Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

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Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by Steadyriot. » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:36 am

I've been considering going digital for a long while now. Though I love my tube amps, they're heavy, cumbersome, always need a cab attached (or an expensive loadbox / DI), they hate power changes, tubes can blow up and they're just kind of delicate (especially for what they weigh ;D). Lugging them from venue to venue just isn't that appealing anymore.

With my band we've gone full in-ear system so going with a digital amp would also help in that regard. Plus we have almost zero stage volume now (apart from the drums ofcourse) which has impacted our live sound in a good way. We did a test with monitors on and off in a live situation and they really influenced our front of house mix. Our engineer really loves us now.
The other guitar player in the band just bought a Helix (coming from an elaborate Strymon, Hughes & Kettner, loop-switcher and Midi setup) which just puts fuel to the digital fire roaring through the band. Bass player has been going direct for over a year now. I'm the only one going at it old-school.

Currently I run a Marshall JCM2000 into whatever cab (2x12 V30 most of the time) with a Palmer PDI-09 in between the head and the cab. The Palmer sounds pretty good and realistic and certainly works for the level of gigs that we're at but I still feel that there is progress that can be made.
In fact; the only analog thing about my setup is the Marshall, the rest is all digital (quick and dirty pedalboard shot here).

So I'm looking at getting a Kemper (been thinking about this for a few months now) because it's easy to set up, it sounds pretty good from what I've heard and all amps that I could ever wish for and / or want can be put into this little box. Gone are the days of nice looking but fairly cumbersome storage shelves full of amps. I've sold most of those; and not without reason. I only play one and seldom swap out which one that "one" is. I sound like me anyway.

So; Kemper sounds like a great idea right?! And still this feeling is gnawing at my insides. This feeling that says: It'll be obsolete in 2 years. Just like the Vox stuff I've used before, just like the Line 6 stuff of yesteryear, just like those big-ass racks of the 80's. It'll be obsolete and it'll sound digital and you'll grow to hate this really expensive box which you'll sell and makes you go out and buy even more expensive amps and loadboxes and DI's and you'll be financially ruined and your partner will leave you and you'll lose your job after spiralling into a deep depression all because of this fucking Kemper!
Okay that's a bit much maybe but still; going digital feels kinda dirty, like I'm cheating on my good old faithfull tube amp.
I'll probably buy one anyway..

So help me out!
Has anyone of you made the jump to digital?! And if so; what? Kemper? Helix? AxeFX?! If not, what held you back?!
"If someone duetted with a Bald Eagle, they could rule the Country charts from here to eternity." ~shadowplay

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by mbene085 » Mon Jun 24, 2019 6:46 am

Bought my Kemper maybe 4 years ago and never looked back. It feels as interactive and fun to play as my tube amps so I sold them all. It does take time to find the right profiles for your uses/gear/preferences...there's a fair bit of a learning curve as you explore it. Don't expect the stock patches to necessarily impress. It wasn't until I got some M britt, Amp Factory and Top Jimi profiles that it really came alive for me. I'd say the first week or two was spent going, "why doesn't this sound like all the YouTube demos?"

I recently bought a Fractal AX8 and am trying to figure out whether I like it more. The form factor appealed to me and the effects are more varied, though the Kemper has a solid assortment as well. I'm hoping I can get the AX8 to the point that the Kemper becomes redundant and I can sell it, but honestly my Kemper has a JCM800 patch I've tweaked for my jags that nothing else has yet matched.

Don't worry about obsolescence. The old PODs became obsolete because they sounded like shit and everyone dumped them as soon as something came along that sounded less shitty. The Kemper and Fractal products are at a level where the quality of tones don't bear replacing - the most recent Axe III for example is more about signal routing and processing power (you can have two full rigs running in stereo simultaneously, running to a board, with a simultaneous DI track going through its built in USB audio interface for reamping purposes, and two separate stereo outputs to independent monitoring setups). If you're a "one amp at a time" player like 99.9% of guitarists for all time, the Axe III doesn't do anything dramatic tone-wise that the last generation did 5+ years ago.

Similarly, the Kemper is still going strong despite being very long in the tooth in typical digital technology terms but still produces tones that feel and sound authentic, and it won't suddenly stop doing so if they announce a Kemper 2 or whatever.

The freedom in monitoring, decoupling decibels from tone quality/tube amp "sweet spots" etc all make digital SO convenient. I also have a dozen electric guitars, and can save the slight tone tweaks to each of my favourite amps in patches, so switching from one guitar to the next keeps volume and gain levels consistent and doesn't require a tweak at the board. It's fantastic.

The Fractal has the familiar "building blocks" modeling that is in some ways easier to wrap your head around. The Kemper's profiles are more like individual snapshots of specific knob settings of different amps. If that AC30 was profiled with the treble knob at 4 and you like the tone of an AC30 with the treble at 7 for your particular guitar, turning up the treble on the Kemper isn't going to sound the same as finding or making a profile with that setting. It's much more trial and error finding profiles that agree with a particular guitar or pickup, but once you find it, you get that perfect tone and feel every time at the push of a button.

Most negative Kemper experiences come from people who don't dedicate a few weeks to downloading and auditioning profiles. You could never buy one the morning of a gig and have a perfect tone that night. That's not what it does. But you will find those perfect profiles, and never look back, because your live tone will be as good or better than with your tube amp, and your setup will be ten times easier.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by matthew a » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:42 am

Not much to add here, except I went from a JCM2000 to using the JCM800 preamp on the Line 6 Pod 500HD.

Sounded great, didn’t break my back carrying board & head on the underground to gigs.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by Kent » Wed Jun 26, 2019 1:16 pm

Fractal user for years now. Would never go back to archaic tube amps and cabs for gigging or recording. Put in the time and the rewards are there.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by Steadyriot. » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:52 am

mbene085 wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 6:46 am
Bought my Kemper maybe 4 years ago and never looked back. It feels as interactive and fun to play as my tube amps so I sold them all. It does take time to find the right profiles for your uses/gear/preferences...there's a fair bit of a learning curve as you explore it. Don't expect the stock patches to necessarily impress. It wasn't until I got some M britt, Amp Factory and Top Jimi profiles that it really came alive for me. I'd say the first week or two was spent going, "why doesn't this sound like all the YouTube demos?"

I recently bought a Fractal AX8 and am trying to figure out whether I like it more. The form factor appealed to me and the effects are more varied, though the Kemper has a solid assortment as well. I'm hoping I can get the AX8 to the point that the Kemper becomes redundant and I can sell it, but honestly my Kemper has a JCM800 patch I've tweaked for my jags that nothing else has yet matched.

Don't worry about obsolescence. The old PODs became obsolete because they sounded like shit and everyone dumped them as soon as something came along that sounded less shitty. The Kemper and Fractal products are at a level where the quality of tones don't bear replacing - the most recent Axe III for example is more about signal routing and processing power (you can have two full rigs running in stereo simultaneously, running to a board, with a simultaneous DI track going through its built in USB audio interface for reamping purposes, and two separate stereo outputs to independent monitoring setups). If you're a "one amp at a time" player like 99.9% of guitarists for all time, the Axe III doesn't do anything dramatic tone-wise that the last generation did 5+ years ago.

Similarly, the Kemper is still going strong despite being very long in the tooth in typical digital technology terms but still produces tones that feel and sound authentic, and it won't suddenly stop doing so if they announce a Kemper 2 or whatever.

The freedom in monitoring, decoupling decibels from tone quality/tube amp "sweet spots" etc all make digital SO convenient. I also have a dozen electric guitars, and can save the slight tone tweaks to each of my favourite amps in patches, so switching from one guitar to the next keeps volume and gain levels consistent and doesn't require a tweak at the board. It's fantastic.

The Fractal has the familiar "building blocks" modeling that is in some ways easier to wrap your head around. The Kemper's profiles are more like individual snapshots of specific knob settings of different amps. If that AC30 was profiled with the treble knob at 4 and you like the tone of an AC30 with the treble at 7 for your particular guitar, turning up the treble on the Kemper isn't going to sound the same as finding or making a profile with that setting. It's much more trial and error finding profiles that agree with a particular guitar or pickup, but once you find it, you get that perfect tone and feel every time at the push of a button.

Most negative Kemper experiences come from people who don't dedicate a few weeks to downloading and auditioning profiles. You could never buy one the morning of a gig and have a perfect tone that night. That's not what it does. But you will find those perfect profiles, and never look back, because your live tone will be as good or better than with your tube amp, and your setup will be ten times easier.
This all makes so much sense.
So I bought one! It was the last push that I needed.
Findings when I get to know it a little better!

Thanks from me for your thorough analysis. Not so much from my wallet.. ;D

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by mbene085 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:06 am

Congrats! Take your time getting to know it. Let me know if you want any commercial profile suggestions.

Once you get a basic feel, I can give you some deep editing tips that pushed my profiles from good to great. But the first thing is just to start experimenting. Some profiles get along perfectly with one guitar and not at all with the next. Don't be surprised if 90% of profiles sound wrong at first. It's like walking up to random people's rigs and plugging into their amp, not being allowed to change any knobs. More of them will sound wrong than right.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by somanytoys » Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:24 am

It would be interesting to read your take on the Kemper, the sounds and the interface, especially initially, fresh out of the box.

And then again after working with it for a few weeks, feeling like you're getting the swing of it and getting some good sounds you're happy with, even though you may tweak them as you get more familiar with it all.

I'd love to buy one of those, but they are all so expensive that it does seem to be an either/or thing, either the Kemper or your amps (and sometimes pedals, it seems).

I also don't really relish the idea of plunging deep into an interface again, it's so easy to get lost in them and spend too much time being lost in them, especially once you're starting to really get them. Like other things I have and have done that with, I know that the payoff is usually worth it, but that kind of time isn't something I have a lot of right now.

At some point, though, I'm looking to buy a sort of kiddie practice version of it, the Yamaha TRH10-C, and maybe kind of trikey my way into that whole scene.
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by Steadyriot. » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:50 am

somanytoys wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:24 am
It would be interesting to read your take on the Kemper, the sounds and the interface, especially initially, fresh out of the box.

And then again after working with it for a few weeks, feeling like you're getting the swing of it and getting some good sounds you're happy with, even though you may tweak them as you get more familiar with it all.

I'd love to buy one of those, but they are all so expensive that it does seem to be an either/or thing, either the Kemper or your amps (and sometimes pedals, it seems).

I also don't really relish the idea of plunging deep into an interface again, it's so easy to get lost in them and spend too much time being lost in them, especially once you're starting to really get them. Like other things I have and have done that with, I know that the payoff is usually worth it, but that kind of time isn't something I have a lot of right now.

At some point, though, I'm looking to buy a sort of kiddie practice version of it, the Yamaha TRH10-C, and maybe kind of trikey my way into that whole scene.
I can give you my first impressions if you want!
I've been futzing around with it for a few hours now (say four) and I can tell you this:
Metalheads suck! ;D When I bought the Kemper it was previously owned by a guy in a (pretty heavy ) metal band. I'm far from a metalhead so all of the profiles loaded on it were not my cup of tea to say the least. After futzing around with his profiles for approximately ten minutes I decided it was time to wipe it all clean and start fresh with some profiles from the Rig Manager (I'm not buying anything until I figure this thing out a bit more).
First thing I can say: It sounds really good through speakers as well as through monitors. Even with the speakersim turned on it sounded pretty good through my 2x12.
But: It can get pretty complicated. The speaker sim sounded pretty good through my 2x12 but turning it off was quite a search. Trying to find out how to turn off the sim after trying to find how to turn ON the poweramp started to get a bit frustrating. This combined with all the different output settings and I'm still not entirely sure what's going on. The basics are pretty straight forward but the Kemper as a whole is kinda a lot to digest. I still don't really get the difference between performances and rigs in the Rig Manager and the manual isn't the most helpful piece of written words I've encountered. A google search here and there helped me heaps more. For now I'm just going at it by trial and error and some Googling to the side.

You can really deep dive into this thing and though that can be fun; I just like to set it to a few good sounds and just play. There's a lot of menu's to click and scroll through and though it works; a computer interface to do this in and create presets (like the Helix and Fractal) would be a great improvement I feel (and should be coming this year!).
On the other hand; if you're not super picky, just load up some good profiles and play. You don't have to dive deep into this thing. A good profile will sound good no matter what.

The Morgan AC20 profile is amazing and really works wonders with my JMJaguar. It's more than fair that this is one of the most popular profiles out there (free or paid). I haven't found the sweet spot for my humbucker guitars yet but they sound pretty good too! Most of the time I'm trying to find a good place for the low output pickups of the JMjag but the Kemper really seems to gell with it. On the other hand; I love single coils and mostly play Jaguar's and Telecasters so I'm not worried. Humbuckers are pretty niche for me.

All in all I really like it though there is a (slight?! I'll find out soon!) learning curve. I own a DD-500 though, so menu-diving isn't something I'm unfamiliar with; I just don't love it like some guys do (Fun fact: the guy that sold it to bought a Fractal because he couldn't dive deep enough into the Kemper, he wanted even more options and settings). It's just not really part of the hobby for me. I'd rather play. Something the Kemper has made me do more the last week than I have done the month before that. I'd call that a win.

I hope to try it this week at practice. We'll see what it'll bring to the table.
"If someone duetted with a Bald Eagle, they could rule the Country charts from here to eternity." ~shadowplay

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:59 am

Yes, the Morgan AC-20 is an unbelievably good-sounding and good-feeling patch.

Here's a pro tip: in the deeper menus of the "amp" section, there are settings for "definition" and "clarity."

My experience has been that lower definition and clarity mesh well with single coils, and higher definition and clarify mesh better with humbuckers. So if a given profile sounds amazing to you with one type of pickup, try moving those dials in the appropriate direction and you might become happy with it for the other type!

For example, if you like the AC-20 patch with singles but not humbuckers, save a copy of the profile with a different name (I tag them with suffixes like HB for humbucker, JG if it's dialed in for my Jag, JM for Jazzmaster etc) and then try turning up the clarity, definition, and even "pick" (pick attack) settings deeper in the "amp" menu. Those might make it more HB-friendly.

My experience so far has been that a good profile is a good profile regardless of pickups, and adjusting those three settings can arrive at a sweet spot that makes me happy with any given set of pickups.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by somanytoys » Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:24 am

Wow, that's pretty cool. And it's about what I expected, honestly, there has to be a learning curve for something that complicated, although the interface and the intuitiveness of the menus and setups are a big factor. That's funny about the metal settings. I like a lot of music, but I find that there are really only so many sounds for that. There are a few, but not so many distinct sounds that I'd have to chase after more than 2 to feel like I could play almost anything metal with it. But not being a total metalhead, I could be completely wrong about that. ;)

The first time I really dove down that rabbit hole was with a Digitech "everything" pedal, years and years ago. I toyed around with it some, but mostly just used the pre-loaded patches. Then I found some very cool patches on the internet, and started programming the ones I wanted in. That helped me understand a lot, but I hadn't really bought a lot of effects pedals yet, so it was all just numbers and values, no matter what effect it was - distortion, mod, reverb, delay - they didn't mean a whole lot, although I could pick up on the range of values and what it did. I still had a lot to learn about how the different controls interfaced, I think you need to understand an effect and the way its controls behave and interact, before you can reduce them all to numeric values and set them in a competent way, but that's just my opinion.

Since then I've tried to learn other complicated things, like the Count to 5 (full of all kinds of hidden gems), the Infinite Jets and the Meris Polymoon, but those are kind of more complicated because of all of the capabilities and the limitations of the interface - no menu, just trying to remember what each knob or switch does, and also what the alt-mode of it does. I tend to stay away from most things that take too much "programming", because I already spend too much time figuring out which pedals to use, in which order, in which chain and into which amp, how the settings react/stack with each other, programming each of those patches for midi control, troubleshooting...

But in the same vein, the time that I spend doing all of that really pays off so well, especially when I can then just grab a guitar and turn things on and play, and get all of these different, wonderful sounds at the push of a single button. I think you're going to feel the same way, once you find a few good patches that you really like, and either start getting into the interface or a better one comes out.

I think that Mike (I think it is - Mbene) might be the best one to tell you what's more "educational" with the Kemper - creating more different models and effects and getting a broader taste & understanding, or focusing more on just 2 or 3 models and really drilling down deep and perfecting them.

I think you're going to really like it once you get the swing of it, those seem so nice. One day I'm sure I'll have to take the dive with one of those. And maybe by then, they won't be 4 million dollars...
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by Ben17e » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:47 am

I realize you already made a decision but there are an increasing amount of amps now coming with XLR outs that have cab Sims and now irs built in. Revv has the DT20 which has two notes cab ir built in which can be modified. Shure recently released an amp that does this and the Boogie line has a cab sim out. Fenders new twin and deluxe they just came out with has ir out xlr (not sure if they allow the speaker to be turned off or not). They have a tube preamp but digital power amp I think. Mooers preamp live is pretty cool too for a budget floor based amp solution that seems to sound pretty good(that one is digital though). The Custom tones ethos line is a cool analog option for direct. In other words, I think the Kemper is a good choice and the market is shifting to give lots of direct to pa solutions I think.

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Re: Going digital (Kemper, Helix, etc. content).

Post by somanytoys » Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:32 pm

Ben17e wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:47 am
Fenders new twin and deluxe they just came out with has ir out xlr (not sure if they allow the speaker to be turned off or not).
If I remember correctly, the Twins have a standby switch that should cut the internal speakers off, not sure about the Deluxe. I assume that would still allow the XLR signal pass through.

That's a lot of good info for others thinking about it to consider, though - thanks.
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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