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The ethics of Kemper profiling amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by osv, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. osv

    osv Supporting Member

    Dec 1, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    I subscribe to Hennings YouTube channel, and he posted his thoughts on the Kemper amps and what's been happening with them. Long story short... People buy the Kemper. They then buy another, usually boutique amp online. They profile the sound into the Kemper, and then return the boutique amp to the online store.
    They have, just virtually stolen an amp. He compares this with what the free downloading of music has done to the industry. It's a longish video, but worth a viewing.

  2. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    mbelue likes this.
  3. R Baer

    R Baer Commercial User

    Jun 5, 2008
    President, Baer Amplification
    Profiling is just a by-product of technology. Once technology allowed for digital modeling of an amp, then there's really no stopping someone from doing it. For some players, these are great amps and serve their purpose. Others want the real thing or find the modeling amps too complicated. Products get copied, That's just the business. In reality, some of the most classic amps out there were little more than modifications done to a circuit straight out of the RCA tube manual. I see it as just another product choice. People either like it or they don't.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
  4. 5544


    Dec 1, 2015
    99% of people listening to music won't care if it came from a modeling amp and a real one as long as it sounds good.
    Grumry, Bassmunnky, SirMjac28 and 6 others like this.
  5. twistd

    twistd Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Didn't watch the video but the future is digital, as digital amp, cab and effect emulation will be impossible to distinguish (feel and sound) from analog. We are almost there.
  6. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    somebody called up our store a while back wanting to "record" some of our guitar amps with his kemper; the answer was some variation of "ha ha, no."
  7. One of my good buddy's has a kemper and has never once asked to model any of my vintage amp collection which includes multiples of Fender Tweed, Magnatone, Gretsch (Supro/Valco), Fender Brownface, Sunn, Stromberg Carlsen, Audio Guild, Trainwreck clone, etc. there are TONS of profiles online and he has so many in his rig I think we sat for about an hour listening to them and only heard a fraction. I think he's gotten all of his online. In other words I don't think you need to do this to get patches. Most guitarists know the guys in their towns that have most of the classic amps. So I think guys doing this are in the minority.
    son_of_mogh likes this.
  8. Murdoc_420


    Jan 20, 2016
    I just bought a Zoom B3 which is supposed to have all kinds of amp models. Is that wrong?

    (I know it is a jerk move to order an amp and return it, that could tank a shop but...)
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  9. I have no problem with the ethics of Kemper profiling, in and of itself. I have a very large problem with the ethics of ordering an amp, using it for this purpose, and then returning it. I think that is completely bogus and I have a very low regard for anyone who does that. I find the practice of buying things with the intention of returning them shortly thereafter to be equally bogus, unethical, and repulsive.
  10. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    The obvious solution to this particular problem is twofold. But first, since the ethical problem is possibly more faceted, a review of some related concepts (these occur to me offhand; surely there are others):
    • In this domain, the practice described is unethical (buying an amp with the sole intent of profiling it then returning it for a full refund), but profiling itself is not necessarily unethical.

    • Though not quite the same, a near precedent to the 'buy to profile then return for refund' practice is the practice of pirating copyrighted media by buying licensed copies (CDs, DVDs, etc.) solely to rip or clone them, then selling them while keeping the copy.

    • Profiling itself is not unethical unless it can be considered stealing the voice (the sonic signature) of an audio device.

    • If profiling is unethical for stealing devices' voices, then modelers have been operating unethically for years, albeit by using re-creation (or sonic reverse engineering) as a basis for creating a model, presumably, rather than sampling as a basis for creating a profile.

    • Also, but as a distinct matter, if profiling is unethical for stealing devices' voices, then the problem is akin to sampling without permission recorded audio that was under copyright. In that case, profiling would be ethical only when express permission was obtained from the device's maker.
    Now to the solution:
    1. These virtual amp thieves need to grow a spine and acquire respect for and appreciation of other people and their good works. They are a sad bunch, but they don't have to be. Like those who steal others' media, of whom musicians who steal music are the very lowest, the virtual amp thieves lack self-respect, so they cannot respect others and they act accordingly.

    2. After the soon to be former virtual amp thieves address 1, a practical solution to their desire to profile amps could be them leasing amps from their makers. This would put money in the pockets of the makers, who would effectively be selling each given amp of theirs repeatedly, if fractionally (a nearly analogous precedent is musicians who for a fee lend their playing to sample libraries). An alternative solution that would be relatively free from ethical challenges is for the profiler to buy an amp, then profile it, then sell it; then buy the next amp, and so on.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
    Pbassmanca and MattZilla like this.
  11. I agree with some points, already mentioned before.

    It's very disrespectful, yet unethical to order an amp, profile and then return it. This is, imo, a total no go.

    If a friend let's you profile his amp? To me comes back to copying a cd a friend owns. As long as you don't go the business route, I believe it's still ok at some point.

    Profiling itself unethical? No. There are already tons of model amps. Here's just another way to come closer to the final result.

    After all, it's still a business, although we musicians, and I call myself in, have a somewhat more 'romantic' aporoach to some things. Amp manufacturers will have to find there place in this whole thing (f.ex. you offer a factory profile of your amp for a good bunch of bucks).

    In terms of band logistics, this will fit many needs. A well known german, yet worldwide touring band, recorded their current album with all kind of real amps. For touring purposes, they profiled'em with a Kemper so that there's less logistic effort. Will save some money though.
  12. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    The boutique owner put his sweat equity into his amp. That's intellectual property. Sorta like Nabster it's cool to not pay for music until that tune is by your Mom one Dad and they can't support you or buy you that new Mustang because people like you are too cheap to pay for music they like.

    My engineer friend said it it easier and quicker for him to pull up a model of a Vox AC30 then to spend time getting the correct mic placement on a real one. However the model doesn't sound as good as the real thing.
    What's also missing is the actual musician reacting to the amp in realtime.

    About people not caring? Tell your friends to use their earbuds when commuting or working out but listen to the real deal at home. Learn the difference. If you can't afford it yet, it doesn't mean there isn't a a quality difference.
    MattZilla likes this.
  13. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    All in all it is a clever move by Kemper to put the onus of the 'copy' on the user. As in, they aren't selling digital copies of other companies' amps themselves. You will notice that amps like the Vypyr et al can't name the company that they copy or obvious reasons.

    Folks taking advantage of return policies isn't Kemper's problem. It's still a naughty bad thing, but don't blame Kemper.
    DwaynieAD and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  14. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008

    Except that in the case of the RCA tube manual, the technical notes were published with the intent that people would use the designs. They wanted to sell their tubes and this was a way to help promote their products.

    Most boutique amps are outright copies or cut and pasted from classic designs. There is no difference between that and what a modelling amp does except it is easier.

    In the case of digital plugins, products that are modeled on protected products are developed in conjunction with the original company. So they are paid a royalty. Often the companies that designed the original products also sell the plugins as well. So it is a win-win for both companies.
    SirMjac28 and Fergie Fulton like this.
  15. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Agreed w/ posters above: the ethical problem here is w/ stealing services from the music stores by fraudulently pretending to be interested in buying an amp.

    W/ the easy part out of the way, a couple thoughts on the impulse to vilify "digital":

    If the future is digital, as twistd's post #5 says, then eventually the economics of creating boutique hardware amps will collapse. At that point, you'll sound design "new" amp voices in the digital realm (much as you essentially do now by manipulating 2Notes parameters).

    But thinking that way, there's already a paradox here. Why do we get worked up about technology that uses IR design to mimic existing voices, but we often celebrate boutique electronics design that gives us many slightly tweaked versions of a Ross compressor, or a Tube Screamer, or a Fender Deluxe, Blues Breaker, etc? One of my fave bass amps is an old Thunderfunk, which is deeply inspired by the AMP BH420. And I've got guitar pedalboards packed w/ Wampler, Sparkledrives, OCD, Keeley comps, etc—all to some extent refining or extending a previous gear builder's classic tone and design.

    Using technology and design chops to make a classic tone more flexible, refined, giggable, controllable? Analog, digital, or hybrid—that's creative, and like almost all creativity that connects with an audience, it melds mimicry/inspiration with innovative thinking.

    edit:beans-on-toast types faster than I do. Hats off, speedy!
    beans-on-toast likes this.
  16. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    Well the designs are classic but the amps differ greatly in tone.
    The tone diffenences between an Bassman and a Showman are striking. So much so that there is an Alembic pre based around each.
    Like cooking it's how you combine the ingredients. It's when. It's why, to what effect.

    In the keyboard world there was Joe Zawinul. With the same synths that anyone could buy he made sounds that were new. Flutes that sounded like they were 15' long with a diameter of 4". Same sound with three violins inside. Wouldn't that be the thing for modelers? Design new lustrous rich amp sounds.
  17. edencab


    Aug 14, 2013
    Toronto, On
    well, before I drop close to $3000 on one amp, I'd buy 3 - 4 amps and just be happy, with an Ampeg, Tonehammer, Orange, GK ....or make up your own list
  18. I feel like that's where the amp modellers need to go in the long run. As long as they're used to imitate existing amps, they can only ever be as good as a fine imitation of the amp they are modelling. While that is the case, there will always be some desirability to having the original equipment which the modellers set out to imitate. I'd like to see the modellers become the examplar of their own thing rather than being regarded as a convenient substitute for other equipment.
  19. BassFishingInAmerica


    Jul 24, 2014
    I agree. One more for the lawyers to squabble over.
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  20. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Jim Marshall physically modeled his circuitry after Leo Fenders' amps.

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