Review: HeadRush Core

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Review: HeadRush Core

HeadRush Core
Words by John Tucker

HeadRush Core | Electric Factory | RRP: $1749

HeadRush is a relatively young company that emerged onto the music gear scene with a focus on revolutionising the way guitarists approach their sound. They gained prominence in the realm of digital effects and modelling processors.

HeadRush Core

The breakthrough moment came with the introduction of the HeadRush Pedalboard, a powerful and user-friendly multi-effects processor. Launched in the mid-2010s, the Pedalboard quickly garnered attention for its innovative design and advanced capabilities. What set it apart was its intuitive touch screen interface, allowing musicians to navigate through a vast array of amp models, effects, and other sound-shaping tools with unprecedented ease.

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HeadRush aimed to address the needs of modern guitarists who sought versatility without the complexity of traditional pedalboard setups. The Pedalboard seamlessly integrated amp modelling and digital effects, enabling users to access a diverse palette of tones in a compact and portable format. This appealed to both seasoned professionals and bedroom musicians looking for a comprehensive solution for their tone-shaping needs.

In subsequent years, HeadRush expanded its product line to include variations and updates to the original Pedalboard, catering to a broader range of musicians. One of the newer pedalboards that also has vocal processing is the Headrush Core. 

“Containing a huge library of realistic and responsive guitar FX, amps, cabs and microphone emulations, the HeadRush Core provides virtually unlimited impulse response loading, and the ability to capture the sound of your own precious analogue gear with ‘smart cloning’ technology. For the singers who need a complementary vocal processing unit, the Core also features a full suite of vocal FX including the industry-standard Antares Auto-Tune® and a best-in-class looper.” As per the HeadRush blurb.

HeadRush Core & HeadRush Prime

Following on from their latest release the HeadRush Prime, a competitor to the growing range of amplifier emulators, modellers and profilers available, the HeadRush Core is a slimmer, more affordable option. With an intuitive layout featuring five footswitches with very light action, and three rotary pots, it hides most of the power of the instrument under the Touch screen control on the centre, favouring a more minimalist and modern look.

The Headrush Core is also smaller than the Headrush Prime as they have opted to not use an onboard expression pedal to maximise portability, and with everyone having a preferred expression pedal it makes the same amount of sense to just have a dedicated expression input and cut down on both the size and the weight but also the complexity of the module, which I suspect has contributed to the significant price difference in comparison to the Headrush Prime.

HeadRush Core sounds

It has all the expected features of a modern multi-effects unit, with a massive collection of modelled pedals, multiple different amps, and a whole suite of mics to explore, slated to recreate a vintage and boutique tone with “unprecedented accuracy”.

This is only one piece of the pie, however, as there has also been a lot of attention placed on vocalists as well. A powerful collection of vocal effects including Antares Auto-Tune and others, allow for excellent creative effects as well as providing a much more ‘Pro’ vocal for someone with a mobile rig. I could see this being especially useful for buskers through to wedding bands, to retain that polished sheen that can be so hard to achieve in a live environment.

The I/O suite extends across the entirety of the back of the Module, from right to left, we have an XLR/¼” combo as a mic input. I love that they have a dedicated knob on the back for mic gain, and a little 3.5mm stereo Aux. Continuing to along the I/O panel we have TS Guitar In and TRS External amp footswitch. The next two ¼”jacks are a dedicated Expression TRS jack and a TS Expression pedal Toe Switch Input. Next is an FX loop, with FX Send and FX Return on individual TRS quarter inch Jacks. Then we get to the Output section starting with 3.5mm stereo Phones Output, stereo quarter inch Outputs and Stereo XLR outputs. Exciting features to see are a 5 pin MINI Input and a 5 pin MIDI Out/Through port. The final I/O are a USB A and USB B ports and a power input featuring power button and a handy little capture point intended for the power cable to protect it against accidental disconnections. In terms of I/O this is a comprehensive suite, and there is nothing obvious missing, all the ports feel very nice and sturdy and there are also labels on the ’apex’ of the top edge that allow you to see which port is which from the playing position rather than having to spin the unit around.

HeadRush Core back

I particularly like the vocal aspects of the HeadRush Core as the presets include excellent creative ideas such as toggleable harmony pedals, and the way they respond to the voice is clean and satisfying. 

In terms of customising a patch, it is as simple as dragging the pedal icons around on the touch screen to customise the order and style, it is then saved in internal storage. Pedals can be assigned to one of the three centre footswitches with presets trending to use them as rhythm, lead and clean modes or having different modulation effects implying that the intended use is to toggle the different patches for different sections of the song. The bass patches sound excellent as well, and there are several bass specific pedals modelled on the HeadRush Core which was a pleasant surprise as the poor bass players are often neglected in the pedal department. 

Overall, the Headrush Core nestles itself nicely between the more comprehensive Headrush Prime and smaller Headrush models, the Headrush Core provides a great choice, refining some features for increased portability, and a lower unit cost. In a comparison to its peers within the market, it fairs very well and is priced well below them. If you are in the market for a multi-effect pedal and think about laying something other than guitar through it a la vocals or bass or keys, you name it, it’ll sound excellent through the HeadRush Core.

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