Neural DSP teasing something new (Quad Cortex)

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by HeHasTheJazzHands, Jan 7, 2020.

  1. cardinal

    cardinal F# Dive Bomber

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    I kinda hate myself for it, but I'm almost sure to end up buying one when they become readily available. I really don't want to get caught up in the modeler v modeler debate, but the QC looks pretty neat.
     
  2. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    My Quad Cortex arrived today. First impressions:

    The good:
    • Easy to use, building a preset is basically exactly the same as Helix except instead of a joystick you use a touchscreen. That might be more of a testament to how good the Helix UI is.
    • Touchscreen is responsive.
    • Knob/switches feel good to use. Didn't try it on the floor yet so can't say how nice it is to stomp.
    • Looks and feels more fancy as an object than FM3 or Helix.
    • Cab block is really nice to use. Adjusting virtual mics makes it fast to make small tweaks to the cab sound.
    • Updating the device was really easy.
    • Amp models vs captures sound equally good to my ears.
    • I haven't tried a lot of the effects yet but liked how the delays and reverbs sounded.
    The bad:
    • Boot time is really long. I made sure to restart it again after updates because post-update boot times can be longer. Still, the boot time is basically 4 times as long as Helix and twice as long as FM3!
    • Standby mode just disables I/O, lights, controls and screen. IMO not particularly useful, I hope they rework it into a sleep mode similar to computers so it will boot up really quickly.
    • Changing models is a bit inconvenient as it needs several clicks to see the menu. You can turn the top right knob to change to an adjacent model easily tho.
    • Had noise issues at first but somehow they went away after awhile? I have no idea what is up with that but will report if I find something.
    • Noise gate takes a block instead of being built into the input block like on FM3 and Helix.
    • Knowing which model is in which block is impossible without opening it. Same as Helix. Mainly an issue when you have say several of the same block in a preset.
    • I don't like the scene setup where any changes in a scene apply to the block only in that scene. Helix's way of assigning a scene controller manually is IMO better. Now you need to remember to change things in every scene. Maybe this is something that can be changed, have to learn more.
    • Scene label should be visible in main screen, the small scene letter is not enough.
    • Mapping on screen controls to physical controls could be more obvious. I often ended up adjusting the D knob because it was under the screen when the control I wanted was E. Adding letters for each control would help a lot.
    • EQs have some precision issues where for example turning a control one notch would jump from say 70 Hz to 76 instead of 71.
    • Have had some minor UI quirks happen like send 1 not marked as enabled in I/O menu or a menu expanding incorrectly.
    What about the sound and feel? Well, I hooked up the QC (firmware 1.01) to my Fractal FM3 (fw 3.03 beta 1) for comparison. FM3 was hooked up so that QC sends signal to FM3 input and receives a stereo signal from FM3 output back in. Cab and fx were from QC for both so I could compare just the amp models. I tried to match input/output levels as close as possible so the FM3 does not behave differently from plugging straight in. I tested the Vox AC30 Top boost and Soldano SLO lead models on each unit. For no other reason than I like those two.

    The AC30 models were fairly close, but the Soldano SLO sounded absolutely massive on QC! It was almost like it was in stereo and the FM3 was mono. I had to double check several times that the FM3 is not sending mono signal. The QC just had a more 3 dimensional sound to it and a lot fuller low end. I tried tweaking the FM3 to match but could not get it to sound the same. This might be what the Axe-Fx 3 Cygnus update will do the sound but I can't tell until it lands on the FM3. Will re-evaluate then.

    In terms of feel I tried both models with guitar volume rolled down, picking harder and softer, split coil vs humbucker. To me they behaved in a similar fashion.

    Obviously you don't have anywhere near the advanced features FM3 has littered everywhere. Makes things easier to use but means you need to rely more on EQ blocks for further tone shaping as there's no way to adjust model sag or change them beyond what controls the real amp offers. I doubt this is going to change.

    I think around this time next year this will be a really good device. It still needs its lineup of fx, amps and cabs filled in and there's a bunch they can do to improve the UI. I will need to spend more time with it and decide if I want to keep it or return, wait for various updates and maybe buy again later.
     
  3. Santuzzo

    Santuzzo SS.org Regular

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    thanks, laxu for this first impression review!
     
  4. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    Day two! On my lunch break I decided to fire up my real amp rig and see how the QC performs running into that.

    Setup:

    • Guitar: Carvin C66 with Suhr Doug Aldrich pickups and OFR
    • BluGuitar Amp 1 ME -> Bluetone 4x10 (10" Greenbacks)
    • Bogner Goldfinger 45 Superlead -> Bluetone Loadbox -> BluGuitar Amp 1 fx return
    • QC -> BluGuitar Amp 1 ME fx return
    • Volumes matched with a decibel meter to around 90-93 dB @ 1m.
    • Cables switch around a bit to switch between the setups
    Basically the Amp 1 was acting as just a poweramp in most cases but I did test it with its own preamps as well.

    I tried the following models on QC:
    • Soldano SLO Lead
    • Marshall JCM800 2203 boosted with Boss SD1
    • Vox AC30 Top boost
    • Fender Super Reverb Vibrato channel
    • Fryette Sig:X (factory capture)
    • Peavey 5150
    • EVH 5150 III
    • Diezel VH4 channels 3 and 4
    I could get good sounds out of all of these but the standouts were the SLO, Fryette, boosted JCM800 and AC30. This does not mean there is anything wrong with the others, just that these fitted my personal preferences the best.

    The BluGuitar was no slouch either and I felt it could get just as good tones as the QC. Obviously within the limitations of the device, the more Marshallish tones you are after the better the experience.

    Ultimately even when run through a loadbox the real Bogner has just something going on that makes it absolutely perfect for what I like to hear. It was sweeter than the Super Reverb model for cleans and just sounded and felt just that little bit better than all of the QC models and BluGuitar for overdrive to heavy distortion. Did not matter how I dialed the Bogner in, it always came out as the top dog. I must try capturing the Bogner and see how the QC handles that.

    That doesn't mean the QC and BluGuitar aren't really good. Without comparison I would have no trouble enjoying either device and there is something to be said for portability and versatility too.

    I like working with the QC, it's easy to use. A complaint I do have is having to remember to toggle fx and adjust settings in each scene whereas Helix basically lets me use the same block settings in every snapshot unless I want to change something in the snapshot. It's basically just a reversed process where you can make the QC use scene A settings for controls but need to specifically unassign scene control from each parameter. I hope NDSP add an option to reverse this as for me the opposite workflow is easier.

    So QC into real guitar cabs works just fine.
     
  5. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    So how does it fare as an actual floor unit?
     
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  6. sleewell

    sleewell SS.org Regular

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    just found out one of my fav bands Distant is now using the QC in the studio and live. freaking love their tones.
     
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  7. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    Easy to read and adjust and I don't feel the spacing of the switches is too tight at least for my size 10 US feet. Might need a bit more deliberate touch to get the right switch compared to say FM3 or Helix but not too bad. At least there's no switch state management like the FM3 requires on its own.
     
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  8. Emperoff

    Emperoff Not using 5150s Contributor

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    I appreciate the review, but the amount of first world problems on this post is just hilarious :lol:

    "EQs have some precision issues where for example turning a control one notch would jump from say 70 Hz to 76 instead of 71."

    5hz ruined my tone. Damn you Obama! :guns:
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2021
  9. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    Of the 3, which footswitches are you most worried about for live use?

    Im assuming the adjustments for tone and screen brightness do their jobs well?
     
  10. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    QC for sure. Not because of any durability concerns, just because they are closer together it might be easier to press the wrong one.

    But at the same time using FM3 on its own would be pretty horrible on stage as you could have 3 scenes and then need mode switching or to map hold functions for more. Then even more for switching presets. If I worry about pressing the wrong one on QC because of the spacing, then I would worry about putting the FM3 in the wrong footswitch mode and that making me miss my scene switch. Easily solved with an extra controller of course.

    QC does less rugged than the FM3 right next to it. The Fractal looks like a tank, in both good and bad ways. I mean it literally looks like a tank, just missing a barrel and some treads. Hmm, it would be hilarious if you put a camo vinyl skin on it and mounted some sort of barrel to one of the unused jacks. :mrburns:

    Screen brightness is similar to FM3 where it does not go particularly dark or super bright. It's fine.
     
  11. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    It is an issue if you literally cannot set it to 71 Hz it jumps so much on a single notch of the encoder. Sure, that small difference won't really matter but it's still an issue.
     
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  12. Emperoff

    Emperoff Not using 5150s Contributor

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    I really hope you never have to use a studio hardware EQ :lol:
     
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  13. MASS DEFECT

    MASS DEFECT SS.ORG Infiltrator

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    My bandmate already got his. The screen sure looks pretty! The graphics and the colors are much better than the helix. It is very very responsive, too.
    While the chassis is not rugged looking, it is minimalistic and classy.

    As for the sound, a full band rehearsal next week would be the deciding factor for him. He is plugging into my Matrix 1600 power amp.

    I am using my old, trusty AX8.
     
  14. sleewell

    sleewell SS.org Regular

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    has anyone heard when these will be in stock?
     
  15. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    I tried capturing my Bogner Goldfinger 45 Superlead. Capture seems to work well! I have only tried it with headphones so far. My captures sound frighteningly close to the real amp but only if I reduce the gain control on the capture block by about 10 dB. I think I have done something wrong somewhere but even then the QC got real close when setup like this.

    The real comparison will be when I try running capture vs amp through the BluGuitar Amp 1 ME as poweramp into a real cab.
     
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  16. AltecGreen

    AltecGreen SS.org Regular

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    It will be a while unless you already have a pre-order in. In the US via Sweetwater, it looks like they are shipping out to people who pre-ordered in January 2021. Sweetwater had something like 2000 pre-orders and they have received 780 to date. Dealers are getting something like 200-500 per shipment from Neural every 2-3 weeks. If you order now, you maybe looking at end of the year.
     
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  17. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    Meanwhile Thomann says basically "it will take multiple months". I would expect if you preorder now you might get one in the fall at the earliest.

    My recommendation would be to not worry about getting one unless they significantly increase the price because by next year it will be a more feature packed unit and you will avoid a lot of early owner issues. As it is right now I think most things on the unit work just fine but there's improvements to be made for sure.

    @sleewell If you are not specifically after the touchscreen, capture and form factor, consider a Helix LT. It's much cheaper and operates almost identically except using a joystick over touchscreen. While it's less powerful, it can still do more than what most guitarists need. So can the FM3. Consider your usecases as well. Helix and FM3 come with a computer editor so if you mostly work with your DAW then it's going to be easier to do everything on one screen. If you prefer instead working from the hardware itself the Helix and QC are a far better experience than FM3. FM3 will work just fine if you do most of your preset building on the computer.

    Now that I have all three there's no clear winner here. They're all good to the point that it's hard to pick just one and say it's "the best".
     
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  18. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    Another day, another lunch break jam time! Working from home has its perks.

    This time I tried my Bogner GF45 SL captures through the BluGuitar AMP 1 as poweramp, Bluetone 4x10 w/ 10" Greenbacks as cab and with my real Bogner running through a Bluetone Loadbox into the QC and then to the BluGuitar as well so I can easily A/B between them. I used a decibel meter to make sure the output volume from the cab was the same, around 89-92 dB today. Same Carvin C66 used too, it's just one gloriously good guitar.

    The captures of my Bogner are all on the overdrive channel with tones ranging from low to mid gain Plexi tones to roaring boosted high gain Marshall goodness using the amp's own boost.

    I had to turn the gain down somewhere between 6-10 dB on the QC capture to match the real amp, I think I have some issue with my capture setup to cause the gain discrepancy. I will see if adjusting I/O levels and redoing the captures will fix that.

    The amp and QC captures sounded and felt close running through a real cab too! What was pretty impressive is that turning down my guitar volume or picking harder/softer behaved very close to the real amp. Seriously impressed with this tech and I wasn't even expecting to be into the captures. Using the factory captures would be a good way to find if some real amp will sound good through your favorite cab. I can say that the Mesa JP2C and Fryette Sig:X definitely would!

    Next I tried the QC capture block EQ. This is where you run into similar issues as you do on the Kemper, it will deviate from the sound of the real amp. I used each control all the way down and all the way up and there were differences compared to the amp EQ range where for example the mids are in a bit different position and had different range. QC is +/- 6 dB for each knob. But this was pretty much expected as there is variance in pots, tonestacks etc. I felt that even with drastic EQ changes it still sounded mostly like the real amp. If you knew the frequency ranges of the real amp's EQ you could probably use a parametric EQ to get the tone shaping to match.

    I now have a bit more experience using the unit on the floor and can say that it's no problem hitting the footswitches as long as you look before you stomp. The screen is also very easy to read but I wish the selected scene was more visible in the main view. Just a small letter is not enough. You can just swipe from the bottom to get a big scene view so that solves it. Thanks to the touchscreen it's also easy to name your scenes right from the device whereas it's a bit of a chore on Fractal and Helix that you don't want to do it regularly without the computer editor.

    So far I have not felt at all that having the desktop editor would be needed but I haven't tried any of the cloud features yet.
     
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  19. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    Wait, you'd have to swipe mid set to see your scene info?
     
  20. Deadpool_25

    Deadpool_25 SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the insight @laxu
    I was definitely curious how it works through a loop and into a real cab and it sounds like it works just fine that way.

    So there have been some mixed reports on CPU with multiple amps and delays. Can you build a preset with:
    • Wah (can it do wah?)
    • Two flangers
    • Chorus
    • Two or three delays
    • Boost
    • 3 amps (ideally plexi, Dual Rec, VH4 each going to a separate output)
    I’m just wondering if that’ll all fit into a preset without hitting a CPU cap.
     

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