This heavyweight digital solution packs a mighty punch. How does it stand up to the competition?
Excellent amp models. Neural Captures are really cool. Smartly designed footswitch knobs. Excellent mobile app.
Unable to run Neural's native plug-ins at press time. Some lackluster effects.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex
Neural DSP built its reputation on producing high-quality plug-ins. But packing great sounds into an all-in-one floor unit is a very different design challenge than creating a plug-in. In the form of the Quad Cortex, however, Neural succeeds at creating an intuitive interface and adding interesting features that even seasoned fans of digital setups will find intriguing.
Like a Rock
The Quad Cortex feels solid. Eleven dual-purpose foot switches and an oversized master volume control are situated around a 7-inch full-color touch display. Around back are a wealth of different I/O options including multiple XLR and 1/4" inputs, independent XLR and 1/4" outputs, headphone jack, dedicated Neural Capture output, MIDI, two effects loops, and support for 8-in/8-out USB audio. You'd be hard pressed to find morerouting options on a comparable unit.
The foot switches not only feel sturdy, but double as rotary knobs that adjust various parameters depending on the function you have selected. For those hesitant to go digital because they miss manual level adjustments, this might be a game changer.
On the Grid
Whether you pull up a preset or start from scratch, the Quad Cortex displays a grid that illustrates almost any signal flow you can imagine. I started simple and loaded up a Fender-style amp impulse response from a Bassman 4x10 with Jensens, and a Myth Drive (Neural's Klon emulation). I monitored through a set of headphones and a powered Electro-Voice EKX 12-" speaker. The warmth and presence in the amp models is easy to hear, and the midrange and low end have a particularly authentic feel. Just to confirm what my ears were hearing, I tried similar patches on an HX Stomp and Kemper Stage. The Quad Cortex easily held its own.
Within about 20 minutes I had a fully functioning stereo setup that sounded great and was easy to tweak.
My next rig was more complicated: Two amps, effects in pre- and post-amp positions, plus an expression pedal. Using Vox-and Hiwatt-style emulations together allowed me to test the unit's wide-ranging "gig" functionality. Here you can use one of three different modes: scenes, presets, or stomps. These functions allow you to assign effects blocks to foot switches (stomp), move between different settings in a single rig (scene), or change rigs entirely (preset). Depending on how you set them up, these three modes offer nearly limitless options. I was able to move between amps, high- and low-dwell reverb settings, and a wacky Whammy-style effect that I operated via an expression pedal (not included). The programming wasn't without a bit of trial and error, but within about 20 minutes I had a fully functioning stereo setup that sounded great and was easy to tweak. With units like these I find that ease of use is nearly as important as sound quality. The Neural excels on this count.
With over 70 effects, Quad Cortex hits all the bases. There are faithful emulations of classic overdrives, compressors, filters, and pitch shifters alongside Neural's proprietary effects. I hope for more modulation effects in future updates, though. Having just one type of chorus, flanger, and phaser underutilizes the Neural's impressive power.
The Neural Cloud system definitely merits mention. It's the most streamlined method for sharing and discovering presets I've encountered. Once you connect your Quad Cortex to wi-fi and download the free mobile app, you can access thousands of user- and artist-sourced presets, captures, and IRs. In minutes I had the exact setup that Rabea Massaad used with Stormzy. Wild! It's a great way to reverse-engineer your own presets, too.
Neural Capture enables you to create a snapshot of an amp or pedal at a specific setting. The function works for amps, cabs, and overdrive pedals. (At press time, Neural mentions that higher-gain drives like fuzz pedals aren't compatible). I hooked up a Wampler Brent Mason Hot Wired following the instructions in the handy on-screen guide. (When capturing a pedal, you don't need to hook it up through an amp and speaker.) The Quad Cortex went through its process and out popped a fresh capture. Neural includes a handy preset template that allows you to A/B the capture and the original pedal. After a few tweaks I was able to mimic the sound without much discernible difference in tone.
Capturing an amp means capturing the properties of the entire signal chain including the speaker and mic. I set up my Revv D20 with an Avatar 1x12 cab and miked it up with a Shure SM57. The capture process is similar to a pedal, except there are more audible artifacts from the analog chain. After a few stops and starts I ended up with a fairly accurate capture of the amp. To my ears, the pedal capture was a bit more accurate. However, you can visit the online version of this review to hear the results for yourself.
The Quad Cortex is an immensely powerful unit. The complete array of features, tones, and expandability via Neural Capture make it a worthy peer to similar units. The grid system is a great way to organize complex routing options. It isn't perfect, and you'll want to consult the manual to optimize the deep functionality. But if you're interested in a more open digital ecosystem and recreating rigs that would occupy a whole rehearsal room in the analog world, the Quad Cortex is a truly impressive way to achieve those aims.
Neural Quad Cortex Demo - First Look
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.