I don't spend a lot of time worrying about guitar tone these days. I just go with what works. My early Mesa Dual Rec sounds great straight out of the box and I go totally bareback with the signal - no overdrive or booster in the path - keep it pure as poss and let the tubes and tone-stack do their thing. Also can't be bothered with digital multi-effects either - (although I do still have a soft spot for the original G-Major). Right now I just use a Boss CE-300 (rack version of the classic CE-3) for a bit of sparkle and sometimes a wah pedal but the only other thing in my rack is a Korg tuner! The Mesa responds well to just about any guitar you can plug into it: the active EMGs in my Epiphone Gothic sound monster-huge, well defined and never muddy. I love the break-up and they always record really well too. Also the neck pick-ups on my Strat are especially lively and full of tonal surprises. I don't buy expensive guitars cos I never dare get them out of the case - instead, I buy shit second-hand guitars and replace the stock pick-ups/hardware with much better aftermarket units of my choice. That way I can move the parts on with me when the guitar gives up and I don't have to worry about damage so much. Use an EV loaded Thiele cab for practice / recording but a V30 4x12 is much more fun for backline! Let's rock.
Profiling vs Old School
Lockdown had forced me to look at new ways of recording at home for Untamed Silence: - now unable to crank a Dual Rec up to 11 in the studio to produce our signature insanely fat guitar tones - so I'd started looking at profiling as an option as my venerable old Pod XT Pro was starting to look fairly jaded. I didn't even properly understand what profiling even was but looking at the options out there I thought the Kemper seemed like a solid choice: I got the Toaster variant (who wouldn't want a toaster?) rather than the sensible rack-mount version. The 20k+ of profiles that come with the stock unit kept me busy for days - scrolling endlessly thru hundreds of user profiles at first I didn't seem to be getting anywhere - everything sounded great or at least very very usable. Just not exactly what I was after. I was initially skeptical that attempting to profile of my Dual rec head in the studio was going to produce authentic results but we were instantly surprised at how good and usable the guitar sounds came out ... and we weren't even trying that hard. In fact in some cases it was impossible to tell the difference between the Head/4x12/SM57 recordings and the profiled recordings. For a die-hard Tube-Head and pedals fanatic like myself, was this a bitter pill to swallow?? Kinda. But it was also impossible to ignore the ease and flexibility that the Kemper offered. So, after a few weeks of jamming with IEM and profiles I thought I'd plug the Head and cab back in for a change and suddenly realised what I'd been missing: The raw sound of the Dual rec and cab thumps you in the chest with fat bass overtones, more harmonics and a sheer aggressive brutality. Clearly there's no comparison when it comes to playing and actual musicality.
But anyway- the old Mesa head was getting on a bit, needed a full re-tube and I was beginning to get seriously worried that it would even survive a tour. The Kemper had proved very reliable in the studio and the Performance mode seemed to work very well with my old FCB1010 that I'd dragged out of the attic - especially when upgraded with Uno4Kemper firmware. The Kemper sounds great through my IEMs and sounds absolutely huge through a FoH. Subtle use of the Double Tracker effect and a stereo chorus widens the soundscape even further. The Kemper is infinitely and easily tweakable and the results speak for themselves in the live recordings we made on tour with Saxon. For now - I'll be profiling :-)
So, does the Kemper really sound that good for recording and live? Yes. Very.
Will it ever replace a tube head and 4x12 cranked to 11? No.
Keep music live
Together we will never be silenced
Kemper, Snarling Dogs Wah Pedals and Epiphone Custom Les Paul / Seymour Duncan pick-ups
Epiphone Gothic with active EMG's, Custom loaded Strat, Mesa V Twin Pre Amp, Mesa Dual Rectifier. EV loaded Thiele cab 2x12, V30 4x12.