PSPaudioware oldTimerME Review

Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Michael Cooper



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Fig. 1: oldTimerME combines vintage-compressor vibe with advanced features for a pittance.

Fig. 1: oldTimerME combines vintage-compressor vibe with advanced features for a pittance.

When PSPaudioware’s oldTimer was introduced a couple of years ago, I thought it was the best-sounding compressor plug-in for the price—a rock-bottom $99. But while its idiot-proof control layout and chameleon-like personality made it a user-friendly and versatile processor for basic mixing duties, oldTimer lacked certain features needed for jockeying advanced mixing techniques and mastering.

The new oldTimerME (Master Edition) addresses those needs, bringing mid-side processing, parallel compression and an internal sidechain (with a built-in filter) to the table. (See Fig. 1.) Greater control over its time constants, levels and emulated tube processing complete the meal. Recognizing that you won’t always need that much ammunition, PSP includes the original oldTimer with your purchase of the ME version. (See the sidebar “oldTimerME’s Mini-Me.”) Pinch me—the price for the bundle is still only $99! And if you already own the legacy oldTimer, you can get the ME version for free.

oldTimerME (Mac/Win) supports AU, VST and RTAS formats; 32- and 64-bit floating-point audio streams; and sampling rates up to 192 kHz. I tested the AU plug-in in Digital Performer 7.21 (DP) and Pro Tools 9.0.3 (PT9) using an 8-core Mac Pro running OS 10.6.8.

Consistent with its newfound attention to mastering applications, five of oldTimerME’s nine ratio control settings fall within the 1.1:1 to 2:1 range, allowing you to process with kid gloves. The highest ratio is 10:1. Raise the compression control to lower the threshold and increase processing depth. Tweak the make-up control for up to 30 dB of make-up gain.

Unlike with the legacy oldTimer plug-in, the ME version offers separate attack and release controls. Their knob positions are not delineated in milliseconds and seconds, but rather with nonspecific alphanumeric characters. The faster settings are good for limiting percussive tracks such as drums, while the slowest settings are good for leveling. In between those extremes, you get a response evocative of opto and tube compressors. Activating an auto-release switch implements program-sensitive release times, automatically quickening release times for transients.

You won’t have to mult your track to set up parallel compression; oldTimerME automatically splits processed and unprocessed signals and combines them at the plug-in’s output. Separate controls independently adjust the dry (unprocessed) and wet (compressed) signal levels, attenuating as much as 24 dB or boosting up to 6 dB. Want to compare your parallel-compression setup to normal compression? Mute the dry signal by clicking on the nametag for the respective control. Done!

Mid-side and dual-mono processing setups are not quite so lickety-split; they require using two instances of the plug-in on the same stereo track. For dual-mono operation, set oldTimerME’s channel-selector switch to L (left) on one instance of the plug-in and to R (right) on the other. For mid-side operation, one instance of the plug gets set to M (mid) and the other to S (side). Linked-stereo operation requires only one instance of the plug-in. Set the channel-selector switch to left, mid or linked operation for best results on a mono track.

Mastering engineers, take note: You can increase the number of steps by a factor of five for several controls (compression, makeup gain, and dry and wet levels) by holding down the Shift key on your QWERTY keyboard while adjusting them. For example, the compression control normally has 40 discrete steps; hold down the Shift key, and you get 200 steps. Makeup gain, and dry and wet levels can each be similarly adjusted in as little as 0.1dB steps.

Despite its precision, oldTimerME deliberately shuns transparency to impart a vintage vibe. Its classic character is derived from the varied compression curves it produces and a very convincing tube-emulation algorithm it employs to round transients. You can defeat the tube modeling by flipping a three-way switch (labeled Valve/Clear/Off) to the Clear position. The Valve position activates the tube algorithm, while the Off position disables compression completely.

When the tube algorithm is active, a five-step control (dubbed “Valve Reference Level”) adjusts the depth of saturation. You can produce either more or less saturation than with the legacy oldTimer plug-in, which is not adjustable in this regard. The Mid setting duplicates the oldTimer’s fixed saturation response.

oldTimerME includes an adjustable highpass filter for its internal sidechain. A choice of nine corner frequencies—from 30 to around 1k Hz—is offered. You can route other tracks into the plug-in’s sidechain using your host DAW’s facilities. A VU-style gain-reduction meter, A and B workspaces, and facilities for loading and saving presets and banks complete the GUI.

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