We met the Kemper Profiling
Amplifier a couple of NAMM shows ago.
There had been much talk about some crazy,
lunchbox-looking product that could listen
to any amp and capture its sonic DNA right
before your eyes in real time. The resulting
model or “profile” could then be tweaked,
refined, modified, and stored, then combined
with any of the onboard effects for a
ton of hip tones. I watched the demo where
they played through a Boogie Road King,
then profiled the Boogie, then A/B’ed the
two. It was very impressive but I knew I
needed to try it, hear it, and feel it for myself
before I could believe it.
Well, we got a KPA a little while ago
so we could do just that. After unboxing
it, I started auditioning some of the profiles
that it ships with. Some I wasn’t crazy
about, but some—including the Fender
Deluxe, Twin Reverb, Boogie Dual Rec,
and Roland JC-120—were really cool. They
sounded big and open and had a great feel.
Some of the band-inspired profiles, such
as “Sabbath” and “Lotta Love” were very
accurate and a blast to play. You also get a
bunch of effects, with the Hall Reverb, Vintage
Chorus, Fuzz Face, and Rotary being
particularly great. I felt the interface to be
overwhelming initially, with its 38 buttons
and 17 knobs on the front. Once I dug into
it, I was able to get my moves down pretty
easily, but it’s a good idea to keep the wellwritten
So far none of this would really set the
KPA apart from the myriad modelers available
today. What makes the Kemper unique
is obviously its ability to model real-world
hardware amps, and we were anxious to
see if it could do it. The way that process
works is you plug into the KPA and send
the 1/4" Direct Out/Send to the input of
the hardware amp. Then you stick the mic
of your choice in front of the amp and plug
it into the XLR Return jack on the KPA.
Switch the chicken-head knob on the front
to Profiler and the Profiling Assistant walks
you through the steps. When you hit the
soft button labeled “Start Profiling,” the
fun begins. The KPA then sends a series
of test signals to the amp so it can analyze
exactly how the amp’s circuit responds to
various frequencies and levels in order to
determine its breakup characteristics. The
sounds range from spaceship laser beams to
white noise to low, grindy sounds that were
likened to the engine room on the Titanic.
The whole process takes less than 60 seconds.
We put a Rode condenser in front of
a Dr. Z EZG 50 and let it rip. The resulting
profile was quite good, although it was
tough to reconcile the big, warm-sounding
12" speaker in the Dr. Z with the 4" speakers
in the Fishman SA220 that we used to
reference the profiles. Needing more info, I
took a profile of the cute little Ibanez TSA5.
This time, the KPA really nailed it, kicking
out all the cool, boxy tones that the original
is capable of. I moved on to a 1-watt
Marshall JMP. I stuck an SM57 straight on
the speaker and profiled away. This was a
learning lesson in how much the mic can
color the sound, because the profile had
a more hollow, Randy Rhoads-ish quality
than what we heard from the Marshall. I put
the mic off axis and created a new profile.
The new one sounded different from the
first, but still different from the Marshall.
So, the good news is that the sound of your
favorite mics will absolutely translate into
your profiles. The tricky part is getting the
mic placement right, which is a real skill/
art form. Because of this, I got my best and
most consistent results with a Radial JDX
Amplifier DI box, which took the mic out
of the equation and delivered a great tone.
The question on everyone’s mind is
whether the KPA can create an exact duplicate
of an amp’s tone. Monitoring through
a P.A. system, I found the profiles to be
slightly brighter and more distorted than
what I heard through the amp. To be fair,
though, the Kemper is intended to replicate
the miked sound of an amp, and it does
that beautifully. There is a Profile Refining
function to help get the tones more similar
to the original. You can further tweak the
profiles with things like Power Sagging,
Preamp Definition, Tube Shape, and so on.
With the KPA’s great EQ and Gain controls
I was able to get the profiles super close.
The real question, of course, should not be
whether the profiles sound identical but,
“Do the profiles sound good?” That answer
is easy: Yes, they do. They sound great and
the process of creating them is fun and fascinating.
The promise of being able to carry
around a warehouse full of classic amps has
been with us for a while, but Kemper has
definitely put the power of modeling into the
hands of the masses, and this is a very cool
and exciting development. Wünderbar!
Contact Kemper; kemper-amps.com
Price $1,900/ $1,850 street
Analog Inputs 1/4" Instrument (front panel),
1/4" Alternative Input (back
panel), FX Return (XLR and 1/4")
Analog Outputs Master Output (two XLR, two
1/4"), 1/4" Monitor out, Direct
Output/FX Send, Headphone.
Digital I/O Coaxial S/PDIF, USB, Ethernet
Weight 11.73 lbs
Kudos Fascinating and groundbreaking
profiling abilities. Super-flexible.
Versatile routing options.
Concerns Interface somewhat
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