Primary cortical areas contain maps of sensory features, including sound frequency in primary auditory cortex (A1). Two-photon calcium imaging in mice has confirmed the presence of these global tonotopic maps, while uncovering an unexpected local variability in the stimulus preferences of individual neurons in A1 and other primary regions. Here we show that local heterogeneity of frequency preferences is not unique to rodents. Using two-photon calcium imaging in layers 2/3, we found that local variance in frequency preferences is equivalent in ferrets and mice. Neurons with multipeaked frequency tuning are less spatially organized than those tuned to a single frequency in both species. Furthermore, we show that microelectrode recordings may describe a smoother tonotopic arrangement due to a sampling bias towards neurons with simple frequency tuning. These results help explain previous inconsistencies in cortical topography across species and recording techniques.