Online Review: PSP VintageWarmer





    PSP from Poland just brought something new on the shelves. Which is very old as well. How come? Read on.

    The term "Vintage" stands in my believe for "good old stuff". It immediately calls back in memory the old days (he, I'm already way over 40 and already rocked on the first Rolling Stones records, mind you ;-) where synthesizers and samplers were not born yet and a good guitar sound was made with basically only two components: a good guitar and a good tubes amplifier. Anyone who ever listened to or played on such an "antique" combination knows what it means when I write here: "It gave me the shivers".

    Ever since synthesizing came in, manufacturers have tried to reproduce that vintage sounds. Some of them came close, but in fact nobody reached vintage haven so to speak. Then the samplers came. Depending on the quality of samples, only the best sample producers just reached vintage heaven with their finger tips. But still something was missing: the good old warmth and richness of the sound, breathing loudly from that old tube amplifier.

    This is more or less where PSPs latest product comes in: the VintageWarmer. First have a look at the screenshot above: does that look familiar, oldies. Yip, it smells more or less like the old Oberheim cases. The association with "good old warmth of sound" comes up immediately when you have your first look at the user interface. Nice.

    OK: enough sentimental crap. Let's hook up VW in our VST system, being Prosoniq's sonicWORX PowerBundle 2.5 which we are testing too at the moment (the review can be found in the review index when we are finished testing). Installation is simple: just drag the VW/VST-file into the VST folder of the hosting application, and you're ready to go.

    We take some guitar sounds from an older Roland JV 880, which are not bad in itself, but are "clearly synthesizer" if you get what I mean. I play a little tune, a somewhat screaming solo with a Fender like sound, and record it directly on hard disk using sonicWORX. OK, the testing phrase is ready. I'm not going to MP3 this one on the site, it is just too dumb to listen to, but good enough for the test.

    Now, let's have a look what we can do with VW to warm up this sound back to the early 70's. The user interface gives us a bunch of old fashioned knobs we can turn using the mouse. The biggest one gives us "Drive", what happened to be the most important knob on the old amps, at least for me. Drive gives the sound an extra push and life, as you may know. With "Low" and "High" and the according Frequency knobs we fumble around till the color of the driven sound is just like we want it to be: the Fender sounds I admire so much. Result: not 100%, but I can live with it very well. The cold synthesized guitar stored in the JV 880 has come to life and sounds a lot better.

    A kind of hidden is a second set of knobs: on the virtual back of the virtual VW case. We DRTFM (don't read the f.... manual) as usual, and therefore discover by pure coincidence that you can click at the words "Vintage Warmer" in the user interface, which causes VW to swap to the backside. Here you find extra settings for -among others- Saturation and Release, the more basic settings so to speak that determine the "reach" by the variations you make in the front user interface. Just like the good old backside knobs on the non-virtual amps. . Here, you can switch between modes the knobs will work for you: circular or linear.

    OK, we fool around with the backside knobs, return to the front interface, and change some settings there too. This time we use a project we finished some years ago: a rock song, completely built with JV-880, Roland D50 and Roland U-110. It sounded pretty good at that time, after being enhanced with some Waves plugin stuff. But nevertheless was too cold. OK: we import the 4 years old final mix into sonicWORX, add the VW to the realtime plug collection, and listen very, very critical to the result that VW brings us. And yes: the cold final mix gets vintage, gets the smell of old amps, gets what it had to exist without for 4 years: good old rock warmth. Very good!.



    After some extra fooling around with the knobs and settings we discover that it is very easy to destroy or distort what you just have built. VintageWarmer is a plugin you should use with care and feeling, and preferably with some knowledge of how electric instruments like Fender guitars, Rhodes piano's and the like used to sound back in the 70's. Not only can you find out your own preferable settings. VW comes with a bunch of presets (29 to be exact) that get you started quickly.

    Features.

Technically speaking, VintageWarmer is a digital simulation of an analog-style, multiband compressor, which can be used for brick wall limiting as well. A slick use of overload characteristics makes generating the typical saturation effects of analog tape recorders possible. VW comes as plug-in for both VST and DirectX on PC, and as VST for Mac OS (9, not carbonized for OS X) plus MOTU MAS. A Digidesign RTAS compatible version is in preparation. We tested the Mac version, by the way.

PSP gives these features in the press release:
High quality signal processing algorithms,
Single or multiband signal processing,
Shelf filters for bass and treble frequencies in single-band processing mode,
Control of bass and treble signal components in multiband processing mode,
Accurately calibrated VU and PPM meters with the overload indicators
Library of presets.

PSP is suitable for following every day studio tasks:
Optimizing the ‘density’ and average signal levels of recordings during mixing or mastering,
Shaping the dynamics of recordings during mixing,
Adding warmth to individual tracks or complete mixes,
Adding analog tape-style compression to individual tracks or complete mixes.

    Conclusion.

    It would be too much to say that VW is a revolution, but it is a value tool for warming up those cold remakes of old electric gear we find in most synthesizers. It adds round dynamics to your recordings, making them sound more saturated, just like the old analog recorders did. You can also use it to give flat sounding productions (with e.g. samples) extra boldness and character. The user interface loooks nicely "old" and fits the characteristics of this plugin. VW comes with a good manual in PDF format, which explains all functions and presets in brief but clear text. A Q&A section gives good general insight in the situations and circumstances VW can play a role, and how you should utilize VW.
    This plugin does what the specs promises, and therefor it gets (on our scale from 1 to 10) a well deserved
    8+.

    Addendum.

    In early march 2003, PSP AudioWare released version 1.5 of VintageWarmer. The new version is compatible with CoreAudio under OS X, but is available for the "good old" OS9 as well. New in this version, available as a free download for registered users at PSP's website:
    * Constant DC remove filter 12dB/oct tuned to -3dB @ 15Hz. The filter is located at the input of a processing path of the plug-in. A Dry signal is not affected.
    * Double precision floating point computations (64 bits) in all processing stages to improve ultra quite error free filters.
    * Graphical memory leakage bug solved.
    * All platforms now have the same processing engine and the same version number.

    Pricing and downloads are available on the producers website:
    http://www.pspaudioware.com/.


    All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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    26.12.2001