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An in-depth feature comparison between two top-end amp modelers
Learn how ‘profiling’ from the Kemper differs from Helix’s ‘modeling’ technology
Find out which unit will suit your setup and needs the best
We’re currently in the golden age of amplifier modeling, the sound quality and feature list of some high-end units we use nowadays would have been considered some kind of crazy sci-fi technology just a few short decades ago.
It’s important to keep in mind that companies and consumers alike were slow to warm up to digital technology (and for good reason, remember the first-generation Line 6 POD or the Behringer Vamp? Yikes!).
Now, thanks to bands like Periphery and Meshuggah normalizing the use of digital modelers in a professional setting, the flood gates have been opened.
Companies have been going hard over the last decade to make feature-rich hardware modeling units with tones that can rival that of any tube amplifier.
Kemper Profiler vs Line 6 Helix
These two units, while ultimately gunning for the same goal of being an all-in-one amplifier modeler, effects processor, and recording unit. They get there using slightly different methods:
The Kemper amp uses a profiling technology that allows you to ‘profile’ your real amplifiers and create a digital copy of them in your unit. Allowing you to ‘digitize’ all of your amplifiers and take them with you anywhere.
The Helix works much more like a multi-effects processor (think Axe FX), a ‘suite’ of amplifier models preloaded for you to use. Beginners may gravitate towards the Line 6 Helix for this reason — its simplicity and ease of use.
Like many other units that have tried to implement some kind of ‘tone match’ or ‘EQ match’ technology, nothing has been able to come close to Kemper in terms of accurately re-creating the sound of a real amplifier.
This whole process of storing a real-life guitar rig in digital format that you can play through the Kemper, without any compromise in tone, is extremely appealing to home players and touring musicians alike.
You can capture that guitar tone you used at the studio and quite literally take it away with you.
This also gives the Kemper amp an ‘infinite’ quality to it, where 5, 10, 20 years down the line we’ll still be getting profiles of the latest and greatest amplifiers.
Line 6 have a long history as innovators in the digital modeling space, popularising the format with the original POD and Toneport interfaces.
This then progressed to the POD HD series, then the X3 series. Yet, as much as they wanted to, they never seemed to really attain the prestige that something like the Axe FX from Fractal Audio or Neural’s Quad Cortex had.
But then along came the Helix, which put them up there with the big boys. Utilizing a completely re-worked modeling technology that, for the first time, allowed it to accurately produce the sound of real amplifiers.
Just like the Kemper, it’s designed to be an all-in-one unit. So is chocked full of effects, amps, cabs, and a substantial I/O suite.
So, you can take just this one unit with you being confident it’ll accommodate any scenario you can throw at it.
This can be a tough concept to grasp if you come from using any kind of modeler which has amplifier models already baked into the unit.
The Kemper doesn’t really have a particular sound or overarching tonal quality to it. Its’ job is to simply take a tone that you or someone else has created and reproduce it as accurately as possible.
This can be a double-edged sword as if you (or whoever made the profile) achieved a fantastic tone using a real amp/cab/mic when the Kemper profiles that tone, it’s also going to sound fantastic!
However, if you’ve made a bad tone, guess what, the Kemper will sound bad too.
World-famous mixing engineer Andy Sneap has gone on record saying that when a profile is correctly captured, he cannot tell the difference between the Kemper and the real guitar amp.
There are plenty of fantastic profiles out there, both free and paid for, which are made by some very talented producers and audio engineers. You’re not going to be left short on incredible sounding profiles, that I can guarantee!
Unlike the Kemper, where it’s predominantly users who create their sounds, Line 6 uses the more traditional method where the company has profiled nearly 100 amplifiers by themselves and loaded them into the unit.
All the amplifier models sound pretty good! There’s definitely still a little bit of that signature ‘line 6’ quality to them which can manifest in some unwanted top-end fizz, particularly on high-gain models.
The Kemper comes out a little on top here, there is some real magic happening within their profile technology, and if you’re looking for the most authentic tones possible, Kemper has you covered!
Kemper: The Rig Manager
‘But I don’t own any real amplifiers, is the Kemper useless for me?’ Absolutely not! Kemper has their own ‘rig manager’ software where users will upload their own profiles that you can download for free.
Kemper also frequently updates their inbuilt effects too, just recently adding the ‘kemper drive’ stompbox which emulates all those classic tube screamers such as the Maxon OD808, and even some newer models such as the Precision Drive from Horizon Devices.