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PSP FETpressor And PSP 2445

Affordable, Great-Sounding Compressor and Reverb Plug-ins

PSP is known for producing high-quality plug-ins at affordable prices, and that’s evident in two recent introductions, the PSP FETpressor compressor and PSP 2445 Digital Reverberator. Both plug-ins are available in AU, AAX, VST and RTAS formats. I reviewed the AU plug-ins in Digital Performer 9.01 and 8.06, using an 8-core Mac Pro running OS X 10.9.5.

PSP FETpressor

The PSP FETpressor is a feedback-type compressor plug-in, in the vein of 1970s FET compressors, with all the basic controls you’d expect, including knobs for adjusting attack and release times, ratio (from 1:1 to 16:1), threshold and makeup gain. There’s also a high.pass filter in its internal side chain—its corner frequency adjustable from 10 to 1,000 Hz—that can prevent bass frequencies from making the compressor pump and thin the sound (Figure 1). A Blend control adjusts the wet/dry balance to produce parallel-compression effects. Toggle the Blend control’s effect on and off by clicking on its title—an excellent way to instantly A/B its effect with 100% wet signal.

When processing stereo signals, FETpressor can link the two channels so they are compressed equally. You can also bypass compression on one channel, which is useful when the sides of a stereo signal must be compressed with different setups: Instantiate two instances of FETpressor in series, and use one instance to compress the left channel and the other to compress the right. The plug-in’s virtual VU meter shows the amount of gain reduction to guide your hand.

Note that FETpressor emulates the sound of an unspecified makeup amplifier and output transformer. To color a track with that sound without compression, set FETpressor’s Ratio control to 1:1.

I got great results using FETpressor on a spaced pair of room mics for drums. I could jack up the room’s ambience to explosive effect while simultaneously controlling how tight and loud the traps sounded: Raising the corner frequency for the sidechain’s highpass filter made the kick drum louder and fuller (less squashed). A relatively fast attack and slow release tightened up the sound of rattling snare wires while preserving the stick hits, creating a compact yet crisp sound. The same at.tack and release times made the toms sound absolutely monstrous, while controlling their peak levels.

On a rockin’ double-tracked electric guitar vamp (hard-panned in stereo), I dialed in fast attack and release times and a 5:1 ratio for 15 dB of gain reduction on peaks. This put a firm lid on the track, leveling any amplitude fluctuations in the palm-muted low notes that alternated with higher-voiced chords. FETpressor also cleared out a little bit of low-mid boxiness, making the track sound a tad more present. Lowering the Blend control to around 30% restored some of the dry signal, creating the perfect mix of dynamics and density. The track sounded more powerful and aggressive. Unlinking FETpres.sor’s channels also widened the stereo image slightly.

FETpressor also did a great job smoothing levels on a dynamic male vocal track. Dialing in moderate attack and release times, a 5:1 ratio and a 100Hz cutoff for the sidechain’s highpass filter sat the track beautifully in the mix, with no audible pumping. Most impres.sive was how transparent the compressed track sounded with up to 8 dB of gain reduction on peaks; I heard only a subtle decrease in depth and very minor dulling of high frequencies. I also tried setting the ratio to 1:1 to hear what FETpressor’s emulations of a makeup gain amplifier and output transformer brought to the table. Setting the plug-in’s makeup gain control to boost output around 6 dB lent a beautifully saturated sound to the vocal track, mild enough to enhance it without sounding obviously processed. FETpressor rocks!

PRICE: $99
PROS: Sounds great. Easy to learn and use. Rock-bottom price.
CONS: Preset management system needs improvement

Fig. 2. The PSP 2445 plug-in lets you combine the sound of two reverbs, inspired by the EMT 244 and 245 plate reverbs. Advanced controls are accessed by opening the black panel at the bottom of the GUI.

PSP 2445 Digital Reverberator

The PSP 2445 Digital Reverberator plug-in, endorsed by EMT, was released just over a year ago. The plug-in emulates the essential characteristics of the EMT 244 and 245 digital plate reverbs, then adds advanced controls that let you change the sound. A three-way switch lets you select which reverb to use; you can also use both simultaneously, in which case their engines are blended at the plug-in’s output.

After setting the input level, you can use the Delay control to adjust pre-delay from 0 to 84 ms. Rotating the Reflections control clockwise increases the early reflections mixed into the audio path before the reverb tail. The big red Time knob adjusts the reverb’s decay time from 0.2 to 5 seconds.

Activating the Low-Frequency Time switch increases the decay time for reverberated bass frequencies by an arbitrary amount, whereas activating the High-Frequency Time switch decreases (damps) the decay time for high frequencies in the reverb tail (also by an arbitrary amount). The Gain control adjusts the output level of the single or dual reverb. The Mix control adjusts the wet/dry balance.

Clicking on the Open label reveals more controls (changing the label’s title to “Close”; see Figure 2). They include switches that swap the routing of one or both reverb’s left and right channels to the plug-in’s output. Turn the Mod (modulation-multiplier) knob clockwise to make the reverb tail sound smoother and more chorus-y, or counterclockwise for a more resonant and grainy sound. The HPF knob adjusts the corner for a highpass filter placed at the reverbs’ inputs.

Two other knobs, Low and High, increase the reverb times for low and high frequencies in continuously fashion as you turn them clockwise; their parameter values are affected by the settings for the Low-Frequency Time and High-Frequency Time switches in the GUI’s main view. The Width control adjusts the stereo width of the reverb(s), and the Balance control sets the relative balance of their left and right channels.

In my tests, the 245 plate’s algorithm sounded a little darker than the 244’s. Both had a smooth tail. both at once produced a broadly useful reverb that sounded more complex and had more movement. Using both reverbs at once with the Width control set fully counterclockwise produced a high-quality mono reverb.

I tended to keep the Mod knob at the noon position when processing pitched instruments and vocals, and between 9 and 10 o’clock with drums. (The 2445 sound.ed great on snare!) Set fully counterclockwise—using long decay times—the Mod knob produced faintly audible, metallic-sounding resonance in high frequencies on electric guitar tracks. With Mod set fully clockwise, I could hear subtle pitch modulation that was unnatural. Neither extreme was my cup of tea for most applications, but I was happy that PSP gave the Mod control so much latitude. One day, I might want to max out that knob in either direction for special effect.

The PSP 2445’s reverb-time controls have enough range to adapt gracefully to a variety of sources. Cranking the Low control fully clock.wise produced a beautifully balanced reverb on midrange-y instruments, such as electric gui.tar, smoothing glare to the effect that would have otherwise been caused by the source. I often lowered the High control on soprano female vocals for the same reason.

I could produce an excellent ADT (automatic double tracking) effect—followed immediately by a subtle shadow of ’verb—by boosting the Delay and Reflections controls and setting the Time knob to 0.2 seconds. By adjusting the HPF control, I could change the timbre of the doubling.

The preset-management system for both the PSP FETpressor and PSP 2445 needs improvement: If I edited a factory preset but chose not to save my changes and I then recalled another preset, my edits to the first preset were saved regardless (overwriting the factory preset). And when I loaded a PSP-formatted custom preset via the Finder directory, the name of the factory preset that was last recalled continued to be displayed. PSP is working on fixes. Though initially confusing and a bit frustrating, these issues shouldn’t stop you from buying both of these great-sounding plug-ins. 

PRICE: $149
PROS: Sounds great. Easy to learn and use. Affordable price.
CONS: Preset management system needs improvement.