I set up Bias as a VST fx on an instrument track in Reaper. Like many users, this took several attempts to resolve. Bear in mind that this is a new product operating in the considerably rougher Windows neighbourhood so some teething problems are to be expected. But Positive Grid were very helpful with advice and before long we were up and running.
As I said in Part 1, if you’ve handled Bias on iOS then the new version is unlikely to confuse you and even a new user will be helped by the suburb design and layout.
I plugged in my old Ibanez Roadster and selected some of the Clean amps, because that is how I roll these days. I have a particular fondness for the the Roland Jazz model there. The basic tone is rich and solid and has the same essential quality as the iOS model – which is a good thing. But like the iOS version, it all really comes alive once you start editing it.
I know that there have been online grumblings that Positive Grid have only provided a limited number of editing options and that the extreme modifications of Revalver 4 are not possible here. But frankly, I would be amazed if 1% of users really hankered to get down to that capacitor level of editing. I believe that Positive Grid has struck a pretty perfect balance between editing flexibility and ease of use, as the product stands it is pretty difficult to design a poor sounding amp. It’s also fun, whizzing through the options is not as fluid with a mouse as it is with a touch screen but it is still a visually appealing way to shape your sound,
So I’ve got my Roland and I’ve added one of the excellent EQ models to it to beef up the mids, shall I change the poweramp from solid state to push/pull? Well, I don’t mind it I do. So now I’ve got an amp that really loves the 30 year old single coils on my Ibanez and gives them a delicate balance between glassyness and bite. It sounds fantastic to my ears and it is all helped by the brilliant room simulator that adds an awful lot to the impact of Bias.
As much as I love the new generation of ampsims, their convenience, value and versatility, there is one big limitation. You can model as much as you like, but there is one thing that even the most sophisticated modelling cannot imitate and that is the sheer physical impact of the sound from a big amp and a big cab. For one of the joys of playing a Fender Twin is that big shift of air from the speakers when you play a big chord. You hear it (and so do your neighbours) but you also feel it.
Bias’ room simulator cannot quite do that, but it adds a definite weight and density to the sound that simply makes it more realistic. And as much as I love Amplitube 3 and admire much of what Revalver does, Bias simply sounds better out of the box and sounds and feels much better once you dive into the guts of the thing.
It’s not just the Roland Jazz, if you look at the standard amps that you find in pretty much every package, the AC30s, the Plexis, the Boogies, Bassmen and Reverbs, only Amplitube’s Twin Reverb sounded better, for all the rest, Bias came out on top.
And these are the basic vanilla amp models already in the package – Bias still has the brilliant Tonecloud, that allows simple and seamless importing of essentially an infinite number of amp models from the well-established Bias community, a selection that is going to increase exponentially as user get to grips with the Amp Match feature (of which more soon).
Bias of course does not come equipped with any effects, and I had thought that this would place it at a major disadvantage to the traditional all-in-one packages like Amplitube or Guitar Rig. But I found that Bias suited the VST environment much more successfully than the iOS version did on Audiobus. I tried a range of free vst effects from Auraplug, Le Pou and Heptode as well as effects from Amplitube, Guitar Rig and Revalver and on Reaper the result was a stable signal chain and very good audio quality. The quality of the result of course depends on the quality of the effects used but there are so many talented developers of VST effects out there that your tone is there to be found. I found that I did not miss the integrated effects that I was used to and I enjoyed the greater flexibility of being able to insert my own election of effects. (of course, and extended chain of effects may affect the stability of your DAW, but Reaper handled even long chains with no issues.)
In the third and final part of this review, I’ll be looking at the Amp Match feature and coming to a conclusion on how successful this move from iOS has been.