Kemper vs Axe FX 3 - in a band context via FrFr

  • I sold my original toaster about 5 months ago when my Axe FX 3 Mk 2 arrived; the AFX3 seemed a lot more 'present' when I played it with headphones or via my studio monitors. I purchased a load of profiles which sounded great, and all was well.


    Until last Sunday.


    Had the first band rehearsal, so I took the AFX3 for it's first proper outing, along with my two RedSound RS-LG12 cabs, plus a pair of Headrush 108 cabs. What had originally sounded amazing at studio volume quickly became piercing, barking, and farty through the LG12s, and also the 108s. I had a low cut at 120, hi cut at 6.5 (which I then reduced to 5k!), and no matter which profile I used, it all sounded pretty rubbish.


    I've just purchased a Kemper rack - sat in my studio, loaded up my old favourite profile (TopJimi Caswell High), set low cut at 120, hi at 6500 and cranked the LG12s. There it is!

    It's weird, it's almost as if the AFX3 is 'hyper realistic' in a way, and much more forward and present in it's sound. It sounds awesome at low volumes, but I hated it at high volume.


    I've now got a massive couple of notches in the output of the AFX3, which appears to have helped - but I'm seriously impressed (again) with how easy the Kemper is to just get right.

  • I had the same experience with different Kemper profiles. Some sounded a bit muffled, some others sounded very good, more present and clear.


    However, when I went to rehearsal, the muffled ones sounded spot on, the formerly good ones didn't really sit good on the mix and were difficult to hear.


    I guess it's the same with your Kemper vs. AXE experience. The sounds should be set up/checked at high volume (with a little experience, you can surely edit the sounds at lower volumes before playing with the band).

    Some Kemper profiles work at band volume out of the box, others don't.

    I agree with your last point: I'd you are using the right profiles, the Kemper is very easy to set up.

  • The other issue I always encounter is that some things that sound "OMFG good" when you are all by yourself, suddenly can't be heard with the full band playing, muddy up the songs, or just sound so harsh you don't want to be heard ;).


    I always keep my original profiles that have been gig tested and used many times so if I make changes, or try a different profile I think is going to sound better in a specific song or used for a specific kind of sound, I can easily compare to one I KNOW sounds pretty darned good already.


    It is surprising how often the "old standby" gets the nod :)

  • So is the general rule of thumb - the 'darker' the profile / amp (as in, sounds like a blanket is over the cab), the better it translates to a louder environment?

    I've booked 4 hours in a studio on Saturday by myself - will be cranking both units with backing tracks to try and get things set correctly.

  • Depends on many things. For example with 2 guitars in a band situation one "shrill" guitar can also compliment the lower mids of the other guitar nicely. Add the bassist. Now the isolated "way too shrill" guitar may fit perfectly in the mix or cuts it for the leads.


    Same as some hate a V30 speaker (with SM57) with isolated guitars, but may love it in the full live band mix.

  • So is the general rule of thumb - the 'darker' the profile / amp (as in, sounds like a blanket is over the cab), the better it translates to a louder environment?

    I've booked 4 hours in a studio on Saturday by myself - will be cranking both units with backing tracks to try and get things set correctly.

    It can be sumed up like that, but not quite, ton of the frequency response is a combo of amp+guitar pickup, for example, and strat plus a fender amp needs a humongous mid boost when playing live to sound up-front, while a humbucker normally would cut trough the mix nicely. Live, the directivity of the sound and others instrument frequencies have a ton of effect on what is heard, and specially, what is not.


    In kemper, the most live ready profiles I have, are the M Britt ones, but thats not to say they can be heard nicely all the time after a full band goes nuts. I recommend making it a habit to fast check your EQ depending on the band, never think of the amp model/profile like a set and go package for live.

  • So that was pretty inconclusive…. They both sounded rough at loud volumes ☹️


    Are there any tricks you guys use to tame the ‘barkiness’ and harshness at high volumes?

    Low pass filter around the 10k (depending on the amp I go lower), sometimes pure cabinet gets you some smooth highs on the kemper (thats what the tool does for me anyway), I play bass and drums in a loop, and use an studio EQ to cut down muddiness in the sub bass area if I feel everything gets too muddy, and cut the frequency where the snare and drum plates dominate.


    Low pass filter you can leave more or less the same, pure cabinet you can assign it per profile (you dont have this on AXE but there are some high smoothing filters out there), the only hard part is the studio EQ, but once you find a problem frequency and it clicks, you will learn to find them pretty fast.


    And last recommendation, bump the mids, lower the treble, and adjust the presence. Thats the easy fast to do way to tame the barkiness in general.

  • The issue is of course too many options!


    You have 2 great units and dialing both it does take a bit of time.


    My advice:

    1) Do one thing at a time. Focus on the Kemper first perhaps, and crank it up. Stay with the same monitor and err towards a bit of harshness as this will translate to cut in a band context. The tendency is to focus on a full sound which often just gets lost in a band.

    2) This is "just" your monitor sound. Don't forget its the FOH sound that people actually hear

    3) The room will also make a big difference, as will ear fatigue

    4) Most people (as suggested above) use high and low pass filters for the final "tweak"

  • But you do play through a PA, not off your back line?


    If you all use IEM's and you play through the PA, do you need a back line?


    BTW where in the UK are you? I'm in Derbyshire..

    Nope, I normally use the backline (the RedSounds). I just prefer having it behind me, instead of out the front (which is where we normally have the PA speakers).

    I'm based down south in Buckinghamshire, near the border with Berkshire :)

  • Not sure I understood but are you saying you don;t put guitars through the PA?


    Just my view but....backline should always be just that, for your own monitoring. Guitar needs to go through the PA. Pre KPA that would be by mic'ing, now you have a KPA its dead easy.


    Also if you run IEM's then do you only have vocals? sorry Im a bit confused.

  • No worries! I realise not much of that made sense....


    So, basically, there are three of us in the band, and we all share vocal duties. I'm on guitar and whatever device I use - be it Kemper, Axe FX3, Helix etc. - I have the main outs going to my RedSound cabs behind me to give the sound a 'punch', as they feel similar to a guitar cab. I also have another output going to the mixer (wireless Mackie one) so we can all control our own in ear levels and mixes. However, I do NOT go through the PA.

    The bassist also uses cabs, and also has a DI out to the mixer; again, just for in ears.

    The drummer just hits things loudly, and only has his vocals and sometimes his bass drum through the mixer.

  • Ahh I see...so you are using back line as front line as well.


    I know its not always practical but I would always try to go through the PA for bass, guitars and drums for sound balance.


    I have not played a gig in 10+ years without going through the PA because people in front of you get blasted and people at the back can only hear bass and no guitar. This includes very small gigs and we have no sound engineer, do it ourselves.

  • In retrospective, I played with almost no FOH for 5 or 6 years, and I always had an issue with people telling me they did not hear my solos, even when I was blasting a twin. It is pretty difficult if everybody just play directly and not through a PA. The trick is to balance all around the drums and the room/venue.


    I guess the only thing going to the PA are the voices. If that is the case, it is not your fault to sound bad in a band context, it is almost impossible to sound coherent on a totally live context, but the tricks before mentioned apply, just add to the steps first getting volume right. Drums should balance the capacity of your PA vocals, (sometimes we guitar players are the ones to tell the drummer to lower the intensity two notches so the vocalist can be heard properly, a bad and frequent discussion) and from there, you and the bass adjust levels and EQ.

  • In retrospective, I played with almost no FOH for 5 or 6 years, and I always had an issue with people telling me they did not hear my solos, even when I was blasting a twin. It is pretty difficult if everybody just play directly and not through a PA. The trick is to balance all around the drums and the room/venue.


    I guess the only thing going to the PA are the voices. If that is the case, it is not your fault to sound bad in a band context, it is almost impossible to sound coherent on a totally live context, but the tricks before mentioned apply, just add to the steps first getting volume right. Drums should balance the capacity of your PA vocals, (sometimes we guitar players are the ones to tell the drummer to lower the intensity two notches so the vocalist can be heard properly, a bad and frequent discussion) and from there, you and the bass adjust levels and EQ.

    Problem is, that all changes as soon as people walk in...they absorb various frequencies, hence I never gig without going through the PA. As a result you always have to blast the backline out as bass frequencies carry better etc.


    I would do this even with an acoustic duo.