This one means something to me because for a while the SansAmp PSA-1 was the centerpiece my rig. No matter what genre, cab, power amp, guitar or pickups I was using, I could count on the PSA-1 to pull it all together for me. The software version is no different. Another reason it was especially interesting is because the PSA-1 supplied part of what made the Abyss studios tone that revolutionized metal forever.
What we have here is a FREE plugin version of the world renowned preamp being offered with additional components. I have used this plugin a ton and so reviewing it was a blast.
The GUI is really crisp and realistic looking. It’s easy to navigate and the controls are very effective across the entire sim. While it is easy to navigate, there is a bit of a learning curve to the controls but we will get to that.
Before the PSA in the signal path, AXP/Softamp have included a really solid noise gate as well as a very useful compressor type component. I am sitting here thinking “how is this all free?”. Both components are high quality and add to the already tremendous versatility of the plugin.
I found myself getting very nostalgic and a little giddy while using it because I have always missed that tone and I never thought I would find the software equivalent. It doesn’t get you all the way to the original but it’s close, free and very good.
First thing’s first, I read that there was an original presets list so I found it before I even got started. The PSA-1 can be a little different to dial in so I can’t stress enough that you go get the original 30+ presets because they really provide a lot of excellent reference points and quick one click zips for any genre or style of playing.
The versatility of the original unit made it a must have for many studios and the sim is again, no different. The PSA does almost any genre convincingly without a lot of tweaking as long as you have the presets. Great cleans, amazing crunch rock tones, metal of any variety and everything in between. There’s really just no other piece of gear that did what the PSA-1 does as well.
The controls do involve a bit of a learning curve. The presets give you a really good idea of what the controls have for value and how they impact the tone. A knob to watch is the “crunch” knob because it’s not as much of a crunch as it adds saturation and weight to the tone. The buzz can also create some issues in the low end if turned up too high.
Being that it’s just a preamp, you can decide to add a power amp, tube or warming type plugin right after the PSA in your signal channel for more warmth. We had a lot of luck with the freeware Ignite TPA-1 when it comes to all preamp type plugins. It’s free and great at adding some warmth to things. Just be sure to turn off the internal cabinet before adding a power amp or impulse loader.
The PSA-1 has it’s own impulse built in. The main impulse can be shaped and/or rolled off as much as you like with onboard controls but you can also use a cab loader and your own IRs in the chain if you roll off the onboard cab. I spent hours trying impulses with the PSA and I had no issue finding impulses that matched up well for all the different uses I threw at it. To turn it off, use the roll-off feature but the cabinet type controls can also help to add new sounds to impulse responses so feel free to play around with it.
Any style of guitar or bass you need can be found inside this plugin. It’s a blast creating crushing high gain, gorgeous cleans, chunky rock tones, driven cleans and so many other tones. I have never missed the mark I was looking for with the PSA-1
The PSA factory presets we mentioned have a few amazing bass amp settings. You can also sculpt your own very easily. It’s going to go on our list for best bass amp sims as well. Bass players, jump on this one. Distorted, driven, clean, compressed, whatever your style as a bass player, you will probably find something in here that you enjoy.
UPS / DOWNS:
The fact that this is a free plugin is baffling to me, especially when it’s vastly superior many paid amp sims I’ve tried. Every single guitarist that plays around with VSTs really needs to go grab this plugin asap.
The detail is great the graphics look amazing, the sound quality is at a professional level. Softamp could have easily charged a decent amount for this but instead, they offer it for free and drop their name on the market like dropping a hammer through a glass table in the middle of a furniture store. I must have tested this sim for 6-7 hours the first time out and since then, it’s become a go-to for a number of applications.
Download this amp right and the presets right now!!
Original Presets for Reaper:
NOTE: Drop these into your Reaper presets folder and when you decide to use them, you need to switch the oversampling from 1x to 4x because they default to 1x which is the plugins lowest quality setting.
Link to Reaper presets
If you aren’t using Reaper you will need to enter them in manually and save them. They really are essential to learning your way around this plugin. Here’s the manual and settings. The site is pretty crusty but it works.
Want more? Check this Softamp PSA demo: