Neural DSP Overview
Neural DSP Quad Cortex External Hardware
Thanks to the aluminum chassis the unit is very light at 4.2 pounds! This modeler can be carried in a backpack as its foot print is quite small for whats inside. Height: 2", Width: 11.4" Depth: 7". All of 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 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 are 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!
Quad Cortex Layout and Controls
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, 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. Simply 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 literally 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 foot switch. This makes it real easy to set it up like you would a pedal board and access your settings.Then, scene mode lets you access a number of 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 device comes with 2 Dual effects loops which can 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 with adding effects is crazy. 4 cable method is possible here as well for those who dig it!
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 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 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 micro phone to these inputs.
Once connected, you can adjust the impedance and input preamp 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.
How It Sounds
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 you 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, most you will recognize with modified names.
One of the first amps i tried was a Friedman BE model that i ripped 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 feel you get from an analog tube head. But clearly Neural DSP has been working hard to capture even this.
Digging in to the strings felt very natural and the tone was organic! I did also notice that the low mids were better on this modeler then 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 capture when tweaking the EQ.
I could keep going on but that should paint a picture for you. I mean lets face it, there are over 50 amps in this sucker! That is a lot of tone.
Final Verdict On The Neural DSP 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 technology on the market, the price is super competitive.
The intuitive layout and ease of use was 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 its simple to use.
I was super impressed by the sounds we were able to get from this modeler and i do feel they are the closest to a tube head that is possible today. I really enjoyed capturing some of my favorite valve heads and running them in parallel as different “rigs”. 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 WIFI and to use the USB port to update or record. The unit is a masterpiece of modelers and i strongly 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, its a great unit with tons of versatility like no other.