Get creative with BIAS FX

14 Nov 2016

While BIAS FX is designed with guitar processing in mind, it’s a really useful tool elsewhere in your mix. Mike Senior (Sound On Sound) takes you through some creative uses, from beefing up processed drums to making your vocals growl. Give it a try!

Although Positive Grid's BIAS FX is clearly targeted at guitarists, whether on stage or in the studio, it also has plenty of potential uses at the mixing stage. Indeed, there's a long tradition of creative record producers taking advantage of guitar effects to provide a wider range of sonic flavours at mixdown. So, in this spirit, I'd like to suggest a few aspects of BIAS FX's feature set that can help you achieve more dramatic and ear-catching mixes.

Top of the list for me is the 'Tube Compressor' module, which can inject a tremendous dose of aggression and attitude into your drums buss — something that's especially handy if you find yourself struggling to breathe life into programmed drums. The trick is to set the module's Ratio rotary switch to 'All', a setting which emulates a well-known 'hack' that rock producers use with the classic Urei 1176 outboard compressor. In this mode you're able to get terrifically dirty, pumping sounds by using the compressor's Input and Threshold controls to drive the compressor into nosebleed territory, adusting the Output control as necessary to keep the overall volume in check. You'll unearth the most extreme results with the fastest Attack and Release settings, in other words with those controls cranked clockwise all the way.

On top of this, there's another trick you can do if you want to push the compressor hard, but find you're losing some transient punch: set up BIAS FX as a send effect in your DAW. This means you can mix the compressed 'wet' sound with the uncompressed 'dry' sound, allowing you to drive the compressor as hard as you like (or even put an extra 'Booster' module in front of it!) without losing the attack 'spike', which will always come through from the unprocessed audio stream.

Another BIAS FX module that's full of promise for mixing monophonic instruments is 'Octaver', an octave-up and octave-down doubler. You might think that such a simple pitch-shifter is nothing to write home about, but what sets this particular algorithm apart is its gnarly, old-school sound, which has buckets more personality than most modern designs. Mixing a little of the sub octave with any rock lead singer offers a fantastic mechanical growl, for instance, whereas the over-octave control can give EDM synth basses a grainy complexity that improves audibility on smaller speakers and earbuds.

My other mix favourites reside in BIAS FX's reverb section. A lot of DAW systems come with reasonable 'general-purpose' digital reverberation these days, but a lot of reverb sounds you hear on modern records actually avoid those kinds of generic sounds in favour of effects that make a real statement. And this is where BIAS FX scores well, for me. One highlight is the 'Stereo Reverb' module's 'Plate Rich' setting, which is great for enhancing the high-frequencies of percussion and synth parts. It's best to use it with the Width control set to minimum, so you don't run into mono-compatibility issues, and make sure you give enough attention to the three Late Field Diffusion knobs in the centre of the Control Panel. These make a big difference to the effect's tone and sustain characteristics!

The '63 Spring' pedal is worth investigating too, as a way of adding retro timbre and quirky sustain to harmonic parts such backing vocals and keyboards. In the latter case, if you find the Tone control doesn't offer enough timbral options, then try operating BIAS FX as a send effect, which then means you can EQ the reverb further (perhaps with the EQ10 module) without affecting the dry source sound. Just remember to set the Mixer control in '63 Spring' all the way clockwise when using it in send-return configuration, so you don't duplicate the dry signal in the effect return, as this could potentially upset your overall mix balance.

Words: Mike Senior