Pos­i­tive Grid BIAS Mini Gui­tar Head


Australian Guitar - - Contents - PETER HODG­SON

Pos­i­tive Grid’s range of amp mod­el­ling prod­ucts oc­cu­pies a unique niche, avail­able in soft­ware and hard­ware ver­sions in ev­ery­thing from smart­phone apps to full-on am­pli­fier heads. The com­pany knows it’s on a win­ner with its BIAS Head and BIAS Rack units, but with the new BIAS Mini Gui­tar, they’ve man­aged to pack all that pro­cess­ing power into a unit small enough that you could prob­a­bly even fig­ure out a way to mount it on a ped­al­board if you’re clever.

It oc­cu­pies only half a stan­dard rack space, but will just as hap­pily sit on top of your speaker cabi­net or on a desk in your home record­ing setup. And it only weighs about two kilo­grams, yet it packs a whop­ping 300 watts of power.


Let’s start with the con­trols: there are knobs for Pre­set, then Gain, Bass, Mid­dle, Tre­ble and Mas­ter (all of which go to 11 and you know why), then a ro­tary en­coder with a Push To Select fea­ture for di­alling in the speaker out­put, line out, vol­ume, FX send or head­phone level. Around the back, you’ll find the Speaker Out (four-to-16 ohm), an XLR Line Out with ground lift, mini MIDI in/out jacks, a footswitch jack, and the ef­fect loop send and re­turn jacks.

More com­pa­nies are go­ing for th­ese mini MIDI jacks in­stead of stan­dard 5-pin MIDI plugs as of late, and though it does save space, it means more bits to fid­dle about with. This unit is sim­ply too small to in­clude full-sized MIDI jacks, and it also in­cludes adapter ca­bles, so Pos­i­tive Grid gets a pass here.

There are 16 on­board cus­tom am­pli­fier pre­sets, though there are thou­sands more avail­able on Pos­i­tive Grid’s ToneCloud (in­clud­ing pre­sets by shred leg­end Rusty Coo­ley). There are nine built-in re­verbs and a built-in noise gate, and the ef­fects loop is glitch­less (it doesn’t mute at patch re­call). There’s built-in Blue­tooth for mo­bile con­trol, which is re­ally handy for on­stage use. Whack an iPad on your mic stand and you’ll have ac­cess to your con­trols in re­al­time with­out hav­ing to walk back to your amp.

There’s USB for con­nect­ing to a Mac or PC, and you can load and sent cus­tom im­pulse re­sponses (IRs) to line out­puts ex­clu­sively while run­ning into a speaker cabi­net at the same time. BIAS’s real se­cret, whether we’re talk­ing about a hard­ware de­vice like this or a soft­ware one like the apps and plug­ins, is its com­po­nent-level mod­el­ling. While the front panel con­trols only let you ac­cess ba­sic amp func­tions, the in­cluded BIAS Pro amp de­signer soft­ware lets you get right down to the nitty gritty of amp de­sign, let­ting you choose be­tween dif­fer­ent preamp and power amp cir­cuits, change the tubes and trans­form­ers (in­clud­ing the num­ber of tubes, so you can ba­si­cally do what Ed­die Van Halen did when de­sign­ing the orig­i­nal 5150: “That ain’t quite it, how about adding an­other tube?”), add clip­ping diodes and ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent rec­ti­fiers.

You can set all sorts of other pa­ram­e­ters, too, like tube bias, high and low shelves, res­o­nance and pres­ence con­trols, and much more.


All that flex­i­bil­ity wouldn’t mean any­thing if the tone wasn’t up to scratch, and that’s where BIAS – in all its forms – re­ally shines it where it counts. If you’re the kind of player who likes very even

dy­nam­ics, you can con­fig­ure your sound right down to the finest com­po­nent level in or­der to get a nice big com­pressed grind. If you like more air and dy­nam­ics in your tone, you can do that too.

Pos­i­tive Grid has done some­thing very clever by keep­ing all of that ex­tra con­trol away from the hard­ware in­ter­face of the amp, be­cause frankly, you could lose your­self in all the op­tions. What they’ve done in­stead is in­cluded 16 pre­sets that run the full gamut from crys­tal clean to ut­terly pissed off dis­tor­tion may­hem (with plenty of great, dy­namic ‘in-be­tween’ sounds that clean up beau­ti­fully with gui­tar vol­ume knob tweaks) with the most simple amp-style con­trols, so you can’t get stuck in edit win­dows in the mid­dle of a show.

It’s al­most as if Pos­i­tive Grid are say­ing, “Want more tre­ble? Turn the tre­ble knob. Want to change your power tubes to EL34 in the mid­dle of a solo? No! Shut up and play your gui­tar and make the peo­ple dance, damn it!” That may sound re­stric­tive, but it’s not: it puts the fo­cus on the tone so you don’t dis­ap­pear up your own butt. If that’s what you re­ally want, you can use the soft­ware to achieve it. But Pos­i­tive Grid knows that a gui­tarist’s real job is to sound great and make au­di­ences rock out, not to stand there press­ing but­tons.

Are there any draw­backs to this sys­tem? Well, its re­verbs sound great, but it would be nice to have more on­board ef­fects. Again, how­ever, that would add to the com­plex­ity. And if there were more ef­fects like de­lay, then you’d prob­a­bly want stereo out­puts, which would com­pli­cate things on the back panel.

An LCD screen could be nice, but it would mess with the in­ten­tional il­lu­sion of this be­ing a real amp. In­stead, the idea here is that you’re sup­posed to for­get you’re play­ing through a dig­i­tal amp un­less you’re edit­ing sounds (hope­fully prior to the gig, not dur­ing it). So re­ally, all of th­ese things would just get in the way of what BIAS Mini Gui­tar is meant to be.


If you’ve reached this far into the re­view, you al­ready know if this is for you. Do you need the flex­i­bil­ity of dig­i­tal but pre­fer the tac­tile in­ter­ac­tiv­ity of a reg­u­lar amp, and you don’t need two dozen re­verse pitch-shifted mod­u­lated de­lays at your fin­ger­tips? If so, you’ve prob­a­bly al­ready got a He­lix or some­thing of that ilk, and you’re quite happy. Pos­i­tive Grid has been very clever in spot­ting a hole in the dig­i­tal mod­el­ling mar­ket, and they’re cre­at­ing the per­fect fam­ily of prod­ucts to fill it.

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