I played a Fractal, Helix, and Kemper back to back last night...

  • An acquaintance of mine was selling his Fractal AX8. I borrowed and auditioned it overnight at a friend's house, a studio owner, using his Helix floorboard and Kemper toaster to compare. It was super validating to me as a Kemper owner, and it reaffirmed in my mind how heads-and-tails ahead of the industry the Kemper DNA still is.


    This is super anecdotal, and I don't wish to crap on other platforms. But I thought I'd share my experience for anyone else who's seeking greener grass. I had gotten a bug in my ear that Fractals were better for metal gains, so I wanted to see for myself. High gain is definitely the Fractal's strength, in my limited experience, but even so, almost each of the 160+ patches on the unit fell flat for me. We went from struggling to find patches we liked enough to modify on the Fractal to kind of digging a few on the Helix. Then I said, "let's fire up the Kemper for a final comparison." And holy smokes. The bawls. The depth. The dimension. The sense of listening to a miked amp from the control room. And that was just cruising through Cloud presets.


    In conclusion, though I'll admit that high-gain Kemper patches still leave me wanting, I can say from my limited experience that they're still by far the best out of the three major platforms. And that's to say nothing of the verge-of-breakup gristle tones that the Kemper does so well, and by which so many other modelers fall flat.

  • Before I bought mine I watched a lot of comparison videos between Helix, AX8 / Axe II / Axe III, and the Kemper. I owned an earlier Pod Pro and then the Pod HD. They were okay but just not quite "there" enough for me. I thought the Helix sounded pretty good but still not enough to buy it.


    The Fractal stuff sounded Holy Cow good, and the Helix was clearly not at their level. The Kemper was also Holy Cow good (lots of bovine deities in this crowd). So to me, the Fractal and Kemper were both stand outs in terms of quality. I could absolutely work with the Helix, but the other two were head and shoulders above it.


    One of the real differences to me was philosophy. Fractal (and Line 6) are in the business of providing lots of great building blocks, and a powerful environment to put them together. But I hate fiddling with guitar tones. The Kemper approach was to let someone dial in a killer tone, mic it, and take a snapshot of that. It was a perfect fit for me. Choose profile, play guitar.


    A lot of people get hung up on the whole "in order for what I like to be good, everything else must suck" thing, but I don't see anything but great choices here. The Kemper worked for me even though the Fractal sounded awesome and the Helix was close enough for rock and roll. But any of the three would be excellent choices. Great time to be a guitar player.

  • In conclusion, though I'll admit that high-gain Kemper patches still leave me wanting, I can say from my limited experience that they're still by far the best out of the three major platforms. And that's to say nothing of the verge-of-breakup gristle tones that the Kemper does so well, and by which so many other modelers fall flat.

    Yeah we know:)


    Seriously though, I've not spent any time with fractal and limited time with Helix.


    Anyone who says they are not all great units is an idiot, they have relative strengths and weaknesses.


    The game changers for me are:

    1) The approach to hardware and software - fractal just change hardware too often - it would drive me mad

    2) Simplicity to set up as Chris Duncan said

    3) Built in power amp for convenience - I like to rock up to festivals and just plug into the on stage cab.

  • When I saw Dweezil Zappa he played amazingly, but his tones really lacked the tube warmth and presence that I'm used to with the Kemper. I might try to contact him and offer to run his guitar sound for a few nights, with his tech learning the system. ?

  • When I saw Dweezil Zappa he played amazingly, but his tones really lacked the tube warmth and presence that I'm used to with the Kemper. I might try to contact him and offer to run his guitar sound for a few nights, with his tech learning the system. ?

    I was at Dweezils very first band camp in 2010.

    He had just started using the original Axe-FX.

  • I wouldn't mind having an Axe FX III, but then Id have to buy a larger rack for all three, and then Id have to hook it up to the mixer, and learn how to program "another" processor, and then find the best ones, and then my butt might itch, so I guess I'll just keep what Ive got and be happy about it. ^^

    If you use FRFR the benefit of a merged profile is that the cabinet is totally separated in the profile.


    For my edification only... :D Kemper/Helix user

  • Long time Fractal owner here, from the Ultra era, the II and the III. It serve me well over the years but the major difference to me with the Kemper is the IR. I can't stand playing through any off them. The Kemper feel like the real thing. The cabinet module is part of the profile. And even if you swap it for another one, it feels real. I don't understand why Fractal keeps holding on to IR's as in my opinion is a tone sucker. So it's no surprise Helix and all other platforms sounds similar as they all use IR's.

  • Long time Fractal owner here, from the Ultra era, the II and the III. It serve me well over the years but the major difference to me with the Kemper is the IR. I can't stand playing through any off them. The Kemper feel like the real thing. The cabinet module is part of the profile. And even if you swap it for another one, it feels real. I don't understand why Fractal keeps holding on to IR's as in my opinion is a tone sucker. So it's no surprise Helix and all other platforms sounds similar as they all use IR's.

    Boom!!!


    Been waiting for someone to say/realize that for a few years now. :)

    The Kemper magic that makes it greater than all others is the Kemper Cabinet...not IRs.


    If you own a Kemper you don't need to fall into the buying IRs trap and scrolling through hundreds of them trying to find the one that fixes your tone, the Kemper Cabinets are the tone!

  • Quote
    So it's no surprise Helix and all other platforms sounds similar as they all use IR's.

    To be fair, Helix speaker simulations in general don't sound bad, at least to me. But I do get the point that Kemper does it differently and most of the profiles in my Kemper sound great because of that reason. ^^^

    If you use FRFR the benefit of a merged profile is that the cabinet is totally separated in the profile.


    For my edification only... :D Kemper/Helix user

  • Boom!!!


    Been waiting for someone to say/realize that for a few years now. :)

    I've posted many times how I feel about this, Lance, going into some detail about physical and electrical impedances, which I feel are the major causes of the non-linear dynamic response of drivers.


    In a nutshell, as I'm sure you're aware, an IR is a static "snapshot" of a speaker's (and microphone's) response under one set of conditions - all of which have "settled" (acoustic silence and electrically-neutral).


    Taking the physical driver and cone alone, whilst playing through them, the response depends upon the position and speed of the driver when a new note / signal condition arrives. It could be on its way out or back in and is unlikely to have settled, which is the position from which it reacts when an impulse response is generated. The mass / inertia of the voice coil affects its ability to jump to attention, so to speak, as does the air's resistance to movement of the cone itself.


    That's just on the physical side; there's the electrical stuff too. 100% agree that Kemper's cabs aren't in the same league as IR's... IMHO.

  • I 'm a new Kemper Stage owner and I have a Helix Stomp. Last night I grabbed a free profile of an Ampeg Rocket and was totally digging it! Maybe one of the big modelers will choose to model this amp but with Kemper anyone can profile an amp and put it out there free or not. I read about a cool amp, I can go find a profile for it and try it myself! This is what really sets Kemper apart.

  • That's just on the physical side; there's the electrical stuff too. 100% agree that Kemper's cabs aren't in the same league as IR's... IMHO.

    Thanks for weighing in, Nicky. I still prefer my long-tail OwnHammer IRs to the Kemper's speaker models in many cases. Care to dig up some posts about what makes the Kemper superior? I'm genuinely interested to know.

  • I had a look around and couldn't find any of my posts on this even 'though I've mused on the topic several times, dB. My intention was to link to them in that post, partly because Lance (Guitartone) said he hadn't seen anything said about this.


    Sorry mate. :(