Expanding neural pathways: Neural DSP and their Quad Cortex

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Expanding neural pathways: Neural DSP and their Quad Cortex

Neural DSP Quad Cortex
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Neural DSP has been changing the game both in and out of the box since they exploded onto the scene some years ago.

There’s been a handful of key players in the amplifier emulation game, and to be blunt, a handful of endorsees of Neural DSP competitors jumped ship when their flagship Quad Cortex was released. The Fortin Nameless Suite plugin helped skyrocket Neural to fame, immediately appearing on countless mixes as well as in the plugin folders of songwriters of all levels. Neural DSP’s plugins offer a lot, including multiple cabinet options, mic options and in the case of the Fortin Nameless Suite, multiple pedals and a very good emulation of Mike Fortin’s masterful amplifier designs, supported by pedals the Zuul noisegate, Hexdrive overdrive and Grind for additional gain.

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From here, Neural DSP branched out into various artist collaborations, their ‘Archetype’ series featuring Gojira, Plini, Tom Morello, Tosin Abasi, Tim Henson and more. Beyond this, Neural DSP’s plugin catalogue includes a Morgan Amps Suite, a recently unveiled Soldano emulation to name but a few! All of this is to say that Neural DSP know tone, which is why their hardware, the Quad Cortex, is helping to push guitar tone to the next level.

Quad Cortex

The Quad Cortex is, at its core (I’m protecting you from a painful pun here), is a two-in, four-out amplifier emulator. What it brings, besides world-class emulations and total control over your tone, is an additional two sends and returns, a ‘Capture Out’ and a headphone out. The Main Outputs are split into two ¼” jacks and two XLRs. There’s jacks for two expression pedals, as well as 8-pin MIDI in and a MIDI thru/out. The ‘Capture Out’ serves as a dedicated output to be used for Neural Capture technology.

The routing capabilities of the Quad Cortex allow it to serve as a direct to front of house via XLR, or via ¼” to an external power amp and a speaker cabinet, or both! Routing can be controlled via the 11 stainless steel stomp+rotary actuators. Every audio connection on the unit features world-class Neutrik connectors.

The Quad Cortex is supremely powerful, stating ever so eloquently that it’s a ‘Vulgar Display of Power’— ah, a company whose music tastes align with mine! Under the hood it has four SHARC®+ and two ARM Cortex-A5 running at 500MHz each that would rival some personal computers. This enables the Quad Cortex to process up to four instruments simultaneously, and somehow the unit is still impossibly compact and easy to travel with.

Versatility is the name of the game for Neural DSP, but especially so in the Quad Cortex. Toggle between the best clean amp in your arsenal and the dirtiest, all controlled overall by a master volume and switch effects in and out for good measure! Heck, you can even get effects switching happening via MIDI if you’re handy enough. Even for us caveman type riffers, the Quad Cortex’s controls, layout and sounds are easy to use, but maybe most important of all: believable.

Where some emulators fall apart is sonically they might be accurate, but there’s a feel and physicality where they begin to stumble. Tubes sag, transistors clip, and not all EQ stages are built the same, and Neural manage to nail the feel of an amp more so than most! Once recorded or sent to front of house, it’s really tough to distinguish the tones, you could swear there was 100w of power being pushed through a speaker cabinet on stage!

All in all, the Quad Cortex is one of the best sounding and feeling emulators on the market, which should really come as no surprise from the company responsible for a slew of artist-associated plugins, as well as trusted by amplifier companies like Fortin, Soldano and Morgan, if that won’t sell you, I don’t know what will!

Beyond the Quad Cortex, the Neural DSP offering for plugins is as comprehensive as you could want. Pedals, amplifiers and speaker cabinets, for both guitar and bass (and more if you want to get creative!) are available and at the ready, all from the Helsinki-based Neural DSP who have built their company on the back of a lot, but ultimately for great sound and, as mentioned before, great feel.

Neural DSP has built a community of artists who use, trust and endorse their products, as well as a growing number of users around the world, all happy to run their finely honed chops through Neural’s digital solutions to amplifiers. The Quad Cortex, their flagship hardware is a sight to behold, the seemingly simple silver box offering an unprecedented amount of processing power, ensuring you’ll never run out of power. With enough routing to satisfy the most discerning musician, or tube amp and effects loop devotees, the Quad Cortex has something for everyone.

While Neural’s current offering is a huge step forward in the digital modelling world, I’m equally excited for what’s on the horizon for a company already writing the future of guitar tones.

For local Neural DSP enquiries, visit Australis Music.