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The Neural DSP quad cortex is a modeler. It’s built with some advanced algorithms and technology. They have been making great amplifier plug-ins for a while now. All while quietly designing the device. If you have ever played one of their plug-ins, you know it’s good stuff.
Well, we are happy to report that the hype is real! This unit is going to give every other modeler on the planet a run for their money! And because Neural DSP has been making guitar plugins that players have been enjoying for so long, you know this unit will be good!
Let’s have a look at some key features!
- Quad Core SHARC DSP technology.
- Built In Wi-Fi.
- Amp capture capabilities.
- Intuitive controls and layouts.
- Simultaneously Run 4 Rig Models.
- Built In amp, cab, FX sims.
- Foot switches act as potentiometers.
- Small, light, portable.
Who Is This For?
The Neural DSP Quad Cortex is designed for players who need exceptional sound. All in a lightweight and compact unit. Guitar tube amps are some of the best sounds available. They can be too heavy and bulky for some players and their needs.
The Quad Cortex is small and powerful. With the new algorithm that can reproduce the sound of your amp. And add all the effects and functionality you could ever want. This makes it great for intermediate and professional guitarists who often gig and need incredible portability.
Quad Cortex Score
Ease of use
As a guitar player I prefer tube amps over modelers, just want to be honest. But this is probably the closest to a valve amp I have heard from a modeler yet! Selecting from any of the amp models on board will produce the cleans you are looking for, all day long. But I am not surprised by this or the great effects, as a device with this kind of power should produce it in spades.
What I am most impressed with are the distortion and overdrive sounds this unit can produce. There are over 50 amps that come loaded in the quad cortex. Which most players will recognize with modified names.
One of the first amps I tried was a Friedman BE model that I got into and boy what a treat. The sound was spot on, but what surprised me the most was the feel! One of the things that I see modelers struggle with is the feeling you get from an analog tube head. But clearly, Neural DSP has been working hard to capture even this.
Digging into the strings felt very natural and the tone was organic! I did also notice that the low mids were better on this modeler than any I have tried before. Not only that, but the EQ performed better. Especially with captures than any other modeler. The quad cortex seems to keep the voice of the amplifier captured when tweaking the EQ.
I could keep going on, but that should paint a picture for you. I mean, let’s face it, there are over 50 amps in this sucker! That is a lot of tones. So check out this video to hear them for yourself!
- Built using quality processes.
- Tons of amp models included.
- Rig capture your favorite amplifiers.
- Easily configure signal paths.
- Run Up To 4 rigs at once or stereo.
- Sounds and feels great.
- Getting one might be tough.
- Height: 2″.
- Width: 11.4″.
- Depth: 7″.
Thanks to the aluminum chassis, the unit is very light at 4.2 pounds! This modeler can be carried in a backpack as its footprint is quite small for what’s inside. All the text on the device is laser engraved as well, which is great as it will never wear out.
The stainless steel foot switches are dual-purpose and act as knob controls. This is something very new, but they feel very sturdy. According to Neural DSP, they had a robot pushing the buttons for weeks at a time in order to prove durability. This is a great indication of a well-made part.
The color display is 7″ and well-lit. Its brightness made it easy to see the selections and configurations. The screen is also touch-sensitive. This is to allow you to make selections right from the display itself. It is smooth and responsive and protected by Corning protective glass!
All connections are made from the front of the unit. It is well-designed and includes all the inputs and outputs one would need for a super versatile rig! Some jacks are dual-purpose and high quality.
The instrument cable connection points are smooth and rigid, including the XLR outputs. Because they are Neutrik connectors, you know you have a rock-solid I/O section!
Layout and Controls
The preset mode works like other modelers, where you can select blocks and add them to a signal chain. You can start by adding an amp model, or a cab, and then insert FX or utility blocks anywhere along those chains. You can also run 2 different rigs in stereo! All of this is intuitively laid out on the screen.
The rotary controls are very handy here, as you can then fine-tune the settings. Select a block and the LEDs will light up at each control to show you what you can adjust. This can be done for all blocks from amp tone to noise gates! It took us no time at all to figure this all out.
Stomp mode allows you to assign and activate any block in one of your “rigs” to your choice of the foot switch. This makes it really easy to set it up like you would a pedal board and access your settings. Then, scene mode lets you access many settings within a rig simply by using a foot switch to activate.
Things get real when you begin to create set lists. This allows you to save your presets by user-defined category. And each set list can contain 32 banks of 8 presets, which can then be controlled by the foot switches.
Digital Cabinets And Microphones
The quad cortex comes preloaded with 1000 cabinet IRs apparently created by Adam “Nolly” Getgood who is known for his Cab Sims. So you will not ever run out of great cab sounds in this unit. And they do sound incredibly good!
You can also change settings within each cab IR to allow for microphone placement, selection, distance, pan and so much more!
Expression Pedal Capable
The Neural DSP quad cortex does not come with an expression pedal. But there are 2 connections on the unit for them. So you can connect expression pedals to the device. You can also set parameters on what you want to be controlled and how. For this review, we did not use these connections. But they are there for those who use expression pedals for wah, volume, and pitch shifts.
The device comes with 2 Dual effects loops that can accept your favorite stomps. You can then configure them into your “rig” signal chain anywhere you want using blocks. They can be configured as either 2 mono loops or a stereo.
And wouldn’t you know it, they sound and work great! The versatility of adding effects is crazy.
Mono And Stereo Outputs
Configuring your rigs is super easy. But the beautiful thing is that you can run them in stereo or mono as the unit has 4 outputs! The 2 XLR and TRS output jacks will allow you to configure them any way you want by setting them up in the software.
The unit also has a jack for the rig capture signal and a headphone output!
Amp Capture Feature
The 2 inputs on the unit provide 48V phantom power. This is to allow you to power your microphones when connecting to them. In order to capture your rig or amp sound, you will need to connect a microphone to these inputs.
Once connected, you can adjust the impedance and input preamp. All from within the quad cortex to get the strongest signal. If you have ever used a Kemper, you will know what capturing an amps frequency is all about.
If the Quad Coretx isn’t quite your thing, there are other great modelers out there. Here are a few others that are similar to the Neural.
The Kemper modeler is the first and original modeler. It became well known very quickly because of the powerful versatility it offered. It’s used by big bands on tours because of the great sound and flexibility it offers. Plus, it comes in many different platforms like stomps and rack mount.
Line 6 Helix
The Line 6 Helix is also a heavy weight in the modeler world. Line 6 has been into DSP effects and sounds for the entirety of their business. They have done a lot of things right. The Helix is one of them. It’s also loaded with great amp sounds and effects. This is also worth looking into.
Final Thoughts on The Quad Cortex
This is by far the most versatile modeler on the planet as of the release date. It is an expensive unit for sure. But in comparison to some of the other modeling on the market, the price is super competitive.
I have been very interested in this device since the release at NAMM in 2020. But due to manufacturing delays, it took them a long time to finally ship to customers. But once it arrived, It was just as I remembered when I first tried it at NAMM.
The intuitive layout and ease of use were apparent right from the start. It was easy to simply fire it up and start putting together preset rigs with ease. You will need the manual for some items, but It’s simple to use.
I was super impressed by the sounds we were able to get from this modeler. We do feel they are the closest to a tube head that is possible today. I enjoyed capturing some of my favorite valve heads and running them in parallel. The feel is nearly there, but still the closest I have experienced from a modeler.
This is THE device to own with all that it has to offer. The ability to share presets with friends via Wi-Fi and to use the USB port to update or record. The unit is a masterpiece of modelers. I recommend it, especially to those who are just getting into the digital game.
I can see Neural DSP improving on it as time goes by, but as it is now, it’s a great unit with tons of versatility like no other. However, if it’s not quite what you are looking for. Then I would also suggest you look at the Line 6 POD go.
Where is the Quad Cortex made?
Neural DSP makes the Quad Cortex in Helsinki, Finland. The company is led by Douglas Castro. He is also the Darkglass founder.
Does Quad Cortex work as an interface?
Yes, the Quad Cortex also works as a low latency audio interface. It comes with a USB type-B cable that allows you to connect it to your Windows or Mac computer. The audio is incredibly good and can be used directly for albums and other recordings.
Is the Quad Cortex an amplifier?
No, the Quad Cortex itself does not work as an amplifier. You can’t drive a loudspeaker with it directly. But it emulates amplifiers. You can then send the signal to a power amp to drive speakers. Or you can use a PA system or recording interface to capture the sound of a full guitar rig.