Hello again lovely people! Well its closing in on the end of the year and we've got a few moments to look back and see whats happened. Things f...
A year in review
December 24, 2014
Bias Desktop Review
November 7, 2014
Hello again everyone! SHC here and today were going to look at Bias Desktop. Specifically the demo version they have on their site for free. The people over at Positive Grid have really done something that deserves praise. If you aren’t familiar with them, Positive Grid got their foot in the door with iOS apps like Jamup and Bias. If you were like me and saw the potential of Bias on a tablet then you wanted it to hurry the fuck up and come out on a more powerful platform! And they have done just that with Bias Desktop. Essentially what they have done is model each individual part of the amp. From tubes, power stages, and transformers along with so much more. This product really aims to give you the flexibility to make the amp you want, where in the past, you buy the amp model you want, work with it, and hope to god you can get the tone you want without it falling flat. This is the first time I've seen a company take this approach and I have to say it's a very liberating concept along with how well they have executed it.
So let's take a look at the parts that make up this software. By default the signal goes through the amp head first. The demo version gives you a lot of amps to choose from, though when you get used to Bias it almost doesn’t matter which amp head you choose. From there, you have the option to pull in an EQ or go straight into the preamp.
Now the preamp section is something that might seem foreign if you've never used a physical tube amp. Here you can choose the EQ voicing, then choose the Tube stages where you can pick one to five stages for your desired gain. This also lets you choose from a variation of tubes which are split two by two. If you want 12AX7's for your input but want something different for your third and fourth stage then you can swap out some 12AU7's for a different feel. And then have the BIAS adjustment for either a more hot or cold voicing. They also have an EQ section at the end here as well.
On to the tone stack section, which seems to me a second voicing where you can make your “Marshall” sound like it's been combined with an “Engl.” Again, not a feature I've seen before but it adds a whole new level of versatility. Even with the demo version there is a lot to choose from here, and with that it has its own EQ.
We can drift into the Power Amp section next. Here we find a lot more options for tone. The first knob you see here is called Topology, and this is basically how the power is delivered through the amp and the gain stages there in. By changing this after you have a tone you like it can drastically change the end tone. That leads to the gain stage where you can again change out the power tubes to your desired taste as well as how much gain they are putting out. This is followed by another BIAS knob, a presence, and resonance section which, to me, acts more like the filter in an analog synth, and that has a modern and vintage setting as well as a push and normal mode for the output.
The Transformer section is where you can basically switch the feel to a solid state amp or a tube amp with solid state characteristics. It seems to have a built in compressor that can act to tighten up the sound to a more “modern” compressed guitar tone. Here, you can pick the rectifier tubes and the type of transformer.
This all seems like a lot to digest even if you're an avid amp sim user. And I will say as someone who has every amp sim software under the sun, along with the eleven rack, this really offers something all those do not; complete flexibility. Don't like the tubes found in an Orange amp? No problem! Change 'em. Feel a Matchless would be more your speed if it played more with a solid state tone and feel? You can make that happen. It's hard to be concise about BIAS when there’s so much to talk about, and considering I've been using the demo it makes me consider buying it. That gives you a 36 amps and cabs, and Tone cloud. I haven’t even talked about the “tone cloning” and it sells at a price that won't hurt your wallet.
Like any review there are always cons to the pros. It seems like I'm just praising it to no end. Sure, you cause say that's somewhat true, but there are a few things I could see as being a “problem.”
For starters it's a bit of a CPU hog. I've tried it on two computers, both PC's, one laptop on an Intel i7. The PC is on an Intel i7 that's overclocked a good deal and it still has a few issues. Maybe it's cause I'm using FL Studio, which I ran it in 32 and 64 bit mode with neither having the upper hand. Granted, this is powerful software as it needs to be, but be prepared that it is CPU intensive. I am not sure how it would run on a Mac, and I have no idea how the full version differs from the demo.
Another “down side” is all the variety of options. Hear me out, imagine you have a massive pedal board with every pedal you can think of, and during rehearsals you want the perfect lead tone. You fuck with pedals all day and never get the tone you want. Take away that pedal board; you now have an amp and a tube screamer, and you get the tone you want. Beause you have less options, you're forced to work with what you have (#firstworldproblem) I guess what I'm saying is there are so many options and ways to get the tone you want with this software that I can see it being counterproductive when you just want to get the god damn tone right. I'm sure if they only have the most popular amps people would bitch about it, but what if they were the 5 perfect tones? These are just my thoughts, whether they're true... that’s up to the user to figure out.
With all that said, this is an amazing product. If I'm ever in a place to get new software, I'll chose this over Amplitube, guitar rig, Revalver or Overloud. It's sold at a good price, and there's no interface needed. I know that's hardly common now, but it used to be (I'm lookin at you MBOX). All the amps in the demo are extremely responsive. Such as the velocity, pickups, tone, and volume settings on the guitar itself. It is as responsive as any tube amp I've ever played. Though the demo presets sound a little flat right out of the box, it's easy to remedy. I'm not saying this will win over the people who say you have to use a real tube amp, but it's god damn close to the real thing. And you don't have to deal with lugging around an amp, the volume, and the power bill. Not to mention the repairs needed for the equipment. In addition, the customer support is great, and with tone cloning, the tone cloud, and possibilities for updates I can't see a reason to not at least check out the demo. It's obvious a lot of work and care went into this product.
Until the next time, Mister Scrambles over and out!!1