Now that my clickbait-style headline has your attention, let me start by saying that I have really come to appreciate my Kemper. For a long time, I had my doubts about this machine and it turned out that all of them had either to do with my guitars at that time (the Kemper can only sound as good as the guitars you use), bad profiles (or at least not after my taste) and user errors (mostly those).
What I still don't get is the EQ of the Kabinet vs the EQ in the profiles. I know I have asked about this before but I think I can phrase my question more precisely now, having run some tests.
First, let's assume a few things. Whoever made the profiles I use dialed their amp to a certain volume when they made the profile. To get the closest copy of what they were hearing while profiling, I would need to plug the Kemper into the exact same cabinet and have it set to the exact same volume they were using to push the speakers in the same way.
Correct so far?
Now, I mainly use headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M50X) when playing with the Kemper and I feel I need to tweak profiles quite a bit to make them sound good. I have become so much better at that, I think. Since I mainly use P90 guitars I often have to dial out some bass and mids and then it sounds pretty close to the profile demonstrations in the youtube videos. Sometimes even spot on.
So here's another statement: Despite hearing people often say one shouldn't use headphones to dial in the tone, I feel this must be wrong. If I listen to a youtuber showing a profile, I also listen to it via the same headphones and it sounds good. So shouldn't me dialing it in so that it sounds the same as in the demo mean I have kind of a "good" EQ setting? Is there anything I'm missing here?
But here's where the problems begin:
When I plug in the Kemper Kabinet, the EQ of the profile is suddenly off. I don't mean subtle things. I mean things like: far too much bass and mids. But if I turn those bass and mid frequencies down, the profile would suddenly not sound good anymore for recording (and I assume for FOH).
I realized a few things here:
- The Kabinet changes EQ a lot depending on how loud you play it. I think this is partly Fletcher-Munson, but the differences are quite big. Sometimes changing 2db in the output don't really make it sound quieter or louder to my ear but the bass can get from perfect to boomy and flabby.
- If I play the Kabinet loud (starting at 92db aka Fletcher-Munson) I often don't have to make any EQ changes to profiles anymore. They sound perfect like that as if the one who made the profiles always intended them to be played in that volume though a cabinet. As if I need the speaker to open up properly to get it right. But then again it only sounds good via the Kabinet but not via headphones, aka recording/FOH.
Question: Which option will closer to what comes out at FOH? What I hear through the Kabinet in loud volumes or what I hear via headphones? Which EQ can I trust?
Before you tell me that I shouldn't worry about it because the sound guy will fix it at the mixer: Shouldn't the Kemper help me not having to give everything into the hands of another person? Isn't the whole point of the Kemper to take the sound from the studio to the stage?
To simplify things, let us assume there is no sound guy and I'm playing in the band. So I have to set it up myself and can only adjust the sound on the Kemper myself. (There might be a wedding situation like this coming up). How can I trust what comes out of the Kabinet if my experience is that it often sounds so different going into my DAW/headphones?
A last assumption: I guess what the Kabinet is doing is the same that a real cab would do. Speaker sound changes depending on volume and amp output. But didn't Kemper miss a trick here? I know there are attenuators that compensate for the Fletcher-Munson curve. Most famously the Tone King attenuators. But also the Boss TAE and the Fryette Power Station. Wouldn't that be a great option to add to the Kemper? A setup that tries to keep the profile sounding as it was intended by the person who made the profile (or as I dial it in via monitor speakers), no matter what volume I play through the Kabinet? (Of course there's a threshold at too low db that would make even these attenuators sound bad. But their sweet zone seems to be bigger than the Kabinet's.) If so, then I'd submit an on-and-off switchable Fletcher-Munson curve adjustment on the top of my future feature wish list.
In the case I mentioned above where I would have to EQ myself, how would you do that? Would you dial in the profile for the speakers in the room and then adjust the monitor EQ so that it sounds good through the Kabinet?
And the last question: I cannot try right now to just plug the Kemper into a big PA. But from what I have described above, the fact that I need to adjust profiles more for headphones than for playing loud with the Kabinet, do you think the big PA would rather behave like the EQ in my headphones or the one in the Kabinet when played loud?
This has become a long text. But if I can solve this riddle then I can be truly happy with the Kemper. At the moment I'm even thinking of adding a real cabinet again to mic it because I feel I would have more control over a balanced EQ that way. And this can clearly not be the point of owning a Kemper.