For review this week is one of the latest releases from Poland-based plugin manufacturer Professional Sound Projects (PSP) Audioware: The PSP 2445 EMT. The 2445 is an exceptional reverb with an interesting background story.
First, like so many other plugins, this is an emulation of vintage mixing hardware that is no longer manufactured. Where this concept differs is that it’s actually an emulation of an emulation—a plugin modeled after an old digital hardware box which was made to emulate an even older analog hardware box (a plate reverb).
Confused? Here’s the deal: In 1957, German manufacturer EMT released one of the ultimate artificial studio reverbs of all time: The EMT 140 plate. The 140 was a big, wooden, 400lb box about 8 feet long, 4 feet high and 1 foot wide, containing a suspended steel sheet of metal (“plate”) attached to a driver which vibrates the plate with a pickup attached. This design is similar to how a spring reverb works, only a lot bigger, heavier and smoother sounding.
There were multiple revisions and electronic retrofits made for the EMT 140 over the next 20+ years. EMT 140 plates can still be found in better studios around the world, especially high-end mix rooms with large format analog consoles, and have been used on thousands of mixes we all know. They were and still are an industry standard for artificial reverb, and have been emulated in plugin form by numerous manufacturers since the beginning of the DAW era. In the last couple of years especially, we’ve seen even more EMT 140 plugin emulations released.
In 1978, long before plugins, EMT released their own digital emulation of their analog plate—the EMT 244 digital reverb—and an updated version in 1982 called the EMT 245. The latter was complete with 13-bit A-D converters, and a $10,000 price tag ($10,000 in 1982 money).
Good news: PSP Audioware has just released their own emulation of the EMT 244/245 digital hardware plate, and the PSP version is not nearly as expensive. And like any plugin, you can use more than one instance at a time.
The PSP Audioware 2445 sells for $149 at pspaudioware.net and is available in 32 and 64-bit VST, AAX and RTAS formats for both Windows and Mac OS X, as well as the AudioUnit format for OS X.
The controls on the 2445 are fairly straightforward. Input gain, output gain and dry/wet mix are all there, and then we have the pre-delay time and reverb tail times, both with detented pots but still offering plenty of flexibility. I had no issue dialing in the right reverb times with the controls provided. The “Reflections” control allows you to adjust what I would describe as how much “walls” you want to hear.
There’s also a high frequency dampening switch which shortens the reverb decay time on only the highs, essentially providing a darker reverb trail. To the left of that switch we have the inverse—a low frequency-only reverb time boost, which makes for a meatier reverb with a richer decay when engaged.
Additionally, there’s a hidden panel with some more controls worth messing with (controls that were not available on the original units, in fact). This panel is accessible by clicking over the “OPEN” label towards the bottom of the plugin. Once opened, the GUI displays a HPF as well as a high and low EQ, a balance control and a width control. A “Mod” control provides more or less warbling modulation to your reverb, allowing you to smoothen or freakify the reverb tail. Lastly, there are a few routing switches which allow the user to swap right and left outputs of either or both of the 244 and 245 engines.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the 244 or 245 model selector. The 244 and 245 settings seemed fairly similar in tone, with a subtle difference in richness and vibe. PSP also wisely included a setting that allows both units to operate simultaneously, which gives a slightly wider, bigger sound. (Many users may just stick with this setting, which also happens to be the default.)
Additionally, there’s a presets menu which gives you access to extra sounds and algorithms that can not be achieved by tweaking the controls on the interface. For instance, there is a “Vibrato” preset and a “Warbling” preset, which is a very interesting, trippy reverb with a modulating pitchy warble a little bit reminiscent of the chroused echo sound on a Memory Man delay. There are also a few hall settings in the presets, although they don’t sound terribly different from the default plate settings.
I gotta say, from the second I first tried the PSP 2445, it blew me away with its musicality. “Musical” is really the best way to describe it. “Classic,” “familiar” and “pro” are also terms that come to mind. I thought I had enough plate reverb plugins until I tried the 2445. There’s just something different and very exceptional about this product. I’m not going to use generic cliché language like “lush” or “thin” to describe the vibe of the 2445, because it’s neither. It’s just… good.
On lead and background vocals, I found it to have a very classic, “epic,” and sort of aggressive feeling—if a reverb can be described as “aggressive.” Think big-budget ’80s British pop-rock, something like Duran Duran or Depeche Mode. I also found it had a nice tone when used on piano. It felt a little bit edgy, cold and almost mean in this application, yet not cheap or lo-fi sounding—and very big, still.
Even though the PSP 2445 is made to emulate a digital effects processor, it still does sound pretty similar to a real plate—probably as much as any other plate emulation now available. It’s a little more digitized obviously, but the authentic plate vibe is very much apparent, without sounding overly smooth.
To Be Critical
By and large, the 2445 plugin adds a real rock star element to the mix, reminding you of the classic radio hits of the ’80s and ’90s, as well as the vintage plate tones of the ’60s. Aside from there being a few controls hidden behind a panel that I didn’t notice initially, the only drawback is that it can’t do quite as wide a variety of reverbs as some other plugins and digital reverb units.
For instance, it has some presets labeled “Small Hall” and “Cathedral,” but essentially all of the presets sound as though they come from the same digital plate algorithm. However to me, this isn’t a problem because this plugin doesn’t claim to do everything under the sun, and it doesn’t cost a ton of money either.
Summing it Up
Everything the PSP 2445 EMT does is unique, and it does it very, very well. Short, medium, long, dark or bright—whatever reverb it spits out sounds great. It’s easy to get a musically workable sound from, has a ton of vibe, and isn’t nearly as expensive as its tone would lead you to think it is. At a $149 price point, the PSP 2445 EMT doesn’t come particularly cheap, but given the authenticity and unique character of its sound, it would be a valuable asset to any studio looking to harness its classic tone.