Online Review: PSP MixPack and StereoPack





    PSP from Poland reacted upon our call to audio software suppliers to send in news and product descriptions. I must be very honest with you: I had never heard of this software producer. May be very stupid of me, being in this business for quit some time now, but that's the truth.

    Normally, we all mostly focus on the market squares in the USA, Israel and Germany, as most of the bigger and serious plug-in developers seem to reside in these three countries. But it appears that in countries like Poland, from where you hardly will expect professional audio plug-ins, at least some guys know what they are talking about when it comes to good level audio production plug-ins.

    Let me introduce you to PSP's MixPack and StereoPack. We hooked these VST plugs into the VST folder of Cubase, used these plugs during a realtime production session: audio files for a multimedia CD ROM production. Which requires somewhat otherwise oriented audio skills than producing a regular audio CD. Let's see how the Polish VST plugs will survive in this multimedia jungle.


    MixPack.

    MixBass.



    PSP MixBass is specially meant for producing a punchy like analog bass sound, so the description of the developers says. It uses both a low-frequency compression algorithm and a "bottom end harmonics generator". The first one seems to fit very well audio situations, where acoustic bass instruments should get a little boost, without loosing the acoustic character. The second one is more suited for synthetic bass and percussion loops. This combined use of technique makes MixBass a plug, meeting most bass post production requirements. A third built in algorithm- "the pseudo-analog clipping"- prevents the occurrence of digital distortion when bass sounds get too loud or prominent. Good and usefull plug. If we considered this plug a car, we would describe this one as a better middle class car. Somewhat limited in its "ceiling range", but good enough for regular production work.

    MixPressor.



    The PSP MixPressor is a nifty combination of compression, bass sound influence, pumping killer (the well know pumping type sound when compression was not done properly), peak limiter, saturator, and de-esser. Designed to be mainly a compressor, the other functionalitites were made so "strong" that MixPressor appears to us as a multifunctional plug. Which it is not, PSP says.
    In other words: being a compressor in the first place, it seems to do several jobs at the same time, which sounds good if you're in a hurry with your audio production: it saves time. But: it gives you less control over the several functionality's compared to the use of a different plug per functionality. MixPressor does it job very well and is to my opinion best suited for situations where not much time can be spent on a production. As happened to be the case with the CD production we tested PSP in. MixPressor did the required job OK. In a more demanding production however, MixPressor can hit its limitations, and we would prefer a set of separated plugs to get more enhanced control. Nevertheless: MixPressor is worth buying and can save you some money when your requirements are not extremely high. Very nifty: it's combined meters for monitoring peak, VU level before and after compression, and main gain reduction. Didn't see that before. It gives you complete view in just one blink of the eye. Smart thinking, good.


    MixSaturator.



    The MixSaturator brings back the good old days of saturated analogue sound, which is (was?) so typical for tape. An analog saturation simulation algorithm that uses one of seven possible ways to bring back the good old sound back to life. A bass frequency processing algorithm brings back the warm sound of bass, so typical for vinyl records and cassette tapes. What I like about this plug is that it fades away the cold atmosphere, mostly present in digital recordings, and adds some warmth to the sound. I know more plugs that can do this job, in that sense MixSaturator is not unique. But it goes for this plug too: a good, comfortable and affordable "middle class car".

    MixTreble.



    MixTreble is able to remove hiss of undesired reverberation with the treble frequencies. At least that is what we did it during the test. Another trick is making frequencies, that lack of presence or seem to disappear under the surrounding frequencies, more lively and up to level. On their website, the developers write: "The operation of the plug-in has been tested on various phonic material such as single instrumental and vocal tracks, percussion loops and ready mixes. In most cases, the corrective action of the chosen and appropriately applied sections resulted in a decided improvement in the dynamics, sharpness, clarity and spatiality of the processed material. Creative use of the plug-in resulted in completely new sounds". A bit too loud marketing talk, as far as I am concerned. MixTreble does its job well, but I know of other single purpose plugs that do these jobs better and which give the user more parameter freedom. PSP says here: "It's true that all of
    it's algorithms have simple control, but most of them have enough and more
    control/features then any analog unit contain. For instance dynamic filter
    allows realy great s/n ratio improvement without killing the sound -
    especialy when used on tracks. MixTreble also contains transient processor
    which is rather innovative and can add shine to many tracks especialy
    acoustic instruments and drums/percussion."
    OK, I didn't say the plug is bad, it's good. But I know of better ones. And: I don't want to produce new sounds, I just want to bring recordings to the best possible professional level. But over all: if used well, MixTreble can do wonders to less sparkling recordings. And: if you really want to create new sounds, this one is for you.


    StereoPack.

    The StereoPack brings you several functions in the stereo manipulation area.

    PseudoStereo.



    Does what the name says: produce pseudo stereo from e.g. a mono file, or a stereo file which stereo width is very small. Works fine. Somewhat limited in range, compared to other more expensive plugs, but not much.


    StereoAnalyzer.



    All things you do to your audio and that effects the stereo image in any way can be monitored through the StereoAnalyzer. To be frank: I hardly ever use these kind of visuals. I trust on my ears and peak/VU level meters. But for those who really want to "see" what they are doing, this one is handy.

    StereoController.



    The StereoController gives you the possibility to widen of narrow a stereo image, and center or de-center the stereo image. Again: it does what it has to do. A simple and useful plug.

    StereoEnhancer.



    The StereoEnhancer "blows up thin stereo to fatter stereo", if you get what I mean. Beside the width, also the frequency that should be widened can be influenced. This gives you more control then most of the other plugs I know. This way, the production of unwanted artifacts can be reduced to a very nifty level. Very good.

    Conclusion.

    Both MixPack and StereoPack are no super high players, but they aren't bad either. PSP choose to combine functionality's into one plug, where other manufacturers produce separate plugs for each function. By doing this, PSP gives the end user very good control as all can be seen in one eye wink (the combined meters). Very good. But: combining very important functions into one plug also means somewhat limited control over quality. Compare it with an instant picture camera, and a high level professional one. With the instant camera you can make very good pictures if used with care, but the high end camera will produce better quality in the end (when used well of course: give an amateur the high end camera and the result will be bad anyway ;-). Does this nonqualify the PSP plugs? Certainly not. The 22Khz sounds we delivered for the multimedia CD-ROM production were accepted by the customer as "very good". Best proof of the good quality of PSP's product. But remember: you will buy a good middle class car, not an "audio Porsche".

    I give both overall packages a
    7 out of 10. A special 8 goes to MixPressor for it's combined meters. A seperate 8 for the StereoEnhacer as well. Graphics: good layout, though I personally like the metaphor of the fader (StereoPack) better then for the knob (MixPack), but that is a matter of personal taste and should not influence your decision to buy or not.

    Pricing and downloads are available on the producers website:
    http://www.pspaudioware.com/.


    All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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    07.03.2003