There’s a time and a place for clean and subtle compression. Vintage Warmer probably isn’t the right plugin for those occasions. First released in 2001, PSP’s iconic analogue-style compressor plugin has gone in and out of fashion over the years. Widely hailed as one of the best of the first generation of plugins, Vintage Warmer then suffered from overuse and became a bit of cliche, but it’s still a highly useable tool.
Vintage Warmer does things a bit differently to most compressors, and that’s largely because it treats compression as just one element of a bigger picture along with saturation and tonal colouration, falling somewhere in between the effect of a conventional compressor/limiter (either single or multi-band) and a tape saturation effect. The plugin’s intentions are made clear by the fact that the Drive knob is larger than all the rest; the harder you crank it, the more the signal will saturate and distort. Part of the problem is that the rest of Vintage Warmer’s controls aren’t quite so intuitive. Instead of hard and soft knee settings, there’s a continuously variable control. The Speed setting doesn’t relate to attack time, as you may assume, but approximates the effect of recording to analogue tape at different speeds, effectively controlling attack and release times simultaneously. An additional release control acts as a multiplier rather than a conventional time setting. YouTube user JGS007’s excellent tutorial videos (embedded below) help to clear up the operating principles – understanding how the plugin actually works is the first step to getting good results from this one.
Vintage Warmer’s reputation has been sullied to some extent by overuse and flagrant abuse of its saturation effect. Of course, the fuzzy, distorted mixdowns that result from using it on every channel are a major cliche and rarely improve a mix, but maybe it’s time to reclaim Vintage Warmer and acknowledge the fact that when its used sparingly it can be a hugely effective tool for taming dynamics while also adding colour and character to everything from kick drums to full mixes.