Hi all! I’m new to this forum. I’m an old dude who’s been playing in bands for decades, now semi-retired. I write songs nowadays which i record in my little home studio. I have a few “real” amps and an SM57 but recording the electric guitar isn’t that simple and the direct sound annoys me. So I’ve been using an Avid 11Rack preamp for the last few years straight into the interface. I bought the 11rack used for 350 euro. This review of the Kemper are first impressions compared to the 11rack.
– No USB interface. The 11rack is a complete USB audio interface.
– No MIDI/USB interface unlike the 11rack. Just program change and a few controllers.
– No microphone preamp like the 11rack has, on the front, with 48 V phantom power.
– i bought the toaster version because the rack version wasn’t available. The 11rack is more convenient. The toaster takes up valuable space on my desk. Those rotating lights around the soft knobs are cool though!
– No paper manual. Come on! A 1700 euro device! The quick start guide will get you started but you have to go through the entire manual to understand this device. I know i can download the manual, and i did, but call me old fashioned, i like reading from paper.
– I tested the powered version and noticed it got hot after a while. Don’t like that. I’m not planning to use the Kemper live so i got the unpowered version. It has a big hole in the back which will collect dust. Why didn’t they cover it up with 50 cents worth of sheet metal?
– When you buy the unpowered Kemper you cannot install the original Kemper power amp afterwards. Strange. There is a third party power amp, Camplifier, which you can install yourself easily.
– It takes longer to boot. My 11rack starts up in 15 seconds. The Kemper is like a computer, it takes 45 seconds to boot with just the factory presets inside.
– The power plug “wiggles”a bit, it’s not secure in the socket. After a bit of wiggling the Kemper crashed and i had to start it up again! Mmm you don’t want that live on stage.
+ The Kemper has many outputs which are very flexible to configure. I connected the monitor out to the effects return of my Blackstar HT5 amp into a Marshall 2X12 with Celestion G12T-75s. Cab sim off. Amp in the room sound! It rocked! Stereo out to a Roland AC-90 amp for acoustic guitar, stereo aux inputs. Cab sim on. Excellent sound! Stereo out to a mixer to my KRK studio monitors. Sounds fine to me. 2nd day opinion. Sound on the tube amp/guitar 2X12 is awesome but different from the line out to KRK’s sound. You want the sound your hear on stage to be identical to the sound the PA guy is getting in. May get myself a solid state power amp.
+ Excellent headphone amp. Plus a trick called Space to make the headphone experience more comfortable. I have a Beyer DT770 Pro with closed earbuds which can be claustrophobic.
+ The Kemper is an open platform which is still being updated. (Until V2 comes along?) My 11rack has the extra amps pack but that’s it. Dead end product. Way back in 1998 i bought a Line 6 Pod new, updated it once, that was it. Now worth zip. Axe FX have gone through I, II and now III.
+ I registered on the internet, downloaded and installed the Rig Manager and updated the Kemper from 5.5 to 6.0. On a bog standard W10 PC. Easy peasy!
+ The Rig manager downloaded some 15.000 Rigs made by the Kemper World Community, for free! I downloaded a ZIP file once with a few hundred presets for the 11rack but this is almost too much of a good thing! One click and the PC sends the Rig to my Kemper so i can hear it. I found an excellent jazz sound just by searching for “jazz” and clicking around.
– After 7 years Kemper finally presents a PC/Mac editor…
+ Excellent Noise Gate with a simple knob in front. Indispensable in the studio with single coil guitars. Another NG after stomp boxes like fuzz pedals. Also very handy.
+ The soft knobs on the front react immediately, the knobs on the 11rack have a visual delay which is annoying. Cool LED rings!
+ Good tuner. The tuner on the 11rack is somewhat “nervous”.
+ Good effects. The Leslie is very convincing. I could use a few more parameters though like startup/decay time. With the combined delay/pitch shift effects you can get wild sounds. Good compressor, indispensable for clean sounds and bass rigs.
– When i want to fill an empty slot with an effect i have to scroll through the entire long list. Why can’t you jump more directly to the type of effect you want, e.g. Chorus?
+ This device makes me play the guitar more. I’m not getting tired listening to it after an hour or so. I got listening fatigue from every regular modeling device so far.
+/- You hear the difference between a cheap guitar and a more expensive one. An Epiphone MIC with Gibson pickups compared to a Jap Tokai with SD’s. Now i have to play my expensive guitars more...
– I couldn’t get reamping working with the SP/DIF ports. Recording worked but no playback. Probably my fault.
Conclusion. IMHO this is a game changing, and life saving device for the bedroom/home studio player like me. OTOH the price makes it a pro device for people who can afford to record in a real studio. I don't see myself using this expensive device live for the kind of gigs i've done all my life. I've taken too many beer showers in pubs!