In Tape Op #46, I wrote a positive review of PSP's MasterQ, an equalizer plug-in designed for mixing and mastering applications. Recently, PSP introduced a sister application, the MasterComp compressor/limiter. And keeping with the quality of MasterQ, this new plug-in has sonics that approach the finest analog units. Yes, that's right. I said it. It's a plug-in that I feel comfortable enough adding to my mastering chain. But before I go on about the sound, it's important to give an overview of the features.
MasterComp is currently available in VST, DirectX, and RTAS formats for Windows. PSP reports a Mac version (presumably AU) is in development. It is very CPU-intensive, using double-precision 64-bit floating- point calculations. To further improve the sound, users may engage double-sampled processing. This feature is affectionately dubbed FAT, which stands for Frequency Authentication Technique. Enabling FAT when working with 44.1 or 48 kHz files yields a dramatic improvement in depth and high-end clarity. 96 kHz files do not seem to need the FAT feature, so it's advisable to conserve CPU resources by bypassing it in these situations. MasterComp also includes sophisticated side-chain filtering as well as a mix control, which effectively allows users to go from parallel compression (mix at 50%) to full wet (mix at 100%).
PSP's VintageWarmer is known for being a very colored processor. MasterComp takes a more conservative approach. Instead, MasterComp's coloration is subtle. I would say it just barely sneaks into the back of the room at the transparent compressor convention. Of course, this makes it a welcome addition to most mastering environments. Investing the time to tweak attack, release, and other settings can pay off bigtime (hint: never blindly trust auto-release on any device). Often, MasterComp imparts a sweet sonic glue that adds that final touch to a track. Perhaps most telling, three out of my last five clients chose the MasterComp chain in blind tests. To be fair, there were analog compressors in the chain, too. But, I've tried several other "mastering-grade" plug-ins in blind tests, and none have done as well as MasterComp.
My only reservation about MasterComp is that it is extremely resource intensive. But good digital processing always is. That's why makers like Weiss, TC Electronic, and Waves make dedicated hardware units. Fortunately, Moore's Law is still holding true (loosely interpreted, CPU power doubles every 18 months). Many of us remember complaining about Altiverb's resource needs when it debuted, and you couldn't pull it from our paws today. I suspect MasterComp will garner the same level of fanaticism. ($249 alone, $389 bundled with MasterQ and VintageWarmer; www.pspaudioware.com)