I’ve been a huge Kemper fan since I first plugged into one back in 2012. Despite my immediate appreciation for the amazing technology and its realistic and musical tones, it took me a while to understand what the Profiler is capable of. Even after gigging exclusively with a Kemper PowerHead for years, I’m still discovering cool and powerful things that it can do.
So no one was more excited than I was to dig into the latest, greatest Kemper product: the Profiler Stage. It’s the culmination of everything we love about Kemper, and more. If you can picture the offspring of a Kemper Profiler and the ingenious Profiler Remote foot controller, you’ll be in the ballpark of what the Stage is.
It doesn’t have a power amp - you’ll need to amplify it yourself - but it has all the functionality of the Profiler and the Remote in one sleek, smart, full-featured package. I hungrily unboxed it and tested it through a Line 6 Powercab 212 Plus. When I came up for air, I also plugged it into a Seymour Duncan PowerStage 700 into a Feiten 2x12 (with Greenbacks) and a Boogie 1x12 with a Weber Gray Wolf.
The Profiler Stage comes loaded with a truckload of great amp tones and effects. What has always been cool about Kemper is that you can profile any amp that you can get a mic on, so you can store your own amps or those of your friends. I haven’t done that in years, preferring to go with profiles that were created by supersmart people like Michael Britt, Till Schleicher and others who have great amps, great mics and the time and wherewithal to get them right. Their tones, and many others, are in this thing, and I discovered clean, crunch and lead tones that rocked with no effort.
You can access them all in Browse mode, and when you find something you love, you can store it in a Performance for gigs. You also get the handy morph button, which allows you transform any preset to a modified version by hitting its button again. You could toggle between, say, a dry rhythm tone and one with delay and rotary speaker on it, but the possibilities with this cool feature are endless. I found myself brightening profiles slightly and reducing gain a bit, which seemed to make the tones sit in a mix a little better. Then, once I cranked them up, they sounded and felt like a real amp, which is what I’ve always experienced with and enjoyed about Kemper.
The Stage’s interface will seem a little daunting to newcomers and mostly familiar to Kemper users. The main differences from the Profiler Head are the lack of dedicated reverb and delay knobs (although it’s simple to access parameters for those effects by hitting the corresponding button and using the soft knobs). There’s no exit button, but there’s an undo button that does the same thing. You access Profiling mode by simultaneously holding down browser and perform. There are other changes, but nothing you can’t handle. The best thing you can do is spend a lot of time with the Stage, like you would an instrument, and really learn how to play it. It’ll be very rewarding.
I’m currently gigging with a Kemper PowerHead into a 1x12 cab. I have the Remote on a pedalboard with a wah and a couple of expression pedals - one for volume and one to control levels for delay, reverb and modulation. It’s an incredibly flexible, lightweight, powerful rig that I can set up in five minutes. Here’s how I could see the Profiler Stage improving my life: With the Stage and a stereo cab like the PowerCab 212 Plus, I could run in stereo. If I mounted the Stage to a pedalboard with a couple of expression pedals, I could get my setup and tear-down time even shorter. The all-in-one quality of this thing is incredibly attractive. It also powers up really fast, something my PowerHead can’t do.
The fact that Kemper Profilers sound and feel really good isn’t really up for debate anymore. Mark Knopfler is touring with Kempers as I write this, and that guy knows tone. They also record like a dream. If you’ve been waiting to take the plunge, this might be the product that pushes you over the edge. You’ll need to amplify it somehow, but there are very musical, hip solutions out there, chief among them the amps I used for this review. The Profiler Stage does a lot more than is covered here, but it absolutely does the most important things really, really well. I’m a bigger fan than ever.
Kemper Profiler Stage
PRICE $1,700 street
KNOBS Gain, master, browse, type, 4 soft knobs
SWITCHES 5 preset, tap tempo, up/down, looper, tuner, 4 effect on/off
I/O 1/4" instrument input, USB in/out, FX send x 2, FX return x 4, XRL main outs x 2, 1/4" main outs x 2, 1/4" monitor outs x 2, MIDI in/out, 1/4" expression pedal inputs x 4, S/PDIF in/out
WEIGHT 9.8 lbs.
KUDOS Great sounds. Amazingly flexible. Rig of the future