Is A Kemper Better For Home Recording Than A Real Amp?

The Kemper Amp is always a controversial topic amongst purists but most will admit that it has its merits and is now one of the most important inventions of the modern guitar world.

We wanted to see if the Kemper really did stand a chance against a real valve amp in our video studio and you might be surprised at the outcome...

Jed Van Wyngaardt

Jed Van Wyngaardt

What will I learn?

  • Why a Kemper amp is a great option for home recording.
  • That valve amps are still relevant.
  • The difference between a Kemper amp and a Universal Audio Ox Box.

In the video above, The Captain and Chappers wanted to compare the difference between valve amps and the famous Kemper modelling amp in a studio recording environment. Their goal was to see if Chappers could tell the difference between the real amp and the Kemper but also see which he preferred.

The results speak for themselves but what is clear is that the Kemper is probably a better utility tool for the studio than a single valve amp ever could be. But does that eliminate the need for a valve amp altogether? Most certainly not. Read on to find out why.

What is the Kemper amp?

The Kemper amp is a clever box of magic that captures a snapshot of how an amp and cab sound in a specific room at a given time and can then allow you to replicate that exact tone at a later stage.

In simple terms, it’ll take the exact sound that you get when creating the snapshot and allow you to re-use it again and again, consistently. The snapshot that it captures will be affected by absolutely every factor that would be there if you were recording the amp in a studio including, where the EQ and gain switches are set, how the cab sounds and even mic placement! If your mic placement is off, and you create a Kemper profile of that amp, it’ll sound off when you use that profile.

The best sound engineers in the world have spent years honing their craft and learning how to print the best guitar sounds on record. Now, the Kemper allows those same engineers to not only record these incredible tones but capture them as a profile to re-use at a later stage.

Most engineers still swear by recording a valve amp in a room, but you won’t be surprised that many engineers have binned off the idea completely and just bought a Kemper with loads of great profiles.

The fact that the Kemper can reproduce genuine and authentic replicas of the best amps has meant that bedroom players can now access amp sounds that they’d never be able to before. For example: The holy grail Dumble Special…

How do I get Kemper Profiles?

Kemper profiles come pre-installed on the Kemper Amp when you buy it. They’ve gone and done a ton of generic profiles that you might want to have. You’ve got all the big hitters including Marshalls, Fenders, Vox and even Mesa Boogie. If you want to profile your own special amp, you can set it up as if you were going to record it yourself and allow the Kemper to capture that sound by going through the profiling process.

Or you can buy Kemper profiles from people like Michael britt who have spent time capturing their own amp collection as a downloadable profile. You simply add these to your Kemper Amp via USB.

How does the Kemper compare to Modelling Amps and Pedals?

In recent years, amp modellers have come a very long way and you may be aware of gear on the market such as the Boss Katana amps and even floorboard modellers like the Line 6 Helix. These amps have still got great digital emulations of those fantastic amp sounds we know and love but they don’t allow you to specifically capture an amp sound or amp source.

You’re stuck with what’s on the unit when you buy it. Very often, those sounds are great but it simply isn’t as flexible as a Kemper would be because the Kemper allows you to record that amp with that cab.

kemper amp

What about the traditional valve amp?

Of course, the traditional valve amp still has its place. After all, a Kemper would be useless if we didn’t have great sounding real amps to base the profiles on. In fact, recording traditional valve amps has become far easier now thanks to things like the OX Box by Universal Audio. The OX Box is an amp attenuator and load box and cab simulator all in one – and the cab emulations are simply stunning. So, you can use your traditional valve head and plug it into the OX Box which then delivers the signal to your recording desk in the place of a mic’d up guitar cab.

There’s no denying that feeling you get when plugging into a 100w valve amp and you feel the speakers kick as you crank your guitar amp. But in reality, that feeling can be very difficult to capture on record and if you’ve never tried recording before, you’ll be surprised at how hard it can be to get that great guitar sound with a traditional amp.

This is the reason so many guitarists of old are regarded as heroes – Hendrix, Page, Gary Moore and Van Halen all knew how to get into a studio, turn up their amps and get a great sound. With the help of sound engineer in tow!

The Kemper is a better bet for home recording

The Kemper is the simplest plug n play option that still sounds as good, if not better than most recorded guitar amps. It’s especially good for bedroom players who aren’t masterful sound engineers.

It’s especially good for bedroom players who aren’t masterful sound engineers.

It’s also got incredible effects on-board which you can dial into your guitar signal and the ability to still alter the EQ, Gain and Volume of your ‘snapshot’ amp that you’re using to record. Of course, this will be a digital emulation but having used a Kemper many times in studio myself, I can attest to it still being very accurate and authentic.

The Powered Kemper can be plugged into a guitar cab so if you want to still record whilst ‘moving air’ you can do so – it’s simply the best of both worlds.

Conclusion

It’s hard for purists to admit (myself included) that the Kemper is an absolute winner when it comes to recording guitars with ease. The pros far outweigh the cons in my opinion and here’s why:

  • The Kemper has great amps that you wouldn’t normally be able to access – Check out the Michael Britt profiles!
  • Low volume – You can plug it straight into the mixing desk and use it with headphones or with studio monitors or with an FRFR cab.
  • You don’t have to know about mic placement or worry about recording loud valve amps – anyone else lived in London before?!
  • The sound you hear coming out of your studio monitors is the sound that’ll be in your mix.
  • When the profile was recorded, if done by a reputable source, the hard work has already been done. Woofy bass has already been taken out of the equation and the correct mic placement ensures no phasing or top-end hiss.
Jed Van Wyngaardt
Jed Van Wyngaardt
Jed has worked on our shop floor, handled guitar content on the site and now leads the digital content team. He's equal parts rock frontman/guitarist in Pandora Fox and wannabe folk singer-songwriter. Jed's a PRS, Tele and Orange Amps lover with an unhealthy obsession with fuzz, octave and ambient effects.

Responses & Questions