Tone Ear may perceive sounds differently than most people and the person may not be aware of their own modified EQ in their Tone Ear. Age, exposure to high SPL and other factors may adjust your Tone Ear over time. The purpose of this guide is discuss and provide examples of sounds that are generally regarding as pleasing to most or respected in circles as “good guitar tone”.
Part 2: The Error of Your Ways
As a guitar player, you spend countless hours sitting in front of all sorts of amplifiers, playing all sorts of guitars and listening to, and playing, all sorts of music. As time goes on, a sound that was once appealing may fall out of favor with your Tone Ear and you move on to something new. Other times, you hear a sound of an artist you like and that alters your Tone Ear in that direction and the chase continues. You eventually end up like a lot of us in that you have never really settled in on a particular sound for an extended period. You have constantly been chasing your “tone”. The mistake here is that by constantly shifting from amp to amp or guitar to guitar you haven’t allowed enough time for a sound to “settle in” and you Tone Ear to adjust fully to the sound you started with. The reverse of this is just as bad because you’ve used the same amp for 20 years and your Tone Ear is so adjusted to its sound that nothing, short of an exact replication, will suffice.
Part 3: Introducing the Kemper Profiler - uh oh
Having read the above, you can probably discern there is a lot of gray area as to what constitutes good tone. The Kemper Profiler offers a vast array of options. In fact, maybe too many options. You may find yourself sitting for hours scrolling through profiles and downloading and auditioning them. As a new user this is great fun but, also as a new user, this often daunting or even off-putting to some. They immediately struggle just to get an acceptable tone out of this wonderful box they just purchased. What’s wrong? Why do all the patches sound fizzy? Why do they all sound too dark? Why can’t I find anything I like? The questions of the boards and social media are numerous. New purchasers struggling to get something that sounds appealing to their Tone Ear.
Part 4: Relax and Pick a Number
Start simple. Scroll through the factory profiles and find something, anything, that is “close” to a sound you like. Now start tweaking. Resist the urge to just scroll to the next profile. Stay with it. Adjust the gain, tweak the eq, add some effects. Stay with it. Adjust the definition, sag, add a parametric. Anything. But stay with it. Now, and this is the hardest part..... Stop. Turn off the Kemper. Walk away for a couple hours and come back. Reevaluate. Is the tone still pleasing? If so, why? If not, why? Adjust again. Rinse and repeat. Stay with it. Your Tone Ear will thank you and you’ll learn how to take most any profile and get something usable out of it.
Part 5: If She says its Her, Its probably You.
What if nothing goes right? What if EVERYTHING sounds like total garbage? Well, there may be some bad news coming..... your Tone Ear could be bad. Consider, even if for a second, that for all these years, your guitar tone sucked. That is a hard pill to swallow but, if you’re still with me, it IS possible. Possible that for all these years you trained your ears poorly, introducing bad habits and abuse and your Tone Ear has been altered to the point that it might not recognize a great guitar tone when its coming out of the speakers right in front of it. Now, to be fair, I’m not claiming any one sound is best or any Profile is “the profile” all I’m asking is for you to consider the possibility that the reason everything you pull up on your Kemper sounds so “bad” is because you may have forgotten what “good” sounds like. Possible? I think so.
Part 6: Fixing the Problems
So, what do we do? What if it’s me and not the Kemper? Well, luckily, there is help. Here’s where to start:
Studio Monitors - Get a good set of studio monitors. No, your $200 pair isn’t gonna cut it. There are options. Ask around. There are a tone of options when you get above the $500 mark (See Focal Alpha Series).
Guitar Cabinets - NOTE: If you can play through the cabinet you’re most familiar with to start, START THERE! That will likely get you to Tone Nirvana faster than any other option.
Headphones - Unless you are using in-ears on stage, this is the least favorable option. If you must, the Sony MDR range has been well reviewed.
FRFR Speakers - Full Range - Flat Response. Another option, but I caution, if you’ve only ever played through an amp, avoid these at first. Most available FRFR (PA) speakers have compression drivers that are designed to be masked by the woofer sound waves at distances much farther than your bedroom or at your feet. They can also further damage your Tone Ear due to their response and output characteristics.
Part 7: Wrapping Up
So, you’ve made it this far and you’re either much happier or mad at me. What do we do? Well, for starters, talk to your fellow Kemper Profiler users. There is a wealth of resources and community to assist from all over the world to answer the most technical to the most newbie questions you may have. Still not happy? Take a break. Go back to your old gear if you can for a bit. Then come back. Better? No? Try profiling your amp. It’s a pretty straight forward process and may yield results that satisfy. Lastly, take some time and listen to some of your favorite recordings again and really tune in to the guitar sounds. Do some research and find out what gear was used and how. This may lead you to a path of tonal bliss.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully it will help some of the people with frustrations using one of the most revolutionary products ever introduced for guitar players.