As 2023 starts to pick up speed, the age of digital guitar gear continues to mature at a rapid pace – and with it, the influence of amp modelers, digital cabinet emulations and virtual effects continues to expand into new corners of the guitar world.
It’s proven to be one of the most contentious sticking points between traditionalists and modernists over the past few years: as amp modeling technology becomes better and better, are traditional tube amps becoming redundant?
Naturally, tube amps will always have a place in guitar music – there’s no denying that – but in recent years we’ve seen more and more guitar stars switching to the ranks of the digital realm for amp and effects sounds to record and perform live with.
Names include John Mayer, who used a Fractal amp modeler on his recent album, and Mark Knopfler, who switched to the ranks of Kemper (opens in new tab) for his live performances in 2019.
Mark Tremonti, however, is one guitar titan who has remained loyal to the leagues of tube amps in the face of digital expansion. That’s not to say he hasn’t dabbled with the other side, though.
In fact, the Alter Bridge guitarist said he conducted half a tour using a Kemper Profiler, but had to switch back to his usual PRS MT 100 signature amp midway through proceedings as he couldn’t seem to get over some “digital weirdness”.
“I did half of a tour with a Kemper at one point, just to try it out,” Tremonti told Premier Guitar (opens in new tab). “I never found the right lead setting that made me comfortable. I always felt some digital weirdness in there.
“When I switched to my MT 100, I wouldn’t go back. So, on the road, it’s just the one MT 100 now.”
Tremonti’s Alter Bridge bandmate Myles Kennedy is also strongly on the side of tube amp supremacy, and conceded in the same interview that although Kempers represent an efficient logistical upgrade from large, heavy touring rigs, it’s one he can’t get behind.
Kennedy, who favors Diezel Herberts and VH4s, said, “Mark and I still want those tubes to be working. We’re kind of old-school in that sense.
“Our manager, I’m sure, would love us to switch to Kempers to save a ton of money,” he continued. “But we’re kind of bullheaded. We’ll keep flying the flag, man.”
Though the debate between the two will no doubt rage on, it's hard to argue against the fact that Kempers are becoming pretty adept at creating authentic-sounding tube amp tones.
Case in point, JHS Pedals' Josh Scott recently revealed the tones he's used in his videos since September 2021 come from a Kemper Profiler, and not the tube amp shown onscreen.