PSP Audioware Interview
Words of wisdom from the creators - to go alongside our PSP2445 EMT Shootout Review
PSP Audioware is a developer of high quality audio plugins that have become a staple in many audio engineers diets. They have plugins ranging from precise mastering EQs through to colourful vintage emulations and metering packages and of course some highly rated and loved reverbs.
We teed up an interview with Mateusz Wozniak of PSP Audioware to chat about reverbs, digital emulations and the PSP 2445.
So here they are. . .
1. What are the characteristics of these old digital reverbs that you think makes them so popular?
There are so many interesting and important differences between various kinds of digital reverbs that it is hard to make it short.
First of all I think that we should be thankful for a variety of reverberation techniques we can use nowadays. For instance in the era of acoustic and mechanical reverberators engineers really had little choice. They made some great mixes but they probably often were overwhelmed by limitations of those reverbs and the lack of other choices.
Nowadays we can choose between many kinds of reverbs. In the case of early digital reverberators they were probably a kind of fresh air in their times. Not only because of the ease of use and portability, but also because they provided totally a new sound different from any earlier reverbs. What’s more every one of those reverbs is in a class of its own. Some of algorithms where so brilliant that they are still greatly useful for some purposes.
Due to imperfections of converters and simple yet musical solution, those old reverbs can add character to the sound which might be missing on some modern, sophisticated ones. In short, these old beast do have a sound.
2. What are the pros and cons of using artificially created reverbs such as plate reverbs as opposed to using room sound?
Every one of them is different. Emulations sometimes do work and sometimes don’t - or at least are improperly used. It depends on the musical context.
Real acoustics are great to be used as a tool whenever it makes sense. This requires a great quality acoustical space and skilled and experienced engineer to use them properly. Good sounding and properly miked studio can provide the sound that needs little further tweaking.
Algorithmic spaces add other values. More controllability of sound parameters and availability of various sounds in one box or in a single plug-in makes them versatile. On the other hand the ability to adjust the character of the reverb allows the engineer to provide a pinch of the shimmer that is exactly needed by the mix.
In the case of artificially recreated mechanical reverbs like plate it is really hard to make them really convincing. It is tricky to have an authentic sounding plate algorithm or even a convolution reverb. New ones gets pretty close but vintage plate algorithms are far from real plates which in many situations is to their benefit, they provide something different to the original plate but in a good way.
In short, it is good to be familiar with various reverberation techniques and use them according to needs.
3. How did you deal with the digital confinements of the digital pieces of gear (i.e. 16bit for the 244 and 245, as well as lower sample rates than 44.1kHz for both of these units). Did you aim to model the unit exactly, or allow for more modern bit depths on the output?
As far as I know 244 and 245 process in 16 bits at 18kHz with further internal limitations, all this has a significant imprint in their sound, the character and density of reverberations. We have implemented most of mathematical phenomena of those units to get an authentic representation of their character. In these kind of algorithms inaccuracy has to be included. However, we didn’t include all of those artefacts because some of them were problematic for nowadays processing. We are really talking about late 70’ technology so we carefully selected technological issues that are part of the unique sound in a positive way and chose not to implement those which would limit the usability of the plug-in.
For instance the exact internal sample rate of the plug-in as in hardware is a vital factor of the way all taps, filters and modulation interacts with each other. Any change in the internal sample rate would result in an algorithm far away from 244 or 245. Sample rate conversions between DAW’s and the internal one had to be implemented in a way to properly mimic aspects of the hardware and its analog circuitries including analog filters.
4. Was it hard to reproduce the reverberation algorithm in the form of nowadays plug-in?
Thanks to Barry Blesser - an original algorithm creator, we were very lucky to have a considerable amount of technical materials for 244 and 245 machines. However the implementation of the algorithm within the plug-in wasn’t straightforward in any way. We had to reverse engineer the original source code written in a way specific for 244 and 245. Those were really incredibly designed appliances. The digital part was something like a custom DSP designed from several independent ICs so there was no programming language common with any other computer in the world. We had to dig through the meaning of the code step by step. It took us long months before we could understand what is really going on, then we implemented a close to virtual 244 and 245 DSP engine running the code that highly resembled the original source code. Every time we think about what we went through makes us respect the creators of such great early digital stuff. They not only designed new algorithms, they also had to design hardware that did not exist before, and that could handle the task adequately without microcontroller or DSPs.
5. On a lot of your classic gear recreations there is usually some form of modernising to the controls on the unit.
What drives these changes you make?
We usually find two kinds of restrictions of classic hardware when ported to plug-ins. One is a kind of limitation caused by the hardware itself. It might be a limitation of technology used or cost efficiency. Often we can override both in the case of plug-in when we feel that it would enrich the plug-in’s functionality. Sometimes hardware inspires us to do something uncommon. For instance having implemented 244 and 245 algorithms for PSP2445 we found that there are small differences between those two, so having them working in parallel could greatly enrich the reverb’s texture. Then we implemented it as a feature in the release version of the plug-in.
A second kind of limitations is related to plug-ins in a DAW environment. When hardware is used most of configurations can easily be done by a simple cord rerouting, some push buttons on the console or simply adding another buss with a dry signal. In case of a DAW environment most of these such issues are hard to solve. Thus we often choose to add a mix knob, channel selector and so on.
6. How do you go about balancing the sound and quality of a plugin with the DSP load?
We prefer to provide quality processing over low DSP load. There are plenty of low load plug-ins - especially those built into many DAWS which are often really good. When we design a plug-in we want it to sound extraordinary even if it means less instances in the project. In some cases, when the processing gets really heavy on CPU we add a switch to select a brilliant quality mode or CPU friendly. However in that case we do our best to make the easy load mode still exciting and greatly useful. Sometimes the simpler mode fits better in complex mixes or does a great job for some background tracks.
So now you are more enlightened about the PSP2445 Reverb Plugin. Jump back to the Review page and play with it more and see how many more subtleties and aspects you can now pick up when you listen to it. We’d also recommend that you click on the links in the review to open up Shootout players that you can add to, and see how it stacks up on any of the other samples we have available as well as other EQs that you might want to compare.
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