Hey ya’ll, long time no see. I hope you’re all doing well. Mick and I have had a busy summer and have taken a little break from the podcast. We’re actually working on some pretty big things that we’ll be rolling out in the future but there’s only so much time in the day. We will be back with new episodes eventually but for right now, you get blog posts.
This post is a little different than my standard posts, and it won’t pertain to anyone who doesn’t play guitar, but I’ve been thinking about it so I decided to write about it.
I got my Kemper Profiler a couple months ago and it’s been nothing short of life changing. It’s hard to admit, but right now I love it more than any piece of gear I’ve ever owned, and that’s including my 1981 Les Paul Custom Silverburst whose name is literally “First Love” (She’ll forgive me. Her and ol’ Kemp have developed a pretty strong relationship). Despite my adoring love for the the Kemper there’s a few things that could be improved. Keep in mind, these are very small complaints, all of which I can work around. I give the Kemper a 9.7 out of 10, so these almost aren’t worth mentioning, but I wanted potential purchasers to know before they buy.
This thing is PACKED with tone. For an amp lover, it’s a dream come true. I’ve said it before but I’m actually very satisfied with my current guitar line-up and don’t feel the need to expand it much, if any. On the other hand, I’ve got a list of amps a mile long that I’d love to own. With the Kemper, I’ve got them all and they all sound amazing. Practice has taken on a whole new dimension because I’ve got a near endless supply of great tones all at the flip of a switch. My amp fantasies have finally become a reality.
The only time I’ve noticed the Kemper sound like a digital piece of equipment is when I’m playing the strings of my guitar very softly. It seems that if the pickups aren’t sending a strong signal, it takes a moment for the Kemper to recognize them and when it does, it over-compensates, giving the note an upward swell in volume. At times it can sound like a cheesy saxophone sound from a Casio Keyboard. The good news is I only notice this during practice. Apparently during live performances I never pick this lightly.
I don’t need a pedal board anymore. Some people love building out their pedal boards and constantly cycling in new pedals. I was never that guy. I was the guy that found something that worked and stuck with it. The only thing I’ve changed on my pedal board in the last couple years is the power supply and the board that holds it all. With the Kemper, I’m actually comfortable selling all my current pedals and just programming the Kemper Remote.
The pedal sounds are actually pretty great from the most part, but they leave a bit to be desired. I’m hoping Kemper expands this offering in the future. If people can profile amps it feels like they should be able profile pedals as well, but I’m no engineer. The biggest lack in pedals I’ve found is the Wah sounds. I’ve tinkered with them enough that I’ve created one that’s ok, but I’d be really happy if I had some more options.
The Kemper is ridiculously portable. My old rig, consisted of a Splawn Street Rod Head, 2×12 cab and pedal board. I loved it, but it weighed over 150 pounds and took multiple trips to carry anywhere. Loading it in and out of my car was a chore and it tore up the interior of my car over the course of several summers worth of outdoor gigs. With the Kemper I can literally carry the whole rig in one trip, the Profiler in one hand and the Remote in the other in each hand. I’ve reduced the size of my rig several times over the years to make it easier on myself, but the Kemper is the ultimate portability upgrade. Hauling it around is literally no sweat.
Performance mode doesn’t allow me to run my rig the way I’d like. This is just a personal preference, but the way I used to run my pedal board was with reverb, compression, and slap back delay on at all times. The only changes I’d make throughout the show was switching between amp channels and occasionally changing the delay style, tap tempo and adding tremolo on certain songs (tap in the tempo for delay or tremolo and it stayed the same for the whole song). With Performance Mode I can’t really do this because every time I switch between performance channels, the performance channel reverts back to its original state. For example, if I’m playing performance channel 1 (Clean Matchless) and I turn on tremolo then switch to performance channel 3 (Dumble ODS) my tremolo and tap tempo disappear. When I switch back to performance channel 1, my tap tempo remains but I have to turn my tremolo back on. I understand why it works this way, it’s just not how I like it. The workaround is to program in a different performance channel for every song or for different groups of songs. I may do this in the future, but haven’t motivated myself to do it yet. What I’d really like is for the “Pedals” to work separately from the amp profiles. That way I could switch between amps without ever changing my pedals.
Did I mention I can get every amp I’ve ever wanted and it’s all super affordable (many times free). I bought an M Britt vintage Fender profile pack for $9.99 the other day and it’s got the Fender Twin sounds I’ve wanted for years. Tone Junkie regularly gives away great profiles for free and sells others for reasonable prices.
Profiles can vary widely in volume and quality. Some come through blazing hot, others are barely a whisper. This was a problem the first time I played a show with my Kemper. I didn’t think to equalize the volumes between profiles so I had giant peaks and valleys when jumping between performance channels. As a fix, I now make sure to equalize volumes between performance channels using Logic as a decibel meter.
My Kemper has completely transformed my practicing. My practice in the past has suffered from two major problems. 1. Since I gig every weekend, my rig is always packed and it’s a major chore to pull it out of its road cases and plug everything in. Most of the time I just didn’t want to go through the hassle, so my practice consisted of an acoustic guitar, a non-amplified electric guitar, or my guitar run through the less than stellar guitar sounds provided in Logic. This made practice very boring. 2. I’m the type of person who likes to practice in secret. I don’t want anyone (even my wife) to hear something I’m not ready for them to hear. On the off chance I did unpack my rig and plug it in, I would only ever practice if my wife was gone. When she was home I’d usually cut practice short because I’d feel self-conscious and/or she’d get tired of hearing the same guitar solo 23,000 times. Because of this, I didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have. With the Kemper, I can unpack it from its road case and have it ready to go in about 2 minutes, then I can plug in my headphones and practice in secret with some of the best tones I’ve ever had in my life. It’s increased my practice time and satisfaction with practice ten-fold.
The Cat 6 Cable that connects the Remote to the Profiler does not have a snap-in connection to the back of the Profiler. It just slides in and sits there. At first I thought the snap had broken off the cable, but when I went to order another one, the new one didn’t appear to have a snap either (if I’m wrong about this, let me know). Regardless, the slightest breeze can unplug the cable from the back of the Profiler. I have yet to have this happen during a show but it happens a lot during set up. It’s possible it’s designed this way so that if someone trips on the Cat 6 cable it won’t yank the Profiler off of whatever it’s sitting on, but I can’t help but worry the Remote is going to come unplugged at an inconvenient time. (A simple fix is to order a standard Cat 6 cable off of Amazon or from wherever. These ones will have snaps).
I don’t need to run power to the front of the house. Since I’m not running powered pedals, all my power needs are back at the Profiler. The only cable I have to run to the front is the Cat 6 cable that connects to the Profiler to the Remote.
In live settings, since I’m going direct into the sound system, I don’t get to hear my guitar until the sound tech has everything up and running. Technically I could plug in headphones to the Profiler if I really wanted too, but that doesn’t help much. Another concern is if my in-ears quit working for whatever reason, I won’t hear myself at all. This hasn’t happened, but it could. On a different but related note all the sound techs I’ve worked with LOVE the Kemper.
In times past I’d have people on my side of the stage at the beginning of the show but eventually they’d all disappear to the other side of the stage. Over time I developed a bit of a complex. I used to think I was a bad performer, but since I’ve had my Kemper, my side of the stage has never emptied. I realize now people were leaving because my amp was hitting them right in the face and it hurt their ears. They left to get away from the noise. With the Kemper it’s no longer an issue.
This one is minor and silly, but you can program in different names for your performances and it’s displayed on the Profiler and the Remote. For fun I started programming in the venue name or something along those lines for each show. People really seem to like this. I’ve had several people take a picture of my Profiler or Remote because it said “Washington County Fair” or “Lenny’s Party.” Who’da thunk it.
Recording great guitar tone is a breeze. We used a Kemper for my most recent EP. It sounds amazing and it was really easy. Recording great sounding demos at home just got a whole lot easier.
I can use it for my acoustic guitar as well. It might be overkill for acoustic gigs, but it’s allowed me to get rid of my acoustic pedal board.
The built-in Tuner is stellar. I’m picky when it comes to tuners. The one on the Kemper is stable, accurate and highly visible even in bright sunlight. If I click it on, it mutes everything (this setting can be changed) but it’s also got LED indicators on the remote to clue me into tuning issues even when the tuner isn’t clicked on.
The looper is excellent. I’ve really only used the TC Electronics Flashback X4 for my looping, but the Kemper is packed with better options. The first thing I like about it is I have the option to immediately play a loop OR I can immediately stop it for later use. On the Flashback, if I want to record the chorus chords but then go immediately into the verse after recording the loop, I have to quickly push the Play/Pause button twice (which is tough on the fly). With the Kemper, I can start the loop with the record button, hit that button again if I want it to play the loop immediately, OR hit the stop button if I want it to bank the loop for later use without immediate playback. The second thing I like about the Kemper Looper is that I can create a loop, let it play, then with the loop still playing, switch out of loop mode and go back to my performance settings to change the sounds of my guitar. This means I can loop a clean tone then switch to solo over the loop with an overdrive tone. It’s super slick and more than I expected from a secondary looper.
I’ve had to run a Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor on my rig for years to kill the hum. The Kemper is silent on its own and I never have feedback issues.
Since the Kemper is digital it will do some things that an analog rig won’t. One thing I’ve noticed is that my low notes (like open drop D) are super crisp and powerful rather than the somewhat floppy sound I’d get running through two 12 inch speakers. Since there’s no actual cabinet speakers with physical limitations, my low riffs really kick it in the balls. I imagine this holds over for even lower tunings as well.
So there you have it. If you were on the fence about a Kemper, maybe this will help you make the decision.
Do you have a Kemper? Let me know what you love about it and what you think could be better in the comments.