Harmonic saturation plugins are an essential tool for producers to add warmth and character to their sounds. But with so many on the market, it’s hard to sift through the noise and choose the perfect plugin. But with so many saturator plugins claiming accurate analogue emulation, finding the right plugin to suit your needs is challenging. In this Ploytec Mango review, we stress-tested the Ploytec Mango to the test to see if it's worth your hard-earned music bucks or not.
Ploytec Mango (Quick Review)
Ploytec's Mango is an uncomplicated harmonic saturator that can add valve or tape-like decadent saturation to whatever you slap it on. Adding even and odd harmonics to your frequency in the same way that analogue saturators would, the Mango sounds lush and pleasing. With a Fruit section that offers stereo along with an intricate mid-side section, the Mango can alter the placement of your signal in highly creative ways. Working to add a beautiful coloration to vocals, synths and guitars, the distinct Mango saturation is a highly recommended addition to your toolkit.
Is The Ploytec Mango Worth It? (Quick Verdict)
Compatibility: Mac: VST, AU, AAX. Windows: VST, AU. 64-bit.
Price: 69 Euros
The Ploytec Mango is worth it. It adds instant color to your tracks, making them lush and succulent. As an emulation of tube and tape hardware, the plugin is best for warming up digital mixes, without having to worry about complex knobs.
✅ Uncomplicated saturation.
✅ Instantly sounds good on whatever you slap it on.
✅ Can create interesting settings within the Fruit section.
✅ Mid-side options are quite comprehensive.
✅ The term ‘A succulent masterpiece' is legitimate.
❌ Lack of a manual makes it difficult to figure out advanced manoeuvres.
❌ No presets library available.
Primarily designed for mastering, the Mango's mid-side prowess can be used to sculpt everything from vocals to synths to drums. As a lot of unique effects can be achieved by varying the percentages in the mid-side Fruit section, having prior knowledge of the mid-side would help you appreciate the plugin better.
With a potentially large number of sound design possibilities hidden behind these four banal knobs, do not underestimate what the Mango can do!
With that being said, having more knobs perform these parameters or a good preset library would've made it much faster to figure out these hidden gems.
But, the 69 Euros price tag might be a bit steep, given the wide range of additional functions that plugins in this price range can offer.
What Is the Ploytec Mango & What Does It Do?
The Mango is a harmonic processor which can create tape or valve-like smoothness when added to your tracks. The gain section is reasonably straightforward with +/-3 & 18dB options, with mid-side and stereo options. With subtle transformations affecting the horizontal positioning of your tracks, the juxtaposition of the two fruit dials is the USP of this plugin.
As a brain-child of Intelligent Sounds and Music and Ploytec, Mango is the second plugin to be released after ‘Aroma'. After pursuing tape and valve-like harmonic distortion with Aroma, the creators came up with a younger brother to Aroma, the Mango.
While the Mango is based on the same analogue models as Aroma, it has become much simpler in application. While the Aroma had four sections- salt, pepper, sugar, and chilli; Mango has just one Fruit section.
Being extremely simple to use in its basic form, the Mango can add a good amount of ear candy to your tracks just by turning up the dials. The Mango achieves this by mixing odd and even overtones of the fundamental frequencies in a way that mimics the functioning of analogue tape and tube machines.
As the output amplitude isn't precisely proportional to the input signal in analogue hardware, the hardware units experience non-linear distortion curves. The Mango taps on this concept and emulates similar non-linear distortion curves in its processing, to give us the musical saturation we experience while dialling up the knobs.
How Does It Sound?
While sounding good in the stereo mode, the Mango excels in the mid-side mode. Dialling in different permutations between the two mid and side intensities, allows you to place your signal creatively within the mix. Intricate effects can be achieved on vocals, guitars, and synths within the Mango's mid-side section. Overall, the saturation sounds luscious and extremely musical.
You can hear these intricate effects in action in the sound samples below:
Using the Polytec Mango on Synths, we've kept the mid and side fruit knobs at 56% and 51%, respectively. Dialling in values of 50 to 60 per cent on the mid and side, lead to the audio material getting scalloped in the centre.
Suppose you've had any experience with analogue EQ plugins like the Apogee Pultec, in that case, you know that boosting and attenuating at a similar value results in an EQ dip.
Similar to the Pultec concept, the Mango creates a dip in the mid frequencies when you dial in values between 50 to 60 per cent. While creating a dip, Mango's processing makes the mids filter out.
If you pay attention to the luscious sounds in the centre, you'll hear how the mids are constantly getting filtered, creating a cavity or dip in the centre.
We've used this mixing technique here on the synth to create more space for vocals to fit in the centre. All we need to do now is to make sure that the vocals don't spread too far into the left and right sides.
As the vocal melody here has a natural movement to it, we tried to mimic that with the Mango. The Male Vocal (Before) is primarily placed in the centre.
To make the vocals spread out towards the sides in waves, we've dialled down the ‘side intensity' to 14%. This gives enough room for the vocals to spread from the mid to the sides.
Male Vocals (Before)
Male Vocals (After)
While the signal still exists on the sides, its angles are acute. This allows for the vocals to spread towards the sides in a wave-like fashion. We found 70% to be a sweet spot while dialling in the mid-intensity.
You want to keep the sides engaged too, at around 15%, so that we create steep angles. Turning down the sides below 10% won't give you the necessary angles for the mid-intensity to play against.
Lastly, we used an 18dB cut and boost. Dialling down the Input to -1.36dB and boosting the Output to 2.87dB did the trick here.
Using this vocal technique in tandem with LFO-controlled synths or drones could accentuate the vocal movement even more.
Mango's non-linear distortion works in an extraordinary musical manner. It's best displayed when we have a melody with a characteristic texture.
In our example here, the melody has a natural resonance in the high mids. The best way to highlight that resonant frequency is by creating a cavity in the mid-side and overdriving the resonant frequency.
Dialling the mid-intensity down to 34% and boosting the side intensity to 66% creates circular movement in the sides while leaving the mids hollow.
We chose to stick with the 3dB range controls in the Input and Output section. We cut 1.18db and boost 0.98dB as we found the sweet spot.
You can hear the fruity valve or tape-like shimmer in the resonant frequency of the melody. The non-linear distortion brings out the conflicting odd and even harmonics on top of the resonant melody. This is the decadent dessert sound that is the highlight of this plugin.
The Fruit is set to Stereo. We've boosted the Stereo intensity to 67%. We've dialled down 10dB on the Input and boosted 10dB on the Output. The range is set to 18dB on both.
Drums + Bass
Drums + Bass (Before)
Drums + Bass (After)
The Fruit is set to Stereo. We've boosted the Stereo intensity to 99%. We've dialled down 14dB on the Input and boosted 10dB on the Output. The range is set to 18dB on both.
What Features Do I Get With The Mango?
Creamy Saturation at your fingertips
Mango uses an amalgamation of soft-knee compression and harmonic generation via mixing odd and even harmonics to create its signature sound.
Mango uses a soft knee for its compression at the first stage when the frequencies are run through it. The frequencies coming into the input are much lower than that of the signals going through the output. As this difference crosses a certain level, the input can't match the output linearly and ends up matching it in a non-linear manner.
By using such non-linear distortion, Mango creates a series of odd and even harmonics on top of the fundamental frequency. Since this is the primary reason for creamy saturation on analogue hardware units, Mango can provide us with such a high-quality saturation.
The reason for the Mango saturation not sounding exactly like a tape or a valve, or any specific model that you've come across, is that the Mango sound is achieved by mixing the best components of analogue hardware units. Ploytec has done the hard yards and presented us with an uncomplicated interface with just four knobs. So you can avail yourself of all these amazing functions instantly by just moving a few knobs!
Intricate sound sculpting possibilities with the mid-side intensity dials
The Mango comes with four uncomplicated dials that offer monosyllable parameter explanations. So to make the best use of the subtlety and character that Mango offers, it's best to understand how Mango's Fruit section uses the mid-side for stereo functions.
If we can imagine our incoming signal flowing through a mid-side microphone setup as illustrated below, we can make sense of the two Fruit dials that work in tandem in Mango's mid-side Fruit section.
When cardioid and figure of 8 mics form a mid-side pattern, the sum of the left and right stereo image collapse onto the ‘mid'. The sides form a stereo signal by subtracting the right channel from the left.
The subtraction involves a polarity-reversed version of the left channel being added to itself. Hence, we use the (-) sign.
By dialling in different intensity percentages on the mid and the side dials on the Mango, we're able to spread or dip our audio signal. Working with these knobs in tandem, we can add intricate movement to our signal.
While such possibilities lie within the mid-side fruit intensity knobs, a beginner could easily get great sounds out of this plugin without having to get into the details.
What About The Technical Stuff?
How Hard Is The Ploytec Mango on The CPU?
We stress-tested the Elephant Room Reverb on the Mac Mini M1 2020, running Big Sur 11.2.1 with 8GB RAM, an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores, and 4 efficiency cores. Even with 19 instances of Ploytec Mango open at the same time, we found no noticeable lag in its performance. You can tweak your dials as freely on the 19th track as you would on the 1st. The processing is quite light and unnoticeable.
What Does My System Need To Run It?
The Mango's UI is relatively simple. Any computer capable of running eight to ten instances of third-party plugins should easily be able to run the Ploytec Mango smoothly.
- 4GB RAM+ should work comfortably.
- 64-bit only.
- VST, AU, AAX.
- 4GB RAM+ should work comfortably.
- 64-bit only.
- VST, AAX.
What About UI & Utility? How Easy is It To Use & Any Stand-out Features?
While the Mango excels in being an uncomplicated harmonic saturator, it disappoints when it comes to functionality. With a lack of clear definitions of what the parameters do, you're going to have to figure it out on your own. Without a released manual on the website, getting beyond the basic usage of the plugin is quite a task.
Since the plugin window is quite small, to begin with, it does make sense that there isn't a resizing option. With 4 dials and no screens, meters or graphs on offer, it makes sense to stick to the original size.
With three grey-coloured boxes on top of the input and output section, you can save up to three recent settings, which you can compare against. These settings are simple to load by clicking on the grey arrows below the boxes. Your current input or output setting is stored in slots A, B, and C.
Beware while switching between input and output settings, as the plugin doesn't recollect your input settings once you begin to tweak the output settings. We feel this is a basic necessary function, which the plugin could've easily added. Since the relation between the input and output settings is fundamental to sculpting such an analogue sound, recollecting the settings could've aided in a much faster workflow.
The input knob displays a red circle around itself once you cross the 0dB mark, helping you keep a check on your levels. We wish Mango had several more pointers or hints sprinkled throughout the interface so that the workflow could've been much faster.
With all that being said, the Mango's interface looks super-cool with its fruity yellow colour. The greenish knobs and red font go with the overall look and feel. The Mango is highly attractive at first sight and is quite tempting to try out.
What Are Others Saying About The Ploytec Mango?
Many user reviews across the internet praise the uncomplicated saturation offered by Ploytec Mango. Coming on the back of a successful campaign with Aroma, Ploytec seems to have gained the trust of its users when it comes to quality saturation. Buying on impulse, a lot of users feel they need to have Mango's unique saturation colour in their sonic palette.
Some of the negative comments mainly revolve around the un-usable Mango demo version which has a lady's voice interrupting your sessions. While coaxing users to buy the original is a good idea, some users feel put off by not being able to try the demo version in their projects.
After scouring the internet, we found some interesting comments and opinions that opened our minds to how others feel about the Ploytec Mango. We've listed some of them below:
How Does The Ploytec Mango Stand Up To The Competition?
The Ploytec Mango, PSP Vintage Warmer 2, and Waves Factory Spectre all offer mastering grade saturation. PSP Vintage Warmer 2, is a trusted name in the audio community with great sound. With 10 saturation algorithms spread across an EQ-like interface, the Waves Factory Spectre is quite compelling too. But, priced at 69 Euros, the Mango is the least expensive of the lot and sounds great.
With a decent-sized preset library, the PSP Vintage Warmer 2 also offers a Multiband compression. But being priced at $149, you aren't buying the PSP for color alone.
Being a saturator in the form of an EQ, the Spectre adds harmonic saturation to an isolated spectrum of choice. Again, being priced at $99, you're looking to use it in multiple ways. It might not be the cheapest way of getting quick analogue-sounding saturation in your mixes.
While they're all equally competent at saturation, it comes down to which kind of analog color you prefer.
From the price point, the Mango works out to be the cheapest. But considering the little functions it offers, you might want to go for an Aroma & Mango bundle to add the signature Ploytec sound to your sonic palette.
Ploytec Mango (Quick Review)
Ploytec's Mango is an uncomplicated harmonic saturator that can add valve or tape-like decadent saturation to whatever you slap it on. Adding even and odd harmonics to your frequency in the same way that analogue saturators would, the Mango sounds lush and pleasing. With a Fruit section that offers stereo along with an intricate mid-side section, the Mango can alter the placement of your signal in highly creative ways. Working great on vocals, synths and guitars, the distinct Mango saturation is a highly recommended addition to your toolkit.
What is harmonic saturation?
Harmonic saturation is a milder, more pleasant form of distortion. It's created due to small frequency transients popping up at regular intervals of your signal. These harmonic transients are multiples of the fundamental frequency of your signal. Hence, the saturation added in this way sounds musically pleasing.
How is tape saturation different from tube saturation?
In tubes, waves are shaped in a non-linear way and the speed of saturation is higher. Saturation in tapes happens via a slow compression with long attacks and releases before getting printed onto the tape.
Sai is a full-time music producer located in India, and is head of Faculty at D7 Media Institute. He is the most passionate music production guru I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Fantastic at sound design, mixing, and recording, Sai heads most of the review content, as well as dabbling in some mixing and mastering content too here at WCS. Give Sai any topic and he could write forever about it. He has over 10 years of experience working in the industry and has earned both Music Production and Music Composition & Piano degrees.