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Positive Grid Bias Head Amp

Discussion in 'Amp Input - Normal or Bright' started by Silvercrow, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.

    Well, on Friday the very harried FedEx guy dropped this off at my door! I intend to do a review, in segments, with more pics and perhaps, if I get the tutelage, some sound files. There aren't really any complete reviews on this amp here on Strat Talk, and although there are reviews and YouTube videos / Company reviews / videos on it, I always like a 'real world' review from an end user, without all the fluff and "Now's my chance to impress you with my virtuosity.." type stuff that sometimes occurs.

    I've had it for three days now and so far I'm very impressed! It didn't start out that way, although that was, by and large, my own fault ("my Bad..") as they say! I purchased it from Sweetwater and their main video portrays one of the Sweetwater Exec's saying that right out of the box, it's loaded with 25 amp models and is, essentially, plug and play. Indeed, the "Quick Start" mini pamphlet shows several graphics (in case you just bought a computer based modeling amp and can't read :rolleyes:) the first of which is a drawing of a guitar, cable, the Bias Head and then several devices from the amp's outputs- one of which is a speaker cab. Hey, I've got one of those!

    Right away, you can switch between twenty five amp models that are pre-loaded into the amp. There are five categories: Clean; Glassy; Crunch; Blues; Metal, each of which has five settings, numbered 1 thru 5. The amp itself, unlike the Fender Mustang III v2 and some other modeling amps, does not have a 'screen' to show what you are currently using. The software that comes with it (Bias Amp Pro, $149.00 if purchased separately), when connected by cable (included) to your PC or MAC; via Bluetooth to your iPad or iPhone, displays each amp model and enables you to "go into" each model and tweak to your heart's content. Pre amp tube type and stages, power amp tube types and bias; transformer types; rectifier types and sag/ match, cabinet sims and other internals are all configurable via the software. When you find something you like, tweak, name it and save it to the amp. More on that, with some pics, later.

    Initially, you can do some gain stage and power amp tweaking from the front panel, which I did. The amp, being solid state, is rated at 600 watts (@ 8 ohms) and the amp instantly detects the ohm load of any cab you plug into it. My 2x12 (see pic above) has a 16 and 4 Ohm setting; at 16 Ohms the amp is rated 350 watts; at 4 ohms 850 (!). I started perusing the amp models in various classes and although they sounded good, the amp seemed to lack some sonic thrust. I checked the settings, turned off and on-no change. So I decided to read the manual (74 pages, available via download). Like any computer, when anything goes awry, reboot. The first troubleshooting suggestion in any classification, 'do a factory reset'. Well, it CAME from the factory, but...easy to perform so I "do eeet!"

    Ok- that fixed it! I happened to be sitting in front of the cab with the Master and Output knobs each at noon. The amp model was "Dumble, Clean" (Thank the Lord it wasn't Triple Rectifier!). The amp has a really good built in noise gate and when I hit that "E" chord the air blew my hair back and the local fire department sounded their claxtons! (Exaggeration- but seriously, this amp has PLENTY of GONADS!)

    Apparently, when Sweetwater downloaded the latest version of Firmware (just out in November 2017) they didn't do the required re-set...:).

    More to come...from a computer illiterate, old guy, who bought an advanced modeling amp and...likes it!

    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  2. Rudi

    Rudi Senior Stratmaster

    Apr 19, 2016
    I would like to hear more from you about your new toy.
    I always welcome 1. Hand reviews by players.
    You tube videos just don't do it for me.
    Silvercrow likes this.
  3. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    This is already long, and I don't want it to be boring (although for those who find it hard to fall asleep, put the Ambien down and read on)...

    Right next to the "Quick Start" guide is a credit card sized...card....that has an alpha / numeric "redeeming" code. You simply long onto the Positive Grid site, enter the code and download the "Pro" level controlling software.

    It SHOULD have been simple,but we're dealing with me, here...

    I began well enough, but I'll take this opportunity to say I wish manufacturers still used a disc to load software. I get it- piracy, cloning and all that. Anyway, it looked like the software loaded but then...nothing. I found myself on a page with myriad Positive Grid software bundles, all of which had a "BUY NOW" button at the bottom. "WTH ?", thought I. Clicking on the support tab, I emailed Positive Grid (hereafter referred to as "PG") and wrote to their help folks. There is a FAQ section that has a bazillion (whole bunch) of possible problems / scenarios (REBOOT) but I wrote and went to bed (it was 11PM EST).

    Sunday morning for giggles, I check email. "FELIX" from PG wrote (I received it at 12:34 A.M.) and, being a person that's kind to dumb old guys and animals, he carefully explained he "saw" a license under my registration that was unused, and carefully explained how to download and use the software. My wife, Linda, understood this completely...and soon we were on our way.

    TURNS OUT that page with the software bundles? If you click "BUY NOW" button you get a message stating you already own it, would you like to download now? "HELL YES I'd like to download now!"

    I elected to have it download to my laptop- other options I mentioned previously. I don't know what happens if your laptop crashes, is stolen, etc. (a disc would allow you to...nevermind).

    So, rundown of front panel, rear panel and brief (I promise) rundown of software, tone cloud, and the "pizza ordering" button on the rear panel...(only kiddin'!) in next installment..

    Robins likes this.
  4. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.

    Front Panel:
    Top Row, L>R :

    "Categories" -can be changed to anything you want in the software, similar to Fender Mustang, etc.
    "Model" 5 for each category, assignable via software as anything you want.
    "Tube Stages": 1 thru 5, each adds a pre-amp gain stage, mild to "Holy Crap"
    "Distortion": Yes, it is.
    "Topology": Type of power amp configuration: Single Ended, Single ended in phase, Push Pull, Solid State (!?, probably the most unused, that Solid State)
    "Custom": Can be assigned various tasks via software, but, from factory, a simple noisegate control.

    Bottom Row:

    Self Explanatory; Gain;Bass;Mids;Treble; Presence; Master; Output. The Master volume works the way you'd expect, although the Output controls the signal level, whether to a cab, PA / mixing board, etc.

    There are a "Save" button if you tweak a preset and want to save from the front panel; two micro switches for "bright" / "Normal" (like on some Fender amps) and "Modern/Vintage" to change how amp responds in general.

    Pretty much self explanatory, although the micro switches lower right allow you to configure cab sims; pretty cool: You can be running into a cab on stage, and select a cab simulator to go out to a mixing console at the same time. Or switch to Cab Sim for the DI AND your cab (if you had for instance a speaker that was pretty generic- such as comes with Mustang Amp).

    Hopefully I'm not committing a violation but the following are the amp models loaded into the amp from the factory. MOST are self explanatory, although a couple make me scratch my head...

    PLEASE NOTE ALSO: Positive Grid does not use names of Fender or Marshall, Soldano Etc. I made this list and did the interpretations myself:

    NOTE the 'Acoustic Amp' setting on number 5 , Clean Category:


    1: JC20

    2: JCM 900

    3: 94 Matchless

    4: HiWatt

    5: Acoustic


    1: 67 Blackface Duo (Twin)

    2: Vox 30 Top Boost

    3: ’65 Blackface Vibro

    4: Dumble Clean

    5: ’65 American Lux


    1: American Bass (59 Bassman)

    2: Tweed Lux

    3: Mini Duo Reverb

    4: ’63 Marshall J45

    5: Fender Tweed


    1: Marshall Plexi 50

    2: JCM 800

    3: Hi Watt (HiWay DR 103)

    4: ’69 Marshall Super Lead

    5: Orange 50 Watt


    1: 5153 MK II

    2: Mesa Tripe Rectifier

    3: MK II C (5150?)

    4: Soldano SLO 100

    5: Power Place (?)

    Thanks and congratulations to any / all who actually read this whole thing!

    PLEASE feel free to ask questions / make comments. I am not affiliated ith Positive Grid in any way- nor am I affiliated with AARP, LOL.

    Robins likes this.
  5. alderre

    alderre Strat-O-Master

    May 1, 2014
    New Braunfels
    This is great information. Positive Grid is a small company but they really do a great job helping their users, even though they can’t offer phone support.

    Their forum just opened so there’s. It much info there yet.

    They also just hired Sean Halley as their main marketing guy, who you may remember from his days at Line6.

    My point is that the company has been growing slowly but steadily.

    I would just love for thins unit to incorporate some other effects. They just added Reverb last month.
    Robins and Silvercrow like this.
  6. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    Final installment: (until I can upload some sound clips)

    This afternoon I tweaked two models to my liking; the Dumble Clean and the '54 American Lux that I turned into a '65 Deluxe reverb clone.

    It's amazing what you can do going 'inside' these models. Pre-amp stages and tube types; Tone Stacks; Power Tubes (ANY type available), Transformers (British, American, you can teak output power, etc). Cabinets, and 9 different types of Reverb (Studio, Plates, Rooms, etc.) with Dwell, Timing, Levels, 3 other parameters).

    You can literally build an amp that doesn't exist, to your liking. I took up too much bandwidth already- but the parameters for EACH section are unbelievable. You could get lost in there for hours- maybe days! LOL!

    The two I 'modded' sound fabulous! I am extremely familiar with Super Reverb and Deluxe Reverbs, having owned vintage, modern handwired and DRRI types. No B.S.- you can NAIL that amp! Relative to the Dumble- I kept the stock settings pretty much- just biased it hot, boosted the gain stage a smidge and added reverb. LUSH, deep, throaty are descriptors that come to mind...

    SO, so far very happy! I'll do my best to post some sound clips!

    Meanwhile- thanks for your patience and feel free to ask questions, make comments (good or bad- I've got broad shoulders and several handguns...ONLY KIDDIN') or make suggestions!

    Thanks for looking!

    Robins likes this.
  7. Robins

    Robins Dr. von Loudster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey Brian,

    don´t shoot me(xD) but does that mean changing too many things and you run out of computing power? when does it happen - too many parameters/tubes/FX?
    I think the Bias head is an interesting concept and I like it more than the Kemper just because you can actually create amps and make changes which are normally very expensive and many times too expensive for just trying out on a real amp.
    I used the software version and I found that it comes (relatively) close to the reality changing transformers and tubes.
    I am just curious in finding a tool which can simulate those things.
    I guess they are working and doing updates all the time, right?

    All the best,
    Silvercrow likes this.
  8. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    Good questions! Although I don't have all the answers, in the written and video information / tutorials for the Amp and software, they say that 1- they used the best components available for the hardware- and the most modern and 2- the amp processor is highly sophisticated and powerful. Now, that's all sales-speak, but I gotta tell ya, it is EXTREMELY impressive. I extensively 'modded' the two I did yesterday, and a third "American Bass Amp" (59 Bassman model) (another amp I am intimately familiar with) and the tone, response and feel are nothing short of incredible! I played for two hours straight this morning, just to play; something I haven't done for a few months. Understand, it took some time, guitars and pedals plugged in, raising and lowering, changing up this and that, but...all I can say is wow!

    I love my Mustang III v2 and will be keeping it, incidentally. But Fender put 99 models in there, each at least somewhat tweak-able, plus capability to download from their 'cloud' other amp models from end users- I'm pretty confident that Positive Grid made sure of their capacity, also.

    I'm hoping that there is time enough soon to record and upload some sound clips. I truly believe anyone would be favorably impressed.

    There is a section in the manual and in the tutorials regarding latency that may develop with too many add-ons, but, if I read correctly, anything you can do within the 25 models, there is enough capacity to do so. I believe when they say add-ons they mean other software based effects- but not 100% sure.

    Finally, yes, they are constantly refining and upgrading their software / developing same. It took a few extra days for me to get my amp from Sweetwater, as Positive Grid released a new version of their "pro" software and wanted Sweetwater to upgrade it before sending out any further amps. On their page- you can plug your amp in (computer) and update newest versions easily.

    Sorry for the loooong answer, hopefully it answered your (and other's) questions.

    Robins likes this.
  9. Robins

    Robins Dr. von Loudster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey Brian,

    thank you very much for the insides and your impressions and feelings about the BIAS head, much appreciated.
    I really love the fact that anybody can do modifications on the circuit or even "creating new" circuits by adding and changing components. Tweaking like that is a very time consuming thing (on real amps) and it really is a great thing and concept brought up by Positive Grid. I know it has been done by other companies as well but to me it seems they did a great job so far delivering a whole package that works great and they are on a very good way to make their product unique and outstanding on the market.
    I like it way better than most others.

    All the best,
    Silvercrow likes this.
  10. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    @Robins You are very welcome! I went into this with the attitude that if it didn't work as advertised- or if I was not completely satisfied with it, it would go back. Right now, you'd have to fight me to get me to give it up...LOL!

    Similar to the Mustang III v2 I own (I keep referencing that because it is something I own and am familiar with), the "stock" settings, while good, were not thrilling. But, similar to the Mustang, some tweaking and careful, thoughtful time and I've got something special, I'll even say exciting, for me!

    As you previously mentioned- I'd never have room for, much LESS be able to afford, some of the amps modeled in this unit / package. And while they may not be exactly like the amps themselves, you'd seriously have a hard time, IMO, differentiating say, the Deluxe Reverb model from the real thing...right down to the single coil hum and idiosyncrasies of the 'real thing'.

    Robins likes this.
  11. ashcastermetal

    ashcastermetal Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 1, 2012
    I've had my Bias head for a little over a year. It's a serious amp and is well worth the money. I've kept up with the updates and although I haven't noticed any tonal changes, it's just ironed out some small issues from time to time. They did recently add reverb to the unit which is nice.

    I'll go over some things I've found that you may have glossed over or didn't mention.

    The stock presets... they're ok, nothing special and IMO haven't helped it's popularity, especially over Fractal AxeFX or Kemper amps. I've found that tweaking them and putting time into them has made them much better, much like any real amp. Also Positive Grid has many more amps in their software than are loaded into the amp. The impulse response/cabinet models that come stock are really a weak link IMHO and has also not helped the popularity of the amp either. I'd check out OwnHammer or Rosen Digital and Celestion, these really woke up the amps when you aren't using a physical speaker cab and YES you can load them into the head.

    In terms of the "Clean", "Glassy", "Crunch" presets... they are just folders you'd file your amps under. You can add any amp to any folder/setting on the face of the amp. I actually have it set up very differently wherein my Midi pedal switcher (GigRig G2) switches all of these to a preset/midi channel I've made along with the pedals I've chosen for certain songs. Some are even the same amp model set differently with different pedals.

    Amp Matching/Tone Cloud... what really has set this thing apart for me is being able to download amps that were matched from people's real amps. Of course fine tweaking has to be done to make them work for you personally but they sound better to me than most of the preset amp models.

    Moving on to matching your own amps... the way I do it is different than Positive Grid and various YouTubers have demonstrated. I will capture the amp direct, that is WITHOUT a cabinet. Not easy when you need a cabinet or you blow your Output Transformer. I use my Two Notes Torpedo Reload direct out to my interface, thus removing any coloration from the speaker. This can be done with any load box with a line out. Any impulse I add or cab I plug into is seeing truly what the amp should sound like. A trick I learned from various Kemper users.

    When I match my amps, especially amps that clean up well when you roll back, I will start off playing lightly with the volume on my guitar rolled back for clean and slowly roll it in and play heavier. This really ensures that the software is hearing the dynamic range of the amp and models this well when you want to clean up with your volume. It's also important you use the same or similar tube compliments that are in the real amp, this goes for matching but also for making your own presets. I have to say it has absolutely nailed any amp I've matched this way, from my Fender Champ to my Dual Rectifier.

    Hope this is helpful, I started a thread like this when I first got it but nobody gave a crap, so I'm glad there's some interest. I would also like to do some in depth reviews at some point to go over these things in depth. A lot of this I haven't heard mentioned and I really believe has made my experience better and of course the tone of the Bias Head.
  12. johnnymg

    johnnymg Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Sep 5, 2015
    Central Coast Ca
    Isn't the SW included free with the head?

    From the Bias Head product page:
    "As part of the BIAS ecosystem, BIAS Head is designed to be an extension of the acclaimed BIAS Amp Pro software (included) and the BIAS Amp app."
    Silvercrow likes this.
  13. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    ABSOLUTELY! "Pro" level software IS included!

    MAYBE what I wrote got lost in the translation. I was having a tough time downloading that software. AFTER I entered my "Redeem" code, it took me to the PG software page. EVERY package, including the Pro Level (included) package, had a "BUY NOW" button. I THOUGHT something wasn't working right with my code. MY WIFE, being more savvy than me. said "Click on the package you're supposed to get" I did AND, the next page or "frame" popped up and said "YOU ALREADY OWN THIS PRODUCT, Do you want to download now?" Of course, I did!

    I thought it would have had a button directly under the advertised software that said "DOWNLOAD" rather than "BUY NOW". Only AFTER I clicked the "BUY NOW" did it tell me I already owned it and could download. Confusing to me, an old guy who doesn't understand why they don't make these things clear enough for a 3 year old (I'd say a ten year old, but a TEN YEAR OLD WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT TO DO...LOL!)

    Sorry if not clear in my previous post. My opinion- PG could have been more clear as to how to access the download of the software.

    Robins and johnnymg like this.
  14. Silvercrow

    Silvercrow Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 6, 2014
    Bucks County, Pa.
    THANKS ASHCASTERMETAL! I could have talked for DAYS about my experiences so far. You've articulated, very nicely, what's so great about these amps! AND, I cannot speak to capturing / matching actual amps.

    I'll triple emphasize- the tweaking is absolutely necessary! Just like my Mustang models I use- they were ok / meh from the factory, but, fine tuning! And Positive Grid allows such in depth tweaking: pre-amp; tone stack; power amp; transformers; each having MANY parameters than can be fine tuned. I'm very familiar with the amp models I use and it was relatively easy for me- as I know what each section does and how it can be configured- ALSO how one thing affects another... But, even if one didn't, you could easily "tweak it in" by ear, with patience and a decent speaker cab or headphones.

    So cool what you did with the info you gleaned from the Kemper users! That would have been lost on me, honestly...

    Thanks for the post! I really wish more folks would get interested. I think, with open mind and ears, a lot of people would be VERY favorably impressed with this amp / package!

    Robins likes this.