Whilst the name PSP Audioware might not be immediately familiar, chances are that the producers and mix engineers among you will have heard of the Vintage Warmer plugin, which has become something of a revered piece of digital equipment that is both used and abused in the mix-down process. Based in Poland, much of PSP's product line boast the same level of quality and allure as their famed VintageWarmer, and as an avid fan of their creations, I was very happy to have the chance to chat with the company's main men, Mateusz Wozniak and Antoni Ozynski.
How did PSPAudioware come about? Can you tell me about it’s creation and beginnings?
Mateusz: I grew up surrounded by music and I was always interested in new technology and recording. By studying computer science, I was able to begin my journey into the world of digital audio algorithms.
Why the name PSP? What does it stand for? I’ve met a few people who think I'm referring to the PlayStation Portable when I mention it….
Mateusz: It stands for Professional Sound Projects. We established this company and its name long before PlayStation Portable appeared on the market. Later we also realized that PSP stands for the National Fire Department in Poland, haha.
Which people work at PSP? Is it a big company?
Mateusz: The core of the company came about as a result of the friendly relationship between two partners, Antoni and me. We've know each other since our high school days. There are several more or less cooperating partners that PSP works with, who are mostly our Polish colleagues.
What was the first product that really helped PSPAudioware gain traction in the plugin world, and created a good reputation for your work?
Mateusz: Although our first commercial products where the PSP StereoPack and PSP MixPack, our best selling product and the one widely known by professionals is the PSP VintageWarmer.
How do you feel about the kind of competition that PSP has in today’s plugin market?
Mateusz: The market is much more crowded than it was when we started. From the user perspective, more variety is good. But we would rather not treat our competitors as enemies. We have very good relationships with most of the plug-ins companies out there.
What were some challenges that PSP faced in its growth? Did the quality of your plugins ensure that your reputation spread, or did you have to deal with other issues aside from quality?
Mateusz: The sound quality was probably the most important factor for encouraging our customers to spread the word about us. However, there are always many technical issues, as well as hard decisions to be taken on the next project that we choose to focus on, and many other things we have to take think about in order to stay relevant in the market.
As far as marketing goes, PSP seems like a company that doesn’t seek to shove itself down people’s throats with banner ads and endorsements. Word-of-mouth seems to be working very well for you guys. Is this a conscious move on PSP’s part, or are you just letting the chips fall where they may?
Mateusz: Going this way is partially our conscious decision. We try not be aggressive towards our customers in the way we do our marketing.
Antoni: Our credo is "It's the sound that counts". I believe (or at least I want to believe) that most people who work in the recording business can hear. People should trust their ears. They know exactly what they need. Each of us has his own taste and his own needs, so your ears are the best judges.
Given the large pro-audio customer base you guys have, I would imagine that you could reach out to a number of famous people to endorse your products, but I haven’t seen a lot of that. Is that also deliberate?
Mateusz: We prefer to stay on the good side of our precious customers, rather then to hire famous guys just to ring them in for us.
(Below: PSP Mixpack 2)
Speaking of pro audio, do you know of any professional mixers or producers that have made use of your products?
Antoni: Yes, you can find our products in a lot of studios around the globe. Among our users you will find Stuart Price, Gareth Jones, Hans Zimmer, David Torn, Peter Gabriel, BT, Vernon Raid, Vance Powell, Bob Ludwig, Chris Athens, Bob Olhsson, Bob Katz, Florian Ammon, and Roland Prent just to name a few.
Haha, just a few huh? Given how the company has been around for 14 years, garnered massive amount of praise and fans, why haven’t you guys gone the corporate route of expanding your staff and brand into something more commercial?
Mateusz: I think that we still want have a fun of driving the company our own way. For me personally, designing the plugin's functionality, its GUI and algorithm is a challenge I enjoy.
Are there any plugins that you’re particularly proud of, given the reception they’ve received, or the challenges that you overcame in making them?
Mateusz: Most of our plug-ins required us to find new solutions; at least new to us. For instance, by working on our equalizers we discovered that there is a strong need for using a certain kind of oversampling to deal with several digital filter issues we encountered. This kind of challenge-solution mentality has accompanied us from the beginning.
With regards to particular plug-ins that we are especially proud of, the PSP VintageWarmer, PSP oldTimer, PSP RetroQ, PSP preQursor, and PSP MasterComp, to mention a few. Each of them utilizes our own solutions which are inspired by good-sounding gear, but they aren't clones of that gear. They simply sound good in and of themselves.
Let’s talk a bit about specific products. I’ve heard some people comment on why PSP would bother making a metering plugin like 2Meters. Most DAWs come with metering functionality, so why bother making a plugin version of this?
Mateusz: There are several reasons to provide classic meters like PPM or VU. One of them is the legacy that the fathers of recording have created, and the way they worked. Usual digital meters are great for keeping the signal just below 0dBFS, and some modern metering plugins are great for accurately controlling the perceived level, but old style VUs and PPMs are still good for people who can read them.
There is also a fun-factor behind using such meters. For me, they somehow make the working process more pleasurable when the needle smoothly leans from left to the right with the music’s flow.
You’ve been releasing quite a few tools and effects plugins lately, like X-Dither, 2Meters and Echo. How have these been received? Does the reception and reviews differ from your dynamics and equalizer plugins?
Mateusz: Each of those plug-ins was made for different purposes and were found powerful by different groups of our customers. So in their own way they all succeeded.
Antoni: Despite the time that has gone by since the release of your Vintage Warmer plugin, it’s still frequently cited as being widely used and admired in the audio community.
How do you feel about the legacy that it’s created? Does it ever bother you that it might out-shine your newer products?
Mateusz: There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. We are glad when we meet people who have chosen to use the VintageWarmer. It's still a powerful tool for many engineers and should be a part of the first-aid kit of every serious mixer, in my opinion.
As the creators of Vintage Warmer, can you give some first-hand advise to your users how it’s been used in mixes, and how to avoid abusing it, as many people have been reported to have done.
Mateusz: I can only share my personal taste of settings which can help give a track the kind of sound I remember from recordings of my childhood. On individual guitars, vocals or drums you can try a preset called “Track Tape Fast”, then try to set the "Knee" to a value that works for your track, and then probably lower the "Mix" to something like 50-70% to prevent from overdoing it.
And please don't put the Vintage Warmer everywhere on your mix, as it can easily make the mix too dense. Putting it on selected tracks or groups make the best impression.
Given the sheer volume of PSP products that you guys have made, would you say that certain plugins are replaceable with other ones. Does the MixPressor2 achieve the same thing as the BussPressor? Are they interchangeable? What about things like the ConsoleQ versus the ClassicQ? Is there any way to quantify their differences, or do you have to have an ear that can tell the difference?
Mateusz: Of course one can say that we have several compressors and equalizers, and that they are probably just newer versions of their predecessors, but it isn't true. The PSP MasterComp (the most advanced and clean PSP compressor), PSP BussPressor, PSP MixPressor and PSP oldTimer where not only designed at different times, but where also developed with different aims in mind. They work, sound and are also operated in a very different way. I still prefer the sharp sound of the MixPressor for some purposes while some others would require the transparency of the MasterComp or warmth of the oldTimer.
Similarly with PSP ConsoleQ, PSP ClassicQ and our other track equalizers. They where created at the same time but the goal was to provide a wide variety of equalizers which would differ in sound, settings, features, etc. I'm keen on using ConsoleQ whenever I have to quickly to set up an EQ for a track, or I would use the ClassicQ to recreate the sound of a British EQ with a bit of preamp emulation. Or I'd choose the PSP preQursor if I wanted something that sounds like a classy analog EQ, or the PSP RetroQ on the buss or master, just to add some air to the mix.
Virtually each of them is unique not only in its look and operation but mostly in its algorithm and sound.
What’s been PSP’s most commercially successful product to date?
Mateusz: Of course the PSP VintageWarmer was and still is our flagship product.
What’s next for you guys in terms of plugins? Or even hardware. Will you ever branch into that?
Mateusz: You never know. We still have a lot of ongoing projects for our future plug-ins. I hope to release some of them this year.