• Charles Pennefather

12 things you should know about BIAS FX 2 before you purchase it

If you’re dipping your toe into the world of guitar-based plugins, you can’t do much better than Positive Grid’s BIAS FX 2 software. It has more amps and effects than you can shake a stick at, but what do you need to know before taking the plunge? Here are a few points – some positive, some negative – that might help you make a decision.

Before I start, though, a disclaimer or two - I’m not going to type ‘Bias’ in all caps all the time, it’s too shouty. Whether I write ‘Bias FX’ or ‘Bias FX 2’, I mean the latter all the time since the original Bias FX has not been on sale for a while now. Take it up with Google and its search algorithms if you have a problem with that.

1. BIAS FX has an unlimited trial. Unlike time-limited trials, Positive Grid allows you to sample Bias FX for as long as you like. It has engineered random dropouts if you run on the trial version, though. I like this, as I don’t always have continuous time to sample a software. It allows me the freedom to make my purchase when I’m ready, while making it difficult for me to use it for any purpose other than sampling the tones until I pay for it.

2. It runs on 32 bit systems. Sure, 32 bit systems are outdated, but if you’re using Bias FX as part of a signal chain in a DAW and your DAW and OS are 32 bit systems, it will be impossible to use the plugin. Positive Grid definitely needs a pat on the back for continuing to support the musician who can’t afford to upgrade all the time.

3. It has the easiest UI of the guitar plugins.

The only software related to guitar effects chains I used extensively before I was introduced to Bias FX was Line 6’s Edit for the POD HD 500X, which was made many years ago. However, jumping to Bias FX 2 was very intuitive, and the graphic representation of the chain is excellent. I was never confused about the chain, and I even learned a few new things from observing how PG decided to order the effects. The other plugins I have used since are Amplitube 4, a couple of the Neural DSP Archetype suites, and whatever is available in Cubase; none of these are as easy on the eyes as Bias FX.

4. The mobile version works really well.

I use Bias FX 2 mobile on a standard iPad that is two generations old, and it works without a single hitch. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that for lower pricing, Positive Grid’s Elite tier for mobile gives you access to the three standard bundles as well – Acoustic, Bass, and Metal. It convinced me to upgrade to these on the computer version as well, especially the Metal Pack.

5. It is almost always easy on the CPU. Bias FX 2 doesn’t require a lot of processing power to run. This has never been a problem on iOS systems, but running it on a Windows system, it works pretty darn well. My two-generations-old regular iPad barely breaks a sweat while running Bias FX Mobile. However, running a dual amp setup can suddenly eat into resources, especially if they have individual pedals in their paths. Running a dual amp setup also becomes very frustrating for those who like to run a clean amp and a driven one as two separate channels in their rig. I will put up a post on how to configure that soon.

6. The guitar match feature is great.

While not perfect, if you learn to use it well, you will need just one guitar for every occasion, and that is no bad thing. I have six electric guitars, and the time, effort, and money I need to put into maintaining them sometimes makes me wonder if I am a guitar tech rather than a guitar player. There is something to be said for using a single guitar for everything, as you will get more and more used to it, and use it more and more effectively.

7. It is easy to pair up with a MIDI foot controller. I entered the world of plugins as a replacement for my current setup, which is either all analogue, with pedals going into a tube amp; or all digital floorboard, a Line 6 POD HD500X running directly into the PA with a different channel out going to a full-range amp for my monitoring. I needed to have the ability to switch things on and off in the plugin live, and got myself a MeloAudio MIDI Commander. It was not very easy to set up with Neural DSP’s software, but it is a doddle with BIAS FX – it even has a ‘BIAS FX’ mode.

However, all is not great with Positive Grid’s product. Here are some of its negative points.

8. Access to the Tonecloud doesn’t always mean what it says.

PG always says that access to the ToneCloud is available no matter what tier licence you purchase, but you can only use tones that use amps and effects that you have purchased. In effect, to have access to everything in the ToneCloud, you need to purchase everything in the BIAS ecosystem – Bias FX 2, Bias Amp 2, Bias Pedal, whatever additional packs and extensions it has, including but not limited to the Acoustic Pack, Bass Pack, Metal Pack, and whatever Celestion IR packs are available. You add up the cost of all those things, and it will turn out to be a large amount. At least you can make those purchases one at a time.

9. You need BIAS Amp, BIAS Pedal, and the expansion packs to get the most out of it.

Building off the previous point, some of the best tones are only accessible through a purchase of BIAS Amp, Pedal, and the various additional packs. Positive Grid has taken the car-advertisement route of showing us all the bells and whistles and putting a sentence somewhere with an asterisk that says ‘Features shown might not be available on the model you buy’. With a car ad, the percentage amount required to upgrade to a variant with those features is not much. With this software, you cost more than doubles unless you wait for a sale. That is not nice. This also brings me to the next point, which is…

10. It has no semitone detuner pedal.

I have got myself a Digitech The Drop pedal for all those songs that are tuned a semitone or a whole tone lower, I don’t keep any of my guitars in alternate tunings. Most guitarists will have a single guitar, so having an effect pedal that can downtune a semitone at a time will be great – this is a negative right now because PG already has the capability for harmonising – there’s both a Digitech Whammy as well as an Electro-Harmonix POG pedal. A detuner shouldn’t be too much trouble, but PG has simply left it out.

11. The pricing is strange.

The mobile version has no upgrade pricing – if you want to upgrade from one tier to the next, you need to pay full price for the privilege. There’s also no clear communication from PG about this when you go through the process of making your purchase, which is not nice. For the PC version, it is cheaper to buy a whole new version of BIAS FX with the metal pack bundled along with it, than it is to purchase just the metal pack if you already own Bias FX.

I don’t need the extra licences because I don’t have that many computers – will I even get two more computer installs because I’ve purchased it twice? I never got to finding out, because…

12. The customer service isn’t very good. This opinion has not been formed from just one interaction, but from a few. My queries ranged from feedback originating from an audio interface, to why pricing is skewed towards new users and not existing customers who simply want to upgrade. To be fair, I did get a polite response one time.

I am told that all plugin manufacturers do not have good customer service, and they are currently short on manpower because of the pandemic, which I understand, but I still think that if a rude person is in customer service, your company isn’t going to go far. Either way, PG’s rude responses to my queries made me explore Neural DSP’s kickass plugins, and I haven’t started up BIAS FX since I made my new purchases.

Overall, Positive Grid's BIAS FX 2 is a great first step into the world of plugins, and the added convenience it offers you because of its cross-platform compatibility with iOS mobile devices means that you can possibly gig using just your iPhone, interface, and guitar. It can offer tones with the best of them, but to get the best out of it you have to invest a lot of time and money into other apps like Bias Amp and Bias Pedal. However, if you know exactly what sound you’re looking for, or are familiar with effects chains and a not-so-good UI doesn’t bother you, then you might be better served by looking elsewhere.

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