The majority of PSP’s processing plug-ins have all the character, warmth and quality of the best hardware units, and with Neon and Neon HR they’re paying a second visit to the challenging concept of EQ.
Before we installed the software, we had to locate our iLok key. Some PSP plug-ins (including Neon HR) now require one of these, so if you want to run them, you’ll need to shell out for the requisite copy protection hardware. Neon offers eight bands, each of which boasts seven filter types (peak, low- and high-shelf, low- and high-cut 12dB and low- and high-cut 24dB). Each band has gain and Q knobs.
Basic stuff, but how does Neon sound? Well, sublime, frankly. The first test of a new EQ for us is always on The Verve’s Lucky Man, as it’s harmonically-rich, bass-light and sibilance-heavy. And the best test of any EQ is excessive boost, so we added 13dB of high-shelving at 6kHz and 10dB of low at 300Hz. The results were stunning. The highs remained clear and musical and the lows powerful and punchy – far more so than when using any of our other EQ plug-ins.
Unusually for a PSP plug-in, things aren’t totally seamless, and this is because much of the plug-in’s quality comes from its Linear Phase mode. This compensates for the problems introduced by standard processing algorithms, which shift different frequencies different amounts in time. This process can often result in a lack of depth and space, but the problem with Linear Phase mode is that it introduces a massive amount of unpredictable latency, making it impossible to use in multitrack apps.
In practical terms, this isn’t too problematic, as you can disable LP mode without affecting the signal too much (especially when the plug-in’s being applied to individual channels in a mix). But Neon can still glitch – even with LP mode disabled – and we experienced unpleasant digital crackling when adding a high-cut sweep to the aforementioned boosts.
Unfortunately, these two complaints combine to make Neon the least smooth and ‘hardware-like’ of any PSP plug-ins. That said, Neon is also highly useful, and one of the best-sounding tools that PSP have so far designed. It’s also the best multi-host EQ option you can buy for under £700, making it well worthy of your consideration.