Sonicake Rockstage - My search for a second setup

  • Hi folks,


    I finally found something that works for me as a backup / flyrig / practising tool and I thought I'd share my trials and errors. Maybe it will save someone some money.


    The issue

    Guitarists are spoiled these days. My KPA sits on a shelf next to my desk. Connected via USB to my computer (thx for the editor), midi is connected, s/pdif, power, a guitar... to move the KPA means to unplug all these and later plug them back in. It also means carrying another bag besides the guitar. So I hear the call for a smaller footprint. But: Writing this also makes me laugh. When a was a teen I had to move my 4 x 12 cab plus a whole rack to our rehearsal room and back home – which was at least 3 times a week - plus many many gigs through the years. There simply wasn't an option, so we simply did this.


    But, the first Pod (or in my case the Johnson J-Station) changed a lot. Having everything in one little package, headphone ready, was indeed great. Computers became more and more powerful and recording at home was beginning to happen for everyone. So these little devices absolutely made sense in that regard, too. After trying everything from Tonelabs (great) almost any POD (not for me) and everything in between, with the KPA came the quality for both clean and drive sounds. But guitarists are spoiled these days, so am I. I needed something smaller to take anywhere I would find time to play (for instance at my girlfried's place, my parents' house...)


    Considerations & requirements

    • A feel to it that keeps me playing: Most important.
    • 2 sounds – clean / drive: All I need. Maybe even one would work.
    • Delay and reverb: Never playing without, so a must.
    • The fewer cables the better: Cables are from hell.
    • Has to fit into my gigbyg AND my traveling bag (I keep a guitar at my girlfriends place anyway).
    • Stereo: Discarded, found that this is not important as long as it comes from both sides of the headphone (which doesn't necessarily require stereo.)
    • Headphone option: Of course.
    • Battery powered: Partly discarded: Depending on the device a powerbank will do.
    • Recording interface would be nice to have. Discarded: In the end I record at home with the KPA only.
    • Drummer & Looper would be nice to have. Discarded: Aux in for tablet connection will do. I loop in my DAW.
    • Aux in: Correspondingly necessary.
    • Shouldn't cost a fortune (well, it did in the end somehow;)
    • All in one would be great: Discarded, see below.


    I tried (inter alia):

    • A small board with high end effects - Great Sound & feel, but seemed oversized at one point – had to go.
    • HX Stomp - Like the PODs – can do anything but didn't feel right (to me). Ended up more tweaking than playing. And I tend to option paralysis on the KPA already.
    • Zoom G1on - Really great FX and clean tone – with drummer and looper für under 50 bugs. Didn't take pedals though - I didn't get a good drive sound.
    • Mooer GE 200 - close to HX experience


    Solution

    In the end I found that a second setup besides the KPA has to be: Simple and effective. The Tech 21 Flyrig seemed almost perfect. I had been using a lot of Tech 21 stuff and always liked it – with the exception of the emulated speaker out. But IR-loaders are available in pedal-form these days, so this was an option. And by a lucky coincidence I stumbled across the


    SONICAKE RockStage (+ Hotone Binary IR)


    kemper-amps.com/wbb_suite_3/index.php?attachment/11008/


    which is basically an analog preamp with digital chorus, delay and reverb (being blended into the signal without a digital conversion, think analog dry through) plus a hardware Cab-Sim (which can be turned off) all in a very tiny footprint – for under 80€. (There are also versions for a cleaner tone and for metal that differ slightly in their specifications.) I did some research on it and finally ordered the RockStage. Wow. While this might not be your favorite KPA sound in a box, it absolutely works like a charm. So good, that for the missing requirements I added an IR loader that provides headphone out and aux in. There are not many providing both in the relevant price range, but the Hotone Binary IR delievers. So the combination of these two is exactly what I was looking for:

    • Feels great – Has this snap to it that feels like a slight amount of tube compression. Adding IRs makes it even better and more realistic.
    • Reverb & Delay: Nice analog style delay with three parameters and a plate reverb with just one knob. WYSISWG, set and forget.
    • (still) Versatile – Thanks to changing IRs, mics and poweramp tubes virtually there is variety.
    • Takes drive pedals – Tried this and it works great. Set the preamp to clean and place any drive you want in front of it.
    • Headphone & drummer: Along with a smart device, yes, thx to the aux in.
    • Looks great – Metal housing, colored lights for each effect.
    • Battery powered – Not really but will work with a powerbank.
    • Small - Fits inside my gigbag as well as into my traveling bag.
    • Gigging friendly - Haven't tried yet but wouldn't hesitate.


    And again - in the end it's rather cheap: 200€ for both devices. So if anyone finds themselves in here, give it a try. It might work for you either.


    Have a great weekend everybody.

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

    Edited 3 times, last by Fireloogie ().

  • Thanks for sharing. Fully understand the challenge and as much as I would love a second Kemper it is most probably not become reality in the near future.


    My solution for the situation(s) you outline (in my case mostly any issues in rehearsal or on stage) is the Two Notes Le Lead preamp. It has a rather good frequency compensated out (Two Notes is good in that area, e.g. Torpedo live/studio) and delivers two sounds - clean and dirty - which can be tweaked rather good. Put my old Ibanez Delay pedal in front of it and I am at least good to finish what I need to do....

  • I have owned several profilers at the same time (recently the Powerhead and the Stage) but I wanted something MUCH SMALLER.

    I also tried different solutions, among them the BluGuitar Amp1, but in the end I settled on the HotOne Britwind, which is essentially a Vox AC 30 plus a Marshall Plexi/2203 in a box (switchable), plus a reverb (switchable), a great boost (switchable), plus a powerful 75W poweramp included.

    It sounds great, is loud, inspiring to play, has an FX loop and a frequency compensated line-out even.

    I take it to rehearsals and smaller gigs, it’s not only a spare solution but a full rig.


    https://www.thomann.de/de/hotone_britwind_pedal_amp.htm

  • My solution for the situation(s) you outline (in my case mostly any issues in rehearsal or on stage) is the Two Notes Le Lead preamp.

    I was looking at these, too. This would be a solution if I one day I move on from the KPA, which I don't see coming. Great preamps as revies say. No way of running them without a powercord though?


    Greetz

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • I also tried different solutions, among them the BluGuitar Amp1, but in the end I settled on the HotOne Britwind

    I was looking at both, didn't want to go back to real cabs though. Did you like it better than the Amp 1?

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • Great preamps as revies say. No way of running them without a powercord though?

    Unfortunately not. Needs proper power supply as it is based on a real tube (12AX7) and thus comes with a classical wall-wart.


    Great preamps indeed. At least for the price. As said, two basic sounds to define and quite okay for the money. You don't get a real Plexi/Friedman/Bogner/Bad Cat/etc. out of those 8o

    Still I made quite some recordings with the LeLead and IRs (within my DAW) in my pre-Kemper-time which were decent at all.

  • Strymon Iridium specs look promising. USD$ 399

    https://www.sweetwater.com/sto…dium-amp-and-ir-cab-pedal

    I'm looking at this as well. At the moment what flashes me the most is the direct feel of the all analog Sonicake which I hadn't felt for a long time. And I did not know, but was missing it. Just so much fun to play. The Iridium, nevertheless, is possibly a fantastic solution, but since it has the headphone jack, my delay (always on for me) would need to be in front of it, right?


    Recently I have been looking at the new PSA 2.0 from Tech 21. I owned the original back in the days for about 10 years and somehow miss it. Alnong with the Source Audio Collider and the Binary IR loader this might be all I ever need. Just thinking loud ... :)

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • This one is on my radar, simulates preamp and power amp with an effects loop in between, Cab-Sim, plenty of IO for a small footprint.


    This, a couple couple of pedals, my power stage 170 and cab, done.


    https://youtu.be/nByJbzj_1z8

    Now this looks interesting as well. Did not know this. Will have a look at it, thank you :thumbup:

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • I just backed this.

    I also have a BluGuitar Amp1 and recently bought a Strymon Iridium. Horses for courses, but I’m pretty much covered, and once the Mod Dwarf drops in December, I’ll have way more than I need...

    Wow, another interesting solution. Seems there is lot of ground to discover. Thx, did not know this one either.

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • Cool! Let's see if it works for you. Please keep in mind that I'm using an IR loader along with the Sonicake for an improved sound. Works flawless without it though.

    Gear: Strats & KPA. Plug Ins: Cubase, NI, iZotope, Slate, XLN, Spectrasonics.
    Music: Song from my former band: vimeo.com/10419626[/media][/media][/media] Something new on the way...

  • I just backed this.

    I also have a BluGuitar Amp1 and recently bought a Strymon Iridium. Horses for courses, but I’m pretty much covered, and once the Mod Dwarf drops in December, I’ll have way more than I need...

    How do you find the Iridium compared to the Kemper?

    No matter what you do, don't be another brick in the wall.

  • How do you find the Iridium compared to the Kemper?

    Different. I don't have any complaints about the three models in the Uridium; they sound as good as anything I've ever played through, though it is only three models we're talking about. They cover the ground that I need for the bands that I play in, though when I'm in the mood to shred, I have to switch on the Kemper. The biggest reason that I started looking for other solutions was just down to ease of transport. The Toaster with Ambrosi power amp in the back plus Remote plus speaker was just too much weight, when I wanted to cycle to the rehearsal room (with guitar on my back!). It is easier with a pedalboard and some choice lightweight pedals (my current board has Strymon El Capistan, Flint, Iridium and Zuma, plus Lunastone Three Stage Rocket and Keeley Dark Side - everything I'd ever need). If I need to power a speaker, I use the return of my BluGuitar Amp1, which gives me 100 Watts of power and fits in my gig bag. To be honest, I probably just need to buy a Stage, but it was financially easier to swallow to build the board piece by piece...

  • This one is on my radar, simulates preamp and power amp with an effects loop in between, Cab-Sim, plenty of IO for a small footprint.


    This, a couple couple of pedals, my power stage 170 and cab, done.


    https://youtu.be/nByJbzj_1z8

    That one is really appealing!


    Also super-curious of what the MOD dwarf has to offer, sambrox .


    In my case, I went for a second-hand mooer ge200 for around 200€: super-cheap, small, with FX and expression pedal, and amp sims good enough for me to practice and backup / smaller gigs; I only played it live twice, and it actually sounded surprisingly better than I expected (in comparison to how it did in my rehearsal space), 1st gig straight to PA (the venue had a very nice monitor I could use just 4 me), and 2nd gig into the FX return of a valve amp they rented for us.


    Ovbiously not the kemper, but unbeatable bang for the buck if you ask me!

  • I too was looking for a backup fly rig sized solution a few years ago.

    Guys here on the forums suggested to me the atomic amplifire. This as when the red three button version had just come on the market. At the time it was quite pricey but now they are going cheap second hand.

    Since then they have launched the six and twelve button versions and I cannot recommend these enough for a Kemper alternative. The effects still leave a bit to be desired, in my opinion, but the amp tones are awesome and adding your fave cab IRs does the job very nicely!


    Does anyone else here use one?