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Chris

Airwindows is one guy: me! I am an audio hacker and computer programmer from way back. I seek only to continue my life up here in Vermont, inventing things and putting them onto the internet, sometimes for free and sometimes for pay. My hope is that people richer than me (i.e. most people) don't rob me. My other hope is for another cup of Aeropress. One out of two ain't bad!

Thunder

TL;DW: With this buss compressor, sub-lows get bigger the harder you drive it.

Thunder

Compressors are tricky little beasts: they tend to eat low-end, they react differently at low intensities than when you slam ’em, and each sort of compressor has a ‘voice’ that defines how it acts.

There’s a crude way to deal with the low-end problem, which is to put in a crossover: either to split into multiband compression, or simply highpass the sense circuit so the compressor can’t compress extreme lows and just lets them through. I’ve been asked to do this and have actually tried it on PurestSquish, but I was never satisfied with the results. It seemed like just half-breaking the compressor and I felt there had to be a better way…

Thunder is that better way. Instead of passing through the bass, it transforms it in a way similar to FathomFive, and uses that live, active signal to modulate what the compressor sees, where in turn the compressor’s output is modulated by the intense lows. It’s a little complicated, so you can watch the video or simply download it and try it. Thunder is free (bear in mind that my only compensation is the Patreon I’ve created. To do this onward into the future, that Patreon must succeed)

If you’re auditioning Thunder, a word of warning. You’re going to have to monitor the extreme lows. This plugin can prepare music for the hugest sound systems or the finest audiophile playback, but if you can’t hear what it’s doing you may get in trouble with it. Decent headphones ought to suffice (not earbuds!). If you have subwoofers, this will test them. You can also use the mix-check plugin SubsOnly to test how you’re doing, that will spotlight the subs for you.

The range of adjustment starts with gentle ‘glue’ compression as the subsonics begin to open up the mix. Then, a bottom octave will appear anchoring everything. Push beyond that and you start to get into more compressed 2-buss, with the extreme lows taking on a punchier, thumpier character. Add more Thunder and the bass gets frisky and aggressive and dominates. Then, when you go even beyond that, we’re talking about ridiculous monstrous mega-bass, and more or less wrecking the sound of everything else (it’s useful to be able to go to weird broken settings in case you want to step back just a bit and have a really extreme effect). This is not a multiband compressor (there’s only one stereo comp in the plugin) but when driven really hard it can go even more bonkers than a multiband compressor.

Remember, the low Thunder settings are useful too as a glue comp, for a buss compressor that’s extremely transparent and true to the tone of the mix! The middle settings are just as functional. All of these settings have their own usefulness. Choose wisely (or unwisely, if you prefer).

ClipOnly

TL;DW: Minimalist 2-buss safety clipper at -0.2dB with powerful anti-glare processing.

ClipOnly

It occurred to me I hadn’t brought any clippers to VST yet. Also, I’ve been getting requests for the latest ADClip in VST format.

Thing is, ADClip is part of the for-pay collection that was formerly sold through Kagi. It’s got up to ADClip6 and grew all kinds of features, like the ability to monitor clips only, to store clipped-off energy and re-introduce it into the sound for added loudness, to monitor those things, and so on.

There’s also an alternate clipper in that collection, OneCornerClip, which makes the leading edge of the wave blend progressively into the clip at a rate you specify. That one can be set to a wide range of tonal effects under heavy clipping, and that too is part of the Kagi collection.

Those are stretch goals on the Patreon. If I start skipping ahead and doing stretch goals for nothing, what good are they? It’s not even fair to run around producing free versions of the Kagi plugins right away: firstly, they can still be bought in Audio Unit form and secondly, people spent money to get sounds you can’t otherwise have. I can’t do ADClip (or OneCornerClip).

However… I had freebie clippers that hadn’t yet seen VST format.

Here’s what I’ve done. I started with Clip2 and the original Clip freebie, and I used the new plugin as a way to experiment with ideas about the recurrence of mathematical constants. For instance, a common value used in reverb allpass filters is 0.618… which can be continued into a mathematical constant, the Golden Ratio (0.618033988749894848204586). It’s common for these things to turn up in disparate situations, so I look for them. And in the code where OneCornerClip rapidly converges onto full clipping with the broadest resulting variation of clip onset tonality, I found it zeroing in on cos(x) == x (0.739085133215160641655312) and selecting that optimal value for the guts of the thing I ended up with ClipOnly.

If you watch the video (one of the least necessary to watch for instructions: it’s a clipper at -0.2dB) you’ll see a lot about the other factors that went into ClipOnly. I show ADClip and its many controls, but then make an impassioned case for designs like ClipOnly, a known quantity with a predictable sound and no controls or adjustments whatsoever. Under normal circumstances there should be nothing you’d want or need to adjust, since the clip level combined with the anti-glare prevents any ‘digital reconstruction overs’ in normal use. It doesn’t do anything tricky to ‘enhance loudness’ beyond what it already is, unlike recent ADClip versions. It does have a very sophisticated enter/exit clip behavior, but to put it bluntly you don’t need to be thinking about that when mixing into a safety clipper (or tracking into such a mix).

In fact, you should not be thinking of that OR me while tracking your music and mixing it, you should be thinking about the sounds you’re making, and any distraction into the lands of ‘oh gee Chris is so clever, ClipOnly was well worth the money, look at all these knobs’ is hurting you even as it rewards me, the plugin developer, with attention.

And THIS is why I program things like ClipOnly, where possible. It might be the most forgiving safety clipper yet, as far as avoiding glare and harshness (I’m measuring extreme highs as much as 12 db down from the max under heavy load, and usually clippers by their nature exaggerate ‘crunch’ even when perfectly implemented). But ClipOnly is also part of a concept that I can run with now that I use Patreon: I get to make stuff that’s not showing off, either with controls or concepts or fancy faceplates, and just delivers the sonic goods.

I hope you like ClipOnly, but I also hope you quickly stop noticing anything about it, so you can focus on your mixing. You should be able to work into it, even hit it with heavy load and severe clipping for effect, without fussing or being distracted. The best silver bullet plugins are not the trickiest :)

Pressure4

TL;DW: The Airwindows compressor, malleable into many forms if you know how.

Pressure4

What can I even say? This is the golden ear favorite. Version 4 brings new functionality that has never existed in Pressure before: the stereo version (default for VST, and the Audio Unit that doesn’t specifically say ‘Mono’) uses a special linked mode based on diade bridges in hardware compressors. That’s not to say that it is ‘analog modeling’ because it isn’t. From the beginning, Pressure has been made out of a lucky algorithm with a particular organic, pleasing quality, and part of Pressure4 is knowing what to strip down, how to simplify that algorithm until it lets all the music through.

But then, when you explore the way Pressure4 squishes up depending on how hard you drive it, and then start listening to the textures of different speed control settings and what that does, and then begin exploring what the ‘µ-iness’ control does… and it turns out that each one of those things gives specific and controllable shapings of the sound, but in ways very difficult to put into words, yet you can learn what it does and make the plugin do what you intend even if it’s tough to articulate exactly what you’re going for…

This is why we turn to odd little tools like this. The whole character of Pressure4 can change with tiny adjustments of the controls. It can do about twelve wholly distinct things when set up right, but they’re all inherent in that one curiously simple, but chaotically strange, algorithm. And now the linked stereo form of Pressure does all that with a naturalness and fluidity never before seen with this plugin.

I hope you like it. This is one of the really good ones, and it is AU, Mac and PC, VST and free (please support my Patreon and I’m sure I’ll come up with some more really good ones I haven’t imagined yet.)

FathomFive

TL;DW:

Build this bass-enhancer into an aux on your mix to generate controllable tape-like fullness and bass depth.

FathomFive

This is a first for Airwindows VST: FathomFive introduces a special Airwindows algorithm that acts like a combination between an EQ and a bass amp. This plugin can be used in sound design or on isolated tracks, but it’s also part of an Airwindows DAW workflow I outline in the video I’ve made. The idea is this: rather than blur and damage your sound by running through lots of ‘fake analog’ effects on your buss to impart deepness and analog-like tone, use the Airwindows plugins Console4 and FathomFive to get a big-sounding mix while letting most mix elements through with minimal processing. You can run the ‘bass bloom’ behavior on an aux, and feed it with only the elements you want, and then integrate it into the sound with Console4 which both works the way Console wants to be used, and addresses limitations that Console has when used all by itself.

It’s all in the rather long video, and of course you can simply download and use the plugin if you prefer making up your own rules. There are no rules, I’m only explaining one very specific use case where FathomFive works symbiotically with Console.

Hope you like it!

SlewOnly / SubsOnly

TL:DW; Monitor through these plugs to hear only the highs, or only the subsonics, and adjust your mix accordingly. Also works as special effects.

SlewOnly / SubsOnly

By request, here’s my mix monitoring tools, for VST and Audio Unit, Mac and PC! Please remember, these like Guitar Conditioner are control-less plugins so you don’t operate them by opening their windows: they’re either on or off, which probably is shown in your DAW mixer window already.

SlewOnly gives you what it says on the tin: only the difference between samples, expressed as a sample. This produces a super-bright sound with zero latency and absolutely no pre-ring or post-ring. You can do two poles of this filtering: just add another SlewOnly. But, as is, this will give you an incredibly clear and transparent window on the ultra-highs, so you can dial in subtleties in the treble. Beware: don’t switch right back to the normal sound or it’ll sound incredibly dull. Rest your ears for a moment before resuming work.

SubsOnly does the same thing for subsonic bass. It sounds a little like a house party from an adjacent house. You can tweak sub-bass elements and really hear how they’re balancing against each other, and if you’re packing too much into the subs you’ll hear that as well. Get things thumping properly through SubsOnly and it should translate well to all manner of bassbins and subwoofers.

Lastly, these are calibrated (in SlewOnly quite literally: pink noise will be about the same amplitude with or without it, though the tone will be way different) so that you can switch them in and out, and expect roughly the same loudnesses. It’s okay if SubsOnly is louder for fullbodied bass: with that, it’s not so much about level-matching, it’s about getting your sound (at whatever desired loudness) and then having the bass still make sense through SubsOnly. If you’re madly overloading it, there won’t be groove, just a lot of thunder and noise, at elevated levels. These go on at the end of your master buss, so you can hear what your 2-buss chain did to the sound. Especially if you try and go for ‘commercially loud’ volumes, sanity checking with these tools can be a real silver bullet.

Like my other VST plugins, SlewOnly and SubsOnly are supported entirely by a Patreon. This is going to grow until it replaces the income I used to make by selling my plugins for money. I can’t justify charging musicians (many of whom aren’t earning money themselves) $50 a pop just to use my tools, so I’m in the process of porting everything I’ve ever made, to Mac/PC VST, and making it all free (even open source). Supporting the Patreon furthers that goal.

Guitar Conditioner

TL;DW:

Replace your Tube Screamer (plugin OR REAL DEAL) with this plugin, to get ‘scrunch’ and subs conditioning, but without the sponginess that even hardware TS9s have.

Guitar Conditioner

I designed this plugin when I saw what Slew was capable of. It uses a combination of Slew and Highpass in a sort of parallel matrix arrangement, with heavy use of my Highpass’s unusual tone shaping features (extreme lows get Tight tone shaping behavior, and a boosted mids circuit is set to Loose rolloff for the proper texture). Both aspects hit their own Slew at different levels and with different voicings, causing a distinct tone quality.

This is not a Tube Screamer plugin at all. It’s an alternate tone for doing similar things but with more sonority, focus and impact. It’s intended for Djent style sounds and people who can play much, much better and more aggressively than me :)

It is free. Get more like this by supporting my Patreon, because lots of other people can give you ‘imitation Tube Screamer’ but Airwindows is for trying to give you ‘beyond Tube Screamer’ through understanding what, in the conditioned sound, should be distilled and extracted. Happy Djenting :)

Channel4

Channel4 is the latest Airwindows port. This plugin has always been popular: once I had someone shoot it out in a blind test against commercial rivals, and it trounced some heavily hyped and widely known plugins!

At the time, I was amused and distressed, because I would have liked to see one of my $50 plugins in that comparison. To use the freebie seemed like missing out on some helpful sales.

Now that I’ve switched over to Patreon for Airwindows’ only means of support, it doesn’t matter and all the plugins are steadily becoming free :)

Channel4 uses a very good-sounding saturation function, a calibrated slew clipper and a highpass to approximate the tone coloration of a recording console. (the plugin Console4 approximates the space and depth on the mix buss, which is different.) Because the bandwidth-limiters are set up based on measurements of real gear (through impulse responses), Channel4’s console type is labeled ‘Neve/API/SSL’. It doesn’t actually contain any of those things or any convolution kernels, but the presentation of the sound ought to suggest those voicings.

There’s also an argument for doing it that way, because in many cases you can’t hear those limitations unless they’re being way overloaded. Channel’s a very clean, pure ‘coloration’ plugin, especially with the drive kept at 50% or under. It’ll voice extreme sounds the way it’s labeled, but you would struggle to consistently set plugins like Slew to those targets because mostly you can’t hear what it’s doing, especially on normal/musical sounds.

I’ve got a big list of further free VST ports, and am looking into some bugfixes for PC hosts that aren’t handling generic VST2s right, and I’m actively supporting users on several forums and email and Patreon messages, so if you’d like to see this continue to expand, please support the Airwindows Patreon, that is now the way things are done around here :)

Slew

My first Windows VST (and Mac VST) port was Console4, the very latest version of the best selling plugin I’ve got (now free, supported by Patreon.)

The second one is the very first plugin I made for Airwindows (or at least the first one listed on this website).

Slew is a simple plugin to let you do slew clipping. You can use it to morph and transform percussive sounds or hats, you can give a unique and interesting ‘grind’ to instruments or glue stuff together into a retro, old-school-sampler, grungey grind, or you can use it on things like reverb sends to really amp up the sense of distant loud sound in a room or space.

It’s free, and in the zip file are an Audio Unit (.component), a Mac .vst, and 32 and 64 bit Windows VST .dlls for you.

Hope you like it! Lots more is on the way, and that’s not even counting when I reach the Patreon level that I start putting out the for-pay plugins. I have lots of Audio Unit freebies for people to enjoy, and I’m busily porting them. All of them ;)

Here is an extra video about using Slew on ITB heavy guitars, to get Tube Screamer-like qualities but in a new way.

Console4

Console 4 is the most recent version of basically my flagship Airwindows plugin. It works through a channel plugin on every sound source, feeding at unity gain into the buss plugin which overrides the digital summing with Airwindows summing (more internal space, more depth, and with Console 4 it now has glue making the top-end more listenable).

You can also watch the half-hour long introduction video that goes into a lot more detail about how it’s used, how it works, how you make ‘big kicks and snares’—Console doesn’t let you crank any given channel up to full volume, but it’s designed to layer stuff so if you need giant sounds the best way is to make them composite sounds, everything layered from separate channels in the mix. Rather than layer samples and put them on a single loud track, keep the layers accessible in mix. That does mean if you wanted things like sines to be superloud you’d have to get creative, but the principle’s clear.

Speaking of principles…

You may notice no demo link, and also there’s no Kagi shopping cart link. There’s a reason for that. Kagi went bust Sunday. I may still get my last two months of sales out of whoever’s divvying up the assets, but as of this Monday you cannot pay me for my work through Kagi, because there is no Kagi. They served me for close to ten years, always with perfect efficiency and scrupulous honesty, but the commission off my work wasn’t enough to keep ’em going.

I could go find the newest-trendiest shopping cart e-commerce people, but when I started shopping-cart shopping I found them all horrible, tacky hypemongers offering to do things like find people who’d left a cart un-checked-out, and spamming them with reminder emails like ‘Hi, I’m your shopping cart and I’m looonely! Do you miss me? I miss you! Surely you just forgot me?”

I ran away before I threw up all over their e-commerce portals. After all, I have never spammed or bugged people, never advertised, and what’s more I give people free updates for as long as I live, none of which ‘makes sense’ in this happy future of badgering people for every cent, preferably by hyping them into a rental arrangement and DRMing the stuff until it’s nearly ready to explode all by itself, never mind when the rent is due or the authorization servers are having a bad day. (but I digress)

There’s something completely different I can do—something I would never have done, except Kagi went out of business and I have no reason not to be completely rebellious and flip the marketplace table.

Ever heard of a thing called Patreon? It’s not for discovering new artists. Really, it’s more of a… payment processor. For people who are already well established, who are appreciated for what they do, and who are busy devoting their lives to giving the world something for ‘free’ (like comics, or perhaps music, or art). Much like I already do for existing customers: I’ve promised all Console owners that they will have all Console updates for free.

Console4.zip

There you have it. I am going all in on Patreon, and that is the full release version of Console 4, with the new Mac and PC VST builds, for free. Please remember this when I have figured out the details and started my Patreon. From now on, I will be relying completely on that to survive. I’ve seen more than one person (for instance, Vechs, or Jim Sterling) who are doing great with Patreon, usually because they too are rebelling against some commercial thing and making a bid for total freedom from obligation.

From now on all Airwindows plugins will be ported to Windows and Mac VST as well as being Audio Unit, and they will all be free from now on, and if I get enough Patreon support I will release all source code under the MIT license and document it as I go so that everybody can use the tools and concepts I’ve built to create their own software. That will be my legacy, and if that ain’t a worthy Patreon goal I don’t know what is.

This includes old versions of plugins for when people preferred a certain version, so the total number of plugins to cover is over 250. That means if I do one a month it will take me more than 20 years. If I work like a maniac (well, more like a maniac) and put out one a week, that’s still around five years just to turn Airwindows into a sort of audio plugin library and DSP school. And it will all be AU/VST with VST covering Mac VST2 and Win VST2 (built on older OS versions so the plugins work on the very widest range of hosts). I feel this isn’t a bad strategy because if I set up the Patreon so I can actually survive on it, I can make the rate of these ports (and free releases of the existing AUs) conditional on whether I was able to eat that month, which seems fair. :)

That’s not counting new research and new plugins… but I have a lot of VST plugins to do, to catch up. Over 250 of them. I’d also ask pirates and haxxors (who don’t have any VST airwindows but what I make, and don’t have most of the AUs) to please leave this ‘making them all free’ process to me through Patreon and my own website. If all goes well, all the plugins will be free in the end (even with source code!) so if you could not mess this up I’d be grateful. ;) leave it to me, please.

Oh, and the VST versions do ‘double replacing’, which means they noise shape to the 64 bit floating point buss. Technically that makes them higher sound quality than Apple’s CoreAudio can offer, though I promise you really won’t notice (and the VST versions also do 32 bit ‘replacing’ so they’ll work on all hosts)

Consider Console 4 an advance on this new concept. If it works, and if I can live for five or twenty years doing it, every possible Airwindows plugin will be part of everyone’s toolbox and the code will be out there making people’s products better.

Private to Native Instruments: hey, maybe you guys might want to chip in just to meet whatever the threshold is for ‘release free ADClip with source code under MIT license’! I will be letting people pay to mess with the release schedule directly, so past a certain threshold people will be able to single out specific plugins and fast-track them and get the source opened. We didn’t come to an agreement for a one-time no-royalty payment, but now might be your chance! ;)

Oh, also: Patreon :D (I updated the link once the site was ready, and then I started making all the words links, and it got funnier and funnier. patreon patreon patreon! OK, I’m done ;)

ADClip6

ADClip6Demo is a universal binary Audio Unit plugin for loudness maximization. While it can be used for clean peak-clipping, and is great for that, if the words ‘competitive loudness’ make you sad, stop reading now.

Still here? OK. Here’s the deal: ADClip was already one of the most formidable weapons for loudness. The last version, ADClip5, introduced some new ways to monitor what you were doing, and a pesky high frequency bug that bit a few people who were using it on VERY bright content. That bug’s squished, which is one reason the new version’s come out.

Another reason is this: there’s a new monitoring mode that compensates for input gain. So if you’re boosting inside ADClip, you can use that to listen at equal loudness to the results and be sure you’re not getting fooled by simple loudness increase (you should be able to hear where the sound gets smaller as it’s squashed by clipping), plus using that it’s easy to bypass the effect and compare it directly with unclipped, unrestricted output.

But the real reason is this: the sound doesn’t get smaller when you crush it. It gets bigger. ADClip6 under heavy clipping has at least a full octave of deep bass under what ADClip5 could do, which was already more than most loudenators can offer. You can plainly hear this in the demo, and you can dial it in any way you like: exaggerating it, or pulling back the Subs Retain until you have the full scale of the music intact, but at a previously unreachable loudness.

If that wasn’t enough already, the main signal path plus the Subs Retain path also use a feature called Fatten Body, to transition more gracefully between clean audio and the smashy smashy. You can use it to finetune the fullness of the resulting output. To get the cleanest possible output in ‘safety clipping’ situations set it to zero. If you’re mastering for bigness, use it to balance the body and fullness of the track with the loudness and punchiness gained through driving ADClip6 hard.

And there’s a Soften Clips control, which can adjust how much ADClip6 de-glares the clipped highs. All of these work fine at their default settings of 0.5 but you should tune them to the needs of the audio you’re processing! Be careful as ADClip6 doesn’t react like normal clippers, it keeps going and going. Use subwoofers to monitor what it’s doing on the low-end, and compare the volume compensated version with the bypassed, unclipped version. Remember, added punch and openness is good, but ‘twice as loud as anybody else’ is just annoying even if it sounds awesome to you! Please don’t use this tool for evil. <3

ADClip6 declares no latency so you can track with it as part of a zero-latency DAW or live setup, but it will delay the signal by exactly one sample: I figure that’s not going to affect performance timing, and on the 2-buss it won’t affect relative positionings of tracks. We might be able to see better DAW performance when all the plugins used are declaring zero latency, so I’ve made this change. For use in submixes and places where you’re smashing tracks with a clipper to get specific tones, I recommend looking at the Airwindows plugin OneCornerClip, which is more of a waveshaper and delays zero samples. ADClip needs to also soften the exits from clips, so it can’t do that. Or, you could just use it and deal with the one sample internal delay (for instance, on an overall drum buss).

ADClip5 is $50.

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