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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!

Hombre

TL;DW: Atmosphere and texture.

Hombre

Once upon a time there was the blues.

No, let’s be more specific. Once upon a time (and even now!) there was ZZ Top. Brainchild of the Reverend Billy Gibbons, swathed in funk and mystery, serving up juicy grooves from the heart of Texas.

Thing is, Rev. Billy tells some tall tales and their engineer of the day, Terry Manning, he don’t talk ATALL.

So what is a person to do when they hear these albums and the guitars slide off that vinyl like grease off a hot griddle, and you know you can’t just put up a mic on anything amp-shaped and get near that magic? You know those are dirt guitars, but the whole texture’s different. Skulduggery is afoot. And the boys ain’t tellin’.

Well, here’s what I did. It seemed to me that some of the mojo sounded like echoes and delays, but not just any old ones. You can take something as small as a dentist’s mirror, put it near the mic, and aim it until you’re reflecting another copy of your sound into the mic again: the delay is tiny but real, and the tone? Well, that’s based on how big the panel (or dentist’s mirror) is. If it’s tiny, you get only highs. If it’s a big ol’ panel, or a floor or wall, you get down into maybe the lowest bass. Any panel will do this. Billy and Terry might have been constructing lil’ forts around the amps, making a purely acoustic home for the blues. You can literally pick what range of sound you reflect, how long a delay it is (still so tiny it’s not heard as one!) and you don’t have to make it full-range: a softer reflector ignores highs, smaller panels ignore lows. If you want to juice up what your mic hears, this is one way to do it.

If you’re playing with super-short echoes, you’re reinforcing the lows. Unless it’s out of phase, flipped upside down in the DAW, in which case you’re cancelling them! And then, supposing you have one delay that’s in phase and one that’s out, and you calibrate them just right, and then you’re neither reinforcing or cancelling the lows, instead you’re just thickening the texture of whatever you’ve got… all the little detail doubled, tripled, dripping down the mix, but the body of the thing basically the same and no sustain, just a couple of delay taps in real close…

I’m not Billy and Terry. Since I’m Chris, I’ll fess up: that’s exactly what I did, and you can have it in Hombre. It’s two calibrated delay taps, which you can tweak a little, and if you bring them in you’ll thicken and diffuse your tones without altering where the lows sit, or adding much in the way of extra sustain. It’ll be punchy and get out of the way like reverb won’t, but it’ll be fatter and juicier than the dry signal. This is my interpretation of the ZZ Top secret sauce, or at least one of ’em, implemented in software rather than acoustics.

I’ll never know how close I came, because them Texas boys don’t tell tales out of school. But Hombre is my humble offering for a simple plugin that brings a little mojo to what would otherwise be a dry voice or guitar… and it won’t muddy things up, just grease ’em a little.

If you like me being out there thinking up ideas like this and taking on the great mysteries of the audio world, please support my Patreon, just a dollar or two per person so it doesn’t get too much like riverboat gambling and high rolling. I’ll keep on being a thinkin’ fool, and putting out cute little tricks like this one. Hope you find it handy: it might be the easiest way to throw in two tight quick echoes, one in phase and one out, because I’m not aware of anyone else facilitatin’ specifically that. Well, now there is!

Thankee. (chrisj will become un-Texan in three, two, one…)

ChorusEnsemble

TL;DW: A more complex, multi-tap chorus.

ChorusEnsemble

Here we can fill out the Airwindows palette of modulation plugins a bit… like Chorus, this is using my special slightly dark interpolation with a little pre-sparkle to get an adaptable, rich chorusing effect. But ChorusEnsemble uses a bank of chorus taps to get a more complex, textured sound that’s farther from the original. You can set it wrongly, so don’t assume all the settings are appropriate: that said, a little care should give you nice lush chorusing that’ll work great on pads and backgrounds. The reason I allow for the ‘ugly’ settings is, who’s to say you might not have a use for them, and if you find that use you’ll have a tonal element that other people don’t have on tap (generally, it’s so hard to sell plugins that can sound wrong and broken that people will tend to shun that and limit you to ‘nice’).

Whether you like setting ChorusEnsemble ‘nice’ or ‘naughty’ (‘nutty’?) I hope you enjoy it. I’m making strides on fixing the denormalization bug some plugins have on some DAWs, and I’ll be posting about that as well. This work is supported through Patreon, and not through charging you directly for the plugin (or holding ’em hostage and taking ’em away again if you don’t pay). If you like seeing people act the way I do, the only way to really encourage it in this world of commercial plugins is to throw money, which makes it a more interesting story to hear about. The high-earning Patreons are the ones that get attention in a sort of feedback loop, which those of us who are guitar players should be familiar with. Both those kinds of feedback loops are desirable and delightful :)

Logical4

TL;DW: Classic 2-buss compressor.

Logical4

Here’s another one of the bestsellers. Ironically, version 4 is way better than any of the previous versions, and free! (Patreon supported)

Logical’s a compressor. It was designed from the start to work on the 2-buss in the most demanding conditions: people are really picky about their 2-buss compressors, and you can’t mess around. The tone has to be spot-on and it’s got to be transparent and able to let the music through. Additionally, when we’re talking about ‘tone’ and something called ‘Logical’ you can see that it’s going to be in the SSL style: there’s a sparkliness which requires some extra coding attention.

You can approach compression duties from several directions with Logical. It has three distinct stages, and will entirely bypass stages it’s not using. It’ll go from 1/1 compression, up to 2/1 using just a single stage (for the utmost transparency): keep it below 2/1 ratio and use the threshold control to bring in the compression. This is a traditional 2-buss natural-sounding compression. From 2/1 to 4/1 ratio, you can get various behaviors and the two stages in use still sound very clean: the speed control will give you different kinds of ‘swing’ and spring-back out of the compression.

Then as you pass 4/1 ratio and go off to a max of 16/1 (approximate, but that’s the basic idea) there’s a tone change, and as you get into crazy high ratios, Logical goes a little bonkers. This was NOT available in previous Logicals. The issue was, if you rely heavily on that final compression stage, things can get messy. You can push Logical until it’s nasty and so full of energy it’s forcing you to use the makeup gain to PAD the output, just to handle all the madness.

This time, and in honor of Logical going free VST format, it’s not set up for only good behavior. This time, it’s your responsibility to not blow up your outputs by thoughtlessly cranking the ratio. Consider it an audio chainsaw made of silk and glorious victories. Not every top-selling plugin got this much better when I revisited it. I’m very pleased with how Logical4 came out, and I hope to see it talked about a whole bunch. This one’s worth a lot of ‘did you hear?’.

Also, in the video, you get to see my reaction to a classic silly mistake: bypassing it and then thinking I’d unbypassed it again. It was actually only about forty-five seconds of earnestly explaining the nothing that I was accomplishing, but I saved you the Moment Of Realization so you can enjoy my discomfiture. My excuse: firstly, it’s funny and we’ve all done that, and secondly, I’ve just released Logical 4 free for AU and Mac and PC VST. So I think I can be forgiven a little foolishness with the bypass button :)

Please help my Patreon grow in numbers: more than individual high pledges, I’d like to see lots of people discover what I’m doing. If there are lots of people all of whom are pledging only a small, affordable amount each month to keep me doing this work, it brings me stability and lets me do stuff I care about. You’ll be seeing more neat things out of me, and I remain at the level where I’m doing the top-seller plugins one a month, and if I reach $700 again (from smaller individual patrons this time) I’ll be picking stuff off the bottom of that list too. We did get to StarChild, so don’t underestimate the coolness of the ‘less top selling’ plugins that were part of my Kagi storefront. :)

Chorus

TL;DW: Mono chorus, also works as a vibrato.

Chorus

Here’s the start of some modulation plugins: Chorus will give you a nice basic mono chorusing effect, sweeping one moving delay tap against the dry signal. What makes it unusual is a pile of odd Airwindows things to adjust it this way and that.

The sweep is done with a peculiar Airwindows interpolation which both applies a bit of an averaging function, and also a subtle lift to highs to compensate for that. The idea is to have the moving part be totally fluid, analog-like, even though it’s digital.

To drive that, there’s a treble boost going into this smoothing delay tap, and it’s based on the Airwindows Energy algorithms: that means this plugin interacts with the raw sample rate in two different ways. It’s designed to make it so, whatever the sample rate, the sounds project through to the most extreme highs without edge or dullness. That means Chorus won’t sound exactly the same at 44.1K, 96K and so on: it will try to deliver the most finely tuned treble for each sample rate, whatever that is, and the tonality might be different. Also, since it’s running a delay buffer, it’s giving you full use of the buffer at all times: the broader settings might be more useful at high sample rates.

In general, this should be pretty approachable. Hope you like the tone: there’s more where that came from. The continuing process of bringing these out to you, is supported by Patreon which makes all this possible :)

DustBunny

TL;DW: Unpredictable distorty noise!

DustBunny

And then sometimes there’s a plugin that just makes you go ‘wut’…

DustBunny was an accident. I was doing something and put out a plugin (possibly a freebie) and there was a bug and I was in a hurry and put it out without checking… and quickly learned something horrible was wrong. Initial reports were along the lines of ‘oops’ and ‘yikes’, and when I checked, sure enough, the plugin erupted in terrible scrunch, and I in turn erupted in apologies and scrambled to fix the problem (which wasn’t that hard).

But even before I’d got the fix out (and simple oversight problems, I sometimes fix within hours), more reports were coming in: hold on, don’t fix it, it’s cool!

That wasn’t what I had in mind, but the solution was obvious: DustBunny was born. This twisted little plugin just applies a weird accidental scrunch based on where the bunny control is set. Please don’t use it on the 2-buss, or in mastering :) but more seriously, this is born to sit inside some kind of weird plugin matrix device as part of a nefarious sound design idea. It would’ve been perfect in one of the parallel effect chains used on the latest DOOM soundtrack, mangling a sinewave. If you hit it with high levels it gets kind of jumpy, so you might want to give it more restrained levels. If you don’t like running a gain trim in front of it, run something more amusing like a delay or a flanger to pad your signal a touch.

DustBunny is kind of like a joke, except for it’s real and does produce an unusual, distinctive effect (or 1000, as all the settings are kind of unique). I’m still here to post things like this because of my Patreon, which has been slowly but steadily growing since last year. The more the Patreon grows, the more cool things I can do and bring you the happy results.

Or, sometimes, just bring you odd little presents like DustBunny. Hope you like it! Next comes my mono Chorus, and then it’s Logical, and then one of the ‘unsung’ plugins, which doesn’t exist anywhere else and sold very few copies in its day. But that would be telling :)

StarChild

TL;DW: A weird digital ambience!

StarChild

For all that we try to make plugins have natural, acoustic or electric, retro vibe qualities, sometimes there’s a thing which breaks the rules by creating a distinctive voice that has nothing to do with naturalness. I’ve got an old Alesis reverb like that: very primitive, but deep as anything. There have always been odd little boxes with a style all their own, like the Delta Labs Effectron, which is low-fi but uses delta-sigma modulation like an SACD (but much more crudely!)

In that spirit, here’s StarChild. The inspiration came from the old Ursa Major Space Station. That said, StarChild sounds nothing like a Space Station, but it does sound like it’s out of this world. Like Space Station, it produces series of echo taps which aren’t perfectly regular. Space Station has little rhythms that it does, while StarChild works on prime number sequences: that produces a sputtery sort of delay line in which it won’t reinforce any one frequency.

What you get is a curious delay/ambience effect, in stereo (it’ll widen stuff that’s only in the middle). It can work kind of like a natural ambience that’s a room in a horrible shape, or you can crank out the duration and get weird stretched textures with a variety of granularity. It’s an odd little plugin: didn’t sell that well in its earlier incarnation, yet this revised newer form is hotly anticipated: a bunch of people really started wanting it when Kagi (my payment processor) went out of business and suddenly it couldn’t be sold.

Now that doesn’t matter, because I’m using my Patreon to live on (granted, it’s sort of crisis mode but it will grow in time) and the plugins are being given away for free. I hope you enjoy it. If the Patreon reaches $800 a month, I will begin open sourcing the plugins one by one, and StarChild could be one of those plugins. (Please, stay within an order of magnitude or so of the $1-$2 that the Patreon is designed to ask: I have no wish to depend on individuals giving… or withholding… vast sums just by themselves)

I hope you like StarChild. I know quite a few people who eagerly awaited this one.

Desk4

TL;DW: Distinctive analog coloration.

Desk4

Though I’ve put out BussColors to mimic existing audio hardware, it was always my intention to create analog-ifying plugins that weren’t about cloning existing gear: that produced their own distinctive sound. The first Desk plugins (Desk, TransDesk, TubeDesk) were made in this way, using audio DSP which isn’t typical.

As this line of experimentation evolved, it led me to what we’ve got here. Desk4 is the latest refinement of the Desk line, now for Mac and PC VST (as well as AU)… and free.

The drive control is a boost as you might expect. Turn it up for more slam and dirt. It’s very soft, textured, rich-in-nutrients dirt, but it’s basically ‘distortion’.

Treble Choke is more unusual: don’t overcrank this control or you’ll generate artifacts such as uncontrolled DC. It’s not a normal algorithm and not a traditional EQ or even a saturation: as you can tell from the weird behavior when you crank it. Use it subtly and you’ll have a brightness conditioner not found outside quality analog gear. Since it’s a plugin, you can also push the extremes of the behavior, just don’t get too carried away. It’s designed to let you break it with extreme settings, so it’ll be flexible across different kinds of audio.

The power sag and frequency controls are the heart of some behaviors in the earlier TubeDesk and TransDesk: you can make your imaginary analog hardware overload its power supply. Cranking the frequency slider moves the area of interest down, for tube power supply sag behaviors. Tiny settings work over a tiny range of samples, causing the effect to hit higher frequencies. If you hear an obvious effect, you’re probably applying too much… unless you intentionally want to crap out the audio, in which case this is a uniquely aggressive way of doing that. It’ll add grunge in an entirely different way from simple distortion, so you can do both.

These things are made possible by my Patreon. If I get it to more than $800 a month, I’ll begin open-sourcing these plugins, and that’ll open up the world of plugins in a whole new way. I’ll also make available my templates so that people can more easily begin coding their own stuff (which doesn’t mean it will BE easy, but it’s a way to help new coders and people like me who have more DSP ideas than systems coding expertise). Currently, I’m putting out one a month from my Greatest Hits list, an extra from the more obscure and unsung end of that list, plus additional plugins out of my library of successful AU plugins.

Also, if the Patreon gets some more patrons (not money so much as just new patrons), I can appear in the top 50 of Graphtreon.com’s Gamer charts! I’m currently at 51 on that list, and it’s possible being more visible would help me and Airwindows, so I’m excited to see what’ll happen there! I will be by far the lowest income creator on that top 50, because I give people more while asking less. But it’ll be great fun to know I’m in the top 50 of something Patreon-related :)

TapeDust

TL;DW: Just a special treble-erode noise.

TapeDust

Sometimes it’s good to have just a little specialty plugin that does a useful thing. Hard to do that in the commercial plugin biz, where everything has to be the biggest hype to date: but hey! Thanks to Patreon I’m free of all that, and can follow my vision.

It helps that I put out a lot of plugins: it’d be weird to do this as my only plugin for the month. But, while I work on Desk4 and StarChild from the greatest-hits list, I thought I’d sprinkle a little TapeDust for you.

This is slightly different from the tape noise in Iron Oxide, though it’s the same general principle. It is a slew noise plugin. What that means is, the noise ONLY hits high frequencies or anywhere the signal’s moving rapidly (there’s a teeny bit of other noise added at high settings, but it’s mostly that).

Note the ‘or anywhere the signal’s moving rapidly’. This isn’t a crossover. If you put in a sine wave that’s low and loud, you’ll get very obvious noise only as it crosses through zero, and that’ll sound odd. In general, cranking this up is weird. It’ll depend hugely on what kind of signal you’ve got… but that’s the beauty of it if you can master where to use this plugin.

Basses? Probably no way. Full mix? Getouttahere, no chance outside very low settings. Guitar? Hmmm. Drums, loops? A pattern emerges.

TapeDust can convert ugly sharp treble attacks on pointy percussive atonal sounds to pretty much any degree of dense, noisy, natural-sounding crunch. It’s a type of noise, so it also gives analog-style variance to repeated samples that might sound over-digital. And the less tonal, or the less ‘pure clear note’ the signal is, the more TapeDust you can get away with. Since it’s a slew noise, it hits the treble of your signal HARD, but since it’s a noise, it’s not filtering or softening the sound as much as it’s just eroding it, weathering it, making it more natural. Anywhere you’ve got bright highs on a nonpure sound, you can grind them off with TapeDust.

Of course, if you’re cool with using super-low settings, you can do that anywhere: it’s just important to register that this very specialized and dedicated tool is super picky about what it likes to work on. It’s a beautiful example of taking your production skills deeper: use something that can sound horrible and wrong, and find places where it’s in its element. You can do outlandish textural things, taking something like a clean electro mix with deep clean bass, and sticking heavy TapeDust on just one element in the mix to contrast with the un-grungy elements. I hope you like TapeDust. It’s the kind of plugin I love to make.

FromTape

TL;DW: A minimalist analog tape emulation.

FromTape

Here’s something more… refined.

FromTape was originally conceived as a ‘bump-less’ ToTape. It appeared with the original ToTape, and then with ToTape3, as a stripped-down version without the head bump, intended as very much the same thing but less bass. In some ways that’s still true.

But, as ToTape grew to version 5, it developed many unusual traits. There was always that untameable head bump code, and its desire to throw DC everywhere (ToTape’s head bump literally doesn’t want to settle on 0, it wants to be either a positive or negative offset voltage by preference). There was the flutter. There was the built-in highpass, coded in a curious way to get a resonant quality around the corner frequency without any actual resonance applied. ToTape grew into a rich and strange effect, with many curious qualities and many fervent fans. And it’s out.

And then there was FromTape.

This FromTape draws on what I’d learned from the Purest plugins. It’s like no previous FromTape: elements have been rearranged, deleted, rethought until it became just this: the ‘unusual’ highpass (which accumulates tiny alterations in a buffer and then applies them in a single add for purity reasons) and THEN the Softer control, accentuated, but ONLY the Softer code and not the ‘Airwindows saturation’ that’s a major part of ToTape and allows for the ‘tape drive’ and saturation effects. The highpass is called ‘Weight’ and wired backwards so as you increase it, more bass comes out.

So, this new FromTape does the very transparent treble softening, but has no real ‘distortion level’ because it has no distortion outside of Softer. It has the highpass (over a far broader range, and adjustable) but not the head bump the highpass was designed to handle. Instead of going after the other effects, the highpass goes first, and then the Softer works on the output of that.

It’s capable of clipping to a set level only if Soften is cranked totally, and then it’s not a good sound (still available, though, in case you want it). Anything else will let peaks through largely undiminished. The highpass cuts bass, but in such a way that clean unclipped bass pre-FromTape might well turn into over 0dB output after FromTape: it cuts the bass in such a way that it might end up 3dB louder. Go figure, use the output level control to buffer it. Rather than loudenating stuff by ‘slamming it with tape saturation’ it’s more likely to reshape the tonality of the sound so it sounds quieter for whatever peak level you’re reaching.

It sounds amazing. It’s also way more CPU-efficient than ToTape, and eats much less in terms of delay buffers and things. You could use it everywhere, certainly on channels where ToTape would be too heavy, but even on channels plus the 2-buss. You could use it in mastering if you wanted to soften digital edge while retaining total clarity, or if you wanted to take an overlimited mix and make the bass rounder and more open, giving a little crest factor back.

I got lucky. FromTape sounds amazing, it really came together in a surprising way. You might like the added thickness and fullness of ToTape, or the bells and whistles, but if you want to call FromTape superior, you won’t be seeing an argument from me. Surprise! This might be your new best tape plugin, especially if you like subtlety and have ears like a bat.

Wouldn’t exist without Patreon. I think it’s possible that I’ll reach the $700 goal this month, and if I do, you get not only Desk next month, you also get my pick of the ‘end of the list’ (stuff that sold less than what the Patreon’s currently at), and I think I will pick StarChild first, just FYI. So, let’s go $700, and I do have something lined up for next week, as well :)

(This plugin has been updated to fix an excessive-CPU bug. If you need the original version as it was first released, you can download it at FromTapeOriginal. Don’t try to use both at the same time, apart from the CPU fix they are identical and will retain all settings etc. without any change in sound or behavior.)

AQuickVoiceClip

TL;DW: Soften headset mic recordings that have been super hard clipped on capture.

AQuickVoiceClip

I hope this is handy for somebody: I made it for myself. The idea is, if you’re a youtuber or something and have the ability to post-process your mic feed, you might have it set up so normal levels give a normal sound, but then if some monster jumps out and KILLS you in your video game, you might scream very loudly into your mic and blow the recording into ridiculously loud clipping.

This does several things. Firstly, it clips and softens those moments further and tries to suppress some of the highs you got from the super-hard clipping. Secondly, it’s got a highpass which can subdue thumps and pops, and can also be used in conjunction with something like a pitch shifter to give cartoony voices (I’ve tried this with DiracFxAU, now known as zynaptiq: only used their demo AU, didn’t use their library in anything code-wise and won’t be doing so as they are unaffordable). I found highpassing before the pitch processing was very helpful for toon voices of that type.

This isn’t the seriousest of plugins, but I’ve seen people ask me for it, so now it’s free and Mac/PC VST too. I think it’s best confined to its intended use, processing single voice tracks that have wildly distorted moments. If you try to use it on the 2-buss I will be very cross with you ;)

I’ve been doing all this work supported by Patreon, which is to say supported by those of you who are able to toss me a buck a month or so. Patreon itself doesn’t do a thing to find people who’ll help me: they’re simply another sort of payment processor. So if you can do $12 a year or find more people who think that’s a good investment to have a Chris From Airwindows continually thinking up new free stuff to give you, I greatly appreciate it. This appreciation is usually shown in the form of plugins, but when I have other stuff to also offer, I’ll let you know what’s brewing in the secret airwindows vats of awesomeness ;) and yes, something is brewing beyond plugins and you’ll be hearing about it before another year is out. And I don’t even mean the Axoloti, but I’m very excited about that hardware platform too :)

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