Neural DSP Quad Cortex Review
Neural DSP Quad Cortex Review
Average Price : $1,849.00
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Overall vote for me: 90/100
Pro#1 Small format
Pro#2 easy to access, easy to program, very direct
Pro#3 the sound quality is top
Con#1 Not a software (yet) to control everything via computer
Con#2 No included expression pedal, only external.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex
The Quad Cortex could be considered the flagship model from Neural DSP.
This amp modeler places itself in direct competition with the Kemper, and it’s been known and very appreciated during the last years for the quality of the amp simulations, cabinet IRs, the high quality of the effects, the integrated looper, the touch screen, and most importantly the Nature Capture technology which allows the user to capture the sound of any amplifier or analog effect chain and replicate it on-board. Like the other competitors, it is possible to connect with an online community to exchange presets and effect chains, as well as profiled amps.
With its low weight and portability, the Quad Cortex became the best tool for lightweight gigs, in which bringing with us our favorite amplifier becomes simply impossible or too expensive.
Let’s look closer
At first sight, what surprises me about this product is its dimensions.
The aluminum case makes it solid as a rock.
Not bigger than a laptop, it can be carried around very easily. This is an advantage to not underestimate, as, for many musicians living in big cities, this could be an enormous advantage to gig around without the need to carry an amplifier and have a car.
I live in the capital of Europe and I lived in London, I feel your struggles’ bros and sisters :), so this is for me already the perfect solution to have high horsepower in a small format.
Already for this reason, to me, this product is a winner. But let’s go forward with the review.
The buttons and the overall interface are pretty easy and intuitive.
Four buttons, to change patches or stomp boxes (depending on the mode we select we can switch single pedals like on an analog pedal board or switch entire rigs or patches). Each button can also be toggled, and thanks to this simple feature we can have simple access to all parameters… Practical! Other than that, we have the tap-tempo button and a volume wheel.
The big feature of the Quad Cortex is for sure the touch-screen, which with a simple drag and drop technology will allow the user to simply select and change the effect routing in a very simple way.
The retro of the Quad Cortex also included 2 inputs (like on the Line 6 Helix, we can manage more instruments together on the same hardware), send and return for additional effects or the use with an amplifier with the four cables method, 2 balanced outputs, midi in and out and two additional expression pedals access (for volume, wah etc).
Other than the power supply, we also have a USB port.
The 4x SHARC+ and 2x ARM Cortex-A5 running at 500MHz each will give the Quad Cortex enough power to run multiple effects, amps, and input responses simultaneously, with a great sense of dynamics, probably never heard before for these types of products. Furthermore, with onboard access to Wi-Fi, we can easily exchange our rigs in real time with other interfaces.
Another fundamental feature is access to the Cortex Cloud, which will allow users, to exchange content and rigs, charge and exchange IRs and so much more.
How does the Quad Cortex Sound?
Every time I answer to this question I always have to start with the fact that despite I owned the Kemper, the Line 6 Helix and many others, for me these pedalboards are amazing work tools…But I do still prefer tube amps, for so so many reasons.
Ok, now we can go straight to the point: the Quad Cortex sounds good. I am not surprised, since I happily use since years now the Neural DSP Plug-ins and they definitely sound great. The quality of the Quad Cortex is not a surprise for me.
With more than 50 different amp simulations, we have a lot of tone possibilities. The IRs are so many as well (around 1000!), and we can easily toggle and move them together with the mics to sculpt the sound we desire.
Not to mention that we can easily import custom IRs so that we can go toward the direction we want more easily in therm of tones. In the amp simulation world, again, for me, the IRs are almost the most important part of the sound, as they define the overall timbre and dynamic of the sound itself. They will also condition our playing and the direction it will take. It is always good that we can charge them so easily on this device.
The dynamic is to me very sensitive and the amp simulations have that “spark” that normally we miss in all the amp simulators.
The effects are good, even if honestly they did not leave me completely breathless. They will function very, very well, tho, and they will add the missing colors to all our tones. I definitely would have preferred an included expression pedal like in the Line 6 Helix ( this is also one of the main reasons why I own one, and I love it) but in that case the dimensions would be bigger, and it would condition the portability of the Quad Cortex itself. It can be easily added to the external port anyway. Not a big deal.
It does anyway sound excellent, and for sure it contains all needed for every gig and studio work.
This is probably the technology that puts the Quad Cortex in direct competition with the Kemper, but with a look at the future.
Like on the Kemper, it will allow us to capture the sound of our rig (amps and effects) and reproduce it on-board.
I must say that compared to the Kemper, the level is absolutely in pair, and maybe it add the previously mentioned “spark” that Kemper profilers sometimes miss.
Not to mention also that managing everything through a touch display makes our life easier, and it is definitely fun to do! If you are anyway too lazy to capture the amps by yourself, you can always share with the other users’ tons of great sounds for any purpose.
Another feature I really like is the on-board looper, which allows to easily create loops for live gigs, showcases and so much more. It’s ideal for the working guitarist.
Well, for me the Quad Cortex Sounds great, and it is a very good alternative to owning a long analogue effects chain with all the risks involved. I like a lot the sounds, the distortions, the amp simulations even if like in the Line 6 Helix I don’t necessarily like too much some distortion or overdrive pedal so much.
In general what I still miss in these machines is the compression feel given by a real amplifier. Even if the reality of the sound is getting closer and closer the more the technology advance, still I miss this very important factor, and I don’t really know if we will ever get there.
For sure, this is at the moment the state of the art of the technology, also because the interface and the hardware, at least for now, look at the future… and are absolutely easy and fun to work with.
Since the Quad Cortex is still an ongoing process, I wait for more updates: I am sure that it will become even more efficient and good sounding.
I really liked it, I advise it to any professional working guitarist with a need for versatility, but also all the guitarists that want a serious alternative to an expensive, fragile, and sometimes delusional analogic pedal board.
It’s all for today, folks!