SCORE: 5 / 10
When Positive Grid hit the market, they got a lot of attention and why not? They had some of the popular names in the business at the time giving their products huge thumbs up across the board. Everyone seemed to be on board so I bought a few of their early products and to say it nicely, I really wasn’t into their products at all. I didn’t know why the sources I trusted were promoting it when it sounded the way it did.
We set out to review everything and this needed reviewing but no one here really wanted to review the products. We aren’t afraid to be honest about a product but we really don’t like being negative either so when products you don’t like come along, what’s one to do? My initial review may have been a bit rash so I am going back to each product for a little more time and perhaps get more in depth.
I really did go into these reviews with an open mind. I hadn’t given PG products a second thought since my experience with their earlier products so when the chance came to review them, I was the only one that wanted to do it and I’ll admit, I was curious to see if PG had upped their game. I also wanted to post a review that was professional like the rest rather than a bit of the opposite.
Remember, Positive Grid bill Bias Amp 2 as being professional grade software. We will be reviewing it as such.
Positive Grid makes some really outstanding looking software but it confuses me a little bit. Firstly because the graphics don’t seem at all better from the first Bias amp. Why does everything look the same? I am noticing little to no upgrades in the graphics, layout or workflow but the layouts have always been nice so that part didn’t really need an upgrade. Another thing about the graphics that confuses me is how much work was put into the rear views and inner workings while the faces and controls for each amp look bland.
I got into the presets and right away, I hear the exact and identical fizzy, cheap plastic sound that turned me off the early Positive Grid stuff. It’s a hiss / unwanted frequency spike that sort of travels with each amp in the plugin when you initiate any gain or distortion. This specific noise really takes away from the general enjoyment of the amps.
The amps provided in Bias Amp 2 are on paper pretty attractive. Amps from Marshall, Fender, Mesa Boogie, Peavey and many other top brands are included so you really don’t feel like you can go wrong with this product.
If you are looking for cleans, you will find a few amps in Bias Amp 2 that can give you some reasonable cleans but they are for the most part boxy and cold sounding. You can warm them up with some saturation type plugins or a warming plugin but they can also enhance the noise I mentioned earlier. I took to the Pro-Q and really tried to strip the noise out but every time I felt like I had it gone, I would notice that the tone suffered as a result. It would just end up sounding dull. We all tried a number of ways and we had an EQ expert we trust who also had the same issue using vastly different methods.
On each amp there is a world of switches, knobs and dials to give any gearhead a little bit of a grin at first glance but, when you start getting into these switches, you notice that none of them really improve the tone a whole lot. None of them really warmed anything up or enhanced the quality much. I really love the idea of including the insane amount of options and I also really love the execution of the graphics and layout but we come back to the tone. We aren’t buying switches and fancy lights are we? Shouldn’t we be buying plugins for the sound quality?
A huge downside for me was that I couldn’t find many amps that had a whole lot of realism. When you are rolling out an amp sim as being a specific or even semi-specific amps, the amp sim needs to be at least somewhat accurate. I would say this is an essential for any consumer. The problem with Bias Amp 2 is that it’s tough to find a truly accurate sounding amp. Some can hover near it a bit and some were just nowhere close. I have to say that in reviewing an amp sim, that has to be marks off.
I did manage a few decent lead tones for blues, southern rock and lighter genres that don’t require a lot of gain. You can warm these tones up with Fab Filter Saturn but watch how much saturation you add because the hiss will come knocking. Marks for having at least a sort of cutting lead tone in the box.
Everyone was going on about the amp matching and again, top notch idea but it really doesn’t deliver anything high quality or close to it. I tried the amp matching feature more than a few times, I also listened to a lot of other people’s matching and to me, it just really doesn’t impress. If they put work into this feature, it could be a huge game changer but for now, it’s just not there.
It was really hard to tell how good the impulses were because the tones just weren’t working out. I also tried my own impulses without a lot of luck so I guess that means the impulses are OK? I am really not sure on this one so I will just say inconclusive.
UPS / DOWNS:
The amp faces could be updated and that would make the plugin a perfect looking plugin with a perfect layout. The work put into having such an elaborate and functioning layout is noted here for sure but it always comes down to the sound and it always should.
If you aren’t looking for professional sound quality but instead more of a simple recreational amp tweaking experience, you should buy Bias Amp 2. That said, PG rolled this out as a professional quality plugin and that it most certainly is not. This factor makes me wonder why this product is on so many lists when you type “best guitar amp sim” into Google. What am I missing?
You may think I am being too hard on Positive Grid but for a company that has the backing, marketing, resources, budget and personnel that they have, I feel they are capable of so much more. I have no doubt that they have a top quality product in them but this one is not it.