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A fun comparison (tube vs. modeller)


Active member
Sep 14, 2018
I spent Monday in a rehearsal room with a friend playing through some Rush covers, and set up three different amps for a direct comparison. Left to right in the photo we have a Marshall Club & Country (4140) 2x12 100w combo, a Kemper (which I ran through both the cab and the PA) and a Mesa Boogie Studio .22+



Most importantly based on what we were playing the Marshall was the hero of the day - it is the amp Alex Lifeson used on Moving Pictures, Signals, Grace Under Pressure and maybe even a few later albums. It absolutely nails the tones of those songs, particularly with the right pedals (like lots of chorus and flanger). I used the Kemper for the earlier period Hiwatt and Fender Super Reverb tones. The Boogie came along because we're both John Petrucci fans and I wanted an excuse to crank it in a room.

In terms of conclusions...

The Marshall was a beast - filled the room with sound, cut through brilliantly and felt great to play. The EQ was largely useless but it didn't matter because it sounded great. Downsides to that are it weighs a ton and is 45 years old so may not be the most reliable amp to use (although I just had it put through a major service).

The Kemper couldn't compete with the power the Marshall put out, even with the PA to support. The flexibility and effects were a huge benefit, but it doesn't do the tube amp thing in the room.

The Boogie was tighter and more focused than the Marshall, and considering it is only 20 watts had a scary amount of volume on tap - it doesn't really need to be pushed quite so much because it is so mid-focused.

If I was turning up to a random rehearsal or bar gig without guaranteeing a good PA I'd use one of the tube amps - likely the Boogie because it's compact and punchy. If I am playing an need a silent stage or have a very good PA in a decent venue the Kemper is easier to use and ultimately will sound just as good through FOH (maybe better).