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I have a show coming up where I need a radically different sound than I normally get from my Bogner, Marshall or MP-1.  Solution?  I borrowed a Kemper powered toaster to see if it could get me there.

Now, I'm pretty picky about my sound/tone, as I am used to using GOOD tube amps and very little FX - no excuses, and no hiding behind gobs of delay/reverb/chorus/etc.  My prior experience with all sorts of modellers has been that they just don't quite do it for me - they just don't have the feel of a great tube amp, and don't make me want to play more.  When I last played a Kemper in a GC through a cheap powered cabinet, I was thoroughly underwhelmed.  That said, enough serious recording pros use them that there has to be a reason - it has to be capable of getting a great sound...but the in-store demo wasn't convincing at all.

So, I picked up the box from my buddy, and took it home for some in-depth investigation.  After using the RigManager software to load some profiles from both the Rig Exchange and a couple of vendors, I built performance patches using headphones (ATH-M50x), and then dragged it out to rehearsal.  My rehearsal rig is the Kemper, my trusty old ADA MP-1 MIDI control pedalboard, and a Yamaha DXR12 powered monitor.  Nothing else - no pedals, no outboard FX, just the Kemper.

WOW!!!!!  This thing surprised me in a big way.  Great sound, relatively easy to use, volume control is superb, and it worked with MIDI control with zero configuration effort - none whatsoever.  The other guitar player I was working with noted just how good it sounds and how closely it got to the exact "correct" sound for the material we are playing.  All of the FX I needed for this gig are in the box, and dialing them in was quick and painless.

Does it sound like my Bogner XTC or Marshall is in the room with me?  No.  It sounds like some of the best recorded guitar sounds I've heard, though, and in the end this is what the audience wants to hear.

Unfortunately, I'll have to give this Kemper back, as the owner isn't interested in selling.  In any case, I would probably prefer the unpowered rack model...hmm......

Two things to note:

1) The profiles matter.  I went through probably 50 profiles before finding 4 that I will actually use in performance.  It's not different from playing 50 guitars or amps at a store to find the one that you want.  Many are just poorly done, and many more are perfectly good, but not a match for my particular style and guitar selection.  Time spent here pays big dividends.

2) The monitor you use makes a difference.  The cheap ones at the big-box shops are just that - cheap.  If you use the best self-powered PA-style monitor/main cabinet you can get, you will be MUCH happier with the results, and the sound you hear will be a closer match to the sound you get in recording or FOH.

Color me amazed - this is the first time in over a decade that a new piece of gear has really gotten me interested.  The last time this happened, I bought a Bogner XTC.....

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