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Things We Love: The Kemper Profiling Amplifier

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Aside from tracking drums, playing or recording electric guitars has always been a game of compromises for the apartment musician and recording engineer. You need to juggle playing and recording in rooms that just don’t sound right, and ultimately you can never really crank your amp to reach that “sweet” spot without drawing the ire of your neighbors.

So, what do we apartment-dwelling guitarists and engineers do? We begin to compromise. The first thing I did was flip my Dual Rectifier half stack to fund a lower-watt combo amp. This’ll work just fine, I thought, and sonically, it did. I was still running all-tube goodness, just at a lower volume. I could even switch the wattage of the amp in half, so it broke up at an even lower volume. This worked from a sonic standpoint, but it was still too loud to be playing after 9:30 p.m. A brief foray into using an isolation cabinet proved that putting a speaker in a box just makes your speaker sound like it was recorded in a box.

At this point, I started using guitar-emulation software. This was a hefty compromise, the equivalent to the part of any RomCom where you yell at the screen, “Don’t get engaged to him, Jennifer Anniston. He’s so wrong for you!” At first, I rationalized to myself, I’ll just capture my performance using it, and I’ll re-amp it tomorrow when I can make noise again. When this workflow proved to be unrealistic, I knew I needed to find a solution.

The Kemper Profiling Amplifier had recently been released and, alongside Fractal Audio’s Axe FX unit, represented a new standard of digitally emulated tube amplifiers. After learning about its profiling process, in which you mic your existing amps to take a sonic snapshot of them that you can then use to record direct with, I was intrigued. Once I delved into video reviews, I was sold.

Kemper Profiling Amplifier

Three years in on using it, I am still in love with my Kemper (which I guess makes it the RomCom equivalent of Colin Firth). It remains the center piece of my home studio and, thanks to a wealth of available amp profiles, gives me essentially every flavor of guitar tone I could use, and then some. It is as responsive to playing dynamics as a tube amp, and even though it has a wide variety of top-notch effects, from distortions to reverbs and delays built right it, it takes pedals just as well as a standard tube amp. In fact, I run stompboxes both in front of the amp as well as in its effects loop. By design, I can track as late as I’d like, getting as much volume and saturation recorded to tape as I’d like, without making my neighbors hate me.

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