Today might be the age of the carefully curated pedalboard, but with its convenience, compact form and value, the multi-effects processor is never going to go out of style.
With the advancement of modelling technology and cab sims, today's units have more features than ever. There is some hybrid vigour in multi-effects development, with software-based tech being realised in physical form.
At this early stage, there is not quite the abundance of options as there are for populating your pedalboard, but the three units we have here offer something for every player.
We've got a fully-featured budget option in the form of the NUX MG-30, a mid-priced doozy from Zoom, and quite possibly the most-anticipated piece of floor candy of the year, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex. Let's take a look.
Neural DSP Quad Cortex
The Quad Cortex is Neural DSP's first hardware release, and given the quality of its guitar plugins, with some stunning artist collaborations with the likes of Joe Duplantier of Gojira, we are very much looking forward to accessing some of that virtual amp processing power in a floor-based unit.
With its 2GHz Quad-Core SHARC architecture, the Quad Cortex has a lot of juice, and it has a lot of toys for you to play with. Onboard there are more than 50 virtual guitar amplifiers, more than 70 effects plus a thousand-plus IRs.
Of course, you can capture your own IRs and upload them, or grab some from a third party. You can do it all here. You can even "teach" the unit through its Neural Capture feature.
Navigating all this functionality will undoubtedly be intimidating. Like the Kemper Profiler, the Quad Cortex is a high-end, do-it-all unit. It's for the pros and the serious amateurs, but we can't wait to get our hands on it.
Elsewhere, there are two effects loops, all the I/Os you need and all this from a unit that has a similar footprint to a 15" laptop, and weighing under two kilos. This is a fly-rig you can throw in a backpack.
The Neural DSP Quad Cortex is priced £1,449 / $1,599, with the optional gig case offered for £/$99.
See Neural DSP for more details.
With a stack of features and a classy build, the NUX MG-30 might just be the classiest budget multi-effects unit we have seen.
The latest in the MG series has a lot of processing muscle under the hood, with 30 different amp types – 25 for electric guitar, three for bass and two acoustic guitar amp models.
This being 2021, there are onboard cabinet simulations (choose from eight virtual microphones to "mic" the cab, and three placement options), plus a looper, tuner, expression pedal, and a load of effects. There's even a USB connection so you can use it as an audio interface for recording.
There's no word on a release date yet but online retail giant Thomann (opens in new tab) has made the MG-30 available for pre-order, priced £222 / €298.
The Zoom G6 goes all-in with the amp modelling. Zoom engineers looked at the tonal qualities of the best guitar amps in history, modelled them, and then bundled them in with a heap of effects.
There is something for everyone here. You've got vintage blues amp models, crunchy rock, progressive metal tones... And all in between.
With a 4.3-inch colour touchscreen and drag 'n' drop signal chains, it looks a cinch to use, and it comes preloaded with 70 IRs, 135 effects and 68 rhythm patterns to jam along with. You can upload your own IRs.
Hook it up with Zoom's Guitar Lab software for deep edits. The G6 has room for 240 user patches, including 100 user presets. And you can create patches using up to seven effects. Plus an Infinite Looper provides up to 256 loops with a maximum time of two hours on an SD-card.
Those dipping their Jazz Nylon III into the home recording game will be pleased to know that the G6 comes with a USB output and Steinberg's Cubase LE software.
The Zoom G6 is shipping in Spring 2021, priced $399 / £442.
See Zoom for more details.