Keith Merrow and Andrew Wade Break Down Axe-FX and Kemper Profilers for You

I love videos like this because they do all the work for me. I had actually planned on doing a long post on the difference between the two big names in high-end digital amplifiers, Fractal Axe-FX II and Kemper Profiling Amplifier, but that’s a hell of a lot of typing. So watch master shredder Keith Merrow and recording engineer/world’s worst PowerPoint presenter Andrew Wade speak in depth on the subject, with hella examples.

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The short version is that the Axe-FX is a pure synthesizer. It’s modeling the components of an amp, not the sound of it. Of course, the components make the sound, but Fractal models each of the individual components of an amplifier. The Kemper Profiler doesn’t bother with any of that mess. It studies the sound waves that come out of an amp and recreates them. Ultimately, at least with current technology, this results in a more accurate facsimile. It’s also less versatile in some ways, because the whole thing gets thrown off by using a different guitar or cab (if you’re not using the cabinet model), or you want to change the low end (which means using post-eq instead of changing it in the preamp… well, the “preamp,” like you can with an Axe-FX).

Guitar modelers haven’t been on the market as long as digital drums and keyboards, but in those categories there still hasn’t been a winner in the sampling vs synthesizing debate, and with good cause. As Keith explains in the video, each unit has specific advantages in certain situations. For playing gigs, uh, I wouldn’t use either, but if I had to I’d pick the Axe-FX. Yet if I were a recording engineer that completed tracking and had to break the mics down, but wanted a 90%-close-copy of the core distortion tone in case something needed to be changed or fixed later, then it’s Kemper all the way.

One final thing: I really, really hate it when people refer to these boxes as “collections of amps.”

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.