I never hate to see 2-for-1 type situations so getting the PSA1000 and PSA1000JR in one bundle was pretty welcome. I will explain the difference between the two below. IF however you are looking to buy just one of the two units, I would recommend the PSA1000JR as it’s more simplified for guitar and bass uses.
I have a lot of experience with the Sansamp PSA-1 preamp in hardware form. I got hooked on the sound of it in the late 90s when I heard Slaves On Dope guitarist; Kevin Jardine’s incredible tone. A little while after that I bought one and it was around the jam space for years. I ran it through various power amps, cabinets and other components while using it for guitar and bass.
The PSA-1 is a preamp that has been used by everyone from the Gods of guitar both past and present to the bedroom guitarist raging through a Peavey Bandit. The list of names to officially use the PSA-1 on huge albums is a long one but not nearly as long as the list of players to have used it in place of their every day rigs on huge albums but never told the tale.
This is also a first for us because I will need to do two reviews on it that speak to the PSA1000 Bundles abilities for both guitar and bass. Instead of simply leaving a “Bass Alert”, this one required a lot more.
As I mentioned earlier, the bundle includes both the PSA1000 and the PSA1000Jr. Basically the Junior is everything from the 1000 delivered in a more condensed way. The Jr is more than enough but for the extra tweakability (yes that’s a word), the 1000 provides the micro and macro adjustments required by some. These extra parameters also come in very handy with non-guitar/bass applications.
The GUI for both plugins is simple, easy going and nicely laid out. I will say again that the controls you will see probably won’t make sense to you but stay with it, learn how the unit functions and you will be impressed! It’s got class, warmth and detail without needing to be elaborate. The 1000Jr GUI is even more simplified.
I want to note up front that for guitar purposes, this plugin requires an impulse loader. It would be ideal to also use a poweramp plugin like the free TPA-1 from Ignite Amps but an impulse loader and stuff to toss into it would be best.
With a poweramp plugin and an impulse loader, the PSA1000 becomes a damn powerhouse of tone. I am talking gorgeous cleans to a bulldozer of high gain. In the middle there’s a wealth of crunch and mid gain tones that have loads of versatility. I have even created doom/fuzz tones right inside the plugin without the need for a fuzz pedal plugin. Hard rock, punk rock, blues, country, whatever you want, it’s there.
The key here is learning how to use the controls like a scalpel. I went through the presets and kept notes of what I liked about each preset and which specific control controlled the likable aspect. From there it becomes easier to start making your own tones. Go slow and really feel out the value in each control but also how those controls affect the others.
The Pre-amp is your traditional “gain knob” and I find it works well with the drive control. Be EASY on the buzz knob, it will control the low end but it also adds low saturation, I leave this one below 5. Punch and crunch compliment each other and control a lot of your “chug elements” so to speak. The drive control is awesome as well, you can work so much with really every control on these plugins.
When I use either of the plugins in the bundle, I run them with the FREE TPA-1 power-amp and either Libra or NadIR to load my impulse responses. From there the tones can be customized and shaped even further. For cleans, I have used it with a ton of awesome open back 112, 212 and 412 cabs. For anything involving the exquisite distorted tones in the PSA bundle, I went for closed back 212 and 412 options. I rarely found a cab pack I couldn’t work with because the controls are just so customizable.
Want metal tones, oh sweet can’o’corn do you want to give this a rip. With some nice impulses, there just isn’t a gain-based tone or style I couldn’t do properly. When I add in the TPA-1 for the 6L6, EL34 and KT88 tube types, the endless tones just continue. Rhythm or lead, no matter what you need, it’s in there but the really nice thing is that no matter how much gain you add, there’s still very evident quality and clarity. I also had a great time using boost, HM2, fuzz and distortion plugins out front of the PSA1000 plugins.
What can I say about the bass applications here. It’s ultra-rare for a single plugin with only one component to have the capability to slay so many dragons tone-wise. Sure you can create a ton of guitar tones but the bass side of this plugin is no different. Many well known bass players have also used the hardware PSA to lay down tracks or kick ass on stage.
Unlike the guitar side of the plugin, the bass applications of the PSA1000 don’t require a power-amp plugin or impulse response loader. However, experimenting with both will definitely create even more tonal possibilities for bass players of any style.
There was simply no bass tone that I could think of that the plugin wouldn’t offer back to me with some stank on it. Once I was comfortable with the controls, I was able to create very strong tones for country, blues, punk, death metal, ska, djent, funk and more. I must have used it on 15 mixes the first couple weekends that I started testing it for bass.
When I started using the TPA-1 power-amp and added my own selection of 210, 410, 810, 412, 115, 215 and 212 bass impulse responses, I opened up new worlds of warmth and new power to things. The power-amp isn’t really necessary but when trying to go for the more vintage bass tones, it helps. The impulse response loader allowed for more of a live feel and I was able to really get to more personal tones.
I used the PSA Bundle’s two stars in a parallel distortion scenario on more than one occasion with awesome results and a few times I even ran another instance of the PSA1000Jr later in the chain to add even more beef to the mix. That’s the thing about saturation, there really just aren’t a lot of rules.
UPS / DOWNS:
The list of upsides and useful applications from this single plugin is a mile long. It does guitar, bass, drums, keys, vocals, saturation, processing and so much more. With all these applications, a bundle like this becomes invaluable because once you learn how to dial it in, you can get it to do just about anything and do it well.
For guitar applications, a built in impulse / cab section or perhaps even a cab simulator and even basic power amp abilities would make this much more attractive for any guitarist. Not having such does give that side of the plugin a bit of a hit score wise. For bass however, there are really no drawbacks or downsides to this plugin. It’s a damn swiss army bass tone machine.
The value for the price really depends on how you look at it. You can buy just the 1000JR for an insane amount of value or buy both for a fitting price. The applications are really endless and extend beyond amp sim uses. It’s true, as an amp sim, with a couple added components, the PSA1000 bundle can provide some truly phenomenal guitar and bass tones but the processing, mixing and mastering applications add a lot of value. If you aren’t familiar with how having a top quality saturation plugin can help your mixes, please look into it as it will only add to your need for this bundle.
See more: Nembrini Audio demo of the PSA1000