Help me decide, Axe Fx or Kemper?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Sussman, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. Der JD

    Der JD SS.org Regular

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    I've owned both. My thoughts below- strictly just my opinions.

    The Axe wins for effects and routing. If you need tons of high quality effects with practically endless parameters for tweaking I'd recommend the Axe. Same goes for routing options. The Kemper's effects are good, but not as good. Also, not as many effects and not as many parameters. Personally, I use very few effects so it was a non-issue for me.

    Kemper wins for raw amp/cab tone and feel. IMO, it's simply impossible for the Axe to be better than the Kemper in this department. The only thing that beats the Kemper here is the real tube amp.

    With the Kemper, it's all about the profile. Finding the right profile is THE key to happiness with the Kemper. A good profile sounds and feels 95-99% like the original configuration. By "configuration" I mean the entire chain from which it was profiled- amp, cab, mic, mic placement, mic preamp, etc. That's something that is of extreme importance- the Kemper and the Axe mimic a recorded amp- the cab, mic, and mic placement are all highly influential. This sounds greatly different from what your ears hear when playing an amp in the room.

    Kemper wins for user-friendliness. With the Axe, I spent all my time tweaking. I could come up with good tones with little effort but I always felt they could be better. Months of tweaking and IR hunting followed. This isn't true for everyone. Some find tones they're completely satisfied with very quickly. If you love to tweak and/or create tones that don't even exist with real amps/do crazy virtual mods to amps the Axe might be more up your alley.

    With the Kemper, I was very satisfied within hours of plugging it in. However, I did my homework beforehand. I had read the manual a couple of times. I had researched profiles and had even purchased some commercial profiles that I thought would work for me. It was simply a matter of loading them up. I spent way more time playing and recording with the Kemper vs. the Axe.

    They're both great modeling units (though I feel what the Kemper does is far greater than modeling. The term "modeling" is a bit of a punch in the face for the Kemper). However, I've gone back to real amps for several reasons.

    For me, nothing beats a real tube amp. The Kemper came close. I bought a Torpedo Reload (attenuator, reamp box, loadbox) for use with my real amps and compared recordings between the Kemper and my real amps/Reload. The Kemper lost, but just slightly. Can't really explain my preference in words. There's just something about a real tube amp.

    Also, I came to realize how, for just regular practice/jamming/solo playing, I prefer playing through a real guitar cab vs. studio monitors/headphones/PA speakers. Sure, you can run a Kemper or Axe through a real cab but IMO that's when you really start to realize the digital shortcomings. There's just something missing. You know it when you start playing. Call it lack of "three-dimensionality" or not being "organic" or whatever current buzzword you choose but you get my meaning. Some people choose and are happy with playing through monitors or headphones. Sometimes that's an appropriate option. Not my preference, though, for most situations.
     
  2. col

    col blah.

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    I think it needs to be mentioned that you can preview profiles from the rig-exchange now without saving them on the Kemper. Just open the software and click through everything. Makes looking for and comparing profiles so much faster.

    Let's say I want to find a good JCM800 profile. Input JCM800 on the search bar and start A/B'ing the profiles.
     
  3. Sussman

    Sussman sussman.

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    OP here. First off I ....ing love you guys. So many awesome and informed opinions! Thank you!
    I'm still not decided 100% on either side. But this is helping a butt load!
     
  4. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    I'm a one-tone kind of guy, I have a few patches, none of which use any complicated routing or effects, and I went with the Axe FX II. Especially now, it certainly doesn't need to be a tweaker's amp if you don't want to tweak. I hear this was the case back with the older versions (standard and ultra) and some of the early firmwares for the II, but these days you can stick to the basic EQ and get great tones, which is what I do.

    If I ran a studio, or if I had a ton of amps I wanted to mic up and capture, I probably would have went with the Kemper, but I don't own any real amps anymore. I personally didn't like the idea of being stuck using other people's mic positions, EQ settings, etc (I know you still have a lot of tweaking options though).

    Plus I haven't been as impressed by Kemper recordings as I have been by Axe FX II recordings.


    edit- also bare in mind that the Axe FX II is going through a major overhaul with the Firmware 18 update that will be coming out soon; new modeling methods are being used, about half the amps are converted so far and you can test the beta firmware if you want (if you have an axe fx II). The general consensus is that everything is a lot closer to the real deal, much better dynamics, etc etc, read the fractal forum if you want more info. Comparisons of older Axe FX firmwares is getting increasingly irrelevant.
     
  5. noise in my mind

    noise in my mind SS.org Regular

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    Don't forget, with a really well made impulse cab, most modelers/software (pod's axe fx ect) come to life. I was amazed at how good my brothers pod xt sounded when I routed it through the free ownhammer bogner beta. You may be happy too with just the original axe fx. It's a great unit, and like I said before with a good IR cab you can really go far. Just my two cents.
     
  6. aprilia4life

    aprilia4life SS.org Regular

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    This thread reeks of the great and never-to-be-resolved 5150 debate: "the 5153 sounds shit, the 5150 is better" vs. "the 5150 sounds shit, the 5153 is better" etc.

    OP: You will get half of the responses swearing the Axe sounds better, and the other half swearing the Kemper sounds better. The only major difference will be how much you can tweak them both and their features, plus availability of the unit.

    Don't get me wrong, it's frustrating as hell that no one is able to undeniably claim one is better than the other (it's a lot of money to spend on gear), but unfortunately that's not going to happen.

    /thread
     
  7. edsped

    edsped SS.org Regular

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    Also be prepared to retweak all your patches after every major firmware update if you get an Axe FX. This is not to be underestimated.
     
  8. fantasyl

    fantasyl SS.org Regular

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    Listen to Haieb:

    Both will give you great sounds, but the way you will get to your sound will be much different!
    If you love spending time tweaking your sound and especially love FX section and tweaking FX until the last parameter go with the Axe, if you are a tube amp guy that wants a simpler approach to reach killer sound just turning few knobs...the Kemper is the way to go.

    I tried the Axe FX II and wasn't impressed. It's an awesome unit, but you have to spend an insane amount of time tweaking, while IMHO the Kemper just sounds better, as a real tube amp do.

    I was a tube guy for 20+ years and never liked digital until the kemper.

    Tried profiling preamp sections of few heads and connected Kemper to the power amp of the same setup (power amp of the heads + cab) after profiling: couldn't spot a difference and some guys preferred the profiled sounds to the originals, some other guys preferred the originals (3 vs 2), but we all agreed the difference was so tiny it was barely noticeable....
     
  9. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    That is how I am also. I only use a few presets and hardly any effects, but I still like the Axe.

    I felt like it was more about workflow. Do you want to build your rig, or just keep downloading samples until you find one you like? I personally prefer to sculpt what I want instead of sampling and sorting.

    I also agree with the studio comment. It seems like people who are happiest with the Kemper have an amp/studio tone they love and just want a convenient way to take it with them.

    I am sure both sound great though. I feel like it is more about which workflow you click with.
     
  10. bloc

    bloc tha vagina finda

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    I have an Axe 2 and it kills. It's my understanding that it has way more features/amps/effects/etc than the Kemper but I am not 100% sure about this.

    With that said, I am still very curious to play through a Kemper
     
  11. Der JD

    Der JD SS.org Regular

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    Feature and effects...yes, the Axe has more. Not even close for amps. What's the amp count in the Axe now? Guessing 150- 200. With the Kemper you have access to practically every amp ever made. You just have to find the profiles or profile the amp yourself. Difficult to come up with much of a list of amps that haven't been profiled at this point. There are literally thousands of profiles out there covering hundreds of different amps.

    Furthermore, a lot of the Axe "amps" are just different modes/channels of one amp. Look at all the Recto models- Orange Modern, Orange Vintage, Red Modern, Red Vintage, etc. There are a lot of amps in the Axe that have different modes/channels in real life but have not been modeled in the Axe. The Engl Powerball is a good example. Only 1 channel modeled in the Axe. With the Kemper, you can find profiles of the Powerball in all the different channels.

    Another cool thing about the Kemper is you can find profiles of amps with popular mods. Want a Fortin modded Marshall? No problem.
     
  12. pylyo

    pylyo SS.org Regular

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    ^^ true there's hundreds of free profiles...
    But most of them are of a low quality, although they are getting better with time.

    That being said, there are tons of superb ones, although most of them you'll have to buy.

    I have settled on Mike Britt profiles, which honestly cover a complete territory from all kind of cleans (vintage, modern), to higain and everything in between.
    They are not expensive and sound superb, open and balanced, really must have imo if you have a Kemper.
    Furthermore, they sound superb with power amp + box, as well as through powered monitors, properly responsive to the volume knob and EQ knobs in general, something that is not common in many cases with other profiles I tried.
     
  13. hikizume976

    hikizume976 SS.org Regular

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    Other people's perceptions will not get you where you want to go. A lot of people are getting great results with both. A lot of people love the axe, a lot of people love the kemper. How far will that get you?

    Try thinking in terms of what's important to you in terms of price, features, etc, and go from there.
     
  14. crg123

    crg123 SS.orgLocalArchitect

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    Pretty much this. Find both devices if possible and make a decision, or take a shot in the dark and you'll most likely be happy either way. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to demo both and chose the Axe because:

    1. I prefered its ability to tweak on the fly, create new sounds that may not be even possible with a normal amp using the advanced parameters
    2. Load IRs so that the cab, amps, and mic preamps profiles are separate to really (again on the fly) shift your sound.
    3. Tone matching on top of a preset that is close to the sound you want to get album tones from stems or recordings (not to the level of the kemper but it really gets you there). Plus if you on the amp you can do a live tone match a lot more similar to kempers method.
    4. Tons of high quality fx and tone shaping abilities. Despite what some say who possibly were just using earlier versions, a simple amp>cab layout sounds fantastic. Especially since V17 and now even more so in v18.
    5. The constant updating and efforts Cliff puts into the device was something I could really support and fall behind.

    The reason I almost got the kemper was if it was loaded with the right profiles (this one was at the Axe Palace so you can only imagine the sounds that came out of that thing) it was a beast and a half loaded with every amp they own. The presets that you download really sounded great on their own without having to really delve deep into it.

    All in all I just felt that the Axe was more versatile and better for on the fly adjustments, but thats really a matter of open I know Nick at the Axe Palace totally disagrees with me on this, but its just the conclusion I came to for my self. I'm a tweaker who's always pushing my sound in one direction or the other, some people just want to download presets and just plug-in and play. People telling you either way really won't help because its going to be like the guy I quote above said. Shrug*
     
  15. shred-o-holic

    shred-o-holic SS.org Regular

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    I've spent a few days with the new firmware 18 G3 modeling beta with my Axe 2. It does sound a tad better. Just tweaked a cool Freidman HBE patch. But the Kemper still is my main rig. The feel I think still wins out for me by quite a bit. I like the Axe as a plan B for home but the Kemper just has this pleasing factor to play that I haven't gotten with the Axe FX 2 yet. People are going nuts about FW 18 and so far I don't see the big difference. I will tweak on tho :)
     
  16. crg123

    crg123 SS.orgLocalArchitect

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    ^ thats because people love to hype the hell out of things. I'd just start the patches from scratch to give a good point of reference. I noticed most of my patches are all over the place now because all the amps (well the ones he's G3'd so far) are all redone in a new method and some of the advanced controls are taken away since they're not necessary any more. Also right now this is still Beta so things can improve further for the final release of V18

    The difference is in the top end (sizzle instead of fizz) and low in clarity (thump instead of flub), much much better picking dynamics, and a better feel if that makes sense. Cliff also improved the code so everything runs smoother. We're not reinventing the wheel here haha but the improvements are very welcome for me.
     
  17. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    The fractal forum can get pretty fanatic about things sometimes, basically divide the hype by 4, and thats how good a firmware upgrade actually is.

    Personally I really like FW18 because of what its done to the Rectos, they are pretty easy to get a killer sound out of now. It wasn't as easy before, the high and low end used to take some taming. Other amps didn't change as much.
     
  18. crg123

    crg123 SS.orgLocalArchitect

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    ^ I agree the Rectos are the stars of this update. I never really cared for them before the update now they're amazing. They sound just like my friends dual rec now.
     

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