BIAS FX for iPad

Ratings_1Positive Grid released BIAS FX today, an iPad app they have been teasing for the last few weeks. Invoking the name BIAS naturally got a lot of people excited, because their BIAS AMP simulator app is arguably the best amp simulator on iOS. I’m afraid a lot of people are going to be left scratching their head after paying $29.99 for this new app, however…

As soon as I heard about the new app, my immediate question was – How is this going to be different from Positive Grid’s existing multi-effects simulator app JamUp Pro? JamUp already lets you pretty seamlessly put a pedal board in front of a BIAS amp. Would BIAS FX let you pop open the virtual cases on the pedals and do a virtual Keeley mod on a virtual Tube Screamer? Would it revolutionize the sharing process? Would the sound quality be significant improved enough to warrant paying $10 more than I already paid for JamUp?

Having played with a review copy for a few days, I can tell you the answer to all of these questions is no.

BIAS FX promises “extremely intuitive operation” and unrivalled, component-level simulation with analog-like sound quality. While it’s not impossible to figure out how to add new effects and turn them on and off, there are icon-only buttons all over the interface that you have to guess what they do. If you’ve used other similar apps, you’ll figure it out on your own, but it wouldn’t have killed Positive Grid to put a few introductory slides at the beginning to help people get acclimated.

Perhaps most disappointing is that BIAS FX seems to have taken a step back in terms of integration with the BIAS AMP app. The app’s description on iTunes very explicitly states “12 classic BIAS amps, import any amp models from BIAS AMP.” Half of that is right. You can select from 12 built-in apps that are drawn from BIAS AMP and that can be edited just like BIAS amps. However, I see no way to import other BIAS amps into the BIAS FX amp slots. That’s hugely disappointing for me, because my favorite Dumble amp is not among the 12 they chose to include. Now, it is possible to plop a BIAS amp into the signal chain using Inter App Audio, but using that method does not allow you to use the dual amp setup BIAS FX is capable of.

What people will likely be most interested in, and willing to pay a premium for, is sound quality. If I was going to pay nearly $30 for another new multi-fx app, I would really expect the sound quality to blow me away. This does not. The dual amp capability is nice and certainly noticeable, but the sound, to me, does not sound radically different from JamUp. One specific example is the Acoustic Simulator. Positive Grid released an update last June that added an acoustic simulator amp that will honestly blow your mind. (If you haven’t heard it yet, check out the samples linked to from Our Review.) BIAS FX has an acoustic simulator too. You’d expect it to be at least as good, right? Nope.

And since they chose to create a new multi-fx app instead of just expanding on their already successful JamUp product, I expected somehow for there to be more choices in terms of the pedals you could choose from. There are not. By my count there are about 50 pedals available in JamUp Pro, when you include extra available as in-app purchases. At launch, BIAS FX only has about 28. My guess is they will add more, probably as in-app purchases, down the road, but right now it feels very limited.

It will be interesting to see what happens. It’s a brand new product, so there are likely some kinks to work out and Positive Grid has certainly shown they’re capable of great things in the past. For now, however, I’d hold off on buying this one. Stick with JamUp. It’s 75% off right now anyway, so it’s only $4.99.