Things I still don't get about the Kemper (Did they miss an opportunity?)

  • 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.


    Thanks everyone!




  • 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?

    If it is a Direct Amplifier Profile, yes. And, preferably play as loud as the amp was when the Profile was made.


    But, if it was a Studio or Merged Profile, no. And, you need to use one of these types of Profiles to send the signal to FOH.


    Which option will closer to what comes out at FOH?

    If you use Studio-quality headphones, or Kabinet in Full-range mode, and aim it at your face, either option will be close enough for Rig editing.

    I suggest adjusting the various EQ options available in the rigs for the sounds you want to be sent to FOH. Then, you can use the Imprints or the Monitor EQ to adjust your onstage sound, without affecting your FOH sound.


    FOH sound varies with each system, and with each venue. If you have to do it yourself, adjust at the mixing board, not in the Profiler.

  • If so, then I'd submit an on-and-off switchable Fletcher-Munson curve adjustment on the top of my future feature wish list.

    Isn't this parameter pretty much about that:


    "

    KEMPER Kone Mode

     Sweetening


    The full-range mode of the KEMPER Kone is extremely linear — for some of us, it might even be too linear. The high-quality monitors/PA speakers used with digital guitar amps will often emphasize the low and high frequencies —
    this makes the sound more appealing and allows for an increase in volume level without causing ear fatigue. The "Sweetening” parameter allows continuous control over the level of this emphasis. At full left position, there is no emphasis at all. At full right, the low and high frequencies will be emphasized by 6 dB, while the overall volume stays roughly the same.

    "

  • Hi, Kaschko.


    Short Answer: The audience will never hear what you hear on the stage. Their experience of the performance will be in a different context (physical, mental, emotional) than yours. With these conflicting contexts and conflicting needs (see below), you can't solve this riddle. Do what you need to do to put on a great show.


    Thoughts and opinions


    Amp in the Room

    To indulge my cravings for the Amp in the Room experience, I run the Profiler monitor outputs (Monitor Cab Off) through a couple of Class D amps with EV M-12G. I like this tonnes, and if I did it more, I would get a couple of Kemper Kones.

    I do not expect to replicate this experience for my audience through a Front of House system. It's impossible. And that's why I only do this as an indulgence, but not for rehearsal.


    On the Stage vs. Front of House

    Yesterday, I watched a round table discussion of Monitor Engineers because my new In-Ear Monitors are in transit. I wanted some insights into things I'll need to consider when setting up the monitor mix.


    Throughout the discussion, I was impressed with how much these people cared for the performers they serve. The other thing that leapt out from the conversation is that you have two different audiences with vastly different needs: the people on stage and the people in the house. That's why you have two different mix engineers.


    Toward the end of the discussion, someone asked, "Would you rather be the Monitor Engineer or the Front of House Engineer?"

    All the panellists replied (quickly and emphatically), "Monitor Engineer." The most common reason: It's easier to please a few people on the stage than thousands in the audience.


    Monitoring

    To hear the same mix as the audience will hear, run the Profiler monitor outputs (Monitor Cab Off - disabled) through a system that sounds like the Front of House system, at the same Sound Pressure Level as the audience will hear it. Because your needs as the performer are different from the audience's needs, you may have a sub-optimal experience.


    Headphones

    If you wear headphones to be socially accepted in a domestic setting (e.g., not too loud at home), you listen to anticipate and predict what you will hear in performance and what your audience will hear through the Front of House system. At best, you might get a rough approximation of one or the other, but you can't get both at the same time. With experience, you may be able to hear that rough approximation and imagine what you'll hear on stage or what the audience will hear in the house.


    I wear headphones to have a headphones experience, just like I occasionally have an Amp in the Room experience. I don't expect either to simulate what anybody will hear at a gig.

  • Thanks a lot for your replies so far!

    Isn't this parameter pretty much about that:


    "

    KEMPER Kone Mode

     Sweetening

    No, this isn't what I was talking about. I meant an option that changes EQ when you change the loudness. This is what Tone King attenuators do. Every db step down has a different EQ setting so that they all sound alike. You don't hear the EQ change, it follows your adjustment of volume. You rather hear that you do NOT hear an EQ change. It's brilliant.


    I think for a digital platform like the Kemper this should be even easier to do than with the physical version of the Tone King Ironman.


    If you use Studio-quality headphones, or Kabinet in Full-range mode, and aim it at your face, either option will be close enough for Rig editing.

    So you think the imprints are rather misleading for rig editing? I find picking the right imprint gets a bit closer to what I hear via headphones, since it sounds so much fuller than the full-range mode. But I guess you're suggesting that the imprints change the EQ?


    The audience will never hear what you hear on the stage.

    Thanks for all the good points you made. I know that there will always be a difference between on-stage, audience and at home sound.

    What I am wondering about, however, is the right workflow. It seems for you it's most important to get good sound to the audience and you don't care the same level for how it sounds at home, like with the amp in the room sensation and not having bought Kemper Kones yet. For me, the workflow is the other way around. I play mainly at home and want to know how to best bring that sound to the audience for an occasional gig. Also, it would of course be great if I could just play through the Kabinet while recording and knowing the sound matches, but the Kabinet EQ is too different from what I would dial in for recording. So I generally have to use headphones for that purpose.

  • Kaschko said “So you think the imprints are rather misleading for rig editing? I find picking the right imprint gets a bit closer to what I hear via headphones, since it sounds so much fuller than the full-range mode. But I guess you're suggesting that the imprints change the EQ?”


    The cabinet in the actual profile will always be the sound of a speaker plus a microphone. So, even if you choose an imprint that sounds much like it is possible, making your EQ changes based on the sound of the imprint might not give you the sound you want in the front of house.

  • The cabinet in the actual profile will always be the sound of a speaker plus a microphone. So, even if you choose an imprint that sounds much like it is possible, making your EQ changes based on the sound of the imprint might not give you the sound you want in the front of house.

    Correct me if I‘m wrong but you suggest:

    Step 1: EQ profiles according to headphones or full-range mode Kabinet.


    Step 2: Test with the actual PA to make adjustments.


    Step 3: On the Kabinet, either choose full-range mode or pick an imprint that sounds close to what the PA sound “felt like“.


    Step 4: On the Kabinet, adjust monitor EQ only so not to mess with the FOH signal.


    Correct?


    I guess that disqualifies the method of starting with a profile, let‘s say of a Fender Princeton, picking the matching imprint for the speaker from the profile (in this case say a a Jensen 10“) and adjusting the EQ to what you hear coming from the Kabinet. That workflow would be much more what guitarists used to do, just dial in the amp and hope it translates to the audience.


    To get closer to that, couldn‘t the Kemper reverse translate the impact of the imprint back to the profile? But I guess it‘s hard because of the missing mic section in this case...


    I just hope there was a way for a more balanced EQ experience on all the plattforms (Kabinet, monitors, DAW). Especially because, as I said, loudness changes EQ so much.

  • Kaschko


    I suggest:


    Step 1: EQ profiles according to headphones or full-range mode Kabinet.

    Step 2: On the Kabinet, either choose full-range mode or pick an imprint that feels better than full-range.

    Step 3: On the Kabinet, adjust monitor EQ only so not to mess with the FOH signal.

    Keep this in mind about the Monitor EQ. It is a Global control - it will affect all Imprints, and also will affect full-range mode with the Kabinets. So, use it as a Master onstage EQ, and adjust it if needed at a particular gig.


    Step 4: Hopefully, the FOH engineer will be making ll the instruments fit in the mix. Only if there isn't one, and you are mixing the entire band, make any needed adjustments with mixing board, not on the Profiler.

  • Ingolf Sorry for pulling you into this thread :) But in the context I mentioned above, when you play with your real cabinet connected to the Kemper, do you use it in situations where the cabinet is the main sound source, or do you still have a studio profile going to FOH? Does your cab in this context give you a good reference of what goes to FOH? Or do you even mic the cab instead of sending a signal from the Kemper to the mixer?

  • With experience, you may be able to hear that rough approximation and imagine what you'll hear on stage or what the audience will hear in the house.

    I think this is exactly what I'm unclear about. How do you imagine that? I have a strong feeling certain frequencies get emphasized with more loudness when using the Kabinet. Unfortunately, that's especially true for treble. I guess I would have to hear very little highs and lows on headphones to approximate a good live sound through the Kabinet on full blast.


    Again, I would think there has to be a way for the Kemper to guarantee a more balanced EQ through all the systems.


    Am I missing something here and do PA systems automatically do such an adjustment? So basically, if I set a great sound on the Kemper on my studio monitors, will the PA system adjust the frequencies when played louder than I play it at home? Since I work in cinema, I know it certainly applies here. That would mean my problem of big EQ changes is rather a problem of amp cabinets than PA. Is that the case?

  • A PA for any live show is probably going to be set up to be as flat sounding as possible for the audience point of view. So that's up to whoever is setting up and handling the FOH. So you could try setting your Kemper main outs also as flat as possible while creating your set of rigs. Probably monitoring with some type of Studio Monitor or headphones that you're familiar with. Then you can be pretty sure that what comes out of the PA is as close as you could expect to what you were hearing from your monitors (with the PA being adjusted for differences in the room or space, and obviously up to the taste of whoever is running FOH).


    Then the Kemper Kab is a monitor for you, and what you hear on stage. So you would adjust it to whatever you like to hear and inspires you to play the best performance. Some people may just use regular monitors or in ears, and may be happy hearing the same mix that goes to the audience. But others prefer that more amp like sound you may get out of the Kab. If you are only trying to make the Kab and the Main outs the same, you probably really don't need what the Kab is providing. To try doing it in the other direction - trying to make the Main Outs sound like the Kab probably wouldn't make much sense.

  • How would I know how loud that was?

    There really isn't a way to know - I just mentioned that as an ideal situation.


    You may be overthinking the idea of "a more balanced EQ through all the systems." No two systems will ever sound exactly the same, and, even if they did, the sound onstage would still be different than the louder FOH system.

  • A PA for any live show is probably going to be set up to be as flat sounding as possible for the audience point of view. So that's up to whoever is setting up and handling the FOH. So you could try setting your Kemper main outs also as flat as possible while creating your set of rigs.

    I'm really a beginner when it comes to these things. Could you shortly explain what you mean by "flat"? How do I know an EQ is flat?

  • Ingolf Sorry for pulling you into this thread :) But in the context I mentioned above, when you play with your real cabinet connected to the Kemper, do you use it in situations where the cabinet is the main sound source, or do you still have a studio profile going to FOH? Does your cab in this context give you a good reference of what goes to FOH? Or do you even mic the cab instead of sending a signal from the Kemper to the mixer?

    I will still have a studio profile going to FOH. The profiles I use are tried and trusted.

    So I know it will sound great FOH.

    My cabinet is for my own pleasure. ;)

  • Hi, Kaschko.

    I think this is exactly what I'm unclear about. How do you imagine that?

    Experience, devotion, empathy, training, and talent.


    There are professionals in our community who have devoted lifetimes to training their ears and understanding how people perceive sound. I can't overstate the skill involved. I know people with those skills. I've spent countless hours in their presence. I've even played with some who are gifted musicians.


    Here's a video I just found in my search for some help in how to answer your question.

  • It's both easy and difficult. Easy - flat just means all frequencies are set to be about equal. Difficult - at any point in time that is up to your position from the speakers and how the room influences those frequencies.


    Not to over-simplify, but most studio monitors, full range PA cabinets, decent headphones, etc. are intended to be somewhat flat in response. Probably studio monitors more so than others. But then the room you use them in, and the position you put them in (how far away, against a wall, in a corner) are all going to have an effect that you probably need to adjust for with some kind of EQ. Sure, there are tools you can use to figure it out. If you have an EQ that can generate a pink noise signal and a flat response mic, you can use that mic to look at the noise from your speakers. Then use an EQ that displays the response to tune it as flat across the spectrum as possible.


    Maybe simpler is to listen to some regular professional recordings that have a lot of range. If they sound pretty good and equal without any EQ, then your monitors and room are already pretty flat. If not adjust whatever EQ you have to get it to sound like what you want to tune them for your ears. Then if you create new rigs and set them through that same monitor system so they sound as you'd like, then they should sound pretty similar through any decent PA.


    I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but I think the idea is to go on the assumption that if your studio monitoring (whether speakers or headphones) sound good on some recording already finished and mastered, the you can set your Kemper rigs in that same environment so they sound as you want. Then assume that the FOH is going to be as close as possible since that normally is not going to be in your control.


    Then the KAB is only for your monitoring, so you set it up however sounds best to you, whereever you're playing. You still might need to tweak the global Monitor EQ, etc. on the Kemper output depending on how a given room affects what you hear. But that EQ should then work for all rigs in that room.


    Does that make sense?

  • I think this is exactly what I'm unclear about. How do you imagine that?


    I onow this isn’t what you want to hear but the only real answer is “experience”. You just need to do it often enough to get a feel for it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single right way to do it solution.


    You need to get you Studio profiles for FOH to sound as good as possible on the flattest possible monitoring solution in a decent sounding room. If a profile sounds good on good studio monitors in a decent room it will “translate” well to other environments. It will never sound the same in all environments but it will be a good starting point for fine tuning (via the FOH desk) for as many situations as possible.


    Forget about trying to make impulses through the Kabinet sound the same as FOH; it won’t happen and it isn’t even desirable in most cases. You need your onstage sound to be clear for you and often this means that your guitar will need to poke through the other instruments enough to really jump out at you. However, for an FOH mix you want your guitar to sit in the overall band mix and not stand out too much or get lost either. How your guitar sits in the overall mix has as much(if not more) to do with the room you are playing too as it does with the basic sounds themselves. In fact the mix at sound check often sounds nothing like the mix once the room fills with people. Good engineers allow for this during soundcheck through experience- they have done it often enough to know how the sound will change when people fill the room. However, even these allowances are only a rough guess that they still tweak during the first few songs.


    Or do you even mic the cab instead of sending a signal from the Kemper to the mixer?

    The Kemper Kone isn’t suitable for close micing (which is the only viable sort of micing on stage) so you definitely don’t want to go down that route.

  • The Kemper Kone isn’t suitable for close micing (which is the only viable sort of micing on stage) so you definitely don’t want to go down that route.

    In that case I was talking about a normal guitar cab. If you connect your Kemper to a standard cab you should be able to mic it normally. The rule only applies for the Kone.