The Neural DSP Quad Cortex is the long awaited product from the Neural DSP geniuses. Originally focus-firing their efforts on amp model sims, now they finally have some hardware!
Neural DSP Quad Corex: So, What Is It?
It’s a little difficult to wrap our minds around just how far amp sims and recording gear have come in the last 10 years. Items that were once thousands of dollars and reserved for studios, are now available to the public for a budget cost. For a couple of grand, you can have a full studio in your house these days.
Nowadays, amp sims not only sound convincing, they are studio staples. It has become the norm to have a fully virtual guitar rig, right on your laptop. For a few hundred bucks, you can run something like BIAS FX and get all the sounds you need. The listener will probably be none the wiser, and you do not have to lug around any gear.
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All you need to do this is an inexpensive USB audio interface, once you have this you can create professional-sounding tones that’ll make Billy Anderson jealous.
But some people want at least some kind of hardware, to use as a controller base. This explains all of the Kemper and Line 6 Helix users. These small platforms still hold all the power of amp simulation, and have onboard effects that you can use. They are portable, and easy to program.
The Neural DSP Quad Cortex comes from the same people that made the Archetype series. The recent release of the Gojira amp sim really shows off the power of the company’s plugins. These are full optioned amp models, ready for the studio.
So what makes the Neural DSP Quad Cortex different than the Helix or Headrush?
Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Features and Design
Upon the first look, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex looks pretty small, and very unassuming. The unit is made of durable anodized aluminum and is smaller than a MacBook. It’s hard to believe that something with such a small footprint is so powerful. The small Neural DSP Quad Cortex is meant to be an all in one gigging machine. It is smaller than the new Line 6 PodGO unit.
“Neural DSP Quad Cortex comes in a gorgeous anodized aluminum unibody, with laser engraved graphics that never fade. Our multi-touch display is armored with a 1.8mm chemically strengthened Corning® protective glass.”
When it comes to being durable, it seems that the team at Neural DSP have thought of everything. You won’t have to worry about traveling with the Neural DSP Quad Cortex, even in a gig bag case. Which I am sure they sell.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Power
With many effects processors, you have a limit to how many effects and amps you can blend and use at once, albeit most are pretty generous. I believe Line 6 allows you to blend two or three amp models, and maybe two IR models. Maybe a bit less than that, I am being liberal with my estimations, because that is paltry compared to what the Neural DSP Quad Cortex can do.
“Want to run four amplifier models, stereo reverbs, and a plethora of other effects simultaneously? Quad Cortex won’t even break a sweat. Quad Cortex is the most powerful floor modeler on the planet. With 2GHz of dedicated DSP from its Quad-Core SHARC® architecture, this ludicrous amount of processing capacity provides limitless sound design possibilities.“
That’s… kind of nuts. That is a lot of power for a floor unit. That’s more than triple the power of headrush, Helix, or Kemper. In fact, that is more CPU than my auxiliary computer than I use in the studio for mixing. We are talking a CRAZY amount of power.
This means you can blend amp models, and add effects to no end without ever maxing out the DSP. Why would you want to blend so much, you ask?
Blending amps can create a unique tone. You can have a high gain amp, mixed with a slightly dirty one, and blend a clean amp in with both. This will provide a huge amount of clarity to your guitar/bass signal. It will cut through the mix, and sound huge. I have experimented with adding a clean amp to my live rig, and mixed it with a dirty sound, at a 70/30 ratio. It adds a huge amount of clarity, even when you are chugging. To be fair, I stole this idea from albums made in the 70’s. Boston was famous for this sound. In modern times, you may hear this mix in Devin Townsend’s mixes.
But that setup required my Mesa Boogie stack, and a Fender Blues Jr. They were ran through an A/B box and placed in stereo on separate places on the stage. It sounded awesome, but it wasn’t practical. I ditched the idea, and only reserve it for recording these days.
Well, Neural DSP Quad Cortex makes that setup more realistic and accessible. You can blend how ever many amps you want, and put them in any volume ratio you want as well. Just think of what you could do with that! There are so many options with this feature alone.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Amp Sims
Neural is known for making amp sims that replicate real amplifiers. They make artist packages under the “Archetype” moniker. The Archetype models cover everyone from Nolly, Gojira, Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, and more. They make some awesome plugins of Fortin Amps, and everything from clean Fender-esque tones to Peavey 5150 sounds. There are also some more “vintage” in-between amps that can be programmed as well. It’s up to you to craft your sound the way you hear it in your head.
Well, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex comes with all of those sounds pre-loaded. You get over 60 amp models you can use to craft your tone. As mentioned above, you can mix and blend those amp models however you wish. No matter what sound you are looking for, you’ll find it! Try blending a Fortin model with another high gain amp, and use the EQ to really dial it in. You have made a completely new sound!
This includes bass options as well. There are several patches that are dual function, and can be used with either instrument. Or both. Whatever you want. The same can be said for effects…
Built in Effects
The Neural DSP Quad Cortex comes loaded with over 70 effects that you can use and program right off the bat. But you can download others, and add them to your library. These can be saved in your settings and easily pulled up without any fuss.
These effects include overdrive, delay, octaves, fuzz… pretty much anything you can think of. These can be stacked in any order you want. Unlike Helix or Headrush, you have no limits to how many banks the effects take up. This means the possibilities are limitless.
The Neural DSP website says that more effects will be coming, and that the unit is fully capable of being updated. This means when a new patch comes out, you can easily add it to your memory.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Impulse Response
Neural DSP Quad Cortex comes with thousands of IR options. You read that correctly. It has over 1000 IR settings available, and you can add even more. if for some reason, you cannot find an IR that works for your tone, then you can import the one that does.
“With over 1000 perfectly captured impulse responses, Quad Cortex ships with one of the most extensive IR collections on the planet – and it is the only of its kind equipped with virtual microphones that can be positioned around the speaker like in a real studio. Third-party IRs are extremely easy to load.“
This may sound extreme. It IS extreme. But it allows you to dial in any cabinet sound you can possibly think of. They have thought of everything, it would seem!
Inside the Cabism IR selections, is also a parametric EQ setting, that can further perfect your tone that you are crafting. We have talked about Cabism before, and it’s amazing. Of course can control this through an app!
I think that Neural DSP Quad Cortex works like “Scenes” on Helix. Or maybe profiles on Kemper, where you can capture, import and export your sounds.
“Capture, share and download your favorite rigs’ sounds. Equipped with our unique biomimetic AI technology, Quad Cortex can learn and replicate the sonic characteristics of any physical amplifier, overdrive, and cabinet with unprecedented accuracy.
Unlike any other, our sophisticated neural network algorithm perceives sound akin to human perception, making it the most natural-sounding capture solution on the planet.
We are collaborating with some of the best producers and sound designers to provide an ever-growing collection of free rig captures in addition to our full-circuit models.”
This is cool, as you can create a tone and use it in a recording. If someone asks, then you can just give it to them and they can tweak it however they want!
Outputs, Inputs, and DI
Dual Combo Inputs: TS, TRS, and XLR, variable impedance and level controls, built-in microphone preamps, and phantom power supplies. This means you could use the Neural DSP Quad Cortex for vocals, presumably.
2 Dual effects-loops: ideal for embedding external mono, or stereo effects into your signal chain, as well as additional input/output jacks. These can easily integrate with your live amp.
1/4” Output jacks: two mono, balanced (TRS) outputs provide pristine sound quality and optimal noise performance. These will work with any soundbooth engineer, or even at home with your own studio setup.
XLR Output jacks: two mono, balanced XLR output jacks.
Headphone Output: ideal for quiet practicing.
6MIDI In, Out/Thru: receive and send MIDI messages to automate switching and control of every parameter in Quad Cortex, as well as controlling other units.
Dual Expression Inputs: connect up to two expression pedals. They can be assigned to control wahs, volume, as well as pitch-shifting algorithms. This can add even more control over your effects parameters.
USB: Ultra-low latency audio transmission, firmware updates, MIDI, and more. The USB can also be used as a dedicated input as a recording interface.
11 stainless steel stomp+rotary actuators allow for switching and rotational control (just like the footswitches and knobs you are used to, but unbreakable). All audio connectors are Neutrik.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Final Thoughts…
Well, I am sold. Completely.
This could easily become the only studio tool I need when I am recording. The neural DSP Quad Cortex could take the place of several processors that I have, and continue to hang on to because they might have a few sounds I like to use.
Being able to craft my sounds from the ground up? That’s a much better idea than what I am doing now. Even with my Synths, I think the Neural DSP might work great for those as well.
The only drawback I can think of, is option paralysis. There are a lot of choices here, especially when it comes to effects and impulse responses. I feel like I could easily sit in my office chair and go over these, obsessively, and never actually commit to a sound.
As guitar players we always want MORE. Well, now we have it. What are we going to do with it?
The Neural DSP Quad Cortex is on Pre-order, currently.
Can I use Archetype with my Neural DSP Quad Cortex?
yes, you can load your amp sims, effects, and cabinet IR files easily.
Is Neural DSP Quad Cortex worth it?
I think so. It out-performs all of it’s peers and sits at a competitive price point.
When Does Neural DSP Quad Cortex start to ship?
From what I understand, the pre-order is first come, first serve. So it depends on when you order your unit.
How Does the Neural DSP Quad Cortex Compare to the Helix?
It has more than twice the power and options of the Helix and Headrush pedalboard systems.
How much does the Neural DSP Quad Cortex Cost?
The pre-order starts at $1599.00. This is the full unit, with all the models and effects built in with over 1000 IR settings.