Positive Grid Bias FX 2 overview
The Positive Grid Bias FX 2 is a superb, sleek looking guitar and bass modeling and effects amp that provides high-quality timbres and a unique Guitar Match feature, but with a bit of a “quantity over quality” problem.
At first glance, two features of the Bias FX2 catch your eye: the great graphical interface and the sheer number of features built into the software. The former sets it apart from its amp modeling competitors, but the latter tends to work against it.
BIAS FX 2 is Positive Grid’s successor to its revolutionary BIAS FX VST version. The quality and ease of use, along with the skillful marketing of the original, have ensured Positive Grid’s reputation.
Therefore, it can be noted that BIAS FX 2 was not a disappointing sequel. In fact, it improves on the first project in almost every existing aspect, while adding its flagship Guitar Match feature.
BIAS FX 2 Interface
The BIAS FX 2 screen reveals a clear view of the default patch signal path. Each component in the chain has an elegant icon that can be clicked to bring up an individual graphical interface for each amplifier, cabinet or effects pedal.
All component interfaces are modeled after their real-world counterparts and feature smooth knobs and tuning switches.
Components can be clicked and dragged to add, remove, or change their position in the signal path. Double-clicking on a component brings up a categorized library of all other available components for replacement.
Each component also has a power switch that can be used to easily turn them on and off. A number of factory presets are readily available, including some author patches.
The interface has handy buttons for switching between single and double signal paths and for saving different versions of the patches in “scenes.” The graphical user interface includes the usual set of controls for input and output levels, patch banks, etc.
A special button brings up the Guitar Match BIAS FX 2 feature, which we’ll talk about later.
Overall, the BIAS FX 2 interface is easy to work with. Not only does it look good, but it’s simple and efficient enough to simplify the workflow in the studio or even live.
The hardware components are carefully implemented in a digital realm that is a pleasure to work with and that gives quality authenticity to the final product.
BIAS FX 2’s widely sold flagship Guitar Match feature claims to be able to turn one guitar into several kinds of legendary guitars. By analyzing the sound of your guitar and comparing it to standard models, it can turn a Stratocaster into a Telecaster or a Les Paul into a Jazzmaster.
But are these statements true? Well, to a certain extent. As with most technologies that claim to turn one thing into another, what it produces is a reasonable approximation, not miraculous alchemy.
Guitar Match works when the user enters the design of his guitar: the body style and the pickup configuration. You then play individual notes while it analyzes the tone. It then compares the collected data of all these measurements and makes adjustments to match the selected guitar model using its algorithm.
This is an impressive technology that can give fairly convincing results with a really good guitar with high quality pickups. However, it can’t turn a cheap knockoff into a $5,000 guitar.
Guitar Match can certainly be a great tool for recording songs to get a feel for the sound you want, or it can even come in handy in a live performance if you need tone flexibility.
But in a professional studio environment, I don’t think this instrument can completely eliminate the need for different guitars and configurations. At least not yet.
Amps, cabinets, and pedals in the BIAS FX 2
BIAS FX 2 comes with a huge collection of amps, cabinets, effect units and Guitar Match models. There are 3 product tiers: standard, professional, and elite, each with more models in each category in addition to the previous tier models.
For this review, I am using the Elite version with 100 amps, 122 effects and 20 Guitar Match models. The program is available both in plug-in and standalone mode.
Positive Grid claims that they have modeled real hardware amplifiers down to the individual components, giving them a surprisingly high degree of authenticity in tone and dynamic response.
In fact, right out of the box some amp models and presets exhibit high quality and would be hard to distinguish from a real amp in a blind test, especially in a mix.
You have a huge number of amp models at your disposal, sorted by Low Gain, Mid Gain and High Gain categories. In my experience, the Low Gain and Mid Gain models are great.
Combine them with some of the effects in the BIAS collection and you can get great clean tones. The dual signal path feature also allows you to mix tones from two amps to your liking.
Overall, there are some absolutely fantastic amp models, and there are a bunch of others that aren’t terrible, but seem like add-ons to improve the list rather than add value.
At the same time, there aren’t many options for bass, especially at the standard level. Either way, the overall modeling is definitely a step up from the original BIAS FX.
Positive Grid has teamed up with Celestion to introduce licensed models of some of the world’s most famous and respected guitar and bass cabinets in addition to the factory models. Up to 2 virtual mics can be added to each cabinet, which can be selected and placed in a virtual space to recreate your sound in detail.
The Professional and Elite levels also have a dedicated impulse response loader for use with your custom or third-party IRs. Truth be told, while BIAS FX cabinets are good, especially with clean tones, I’ve found that I turn to custom IRs more often than not for the best results. The cabinet models as a whole sound better than in the first issue.
The BIAS FX 2 has a myriad of options for effects, from vintage fuzz and tube drives to lush choruses and digital delays. The Elite level is linked with BIAS Pedal software, further expanding the arsenal.
As with amplifiers, some effect units become perennial favorites, while others become additional toys to experiment with. I particularly liked the Les Rotary and Fuzzface models, for their authentic and vintage tone.
Meanwhile, the compressors don’t seem to work as well as one would expect from their hardware counterparts. That’s not to say they don’t work, just that their response didn’t quite match what’s expected of similar models of the original hardware.
To summarize, BIAS FX 2 has notable improvements over the first edition and performs very well. However, sometimes it seems like they could have focused on bringing a few things to perfection instead of stuffing tons of filler options into categories.
Internet Extension: ToneCloud.
BIAS FX 2 makes it easy to save your custom patches and share them with the world via the ToneCloud platform.
Likewise, if you’re not quite sure how to dial in a particular tone, you can seek help from thousands of other users on the Internet and choose from the many user patches uploaded to ToneCloud.
Positive Grid also regularly publishes signature tones created in collaboration with artists such as Tosin Abasi and Ronnie Gutierrez.
One drawback of the platform, however, is the lack of a real quality filter for downloadable presets. So if you’re looking for a particular sound, it may take a while before you find the right combination.
Being as comprehensive and feature-rich as it is, it’s no surprise that BIAS FX 2 is not the fastest application on the average computer.
A solid-state drive and a large amount of RAM are definitely recommended to increase startup and real-time playback times. However, once loaded, BIAS FX 2 is pretty stable and I have yet to encounter any crashes or failures.
If you are planning to add multiple instances to an already fairly complex project, I would suggest freezing some other effects to make room.
As of this writing, Positive Grid is offering a limited-time offer in which the Standard, Professional and Elite levels can be purchased for $59, $119 and $179, respectively, instead of their usual prices of $99, $199 and $299.
At this discounted price, the Professional level in particular seems like a great offer, as it provides more than enough features and allows you to bypass the limitations of the Standard level.
By comparison, Line6 provides Helix Native software for $399, Overloud offers TH-U for about $320, and each of the Neural DSP signature packages costs $120 to $160 (each package includes 2-5 amps, effects and cabinets). . Other popular options include Amplitube 4 from IK Multimedia at about $180 and the new Guitar Rig 6 from NI at $199.