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First thoughts: Sansamp PSA-1.1 & Vox AmPlug


Melville

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So, for my birthday a few weeks back, I got some new gear: a Sansamp PSA-1.1 (the updated PSA-1) and a Vox AmPlug. Thought I'd post my initial thoughts on these, in case anyone has any interest in either unit.

 

Sansamp PSA-1.1 - I've given this a very quick test play on both guitar and bass. When I set it up with my bass rig, I ran it into the effects loop return, so I would bypass the preamp in my Aguilar. I ran through the presets and found that the SVT simulation was closest to what I'm after for a baseline tone, but was a little muddy and was lacking mids. Not a terrible solo tone, but not great for a band setting. So I copied that to an empty spot, and then started turning knobs. Pretty quickly I was able to dial in a tone that'd sit pretty well with a band. I really wish the EQ was more than Bass and Treble, a Mid knob would really make this a stronger bass preamp. Overall, a cool unit for what it does, but I still need to play with the settings to get the tone I want. I do think some of this is my Aguilar's speakers tone in general, and I don't think it takes effects as well as my old Eden did. But when I ran this in front of my Aguilar, I got more of the mids that I was wanting and had a tone that could cut through a mix. Some of the lows got lost, but I had the Aguilar set flat, and I know it needs a bass boost in general to get the tone I like. As it stands now I've got a pretty good clean and OD tone that I can run direct to a PA or recording unit.

 

I've only had time to run through the guitar presets, this time through my Crate Palomino V16. First off, the PSA-1.1 puts out a hot signal - when I plugged it into my amp (no effects loop, so no bypassing the preamp) it was breaking up even with the PSA-1.1 set to bypass. As for the presets - for the most part they are all over-the-top distortions. The stock Fender clean sounded nice through my amp, and will probably be where I build a clean guitar tone from. The Marshall and Mesa's, even the "clean" settings had a fair amount of breakup in them. Their overdrives were WAY more than I need, but it may work for someone playing metal. I figured out the settings for the Mesa Rectifier simulation, and it's pretty much everything cranked to 11 (well, 127 since the PSA-1.1 is a MIDI capable device). I think turning it all down will get something cool though. The bass presets actually sounded surprisingly good with a guitar. I don't know if I can hear the difference in the Marshall, Mesa, or Fender style amps, but I think that's because it's all cranked up so much that you lose any differences there may be.

 

I haven't had a chance to run it straight into my Pro Tools rig, but probably will later this weekend. So I'll get to hear how it sounds when there is no amp involved at all.

 

Vox AmPlug AC30 - My parents gave me this one, and it's a really cool little unit. Fits in the palm of my hand, has an aux in for a mp3 player/computer/whatever has an 1/8th jack, volume, tone, gain controls, and it models an AC30. I wanted this for learning songs since I'll be able to mix the aux in with my guitar in and can play along. This thing sounds surprisingly good with my iPod earbuds (which are far from great, I haven't tried a good pair of headphones yet). I was learning a song the other morning, and when I thought I heard someone at the door I thought "oh crap, I've got my amp up too loud" before I realized I was playing through headphones. This also has a pretty good range from clean to distortion, and responds to guitar volume changes more than I expected. All in all, small, cool, and a great learning tool if you are like me and learn songs by ear.

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  • 3 weeks later...
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A quick update since I've now had a bit more time to get to know the PSA-1.1.

 

I've gone through and made a boatload of presets for both guitar and bass. Bass wise, the DI tone I've found that I like the most so far I would describe as somewhere between an Ampeg and an Eden tone wise. Little more hi-fi than Ampeg typically is, but not as modern as I think Eden is. I've got a pretty nice clean and OD tone going for going direct, and a nice OD tone for using this as an effect with my amp. I've also built up a clean that is in the ball park of my Aguilar's tone (not an exact match, but I'm amazed at how close I can get.)

 

Guitar wise I've built up a series of presets in the Mesa, Fender, and Marshall style. I did the Mesa and Fender tones before the Marshall ones, so they sound better when I listened to them later. I need to go back when my ears aren't tired and adjust the Marshall tones. You can get a good variety of tone out of this thing. Once I readjust the Marshall tones I'll be able to evaluate which style of amp emulation I dig more. It's a toss up between Fender and Mesa right now though. The cleans of those two are better than i was expecting based on some reviews. For me, the distortions are a little unruly at times, but I imagine a lot of that is my crappy guitar playing. I haven't worked on tones for using this as a distortion pedal with my amp yet, since I plan on this getting more direct recording time than in-front of an amp time.

 

The big thing I've been trying to wrap my head around is how to wire it up for it to be useful for everything with very little effort on my part once it's set up. I think I've finally got it (I'm going to run my GCX system in the PSA-1.1's effects loop so I can use this for direct recording when needed, but I also put the PSA-1.1 in a loop of the GCX so i can use it as an effect and switch it in and out of the signal as needed. I'll need to swap a few cables around in the back of my rack to do this, but this is the best system I've come up with thus far.)

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