PSP Plug-ins

Poland may not be the first country that springs to mind when considering quality plug-ins, but Professional Sound Projects could be about to change all that...

One of the most difficult areas of creating an audio masterpiece is usually the final process of getting that elusive polished (excuse the pun) and defined final mix that grabs the attention of the listener and sounds like it was done at Abbey Road. Not so long ago, you did indeed require the budget of a county council to buy a rackload of hardware in order to reach a decent level of quality -but not any longer. Professional Sound Projects have released their first sets of plug-ins to provide the necessary tools for making your cherished tunes into finished productions.

First up is the aptly titled PSP StereoPack which consists of four separate plug-ins to enhance and analyse stereo imaging: PSP PseudoStereo, PSP StereoEnhancer, PSP StereoController and PSP StereoAnalyser. The second bundle, PSP MixPack, is also available as individual modules and includes the PSP MixPressor, PSP MixSaturator and PSP MixBass. At the time of writing, the PSP MixTreble plug- in is still under construction but should be available soon (check the website for details). First up is the aptly titled PSP StereoPack which consists of four separate plug-ins to enhance and analyse stereo imaging: PSP PseudoStereo, PSP StereoEnhancer, PSP StereoController and PSP StereoAnalyser. The second bundle, PSP MixPack, is also available as individual modules and includes the PSP MixPressor, PSP MixSaturator and PSP MixBass. At the time of writing, the PSP MixTreble plug- in is still under construction but should be available soon (check the website for details).

 Stereo imaging involves much more than sticking the bass in the middle and panning everything else around it. The difference that can be achieved by enhancing mono or stereo signals with the PSP StereoPack can be quite staggering and will have you grinning at the sheer size and power you can achieve. Meters and sliders are common to all the StereoPack modules but might not work quite how you expect, as full right slider positions are not necessarily maximum or fully wet positions but can be the opposite, so a little care is needed at first -a read through the html documentation should help. Some of the explanations are not that clear, however, but using your ears will produce a far better result than trying to use figures. The PseudoStereo and StereoEnhancer modules both have 23 presets geared to instrument and spatial types, and a quick run through these will put you on the right track for further tweaking and take your sounds and mixes into a new dimension.

 

 The PseudoStereo plug-in is intended to create stereo signals from mono sources using a comb filter algorithm, but is very dependent on the source material being suitable for processing. It works very well with drums and percussion, for example, but take care as it is easy to distort the signal and add unwanted artefacts to the mix. With similar controls, the StereoEnhancer is aimed at improving stereo signals, which it does in a big way. Especially effective on mixes, it has three different modes to suit various quality sources and can expand from mild to massive. If you need to 'big up' your tunes, this is the tool to do it, but again, be careful with those levels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The other two modules are for stereo correction (which may need a little visual assistance) and can of course be run in conjunction with other plug-ins. The StereoController can correct width, balance, stability and even move centre signals around. Reducing the width slider to zero allows mono checking of your mix, or at the opposite extreme is a 400 percent expansion. Meters for signal and balance give a simple visual check, but a more comprehensive view is available in the StereoAnalyser. This module is an oscilloscope which allows real-time observation of mono and stereo signal amplitude along with left and right stereo content. The meters are switchable between left/right or side/mean signals and the level control can be manually set or run on auto. A hold button can be clicked to keep the trace on screen which is useful for checking sweeps and full length mixes.

 

 

 Saturation point
Valve and tape simulation can add warmth and tone to your sound, which is where the MixSaturator comes in. Using three algorithms, it allows analogue saturation using three valve types, three tape types, bass enhancement using a warmth control to add harmonics and treble saturation without increasing distortion, and even digital clipping. Various track and mix types are covered in the 24 presets, with the 'Hot valve' settings giving plenty of thrashing power for your loops. Pretty much any material will benefit from this very useful module and any user will soon get to grips with its simple controls.

 

 The MixPressor is a soft-knee compressor with a switchable limiter and features that you would expect to find on quality hardware. In operation it is very flexible and positive, giving a definite 'hands on' feel. The 18 presets cover a well thought out array of mix settings and instrument groups, and the three-needle meters show peak, vu and gain reduction either pre- or post-processing. Like the other modules here, it does exactly what it's supposed to and in an ear pleasing way.

 

 

 The current trend for serious, fat bass sounds is given a big helping hand by the MixBass plug-in. Simple to control and designed specifically to boost your bottom end, it doesn't disappoint. Make sure your speakers are not too laud as you run through the 21 presets, or the extreme and overdrive settings will put your canes on the back wall. Pushing kick drums, bas s guitars and law synths is easy, but subtle enhancement is also possible to salvage any bass light mixes and loops as a tune control allows you to set the filter frequency and bring in some lower-mid warmth. Very satisfying.

 

Plug-in heaven?
We like these. We like them a lot. Although compression and stereo enhancement may not seem as exciting as filter sweeping or pitchshifting, the difference that these bundles can make is pretty amazing. The StereoPack can add real dimension to sounds and mixes that seemed fine already, as well as lifting weak material up to an unexpectedly high level. Analysis and correction become simple tasks which can help confirm your stereo image or show any problems that your hearing may not pick up. The powerful tools contained in the MixPack really are top quality and can enhance virtually any material to give that 'produced' feeling which is s o difficult to put into words. The MixBass plug-in may not be a required mastering tool but its addition to the bundle is a welcome one, especially with the low frequency sounds required in modern music production.
Both packs work well on any material if used correctly and the only problem is the urge to go for just that bit more power, width, saturation etc. If you can resist this and persevere for a while, you will be rewarded with a better quality sound. The only real niggle is the documentation which is inconsistent and could explain some controls more clearly, but at these prices we're not complaining!

Test machine: 366 Celeron, 192 Mb RAM, Windows 98, Delta 1010, SB Live!, Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.03., FXpansion VST/DX adapter 2.1

Issue 28; Winter 2000; p.90-91

PSP MixPack 10/10
Computer Music - ultimate buy!
+ Superb price
+ Does what it says and more
+ Useful presets
+ Pro control
+ Nice interface
-VST only
-Documentation

PSP StereoPack 10/10
Computer Music - ultimate buy!
+ Superb price
+ Powerful
+ Useful presets
+ Low processor usage
+ Nice interface
-Can colour sound
-VST only
-Documentation 

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