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A new modelling platform — at least new for me — arrives later today. The Helix Line 6.

I opted for the floor model and not the Helix LT primarily because I needed the extra I/O that the floor provides.

I have been running a Fractal AX8 for the past year or so. The units from Kemper, Helix and Fractal are all capable of producing good tones and I have owned both Kemper and Fractal.

Helix has an advantage in workflow over the Kemper and the Fractal. The Kemper seems to have gone nowhere with respect to editing software and the Fractal’s software, while excellent, requires both a computer and the AX8 to work out tones effectively.

The lack of scribble strips on the Fractal AX8 is a bit of an issue for me. Probably the bigger issue though is the lack of DSP on the Fractal AX8. I am constantly bumping into the limits of the DSP with only 6 to 8 blocks active.

I spent untold hours previewing profiles on the Kemper. I spent hundreds of dollars on commercial profiles trying to find that sound on the Kemper. I found the unit to be overly difficult in terms of the workflow and I was spending hours tweaking presets for songs.

For me, I need a portable, do everything rig for travelling. One that I can quickly pull some good tones together without needing to use a computer.

Kemper and Fractal might have a slight edge in tone with their platforms but in the context of a mix, I doubt that very many listeners would be that discerning.

I have been using Helix Native with my Pro Tools rig so I have a very good sense as to how the Helix floor will sound relative to the Kemper and Fractal and I have already worked through a lot of the tweaking that is necessary on the Helix to produce a good tone.

I am looking forward to getting some presets going over the weekend.

Why I Sold My Kemper

Morgan AC 20 Deluxe. Sold.

Clark Beaufort. Sold.

Fender Super Champ. Sold.

Mesa Boogie Road King Dual Rectifier with 4×12 Cab. Sold.

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18. Sold.

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Sold.

Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special. For Sale.

Fender ’64 Deluxe Reissue. For Sale.

Fender ’57 Tweed Deluxe Reissue. For Sale.

That leaves me with two amps: the Swart STR Tremolo and the Swart AST Mk II head and 1×12 cab.

With retirement, downsizing and a focus on travel for the next few years, carrying all of these amps really made no sense which is why I sold most of them.

Getting older comes with its own set of challenges. Hauling around heavy amps and heavy pedalboards being one of them.

I have always been a tone snob. As far as I was concerned, tube amps were the only way to get a great guitar sound. I found the early digital modellers, like the Line 6, to be less than satisfactory. Some players I knew were able to get some great results from that class of technology but it wasn’t for me.

And then the community of guitarists that I hang around with started jumping into modeling. Specifically the Kemper platform.

I’ll be south during the winter months travelling in a 40-foot diesel coach. Although the coach offers a lot of living space, given the form factor, I have to travel light.

Guitar amps are bulky.

Modellers like the Kemper promised great sounds and portability.

I bought one.

I struggled to get “the sound” I was looking for from the Kemper rig.

I purchased thousands of profiles trying to find a few gems in what appeared to be a large pool of mediocre tones. I ditched my pedalboards and went all in with the Kemper for about a year.

I gave it a chance.

The Kemper just didn’t work for me.

It also grew in size and weight.

By the time I added the rack case, the Kemper remote, and a bunch of external pedals, I had a rig that was pretty much the same bulk as my smaller amp rigs.

I sold the Kemper and bought the Fractal AX8.

Very portable. Very affordable (relative to the Kemper). Really great sounding models out of the box. And great sounding effects.

The software side of the Fractal was significantly ahead of the Kemper.

I came across this post: Why I Bought a Modeling Rig and Why I Didn’t Go Kemper.

Similar journey.

Having made the move to in-ear monitors, I don’t miss the “amp in the room” sound. The tones from the Fractal are consistent stage-to-stage relative to an amp, the amp models and effects are pretty easy to tweak and even with some limitations on the CPU, I find that I am so close in tone to what I had been using before with my amps that the few drawbacks are pretty insignificant.

Plus I can carry a guitar, the Fractal and a small gig bag without breaking my back. Setup and teardown is a snap. I don’t worry about tubes going microphonic and I don’t worry about being too loud on stage. I rarely play gigs where I am not being mic’d through a system. And, whenever that does happen, I pull out one of my Swart amps.

I use the Fractal for everything now, even my jazz playing.

It sounds great to my ear and I can take it with me wherever I go.

But I will still keep a couple of tube amps.

Just in case.

3rd Power Amp Pack for Kemper

I had been waiting for this profile pack from 3rd Power to get released. Ordered it today. Should have some fun playing tonight.

More details about the amp pack here.

And a video with Michael Britt and Jamie Scott. Michael Britt is the standard for Kemper Profiles.

Pat Metheny and Kemper

Pat Metheny was recently named a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master for his lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.

He has been one of my guitar heroes ever since I first heard him play back in the mid 1970s.

He has also recently switched to a Kemper profiler. And, I must say, his reaction is very similar to mine: a completely new way of getting my sound that I would not have believed possible.

Kemper Profiler Setup

There are somewhere north of 700 rigs in my Kemper.

So many amp tones. So little time.

I went searching on the web to focus the search for tones down to a more manageable list. Most of the time, I am playing in a church situation which calls for a certain type of sound similar to what you might hear from the Edge (guitarist for U2).

I seem to be settling on a few rigs:

I have been building up my performances on a song by song basis using the internal effects of the Kemper for things like compression, boost, overdrive, delays, reverbs. I noticed that some players take some different approaches to build their performances.

The Simple Approach

One size fits all. One performance patch only for the Kemper with a set of basic sounds. Could look like this:

  • Clean: dotted 8th delay, Tubescreamer, Rotary, compression
  • Dirty: dotted 8th delay, boost, tremolo, compression
  • Swells: delay, autoswell
  • Shimmer: delay
  • Solo: boost, distortion

With this approach, the effects are switchable in and out. The Kemper Remote tap tempo with its built-in beat detector is quite impressive so no need to program in tempos for the delays.

My Approach

Every song gets its own performance. Each performance patch is divided up into as many as five tones, or rigs (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo). I have built up about 40 songs so far. I’ll definitely have another 40 or so added to the list of performances by the end of the year. For the upcoming Celebrate Christmas event, I will have about 25 songs.

I like the simple approach. One and done.

I use my approach because I like to craft the tones for each song. Discovering how the amp profiles might work for a song and going through the effects capabilities, particularly the new delay engine, does take time. It also forces me to learn a lot about the Kemper unit which is a surprisingly deep system.

And a surprisingly good sounding system.

The I Can’t Get Over Analog Approach

Pick one amp tone for the Kemper and only one. After all, you can only play one amp in the real world. And drag that big pedalboard along because everyone will hear how much better the digital profile will sound with all of that analog goodness coming from the pedals.

In a way, I do like this approach because it is much easier to stomp on pedals than to program the effects in the Kemper. I find that I have to scroll through dozens and dozens of effects to get to certain sounds, like the delay sounds, and then audition each one until I find one that works. Counterintuitive to just reaching out to a pedal, turning it on and rotating a few knobs.

I’m also working with Kemper’s Rig Manager on a computer and although it might be fine for setting up rigs, it lacks functionality big time to assign effects for a performance. Right now I am spending a lot of time setting up the effects chain through the Kemper whereas a pedalboard would be all set and ready to go.

With time, I should get faster with the effects chain.

 

New Amp(s) Day

We got the call yesterday during one of the worst snowstorms of the winter.

“Your Kemper is in” was all that I needed to hear.

Time to brave the snowstorm.

It wasn’t easy, but we made the drive to the guitar shop and sure enough, there it was. My new Kemper Profiler and remote.

I brought it home and did the usual computer stuff: registered the unit, booted up the profiler, updated the firmware, quickly parsed through the manuals.

I hooked it up to a passive monitor (I have the powered rack version) and I started to work through a few of the profiles that I had acquired from Mike Britt.

Oh my.

This thing has no right to sound this good.

A couple of hours went by before I knew it. Very impressive piece of gear.

I’m playing out this weekend. And, with a bit of focus, I think I can get it ready to go.

Kemper Profiler Rack

 

I ordered a Kemper PowerRack last week along with the Kemper Remote. These products should come in sometime over the next few weeks.

I’ve been looking at modellers and profilers over the past several months. Lorraine and I are starting to get ready for retirement in this machine:

We will be spending at least half the year, if not longer, travelling around in our coach during our early retirement years. And I won’t be able to take my amps with me.

Not enough space.

However, I can profile all of my current amps and carry them with me in the Kemper. I can also select some great amp profiles from Michael Britt.

The performance of the Kemper, although not 100 percent of a tube amp, is close enough for me. The convenience and portability of the Kemper is an obvious strength. The ability to mimic and store some great amp profiles is an obvious strength. Having all sorts of choices when it comes to playback volumes and playback sources is an obvious strength.

I’ll start working with the Kemper for some of my live dates. I’ll probably still use my pedalboards although I am going to try to work the unit as is with amp profiles and effects.

When we travel, I hope to use the Kemper as an all-in-one solution for practice, rehearsal, recording and any live work that I will be doing. I’ll probably pair the unit with a set of in-ears for my live work.

And I guess I will enter the digital age of guitar playing.

Reluctantly.