Modeling amps have made it a lot easier for guitarists to diversify their sound without carrying around tons of equipment.
While some purists may prefer to stick to vacuum tube amps, modelers truly show the versatility of digital amplification.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this Kemper vs Helix comparison:
- Tone Modeling
- Amp Form Factors
- Price & Value For Money
Ready? Let’s jump right in…
1. Interface: Kemper vs Helix
Ease of Use
Ease of use is essential in a modeling amp, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, as you won’t have to pull out the instructions every time you want to use the device.
The Kemper model features a relatively cluttered front panel that takes some getting used to before you can navigate it with confidence. On the other hand, the Helix features a more minimalist panel with a lot of the buttons responsible for multiple functions, making for a more straightforward interface.
Buttons and Switches
The quality of the buttons will directly influence the longevity of the product, as they won’t need to be replaced if they eventually wear out or break.
Despite having a larger number of buttons, switches, and knobs, the Kemper simply doesn’t feel like it’s assembled as well as the Helix. Compared to the Kemper, the Helix features fewer buttons of higher quality, with each of them giving a crisp and satisfying click every time they are pressed.
The I/O panel layout of both of these devices is relatively similar, and they both get the same job done, but they are organized a bit differently.
We prefer the layout of the Helix’s I/O panel, as it features Variax and Wordclock outputs that aren’t present on the Kemper. The I/O on the Helix is also better-organized, with the outputs grouped up logically, making it easy to find the jack that you need, despite the more cluttered I/O.
Comparison Point Winner: Helix
2. Tone Modeling: Kemper vs Helix
Tone Modeling: Kemper
Kemper and Helix take a different approach when it comes to modeling, with Kemper preferring to emulate the style of vacuum tube amplifiers.
This results in a more classic sound that is notoriously difficult to replicate, but Kemper has done an excellent job of it. Instead of having to haul around a potentially unreliable vacuum tube amplifier, you can create a very similar effect by using the Profiler, and we truly appreciate its unique sound.
Tone Modeling: Helix
On the other end, the Helix embraces digital amplification instead of trying to capture a sound that is typically found on older amplifiers.
This makes for a more versatile modeling amp, but it’s a lot less technically impressive than the job that Kemper has accomplished. Of course, it’s difficult to give the edge to either of our competitors in this area, as each type of tone modeling has its place, it just depends on the music that you’re playing.
Comparison Point Winner: Tie
3. Profiling: Kemper vs Helix
Both of these products come with many built-in profiles that are meant to replicate the sounds of some of the best-known amps in history.
We think that the Helix has a better selection of built-in profiles since it’s a lot more reliant on them than the Kemper, which features a lot more pre-made profiles for download. This results in built-in profiles with a lot more fidelity than those on the Kemper, but this comes at a cost.
The internet has made it easy to share profiles that you have created with others, and the Kemper is designed with this in mind.
To make up for its relative lack of built-in profiles, the Profiler can use plenty of profiles that have been created by community members, ranging from amateurs to studio heads. This greatly improves the device’s versatility, as it can mimic nearly any amplifier, provided the profile has been created.
Profile fidelity can vary based on the kind of sound that you’re trying to replicate and the creator of the profile.
Since the Helix is reliant on built-in profiles, they are of much higher quality than the community profiles that you can download on the Kemper. While fidelity may vary a little bit more with the Kemper’s community profiles, there is a vast selection, and some feature high quality while others have a little less fidelity.
Comparison Point Winner: Kemper
4. Display: Kemper vs Helix
The Kemper Profiler is equipped with a small LCD screen that presents the user interface. This display gets the job done, but it doesn’t exactly compare to the Helix’s screen.
While the Kemper’s display may have been impressive five years ago, technology has moved forward with advances like LED screens (present on the floor models of the Helix). Despite its comparatively unimpressive design, the screen still presents all of the info you need in an organized way.
On the other end, the Helix features a 6.2-inch display, which shows you the information in a much less condensed format, making it easier to read.
The display is also color-coded to make it easier to access the data that you need at a glance. The screen is also relatively durable and resistant to scratches, which is integral if you plan on taking the Helix around with you on tour.
Comparison Point Winner: Helix
5. Amp Form Factors: Kemper vs Helix
Both Kemper and Helix offer floorboard models that are useful for stage use without the addition of a separate controller.
On Kemper’s end, the Stage model is their main floor unit, and it is equipped with a remote-grade switch system. The Helix Floor is their flagship floorboard unit, and it features 12 capacitive foot switches and a similar 6.2-inch display to their Rack unit. We prefer the Helix Floor over the Kemper Stage in this category.
Along with floor units, Kemper and Helix offer rack-style modeling amps that can easily fit into an enclosure, making it simpler to transport all of your equipment.
Helix specializes in floor units, so they only offer a single rack-style product, known appropriately as the Helix Rack. On the other end, Kemper offers two different rack units, the first being the basic Profiler Rack, and the second being the powered variety of the rack, with a built-in amp.
Finally, both product lines feature a compact modeling amp which is designed to be easier to transport without sacrificing too much performance compared to full-sized models.
The HX Stomp from Helix features three capacitive foot switches with over 300 amps, effects, and cabs. Kemper’s compact offering is the Profiler Head, which is designed to fit into a carry-on for easy transportation on planes and trains. While the Profiler Head features more functionality, the HX Stomp is much more compact.
Comparison Point Winner: Helix
6. Price & Value For Money: Kemper vs Helix
Price & Value For Money: Kemper
Kemper’s products tend to be a little more expensive than those from Helix, and they certainly offer more when it comes to the technical side, with sound quality that is often superior.
Unfortunately, if you’re on a budget, Kemper isn’t the ideal choice. While Kemper’s models are about twice as pricey as Helix’s, their performance isn’t that much better (though it is still superior). Unless you’re working in a professional environment, Kemper’s higher price point isn’t worth it.
Price & Value For Money: Helix
Helix’s products are still rather pricey, though they are closer to mid-range than Kemper’s high-end pricing scheme. This makes them a lot more accessible for customers on a budget.
Despite being more affordable than Kemper’s modeling amps, Helix doesn’t give up anywhere near as much performance as you would expect. For any applications outside of professional studio environments, the difference between Helix and Kemper’s sound quality will barely be noticeable.
Price & Value For Money Winner: Helix
Conclusion & Takeaway
- Interface – Helix
- Tone Modeling – Tie
- Profiling – Kemper
- Display – Helix
- Amp Form Factors – Helix
- Price & Value For Money – Helix
While Kemper’s higher price point would make you assume that their products are automatically better, they are actually a bit less user-friendly than the Helix guitar amps. The lack of ease of use (coupled with the higher price point) makes Kemper’s models a little less attractive, especially if you’re new to these kinds of products.
At the end of the day, Helix is a better choice for the majority of customers since their modeling amps offer far greater value for money than Kemper. However, if you’re trying to get the best performance possible out of your modeling amp and you have an unlimited budget, Kemper’s products may be more in line with your needs.