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Kemper First Impressions

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
So it came in yesterday and I put about 2 hours on it last night by headphones just trying to get a feel for the unit and how it works. This is part 2 of the "Pulled the Trigger" thread.

First up, the unit is certainly odd looking, moreso than the photos seem to convey. Its about the size of a lunch box style tube head but just has an odd shape to it and is shallower than it appears in pictures. There's also a ton of lights of different colors going on. From that perspective, it kinda reminds me of the Peavey Vypyr line. I historically haven't been a fan of such flashy interfaces, but it kinda works in a quirky, kitschy way. Honestly, it almost looks as if they tried to envision what a modeler might look like from a 50's sci-fi B movie perspective.

I spent the majority of the first hour auditioning a bunch of the stock profiles and learning how the amp controls work. If the Kemper was limited to these profiles, I would have packed it up and sent it back immediately. Its not that the unit sounds bad with the stock profiles, but IMHO there's nothing there that justifies the premium over more affordable models especially given the limited effects palette (more on this later). Fortunately, a few Kemper owners reached out and pointed me towards some choice profiles to check out. Sorting through some of these I found 2 which were very, very impressive. A cranked Deluxe and a clean Super (guess I was in a Fender-ish mood last night). The Deluxe profile's reaction to volume knob control of gain, just delightful. Clean to mean with little volume loss. While I can get pretty similar tonal results on lower priced modelers using a combination of an amp model, dirt box, and compressor none of them offer the level of control of this Kemper profile. I could easily do a gig with that single profile and a few effects. The Super was equally impressive in a different way. It served up a glassy snap without any harshness or ice pick frequencies which for me has been extremely hard to get on the more affordable units without generous use of compression and surgical EQ usage. I didn't have any time to get into any user generated Marshall/Vox/Mesa/etc profiles last night, but honestly the 2 profiles mentioned would really serve for maybe 90% of the traditional tones I go for. Kemper provides something akin to the HD500 deep editing parameters to allow control of sag, bias, pick attack and a few other parameters which can really morph the character of a profile. The cab section also offers something similar to the old Digitech GNX3000 with a high and low shift controls to tune the cab response. Again, you can completely morph the characteristic signature of a cab into something else with these controls. Very, very cool.

From an effects standpoint, honestly the Kemper is a little disappointing. Now again, I don't mean that the effects sound bad, they generally sound good. Simply that in this price range I think the consumer deserves more. The sparse mostly generic selection reminds me of the earlier days of Digitech without all the "bling". I realize the product is being continually refined and this is just a first impression, likely additional features will be added. But I would never recommend anyone buy a unit in hopes that a future upgrade will offer a desired feature. If you are the type of player who makes liberal use of effects and are on any kind of a budget, it won't work as an all in one for you at this point. Fortunately, I've got a few things to fill in the gaps.

So the million dollar question...is it that much better than the more affordable competition. I must admit I'm impressed by the potential...but not dumbfounded. Again, this is just a first impression with only 2 hours on the unit. I don't feel like I really know it at all yet and that's probably going to take upwards of a week. If one is expecting a totally knock-your-socks off unboxing experience, well it didn't happen with me. But maybe I'm a bit tonally jaded. I mean, nothing really floors me these days gearwise and I'm not the type of player which cares about having 1,000s of amps at my fingertips. If you are that type of player, I would imagine it would be infinitely fun to audition a plethora amps including rare stuff many will never even see in person (I'll admit to likely given in to some of that at some point as well). But, if it would endure much financial hardship at all to afford a Kemper over something in the $500 range I'd recommend taking a long, hard look at why something like the Kemper interests you. Is it to make up for some identified short coming of your current device? Is it simply because others proclaim it better? Is it curiosity or maybe pure G.A.S? IMHO, though take into consideration my limited time on the device, the leap in quality does not match the leap in price. This is an area of diminished returns and a gap which more than likely will be met in the near term. Your largely paying a premium to be among the first. The most obvious areas where the Kemper shines thus far is in volume knob interactivity (currently unmatched when compared to more affordable units) and allowing the high end to be glassy and snappy without having to do tricks to dial out harshness. But in the end, I'm totally surprised that my biggest revelation so far has been a recognition of how good the more affordable devices really are...

Next up...auditioning via FRFR, 1X12 cab, and profiling (not necessarily in that order).
 
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Scott Peterson

TGP Co-Founder and Administrator
Staff member
Messages
37,735
Nice review of your first go with it Will.

I always like to then read the follow up in two weeks. On gear of this level, it often takes some time and establishing a comfort level with working with all aspects of the box to get a full handle on what it is, how it can work for you and exploring the 'fit' with the player. Nothing says more than a guy that gets excited by his gear after owning it for some significant period of time. IMHO, that's more a testament than a first impression - but I know you know that already. I've always found your reviews to be very informative and educational. I love that you add context to your reviews so we better understand your impressions. So few people take the time and make the effort to do so.

Looking forward to your follow-up reports in the coming days, weeks and months.
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Nice review of your first go with it Will.

I always like to then read the follow up in two weeks. On gear of this level, it often takes some time and establishing a comfort level with working with all aspects of the box to get a full handle on what it is, how it can work for you and exploring the 'fit' with the player. Nothing says more than a guy that gets excited by his gear after owning it for some significant period of time. IMHO, that's more a testament than a first impression - but I know you know that already. I've always found your reviews to be very informative and educational. I love that you add context to your reviews so we better understand your impressions. So few people take the time and make the effort to do so.

Looking forward to your follow-up reports in the coming days, weeks and months.
I tried to include that concept a couple times in my first impressions, I have little idea how to fully operate the unit and have yet to even try to profile anything. I have confidence things can only get better as I get to know the unit. That said, if the profiling process is as accurate as so many claim...I know there's a bunch of very expensive and very unimpressive amps out there!

:hide






















;) I kid, I kid...:D
 

TheAmpFactory

Member
Messages
835
Cool review on 2 hours!
I agree in a lot of what you say, especially about the effects (I posted about that in the other thread) - but the kemper is about its amp tones, effects can be added by multiple of ways,, amps cannot.

I think the kemper is useful for a type of people, - if your a recording artist, and want variety then great, or if your tracking your album on a budget - can rent a studio for a few days to get the bulk of it down, then profile the amps before you leave, when you get the edits back from studio, then you can overdub parts you might have missed. - thats the main reason I got mine. - as I have access to a lot of amps, and record many thing for different folks. - so its valuable for that reason.

I'd say your next move is to explore the amp+cab section a little more. - a lot of good things can be had from that, and you can then personalize something. to suit you.

The Post and Pre EQ's are great too (the best thing about the kemper I might add)

I think the unit will blow you away once you reached that stage of..Now I get it scenario. - and then trying to go back to any other device is hard :)

But I wish you luck, and hope you enjoy the many offerings it supports.
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Cool review on 2 hours!
I agree in a lot of what you say, especially about the effects (I posted about that in the other thread) - but the kemper is about its amp tones, effects can be added by multiple of ways,, amps cannot.

I think the kemper is useful for a type of people, - if your a recording artist, and want variety then great, or if your tracking your album on a budget - can rent a studio for a few days to get the bulk of it down, then profile the amps before you leave, when you get the edits back from studio, then you can overdub parts you might have missed. - thats the main reason I got mine. - as I have access to a lot of amps, and record many thing for different folks. - so its valuable for that reason.

I'd say your next move is to explore the amp+cab section a little more. - a lot of good things can be had from that, and you can then personalize something. to suit you.

The Post and Pre EQ's are great too (the best thing about the kemper I might add)

I think the unit will blow you away once you reached that stage of..Now I get it scenario. - and then trying to go back to any other device is hard :)

But I wish you luck, and hope you enjoy the many offerings it supports.
I can totally, totally appreciate the profiling process as something extremely beneficial to someone who does a bunch of studio work or for a studio owner. Being able to pretty much exactly replicate a physically miced up rig remotely or even weeks later would save a ton of time and money. In that scenario, I think this device is an absolute no brainer. But for the home player, casual gigger, and/or semi pro for which its a large expense...not so sure yet. I mean of course everyone has their own priorities and in no way do I claim my opinion to be absolute, but I just haven't been hit with a "oh my ****, that's incredible" moment with it. But yes, I haven't gotten deep into the device at all other than learning the general interface and messing around a bit. Just first impressions. I didn't even know it had pre/post EQ, that's how green I am at the moment. It takes time to learn how to wrangle the best tones out of any unit. Also want track something with it and listen back. That's always a very different experience than playing and might be revealing in a way not possible when in the moment.

BTW- Looking forward to trying out some of your stuff at some point.
 

jeff5x0

Member
Messages
434
Thanks for posting your thoughts Will. I always enjoy your commentary. Your first impressions were very similar to mine. I had upgraded to Kemper from an Elevenrack. I personally was very unimpressed by it at first. I didnt think the profiles were any better than what the Elevenrack had to offer. But after a few weeks with it, I became happier than I had ever been with my guitar tone. I hate tweaking. And to me it seems that alot of the profiles I download require very little tweaking which I love.

The main reason I bought the Kemper is because Avid "seemed" to care less about improving an already great product, and 2 (along the lines of what Andy said above) is because I own a studio and I had hoped the Kemper worked well in that area. And it does. VERY well.

As Scott said, I look forward to your follow up as well. If it doesnt work out for you personally, so be it. Hopefully you can get back what you invested in it. Thank you for your honest unbiased opinions!
 

tgp100

Member
Messages
904
Will, makes sure you have adjusted the clean sens and distortion sens on the KPA to match your guitar pickups.
For clean sens, choose a clean profile and adjust.
For dist sens, take a dist profile and adjust.
If you only use one guitar it can be good to global lock these settings.

Another important setting is the cab volume.
Have fun!
 

Johnkenn

Member
Messages
252
Thanks, Will...I think that's an honest review...Considering what I play, it makes me think I should just go buy a used AC15 and Deluxe and be done with it. Still under a $1000...
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Will, makes sure you have adjusted the clean sens and distortion sens on the KPA to match your guitar pickups.
For clean sens, choose a clean profile and adjust.
For dist sens, take a dist profile and adjust.
If you only use one guitar it can be good to global lock these settings.

Another important setting is the cab volume.
Have fun!
I did work with those parameters. I'm not entirely sure I fully understand the full function of clean vs dist sens yet even after reading the manual a couple of times, but I'm sure I'll get it with more experimentation.

Thanks, Will...I think that's an honest review...Considering what I play, it makes me think I should just go buy a used AC15 and Deluxe and be done with it. Still under a $1000...
To be completely honest, if it weren't for the fact that I have to play via headphones so dang much I would likely never have considered one of the higher end modelers at all. If you only need a few key tones met by readily available/affordable amps and have the ability to crank it up, I see little benefit in opting for a digital version. But given my situation, even a micro wattage amp would get very, very little usage.
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Oh and BTW, something I really couldn't find in the clips I auditioned last night was a model with a really juicy/spongy response. Not sure of what high end amps have it but I previously owned a Pignose G40V (Bassman inspired amp) which had it, played a couple Peavey Calssic 30's which had it, and my VHT Special 6 Ultra has it when I lower the wattage control. Maybe I should profile the Ultra and see if I can capture the feel...

EDIT...something else I forgot. The power cable is...well cheap. Looks like they found the cheapest shortest one they could find and threw it in. The cable with the German connector is way higher quality by comparison. I've got power cables a plenty (its a standard computer power cable), and am not a fan of paying high dollar for snake oil stuff, but a longer and more solid feeling power cable would have been nice if it was included.
 

ibanez270

Member
Messages
796
Will dl the Dr Z 38 profile I think you'll like that one.

The clean and distortion sense is like an input level. Like if you use single coils or humbuckers.
 

mtmartin71

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,101
Will, out of curiosity, have you ever auditioned an Axe FX II? If so, did you have similar feelings? Just curious if maybe you're more of an amp/cab guy even on the digital front and any of the high end tech is going to feel like a HD500 or the like...when going direct. Personally, I could tell the difference between my Axe FX II and the Kemper (when I auditioned that one) and the HD 500. Now, I didn't uber tweak the HD 500 so I will admit that maybe there was still some "juice" in there that I hadn't tapped. But, I think for someone looking for the response of an amp/cab, unless you use these things with an amp and cab, then I'd imagine the delta between them for direct use is not as stark. I've been going mostly direct for the past 3 years so my ear has become tuned to that type of sound and I guess I'm more susceptible to hearing differences in the same tech with the same approach.
 

stratzrus

Philadelphia Jazz, Funk, and R&B
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
22,670
So the million dollar question...is it that much better than the more affordable competition...If one is expecting a totally knock-your-socks off unboxing experience, well it didn't happen with me.
Will, out of curiosity, have you ever auditioned an Axe FX II? If so, did you have similar feelings?
I had the exact same reaction as Will when I upgraded from my Ultra to the Axe II and compared presets I hadn't created in the II to presets in the Ultra that I had dialed in to my own preferences.

In time, as I familiarized myself with the II and dialed in presets to my liking I felt more and more that the upgrade was worth it and offered some significant differences.

I'm sure that after you've spent more time with the KPA and create some presets of your own that the "satisfaction gap" will widen significantly.

Looking forward to reading future reports. :)
 

stratotone

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,519
I never understood why most of the stock profiles that come with the Kemper are ok but kinda lackluster... one would think they would be just amazing and show you what the device is capable of. Part of it is that I like how I dial in and mic an amp, so profiles that I create are more to my liking than 99% of the ones on the exchange or available. even when it's the same amp - I can't stand others' profiles of the bogner xtc, but I prefer mine.

A few cool profiles I think you should check out:

VG99 acoustic guitar sim on the exchange. KILLER sounding acoustic and I've used it at gigs. It's retired my piezo equipped guitars.

variac splawn nitro - this does your sponginess thing in spades. It's high gain, but super spongy. again, on the exchange at kemper's website.

Go to my website link http://petesprofiles.weebly.com/ and grab the '70 Marshall profiles and the 1960 Fender Concert ones. I bet you'll dig them!

Pete
 

mdme_sadie

Member
Messages
549
One thing I recommend you do, play your Kemper for a little bit and record something, just a simple single riff will do, then go back to your lower end units and record the same riff to do a fair comparison.

For me I wasn't impressed with the Kemper at first, it took two things to convince me it really was a significant step up, even on the stock profiles. Firstly I didn't just play, but I also recorded my HD500 after having played the KPA for a little bit, and then I tried out making close mic'd profiles of my own amps (and recording that too). But I do think it's important to not just play but also record what you're doing in order to be able to stand back and hear what your audience would be hearing dispassionately and without being all into the moment, playing the guitar (when you can be more enthralled by the thrill of playing rather than paying much attention to the sound).
 

drwiddly

Member
Messages
392
Thanks for the review Will. I'll be interested to hear your further impressions in a few weeks time.

I've yet to try a Kemper but I think I'll wait for the rack version as I'm not fond of the 'sci-fi lunchbox' look. I think with a lot of gear, the devil's in the detail and there will be a few 'Eureka!' moments which will convince you of the Kemper's capabilities (or not). I bought a used Axe Ultra about 3 weeks ago and due to a busy schedule, I've not had as much time with it as I'd have liked. I was using it the other day with a high gain patch (Bogner Uberschall) and it sounded great. I turned down the volume on my guitar and it cleaned right up to almost a Fender tone. That moment convinced me that the Ultra is a seriously capable piece of gear.
 

Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Will dl the Dr Z 38 profile I think you'll like that one.

The clean and distortion sense is like an input level. Like if you use single coils or humbuckers.
I get that, but are they interactive? Does the clean sense have an effect when rolling down the volume knob? Maybe I completely misunderstood but I thought the manual alluded to that.

Will, out of curiosity, have you ever auditioned an Axe FX II?
Haven't and don't plan too. Too rich for my blood. The goal here is primarily headphone usage. I know its not ideal, but its that or don't play at all.

...A few cool profiles I think you should check out:

VG99 acoustic guitar sim on the exchange. KILLER sounding acoustic and I've used it at gigs. It's retired my piezo equipped guitars.

variac splawn nitro - this does your sponginess thing in spades. It's high gain, but super spongy. again, on the exchange at kemper's website.

Go to my website link http://petesprofiles.weebly.com/ and grab the '70 Marshall profiles and the 1960 Fender Concert ones. I bet you'll dig them!

Pete
Thanks, I'll def check those out.

That's [headphones] the wrong key IMO.
Its headphones or nothing. I'd rather play than not, but thanks anyway...

One thing I recommend you do, play your Kemper for a little bit and record something, just a simple single riff will do, then go back to your lower end units and record the same riff to do a fair comparison...Firstly I didn't just play, but I also recorded my HD500 after having played the KPA for a little bit, and then I tried out making close mic'd profiles of my own amps (and recording that too). But I do think it's important to not just play but also record what you're doing in order to be able to stand back and hear what your audience would be hearing dispassionately and without being all into the moment, playing the guitar (when you can be more enthralled by the thrill of playing rather than paying much attention to the sound).
I agree entirely, need to record and listen back. think I mentioned that a few posts back. Also, the HD500 is already sold. Really more of a GSP vs Kemper thingie at this point.
 

donbarzini

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,190
VG99 acoustic guitar sim on the exchange. KILLER sounding acoustic and I've used it at gigs. It's retired my piezo equipped guitars.
Thanks, I'm very filled with eagerness to try this one and the Splawn Nitro 80v is great with the Green Scream in front as well.
 






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