PSP MixPack a VST plug-in package Estrada i Studio - our choice!


The thriving Warsaw-based company PSP has a new package of VST plug-ins (Cubase, Wave Lab, Logic, N-track, etc.) on offer. These are processors which affect the dynamics of the processed signal by enriching it with additional sound effects.


The complete PSP MixPack will include four plug-ins, but up to this point (the beginning of December) the fourth plug-in is as yet unavailable. The plug-ins in this package are designed to add warmth to the sound of digital recordings and improve their quality. The function of the PSP MixBass is to help generate a strong bass sound which resembles analog sound. The function of the PSP MixSaturator is to generate a saturated sound typical for analog tape recorders and valve processors. The PSP MixPressor is a compressor used for evening-up the sound of material and simultaneously adding warmth.


PSP MixBass This plug-in is designed for the correction of the bass. The authors have used two algorithms in it. The first algorithm compresses the bass frequencies, thus making them seem more saturated and distinct and producing a decidedly analog character. The second algorithm generates harmonic frequencies, which, thanks to the phenomenon of psychoacoustics, is perceived by our ears as a correction in the clarity and audibility of fundamental tones.
The compressor section is equipped with a regulator of the lowest range of frequencies (the ones which undergo compression) and a regulator of the compression threshold. The compression depth, set permanently at 2:1, makes the work easier and more intuitive in one sense, but it also makes it more difficult to obtain certain effects. The range of generated harmonic frequencies is regulated by the COLOUR knob. The wider the range, the more 'additions' will appear in the signal and this will make it more saturated. At lower settings, fewer harmonics appear; however, it is these harmonics which, by interfering with the basic sound, are able to effectively deceive our hearing. At certain settings, the average flat foot of a drumkit/the percussion, can sound like a genuine big drum, an example of which you can find on our CD. While listening please pay attention to the fact that I have processed the whole loop, not just a drum on its own.
To a great extent, the effect achieved depends on the sum of the settings of all the regulators. The PSP MixBass makes it possible to obtain fascinating sounds, provided we don't overdo it. By setting the compressor threshold frequency above 100Hz with a high degree of compression, for example, we would expect to obtain an uninteresting, rumbling sound. However, it may turn out that in the case of some sound material (the bass drum, for example) that this is exactly what we want. Thanks to the quite extensive library of presets the success or otherwise of our experiments is not left entirely to chance.


PSP MixSaturator This plug-in is designed for saturating the whole of the music material, by adding features characteristic of sound processed by valve circuits, or signals recorded on analog tape. The use of three different saturation algorithms gives this plug-in a decided edge over other applications of this type on the market today, and provides the user with more tools for moulding sound.
Putting it simply, let's assume that the PSP MixSaturator consists of three signal blocks connected in series. The first one is a block of bass saturation; the second is a band compressor for treble frequencies; the third is a circuit which shapes the final sound of the output signal according to the seven non-linearity characteristic curves (three types of valve circuit, three types of analog tape saturation, and digital overdrive). In the first block, the enrichment of the lowest frequencies with even and odd harmonics takes place, which resembles the algorithm used in the PSP MixBass plug-in. In the second block, the compression of frequencies above the set threshold (within 2kHz and 12kHz) takes place, with automatically chosen time parameters and very soft knee characteristics. In this way, we can attain the effect of smoothing a chosen range of the highest frequencies. (When the compression is deep and the range of operation is set widely, we obtain a sound closely resembling recordings made on the good old Mk125, but sometimes that is exactly what we want.)
The last block serves to equip the output signal with the desired sound characteristic - from the gentlest Valve 1, through to the more aggressive Tape 1,2, and 3 and the typical digital clipping - Digital. The level of sound saturation in each characteristic curve is smoothly regulated by the DRIVE slider. Individual settings are characterized by a different harmonics content and a different reaction to the increase in the signal level, so the final sound can be shaped within a very wide range.
The signal level meters are a great help. Like high-quality meters, they are equipped with two indicators: one for indicating the peak level, and the other for indicating the medium signal level. In correctly mixed sound material, the difference between those levels should be approximately 14dB.
The PSP MixSaturator is equipped with 25 interesting presets, which fully demonstrate its potential. At present this is the best plug-in program I know for allowing the saturation of particular tracks, loops and ready recordings. No other competitor can touch it, particularly considering the relation of price to possibilities.


PSP MixPressor This plug-in is an application for simulating valve and semiconductor compressors which use optical coupling. Its usual function is to add warmth and 'soften' the sound. Thanks to the wide range of regulation of some functors, it is possible to obtain surprising and unique effects. The processor works with a soft-knee characteristic, which allows the range of increase of weak signal levels to be widened in relation to stronger ones, and results in a sound which is more saturated with detail. The limiter module can work in the saturator mode (rounding signal peaks) or as a typical limiter. If it is used with a properly set output level, we will obtain the effect of an overdriven signal with a coloring which will depend on the chosen limitation mode and the output level.
The COMPRESS slider (responsible for the compression threshold) and the SLOPE slider (the equivalent of the compression depth regulator) are used in this plug-in instead of typical Ratio and Threshold regulators. They both have percentage scales, so the setting is more dependent on intuition and a good ear than on habits acquired while operating standard compressors. The compressor can react to peak signals (PEAK mode) or the RMS. In the first case, its operation is a little less audible and it is worth using this mode in processing whole materials.
What many people consider the most difficult part of this compressor is the time section responsible for the way the processor reacts to the input signal. The PSP MixPressor includes the regulation of compression attack, hold and release times. Each of these time parameters has its own translation of sound in the output signal, so it is worth trying out different settings. For those who do not want to be bothered with such details, the PSP authors have prepared automatic compression algorithms. The user just has to set the attack and release times for FAST or SLOW. In the automatic mode, the hold regulator is active all the time. In typical situations, it is best to turn on a fast attack time, slow release time and set the hold regulator at the middle of the range.
The possibility of limiting compression to a particular frequency range is a highly desired function in broadband compressors. In this way, we avoid the pumping of treble frequencies in the rhythm of energetic bass or drum sounds, or we can remove the sibilants from vocals. There are other uses, particularly whenever the level of desired or undesired frequencies undergoes dynamic change and the possibility of selective compression is highly important. The PSP Mix Pressor is equipped with a 'bell-type' side-chain filter which drives the VCA module, and which can be tuned within a range of from 12Hz to 25kHz, with a width (Q - quality factor, degree of slope) from 0 to 10. Because detecting changes in the sound introduced by the action of this filter is not always easy, the SCL (side-chain listening) function for monitoring frequencies in the processed signal proves very useful.
The PSP MixPressor is a very interesting plug-in, although when used by people who do not have a great deal of experience it may not bring the effects desired due to the multiplicity of controls and the mutual relations of their settings. A good move on the part of the producer has been to equip the plug-in with a library of presets, which have been chosen to suit different instruments. I think that PSP Mix Pressor is more an effect plug-in than a typical tool for regular compression, however, it is very good in both of these roles.


What next?
Work on the fourth plug-in in the MixPack package is ongoing. It will be the PSP MixTreble, and as the name indicates, it will be for processing treble. As the producer informs us, those who decide to buy the three plug-ins in the package will get the fourth one for free and will save 120 zloty, which is the price of one plug-in; therefore, we are dealing with shareware prices for a professional product. I would recommend the PSP Mix Pressor and the PSP MixSaturator to those who are planning to buy something for adding warmth to and saturating sound. The PSP MixBass is also not a bad buy, however, it is less universal than the other two. Anyway, for this kind of money it's worth buying all three plug-ins, even if it's just to get the fourth one for free ...


Issue 52; 01/2001; p.62-65

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