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Best way to connect Kemper to DAW?

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
Hi everyone,

I'm trying to get into my first recording sessions with my new Kemper. I have a focusrite scarlett solo USB interface which has a XLR (seems to be mic only) and an instrument input.
My problem: Listening to the recordings on my Macbook (with headphones) sounds different from what I hear when I connect the headphones directly to the Kemper.

I wonder what could be the issue here.

I'm connecting the Kemper and my scarlett with an instrument cable (should I have used speaker cable instead?). My scarlett allows me to turn the option "instrument" on and off (doesn't really seem to matter soundwise, only gain levels are different). I need to adjust gain with a knob.

Am I using the best way to connect the Kemper to my DAW? Isn't there a way to avoid having to use a gain knob on the USB interface? It's all digital so I'm wondering why I can't just plug the Kemper in and send the data exactly as it sounded in the Kemper. There definitely is room for failure on the way into the DAW.

Just to clarify: I have the feeling the EQ is slightly different. I know that the headphones can give me stereo output whereas my guitar cable only does a mono output but even if I switch the Kemper headphone output to mono both machines sound different.

Does my USB interface influence the sound? Do I need to invest in a better device?

Thanks a lot!
 

Racehorse

Member
Messages
783
First thing I would check is hit the Master button and check each output to make sure your Main Out is sending the same signal as your Headphone out.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
First thing I would check is hit the Master button and check each output to make sure your Main Out is sending the same signal as your Headphone out.
I did. Even if both is set to mono the sound is different. Again, I would love to connect it to the computer without using a gain stage on an interface since this definitely alters sound. But I guess it's not possible?
 
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sws1

Member
Messages
11,410
When using headphones direct in the Kemper, there is a "space" setting which puts some air around the guitar so it sounds more natural. Maybe that's my the headphones sound better. If you turn "space" off, the headphones should sound closer to what you record, which more likely will be a drier sound.

"space" is accessed in the output section.
 

Billinder33

Member
Messages
1,886
I'm trying to get into my first recording sessions with my new Kemper. I have a focusrite scarlett solo USB interface which has a XLR (seems to be mic only) and an instrument input.

I'm connecting the Kemper and my scarlett with an instrument cable (should I have used speaker cable instead?). My scarlett allows me to turn the option "instrument" on and off (doesn't really seem to matter soundwise, only gain levels are different). I need to adjust gain with a knob.
Not sure what model of Scarlett you have, but the Kemper does "Line Out", meaning, you should be using a TRS cable to connect to your interface. The instrument setting is if you are plugging the guitar directly into the interface. So the correct way is... a 1/4" TRS (NOT a common TS guitar) OR a XLR cable, "instrument" setting off if you are using the 1/4" input.

Also check the space setting in Kemper as the previous poster noted.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
When using headphones direct in the Kemper, there is a "space" setting which puts some air around the guitar so it sounds more natural. Maybe that's my the headphones sound better. If you turn "space" off, the headphones should sound closer to what you record, which more likely will be a drier sound.

"space" is accessed in the output section.
Very interesting. I like that "space sound". You can actually tell the Kemper to not only use it for headphones if I understood it correctly. Still, the recording sound different. Directly through the Kemper it's much warmer and has more dynamic. It's a bit as if you'd plug a nice colored booster in front of your amp.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
So the correct way is... a 1/4" TRS (NOT a common TS guitar) OR a XLR cable, "instrument" setting off if you are using the 1/4" input.
The manual states:
MAIN OUTPUTS
L and R: XLR balanced
1/4 inch TS unbalanced with ground lift, max output level: XLR +22dBu, TS +16dBu
 

FuzHarmonic

Double Platinum Member
Messages
61
The consensus on the Kemper forum seems to be to use SPDIF. Not sure that's helpful with a Solo interface.
 

crossbones

Member
Messages
953
Hi,
I don't have a Scarlett solo nor a Kemper in front of me, but from your description from the manual, I think I can point you in the right direction.
First, a few things you have to know:

You will work at three different input levels in the recording world...simplified for our purposes...

1. Line level. (This is what all of our little machines run at internally. It is about 1.6 volts. If you send line level from device 1 to device 2, there will be no amplification or attenuation to mess with the signal.
This signal is typically sent down a 3 conductor XLR or TRS cable. They both accomplish the same thing)

2. Instrument level. (Typically the signal a guitar or keyboard puts out. For the sake of simplicity, let's call it .7 volts.
Since it is a much lower level than line, which is where we want to be, it has to go into an "Instrument level in", which boosts the signal up to our magic line level using some amplification
This signal is typically sent down a two conductor TS "guitar cable".)

3. Mic level. (mics put out a very tiny signal. Millivolts in some cases. That signal has to be boosted upwards of one million times to get to Line level....forcing you to use a "mic pre-amp" or "mic level in" to your device....hence the 'Gain' control.)

From your description, your Kemper has XLR outputs that send "line" level signal to another device's line input. Mono or Stereo.
It also has TS guitar level outputs that will mate up with another device's instrument input or a guitar amp.

You will need a XLR female to TRS cable to go full line out of the Kemper into the Scarlet front input.
If you decide to use the instrument output of the Kemper, you will plug a TS guitar cable into the input on front and engage "Instrument button".
This will engage an amp in the Scarlett to bring the signal up to line. Personally, I would go line level out of the Kemper to avoid the extra gain stage.

If you accidentally plug the Kemper using line out XLR into the scarlet's 'Mic' input....the Scarlett will amplify the signal thousands of times and it will sound distorted and probably really terrible. (Not to mention the possible damage to the Kemper when you accidentally turn on the phantom power with your thumb)


The only time you ever use a speaker cable in a setup, is from an amplified "amplifier" output into a speaker.
Now you are talking voltages that mere Kempers and Scarletts will be destroyed by.
Forget all about speaker cables.

The Scarletts are great sounding boxes when you hook things up as they are designed.
If you are doing it incorrectly, you will find that your new $2500 interface will also sound bad.

A digital output from the Kemper into a digital input on an interface may be ideal, but you have no digital ins on the Scarlett.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
I think I can point you in the right direction.
Wow! What a concise and knowledgable answer. Thanks a lot for helping out!

If you don't mind I'd like to pick your brain a little more.
What bothers me the most at the moment is that the recordings with my Scarlett sound nothing like what I get when I plug my headphones directly into the Kemper. It sounds like if the Kemper was turned into a boring modelling amp.
I understand now that this is due to the preamp in the Scarlett and that more expensive interfaces will sound better.

Do you think if I'd stay on line level instead of using an instrument cable I'd have a better sonic result?

Even if I'd have a XLR to TRS cable I'd still need to adjust the gain in front of my Scarlett. Do I assume there'd still be an extra gain stage active that could color the sound/make it worse?

To get the best result in a sense of getting exactly the sound I mixed inside the Kemper (and listened to via headphones and monitors) into my DAW, would SPDIF be the best connection?

I think I'll definitely upgrade my interface, even if only to be able to record a second signal (in this case either stereo or direct guitar for reamping). I saw that the scarlett 8i6 has SPDIF, XLR (switchable for instrument, line and mic) as well as line inputs on the back. If I'd get this device, what would be the best connection?

I can also get my hands on a used RME Fireface UCX but it would still be 3x the price of the scarlett. Is it worth it?

Thanks again, I really appreciate all the great input.
 

Anthony Gring

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,030
Probably not much help to you but.......
I have recorded from the headphone out on my Kemper straight into my Zoom h2n recorder.
Worked great.
 

crossbones

Member
Messages
953
Hi,

To me, It's always better to have a multichannel interface for a lot of reasons......especially being able to record a stereo source.

I'll try to go through each of your points...I do audio engineering for a living, but don't take my suggestions as gospel. Try things.

"I understand now that this is due to the preamp in the Scarlett and that more expensive interfaces will sound better."
Not necessarily.
Remember, if you go line out of the Kemper into line in on the Scarlett, you are bypassing the pre-amp.

"Do you think if I'd stay on line level instead of using an instrument cable I'd have a better sonic result?"
Yes.
Remember, when you take the instrument out of the Kemper, a lot of things are happening, but you lower and degrade the signal. Is this really that bad? Not necessarily, but a good rule is to transfer signal at line level.

"Even if I'd have a XLR to TRS cable I'd still need to adjust the gain in front of my Scarlett. Do I assume there'd still be an extra gain stage active that could color the sound/make it worse?"
The volume control on the interface is a good buffer to establish a good level into your DAW.
There is a setting where it is at unity gain. (I don't have a Solo, so I don't know where that is)
Unity gain is no amplification or no attenuation. Will the Scarlett color the sound? Probably not enough for you to notice.
Get or make an XLR to TRS cable as you will need it anyway.

"To get the best result in a sense of getting exactly the sound I mixed inside the Kemper (and listened to via headphones and monitors) into my DAW, would SPDIF be the best connection?"
Usually.
Remember....Your line level signal from the Kemper is being converted into digital for that DAW and then converted again so you can hear it in headphones or on speakers.
Converters are pretty great across all gear at this point, so there should not be any audible coloration issues going digital....
However.....A very inconvenient bit of physics comes into play when monitoring between headphones and speakers...
You hear a lot of guys /girls who are new to this kind of stuff complain that the thumping, rocking sound they get from their amp never translates in recordings...
This is due to the nature of human hearing and how acoustic spaces mess with audio.
Human hearing is pretty sensitive to frequencies between 1k and 4k hz. You don't start getting the low end until the physical volume goes up.

The sad truth is that, the only way for your thumping amp to be reproduced on a recording, is to play that recording at the same volume.
Now...Think about that for a minute....You would have to have a pretty monstrous playback system to get playback up to the same volume as a Marshall amp.
Imagine if there were also other instruments in the recording.... Things would be so loud you would be instantly deafened if not killed.

When you wear headphones, you are putting the music source very close to your eardrums, and perceive low end and power more.
Your brain gets fooled and adjusts to close contact playback, so if you play it too loud, you no longer get an accurate picture. This is why it is kind of foolish to mix on headphones. After your brain adjusts to what you want to hear, when you play it back the next day, it is not at all the same. Especially if you listen back loud.
Pro's playback very quietly in headphones.

Generally, everything seems larger than life with phones.
That can be enjoyable especially when listening to a guitar.
You have to realize however, your monitors would have to be turned up pretty loud to get the same effect.

No matter what interface you get, you will probably perceive playback through speakers as being "not as good" as your headphone mix. As you learn to record and mix other instruments, you learn that everything occupies it's own real estate and guitars generally occupy a very small piece of that real estate.

The line outs of the Kemper are going to be pretty much identical to what is recorded.
If there is some effect in the Kemper that makes the headphone amp sound different to whats been fed to the outputs, that may be a problem that interfaces won't solve.

I have messed with a couple of Kemper units, and they are a pretty great tool.
I have never noticed any degradation when recorded direct to either interface.

I would learn the correct hookups and mess with them a bit before you make a hasty gear purchase.
Having said that, it would be nice to take a stereo signal out of the Kemper to compare.
You can't do that right now.
 

sleshnyc

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,328
First you need to undertand the difference between mic and line level and balanced and unbalanced. The Kemper has balanced outputs which need to go into balance line level inputs. So you need a balanced cable from the Kemper to the balanced line input of your interface. I'm guessing it's TRS, so you need an xlr female to quarter inch balanced trs connector.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
Thanks again for the brilliant summary! I ordered the XLR to TRS cable and am anxious to hear how it sounds.

This is why it is kind of foolish to mix on headphones. After your brain adjusts to what you want to hear, when you play it back the next day, it is not at all the same. Especially if you listen back loud.
Pro's playback very quietly in headphones.
That's very interesting. I own good studio headphones and a Kemper Kabinet but need yet to invest in proper monitor speakers. So you'd mix on the speakers with medium volume?

Last question about cable connections: What I don't quite get yet, a device like the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 has the line in connections on its back while the Scarlett Solo has them on the front side. With the Solo I need to adjust the gain for the line connection while the bigger device has no adjustment knob. Do I assume the bigger devices are always set at unity level whereas the smaller devices need to be dialled in? And if that's the case, what's the reason? Is it only because the channel on the Scarlett serves two functions (line and instrument) and that's why there's a gain adjustment that can't be turned off?
 

crossbones

Member
Messages
953
The single channel unit is primarily designed as a "mic in/guitar in" to your DAW.
An 18i8 has 4 adjustable inputs on the front, and 4 non adjustable inputs on back....You'll notice they are labeled "Inputs 5-8'
The front inputs are "combo XLR and TRS".
The Mic plugs into the XLR jack and goes through the Pre-amp circuitry.
In the middle of the XLR jack is a TRS input, that goes either to the line circuitry or an instrument level amp, changed with a switch. You will notice that the first two inputs are switchable as Instrument inputs.
Most combination mic pre/interfaces work this way now.
 

Kaschko

Member
Messages
165
Just had a discussion on the official Kemper forum and someone stated that the information posted in this thread here is wrong.
I quote: "they are wrong on that one. The TS output is line level not guitar level. It is unbalanced but the TS input on the interface is also unbalanced. No need for XLR to TS adaptor. The main output is line level regardless of whether it is XLR balanced or TS unbalanced. The difference in output from +22dBu XLR to +16dBu TS is 6db which is the difference between any balanced and unbalanced signal."

I ordered the XLR to line cable and will just try out what sounds better.
 
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