Review: Kemper Profiling Amp

Sampling the soul of your favourite amps   15-Oct-12

    MP4 22:22 mins    

I first saw a prototype version of the Kemper Profiling Amp last year, I must admit that at that time I could barely believe my eyes and ears. At that point it wasn’t available as a product, and Kemper were trying to show off their toy and build up buzz about it.

My immediate thought at this time was that there was something I was missing, the technology seemed incredibly accurate, nothing else on the market was even close to it.

But when I learned more about how the technology worked, it made perfect sense, and it became pretty clear that there would be one of these things in almost every recording studio in the world within a few years.

When I finally managed to get my hands on the Kemper Profiling Amp, I wanted to put it through its paces and find out exactly what it can do. The problem is, it can so much stuff that I could only cover the bare essentials in this video.

The profiling aspect of the amp is what everybody wants to know about. Pedals and amps are the main things you might want to profile, the idea is that if you’ve got a big pedal rig or a decent amp collection, you can store all the sounds in the Kemper rather than having to lug everything around.

Due to the way the Kemper profiles an amp, once it has measured the characteristics, the profiled version of the amp should react in the same way to parameter changes as the original. For example, the treble knob on the Kemper should affect the tone of the sampled sound in much the same way as on the original amplifier.

I found this to be pretty accurate with my Egnater Rebel 20 and Gibson BR9. In fact, my Gibson BR9 is an old lap steel amp, so it doesn’t even have a gain stage or any EQ knobs. Using the Kemper I can profile the clean sound of the amp, and then use the extra parameters at my disposal to do a bit more with that sound.

Obviously the digital sounds of the Kemper don’t come close to my old little Gibbo, but it’s incredibly useful.

On the Egnater it does a remarkable job, I was genuinely impressed at just how close it managed to match the amp. Good effort there, particularly impressive was that lack of mid range fuzz in the high gain distortion sounds, which is eternally a problem with digital stuff.

Sampling An Amplifier
So if you’re wondering how the Kemper actually goes about profiling an amplifier, it’s not too difficult a concept to grasp.

Imagine you have a Vox AC30, you set it up next to them Kemper, and you will also need a jack cable, XLR lead and a microphone (preferable an SM57 or similar). From the send socket of your Kemper, you plug the jack lead into the input of your AC30, then you set the mic up in front of the speaker cone on the AC30 and plug the microphone into the ‘XLR in’ slot of the Kemper.

Then your Kemper sends a range of odd sounds down the send cable and into your AC30, the AC30 then plays these sounds out of its speaker, and the microphone listens to them, sending the signal back to the Kemper.

By measuring the signature of the return sound against the signature of the original sound, the Kemper can emulate the frequency response of your AC30, and then create a patch for it on the amp.

Obviously I’ve made it sound FAR more simple than it actually is, but that’s the gist of it. Once you’ve profiled your amplifier (or effects pedal) with the Kemper you can then choose to refine the sound. This means you can play some chords through your original amplifier and the Kemper Profiling Amp will have another listen and make any adjustments necessary, what’s more, using the tube shape parameter on the Kemper, you can adjust this setting to make the profile sound more like the tube response of your original amp.

In the words of the guys at Kemper:

“Power amp tubes generate a different type of overtone structure than preamp tubes. They distort with a harsher sound, because the negative feedback in the power amp circuit linearizes the tube amplification.

“This makes the distortion curve edgier. If you notice in the A/B comparison that the reference amp produces more high frequency distortion when light distortion is applied, you should set the “Tube Shape” parameter to about 9.0, to get the same behavior from the profile.”

The folks at Kemper have really engineered something brilliant here, I think that in a decade’s time we’ll look back and wonder how studios ever coped without it, that’s how important I think it will become.

Imagine you are running a studio and you are recording a different band every week, each with different gear. You can sample the gear of each and every band you work with, and then offer those sounds to the next band that comes in.

Also, using the KPA, when a band is recording you record both an amplifier and a clean signal, then send the clean signal back through the KPA to re-amp it and mess about with it until you have it perfect, it’s essentially an entire computer dedicated as a production suite for guitars.

I’m not convinced about the gigging capabilities, I like to have a stack on stage for a number of reasons, none of which are based on science, but it gets to a point where soul becomes more important to me than science and I love the bond I have with my amp on stage and I love feeling its raw power behind me.

That said, there is technically no reason why this won’t be great on stage, as long as if you’re putting it through a cab you don’t have the cab emulation on, and if you’re putting it through the mixer then you’re placing a lot of trust in the sound guy.

It must be reiterated (if you don’t already know this from my various reviews) that I’m a bit of stick in the mud when it comes to digital gear. I love valve amps and I love analogue pedals, so that fact that I’d be willing to marry off the Kemper staff to my first born daughter is testament to just how much I love what they’ve done.

Seriously, get your hands on one, try one out, and make the decision for yourself. For the price, I really do think it’s a solid investment.

£1299 / €1550/ $2025 List

Available now

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