How Rabea Makes Kemper Profiles

Rabea Massaad has posted a video showing us all how he makes profiles for his Kemper.

This video is perfect timing for me perfectly. We have a long weekend coming up here in the UK, and I’m planning on spending all three days with my Kemper. Any tips I can get will save me a lot of frustration.

I hope we see Rabea’s Kemper profiles available soon. Is there going to be an official Victory Amps profile pack, I wonder?

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

Final Thoughts On The Marshall Origin

I’ve just spent two days hiding from unseasonably warm weather, locked in a room with the Marshall Origin 20W head and my Les Paul. Two days of writing, recording, re-recording, and mixing 12 demo tracks.

Now that it’s over, what do I think?

It’s Damned Loud!

This amp needs cranking to get the best out of it. Yes, it has built-in power scaling so that it’s usable at home volumes – but it isn’t the same amp when its held back like that.

To make the demo tracks, I ran the Origin 20W head through a Two Notes Captor and into to my audio interface. Instead of using a real cab, I used an impulse response from Celestion – their G12M-65 in a 1×12 open-backed cab. The end result sounds very close to how the Origin sounds through my real cab.

That meant I could run it with the Master on 8, and the Gain between 5 and 8 depending on whether I was using pedals or not. That seems to be the sweet spot for this amp. With the amp cranked, the power tubes get to contribute to the overall gain.

I normally run the amp in the middle power setting, with the Gain on 5 and the Master at around 2 or 3. Set down there, the amp needs pedals to help it rock out. The results are fun, and it does sound good for home volume levels.

But if you can’t turn it up, you’re missing out.

It’s Damned Bright!

Another reason to crank this amp is to do with how bright it sounds at lower volumes.

This amp’s energy is somewhere up in the upper mids. At low volume, those frequencies dominate our hearing, and the amp sounds very bright. It’s only when the amp is turned up that we start to hear the wider frequencies that the Origin produces.

It is the nature of these vintage amp designs. Even the famed Marshall Super Lead amps were originally very bright amps.

But … the community has spent the last 50+ years moving away from amps that behaved like this. Today, most of the community doesn’t have any experience with those original, unmodded amps, and as a result, Origin’s brightness has come as a bit of a surprise to most folks – me included!

When the inevitable Origin v2 comes along in a few years, Marshall should consider revising the design so that it’s not so bright at lower volumes. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if the community comes up with ways to mod the Origin to help address this in some way.

It’s Very Clean(ish)!

This amp is never super clean. There’s always a bit of grit in the signal, and that helps it work really well with affordable overdrive and distortion pedals. It stays that way until you really crank it. I haven’t played another amp with this much headroom before.

From demos I’ve seen, and other people I’ve talked to, I think that there’s quite a bit of variety between different examples of this amp. Mine seems to be at the lowest-gain end of examples that I’ve come across. It’s certainly go nowhere near the gain that you’ll see in Marshall’s official demo video up on YouTube.

So soon after Origin’s launch, there’s not enough examples out in the wild to form a reliable picture. Are all 20W heads very clean(ish), or do they vary? Do all the 50W amps have more gain on tap? I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Get Over The Plexi Thing!

Some folks saw Marshall’s branding and pre-release promotion of this amp, and assumed they were getting a 2 grand Super Lead for 500 bucks. When Origin turned out to be something else, they were very disappointed … to the point that they just couldn’t get over it.

And yet, when I’ve invited people to take the Plexi challenge, and pick out the real Plexi from Origin (or Origin + plexi-voiced pedals), so far no-one has successfully done so. I think that says it all.

Now, to be clear, I have never seen Marshall market this as a budget-plexi amp. Nor has anyone been able to produce a single example of Marshall doing so. It’s just a case of folks convincing themselves that it’s the only thing Origin could possibly be. And, with a little bit of help, it can be.

Maybe you prefer the “plexi” tone, or maybe you’re building a budget rig to gig with so that you can keep your expensive Plexi-style amp safe at home. Just run a plexi-style pedal in front of the Origin amp, and you’ll be close enough.

And if you’re not chasing the exact “plexi” tone, save yourself a bit of money and use affordable pedals from Boss or TC Electronic in front of it instead. It’ll still sound great.

It’s Not A Pedal Platform Amp

If you want to get most of the tone, and all the dirt, from your pedals, the Origin isn’t the right amp for that. The Origin has too strong a character for that role. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.

It does take many pedals well – especially pedals that are designed to run into an amp that’s on the verge of breakup. The end result is a tone that sounds largely like the Origin, and feels largely like the pedal.

I’ve been impressed with just how good the Origin works with affordable pedals in particular. It’s perfectly voiced for these pedals. You don’t have to spend a lot to tailor the sound to suit.

You just can’t tailor it a lot.

Update 2019-06-26: I was very wrong about this. The Origin is a great pedal platform. When I wrote this article, I was running the Origin through a Celestion Creamback, and it was that speaker which was making all the pedals sound similar. Since then, I’ve switched to using a Celestion Blue and a Celestion A-Type together, and that’s made it a much better pedal platform.

It’s A Keeper!

I bought the Origin because I wanted to build an affordable rig that I could recommend to friends. The blog posts this week have been a big part in me figuring out what I’d recommend, and why.

I’ve had a blast recording with it. I thought it sounded pretty good – and excellent for the money – and it gives me a way to get at sounds that I didn’t have before.

Those affordable pedals I’ve tried sound great through this amp. They’re meant for an amp just like this. They really suit the kind of simple bluesy rock that I enjoy. I’ll be doing more with them later in the year for sure.

In the meantime, the Origin has become my main practice amp. There’s something about playing through a real valve amp that the Kemper doesn’t replicate (well, there’s several somethings, but that’s for another day!) Since I got the Origin, I haven’t switched the Kemper on once to practice with. And I can’t see that changing any time soon.

Should You Get One?

If you:

  1. like vintage tones (everything before the hard rock tones of the late 70s onwards)
  2. can crank it up, or
  3. are happy to use pedals to make up the difference

then the Origin is an amp you’ll enjoy.

I think it suits vintage-voiced Les Pauls and the bridge position onTelecasters really well. These guitars have their strengths in the same upper-mids where Origin’s energy is.

Everyone else will probably be happier with the 2018 version of the Marshall DSL amps. It has a really nice clean channel that suits clean guitar as well as pedals, plus a great modern-sounding gain channel. I have one on back order, and once it’s here, I’ll do some in-depth demos of that to help you decide for yourself.

Kemper vs Tube Amp

Camilo Velandia has posted an interesting comparison video. He’s made a Kemper profile of his Indigo Amps El Mariachi, and then put them side by side for comparison.

Have a listen, and see whether you can hear the differences between the two.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed his video.

AxeFX III Initial Demos

Camilo Velandia has received his Axe FX III, and has posted several videos to show what it can do at launch. A couple in particular are of general interest, whether you own an Axe FX unit or not.

In the first video, Camilo compares quite a few of the stock amp presets from the new AxeFX III vs the older Axe FX II. To my ears, they’re almost identical.

That’s no sleight on the AxeFX III at all. Folks upgrading from the older unit will want reassurance that the tones they know and love are still there.

In the second video, Camilo does a straight shootout of the Axe FX III amp models against highly-respected Kemper profiles. It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does reflect how the two units are used in practice.

The results are a bloodbath.

All the problems of the Kemper’s limited frequency reproduction are front and centre. The Axe FX III has all the body and definition that the Kemper has always lacked. It sounds richer, crisper, and more detailed.

I wonder how many more years Kemper can continue to ship the MK 1 unit? The Kemper’s main defence has always been that you can’t hear most of these differences in a full mix. And, indeed, a recorded Kemper is actually easier to mix that a more accurate tone, in my experience.

Please head over to YouTube to leave likes and supportive comments if you enjoyed Camilo’s videos.

5 Way Amp Recording Shootout

Check this out. Michael Nielsen has posted a video comparing a real mic + cab setup vs 5 different ways to record silently at home. And he’s picked a great way to do it too.

He’s recorded the best sound he could with each approach, and used them in a mix so that you can hear the kind of final results you might be able to get. Best of all: the guitar is soloed to begin with, to give you a taste of what it’s like to simply noodle through each setup.

It isn’t a straight comparison. The real cab has V30s in it, and is mic’d using an SM57. The impulse responses used are of G12M Creambacks with a couple of different mics, and I’d swear that the OX is emulating G12Hs not G12Ms. But that’s kinda the point. He’s gone and done exactly what we’d do ourselves – dial in what he thinks sounds the best.

Do have a read of the comments people have been leaving on his video. It’s clear that not only do people have different tastes, but that different people actually hear different things too.

The other thing that’s interesting? Play it back to back a few times. Once ear fatigue kicks in, just how much difference can you hear any more?

(And just how good does that BE-100 sound?!? Me want …!)

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment for Michael’s video.