A sleek and ultra-portable interface built for guitarists
Review by Alex Hawley
Positive Grid started in 2013 and focuses on software, mobile apps and hardware products for guitarists. The latest Positive Grid recording-centric product is RIFF, an ultra-portable interface designed to help guitarists practice and record on the go.
I had my first experience with Positive Grid in the July 2016 issue with the BIAS Amp and BIAS FX programs. BIAS allows users to build their dream guitar signal chains using extensive modeling technology. I recall geeking out about being able to select which tubes and transformers to try in the amp modeling–seriously, the software goes that deep. Positive Grid has continued to raise the bar with BIAS FX 2 software and its unique integration with the Spark series of practice amps. It was only a matter of time until they started moving into the world of guitar-oriented interfaces. Here we are, meet the RIFF.
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RIFF features a rugged metal build quality with a simple multi-purpose knob and a vivid backlit LCD display. RIFF features class-compliant drivers for Mac and iOS with downloadable ASIO drivers for PC. RIFF includes a mini USB to USB-A cable plus a mini USB to lightning cable, so you can plug straight into your iPhone or iPad whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. When I say the RIFF is portable, I mean it; it is roughly the size of a computer mouse and can easily fit in your pocket or backpack.
RIFF is capable of 24-bit / 96 kHz recording quality with zero-latency monitoring in DIRECT mode. It features three different preamp characters and an auto-gain function to take any guesswork out of setting levels. The push-button
control knob provides intuitive operation for dialing in levels and settings, and can also serve as a controller for BIAS FX 2 software (more on this later).
The hardware connections are simple: one 1/4″ instrument input, one 1/4″ TRS output and one 1/8″headphone output. For stereo output to studio monitors, a 1/4″ y-cable will be needed. The interface is bus-powered, so no external power is required beyond your computer or iOS device.
RIFF is very intuitive to use. I found the instrument input to have low noise and a clean sound. As it is XLR free, you won’t be recording anything outside of direct guitar or bass. This is where the BIAS FX 2 integration steps in with three different preamp tones to help shape your sound. The TONE mode ranges from 0-3, with “0” being the clean, uncolored input. The first setting applies a small amount of compression but is still an overall transparent tone. Setting two is a more modern tone to my ears, with emphasized highs and lows, and a de-emphasized midrange. The third setting is the opposite, with a more midrange forward tonality.
RIFF is a powerful companion for BIAS FX 2. By leveraging its extensive software modeling, you can accomplish a lot in the realm of practicing, jamming and recording with only a pocket-sized interface and a mobile device. Holding the control knob down for a few seconds changes RIFF into a digital controller. This allows the interface knob to toggle between presets, adjust BPM, change scenes, bypass digital stompboxes and more. In addition to the extensive amp and effect modeling, BIAS FX 2 includes unique features like Guitar Match, where you can model the sound of legendary guitars, practice with loops and chord charts in real-time and more. While a more detailed overview of BIAS FX 2 features is beyond this review’s scope, I wanted to mention some of what’s possible when pairing RIFF with BIAS, as there are plenty of guitar-centric goodies to explore.
Positive Grid RIFF is a clever and straightforward interface for guitarists on the go. The preamp is clean and responsive, which serves as an excellent platform to drive the digital models found in BIAS FX 2. RIFF won’t fulfill every recording need, such as tracking vocals, acoustic instruments or physical amps. Still, it will serve direct recording needs well and works great as a reliable travel rig for songwriting and jamming sessions away from home! If you are already a BIAS user, I would consider RIFF a must-buy to take full advantage of the integration.
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