Parallax Audio VSS

I stumbled across this interesting virtual orchestration positioning tool called VirtualSoundStage. As it is designed for overcoming the challenges of using samples from many different libraries, i.e. making everything sound like a whole despite conflicting ambiences, micing techniques etc, it seemed like something that might come in really handy for me. After all I am a library slut with no loyalty for any single sample developer and my setup is a Frankenstien-like patchwork of different stuff.

So how does it work? Well, you remove any existing panning/stage ambience and insert VSS on every output channel in your project and use it for positioning the sections/instruments. At least that is how I interpret the manual. And for what it is, VSS does its job. It’s straightforward to work with and the virtual soundstage it delivers is convincing.

But — yes, here comes the ‘but’ you’ve been waiting for — the price tag seems a little steep for what is basically a one trick pony. Considering that the same or at least similar results can be had from any good true stereo reverb with detailed early reflections and your DAW’s native panning controls, I’m not really seeing the point here. Furthermore, having dozens of these plugins to keep track of in a project seems like a major hassle. My standard orchestral template has 57 output tracks (likely more, I counted only the named ones). What if somewhere down the line I would want to change some global setting — I’d have to open and adjust 57+ instances of VSS? No thanks. And what about CPU load? A single VSS is very frugal (0.3% on my ageing quad core) but if you need to load that many instances, it might become an issue.

Admittedly, the manual mentions that a “global” mode that lets you adjust settings across all loaded instances is planned (plus additional early reflection models) so VSS might very well become more useful than it is right now. At $99 this plugin is crazily overpriced ATM but if the promised functionality is added and the price stays the same, I might consider getting it.

Also, a nitpick: I don’t get why the GUI appears to be designed for the visually impaired. Exactly what point does the detailed seating plan view serve when all you use it for is moving around a speaker icon? Something smaller and more abstract would have sufficed.

YMMV of course. Try it out, let me know what you think. I didn’t do any really in-depth testing as the demo version doesn’t save its settings between sessions.

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4 Responses to Parallax Audio VSS

  1. Pingback: Speak of the devil | Mattias Westlund

  2. HeathcoteK says:

    I’m not so sure that similar results could be obtained with just a regular reverb’s ER and DAW panning. VSS seems to significantly alter the timbre of the instrument as you position it around the virtual space – and in a very pleasing and realistic way. I’ve tried it on some of the Sample Modeling wind instruments to good effect, and the elaborate graphical interface helps to establish “where you are” visually in the mix very quickly and usefully. However, I do agree with you about the inherent impracticalities of opening multiple instances. I also agree that the plug is overpriced for such a relatively immature product. Probably by around $25. It’s preventing me from finally pulling the trigger on a full purchase. Irritating! There are some people on audio forum sites who claim the price is a “no brainer”. Not quite, in my opinion.


  3. Mattias says:

    HeathcoteK: I don’t really see why similar results couldn’t be had, as VSS probably uses common enough techniques (panning, early reflections, and likely also Haas effects and/or other psychoacoustic trickery) and not some kind of magic. But of course, the way it combines those techniques into a single easy-to-use tool might be unique.

    And no, $99 is definitely not a no-brainer. Not even from a professional perspective IMO, because like you say it’s not a mature product.

  4. Michael Vickerage says:

    I have set it up, with over 100 instances ( very cpu efficient) , in a big orchestral template, and am right now composing a “Big-Screen”, Hollywood-style track to test it, I have to say that there is a very strange and unpleasant sound that it imposes on a mix. It actually makes the instruments sound worse; particularly in the centre of the stereo picture. Kind of boxy and nasty. If I tilt my head in the Y axis ( i.e.: up and down) I can hear a weird, phase thing going on. I’ve tried every setting in the VSS interface to eliminate this harmonic interference, and,so far, cannot remove it.

    I think I’m going to simply go back to Altiverb’s stage positioning, because it doesn’t colour the sound in a negative way. I will concede that I might be doing something wrong, but I don’t think so. I’ve loaded the presets with the same results. At first I thought it was the Air Absorption setting, but that didn’t work. Then I thought it was the Early Reflection: still the same. I just cannot remove this horrible boxy sound it imposes on the instrument. If I bypass the plugin, hey presto! The instrument sounds fine.

    I don’t think it’s expensive, if it works. I mean, the guy is a one-man show, and has put a lot of work into this. I actually think it’s cheap. But, right now, it’s simply not working for me.

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