Fractal Audio FM3 vs Quad Cortex: Which is the Best Processor?

Fractal Audio FM3 vs Quad Cortex

In the world of guitars, processors have become an essential component for creating the perfect sound. The Fractal Audio FM3 and the Neural DSP Quad Cortex are powerful guitar processors extremely popular among guitarists.

Both of these processors offer a range of unique features and exceptional sound quality, making it hard to choose between them. In this blog post, we will compare the Fractal Audio FM3 and the Quad Cortex and help you decide the best fit for your needs.

Design and Build Quality

First and foremost, let’s look at these processors’ design and build quality. The Fractal Audio FM3 has a sleek, compact design, making it perfect for use on stage. It features a robust metal casing and a well-designed LCD screen that provides all the necessary information and controls.

On the other hand, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex has a slightly larger design and a full-color touchscreen interface. The build quality of both processors is top-notch, and they are built to withstand the rigours of live performances.

Sound Quality

Sound Quality

Regarding sound quality, the Fractal Audio FM3 and the Quad Cortex deliver exceptional results. The Fractal Audio FM3 has the same technology and sound quality as its larger siblings, the Axe-FX III and the AX8.

It offers a vast range of amp models, effects, and speaker simulations, all incredibly versatile. On the other hand, the Quad Cortex has original amp models and effects created using neural network technology. It has 50+ models, which are highly customizable and can be tweaked to create a wide range of sounds.

Fractal Audio and Neural DSP are known for their high-quality amp modelling and effects processing, so it’s no surprise that the FM3 and the Quad Cortex sound impressive. The FM3 features Fractal Audio’s signature amp and effects modelling technology, emulating a wide range of classic and modern amplifiers and effects pedals.

The Quad Cortex utilizes Neural DSP’s Quad-Core SHARC DSP engine, which offers more processing power and advanced signal routing capabilities. This results in more realistic and detailed simulations of iconic amps and effects.

User Interface

Another important factor to consider is the user interface. The Fractal Audio FM3 and the Quad Cortex offer intuitive interfaces, making it easy for even a beginner to navigate the processor. The FM3 features an LCD with push-button rotary encoders, while the Quad Cortex has a full-color touchscreen interface. Both interfaces offer similar functionality, and users can easily create and save custom presets.

The user interface of both devices is intuitive and user-friendly. With the FM3’s large colour LCD screen and easy-to-use button layout, navigating its various menus and controls is a breeze. On the other hand, the Quad Cortex features a larger 7-inch touchscreen display that can display more complex controls and functions.

It also has capacitive touch buttons for quick access to frequently used functions. Both devices offer an extensive range of customizable controls, including knobs, buttons, and footswitches.


The price of these processors is one of the biggest factors for most guitarists. The Fractal Audio FM3 is priced at around $1,000, while the Neural DSP Quad Cortex is priced at around $1,700. While the Quad Cortex is more expensive, it comes with a wider range of original models and cutting-edge technology, making it a worthwhile investment for many guitarists. The Fractal Audio FM3, on the other hand, is more affordable and offers excellent value for money.

Build and Design

The Fractal Audio FM3 and the Neural DSP Quad Cortex have a sleek, modern design that makes them easy to use. The Fractal Audio FM3 is compact and lightweight, weighing only 3.4 pounds, making it easy to take on the go. It is built with a sturdy metal chassis that offers excellent durability. On the other hand, the Quad Cortex is relatively larger and heavier, weighing in at 3.7 pounds. It features an aluminium frame with a transparent acrylic top cover, making it look stylish and eye-catching.


The FM3 and the Quad Cortex offer extensive connectivity options, allowing you to use them in various settings. The FM3 has two mono inputs and two mono outputs, a stereo effects loop and MIDI input/output for integrating external pedals and controllers.

It also includes USB connectivity, allowing you to record directly to your computer or use it as an audio interface. The Quad Cortex features even more connectivity options, including four mono inputs and outputs, two stereo effects loops, and a dedicated headphone output. It also has USB, MIDI, and Ethernet connectivity for added flexibility.

Price and Value

Regarding price, the Fractal Audio FM3 is currently priced at around $999, while the Neural DSP Quad Cortex is priced at around $1,599. While the Quad Cortex is more expensive, it offers more advanced features and processing power, making it a more powerful tool for serious guitarists and professionals. However, the FM3 is still an excellent choice for guitar enthusiasts who want a high-quality multi-effects processor without breaking the bank.

Neural DSP Quad Cortex vs. Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3: A Comprehensive Comparison

Neural DSP Quad Cortex vs. Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3: A Comprehensive Comparison

Regarding high-end digital guitar processors, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex and Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3 are two titans in the industry, each boasting cutting-edge technology and many features. This detailed comparison will delve into various aspects, providing insights to help you make an informed decision.

History: The Evolution of Sonic Prowess

Neural DSP and Fractal Audio are renowned for their contributions to digital audio processing. Neural DSP, a newer player, gained rapid acclaim for its software plugins before venturing into hardware with the Quad Cortex. Fractal Audio has pioneered the digital amp modelling arena with a longer history, evolving its Axe-FX series with each iteration.

Price: Balancing Features and Budget

One critical factor for any musician is the price. The Neural DSP Quad Cortex and Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3 sit in the premium range, but their feature sets and sonic capabilities may justify the investment. Understanding your budget and requirements will determine which unit aligns with your preferences.

Usability: Interface and Control

The Quad Cortex and Axe-FX 3 offer intuitive interfaces, but the design philosophy differs. Neural DSP’s touchscreen-centric approach on the Quad Cortex provides a modern, user-friendly experience, while the Axe-FX 3 relies on a combination of buttons and knobs. The preference for touchscreens or tactile controls could significantly impact your choice.

Capture Quality: Crafting Your Signature Sound

Both processors excel in amp modelling, but the Quad Cortex introduces“Capture” technology, allowing users to analyze and replicate the sonic characteristics of their amplifiers. Fractal Audio, with its extensive history in modelling, offers top-notch sound reproduction. The choice between these two approaches may depend on your inclination towards customization or relying on meticulously crafted presets.

Available FX: Expanding Sonic Horizons

The arsenal of available effects is a crucial aspect for any guitarist. Both units boast many high-quality effects, but the specific offerings differ. Neural DSP’s Quad Cortex and Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX 3 come equipped with diverse effects, and your choice may hinge on the specific nuances and uniqueness of each unit’s effects library.

Playing Feel: Bridging the Analog-Digital Divide

The playing feel is an often subjective but vital aspect. The Quad Cortex and Axe-FX 3 aim to emulate the responsiveness of analogue gear, striving to provide a natural and dynamic playing experience. Exploring user reviews and firsthand experiences can offer valuable insights into how each unit captures the elusive “feel” that guitarists crave.

Final Thoughts on the Neural DSP Quad Cortex vs. Fractal Audio Axe FX 3

In conclusion, choosing between the Neural DSP Quad Cortex and Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3 boils down to individual preferences, workflow, and sonic priorities. Both units are formidable contenders, pushing the boundaries of digital guitar processing. Consider your budget, desired features, and the sonic character you seek to make an informed decision that aligns with your musical vision.


So, to answer the question of which one best fits your needs, it depends on several factors. If you are looking for a compact processor that delivers exceptional sound quality and offers a wide range of amp models and effects, the Fractal Audio FM3 is an excellent choice.

However, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex is the way to go if you want a more expensive processor with cutting-edge technology and original amp models. Both processors offer excellent user interfaces, making them perfect for beginners and professionals. Ultimately, your choice will depend on your needs, budget, and personal preferences.


Is FM3 better than a quad cortex?

Fm3 is great. Amazing tones (amps and fx), great form factor, build like a tank, genius switch configuration, almost total control of parameter via modifiers, Astonishing depth for tweaking the tone…. $600 less than a quad cortex. The quad can’t sound better than fm3.

Is the FM3 a good choice for fractal modelling?

And it’s more approachable in terms of price, too. “With the capacity to customize sounds to the nth degree and provide all the tones you’ll need for recording, the FM3 is the best chance to plunge into fractal modeling to yet.

Is the Quad cortex an Axe-FX killer?

The Quad Cortex is touted as an Axe-FX killer, and given that it’s only about two-thirds the price of the flagship Axe-FX III, that’s quite a claim. In terms of sound, like the Axe-FX, it’s impossible to tell it apart from a real amp. Where it has the edge is the form factor, portability and ergonomics of its touch screen.

Is Quad Cortex a good amp modeller?

In addition, Quad Cortex has one capture output, multiple impedance controls, and power supply connections so that you won’t have a connectivity issue. It’s a professional-grade amp modeller and effects unit integrated with easy features and cutting-edge design.

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