The basic setup for Console2 looks like this. (screenshot from previous version of the plugins- but it works exactly the same)
The idea is, Console2Channel applies a calibrated distortion to each channel. They're summed using Logic's math, and then Console2Buss occurs first on the 2-buss, as shown, and it 'undistorts' what Console2Channel did. It's set up to work with faders around unity gain- for DAWs that provide this, running Console2Channel post-fader is even closer to the intention of the design.
When only one channel is playing, the result is as near to no difference as possible: Console2 is not a 'coloration' or 'saturation' plugin by itself. It only does anything if multiple channels are summed, or if there's something between the two plugins. If two channels are summed, and they're perfectly in phase, the result is still unaltered audio, but if two channels are out of phase with each other, the combination drags them to a different spot on the transfer function created by Console2Buss.
Why do this? Because it's simulating variable buss input impedance. It causes channels to distort easier if they are looking at a lower impedance- even though the channels can't actually see each other. It's a hack, that worked.
The result is a deeper soundstage- more '3-D' without alteration of the mix in any other way (ideally). This is in contrast to the flat and cardboard-thin presentation of unaltered digital summing- with or without 'saturation and warmth'.
Because this process is done on top of the regular math of the DAW, it doesn't have to be limited to only one situation. Any arrangement or routing that uses accurate digital math can be used- for example, here is a routing that uses a aux buss with its own fader. You can have any complexity of internal routing you want- all that matters is that the signals must hit Console2Channel to pre-distort them, and then Console2Buss after all the summing has happened, to undistort them again.
The signals flowing through the aux buss are not really normal- if you processed them, unexpected results can happen, especially with compressors or other dynamic processors. There are exceptions, which we'll get into, but to start out, we'll just consider a simple group fader. If you pull down this fader, it's mathematically the same as pulling down all the faders feeding it- to Console2, it acts the same. You don't have to put Console2Buss on the top of the aux and then Console2Channel at the bottom again.
Another thing about Console2Channel that's worth mentioning- Console2Channel has been coded for the absolute lowest CPU overhead possible. It's way more efficient than the predecessor, Desk. Console2Channel has very little headroom compared to what Desk had, so if you are running the faders low or you find excessive distortion in your channels, pad down the channel before hitting Console2Channel at the end.
Here's where things get a little more complicated. Consider an echo (all wet) on an aux- basically, a reverb send.When you're generating new sounds as delayed copies of the channel sound, these can be imagined as 'new tracks'. In fact, each invidual echo can be thought of as a new track.
We can't make a track in Logic, with a separate copy of Console2Channel, for each echo return- but, Console2Channel is already on there. In effect, every individual echo will already have the Console2Channel processing, and they're not altered other than being time-shifted- so, if you put your all-wet echo or reverb 'inside' Console2 (between Console2Channel and Console2Buss), the DAW will generate the new audio and mix it digitally with the existing stuff.
Mixing digitally is exactly what Console2 is already altering- so, ANY mixing process run 'inside' Console2 will generate new space between the 'new tracks'. That means every discrete echo- even every discrete echo inside a reverb algorithm. This is very powerful for creating space and depth, and it requires no further CPU overhead.
There's more to this concept in the advanced section, but for now, remember that term, 'inside' Console2. Inside means between the two components of the plugin, operating on the pre-distorted signal before it's restored.
The most common upgrade for Airwindows Console2 is the use of BussColors3 as a substitute for Console2Channel.
The bussing stuff still applies, but since BussColors3 is capable of producing a controllable distortion, the different models in BussColors3 have been calibrated to work (by default) as a drop-in replacement. If you use any of the BussColors3 tone colors in this capacity, you will get the hardware tone character of the model, but then Console2Buss will take the 'analog saturation' effect and un-do that part, leaving the tone color but bringing back headroom and openness.
You'll see the example shows another copy of BussColors3 farther down the 2-buss. Since it's designed to work as a 'slammable, overdriven hardware buss', defeating its saturation abilities leads to an overly clear, dynamic sound. That's fine, but to get more fatness and slam out of the system you don't want to simply push Console2Buss harder- it doesn't work that way. Instead, run into Console2Buss at a reasonable level (peaking not much higher than 0 dBFS) and then use the second copy of BussColors3 to get your overdrive and slam.
This is the most typical routing for a BussColors3/Console2 system. The important thing to remember is that you can't 'slam' Console2 and get useful results out of it- it wants to see levels coming in to the 2-buss that peak around 0 dBFS. Too much, and things will get spikey. Too little, and the sound will be flat and bland. 'Slam' after Console2Buss has done its job, using additional gain and distortion, as with the second BussColors3.
BussColors3 works on synthesized convolution impulses, and is tied to 44.1K. There's also an Airwindows product that (like Console2 itself) is 96K-capable: Desk3. Like BussColors3, Desk3 defaults to a setting that can serve as a drop-in replacement for Console2Channel.
Because Console2 alone is designed to not alter the sound through individual channels (only on summed groups of channels), Desk3 and BussColors3 can be used to saturate and darken the tone. Where BussColors3 is hard-coded to deliver specific hardware tones, Desk3 is more abstract: it provides ways to close off the top-end of the sound, has its own overdrive character, and includes a 'power supply' feature that simulates power supply voltage sag. These can be used independently of each other.
Because of the nature of the effects, Desk3 can be placed anywhere in the signal flow that you'd want the result to happen- it's shown as a Console2Channel replacement, and then again in a location similar to where BussColors3 would go, after Console2. You can also leave the second instance off the 2-buss for a less 'big' sound with more depth and spatial qualities, or turn down the settings on the 2-buss instance to find a middle ground. Desk3 can also go on an aux or group, inside Console2, to simulate wiring losses of internal cable routing, or the power supply of a console subsystem.