Voxengo PHA-979 - User Reviews
Been using these for about 6 years and I wanted to express how much I appreciate them. HarmoniEQ is such an asset to adding color. In the tradition of the Pultec EQP-1 I often bring frequencies down with the stock Reaper EQ and bring them back up with HarmoniEQ, adding color when I don't even need an EQ adjustment. It's been especially effortless to change an electric guitar's tone when I feel like, "I wish he'd played a tele here instead of that SG." Even after I picked up Warm Audio WA-412 for overall coloration, HarmoniEQ is still invaluable for shaping coloration so I'm less in need of spending thousands on different analog devices to achieve the specific profile I'm after.
I have some feature suggestions, first would be to add a non-colored EQ for pulling down frequencies so the Pultec trick is fully integrated, and also I think it could benefit from higher oversampling factors since the difference between 4x and 8x is plainly audible to me, would love to see 12x, 16x, 24x, and even 32x since CPU is pretty abundant these days. Even folks who are light on CPU can adjust the mix at lower oversampling, then set up a render queue with the oversampling cranked, and have the DAW process it slowly overnight while they sleep.
I still use the old version of SPAN because I'm set in my ways, but also those average and peak RMS readings are such great measures to ensure my mixes are the same general volume.
The bass saturation feature in LF Max Punch gets so much use, even on vocals to give them a "closer" feel to them, on overheads and ambient mics to get more room impact on the lows, places I never would have thought to use them. Brilliant tool!
Elephant is the only remotely pumpy limiter I'll use. I like my mixes to be highly realistic, which means I can't stand LA1176's, but sometimes a bit of pump sets the right tone without sounding desperate. Elephant nails that every time.
Here's some pearls for folks who don't appreciate how awesome a phase adjustment tool PHA-979 is. Any recording that's live or live off the floor with ambient mics, you can use PHA-979 to phase-align direct mics to the ambient mics by adjusting the phase so the lower frequencies combine the most (might actually be nice to have a mono version just for this). Then put a PHA-979 on an aux bus with L/R set to -90/+90, to generate a side channel. Mute the ambient mics and send all your direct mics through that side channel bus and feather it up until you can barely notice the widening effect. Now unmute the ambient mics, and you can't tell where they end and the direct mics begin. It's the glue between the two without the muddying of early reflection reverb. I haven't found any other plug-in that accomplishes that nearly as well as PHA-979, and it's not nearly enough anti-phase to ruin the mix when summed mono.
Voxengo plugs do more than just a good job, they really make the job more enjoyable.
In a market bloated with 'emulations' of classic gear, it's rare to find juicy sounding plugins that capture the best qualities of 'classic', offer some flexibility and don't break the bank. In the universe of more tweakable plugins, here too only a few offerings stand out.
After years of working with hundreds of plugins from numerous companies, I've found only a handful of offerings that keep me coming back. One of those companies that still hold a top spot is Voxengo. Their plugins are 'analog' without being slavishly limited to a given hardware model; flexible but not overloaded with 'feature bloat'; affordable without sacrificing sound quality; and have excellent & consistent GUIs to work with. A winning combination.
There is definitely a place for well designed emulations of classic gear, but when you require some flexibility and/or modernity, Voxengo is great choice. Their uniform GUIs also promote actually listening to the music!
Voxengo also has an easy robust activation system (no dongles), exceptional reliability (I've never had a Voxengo plugin crash my DAW in 14 years) and full 64 bit floating point processing*.
I must add a review to point out that this plug-in has more uses than at first meets the eye.
You may use it to construct a Dolby ProLogic (r) encoder so that your stereo material is compatible with all the Hi-Fi amps, televisions, game consoles that provide surround sound from a two channel delivery format.
The specifications for all modern surround formats have this in common; that they extract the surround channels from the out-of-phase "S" component of the stereo stream.
The surround L and surround R signals.
The encoding process is the same for all Dolby 2 channel systems, whereas the decoders built into Dolby certified equipment varies in complexity and channel count.
To encode Dolby compatible material, you need to set up a stereo AUX bus with the Voxengo Phase plugin, apply a short delay to both channels and a +90 degrees phase shift to the L channel and a -90 degree phase shift to the R channel.
All channels you want to have appear in your rear speakers will have to have in addition to going to the main stereo bus, a send to the AUX channel. The send should have a pan pot so you can send the signal to either channel of the Aux bus.
When you increase the level of the send, you'll hear that the sound moves from front to back in accordance with your send level. The panning of the send will determine if the sound emirates from the left or right surround speakers. The mix between the send and the main stereo content will determine the fromt/back placement.
For a description of the levels and specifications, see this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_decoder#Dolby_Stereo_and_Dolby_Surround_.28matrix_4:2:4.29
This plug-in is the only one (and I've tested a lot!) that actually offers a true 90 degrees phase shift across the frequency range and that works as a surround encoder. The quality of the sound is pristine, and I'm happy to have found this gem!
In a market saturated by modeled plugins and 'unique concept' plugins, Voxengo continues to maintain a niche right in the middle. Their plugins are functional, stable, easy to work with and have a natural organic sound. They are not emulations of 'prized' classic gear, nor are they bloated A.I driven multi-tools with masking meters and fancy 'learn' buttons; they are easy to use affordable problem solving tools that sacrifice nothing in sound quality or euphonics.
The PHA-979 is a an excellent example: it is a phase and time correction plugin - the kind of tool one uses to reduce or eliminate phase cancellation between microphones or other problematic multi-channel sources.
But PHA-979 is not like other phase correction plugins. For one thing, it is Linear Phase, which means that phase adjustments are equal across the spectrum; LP rotation makes it possible to correct phase cancellations across the frequency spectrum, unlike 'analog' (minimum phase) tools, which typically force a compromise.. (if you still want to use minimum phase correction, PHA will do that too).
Second, it has a time (distance) adjustment included, so you can deal with all your phase issues in one plugin. It also has a handy calculator that converts samples to milliseconds, and applies the result to the appropriate knob (you can zoom in on two sources in your DAW, determine the number of samples between the two, enter it into the handy calculator and hit 'enter,' and your sources will have the same start time).
And for good measure, PHA comes with an FFT style phase indicator, so you can see which frequencies are in phase, which ones are out and which ones are in between.
PHA-979 is a lifesaver with poorly recorded drum kits; its unique combination of tools and meters greatly reduce the time required to make a kit sound like it was miked up properly in the first place.
I have yet to see another phase correction tool that does linear phase rotation, much less one that is this easy to work with.
Did I mention that it sounds good?
i came across voxengo plugins a while ago, and gave them a try. i have to say, these are some great plugins. i am currently using the free Stereo Touch and free SPAN plugins as well as the (very reasonably priced) PHA-979 plugin, i am interested in the Voxformer,Redunoise, and GlissEQ plugins.
i have talked with Aleksey Vaneev a few times,and he is a really nice guy. he knows what he is doing, and is very helpful.
+1 for Voxengo's amazing VST Plugins!