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Kemper Profiling Amp: Living Up to the Hype


The buzz around the Kemper Profiling Amp (KPA) has been so over the top, I thought, “it can’t be that good.” And indeed, it isn’t—it’s better.

I’ve used amp sims for a long time, and they’re like wild animals. They usually snarl and bite at first, but applying some tweaking, filtering, de-essing, and other tricks—as well as matching them to my playing style—domesticates them. What I like most about amp sims is being able to create amp sounds that don’t exist in the physical world; for a real amp sound, I use a real amp.

But the Kemper Profiling Amp changes all that. First, it’s loaded with tone right out of the box, even if you’re a nit-picking amp-sim elitist like me. Second, it sounds shockingly close to “real” amps. Third, you can profile your own amps—essentially, sample their souls—and download new profiles. (Many are created by Kemper users, but note that the profile’s quality depends on the care of the person doing the profiling.)

User Interface Yes, it’s a digital box: It takes a while to boot up, you should check the web for updates, and there are unfinished functions (Performance mode and undo/redo). The user interface is relatively painless, albeit initially daunting; but once you learn your way around, it’s second-nature. There’s some whimsy, too—the multi-colored LCD for the stomp-type effects is pretty cool (eight colors, each representing an effects family) and there’s also something wickedly retro about its short-wave-radio-meets-lunchbox look.

Elements There are three main “signal path” sections toward the front-panel top. The heart is a “stack” with amp, EQ, and cabinet, preceded by a section with four slots for stomp effects. Each slot can choose from a rich roster of traditional and nontraditional effects. Two post-stack slots can also choose from among these effects, followed by two more slots for delay and reverb.

Profiling The KPA sends tones and noise into an amp; mike the speaker, and feed its signal into the KPA—it analyzes the “data” to define the amp’s sonic signature. Of course, the way you mike the amp affects the quality of the profiling, and while you can profile with effects, you’re usually better off using the KPA’s internal effects.

One particularly useful feature is that KPA has a way to “clean up” a profiled sound; it seems like it’s basically shaving away at intermodulation distortion. Overall, with a little practice, it’s not hard to profile an amp and capture it accurately.

Conclusions The KPA includes extras, like MIDI control, expression pedal and footswitch jacks, a “pick” parameter to soften or enhance pick transients, room simulation, and plentiful I/O. Granted, KPA isn’t cheap—for comparison, you can buy Line 6’s excellent DT25 amp with speaker, cabinet, tubes, and a cleverly designed hybrid of digital modeling and analog tube voicing for half the price. But there’s absolutely nothing like the KPA, which is why it won the coveted Music International Press Award’s Best Innovative Product category for two years in a row. The fact that it sounds great is enough—but add the profiling aspect, and you enter the rarefied atmosphere of “unique.”
STRENGTHS: Works as claimed. Semi-automated profiling process. Lots of effects to complement your amp sounds. Can download additional profiles. Extensive I/O. Novel. Also available in rack configuration and with power amp.

LIMITATIONS: Some functions not yet implemented. Takes almost a minute to boot up.

$2,025 MSRP, $1,975 street
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