Other Amps

Positive Grid’s Spark Practice Amp anyone?


I've been getting more and more intrigued by this. It seems like it does, well... everything.

So is it too good to be true? Does anyone have one yet (or maybe tried one at winter NAMM?)



Actually...they're not shipping yet. Looks like end of May, early June. Price for the amassed functionality is very attractive at 300.00 or so.

I'm most curious about the key-n-groove-sensing tech, which will be another test of where we are in AI for musical applications. I have to think that out of the chute, they'll be going for the most obvious/"appropriate" genre-specific arrangements for the backing instruments - and if it does that well...well OK. If it rocks and swings and djents and boom-whap chug-a-lugs like a competent if uninspired rhythm section, that will be an accomplishment, and probably satisfy a huge swath of the market. Likely even good enough for nearly anyone as a jam-along buddy/songwriting tool.

But ultimately, what I want out of playing partners is not only the ability to respond to and follow what I'm doing, but to contribute - to take me somewhere I wouldn't otherwise have gone, but do so interactively. Philosophically, I'm more interested in where that kind of tech can go down the line - like what kinds of algorithms there will eventually be to simulate creativity and quirkiness in the virtual auto-accompanists. And how we'll control that, in the same way we can dial in degrees of swing and even randomness in more sophisticated drum software. It's a curious road to go down, and I'll be interested in the trip.

Personally, I would have little use for the device's purported ability to analyze any track from the internet, because I'm not trying to cover anyone else's music. (Which I consider only fair, since no one is trying to cover mine.) But that function is surely a killer app in and of itself. It raises interesting tech questions - like, is it analyzing the music harmonically and rhythmically to extract and produce a chart, or does it have access to some unimaginably complete database of such material? If it works reasonably well, it will be attractive to gazillions of players.

As for the more "traditional" (OK, the new traditional) functions of providing amp and effect modeling, unless Positive Grid really pokes the pooch here, it should be impressive and satisfying. I have everything PG has done for iOS on my iPad, and their modeling and interface are awfully good. Tons and tons of amps and effects, very flexible configuration, and thoroughly entertaining results - probably as good as anyone's all-hardware modelers.

Or, rather, the modelers of manufacturers who have built dedicated hardware to host their software, as opposed to using mass-market hardware and contributing "just" the apps to drive it. In the iOS (or, presumably, Android-what-do-I-know) environment, if you already have the pad, PG's apps are insanely good buys, with more pur-durn-good amps/cabs/pedals for the money than the wildest dreamer could have conceived of 10 years ago. If modeling hardware (Line6/AxeFX/Hotone/Boss/Mooer, etc) offers virtual gear at pennies on the dollar, apps in iOS bring that down to ... well, at the moment, here (https://www.positivegrid.co...), the flagship BiasFX goes for less than 30¢ per pedal/amp.

Their other iOS apps, Bias Amp, and Bias Pedal, let you virtually build your own devices from the component level out.

The catch, of course, is that you need not only the iOS hardware - but a decent interface and external amplification system. But buying smart, that interface can also be a recording interface for your computer (or pad), and you can amplify it with any guitar amp (though that will color the output significantly), PA, powered monitors or other studio gear, or home stereo with appropriate inputs.

I've used the apps with headphones for years when staying in hotel rooms, and it's been PFA. (Pretty Freakin' Awesome.) In that time, PG has offered regular updates and added more hardware models - and since that all comes in via the standard App Store automatic undate process, it's easier than upgrading firmware on any hardware modelers I'm familiar with.

Anyway, a seeming tangent from your question - but all a way to make the point that Positive Grid's base modeling tech is mature and powerful, and I assume it will form the sonic core and functionality of the Spark. If the power amp and speakers sound as good as the marketing says, 300.00 is a more than fair price for PG's tone library - even without factoring in chord-chart access to a whole world of existing music and the AI virtual jam buddies.


I got an email saying they shipped the first batch last week. I did bite for the second round, it might be interesting.


You youngsters and your fancy telephone applications!


I know, in some ways it's a non-starter newfangled I'm-afriad-I'll-never-really-use-it waste of cash. I'm way more of an analog guy.

But I thought maybe, just maybe I'd use it for recording ideas, and working on soloing stuff with backing tracks. I guess it all depends on the modeling, too. Tim, your helpful rundown of PG's stuff is convincing — and your tangent isn't really that, but more the meat of the situation. I've typically been a non-adoptee of modeled sound, but the 8 or 9 demo videos I watched had me believing in high quality results for at least some of those sounds (tough that the demos featured a lot of settings for metal, though).

And then there's this point, which may be the real reason I'm interested in one:

I've used the apps with headphones for years when staying in hotel rooms, and it's been PFA. (Pretty Freakin' Awesome.)

I recently moved into an apartment and I'm not about to plug in a Gretsch and wail away.


My issue with it is this -

Is the "virtual jam-along band" feature actually good? Probably not. Are the Chord Charts it extraopolates based on implied tonality going to be useful? Also, not likely. Are the user-created tones going to be "killer"? Perhaps a handful.

For my money, the Line 6 Pod Go is the coolest new gadget of 2020 NAMM. But I am a big Helix fan, too. Modeling is pretty damn good these days.

If Tim says the Sparky thing is cool, I'll believe it and maybe even buy one!


Missing a line-out.

Very interesting at that price, with or without the band stuff.

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