One of the premiere amp simulation companies brings their popular technology to you in a cab-friendly format. Alex Wilson checks it out.
TIME TO GET CONNECTED
The front plate contains tried-and-true gain, EQ and master volume controls. The extras are in the upper row, where the BIAS amp settings can be tweaked. 25 classic amp simulations are accessible, and can be customised based by gain stage, power amp and cabinet simulation. The back plate contains stereo outs (balanced and unbalanced), a speaker jack, headphone jack, MIDI sockets, footswitch inputs, and an effects loop.
The BIAS Head can run as a soundcard via a USB connection and also has wireless capability when Bluetooth-paired with Positive Grid’s iPad software. Be aware that the Bluetooth capability will be necessary to access the program’s GUI when you’re away from your computer.
A TONE-WORLD ON THE GO
Overall, the above capability indicates that Positive Grid have most bases covered, whether onstage or in a studio setting. The simulations themselves definitely numerous — once you’ve sampled all of the classics that the unit comes with, it’s easy enough to log onto Positive Grid’s online ToneCloud platform and explore an infinite world of guitar tone. Or, you may choose to dive into BIAS yourself and start creating your own amps from scratch, digital valve by digital vale. Or, you may choose to take advantage of the hardware’s tone-matching technology, creating a tone print of your favourite valve gear and taking it with you as a patch. In terms of sheer possibility, there’s a huge amount of ground to cover. This is a definite plus when it’s packed in a unit so compact.
A MODEL CITIZEN
The tube emulations themselves perform to a high standard. Each setting I explored would easily yield a usable sound that I could see pleasing a live audience or finding a place in a well-mixed studio recording. The reality is that this is the era of companies like Kemper, Fractal and, indeed, Positive Grid. The technology for faithfully recreating appealing guitar tones without the need for heavy analog hardware has advanced to an impressive point, a fact very well exhibited by the sounds available in the BIAS Head. One thing I disliked was the lack of any stompbox emulations. As an owner of Positive Grid’s BIAS FX desktop software, I know they have this technology, and it would be nice for some of those options to be available in the BIAS head. This would only add to its flexibility and compactness.
Of course, there will be tube fanatics that claim to hear a difference. They’ll be right in some cases: at times, I felt a nagging something lacking and I suspect the culprit was the absence of tubes. However, I think it’s important to be pragmatic here. These are rarefied feelings that come from guitarists who obsess over gear. It’s important to remember that your average listener or live punter may not care that much for your beloved analog warmth.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are undoubtedly situations where this unit would be the obvious purchase. You could be a project studio owner that wants an array of amps on hand without breaking the bank or adding unwanted latency in the signal chain. You could be a gigging musician that wants a lightweight and flexible solution to your diverse tonal needs. There’s a good chance you could be both, too, and the BIAS Head really shines as being able to provide excellent sound, with tremendous value for money, in both situations.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Wide array of high-quality amp and cab emulations
• 600-watt Class D power amp, suitable for an 8-ohm cab
• Extensive connectivity options for live and studio use
• Zero-latency processing
• Amp-matching technology for capturing and storing sounds
• Compact, sleek and lightweight
• Highly versatile and usable
• Good sound quality
• Lack of onboard stompbox-style effects
• No onboard display for on-the-fly access to the software