Why I Love the Kemper Profiling Amp | Picks

Fewer things divide guitarists more than the debate surrounding digital vs. analog gear. Traditionalists have stood by the vintage warmth and character of classic analog equipment for decades, especially tube amps. Some players, with a slightly different approach, side with digital equipment that aims to replicate the sound and response of this analog gear. But then there are guitarists and bassists, including myself, who occupy the middle and enjoy the benefits brought about by both digital and analog gear.

One such example of digital gear aiming to replicate the analog sound is the Kemper profiling amp. Over 10 years old now, it’s still one of the most ubiquitous pieces of gear amongst pros and amateurs alike. It's become an industry standard tool for recording studios and touring live rigs. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know what it is and what it does.

I love the Kemper because it’s made my life a whole lot easier. I have a fairly modest home studio, and I don’t have the space or the budget to amass a collection of desirable pedals and tube amp— nor have I got neighbors or a partner willing to put up with the noise simply because "I need to get those preamp tubes cooking."

When recording guitars the old school way, you need to think about microphones and preamps as well. There’s little point in being precious with your amps if you’re only then going to capture them with sub-par mics. Having the Kemper at the heart of my electric guitar and bass recording rig means I’ve got access to an incredibly wide range of amps without the hassle of having to mic them up. Simply take a jack out of the back and run it into an interface—you can even run it in stereo to capture wide reverbs and delays etc. Recently, I’ve started running it into a Universal Audio Apollo Twin running a 1073 preamp plugin for even more digital replication of analog gear.

I write and record a variety of music, including some for libraries. As such, I’ll go from metal tones to ambient cleans to jangly indie sounds, all in an afternoon. The Kemper lets you scroll to your favorite preset, and, within the click of a few buttons, you’ve arrived at your desired tone.

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You can choose from a wide range of effects, too—again, all within just a few clicks. Want to tweak something? You can change pretty much any parameter you can think of, including the virtual cab or mic. I did find that this took a bit of getting used to. At first, it’s easy to dial in a bad sound, but like with any piece of gear, once you know your way around it, you can really get the most out of it.

The number of incredible amp profiles that are out there is staggering. The likes of Michael Britt, Rhett Shull, and loads more have captured the sound—and, indeed, the essence—of some incredible amps for us all to enjoy. Even if I had the space to crank a 100W Plexi, or a '60s AC30, I’d still have to get a hold of one. But these sorts of people have better access to rare and sought-after amps and will also do them much more justice when mic’ing them up.

Another reason why I love the Kemper is because of how valuable it’s been for remote recording. I’ve been able to record guitar and bass tracks to a professional level (leaving only the playing that’s questionable) and send them wherever they need to be in the world, all via email. For the band I play in, if I’m not able to make it into the studio, I can track my parts with the Kemper and send them two files—one file using whichever profile I’ve selected, and the other is a DI signal for them to re-amp if they need to (they rarely do).

For me, the Kemper hasn’t completely replaced the role of a traditional amp. When playing live, I use a super simple setup: pedalboard into an Orange Tiny Terror head, into a 2x12. For bass, I’ll use the Orange OB1-300 head into a cab. Would I switch to a Kemper for live use? If I started playing in big venues with decent PA systems guaranteed, then definitely.

If I’m at a proper studio, I’ll probably use the amps they have there, because it’s all set up with nice mics, decent pres, and an engineer that knows their stuff (unless we need a really specific sound that their amps can’t do—then the Kemper comes to the rescue). However, it has made my day-to-day guitar and bass recording so much easier, so much quicker, and so much better-sounding than it was before.

Is it worth the hype? Yes, absolutely. Before I got my own, I’d used one a couple of times at studios and was always pleased with the results. Now, every time I switch the thing on, I get excited. Yes, it makes recording easier. But for me, it also makes playing a lot more fun, too.

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