Martin Walker

Polish developers PSP Audioware's VintageWarmer is a single- or multi-band compressor/limiter with sound and saturation characteristics carefully modelled on those of analogue tape machines, accessed through a very attractive laboratory-style front end incorporating retro 'VU' meters. The large Drive control sets the input level to the limiter, while Knee adjusts from a hard turnover suitable for limiting through tape-saturation characteristics all the way to soft-knee compression, and Ceiling lets you adjust just the peak output level. Speed adjusts both attack and release times simultaneously (its name refers to tape speed), while you can shorten or lengthen the latter using the Release control.

Mix and Output are self-explanatory: I often found myself using the latter to set levels to exactly those of the input, and then using Bypass to hear exactly how VintageWarmer was enhancing my sounds. The twin 'VU' meters can display either pre-equalisation, gain reduction, or output levels for the left and right channels, with similar needle ballistics to either a hardware VU or PPM meter.

VintageWarmer can be used in two completely different modes. In single-band the High Freq, High Adjust, Low Freq, and Low Adjust controls adjust a high and low shelving equaliser with a range of 12dB. However, switching to multi-band mode lets these same controls adjust the crossover frequencies and high and low band pre-limiter gain settings. Clicking on the front-panel logo lets you access a 'back panel' display, where there is separate adjustment for saturation levels and release multipliers for each of the three bands, as well as a further handful of knobs controlling various aspects of meter ballistics. The saturation controls are worthy of special note, as they let you do what Paul White was discussing in SOS December 2001: add density and warmth to just the bass end, or drive the high band harder without interfering with the mid-range.

As you might imagine, initial impressions can be a little overwhelming given the number of controls, but thankfully PSP have provided plenty of presets with suggested uses ranging from subtle mastering tweaks, mix first aid and finalising, 'analogue' warmth or saturation at various simulated tape speeds and a variety of multi-band compressor/limiter formats, along with a range of 'in your face' treatments intended for specific instruments such as guitars, bass, and drums. I was very impressed by the range of treatments on offer, and by the high quality of the results. This is a plug-in that you can use to completely mangle individual tracks, but also to add warmth and detail to complete songs without worrying about undesirable side-effects.

March 2002; p.48-50

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