PSP Echo and PSP SpringBox look as old school as they sound.
I've been a fan of PSP Audioware plug-ins since I reviewed the PSP 42—an outstanding emulation of the ’80s-era Lexicon PCM-42 digital delay—in the December 2005 issue of GP. Here, PSP works its magic on tape echo and spring reverb—two studio staples from the ’50s and ’60s. The plug-ins are available in VST, AU, RTAS, and AAX versions. I tested the latter within Avid Pro Tools 10 on a 3.33GHz Mac Pro.
PSP Echo ($99 direct) combines four “tape” delays in various ways using an intuitive GUI reminiscent of vintage machines. Two delays provide ping-pong pre-delay effects, while the two primary delays feature identical sets of controls that include cool and unusual touches such as high-pass and low-pass filters that may be manipulated simultaneously in interesting ways, Feedback panning, dry signal stereo Spread and Balance, and Drive (tape saturation). There’s also a global Tape Speed control that sweeps between 7.5 and 30 inches-per-second, simulating the tape speed options found on the reel-to-reel machines used to create the earliest tape echo sounds. Similarly, the Wow section’s Frequency and Depth controls introduce groovy tape modulation. There’s even a highly tweakable Ducker for attenuating the echo level in response to the envelope of the input signal. And, of course, tempo and note divisions may be synchronized to the host tempo or set manually using millisecond or BPS values. In short, besides rendering authentic classic sounds from vibey rockabilly slapbacks to spacy dub-style long repeats, PSP Echo can conjure hypnotic polyrhythmic grooves, dizzying varispeed time warps, mutant modulations, runaway regeneration freakouts, and many more singular sonorities.
Everyone is familiar with the simple spring reverb circuits found in many guitar amps—but considerably more sophisticated studio devices have been built by Fairchild, Demeter, Orban, and others. The PSP SpringBox ($69 direct) does a remarkable job of simulating nearly all of the sounds offered by these hardware units, and then some. There are two processors labeled A and B, with identical sets of controls, and a switch that toggles between them. The Time controls sweep a range from zero to a staggering six or seven seconds of decay, and Trim adjusts the individual output levels. Very effective controls for Presence (high-mid boost), Damp (high-frequency damping), and low-frequency cut-off (HPF) provide extensive soundshaping options. Globally, you can select two-, three-, four-, or six-spring configurations, with mono-to-stereo or stereo-to-stereo feeds, and adjust the decay Diffusion, stereo Spread, reverb Pan, and Dry and Wet output levels. A choice of Low CPU and Brilliant (full) modes is offered, though I noticed little difference on my rather robust computer. As a longtime spring reverb nut who has owned many classic units, I’ll venture to say that the PSP SpringBox is more fun than a Woody brimming with beach bunnies— but its luscious character and sound-designing capabilities extend its reach well beyond luscious surf sproings to far out ambient spaces.