For one, I had already given their BussPressor a glowing review when it came out over the summer, and was hesitant to plug the company again so soon.
And secondly, I just wasn’t interested at first glance. I already have a few delays that I like very much thank you, and I couldn’t imagine PSP’s Echo filling a new slot.
But I was wrong.
What struck me instantly about Echo was how compelling it sounds when you just turn a knob or two.
I’m a notorious tweakhound when it comes to plugin delays, which I lean on heavily in the mix. I’ve always found they need quite a bit of massaging to deliver the interesting and organic kind of character I’m used to getting quickly out of vintage tape delays.
With some work, I’ve long been able to get satisfying sounds out of my existing palette of digital tools. But I’m just not used to getting there this quickly.
PSP’s Echo is a “turn knobs madly without stopping to think about them” kind of tool. It encourages intuitive movements, and stacks the deck in your favor when it comes to achieving memorable and addictive delay effects quickly.
The sound of this plugin is anything but transparent, and even without doing much, Echo is charming on the ear, smooth and almost viscous in an honest tape-delay kind of way. From there, things just get messier in the best way imaginable.
An input knob, tape speed control and dual drive controls for the feedback just beg to be pushed, and things just sound creamier the harder you hit them. There isn’t really a breaking point on these controls to my ear. You can crank those knobs all the way without making the effects sound bad – The saturation just gets more intense without getting ugly in a way that offends.
PSP Echo does subtle rhythmic effects well, thanks to continuous delay sliders that can provide some lock to the beat, but more essentially, it does dramatic dub-delay freakouts far better than most plugins of its kind. I could spend hours just getting lost in the most extreme settings on the unit. The intense end of the dials can be quite rewarding on PSP Echo, and this delay also offers clever ways to morph and shape the cascading feedback loops you do create.
The PSP Echo does a few things that many delays don’t. Its auto ping-pong setting is handy and flexible, and separate wet and dry knobs allow for easy blending and automation, especially on individual-track effects.
The plugin also includes a ducking control that allows you to create dramatic delays and then tie them to a powerful compressor that’s keyed by the dry signal. This way, your delay sound is reduced in volume whenever the dry signal passes a threshold. This should allow you to create rich, swimming delay effects that don’t get in the way of the articulation of a vocal or a melodic line; but unfortunately, this feature was buggy on my version of the plugin in PT10.
A speed knob allows full ability to create retro tape delay effects and all the wonderful artifacts that come with them. Automation here can create wonderfully musical and iconic pitch sweeps. Separate wow and flutter controls can lead to surprisingly organic-sounding flange effects, and I’ve been tempted to run whole submixes through the thing just for some oddball tone-shaping.
By far my favorite knob on PSP Echo, however, isn’t really a knob at all: it’s the very novel pair of feedback filter controls.
To use them, just grab the set of arrows that lie between the traditional filter knobs and drag your mouse up and down or side to side. This allows you to control both filters at once – and on both channels if you like.
Drag up or down to raise and lower the filters in unison, side-to-side to make the filters close in or open up, or you can try any direction in-between. Like almost all of the controls on PSP Echo, this synchronized filter sweep just begs to be automated to help create radical and incredibly musical special effects.
Quibbles and Qualms
PSP Echo is a quirky delay. It’s possibly one of the most unusual and unpredictable I’ve tried in the plugin world. But rather than being a liability, this is what makes PSP Echo great.
Despite all of its flexibility, there are some things that the PSP Echo just won’t do: You can’t type in a delay setting in milliseconds like I so often do, nor can you toggle between different rhythmic values by clicking buttons.
While this was a puzzling limitation at first, I learned to appreciate it. When I stopped wanting PSP Echo to be all things for all tracks, I realized that its true strength lies in its limitations just as much as in its sound. It forces me to think in the way I do when I use a real tape delay, and requires that I use my ears more and experiment with sounds instead of relying on visual and rational cues for what my delay should sound like.
With that said, it would nice to be able to type in exact millisecond delay values when I really want to, and I’m once again puzzled by PSP’s refusal to enable me to option-click controls back to a default setting in Pro Tools, like all other plugins do.
These quibbles aside, I give PSP Echo a passing grade and then some. I find myself using it quite a bit, and looking for excuses to use it even more. Ultimately, it offers the benefits of a tape delay in both sound and in function, but with a little bit of extra control and tempo-locking assistance built in.
This is by no means a precision effect, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this as your only delay. But if you’re looking to expand your palette with a surprisingly colorful, imaginative and analog-sounding tool, it’s one of the most inspiring I’ve used, and has knocked a couple of my old favorites down a peg.
If you ever find yourself trapped in a box when it comes to using time-based effects and want to rethink the way you use delay, PSP Echo is a definite buy.