Neural DSP

Neural DSP Chooses iLok as Licensing Solution

Neural DSP creates cutting-edge sound processing software and hardware that allows users to be more creative and efficient while lowering barriers to entry to world-class sounding results. With Chilean roots, this Helsinki-based company officially started in 2017. Not long after beginning development of their first plugin, Neural DSP contacted PACE Anti-Piracy to help them secure and license their products. 

In the last 5 years, Neural DSP has released 17 plugins and one of the most powerful AI-equipped hardware modelers on the market; the Quad Cortex.  Beyond offering cutting-edge products, Neural DSP differentiate themselves by collaborating with hundreds of artists. Some examples of collaborations range from artists providing presets for their products to creating customized plugins or “Archetypes” - based on specific sounds from artists like John Petrucci and Tim Henson.

PACE got the chance to sit down with Francisco Cresp - Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer and Dan Davies, Chief Marketing Officer, of Neural DSP. We wanted to hear more about their unique story, and their reasons for choosing PACE protection and licensing. 

How did Neural DSP get started?

Francisco Cresp: Doug Castro (Founder of Darkglass and Co-Founder of Neural DSP) and I met in Chile in 2009, and became friends. I had a mutual friend who played in a band with Doug, and he introduced us, since he knew we had both studied at the same school in Finland. Doug was doing pedals and I was producing music. We met and discovered it was a small world and we had a lot of friends in common. We just clicked on a personal level.

Doug moved to Finland, which is something I wanted to do. When I ended up moving to Helsinki, we got in touch and started working together at Darkglass Electronics. Doug always had an idea for a super powerful modeler, he is a very hardware oriented guy. He got frustrated from the point of view of a bass player who wants to play guitar, and decided to build the kind of modeler he wanted to use.

With all of his experience doing Darkglass Electronics, he started thinking of shifting to the digital world, the software side. I suggested that we should do software versions of Darkglass products. At that time, I was producing a lot more music than I am now. Using multiple pedals was a problem because I didn’t have a big space, and I was always using plugins. I wanted to run several instances of the Darkglass pedals, and then came the idea “maybe we should start something.” 

I continued the software side, and Doug started hiring some additional software and hardware engineers. We began to develop products in parallel.  

Darkglass Electronics makes the Quad Cortex, Neural DSP makes plugins. What came first: software or hardware?

Francisco Cresp: We developed hardware and software at the same time. Everything we did with the software, we were already thinking about the compatibility with the hardware. Development was always in parallel, but the hardware product could only be revealed later.

When the question of securing your plugins came up, what were your initial thoughts?

Francisco Cresp: When the security topic came up I thought right away, if we don’t want our software to get pirated we should really go with PACE Licensing. I knew ProTools uses it, and I have had a very good experience with ProTools and iLok - it works very closely with Avid, which is a brand I like. I knew the best security out there for audio products was PACE. PACE was the only option for us. We would rather go with PACE than with another company where we can expect their things to break. We got a quote, and the collaboration went very smoothly. PACE has allowed us to sell our software with the peace of mind that things are secure. 

After deciding to work with PACE, how was the interaction with the support and sales team?

Francisco Cresp: Derek has always been helpful, the support team has been very helpful particularly including all the PACE architecture in our products. I remember contacting support very late on a Sunday night before our Monday release, and we couldn't compile our things because of an error. Pete helped and guided us with all the patience in the world. We managed to solve the problem with him, and it was very nice for him to listen to us in a moment of distress.

Francisco, you are a musician and music producer. How did your background in music influence the products?

Francisco Cresp: On a personal level, I wanted to create a dream product for myself at first. It just so happened that it was good for artists too, and they liked our UX and UI. 

Artistic vision was enhanced by Franco, our Industrial Designer for Darkglass (and now Neural DSP), who has a great taste for design. His touch was essential for making the Quad Cortex and the plugin user interfaces. The UI allows the user to navigate easily, and play guitar, which is the most important thing.

It sounds like you made the kind of product you wanted for yourself, and other artists liked it! What role does the user experience play in your development process? 

Francisco Cresp: We put all of our attention into the user experience, and how the users feel using our products - with audio quality being above all else. We put a lot of effort into developing new technologies, and how we can take things to the next level in every way - from the moment you open the box for Quad Cortex, to the experience of installing one of our products, to opening a session and the shock of seeing the interface. It is different from other products on the market. 

How has it been to work with PACE?

Francisco Cresp: Anytime we have wanted something, there is a will to help from PACE. The relationship with PACE has been really smooth.

Neural DSP has chosen to work directly with artists - what brought about this partnering idea?

Dan Davies: This comes from two different aspects. First, Neural DSP collaborates with an artist to make a signature plugin - an “Archetype”. Our approach has always been to create a toolkit that the artist would use rather than focusing on potential commercial success. We want the plugin to be something the artist is proud to use. 

The second aspect is that we have an extensive artist roster that we work with closely. We put together incredible videos showcasing them and our products.

How often do you reach out to artists for input and feedback?

Dan Davies: Often! There is a very open channel of communication with our artists, and our AR team has regular calls with many people on the roster to discuss their set up, their feedback, and to provide solutions to complex routing requirements.


Neural DSP is one of the fastest growing audio plugin companies today. It comes as no surprise that their success in the market is driven by their commitment to creating next-level audio software inspired by the artist. By keeping the artist central to the development process, Neural DSP lives out their mission statement: To empower musicians’ creativity to expand alongside technology.
For more information on how you can secure your plugins like Neural DSP, contact PACE today!

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