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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!

Swell

TL;DW: Dial-an-attack, like sidechaining.

Swell

Every now and then you come up with something a little different. The fun of that is in identifying it.

I’ve been listening to house music by Deadmau5, and I took an interest in the way the sidechaining worked. (That’s the way the music, or the reverb, or the pads, get ‘smooshed’ down by the kick drum and then swing back up in volume again.) The Mau5 is pretty good about talking about his techniques, which I appreciate (I’d love to do a coffee run with that guy someday) and he’s spent some time showing people how instead of actually sidechaining, he automates an LFO which he applies to track volume. It gets a great effect.

I wondered whether it’d work to do a gate that intentionally opened real slow. Specifically, it seemed possible to treat ‘full volume’ as a ‘floor’ and have a ‘decay’ that falls up toward 1.0 rather than down to 0. It’d never quite get there, but it could have a similar envelope as the fall-off of natural reverb, just upside down.

If that sounds odd, don’t worry about it, just try Swell. It has a threshold like a gate, and the Swell control handles the attack speed once the gate opens. The dry/wet works as you’d expect. Sort of like Deadmau5’s LFO trick, it doesn’t have to be a real sidechain, and is independent of whatever kick you have going on. Unlike the LFO trick, it’s also not tied to tempo: Swell reacts to EVERY attack that comes along, provided the threshold’s set right.

What this does is very interesting. I expect to see this turn up in an EDM channel strip at some point. Essentially, you can play with the controls in various ways and completely step on the attack of anything you want. This relates to GROOVE and the layering of stuff in a dance mix: any element, no matter what it is, can be turned into a pad and back again, just by squishing away its attack. You can do it live, you can take an element (snare, punchy chord) and manipulate how it hits inside the groove. Extreme values make stuff extra soft and quiet and squishy, and then if you drop the threshold or Swell, you can have the element jump right back out again, and the control is direct, not relative to a sidechained track or LFO setting. It’s a more organic approach, more hands-on, and I think it’ll fit into a lot of people’s mixes. There’s always a place for balancing the intensity of the attacks of your tracks, and that’s literally what Swell does.

Swell’s made possible by my Patreon. There’s been a little drama over Patreon, so I’ve revamped my pledge levels so I could communicate exactly what you’d be paying at any imaginable pledge level. I hope other Patreon creators find my tier system useful, as it lets people know what to expect: if Patreon doesn’t want to do that, well, I do.

Regarding Patreon

As of Wednesday the 13th, 2017, Patreon announced that they’re not going to do this. I’ll follow up whenever we get the new numbers, if we even do: this may have burned them hard enough that they’ll not attempt anything of the sort again. I’ll be interested to know if there’s any benefit to larger pledges, as they forced me to completely overhaul my whole way of thinking about my pledge structure, and then abandoned it (for the purposes of their abandoned plan, people were getting more effectiveness out of larger pledges, and I had to acknowledge that)

CStrip

TL;DW: Airwindows channel strip.

CStrip

Sometimes, Airwindows dabbles with what you might call ‘the normal’ plugins: for instance, CStrip. I was asked to make a channel strip, and while I usually prefer to do things in a more modular sense, it seemed like a fine idea, and so now there’s an Airwindows channel strip, with sort of the usual things you might find there.

Sort of. ;)

It’s never quite that simple with Airwindows. So, you’ve got a three band EQ, but if you boost the top you get traces of the ‘Energy’ plugin just to add some aggressiveness to the extreme highs for heavy boosts. You’ve got crossover frequencies, you’ve got highpass and lowpass, but the highpass and lowpass aren’t normal algorithms either: they’re designed for ‘trapping in’ already bandlimited sounds to get the most out of them. There’s a gate, but it’s an Airwindows gate where the release is designed to pull the audio back in the sound picture, not just volume-ramp it. There’s a time delay control that exists only to give the track a micro-delay relative to other tracks for groove purposes. And there’s the compressor… CStrip uses the ButterComp algorithm plus a speed control that lets you do odd things like increase the speed hugely. ButterComp compresses interleaved samples in Class AB, so that’s four independent compressors per channel. If you crank the speed under heavy compression you can get artifacts (for normal behavior, keep the speed a lot lower).

The whole idea with CStrip was to do the channel strip, but take it out into stranger realms where it can be used for various sonic destruction. It may not be the last of such plugins: some new stuff coming out is giving me ideas for other ‘combination’ plugins, especially ones where the algorithms can be interwoven to produce effects you literally couldn’t have out of discrete plugins. (one day, I’ll be open sourcing all of that and telling other plugin coders all about it)

CStrip also uses a technique I came to rely on, where if a component of the plugin isn’t being used (for instance, the lowpass and highpass when set to their extremes switch off) then it gets completely bypassed, and not even the math of the component is used: this is sort of like how ‘unity gain’ in code isn’t the same as ‘bypass’. (if you’re in floating point and you’re multiplying by 1.0, you’re also doing a math operation at a given exponent and this can wipe out floating point values at very different levels of detail)

But that’s getting too wonky: I hope you enjoy CStrip. All this is of course supported by Patreon, and though we’re not up to ‘open sourcing’ levels, or even ‘bonus plugin’ from the list for December, trust me that I’ll have some nice surprises for your holiday season anyway :)

PurestWarm

TL;DW: Subtle tone shaper and warmth adder.

PurestWarm

Because my Patreon was over $700 this last month, we get a special extra plugin this week.

PurestWarm is a little bit like PurestDrive (anxiously awaited by quite a few people) but not quite as sophisticated… however, in its simplicity is part of its usefulness. It applies an Airwindows softest-possible-saturation effect (like what you can get out of Density, or Channel) but it’s polarized: you pick which side of the waveform the saturation applies to. For the other half of the waveform, it’ll pass through the exact bits that came in. So it’s half a plugin: I’m not sure there’s ever been anything quite like that, on one half of the wave a full Airwindows (noise shaped to floating point) ultra-quality saturation, and on the other half of the wave, ‘bypass’ and literal bit-identical pass-through. I made sure even the noise shaping wasn’t applying for the ‘bypass’ half.

The result is this: waveforms that need a little sweetening, can have that texture (not frequency or EQ, texture) subtly added to the track, in a way that utterly and totally maintains the integrity of the signal. In some ways this is ‘purer’ than any of the other Purest line, since by its nature it’s true bypass for literally half the time. It’s also one of the minimal ones, with just a switch: there’s no way to get the perfect integration of bypass and effected halves (they switch off like a push-pull power amp) otherwise, and it produces an obvious enough effect but one that’s harmonious and doesn’t get in the way. In some circumstances it hints at being like a ‘bass optimizer’ since it’ll push some second harmonic by its nature. You’ll probably find that for any given sound (especially an electric bass guitar) there’ll be one polarity that’s clearly better: I think for basses where the string swings near the pickup and produces extra voltage on that side of the wave, PurestWarm will saturate that side of the wave really well and it’ll give you an ideal bass tone with no extra fiddling or processing required.

It’s going to be a good holiday season, I have nice things in store. If you would like ME to have a good holiday season and you’re not already hooked up with my Patreon, consider it like a sort of ginormous sale: for years, I sold these plugins at $50 each to Mac Audio Unit users only. Now, I’ve got ’em coming out in great profusion, dozens and dozens and all manner of new things and PC VST too, and if you were to join the Patreon at $1 a month, that’s $12 a year, the equivalent of buying one every four years. Except you get to use them all with my blessing. If you wanted to treat it like you were buying one of the plugins each year (and still getting to use them all) you’d pay $4 a month, $48 a year, and it would still be two dollars off from what they used to cost. I’m more interested in having people give what they can, though, because I know what it’s like to be fussing over a dollar a month: right now, it’s me in that position, so obviously I understand better than anybody.

However, there’s a special kind of wealth in being able to generously give to the community that’s found a place for me and appreciates my coding (if not my music! :D ). I hope you like PurestWarm, and there’s a lot more where that came from. And we’re going to have a fun holiday season, let me just say :)

HermeTrim

TL;DW: Very Fine Adjustments.

HermeTrim

If you’ve seen EveryTrim, you know how this works: it’s the all-possible-trims trim. +- 12dB of left, right, mid, side, and master volume. By request, and a handy little tool for all manner of stereo tweaking. It’s very nearly as clear and accurate as PurestGain, which itself is very nearly as accurate as BitShiftGain (and most people will find any of these more than acceptable, because this is uber-pickiness land and none of you are likely to be able to tell these from your standard utility gain plugin from your DAW, ten out of ten. I just know I’ve implemented mine with extra rigorousness)

Thing is, the person who’d requested this is the same one who requested Hermepass… and in this case, I fumbled it a bit. On many DAWs, and all my Mac Audio Unit stuff, you can hold option to get tiny fine adjustments. But my user with the enlightening (and accessible) requests isn’t using a host that can do that… and needed to have much, much finer adjustments on tap.

So, now Hermepass has a companion, HermeTrim. This is exactly the same as EveryTrim, only it’s 1.5 dB plus and minus. It’s more a mastering tool: make tiny little tweaks to get the master just right. EveryTrim will sound just as good, but this one’s geared towards non-mixing purposes. Hope you like it.

Also, it’s a chance to test out a different view of Airwindows for an interesting reason: I am gearing up to do a music-making stream where I dig into some of my inspirations, and try to come up with a new sound for things. When I say inspirations, I mean ‘analog gear’, and I’ve built up a studio setup that might shed some light on why I do plugins the way I do. If my plugins enter into this, it’ll be hosted in Renoise most likely: it’s been months and years getting all this up and working, and the studio mix runs through the Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulator before being sent to Twitch… where I will be live (at some point), at
https://www.twitch.tv/jinxtigr/

I will not be offended at giving live support for Airwindows stuff on such occasions, though I might be preoccupied with trying to get twin Bastl Kastles to patch into strange places on twin Xoxboxes. I did say that I was into the analog thing, and I think this preoccupation will lead to some cool-sounding techno-prog weird music. Might even play an instrument or two :)

NC-17

TL;DW: Dirty loud!

NC-17

This one needs little introduction, but it’s been a Mac-only secret so I will introduce it anyhow :)

NC-17 was designed as the loudenator-killer. It uses the same technology as ADClip’s energy redistribution stuff, but on a soft-clipper, and instead of just feeding the energy back in, it uses it to modulate a Chebyshev filter: sort of complicated, but it’s definitely one of those Airwindows things. First to use such a soft clipper as the primary loudness maximizer, and secondly to use such a weird technology after it. Why a Chebyshev? To produce second harmonic. Why do that? To feed deep bass back in despite the loudenating. Okay, so the whole idea is pretty strange.

What happens?

Firstly, the whole tone changes, whether you’re pushing loudness or not. Check that first. You might immediately dislike the result, or if you seek ‘glue’ maybe you’ll like it, or use it to replace some other ‘glue’ effect. If you’re still with NC-17 after checking that, proceed to turn it up (or mix hotter into it). You’ll find no specific ‘break point’: instead, it just gets dirtier and dirtier the harder you push. The whole texture of loudness dynamics is altered, so you get the loudness cues of distortion but with a bass foundation mere distortion won’t permit, and a continuous spectrum between ‘more or less clean’ and ‘impossibly too loud’.

This one will also handle cleaner synthesizer tones, EDM, the kinds of sounds that reveal the artifacts of other loudenators ruthlessly. With NC-17, instead you get a slight ‘grungening’ but then it refuses to break up in the normal sense, just stretches to fit. (this one might be the one you want on drum submixes, too)

There’s nothing quite like it, and now it’s Mac and PC VST, and free.

By free, I mean that it’s supported by Patreon. I’m happy to say that this month we got back up above $700 (it might not look like it but that’s what they sent me, so it counts) so there will be an extra plugin from the list (with total sales under $700). Next week we’ll have the ‘1.5 dB’ version of EveryTrim (aka HermeTrim, for a supporter who asks for stuff I can do :) ) and then I’ll find something nice off the list to include.

The next goal after that is open source (I sincerely hope I can get the LinuxVST working by then) and I expect the Patreon to get there somewhere around the New Year. Help that happen by spreading the word in an informal sort of way, about all this! Keep it appropriate, but remember: I don’t advertise, spam, or bug people, so word of mouth is the only way this works. It doesn’t work nearly as well as bugging people, but it does work in its way, and that way is my way :)

Thanks for being there for me, and I hope you enjoy NC-17!

EveryTrim

TL;DW: Left/Right, Mid/Side, and Master in one plugin.

EveryTrim

This one’s by request: while I was getting NC-17 ready for its big day, I thought I’d bring out a nice little utility.

EveryTrim is like PurestGain only more so: it is very simply every basic stereo trim you can have (in loudness terms, anyhow!) You get left, right, mid/side, and a master level control. It works on stereo tracks only, as mid/side is meaningless without stereo.

It’s also efficiently coded, suppresses denormal numbers, and uses the same noise shaping to the floating point buss you get in PurestGain. If you need a nice basic gain trim that does all those things (and nothing fancy: Wider is much more sophisticated, and I’ve got an idea for a still more sophisticated stereo-widener plugin that is in the works) then EveryTrim will come in handy. Begone, dull pan-pots! EveryTrim will also be simpler than using EdIsDim and MidSide just to adjust mid/side balances: while you can do that with that pair of plugins, they’re really for doing processing between them using another plugin (any plugin, doesn’t have to be M/S). With EveryTrim, you can tweak mid and side levels directly, in a more obvious way.

If you like getting handy free plugins from me… or if you like the way my plugins support back to Win7 and earlier, and MacOS 10.6.8 and earlier (while still working on current platforms), you should support my Patreon. I’m operating outside the normal plugin market by doing this, but the better it does the more I’ll be capable of, and the more fancy plugins I’ll produce. If I can stay over $700 when next month begins, I’ll pick another plugin from the bottom of the big ‘Kagi Shareware List’ in addition to putting out NC-17. If I get over $800 I’ll begin open sourcing these plugins… and I’m still working on getting the Linux build to work. It’ll be an .so file, and when those become possible I will update every plugin I’ve made VST so far, to be also LinuxVST. (if anyone’s building LinuxVSTs, I’d love some pointers!)

Ensemble

TL;DW: Weird flangey little modulation effect.

Ensemble

Here’s a further experiment along the lines of Chorus and ChorusEnsemble! This one is more in the ‘unique because it’s kind of lame’ category. I like being able to do this sort of thing, because in this 2017 plugin business, everything you do has to be the hippest trendiest most popular thing or you’re basically doomed to get squished like a bug.

But hey! I’m doing a Patreon, not a ‘business’ of selling ‘hit plugins’ that are ‘the best plugins’. And therefore, nothing’s stopping me from putting out something that’s not an emulation of some famous hardware manufacturer’s property (and putting them out of business, eventually). My stuff doesn’t have to be the target market for what people have learned to want the most over the years (often for good reason). Heck, my plugins don’t have to have a reason! And most importantly, my plugins don’t have to succeed. They can exist (and be updated, etc) even if only a few people out there like them… or even if unpopular people like them.

Kind of punk, or something (stay tuned for some major DIY Airwindows stuff coming down the pike along those lines).

So, here’s Ensemble. It’s a weird, unique little sound. It was meant to be a big pad thickener with great richness and depth. Well, you can throw on a bunch of bass, but it’s more like ‘cheesey string ensemble synthesizer from the 70s’, and that by accident, so it’s not even a specific (branded!) string ensemble synthesizer from the 70s. It’s kind of an annoying sound, I think.

It’s free, so if you think you might have use for that, have fun with it! I’m off to make something else :)

ADClip 7

TL;DW: The ultimate Airwindows loudness maximizer.

ADClip7

Finally! The newest version of Airwindows’ famous ADClip is out, and it’s Mac and PC VST for the first time, and it’s free! If you have dense, busy mixes and you want to push their loudness to the max, this is the one you want. And, oddly, if you’re mastering for streaming services or iTunes and don’t want to do a thing besides convey your mix at a set LUFS and intersample peak level, this is still the one you want :)

Here’s how it works.

You’ve got a boost control, a soften control, an enhance control, and a popup or multi-function control with three options: normal, gain matched, and Clip Only. These are all interactive, so I’ll explain them in the context of that ‘mode selector’ popup.

In normal mode, boost makes things louder. This is a clipper, and no more polite method can ever make things louder than a clipper: you need to either give it a busy and complicated mix to mask the clip artifacts, or use it to snip off non-tonal percussive peaks, at which it excels. A clipper does NOT produce ‘limiter-like unvarying block of sound’, and you shouldn’t try to achieve that. A clipper gives you punchy but LOUD, and tries to retain all the dynamics you’re feeding it, rather than smooth them out for a ‘clean’ sound.

The soften control manages the way that high frequencies enter and exit the clips. It algorithmically reshapes the edges of your clip, stopping it from getting digital glare and fizz. This is the heart of ADClip (also present in my simpler clippers, not counting One Corner Clip, which is still upcoming).

The soften control also balances the outputs of two separate energy-fill algorithms, one for bass and one for highs. This was the response to a certain other loudness maximizer that launched proclaiming clippers were dead, and which is still promising its version 2 (and some bugfixes) while ADClip has gone far beyond it. Turned out the secret of that one was an elaborate way of massaging clipped-off loudness back into the signal, in a way that was supposed to be transparent but ‘cracked’ into artifacts when pushed too hard. The algorithms were presumably very sophisticated, which tends to just make the breaking point more obvious when you hit it.

The Airwindows version is a completely different, cruder and more direct version of doing the same thing, so when you slam the heck out of ADClip7, you get a deep bass slam that ‘overhangs’ a bit to add weight, and still fits into the clipped output. And you get the softened, analog-style clips to add ‘heat’ and overtones, but you also get a high-mids reinforcement that normally just highlights bright transients that would otherwise be lost to the clipping. And the Enhance control lets you go between purely ‘analog clip’ energy, and these added reinforcements.

The gain-matched mode has two uses. You could use it to ‘set your slam level’ in a way guaranteed not to trick you into thinking louder is better: it turns the output down, so instead of hearing everything get bigger and louder, you just listen for the point that the clipping’s adversely affecting the sound. Then you can flip back to normal mode, if that’s what you wanted (maximum loudness without blatant grunge). Or, you can ignore the slam and use gain-matched mode as I demonstrate in the video: ADClip7 already suppresses intersample peaks when they’re part of clipping, already reinforces energy lost to clipping, so you can use it in conjunction with a tool like Youlean’s loudness meter to dial in a specific intersample peak level for iTunes or other such picky streaming services. It’ll work like padding the output. and if you’re already in the ballpark LUFS-wise, ADClip is a far more sophisticated tool than just limiting and then padding the output to get to your ‘true peak’ target.

The last mode is Clip Only, and rather than selecting the various algorithm outputs individually, this version of ADClip gives you them at their respective loudnesses, combined. That means you can engage this mode to hear ONLY the clips, and check that you’re not hearing any recognizable ‘scrunch’ of continuing clippage. But since you’re also hearing the enhance outputs, you can adjust softness and enhance level to balance the stuff being introduced to the sound. My recommendation is to set the controls so no one type of artifact predominates: it’s not necessarily great to throw in a bunch of ‘enhance’ bass just because you can. If you’re hearing that much of it that you’re tempted to use it as an effect, you’re definitely also over-slamming your music.

So my recommendation in 2017 heading to 2018, is to use ADClip7 in gain-matched mode, to keep that ‘true peak’ measurement within the Mastered For iTunes requirements. I’m sure not everybody will stick to that, but I’m happy to say it is actually quite good for doing that, and if people want to smash stuff with it and enjoy the bass thud, that’s their affair. Remember a clipper makes stuff dynamic and punchy, not ‘flattened out’: use a limiter if you need dynamically flat, or perhaps both. In this modern era of replay gain, I’m going to suggest that dynamic and punchy is where it’s at. Learn the lessons of the LUFS meter! They’re available to us all, now.

This work is supported by Patreon. I’d like to see many people joining in to keep me going, at a buck or two a month so it’s easy for everyone and predictable for me. I’ll keep on giving you tools to guide you through our ever-evolving music business, and you get to keep my stuff with my blessing: it’s a Patreon, not a subscription. :)

Everything Is All Fixed Forever

:D

Okay, maybe not, but if you’ve ever had an issue with an Airwindows ‘Patreon era’ plugin eating extra CPU…

I’ve developed a thorough denormal-numbers fix that ought to work on any CPU, any DAW, quite intelligently with very low overhead. Some (not all) DAWs needed this: if an audio region ended and the plugins began demanding lots of CPU, that means your DAW was affected. Now, if the audio region ends, you get a -250 db little hissy noise (a variant on HighGlossDither) and it’ll kick in even if you’re already seeing denormal numbers, not just for true digital black, and only one in every channel strip will activate so they aren’t cumulative and won’t build up. Lastly, if you save to 24 bit without dithering, this noise automatically reverts to digital black. Like I said, a nice Airwindows-y denormals fix, a little more sophisticated than it has to be.

And ALL THE PLUGINS are now fixed.

Yes!

Every single Airwindows plugin that was released as VST (and supported by Patreon) is covered. As of right now, the primary download link for all those old posts is now updated to the new version without CPU mongering. Also, the link at the top left, where you can download ALL the plugins at once, which you might want to do for convenience purposes? All the new versions. (That would be NewUpdates.zip)

If for any reason you need to roll back a plugin to the previous version (I can’t see why, but just in case) you can grab all the old builds in NoDenormalization.zip. I don’t think you’ll want to, but who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of XCode and Visual Studio, so I’m making sure the previous builds are still available.

Small print: there’s two plugins that got skipped, BitShiftGain and DC Voltage, though I did rebuild them along with the others. That’s because they’re each one line of code and don’t even define a variable to put the audio in, and I wanted to have one or two in the simplest possible form so people can see what’s the DSP and what’s the framework, when they get open-sourced. PurestGain fixes denormals. Also small print: ‘everything’ doesn’t mean VST parameter names are longer, because I found mentions of old versions of DAWs crashing and dying if you gave them longer names, and so I didn’t try to force longer names. There’s apparently a sort of laborious XML process that can do it. For now, the plugins will continue to look as they did. Lastly, if you’re on Studio One, make sure the program hasn’t stashed away old versions of the plugins to cling to, as that’s apparently a thing. Plugeat emptor!

NewUpdates.zip will give you the complete collection of CPU-fixed plugins, and everything CPU ought to be all fixed forever.

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