BIAS is a brand new app from Positive Grid, the creators of the JamUp Pro series of guitar amp apps and the JamUp Plug audio interface for guitars.
Building on the already richly featured Jam Up apps which include a range of mix and matchable virtual guitar amp heads, speaker cabinets, and effects pedals (not to mention multitrack recording and jamming modes as well), comes Positive Grids grounding breaking new iOS app, BIAS, which takes guitar amp modelling to a whole new level of customisation and possibilities. Not only can you personalise the external look of each amp, but more importantly, you can tweak a wide range of tonal settings inside the amp in a way that hasn’t be possible until now.
If you’ve played around with any guitar amp apps in the past, you’ll be instantly familiar with BIAS’ main home screen. In the centre of the screen is the selected amp head, below this are some signal I/O settings and user defined presets, and at the top of the screen are nine categories or styles of sounds, each with four factory presets. The styles range from clean and glassy, to blues, crunch, plus there’s a group of settings for acoustic and bass guitars as well.
Pulling up any one of these 36 different amps, you have the familiar options of shaping your guitar sound by adjusting the EQ, gain, presence and master controls on the front of the amp.
Where BIAS treads new ground, is by allowing you to go virtually inside the selected amp head and tweak an unprecedented amount of tonal settings, from the preamp and power amp stages to the tone stack and even the type of power transformer.
One of the much talked about feature of BIAS’ deep customisation is the ability to switch between various tubes, which affect the gain and harmonic tone of the amp, just like they do on real guitar amps.
The preamp stage features, 12AX7, 12AT7, and 12AU7 tubes, which can be customised in two groups of pairs. The tubes have their own gain, distortion, and hi/low frequency cut controls, plus you can adjust the number of tube stages, and there are pre and post EQ stage for even further tone shaping. And last but not least, you can alter the amount of harmonics, by adjusting the bias from hot to cold. For those a little overwhelmed by the number of possible settings, or just not sure where to even start, there are a handful of factory presets to get you up and running. And naturally you’re able to save and recall any customised settings you manage to come up with of your own.
Moving left of the preamp, is the tone stack stage. Here you’ll find a collection of more than a dozen styles of EQ, which have been inspired by classic eras in music history, from early 50’s tweed amps, and the British invasion sound of the late 50s, through to the unmistakable tones of bands like Van Halen and ACDC. And just like with the preamp, you can tweak any of these existing presets to come up with you own sounds, and save these for later use.
Then to the left of the tone stack, is arguably the most crucial stage, the power amp. This also has switchable tubes, including 6L6GB, 6V6GT, EL84, and EL34. Here you can also choose the way the power amp processes the signal, whether it’s a single ended, split load, push pull or even solid state type of amp. Other controls include the usual distortion, gain, tonal adjustments, and again the bias can be set between hot and cold.
The other key aspect of tonal customisation involves the transformer stage. There are three transformer types, which are identified simply as British, American, and fat style, each offering slight tonal differences. The other main option in this stage is the choose between solid state or tube rectifier, with GZ34 and 5Y3GT tubes to pick from. You can adjust the compression of the signal here as well. And as with all the amp and tone stack stages, here there are a few presets to get you started, and you can save and recall any of your own personal settings.
There’s also a cabinet section, featuring twenty different boxes with varying speaker arrays, from single 12s, up to 8 x 10s. Here you can also choose the exact mic placement in front of the grill, as well as using either a Shure SM57, or AKG C414.
The final tonal adjustment you can make, is the option of two eight band EQs that can be literally dropped anywhere along the signal path in between any of the aforementioned amps, transformer, tone stack, and cabinet. Whether you need these or not after all the tone shaping already on tap, it’s still nice to have them available anyway.
Of course, what’s a killer sounding guitar amp you’ve just created, without an equally unique look to go with it? So head to the custom panel area where you can name your amp, and customise the grillcloth, panel, the knobs and even use a photo as a background.
There are two other key features of BIAS that are sure to secure its success.
The first, and not so unexpected feature being, that any amp you create in BIAS can be opened up and instantly ready to use in Positive Grid’s free JamUp XT or JamUp Pro XT guitar multi-effects apps. A JamUp icon is present at the top of the screen at all times in BIAS, so at any time you can fire up your customised amp by tapping the icon, thereby giving you access to all of recording and jamming features of JamUp, with your newly customised amp.
The second, and more surprising new feature that BIAS offers is called ToneCloud. This social sharing platform is build right into the app, and is designed to let users not only share their custom creations with others simply by uploading them, but also lets you download unlimited new virtual amps created by others from all over the world. And it’s a free service.
Users are invited to preview one another’s uploaded presets before deciding to download them, plus you can leave comments and ‘like’ a particular sound. Presets are filed into familiar genres, plus there is a ‘latest’ and ‘popular’ section, which is determined by the amount of ‘likes’ a preset gets from users. You can even share a patch on Facebook.
ToneCloud is ideal for those still new to BIAS and are keen to build an instant library of great sounds, as well as seasoned amp modelling gurus, who just want to showcase what they have come up with.
But getting back to the roots of this app, BIAS really is an amp tweakers dream come true. Until I’d seen it first hand for myself, I wouldn’t have even considered this depth of virtual amp customisation was possible on iOS, let alone incredibly intuitive for end users to play with. Positive Grid has raised the bar with BIAS, by putting true power and untapped creativity in the hands of guitarists for the first time. Don’t let the initial daunting 30 minutes you first spend with BIAS put you off. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or even just getting into playing electric guitar for the first time, this is one tool worth having in your musical arsenal.
For the latest info on BIAS, check the official site - http://www.positivegrid.com/bias/