If you aren’t familiar with the Positive Grid products, you might have been living under a rock because I feel like their marketing team has made literally every guitarist on earth aware that Positive Grid products are out there.
The plugin in question here is Bias FX 2. It’s a full amp suite with a completely nuts collection of gear. You get pre, post, amps, pedals, cabs and plenty of features to keep anyone busy for a while.
The graphics are much improved even though they have always been solid. Positive Grid products always look beyond great and they also seem to always have a useful, easy GUI that makes traversing the mountains of gear as easy as it can be. It’s exceptionally easy to plug in and be playing within seconds. Bias FX 2 has a very nice workflow for songwriting and just jamming out ideas or quick demos without needing to put work into your tones.
The clean and low gain amps are pretty much all pleasing, warm and crisp. These are the stars of the show in my opinion. There’s been a world of improvement in this department. Improvements you can really hear from the first notes. The response and articulation have come worlds, the sustain and resonance have improved and I had fun with the entire collection of amps and components in this area of the plugin. Add in some reverb, delay or modulation and you can create everything from chorus laden blues to ambient tones washed with elegant delays.
Moving from low to mid gain I start hearing a very familiar drop in all the things I was really enjoying about the plugin. As I increased the gain, the warmth dissipated, the detail and realism in the amps started to get dull. That said, the mid to hi-gain amps are much better than the last Bias FX but there are elements and frequencies brought into play as the gain increases. These added artifacts create spikes and issues that are difficult to remove without taking even more quality from the tone. I’ve had the same problem with past PG products so this really disappointed me.
Positive Grid products have struggled with hi-gain in the past and while the plugin has improved in a lot of areas, the hi-gain amps and components don’t offer the same level of improvement. They will do fine for,practicing and laying down riffs or ideas but I wouldn’t suggest it for recording hi-gain tracks. I was a little surprised at how little this section had changed from the last Bias FX considering the industry has a pretty high standard for high gain stuff these days.
The vintage inspired gear that many people crave is represented with a number of amps based on classic and legendary pieces of gear and some of them sound nice even if the authenticity isn’t really there. The last Bias FX struggled with warmth and detail but BFX2 has addressed those needs for at least the clean to lower gain components. There’s a nicer feel to the power sections but there’s really nothing to the tube emulation. With power sections across the market improving all the time, there’s some work to be done here to catch up.
The pedal selection appears monstrous but it’s kind of a half truth. Sure, users get more than a little bit of everything. There’s a crazy haul of stomp boxes ranging from some of the most popular in history to in-house creations inspired by a wide range of genres and styles but hold up a second. I went through every component and the consensus is about the same as it was with the last Bias FX. The delays, reverbs, modulation and dynamic components are effective for the most part but the boost and distortion effects just don’t have a lot of realism or feel to them.
I am a boost and distortion pedal fanatic and I have been for a very long time so seeing this gear haul in a plugin is obviously fantastic but these all just make things muddy, thin and noisy for the most part. I really didn’t feel many sounded very realistic. Many of the pedals included carry high expectations and I found the mix of OD/Boost/Dist components to be a miss overall.
If you add some warmth or saturation to your signal you can improve the overall feel of the plugin but that’s not to say you can’t find some decent crunch tones in dirty cleans with some work and that sort of defeats the plug and play approach Bias FX 2 is meant for. With full amp suites, you should have mix ready tones available without a whole lot of tweaking needed and that’s not really the deal here.
Going back to the delays, verbs, modulation and other pedals outside of the boost/dist group, there’s a lot to play with but only some of it will at least give you a few of the characteristics that defines the gear being modeled.
The impulse response section is another area that hasn’t really been improved much. It’s quite thin and fizzy. The internal cabinets just sound like they have been squashed too much for quality. The cabinet section also provides the ability to load your own third party files but it just seems to squash those as well. When I did an A/B comparison with the same file in both the BFX2 loader and then my own, the difference was very noticeable.
When I bypassed the internal impulse loader and cabinet section for my own, the level of detail and bass response did change for the better but not enough to make the high gain side work. When you bypass the cabinet section of any full amp suite, remember to bypass the post-fx you have in your preset because the post FX will now be hitting the impulse loader. Always watch your signal chain.
When I started matching the Bias FX 2 amps with impulses from my collection in the, I found the amps matched up really well with a lot of impulses. The cleaner amps really came to life with a variety of 212 open back impulses.
There’s a large spread of pre and post effects that can be used for EQ, filtering, beefing things up and more. There’s a lot in here and again, the quality over quantity factor is very present. There’s a fair % of components that feel a bit like an empty shell for what they are. at times an over simplified and condensed version of the gear being modeled.
The first feature I tried was the guitar match. This feature takes your signal and adds characteristics via filters / eq etc from a list of classic and modern guitars. Let’s not take this too seriously ok? Does this feature turn a $300 guitar with stock pickups into a $4000 Ernie Ball? No, it doesn’t but it can give the illusion of different pickups if the pickups you are using have quality. If you are using cheap pickups, the emulation will only be as good as your pickups but if you are using better pickups, the pickup and guitar emulations will improve as a result.
The guitar match can turn a decent humbucker into a single coil or P90 with reasonable results. There are other programs that do this better but it’s a nice addition to this suite. Don’t expect too much here and you will enjoy it but if you are expecting pristine telecaster tones from a lower quality humbucker, you are asking too much. Fact is, this is kind of a thin feature but the idea is very cool.
A nice touch feature is the input regulation where the plugin will give you the perfect input. This ensures that all of the components are getting the right amount of signal to perform as planned. It’s not just an input adjustment for the user as much as the plugin just automates to optimal levels. You can do it manually but for those that are unaware of how the input works and affects the tone. This is a great tool for those that want to plug and play without worrying about the small stuff.
UPS / DOWNS:
If you are looking for a fun program for recording on the go, quick demos, songwriting and other more recreational applications, Bias FX 2 certainly has everything anyone could ever want or need for all of the above. On the other side, if you are looking for a professional quality guitar plugin, the clean to low gains and other parts of Bias FX 2 are more than capable but the hi-gain capabilities are limited.
Bias FX 2 has been improved from the first edition. The cleans, low gain tones, delays, reverbs and many other things about it are definitely. The warmth, detail, note response and many other areas of the plugin have seen upgrades that solved some of the issues from past products.
On the downside, I have always been a quality over quantity type person and while Bias FX 2 has some fun and useful components, there’s a much larger percentage of the components that I just didn’t feel really brought anything to the table. I would have preferred a lot less gear with a stronger quality across the plugin. There’s a large selection of components in here that just don’t check off any boxes. Some of the stuff can provide the illusion of authenticity but not without work that shouldn’t be required.
The lack of realistic and usable mid to high gain tones is really going to hurt the plugin’s popularity in my opinion. Not having any really good quality higher gain options could be a downside for many potential buyers. I have to see this as an area that will be addressed sooner than later.
There’s no denying the quality of the GUI, looks and ease of use across the entire plugin. I mean the entire thing looks incredible and I will also note the clear improvements in the clean/grit/low gain areas of the plugin.
Bottom line, if you want a fun suite to put together demos, jam to albums with, practice and just generally a solid recreational plugin, grab Bias FX 2. I could see putting it on a small travel rig like an iPod or laptop type setup for on the go applications and I would recommend the plugin