Kemper, an honest review.

  • The key point as you mention is that with a regular set up, the FOH sound does not sound like on stage sound - we as guitarists never worried about this previously. Our focus was on stage sound because that was what we miked up. what's most important is...it never will. Not a KPA issue its the same with every set up.


    What is done for me is change my focus....mine is on FOH, not on stage. As long as its good enough on stage I can play well as I KNOW my FOH sound is great and not dependant upon a dodgy mike that had fallen over or not on the right part of the speaker etc :)


    Back to your question, you can get imprints out to FOH ( not via the Kabinet) but you don't want to...because imprints are not designed for this and will cause odd results.


    The Kab will sound different to FOH but closer than a regular guitar cab. It offers the best compromise between FRFR and regaulr cab but its not to everyone's tastes :)

  • FOH wins! It does not matter what you think sounds good. It always matters what the audience thinks sounds good!


    Proof: The audience thought this sounds good, and history was made...


    The more you find what Kemper can do then the harder you try to find what it cannot do -- like make a good cup of Frappuccino.

  • Tiny Tim's entire act was very tongue in cheek and was never meant to be taken seriously. That doesn't mean it can't be entertaining, it obviously was. But then, so was Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, a show that certainly wouldn't be considered "serious" viewing by any theatrical standard.


    In fairness, as the years go by I also find that I'm much less judgmental of such things compared to the days of my youth when I knew everything (despite a total life experience of twenty some-odd years) and could confidently sit in judgement of all wrong.


    It's kinda like "good" guitar tones. It doesn't matter if you got it from an expensive, high tech piece of gear like a Kemper or shoved a 57 in front of a cheap combo amp with a four inch speaker. If it sounds good, it is good.


    And now I'll have Tiptoe Thru the Tulips running through my head all day. Thanks for that, BayouTexan. I will be avenged. :)

  • The key point as you mention is that with a regular set up, the FOH sound does not sound like on stage sound - we as guitarists never worried about this previously. Our focus was on stage sound because that was what we miked up. what's most important is...it never will. Not a KPA issue its the same with every set up.

    This. Many people make comments about wanting to use a miced guitar cab for FOh because they will know what it sounds like out front. This is clearly nonsense, the sound on stage when miced often bears little resemblance to what the audience hears out front especially when the stage crew move mics for different bands between between sound check and show. I have even had the situation where the stage crew forgot to put the mic back on the cabinet after the first band and nobody noticed until several songs into the set 🤬 Also had too many instances where an SM57 slipped on the stand and was pointing directly at the floor instead of the speaker. The KPA removes all of that and ensures that FOH get the sound I want them to get. What they do after that to make it sit in the mix is beyond my control but I trust them to make it sound good as that’s their job. The fewer uncontrollable variables in the chain the better.


    In fairness, as the years go by I also find that I'm much less judgmental of such things compared to the days of my youth when I knew everything (despite a total life experience of twenty some-odd years) and could confidently sit in judgement of all wrong.

    Much like the old story that says “when I was 20 and my father was 40 I thought he was an idiot. Now I am 40 and he is 60 I am amazed at how much he has learned in the last 20 years.” 🤣

  • So, last night, after spending a significant amount of time looking for better profiles than i had, dialing them in using flat response speakers and getting the cab sound as i wanted i gave it a go at another rehearsal. It sounded pretty good but i still felt like something was missing and after stumbling on the remote switches one too many times i decided to try my Soldano to see if it was the 'feel' i was missing. Well...it was. The 'feel' had returned instantly. Noisy, yes, something that the KPA does not have, but it did not matter. I was able to enjoy playing again.


    I have struggled with rehearsals for the last few weeks as i was not enjoying what i was hearing/feeling, something was missing. It's not easy to describe but your fingers feel it and it affects how you play and certainly how you enjoy playing. For me, if it is not fun, what is the point of doing it? My band mates agreed totally that the sound was significantly better. I explained that 'yeah, it's ok but it will sound good out front, i think', unfortunately that is not enough. As a guitar player i need to enjoy what i am actually hearing, not what i think the audience might hear.

    I have played in bands long enough (not that it matters) to know about mic placements in a live setting, as let's be honest, it is not rocket science. If a sound guy is being slack and not placing the mic correctly (i have rarely come across this in all the years i have been playing) i would simply move the mic to a placement i know will work.

    'What if the sound guy is being slack on the desk with EQ?', i can hear that through the monitors and either adjust my amp accordingly or guide the sound guy, that's what a sound/line check is for, right? Nobody would simply settle for the whole 'i know it sounds good out front' without having the sound returned through monitors for you to check. There will still be adjustments that are needed to be made to compensate for a whole load of things that occur from venue to venue. The sound guy can still screw a good DI from the Kemper if they aren't on the ball, so having a good sound check is vital.


    I love the Kemper and can definitely see why others may use it in a live setting. For other styles of music it would be great but i would still need to use physical pedals, that's just me.


    I have one more option and that is to try it with my Mesa 295 power amp, bypassing the built in power amp. This could well be a good compromise in terms of sound/tone/projection/feel. I'm a little reluctant, as if i find it to tick these boxes my back will never forgive me, which is partly the reason for moving away from this kind of gear.

  • So, last night, after spending a significant amount of time looking for better profiles than i had, dialing them in using flat response speakers and getting the cab sound as i wanted i gave it a go at another rehearsal. It sounded pretty good but i still felt like something was missing and after stumbling on the remote switches one too many times i decided to try my Soldano to see if it was the 'feel' i was missing. Well...it was. The 'feel' had returned instantly. Noisy, yes, something that the KPA does not have, but it did not matter. I was able to enjoy playing again.


    I have struggled with rehearsals for the last few weeks as i was not enjoying what i was hearing/feeling, something was missing. It's not easy to describe but your fingers feel it and it affects how you play and certainly how you enjoy playing. For me, if it is not fun, what is the point of doing it? My band mates agreed totally that the sound was significantly better. I explained that 'yeah, it's ok but it will sound good out front, i think', unfortunately that is not enough. As a guitar player i need to enjoy what i am actually hearing, not what i think the audience might hear.

    I have played in bands long enough (not that it matters) to know about mic placements in a live setting, as let's be honest, it is not rocket science. If a sound guy is being slack and not placing the mic correctly (i have rarely come across this in all the years i have been playing) i would simply move the mic to a placement i know will work.

    Firstly, totally agree that its what works for you is most important so not trying to change your mind here, just making sure you have the right considerations because this is a mindset change. I totally re-evaluated my set up and approach as a result.


    The points I was trying to make is that the KPA will not sound 100% like your Soldano in the room unless you do a DI profile of it and even then there will be some differences.


    Its not really about mic placement on speakers, the point is that sound that you love from the Soldano, the audience doesn't hear - fact. They hear closer to your FRFR sound...which is the type of sound you are less keen on. Same principle with IEM's....many people don;t like the sound of their guitar through IEM's...well that's a closer representation of what your audience is hearing.


    We all want the best sound on stage to inspire us, but that isn't what others hear. What a lot of digital equipment isn't good at is amp in the room sound ( for whatever reason and I'd argue against this).....it seems harder to achieve.


    What they are really good at is FOH sound and so comparing an amp in the room to sounds tailored to FOH are never going to be valid.

  • With a real tube amp, which has consistent characteristics going out to FOH all night long, you can absolutely be sure that what you’re hearing on stage is **closer** to what the audience is hearing. Not exact of course, but reasonably close.


    This is not the case if you are using a Kemper through a traditional guitar cab, but sending studio profiles of different amps, with different cab emulations, out to FOH. It will still sound good to the audience, but it will be much less consistent and you will have less of an idea of what they’re hearing.


    And that’s why people use FRFR speakers, to get **closer** to what is happening out front. Unfortunately my experiments with that setup leave me wanting, and I’m unwilling at this point to keep throwing money at the problem.

  • With a real tube amp, which has consistent characteristics going out to FOH all night long, you can absolutely be sure that what you’re hearing on stage is **closer** to what the audience is hearing. Not exact of course, but reasonably close.

    This becomes untrue the moment the FOH guy pulls up your channel in the mix.

    With a miked-up amp you're never going to hear on stage what the audience hears over FOH.

  • Yes I did, but I disagree because of the aforementioned reasons. ;)

    You disagree with the reality that it will be **closer** than a digital solution sending a different amp and cab profile to FOH than a single tube amp sending the same amp/speaker combination all night?


    Ok well...whatever floats your boat I guess

  • You disagree with the reality that it will be **closer** than a digital solution sending a different amp and cab profile to FOH than a single tube amp sending the same amp/speaker combination all night?


    Ok well...whatever floats your boat I guess

    Different amp and cab profile to FOH - but the changes remain consistent.

  • The moment you stick a mic in front of a cab, you've stepped away from "amp in the room" and have ventured into "recording studio" territory (even when you're playing live), because you're trying to capture that wild, raw beast that is a tube amp on 11 and make it come out of your mixing console in a well-behaved manner. Hopefully without injuring any adjacent instruments in the process.


    While reality could certainly prove me wrong, I just don't think it's possible for a mic to completely capture what it's like to stand in front of a blazing guitar amp in all its glory, no matter how talented the guy sitting at FOH (or in the control room). It can sound great, and often does, but it's just not the same.


    That's actually one of the things I love about the Kemper. The entire concept is based on reproducing what happens when you stick a mic in front of a cab rather than trying to be the amp in the room. If it was the latter it would only be part of a solution as I'd still have to worry about mic placement, where small moves have major consequences. Anyone who's spent any time at all miking up guitars is aware of how even the slightest change alters your tone, and that's an inconsistency from night to night that I'm happy to be done with. Instead, I just take the XLR outputs, point them at a mixer, and that's that - a well-behaved amp ready to take its place in the mixing console and play nice with others.


    Yes, it's a compromise in tone compared to "amp in the room," but so is miking a tube amp. However, at least I know that what comes out the other end will always be the same. Life is an exercise in trade offs, and for me this is a good one. After all, all I've ever heard on the radio, and at concerts, was what comes out the other end of a mic. The only time I usually hear the amp in the room sound is when I'm standing in front of one.

  • With a real tube amp, which has consistent characteristics going out to FOH all night long, you can absolutely be sure that what you’re hearing on stage is **closer** to what the audience is hearing. Not exact of course, but reasonably close.


    This is not the case if you are using a Kemper through a traditional guitar cab, but sending studio profiles of different amps, with different cab emulations, out to FOH. It will still sound good to the audience, but it will be much less consistent and you will have less of an idea of what they’re hearing.


    And that’s why people use FRFR speakers, to get **closer** to what is happening out front. Unfortunately my experiments with that setup leave me wanting, and I’m unwilling at this point to keep throwing money at the problem.

    sorry Cal but your logic is 180 degrees out of phase.


    The Kemper approach will be closer and most importantly more consistent, not only throughout the night but also from night to night. Which is why so many major league touring acts are/have switched to digital solutions. They know that onstage sound is important up to a point but it is FOH that generates the revenue


    Valve amps aren’t consistent all night long. The sound varies as the valves heat up etc. The effect may be minor in most cases but can be significant in others.


    In order to have an apples to apples comparison though you would need to have the same Kemper Amp and Cab going to FOH all night long. Which many people actually do. You can’t make the comparison of a mic in front of a single cab being driven by the same valve amp all night against a Kemper setup which changes amp and cab throughout the gig. The valve amp scenario only has one core sound to send to FOH. Therefore, you can only compare it to a single Rig Kemper performance to decide which is more consistent. The answer is always going to be the Kemper.


    Just because you CAN change amp and cab on the Kemper (but can’t on the traditional rig) doesn’t mean you have to. If you want the best, most consistent and closest to your onstage sound to hit the audience through FOH the Kemper wins hands down every single time because it removes one of the biggest contributors ( mic placement) from the equation.


    Now, whether you think the Kemper tone and feel on stage is better/worse/same as the traditional rig is a totally different argument and is definitely a matter of personal taste. We all have different tastes and that’s good, variety is the spice of life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that.

  • Kind of. . . We play a lot of different types of shows, some huge stages at festivals, some smaller club venues. The "amp in the room" does come in to play within these settings too still. As you know, the stage PA is located to the left and right of the stage which leaves rows up front centre taking a lot of what they hear from the stage gear ,so it is important to sound good on stage regardless of what is being put out FOH. This is mostly important for me in terms of me enjoying what i hear which will then influence how i perform.

    The KPA profiles are still created using mics but in a different setting and some are good, some poor. I have mostly found a lot of poor profiles which has taken me a lot of time and effort and has resulted in me not enjoying the practice/rehearsal/writing part of being in a band so far. The whole "yeah, but at least you know it's good out front" isn't enough for me.

    If i could find a profile that was great out front as well as really good on stage then i'd be more open.
    My reluctance to take the KPA on tour is the result of a combination of concerns - not enjoying the sound on stage/rehearsals, not knowing what the FOH is receiving before i get out there, although, i can test on low level flat response speakers, but is that enough?, the remote control footswitch tripping me up from time to time, to name a few.

    I think if at practice we all used in ear monitors then it would be a different thing but we're not Metallica.

    Don't get me wrong, i absolutely love the KPA and have used it to record our latest single which made the process an absolute breeze and i will continue to use it in this way moving forward, i would just like to happy all round with it for live use.

    I

  • ...some are good, some poor. I have mostly found a lot of poor profiles which has taken me a lot of time and effort and has resulted in me not enjoying the practice/rehearsal/writing part of being in a band so far.

    To me this is a huge consideration, before you even begin talking about FOH. If you play guitar and don't like what you hear, nothing else matters.


    In fact, I almost returned my Kemper the first week I had it because of the quality of profiles. As it turns out, I didn't understand the difference between a profile (snapshot of a tone) and an amp simulation (here's all the knobs, do what you will). I just saw Marshall and expected it to sound like my Marshall, but I play classic rock and most of the Rig Exchange tones were dialed in for metal. And they may be awesome for metal. For classic rock, not so much.


    The only reason I kept the Kemper is that I found profiles that gave me exactly what I wanted to hear, for the style of music I play, when I strap on the guitar. In fact, they sounded better than the tones I was getting out of good tube amps (I kinda suck at dialing in tone).


    Most of my favorite profiles for classic rock are MB, and it's well known that they tend to "come alive" at gig volume. I also like them in a recording context, and it was the latter that I used when searching for profiles. I'm just guessing here, but since you did your record I'm wondering if you might have auditioned profiles in the same context.


    If so, it might be worth you doing another profile search, but testing them all at the loudness you use when working with your drummer. I'd even use a db meter in front of your tube amp with your drummer first, so that you could then play at the same level and see which profiles held up and which "collapsed." Maybe it's the Kemper power amp (if so, as I mentioned you might test other power amps). However, just as MB profiles "come alive" at gig level, maybe other profiles are optimized for studio and shine most brightly in that context.


    Also, I spent a lot of time looking at free rigs on Rig Exchange. There's good stuff there, but I decided to see who was doing well regarded commercial profiles. My logic is that someone who does this as a business might do it frequently enough to gain significant skills at it, so (maybe) it would be less of a hit or miss proposition.


    Another thing that I believe is absolutely crucial to getting the right tone is to find profilers who are into the same style of music as you. I truly love the MB profiles for classic rock, but I doubt that he'd be the first call for a metal guy. A profile is a snapshot of a tone - after someone dialed that tone in. If the person doing the profiling isn't passionate about your kind of music, how could he dial in a great tone for it?


    So, if you haven't already, I would do another tone search. Do the auditions at gig volume (if you can blast backing tracks of your band through the PA for a full frequency comparison, even better). If you haven't already, search for commercial profilers who are passionate about your genre of music. Then, if you find a profile that can make you feel good at full volume, I think the FOH thing won't be an issue. You'll like what you hear on stage, as will the guys in the mosh pit (if they even do that anymore), and the FOH guy is gonna tweak your inputs anyway to make it sit in the mix.


    For what it's worth, I believe it's possible for you to get what you want out of the Kemper, but it's all about the profiles, man. If all you've found are poor profiles for your taste, then you can't move forward until you skin that particular cat.

  • Thanks for this. I think you are totally right. I have tried a lot of profiles but only those found on the RigExchange, without purchasing any.

    I found the MB profiles to be quite poor for what i want but i can see how they would be suitable for other styles.

    If i'm not mistaken, a merged profile would be what i would need? Is that right? Would i get a good enough "in the room" sound though? I'm not looking for perfection but to be be happy that i can be heard in a band mix and get that "feel". I guess i need to start paying for profiles to get me there.