An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

  • I have been playing guitars on and off for over thirty years. Most of those years were spent in NYC where micing amps was out of the question. Even with my apartment on the 34th floor, the street noise was too much, so digital amp emulation was the way to go. I started out with the original Pod and ended up with a Digidesign Eleven Rack. Over the years I kept abreast of the advances in technology and kept reading great things about the Kemper and Ax FX units. As much as I lusted after those, I could not justify the expense for a hobby.

    Fast forward to the present- I retired early and bought a home by a lake in Connecticut. All of a sudden owning physical amps became an option without all the street noise and no neighbors to complain about loud amps. I have always been a fan of the sound of real tubes- I have a high end Hi-Fi setup that is all tubes, so I bought a Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue for cleans, and a Marshall SL-5 for the overdriven Marshall sound. I also started collecting boutique pedals. I play a variety of styles including blues (from BB King to SRV), Jazz, classic rock and hard rock.

    Recently I decided to focus on playing and recording early 60s guitar instrumentals- mainly surf stuff like Dick Dale, Bel-Airs, The Challengers, The Ventures, etc.. After acquiring a vintage reissue Fender Jazzmaster and a Jaguar, I was ready to make some authentic sounding surf tones (I already had a Fender Reissue tube reverb unit). I was able to dial in a decent sound with the Blues Deluxe. I started a project to record a surf album that would capture the original surf sound from '60 to '63. I did a lot of research on the recording techniques and equipment from the period and quickly realized there were some challenges.

    First off, the SM57 had not been invented yet and most of those records were recorded with expensive tube condenser and ribbon mics on the cabinets of Fender Brownface amps. Being retired, I didn't want to have to spend a ton of money on mics for one project, so I decided to experiment with the Eleven Rack that had emulations of these amps and mics built in. I was thrilled to find that I was able to get a great surf tone by putting the Fender Reverb Unit in front of the eleven rack and dialing in a '59 Bassman miced with a Neumann U67. I really think the Fender reverb putting a couple of real 6L6 tubes in the signal chain helped.

    Now I had read many times that the Kemper could blow away the Eleven Rack for authenticity with the right profiles, so I started doing research. I quickly discovered that there were a large number of great rigs consisting of some great Fender vintage amps, so I ordered a Kemper.

    I am still awaiting delivery, but I am very excited about my new acquisition. Beyond this project, there are also some great rigs for the other styles I play. I have also purchased the complete collection of Tone Junkie rigs.

    I look forward to participating in this forum.

  • Thanks for the warm welcome I will be posting my impressions and progress. For a variety of reasons, I had to lay off playing for a number of years, so am still working on getting my chops back, but now playing every day.

    Expected delivery moved from tomorrow to Sunday. :(

  • Man, I think I'm going to like it here! For twenty years I have been intrigued by the prospect of having a device that could emulate great-but-unobtainable-by-the masses amps. I think Kemper may have done it. I can't wait to start playing.

  • Welcome and congrats! Which version did you order? If not a Stage, will you get a Remote? How about expression pedals to control things like Wah, Pitch, and Volume.... or to use the rig Morphing feature?

    I got the toaster model head. It's intended use is in my home studio- I don't currently gig. So right now the plan is to not use a remote. I have a wah pedal that I absolutely love as well as a volume pedal. Right now my intention is to use those, but once I start playing with the Kemper, I may rethink that. Most of what I play is early instrumental guitar instrumentals, blues, and jazz so pretty clean basic sounds for now.

    Of course, once I start to play and experiment with the Kemper, things could change.