Quad Cortex for touring

I am a professional touring guitarist and a long time axe fx user. But now I am thinking of switching to a quad cortex, because I like the form factor and the general concept. I have some questions to those users that have taken it on the road extensively.

  • are the any major “show stopping” bugs like freezes, units not starting, noise on ouputs or stuff like that?
  • how reliable is the quad cortex in general?
  • how does it handle heat? especially in summer, most of the time soundchecks happen when it is pretty hot and the unit might be in direct sunlight for a long time.
  • also how good can you read the display in direct sunlight?
  • will the footswitches hold up? (or do they get broken easily since they also serve as encoders)

sorry for that many questions but maybe someone can help :slight_smile:

I am also a professional musician, with my experience in the modeling world coming from Kemper. I posted a thread on the kemper site about my experiences with the QC and its shortcomings when playing live. Some stuff has been addressed (or will be with CorOS 2.0) and some has not. At the time of writing, I had returned my QC and was back full-time on the Kemper.

I recently made the choice to switch to the QC for similar reasons you listed and have started selling off some of my Kemper gear.

FWIW, here is my writeup:

I have been a Kemper owner since August 2017, primarily playing live as I work as a professional musician in Canada. The Kemper has not once let me down in terms of reliability, and with the exception of one sound guy who didn’t know how to EQ his FOH (he left me a note saying “change tone on Kemper…sounds thin” which I thought was hilarious) I have always gotten compliments on the sound of the unit no matter where/who I play with.

To preface this discussion, I play primarily country music, and my scope of use is limited to this genre for the most part, with a little rock sprinkled in for good measure. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a ton of different capacity events ranging from 100-6,000+

I started hearing rumblings about the Quad Cortex (QC) when a friend of mine who is also a professional musician picked one up and began raving about it. Availability was an issue, and when I finally decided to order one, it took well over a month for me to get it.

Initial impressions after using Kemper for so long was the QC was super easy to pick up and use, the out of box presets sounded pretty darn good, and within about 8 hours of tweaking on the QC, I was able to set the Kemper aside and gig with the QC full-time. It goes without saying that the UI of the QC is really what draws people to this unit. I suppose it is comparable to a Helix in some respects, but being able to physically manipulate the chain with your finger is really an underrated aspect of the unit. Coming from the small little monochrome display on the Kemper, the QC makes a guy feel like he set foot into the 21st century.

For what it’s worth, I have done almost all my tweaking on Kemper by using the in-unit display and knobs on the profiler. I know I could have a better UI by going into Rig Manager on my computer, but I wanted to learn how to manipulate stuff on the Kemper really, really well so that if I needed to make changes at a show, I could do so between songs if necessary. I even went so far as to rename all my patches and such using the control knobs instead of attaching a keyboard to the unit (I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment). I originally set foot into the modeller world with a Digitech GNX4 back in the day, and I owned a Helix for about a month before going the Kemper route as the Helix was extremely unreliable (footswitch issues).

The QC is built like a tank, something to be expected from a supposed “tour ready” piece of gear that cost me over $2,500CDN, the footswitches are responsive and having rotary control knobs built into them is another aspect that takes the UI to a level above Kemper. In fairness, the hardware Kemper is using is well over a decade old now, and by comparison it STILL doesn’t lag that far behind newer units, a testament to the R&D the team at Kemper put into this unit!

The QC is a bit more compact than my unpowered profiler + remote that I lug around in a Gator Kemper Transit bag (coming from a pelican 1610 wheeled case), and the portability aspect is something that is definitely helping me see past a few of the gripes I have with the QC.

The QC is still very much in its infancy, and I don’t have a similar comparison with the Kemper as I came into the Kemper world much later, but some of the grievances I have with the QC are stuff that - because modelers are so common now - you think they would have ironed out before rollout of the product.

Here’s what I’ve noted as my main grievances so far with the QC:

  1. The Kemper allows me to switch patches during a live show by initially showing me the options to select from BEFORE it switches away from the current sound I’m using…The QC immediately selects the next bank and if I have it in scene mode and I want a solo patch, I now have to do a foot dance in order to select my solo preset and hope that I don’t select the wrong one while I’m also trying to solo at the same time. Extremely frustrating

  2. The Tap Tempo button on the QC doubles as the tuner button, but you have to hold down the tap tempo button to access the tuner, taking about 3s of time for it to activate. The Kemper remote has an instantly-available tuner button that immediately mutes my guitar, giving me quicker guitar changes between songs.

  3. I CANNOT bypass the cab block on a certain output (like you can with the Kemper), meaning if I want to run stereo FOH into a guitar amp for stage volume, I would have to re-do all my patches on the QC to have another row that bypasses the cab block for my given “monitor” output. Again, something that can be fixed but is a bewildering issue because the routing options on the QC are otherwise superior to the Kemper IMO.

  4. Last night when using the QC at a gig, I had the tuner/tap tempo footswitch become completely non-responsive and I had to reboot the unit to get it working again. FWIW, I had just updated the unit so it may be a bug in the code that needs to get sorted out… I have two more shows in the next two days so I will see if that issue arises again with the QC.

  5. The QC features a “gig view” which is sort of similar to the “perform” mode on the Kemper and alters the display and behaviour characteristics of the switches and such, but the QC doesn’t let you default to gig view as of yet, meaning if I have a throw-and-go festival gig and I forget to “swipe up” on the display to access gig mode, I will have to do it mid-song. This is something that can easily be fixed and has been brought to the attention of NDSP.

  6. The Kemper Remote’s ability to have a stomp section as well as a preset section is GREAT for live use, and the QC has not implemented this feature yet. It is something I used every time I played live with the Kemper

Sound-wise, I think both units sound great, with the edge going to the QC as it feels just a bit more realistic to me. This combined with the portability of the unit has kept me from just returning the QC altogether, and I can see myself continuing to experiment with the QC as my only modeler for the foreseeable future. I still have the Kemper and I’m on the fence about keeping the QC, but again the product is super new, and I knew there would be growing pains.

In the electronics world, there is a saying that you should “buy something for what it can do now, not for the promise of what it may be able to do in the future”, and if you’re of that mind, I think the QC is not there yet for situations such as mine. However, I find it kind of fun experimenting with a new piece of gear (however frustrating) and noting bugs and other issues to hopefully help improve the product as time goes on.

I hope my long rant helps clarify some of the usability issues with the QC, but also highlights the fact that the Kemper is still totally fantastic and a good buy despite newer modelling technology on the market. I didn’t mean for the post to come across as a s*!t talking of the QC, but I wanted to be as objective as I could be after having such a high standard set by the Kemper for my use case.

Let me know if you have any questions. As i said, I have another QC on order and am going to make the switch (for better or worse haha) but my hope is I can continue to help NDSP develop the product to be more on-par with the very established products on the market already.


wow thanks so much for your answer and insights, this really helps me a lot!

yeah its just really hard to say how the QC holds up in this regard, some say good things and some say bad, maybe I get one to try it out for some time.

What I heard about the last updates is, that things get better with every update and thats great to see. Just look at Kemper and Helix, these are rather „old“ products but get updated constantly with useful features.

My problem with my axe fx right now (I have a FM3) is, that I have to think about my setup so much in advance, especially with how I do the switching of sounds. On some gigs I play with acts with setlists spanning over several records, so a lot of different sounds are needed, and thats where the FM3 is not so flexible and sometimes limiting.

Thats why the QC looks like a great fit, in size and the things it offers (and that are hopefully to come). I just want to be sure that it holds up a heavy touring use, dropouts or rigs going down just shouldnt happen.

There are many big name players using the QC for live use currently (e.g Pete Thorn, Kiko Loureiro and Mustaine, and I think Meshuggah and more etc. ) granted they all have their own techs and backup units etc., we are seeing more and more big name players in the arenas using QC and since they are built like a tank etc., they seem to be withstanding all the use so far with no issues.

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To answer your questions:

  1. Like with every modeler, bugs can occur. I don’t have the exact number and I think the unit is still too new to have one. But I would trust it as much as I would any other modeler out there. I have been using my QC on a daily basis and never had a problem that wasn’t solveable by a simple restart, which takes about a minute.
  2. Pretty much the same answer. Many tiny and sometimes annoying stuff happening from update to update, but never a major problem that makes it unusable for a show. At least for me.
  3. I tried this in my car. When my iPhone would’nt turn on anymore because of the heat, the QC still did. But obviously extreme situations like this should not be the norm.
  4. Never had a problem reading the display no matter the lighting.
  5. Neural says they will. I guess only time will tell, but so far I have not yet heard anywhere of broken footswitches. To me they seem just as sturdy as footswitches on normal pedals.
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My biggest problem with the QC in a live situation coming from the Kemper Stage (been with Kemper back and forth since 2014) is the flexibility. Soundwise and feel I think the QC outshines Kemper, but the lack of flexibility in the switch layout is a bummer but probably solved in a future update.

In the Kemper, I had five main presets (clean, edge of breakup, rythm, lead, solo) with secondary functions on every switch (mainly a 3db volume boost). In combination with the five presets I had four stomps that changed based on preset. Say for clean I had chorus, tremolo, flanger and delay but when I switched to rythm the four stomps were phaser, pitch, fuzz and delay. That layout covered all my needs.

With the QC, it´s either stomps, scenes OR presets. I know the hyrbrid mode is planned in a future update and that would solve a lot of issues for me. Even better would be secondary functions on scene switches and the possibility to assign whatever you want to the different switches. For example two presets and two scenes on the upper row and for stomps on the bottom row. Or however you like it.

Even though, QC is my main live rig just because of how it sounds and feels. The issues I´ve mentioned is pretty big for me but for now I can work around it with presets and scenes, even though I hope that hybrid mode is comming as fast as possible.


I’ve been using my QC live since June 2021, and it’s a godsend. I play in the tribute scene and have done domestic and fly shows with it. Being able to bring my sound with me wherever and just DI to FOH has been a breeze, with the engineers I’ve worked with being very complimentary around the sound they’re getting FOH (‘Doesn’t need heavy EQ or Compression, well rounded, just get a signal level and move on’).

I have it set up for both myself as a bassist and also a 2nd guitar amp should one of the amps go down in a live situation for either guitarist - which has been a savior once so far!

Honestly, it’s been a game changer for me, though I didn’t come from a Kemper or Helix previously so can’t offer you a comparison.

Hope it helps!


Like DF132, I am a country player and tour 90 dates in hot dusty conditions at times. I have sent the unit back a few times, once was a software issue that would likely have gotten resolved in the next upgrade. The other times were issues that occurred when capturing amps. As for non-stop gigging, this unit has performed 100% flawlessly. Half of our gigs are outdoors. The display is always easy to read. There have been a few times where heat and dust had me concerned as well as a few times where moisture had me scared as well. Again, never a hiccup on a live gig.

I also own a Kemper and much prefer the Quad Cortex. Know that you may likely get best results capturing your own amps. Take the extra time to get the right cab/IR to match whatever amp you are using…this can account for as much as 40% of your final FOH sound.


one thing to keep in mind as far as the missing hybrid mode/switch assignability;
If you’re not using the midi out presently, you can jump the QC to itself with a midi cable (QC out to QC in) and create a quasi-hybrid mode: Hybrid Mode Working!

it takes a bit of configuring in the midi menu, but it is a reliable workaround for now.
There are also lots of midi controllers that can give you a hybrid mode when connected to the QC.
This place is all about finding the workarounds til official updates introduce the missing features!

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I don’t tour, but I do play locally and have probably gigged 150 times with the QC. It has NEVER freezed up on me or shown anything less than stellar performance. I highly recommend the QC to anyone.

I’ll echo what others have said in that the sound guy loves it. Literally a R/L XLR to the snake and done. No amp to mess with ever.