My Fellow Kemperites,
We occasionally hear from a customer that the tone they're getting from their new profile pack doesn't sound like our YouTube demo for the pack. Why is this? Let's discuss...
These folks can range from those legitimately wanting to discuss and fix whatever the problem may be to those who immediately flame us on social media and demand reparations.
Issue #1: Your guitar doesn't magically become a MIDI controller
Some people don't understand that the Kemper acts just like a traditional guitar amp. It has many advantages over tube amps, but we'll talk about those another time. For now, let's just concentrate on how it behaves like a traditional tube amp.
Some people are under the impression that the Kemper somehow turns your guitar into some kind of MIDI controller, like a keyboard triggering Hammond organ samples. In the keyboard world, all MIDI controllers give the exact same sound when triggering a sample. For the Kemper, this is entirely untrue. Your guitar's sound, good or bad, is just as important when plugged into the Kemper as it would be when plugged into a Dumble.
If you plug your Strat (loaded with single-coil pickups) into your Kemper and expect to sound like Eddie when playing the Brown Sound profiles, you'll likely be disappointed. You'll sound almost exactly like you would if you plugged your Strat into Eddie's rig back in 1978. You wouldn't expect your Strat, plugged into Eddie's rig, to sound like the tone on Van Halen I. Eddie didn't use single coils.
What makes the Kemper so great and sound so real is that it is a digital device that acts and sounds like an analog amplifier, with convincing accuracy. It's intended for guitar players who want the experience of playing a great sounding tube amp but with all the advantages of a digital device. If you want to turn your guitar from a traditional instrument into a MIDI controller, the Kemper isn't for you.
Issue #2: Your guitar is different from the guitar(s) used in the demo
See #1 above. Pickups are by far the most important. I've also had significant tonal variations from the bridge used, the wood the guitar is made of, and the +/- 25% variations in pot resistance. Not minor differences, but significant differences.
The reference guitar we now use for building most profiles is a 1954 Les Paul goldtop which was modified (not by me -- my conscience is clean) with original 1950s PAF humbuckers. I bought this guitar because you really can't get more of a reference electric guitar tone than a 1950s Les Paul with original PAFs.
In general, to sound as close as possible to the demos, load your humbucker-equipped guitar with high quality PAF-type pickups with impedance in the 9K range. I typically recommend Lindy Fralin Pure PAFs to those who ask.
Issue #3: You're using a Merged profile with a traditional guitar cabinet
See my previous blog post for more detail on this subject. In summary, traditional guitar speakers drastically alter the tone of an amplifier. Most people don't appreciate that speakers are at least as important as the amp in determining guitar tone. This is why I've invested a ton of money on vintage Celestions with original Pulsonic cones to use for profiling. If you use your own cab, don't expect to sound like our demos. You may (or may not) like the resulting tone, but it almost assuredly won't sound like the profile demo.
Using your own traditional guitar cab also eliminates the effect of microphone choice and recording technique, which are also extremely important in the final profiled tone.
Issue #4: Your listening environment
This really goes without saying, but if you listen to the demo on your computer speakers and listen to your Kemper through your band's PA, they're not going to sound the same.
I could continue on with other factors, but these are the most important.
Make some noise,