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Kemper Profiling Amplifier

4.5 4.5 (3 Reviews)
Hardware Guitar Amp Sim with the ability to copy a real guitar amp's sound.
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Published by mdme_sadie on 2nd March 2012
User Review
Sound Quality
5 out of 5
5
Ease of use
4 out of 5
4
Features
5 out of 5
5
Bang for buck
5 out of 5
5
Overall: 4.75 4.75
Kemper Profiling Amplifier

The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is a completely new approach in consumer amp simulation technology. Instead of being dependent on the company to program new amp models for the product you get to make your own with nothing more than a microphone, leads and a real guitar amp... and the Kemper of course. Given these ingredients you can "Profile" your amplifiers audio qualities and get an amazingly close digital facsimile of your amplifier. So close in fact that many times you wont be able to tell whether you're playing the original or the Kemper.

Sounds perfect right? The final answer. Well not quite. Firstly this product is still in Beta. This means that there are still ares of the GUI that don't work, there's a "Perform" mode that doesn't even exist yet, there's no USB to copmuter connectivity, instead you must load profiles and make backups using a USB stick, and build patches using the units own controls. New firmware betas are coming out more or less every week to two weeks and there are definite ares for improvement with the user interface, for instance there's no organization of the effects instead just a huge list to scroll through only sorted by effect type, and if you do make your own patches or "Rigs" as it likes to call them or make your own Profiles then naming them involves a hellish long trip through scrollwheel misery.

On top of all that, this is still early days on putting this sort of technology into consumers hands, and while it will pretty much nail close micing sounds even with the ability to separate the cab and mic from the amp stage with surprising accuracy (so you can swap out cab/mic combinations from other "Profiles"), it still has difficulty with far micing or getting any room ambience. This may or may not be an issue for you. Profiling also still leaves the line to the amp on while you switch and compare between amp and profile, which can be quite annoying forcing you to record to a DAW in order to actually compare and contrast.

However all of that is what we'll put under teething problems, stuff that will go away with successive firmware updates. Don't focus too hard on these negatives, because the point of this unit is how it sounds, and I'll be honest right now it sounds glorious. This is the first amp sim, of either software or hardware to actually sound like a real amp and not like a Pod. It sounds natural, it has harmonic complexity, it can feedback in a natural and musical manner, it reacts like your real amps it sounds like them. It's not just a rough approximation like a Match EQ but instead a very close model. The feel is there too, it's reactive, fast and tight, reduce volume and it cleans up like the real amp, dime it and you get the same reaction as your real amp too. It's transparent and you can really hear the way your guitars and their pickups sound and hear the player just as with a good tube amp.

So why should you care about that, you already have the amp right? The fact is though that getting a consistent sound day after day can be a pain in the ass, dialing in and micing up the perfect sound can take time. With the Kemper you can recall your sounds instantly. For every artist that comes through your studio you could re-amp parts of their track when they and their gear have long gone.

Still not impressed? The profiles themselves are under 4k in size, this makes it incredibly easy to store and share thousands of these. In fact there's already a substantial catalog of Profile Rigs available on the Kemper website, the free sharing of rigs is one of the biggest draws. You could have a friend profile a particular setup when working across multiple studios and get that same sound again anywhere else, download new profiles each day and it's like getting free new amps for your studio.

Oh and if you were thinking that these Profile Snapshots were just static captures of one point in time, then think again. You have access to the full set of normal amp controls as well as some amp sim controls for things like Sag, Definition, Pick Attack (transient design), Tube Shape etc. But most importantly you have control over the gain. You read that right, you can change how distorted the amp is after profiling it, clean up a great 5150 Profile while still retaining it's characteristics, or add some grit to a Fender Twin, and it just sounds natural and as you'd imagine it would if the real amp was even capable of doing that without deafening everyone in the vicinity. You can also adjust the Cab settings just like with most other amp sims, separating Cab from Amp, and turning off one or the other to allow for use as a digital preamp in live situations.

As a nice aside you can also use the KPA as a re-amp box on real amps via S/PDIF, so it's not just limited to normal duties as an amp sim.

Beyond the amp sim side itself you laos have a nice collection of "Stomps" and "FX", these are of high quality although the routing options are limited to four pre and four post in series (two of which in post can only be reverb and delay). This may be a concern if you were wanting the unit to double up as a general outboard FX unit, but for most guitarists this is all you'd want or need in a standard rig. External loops are also offered should you need them.

Build quality is great, metal chasis and case with a real leather strap for it's lunchbox format, Very solid, I can't see it falling apart even with heavy wear and tear for a long time.

Workflow in general is easy (apart from the aforementioned issues), nice big friendly, extremely visible and easy to use knobs in the standard layout for the actual amp control, a tuner that's always visible in the form of a three LED system, dedicated direct controls for Verb, Delay and Mod settings, controls are well laid out and clustered in a very clean and obvious way. It even has Copy/Paste/Undo/Redo controls on the faceplate. It couldn't be much more obvious or simpler to use.

I'd recommend it to anyone, this is by far the best sounding amp sim I've ever played, and even in terms of audio clips listening to this and all the others it's clearly the best if you need or want real amp like tones and feel.

If you consider this unit as nothing more than another actual amp (admittedly only with direct out and requiring a clean poweramp/speakers) then it's a great investment, I'd put it up there with the real amps.
  #1  
By JohnBarry on 30th June 2013
User review
Sound Quality
5 out of 5
5
Ease of use
4 out of 5
4
Features
5 out of 5
5
Bang for buck
5 out of 5
5
Overall: 4.75 4.75
Kemper Kemper Profiling Amp

When I first heard of the Kemper I was highly suspicious. I doubted it would live up to it's hype. Well, 2 years later it's not only lived up to it's hype, it's far surpassed anything I dared dream. I write this surrounded by 6 tube amps, an Eleven Rack and an abundance of virtual amps and pedals. I also have a good $3000 worth of real life pedals. The pedals are fairly safe, for now, but the amps are not.

The Kemper is a wonderful example of brilliant German engineering. It is a marvel to behold and almost overwhelming.

It can and does profile amps at 95% to 100% accuracy. The profiled amps sound every bit as organic as the original and it's mind blowing. Almost depressing to those of us who have invested a lot of cash in amps and yet a relief. It's reactive. You hear that tube "sag". You can tell when an amp has double or triple tube rectifiers. It's just amazing. You can dirty or clean up amps and add the very good built in effects. As far as amps go, this is all you need, folks.

It can capture pedals to some extent so long as they're in the chain that you profile. So it will capture the pedals along with that particular amp you're profiling. This is neat because some people profile their boutique Klon along with their JCM-800 and I'm very grateful. Although, you can't change the features of the pedal, the basic tone is there. If the person who profiled it did a good job -- then WOW!

There was a huge contention among people with Eleven Rack, Axe and various modellers, that it couldn't be as good as their devices. Good is subjective. The Kemper isn't supposed to be able to capture modellers but it's doing a remarkable job of it. In fact, there's nothing I profiled that it didn't capture to near perfection. It can even capture an amp with a fuzz pedal that has that very distinguishable germanium fuzz and a silicon fuzz with ease.

There are thousands of free amps available of fantastic quality. There are also places that sell amps and I've bought a few packets only to realize it was pointless. There's so many great things out there for free it's a moot point. In fact, I *FEEL* like I'm infringing on someone's copyright. Hopefully, this won't become an issue that might impede the Kemper. I can't tell you how nice it is having a 1000 amps in one light portable device.

And that brings to me to the downside. That is the file system. It's primitive and somewhat annoying. Takes me longer to "name" my amp than profile it. Also, backing up amps isn't hard but when you get into the thousands you'd better know your filing system well and make frequent backups.

The amp profiles themselves are small but the Kemper can only hold 1000 amps in a unit. Try navigating through that, folks. Fortunately, you can "favorite" the ones you like the most. This is hard because I like all of mine and the 10,000 more on my hard drive.

Now, I have one thing on some of you, fine folks. I have a little, but well stocked home studio. Been recording for years. I'm, by no means, an expert but my profiles have all turned out fantastic with my lowly old sm57. Everything is very straight forward. But enough gushing.

Another drawback is it sounds better if you play it through an external cab and then mic the cab (in my case with an sm57) than it does connected directly to the daw. I use mine for studio. This won't be a problem for people who gig. There is also a version that comes with a 600 watt amp. I have the original funny looking one. I can envision a time when cabinets are far more important than amps. That is, a .v30 or greenback rock amp, an alnico clean amp and a C. rex for blues. But, believe me, it also sounds incredible directly into the daw. It even has various cabs built in, but IMHO they don't hold up to the real thing.

So will the Kemper kill everything in it's way -- specifically the Axe line which has a legion of loyal users? No way. The axe is very customizable and has much higher quality pedals than anything else out there. In fact, I can see the axe 2 and Kemper going together very well. The axe acting as a fantastic pedal board and the Kemper acting as a 1000 amps in one.

I love my Kemper and can't imagine going back to dealing with various beautiful but heavy and problematic tube amps. There's a very good reason Muse and many other bands and studios are going over to the Kemper. I suspect many of us will not, but I believe our children will.
  #2  
By PVJesper on 9 Hours Ago
User review
Sound Quality
5 out of 5
5
Ease of use
5 out of 5
5
Features
3 out of 5
3
Bang for buck
5 out of 5
5
Overall: 4.5 4.5
One way to a great guitar tone

For people recording guitar, the name Kemper should have been hard to avoid the last few years. The Kemper Profiling Amp is a high end digital guitar
amp, with a new great sounding twist. Mic your tube amp with your favorite tone, and the KPA will analyze it, and allow you to have that tone anytime.
I have owned mine for almost two years now, and I will try to tell you about my experience with it, in the most understandable way i can.

The Kemper Profiling Amplifier
The Amp is laid out in a very linear fashion. First is an intelligent single-knob noise gate. After that, you have four stomp box slots before the Amp.
You have over 50 different stomp boxes to choose from, from wah-wahs, to phasers, to overdrives. Next follows the Amp, the EQ and then the Cab. This is
obviously where most of the magic happens. Good profiles (a profile is what you create when you let your KPA analyze an amp) will sound great from the
start, but there are many deeper controls for those who wish to use them. Then you have two post-amp stomp box slots, delay, and finally reverb.

When it comes to sounding like a real amp, the Kemper does it, and does it well. There really isn't anything about the sound of the amps i could say
anything bad about. It even does bass fantastically. I have a few Ampeg SVT 450 profiles that sound massive. If you change your guitar, your pickups, it
responds like an amp would. Many are afraid that it is a "snapshot", and therefore inferior to the real amp. It is a snapshot in the way that it sounds
like the amp did at those settings. Unless you would change the controls on the amp at the same time as you were playing, the KPA will sound like your
amp.

The stompboxes sound nice and most kemper owners i talk to use them extensively. I am not a stompbox kind of guy at all, I change amp until
i have the sound i want, but if i were to add an overdrive pedal, i would rather use a nice "real" one in the fx loop over the modeled ones. I always
seem to get better sounds from that. The stompbox slots are however very useful for adding an EQ pre-distortion, add more top end, then remove it
after the amp, as an example. I have nothing against using the modulation boxes in the kemper. They are good.

The main EQ on the Kemper won't behave like the one on your amp. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. It is however a nice EQ. Clean. Both the EQ and the
gain on the Kemper, will reach further than most amps', even though they won't behave the same. So I can take a profile of a cranked Bassman, and
increase the gain a bit further? Yes please.

Monitoring
The Kemper amp is from the beginning only a preamp. For recording that is fine, but for live playing, you'll have to think a bit. For me, it has always
worked to show up with only the kemper to the gig, give the engineer my main out cable and ask for some of my guitar in the monitor. If you are picky
with monitoring, you should considering buying your own FRFR monitor, or getting a power amp with a cab. That boils down to personal preference.

Customer Service
Kemper Amps (the company) gets a few plusses when it comes to customer service. Support is helpful and fast, Cristopher Kemper and other devs
frequent the forums helping people. I have not heard of anyone having problems with the company in the case of a defect unit.

Are there any limitations?
If i would name the biggest problem i have with the KPA, it would that the delay and reverb are fixed in place. You only have one of each, and they are
always last in the chain. I would like the possibility to have a delay pre-amp, and run several delays in a series. For crazy soundscapes, i would want
a few extra pedals in addition to my Kemper.

Even though they are updating frequently, there are still a few buttons on it that is yet to work. Namely the undo and redo button. I don't know
anything about what goes on under the hood, but it doesn't sound like an undo button would be especially difficult to implement, considering what
this thing already does.

To record with Spdif and reamp via Spdif, the KPA has to be the master clock. This is fine for me, but it might not be so fun if you have spent a lot
of cash for a really good one.

There would have been a lot to gain if it was possible to run two amps in parallel. But you can't. I still mix several amps when i record, by reamping
multiple times. To do that live, you would need to have more than one KPA, or profile several amps together at the same time.

"I don't have a million boutique amps, how do I get some of that expensive tone into my hypothetical KPA?"
You have the rig exchange, where you can upload your own profiles to other KPA owners, who'll download and use them. In my experience, the quality of
these are highly mixed. Most are okay, but very few are great. One of my favorite profiles comes from there, so It's worth checking out a few once in
a while. I often download a few when i see recommendations on the forums. It's very fast and easy adding and removing profiles.

You have a bit over 400 profiles when you start it the first time, IIRC. They are all very well made, but you need to do some sorting, most of
them won't be your cup of tea. I deleted all of the but 14. Good riddance. You also get new profiles every now and then made by different famous
people. It's here and the commercial profiles i have found the best ones.

There are also commercial profiles, that you can buy. The two most serious ones are the amp factory and soundside. They are not very expensive, and
sound really great.

My own biased Comparisons
Do you want the best guitar tones possible? The real competition for the KPA is the Axe FX and real tube amps.
The eleven rack is also popular, but it's cheaper, and in my experience noticably worse.

Compared to the Axe Fx II
With an Axe Fx you have so very few limitations. The routing capabilities and effects will give you the ability to make everything from
dreamy soundscapes to dry blues tones. But instead of having that, the KPA delivers when it comes to pure guitar tones. The choice between these
two comes down partly to what kind of sounds you want to make, and then they also have a few other pros and cons. The axe fx can work as an interface,
allowing you record via usb. It also has a form of profiling, called tone matching, which is going about it in a completely different way, I'll let you
research that yourself. The Kemper is quite a lot cheaper, which is always a good thing. And with the KPA, you have the profiling, which is
what makes it what it is.

Both are great units, and will let you play and record good guitar tones.

Compared to a tube amp
The real question here is, how much versatility do you want? Do you have your own modded Mesa stack, with your signature tones, which is all you'll
ever use? The only thing the Kemper can do for you then is to save you weight when you go play gigs, and save you time setting up microphones when
recording. Thats not a lot for 2000$.

If you instead are playing in a popular cover band, where you have to nail guns n roses, aerosmith, led zeppelin and pink floyd after one another,
then the KPA can do a whole lot more. If you are recording a lot of guitar based music, the KPA can do a whole lot more.

There is something to be said about the amp in the room sound. With the KPA, you will hear recorded amps. Some find it very inspirational with turning
an amp up to eleven to mess about. Luckily, you can get that with the KPA too. In my opinion, it ruins some of great things about the KPA, such as the
cheap cost, and the versatility (considering the big impact the cab has on the sound), but if you crave loud cabs you need loud cabs.

If you have a tube amp you like the recorded sound of, i would hold on to it until you got the KPA, profile your amp at all the usable settings, and
notice that you don't use it anymore. Some still need the amp.

Summary
The kemper is a (comparably cheap) way to a fantastic guitar tone, with lots of flexibility. It is not the be all end all, and will not become it either.
At risk of repeating myself, compared to other modelers it lacks in features, but makes up for it with amp tones and ease of use.
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