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Sansamp PSA-1

Tech21 Sansamp PSA-1

4.5 4.5 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

16th March 2012

Tech21 Sansamp PSA-1 by gward

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25

I picked up four of these when Sam Ash stores were going out of business for $150 each. I had wanted to pick one up for a long time but was a little put off by the retail price and this deal was too good to pass up. After having used it for a couple of years, here are some of my thoughts.
This is mostly promoted as a guitar amp simulator. I have heard guitars through it that I didn’t like the tone of and I have heard ones that I loved. It kinda depends on the player and guitar but I would say in general that in the hands of a accomplished player that you can get some very convincing
“amp” sounds out of it. It tends to be a little noisy at higher gain settings but so do real amps. One thing that I discovered helps sometimes with the guitar tone is I run it into my Vintech X73i after it and use the eq and transformers in the chain and that tends to do away with any elements of tone I dislike.
For bass, I love it. If I had to only record bass direct through this, I would be fine with it. I have had many bass players agree with me. I especially like the Ampeg SVT presets on it. Once again, sometimes it’s nice to follow it with an analog eq.
It is interesting on synths, drums, acoustics, and vocals. On synths I have gotten some cool pseudo guitar tones out of it and assigned the patches to midi so when I changed patches on the keyboard the PSA-1 changed presets as well. I have even on occasion used it as a eq (albeit with distortion).
Things I dislike about it are the fact that there is no compare function for when you are working on a sound so you have no way of flipping between the preset and your edits. Also, sometimes the knobs make digital clicks if they are left in between settings. This can easily be solved by moving it slightly, but it is annoying. Overall, I would recommend this preamp on the basis that it is a great tone-shaper, distortion piece to have in the studio, regardless of what instrument you use with it.

10th April 2015

Tech21 Sansamp PSA-1 by swmorgan77

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75

I've owned this preamp since 2001, during which time I've recorded and performed as guitarist for metal, hard rock, blues and classic rock bands as well as bass for a rock cover band. I've used the PSA-1 in all of these settings and it has shined.

The midi functionality makes it pair well with typical rack mount effects units for live use. This is billed as a direct recording or direct-to-PA device. For bass.... absolutely, but for high-gain guitars I have found that it needs a little something added. It has a really harsh fuzziness when sent direct for recording. I use speaker impulses as vst plugins and it shines. In a live setting, a secondary speaker sim (palmer or similar) or even just a high-end roll off on the console will compensate for this. What the PSA-1 DOES excel in in a direct recording setting is capturing guitar tracks that feel dynamically "alive" in a way that the digital modelers and vat amp Sims I've used simply can not.

Where this unit really shines for me though, is in my rig. I'm using PSA-1 > TC G-Major > Mosvalve 962 power amp. These are the ideal complements for it, IMO. When I used it with a tube Mesa power amp (simul 295) the microphonics and compression were too much. The mosvalve gives me tube-like volume and some warmth, without overdoing what the PSA-1 is already simulating. Unlike other effects units I've used, the G-major is not altering the preamp tone with its own preamp section or processing.

The dynamic response to playing that the PSA-1 has is amazing. I have an overdriven Twin Sim that I can use go from pristine, chimey cleans to raunchy overdrive just by varying picking attack. It also excels at heavy tones. It gives a low-end breakup that beats any actual amp or modeler I've used....and does it at all volumes. The sustain is better too. The key is to learn what the knobs do. There is no other rack preamp that let's you control the character of the distortion the way this unit does, and when you get a feel for it you can dial in literally any tone you want. "Buzz" is your low-end distortion (I keep this at a low setting to preserve definition). "Punch" is mid-range distortion, and "crunch" is high-end distortion. "Drive" then controls the amount of emulated power-stage distortion.

This piece of gear has been the anchor of my sound for over a decade.

3rd May 2015

Tech21 Sansamp PSA-1 by Shorefront

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5

I thought I'd chime in from a bass guitar point of view - the reviews above cover this unit pretty comprehensively. In short, I love this unit for really deep bass tones that I can dial a bit of edge on for vintage or rockier tones.

I was looking for something for a long time to add some of that Ampeg style 'weighty-ness' to the bass guitar when mixing full band music. I had previously had a lot of luck with the IK Multimedia Ampeg plugin - which I still stand by for the sheer variety of tones on offer.

In a similar vein to the first review on this product I picked up a PSA 1 in a clear out deal that I couldn't refuse. I was very impressed by the range of professional features on offer, including balanced I/O for integrating with my audio interface meaning I could use it on previously recorded DI bass tracks. It's very easy to get going with the unit, and naturally I ran through a few of the presets with an electric guitar attached was able to get a really wide variety of tones that I could tweak... but I'm not much of a guitarist for tracking purposes and i didn't have any DI material on hand to get stuck into the tones.

When it comes to bass tracking purposes I'm in two minds when it comes to tones. I like to record a bass guitar amplifier and split off a DI for backup, in the absence of a really nice bass amp, it's more to get a sense of the room or real air moving. Plugins can't quite capture that. So, I use the Sansamp primarily for post-processing.

It sounds really good. I've made my own preset from the Ampeg setting in the preset menu which is a great place to start. I'm able to get some of that ultra-deep bass that sounds really analogue and vintage. I play palm muted and so I can really get some punch by slightly distorting the mid-range and adding low-end via the EQ. I can't really imagine mixing without it now, and blending it with the real amp sound really helps it to cut through a mix. Coupled with the fact its a really good guitar processor as well means it's a pretty versatile tool.

Cons? Hmmmm difficult -I guess it could be considered a bit expensive but the sound quality can't really be matched by plugins and it does compare to an amplifier which you could spend a lot more on. I've also used it for distorting drums and vocals so it really extends beyond its original intended use.

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