Since the release of Line 6’s Amp Farm, people have been searching for a simulated amp tone that is indistinguishable from the real thing. Until the last few years, I was largely unconvinced it was possible. BIAS Amp 2 from Positive Grid claims to have captured the tone of a real amp with unprecedented realism and customization.
My preferred recording method is with a real, not virtual, tube amplifier. I dual-mic a cab with a Shure SM57 and a condenser mic. These two blended are simply incredible. I also bought a BluBox and added a third option for mixing. The BlueBox from BluGuitars is a cab simulator that sits between your amp and your cab. The DI out from the BluBox gave me absolutely stunning results. I started trashing the mic tracks and only keeping the BluBox tracks. Then in walks BIAS Amp 2 to shake things up.
Personally, I am a skeptic when it comes to amp modeling. This will be my first attempt at using BIAS Amp 2 for tracking a song. For this experiment, I am going to re-record a guitar track from Villain Corp’s song “Down With The Villains”. I will record two new takes to remove as many variables as possible. My goal is a raw comparison – with as little work as possible!
No extra compression, EQ, or plugins were added to these tracks inside Reaper. The Apollo did have the 1176SE limiting amplifier running on both tracks going into Reaper.
Listen to the original version of “Down with the Villains”, which was recorded entirely in Reaper. Reaper is a great cross-platform, full-featured DAW.
The first take is my baseline. No guitar pedals were used or harmed during the making of this recording. Here is the set-up;
In my opinion, the Amp1 from BluGuitar is a stunning amp. How can you not love that tone? It would take a lot to get me to use anything else as my primary tone for recording.
This second take is going to be my Gibson SG plugged direct into the Apollo X6’s HI-Z input. Once again, no pedals were used or harmed. My primary goal is to hear the raw tone from Positive Grid’s BIAS AMP 2. And this is where the journey will start.
Now that I have a recorded track, I can start playing around with amps to find the one that best suits this song. There is a lot to choose from here, and I am going to end up with the ’76-RC 120 Jazz Clean model.
The first immediate thing I notice is that the tone here is not even close to the BluGuitar Amp1. It isn’t bad, just different. So, I dive into the controls and make some changes to the Jazz Clean amp. First up is the Preamp! I need more crunch so I set the tube stages to 3 and turn up the distortion.
This gives me more of the tube tone I want for this song. However, It isn’t even a close sonic match for the Amp1. I dive into the amp matching feature and attempt to “match” the Amp1. I fed it the rendered solo track from Amp1 and the raw track from my DAW. The result was nothing less than horrifying. The “blend” knob doubles as a “suck” knob if turned to the highest setting. If I dial it back well below 50%, it turns back into a blend knob again and improves my tone.
I am getting closer to the Amp1 now. The amp simulator needs some EQ to be more comparable. I will engage the built-in EQ after the cab in the signal chain. Most of what I am missing is some air above 5k.
At this point, I don’t hate the new guitar track. It’s not a sonic match for the original, but it is in the ballpark. It also sounds incredible. My bullshit detector is not firing off the fake amp alarm. In fact, I had to check to be sure I was listening to the right track with the BIAS Amp.
Again, this is my first experience with BIAS Amp 2. With some time and effort, I am certain I could build out virtually any tone I want. The presets in it are decent. As you noticed, I needed to tweak some internal components of the amp to get the tone I wanted – not to mention using the amp matching feature.
Customization is what sets the BIAS Amp 2 apart from other amp modelers. Being able to change the number of tube stages and types are not something any other company is doing. It’s an amp builder playground and a good one at that.
You can’t complain about realism. The tone, amp breakup, and sensitivity are extremely convincing. I wouldn’t know if either of these tracks was played through a real amp or not.
Between the BluGuitar Amp1 and BluBox, you will need to spend upwards of $1,100. You will have a rig that you can take anywhere. Home, studio, or shows. They are both built well and are fantastically versatile. If you have the money and need gear to take any of these places, by all means, do it. You will love the tone!
BIAS Amp 2, has three pricing tiers: Standard, Pro, and Elite. Each tier adds additional preamps, amp models, and cabs. The pricing starts at $99 and increases by $100 for each tier. But if you are a regular here, you know that we would never pay full price for audio software. If they aren’t having a sale, just wait, they will! You will save a lot of cash by waiting.
Don’t use BIAS Amp 2 if you are recording for clients who have built their own rigs and love their tone. Spend the money on a BluBox or mic up their cabs. If you don’t, you will spend entirely too much time searching for the mythical tone beast. Most guitarists will not be happy knowing it isn’t their tone. They have invested a lot of time and money to get the tone they want. Give it to them.
Don’t use BIAS Amp 2 if you find yourself tweaking amp tones all day long instead of making music. Don’t spend hours trying to hone in your tone when it’s sitting right next to you in your real amp. I want you to make more music and struggle less.
I currently own BIAS Amp 2 Pro. I may upgrade to the Elite version for the additional Celestion cab models. The cab selection in the Pro is missing those and I would have chosen a greenback cab.
That said, I will most likely be using BIAS Amp 2 more after this. It’s incredibly realistic! If I were to add my pedalboard to the chain, it could be even better. I would love to hear these clean amps with my Forza distortion pedal behind them!
I know I will always reach for my Amp1 first, as it will give me the exact tone I need. I know it will be to my liking and I won’t spend an eternity altering the tone in BIAS Amp 2. In the end, it will depend on the type of amp I want to go for and the different amp combinations I may want to try that will determine my use of BIAS Amp 2.