Kemper Stage or Fractal FM3?

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
First, let me say that I am aware of the Kemper Stage vs Fractal FM3 threads here and on other forums. However, after hours of reading, I am still not sure what is right for me. That's why I decided to started this thread.

Current equipment:
- a Steavens Poundcake boutique amp (with some standard effects) played on a Mesa 2x12 cab
- Amplitube/Neural DSP via a Scarlett 2i2.

What I do:
- practice & rehearse 30% (via amp)
- record 65% (via Amplitube / Neural DSP or re-amping the amp)
- play live 5% (via amp) - I hope this one will go up though

I want to extend my setup by a piece of hardware that:
- gives me an edge over Amplitube / Neural DSP in terms of sound and more flexibility than my amp
- is small and portable but can be extended with a power amp to use with a cab
- can be used for everything - practice, recording, gigging

About me:
- I am not on an eternal tone chase. I like to spend a good amount of time to create a "home" having 5-10 main sounds that work really well for me. Once that's done, I usually don't like to tweak all too often. I can therefore see myself work with either profiles or full signal chains.
- I am used to configuring signal chains in Amplitube / Neural DSP and I quite enjoy it
- I am based in EU and would either get the Stage locally for 1550€ or the FM3 from the US (I'm traveling there often) for around 900€ (the local price is 1400€ - why would I?). Hence, after-market support (given that I am in EU) is a topic.

Thanks for all the kind advice!
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
I used to have an Axe FXII and I know that G66 do offer excellent support which you ought to consider. If you get a Fractal product from the US and something goes wrong it could be a challenge.

The FM3 may offer more tweaking opportunities and FX. If it is a USB model you can also use it connected directly to a computer without an interface.

Kemper Stage like any Kemper has lots of profiles available and may be more straightforward once you have the 4 or 5 core tones you are looking for. ToneJunkie has some offers currently for his profiles if you went that way. It would need an interface for PC use but you already have a Scarlett.

I don't have either at this time so have no bias one way or the other. I also don't think there is a correct answer just a choice.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
stratamania said:
I don't have either at this time so have no bias one way or the other. I also don't think there is a correct answer just a choice.

that's what I figured. It really seems to come down to a philosophical decision between signal chain optimization and profiles. I kinda like both ideas (1st world problem) :-/
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
I was holding back, but I’d go Fractal.  I went Fractal back in 09 and it was the musical choice I have made.

I have played through Kempers.  They sound good if someone has a profile you like.  And hope it’s free. If not, then there’s more money.

Oh wait, can’t find a profile you like, then it’s investment in the gear to capture a profile as well as the expense of renting the gear to get a profile from.

You mention only 5-10 tones.  What happens if your choice in those 5-10 tones changes over years.  Yep more expense to get new profiles. 

Go Fractal I say.  A proven interface, as well as the ability to create what ever you want.  Your only investment is your time.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
Thanks for the insight Mark. Have you experienced any problems with your profiles as part of firmware updates? I heard that's a common problem with Fractal.

Also...

TBurst Std said:
Your only investment is your time.

don't wanna get too philosophical, but isn't this an even bigger investment than a bit of cash for a great profile? ;-)
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
I’ve never had an issue with a FW upgrade.  In fact I’m not sure what you mean?
Do you mean bricking the proc during an upgrade? That was a minor situation from I guess 10 years ago or so.

Well, time.  My current latest main patch took 10- 15 minutes max to create and dial in.  You may spend 10-15 minutes finding a profile you would like to then buy.
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
Another note: I personally know 3 Kemper users. (That’s how I have played them). 2 converted to Fractal when they got tired of endlessly searching for a profile to do what they wanted.  I invited each over to build a patch in my Fractal. Within 30 minutes they had built what they wanted and more. 
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
One thing that has not been mentioned but is most important with any modeller or profiling device is what will you play them back through?

If through amp and cab, how easy is it to do 4CM and disable the IRs, and power stage of the modelling?
How easy is it to integrate pedals if you choose to do so.
If FRFR what monitors will be used etc.
In a studio set up how will the sounds be monitored via headphones or studio monitors.


 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
That’s a good point.  Personally I use my Fractal through FRFR at home.  Live is straight to the board and I monitor through IEMs.

If I needed to disable an IR, it takes seconds.

If going this route, please go FRFR and realize the full potential.  I audition patches through a FRFR at roughly 100-107 Db.  I practice through the same item at 80db, or use my studio monitors. It’s not only the amps, the effects, etc, it’s the IRs

Needless to say if you build a patch or use a profile for let’s say an original Matchless combo (pick anything you want) pumping that through you cab will not sound the same as what you are trying for.

Most people learn to love tones they hear on the radio, home audio system etc.  that’s all miked sound.  Even live recordings, yes that’s miked.  So unless you are trying to cop a tone you have ONLY heard live, your listening to through a mic. 

Back when I was analog, my mic collection was worth thousands. A mic is a HUGE factor in sound as it is essentially a filter.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
stratamania said:
One thing that has not been mentioned but is most important with any modeller or profiling device is what will you play them back through?

If through amp and cab, how easy is it to do 4CM and disable the IRs, and power stage of the modelling?
How easy is it to integrate pedals if you choose to do so.
If FRFR what monitors will be used etc.
In a studio set up how will the sounds be monitored via headphones or studio monitors.

TBurst Std said:
It’s not only the amps, the effects, etc, it’s the IRs

Needless to say if you build a patch or use a profile for let’s say an original Matchless combo (pick anything you want) pumping that through you cab will not sound the same as what you are trying for.

OK, I gotta say I am a newbie when it comes to modelling. So here would be my responses:
- I wouldn't use any of the devices through an amp for sure. The point of getting an FM3 or Kemper for me is to use them as standalone units through cab/FRFR/board. I would probably get a power amp (to be able to play through a cab when needs be) and most likely I would also get an FRFR (no clue which one) for home/live
- I have 0.0 experience with IR and "building patches" whatsoever. Frankly, I am not even sure what you mean in the context.
- I don't see the point of pedals when using an FM3/Kemper except maybe an expression I'd use for wah
- In a studio setup, I use both headphones and studio monitors. The idea would be (regardless of which unit I get), to still go through my Focusrite Scarlett audio interface. Ideally, I want one place where I can record a) through plugins, b) re-amp through modeling amp, c) re-amp my amp through mic via my Palmer re-amp box.
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
It seems it may be worth spending some time learning about signal chains in the digital world etc prior to making a product choice.

In the real world or at least the desert of the real you would have typically.

  Guitar ----> Amp ---> Speaker Cab.

Expanding on that a little more.

  Guitar ----> Pre Amp ---> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab.

Add some effects

  Guitar ---->Compressor ---> Drive ---> Distortion---> Pre Amp ---> Delay ---> Reverb---> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab.

Now you need to capture the sound...


  Guitar ---->Compressor ---> Drive ---> Distortion---> Pre Amp ---> Delay ---> Reverb---> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab ----> Mic ---> Mixing desk / interface etc...

Putting the parts that can end up in the digital world inside a modeler / profiler. (laid out on what is often called a grid or path)

Compressor ---> Drive ---> Distortion---> Pre Amp ---> Delay ---> Reverb---> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab ----> Mic --->

Notice the cab and mic highlighted in red. Those parts are where IRs come in. An IR is an impulse response of a particular speaker or cab e.g. 4 * 12 Vintage 30s captured via an SM57 on cone or off cone etc. IRs are representations of the characteristics that cabs and mics give. They do represent often a large part of the tone. Swap an IR and it will change the overall tonal characteristics. You can also purchase third party IRs.

Also the above typical chain example you can choose which part of it you might model in different situations for live or studio use, and which parts you might use actual gear.

So for example consider this chain.

  Guitar ---->Compressor ---> Drive ---> Distortion---> Pre Amp ---> Delay ---> Reverb---> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab ---->

The items in purple are digital and in the modeller, those in red are actual real world items. For example the distortion pedal is in a loop of the modeller via a send and return. Notice also an actual power amp and speaker cab are being used after the modellers output so in this case both of those items we would generally want to disable any modelled power amp and cabs in the modeller.

There are lots of choices out there now, Fractal, Kemper, Line 6 Helix, Neural Quad Cortex etc. so it is worth spending time checking out various options before making a choice. What is right for someone else may not be for you.

Alternatives to total modelling becoming more popular are using real amps, but instead of a speaker cab using an attenuator to provide a load to the amp and an IR box. There are good boxes out there now that do both jobs, such as the UA OX, Suhr Reactive Load I.R. Boss WAZA Tube Amp expander.

Another quite cool item I think is the Suhr PT15 IR  which is a tube/ valve amp which has an inbuilt reactive load and IR but you can use it with an external cab as a normal amp if you choose to do.

I have just thrown in a few different options to think about as things have moved on I think from the analog versus digital world or amps versus modellers from around 2010. There are lots more options worth considering before spending any cash.

As I say I am not biased one way or the other. Lots of way's to get there.

 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
I understood more from your post than from many articles combined.

Just to clarify what I currently have in place:

1) a 4CM configuration along the lines of
Guitar ----> non-modulation pedals ---> Pre Amp ---> modulation pedals --> Power Amp ---> Speaker Cab ----> Mic ---> Mixing desk / interface

2) a purely digital plug-in based config only for recording:
Guitar ----> Mixing desk / interface (incl. DAW, plugins, etc.)

All IR I am currently doing is happening either analog (1) or in Amplitube / NDSP where i fiddle around with cab/mic in their GUIs (2).

Since I am generally not big on effects what I am looking for is to use my modeller for four things: a) flexibility in tone, b) quality of tone and c) easy portability for recording, d) easy portability for playing live. 

Taking my current rig into consideration, 1) offers only b, 2) offers a), some b) and c). In my mind, a Fractal/Kemper Stage would offer a, b, c and d and complement my rig.

That said, what I am definitely not planning on doing is to combine my modeller with a complex signal chain (i.e. pedals, amps). What I'd be looking at with the modeller would be simplicity (more than anything) - i.e. one of these two:

I Guitar ---> Modeller (IR) ---> Mixing desk / interface / board / FRFR
II Guitar ---> Modeller (disabled IR) ---> Neutral Power Amp (e.g. SD Power Stage) ---> Speaker Cab

Hence I guess enabling/disabling IR seamlessly would be important, right? From what I understand that's possible with both Kemper and Fractal, correct? Or in other words, given the above, do they differ significantly?

The alternative modellers (Line 6, NDSP) are awesome units but from all I have read they have not (yet) caught up with Fractal and Kemper when it comes to the sheer quality of sound. The alternative setups you describe are of course amazing but violate my a, b, c, d criteria above.
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
Cool glad it was useful.

I Guitar ---> Modeller (IR) ---> Mixing desk / interface / board / FRFR
II Guitar ---> Modeller (disabled IR) ---> Neutral Power Amp (e.g. SD Power Stage) ---> Speaker Cab

Yes that looks right although another variation on II would be
IIa  Guitar ---> Modeller (with IR) ---> Neutral Power Amp (e.g. SD Power Stage) ---> FRFR Cab

or

IIb Guitar ---> Modeller (with IR)  ---> Powered FRFR Cab or Monitor.

This thread led me to checking out what Kemper currently has and they now have the Kemper powered Kabinet
https://www.kemper-amps.com/kabinet-kone. That would be an example of IIb. The Kemper Kabinet and Stage + an expression pedal or two would be worth checking out. Kemper also has a showroom where you can check things out by appointment. I think in the Dortmund area.

The Fractal FM9 also looks a promising device though is not currently available. I am not sure what is in vogue at the moment for Active Monitors or Power amp and cabs with Fractal users although I do know Matrix made some pretty good power amps, and monitors etc intended for the purpose and I think they are still available.

The other units mentioned are at a very good level, depends on individual taste. About 10 years ago the L6 HD500 versus an Axe FXII was not really a comparison but the Helix is a very good product with regular updates and certainly worth checking out so I would not dismiss it. 
 

aarontunes

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
2,585
I just chose an FM3 for myself.


The options I considered were the FM3, FM9, Kemper, Atomic A6, and Helix. I own the Line 6 HX FX, so I am familiar with the L6 interface and effects sounds. I am less familiar with the Kemper, though I have seen and heard it used a few times when gigging with another guitarist I know who owns and uses it.


I feel the Fractal sounds the best. I don't like the Kemper or Atomic sounds as much. The UI on both leaves me cold too. The Kemper is a visual nightmare of words and colors, while the Atomic is the opposite: nothing but menus and sub-menus in a little tiny window, and lots of scroll, scroll, scrolling. The Line 6 interface is fantastic, but the sounds are still lacking compared to Fractal.


The FM9 would have been my first choice, but I never do the "wait for your golden ticket/invitation to buy" waiting list thing when it can be helped. So I went with the FM3. My needs are pretty simple. I don't do parallel signal paths to stereo amps, etc, etc, etc. I don't foresee running into memory or processing limitations, but we shall see. I want a simple pedal board layout to an amp, and I want it to sound killer. The FM3 does this.


The sounds are the best I've heard in a modeler. The effects are stellar. Coming from the Line 6 HX FX world, the Fractal UI took some time to get used to. The FM3 does have a large display with plenty of information, but I still find it MUCH easier to edit via the software.


My primary use is live, in my various tribute bands. Fractal has done a pretty good job of milking the most out of only three footswitches, but I foresee eventually wanting the extra foot pedal thing (VM6?).


Anyway, I use IEM's, so it will be a simple rig for me: XLR to front of house, and I monitor through my ears. Easy-peasy. The Fractal is the first modeler that has ever had me even consider going ampless, and it's going to happen in 2022!
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
504
Glad to see that I am not the only one having gone through the dilemma of choice. What I will do is a) go to the Kemper showroom (I'm currently at my parents' place and it's 20 minutes from here) and b) order a Fractal FM3 and use the 30-day trial period.

At this stage, after having gotten amazing advice from here and reading/watching a bit more, I am fully convinced that it's virtually impossible to go wrong with either Fractal or Kemper. I personally love the idea of having control over the signal chain (given that I do the same in my plugins), so I am leaning towards Fractal from a philosophical point of view. Then again, both will get me to where I ultimately wanna go.

In sum, if I don't love one unit significantly more over the other after trying, I will probably take the better offer (which is either Fractal from G66 or a great aftermarket deal for a Kemper which is possible in my location).

One thing both TBurstStd and Stratamania kind of made me curious about is an FRFR. I love the philosophy of it.

In general terms - and I guess we all agree on that - we are living in a very exciting age as guitarists!
 

mayfly

Senior member
Messages
8,302
I now will put in my non-flippant $0.02.

I've been a fractal user for about, er, a decade.  During that time I went through several fractal products.  These are my observations: 

1 - The sound quality started out really great, and then just got better.  You won't be disappointed in how the thing sounds.
2 - the user interface started out crappy, then improved significantly.  I find that I use the computer interface pretty much exclusively when doing new patches, BUT when doing a gig it's nice to have real knobs in front of you for those mid-song tweaks.
3 - For a number of reasons, I recently got back into amps and pedal boards.  I've been loving it, setting up several new sounds for myself and generally having a wonderful time experimenting and building new effects.  But then we had a gig at a place where the amp was not going to work out.  I didn't think that I would be able to dial in my new sound on the AxeFX, but I could and it sounded great.  Not perfect, but easily good enough for a bar gig.
4 - I currently use an AX8.  I like this unit a lot, but they don't make it anymore.  I personally believe that the AX8 is better than the FM3 because there are more knobs for tweaking on the fly and more buttons at your disposal.  I would look into picking up an AX8 second-hand.
5 - speaking of second hand, my original AxFX ULTRA is for sale!  Comes with the fractal floor controller (loads of buttons there) and a custom road case to hold both.  It's a great unit.  Completely obsolete, but a great unit.  Want it?  :)
 
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