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Mastering With AirWindows Plugins: Techniques/Tips Equalizer Plugins
Old 4th October 2018
Originally Posted by SmoothTone View Post
I respect Chris and have followed his work with interest for over a decade. I kinda wish that he would just focus on a handful of his best algorithms and take them "all the way" to ironed-out, beta tested, functionally GUI'd plugins. My experience has been that some of his algorithms sound really good with a little bit of weirdness on the fringe that makes them unusable for mastering.

Acceleration is the only one that has found any use in my chain. I would happily pay a decent sum for this if the sound was ironed out and some increased tunability was included. I just think Airwindows could be so much more...
I respect that statement. I've been trying out many things and in several cases gone back to my usual go-to plugins, either because of the graphical interface issue or other various reasons.

The one main thing that I find necessary to point out, and I am sure you are aware, is that many of his plugins are open source. Therefore, any VST creator can use the algorithms to make plugins that are more finely tuned towards what they want. I am sure that will happen, in the years to come. And, Chris will entertain many requests that he has piled up, eventually. For now, his list of "to do" is so long that years of work are already laid in front of him. Hopefully, he stays healthy. I do wonder why he doesn't add Hz values to his EQ plugins, but like Herme said, its probably for a good reason.

I suppose that you and hermetech mostly correct, in that most of his plugins aren't even built for mastering, let alone being used by mastering engineers. I do find that some of the tools, in their mathematical simplicity and lack of graphical interfaces, can end up with a higher quality sound than some alternatives. But, when it comes to dialing in specific things like EQ, its pretty much a no-go... even for Hermepass (for me, all though I haven't really given it a full chance). I'll check the video on it again, and if he convinces me that its more smooth than something like Waves H-EQ (for high passing) then I'll give it a try... but it may take some experiments to find a perfect value for smoothly cutting extreme lows.

I suppose I just wish that more mastering engineers would give the tools more chances, and try things that are extremely "out of the box" thinking. Perhaps, GearSlutz is more in the area of engineers/musicians who think more traditionally, as compared to some other forums which I will not mention. Thats not a strike against gearslutz, but I do wish that more engineers (in general) would push themselves towards being more open minded about trying new, wild and crazy methods that don't make sense; too many of us stick to "what works," because we have to manage our time appropriately enough to make a decent living.
Old 5th October 2018
Gear Maniac

Verified Member
I'm sure the "safe" methods are ones that you know work. The only way to find those is to experiment and try. Once you have it though, only reason to move won is if you need to find some way to improve.

The airwindows plugins are cool. I'm no mastering engineer - just learnt what I saw in mastering studios on my own mixes and any where a client really doesnt have a budget or desire to go of and master something separately.

Having said all that - I wouldn't normally consider using them. I tend to test the popular plugins that are recommended to me by other mixing engineers/mastering engineers, or use plugins that may emulate gear I am familiar with. Because of this I tend to find going to a non GUI plugin pretty boring. I respect the work that must go into the Airwindows plugins, however I like the inspiration as well from a reasonable GUI.
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Maniac

I've definitely had Airwindows creep over the last two years, I'd say at least 3/4 of the plugins I use in any given mix these days are Airwindows (and I wish I could afford to give Chris more than the $50/year I'm pledging now because he really deserves it).

My current master buss chain (not including metering plugins) is now 100% Airwindows:

Buttercomp 2
[metering stuff]
ClipOnly (for safety, but I never have to push it hard enough to clip anymore, between what Spiral does and switching to K-14 monitoring)
Ditherbox (almost always NJAD but occasionally Naturalize)

The trick with using Pop on the master buss is that I start with it bypassed. I'll have Buttercomp set somewhere between 50% and 75% with the output level and wet/dry at their defaults and start the mix that way, bringing in one track at a time. Once I have the important stuff up and balanced pretty well, I'll turn on Pop with the output set to .5 (which gives me roughly unity) then turn up the intensity until it starts to audibly distort and sputter, then back it off until just before that point and turn the wet/dry down to something around 0.. After that I finish the mix, and then as a last check I turn the wet/dry back up to 1, fine tune the intensity so that it's just shy of sputtering or distorting, set the wet/dry again by ear (almost always ends up between 0.08 and 0.12) and MAYBE tweak the mix a little more to account for any changes, but that isn't really necessary. Throughout the process I'll fine tune the compression level on Buttercomp by ear, and if I find the mix sounds god but it a little too hot or a little too quiet, I'll use Buttercom's output trim to fine tune it going in to Spiral, so that it sits around the optimal K-14 level (I don't have to do that with new mixes but I've been remixing some old stuff and sometimes that ends up coming out a bit lower than I'd like because of the way I was arranging back then).

Occasionally I'll use Toneboosters SlickEQ M at some point in the chain but that's unusual.

That plus mixing through PurestConsole is getting me my favorite ITB sound so far, and I've also found myself using a lot less processing on individual tracks, they just kind of naturally sit together (if the sources sound right) like pulling up the faders on an analog board if the tracks have been recorded with the final mix in mind, and most of the plugins I use after that are more for creative/sound design purposes if I need anything like that.

Switching to calibrated monitoring is part of that since it makes it easier to build the rough mix as I record, using the actual levels and arrangement to get everything more or less balanced (I've always tried to record with the goal of being able to pull all the faders up to unity and have the mix mostly done), but even on older mixes where my monitoring wasn't consistent and tracks need a bit more adjustment are coming out a lot better just by swappingout other stuff I was using (won't name names but there were some pretty highly regarded plugins in there)

At this point the only non-Airwindows plugins that tend to find their way into every mix are the Valhalla reverbs, TDR Nova GE and PSP e27. I use other stuff but far less often than I used to.
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Guru
Great post above! Nice to hear about how someone is actually using the plug ins. One question, what kind of music? Important for context!
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Maniac

Originally Posted by ardis View Post
Great post above! Nice to hear about how someone is actually using the plug ins. One question, what kind of music? Important for context!
Mixture of guitars (mostly electric) and analog and digital synthesizers, some recorded direct and some recorded through a variety of small amps, occasionally with live percussion (dholak and doumbeck mostly). Occasionally summed ITB out to 1/4" tape but usually not these days. Little or no sequencing most of the time, 1-4 musicians, usually 2. Mostly hardware, mixed ITB but insert effects on individual tracks are usually done in hardware. But I've also used the same chain recently on a primarily acoustic track I did as work for hire a couple years ago and wanted to update, that was acoustic guitar, plucked cello, woodblock, brushed snare, Hammond Auto-Vari 64 drum machine and a Juno 6.

As far as genre, I don't know, genres are where you file the records in a shop they aren't something that really enters much into actually making music. I guess at its best it's kind of aiming to be like a collaboration between Ash Ra Tempel, Terry Riley and Hawkwind using the sound palettes of Legowelt, Terry R. Brooks, Goblin, Sun City Girls and just a tiny bit of Egyptian Lover.

EDIT: not trying to be flip about genre, it's just something that I pay almost no attention to when I'm making or listening to music, the I really find it meaning much are all about the business side of music not the actual music side (that's why you've seen an explosion of microgenres concurrent with cataloging and distribution becoming more granular and automated; I had the distinct misfortune to work behind the scenes on that side of things for nearly a decade and I can't say much because of NDAs but believe me, it has very little to do with actual music). I'm not trying to say that broad categories like "jazz" or "metal" or "bhangra" don't have any meaning at all, just that on an individual level the meaning kind of breaks down. Genre emerges from practice, just like theory emerges from practice.

EDIT AGAIN: I don't use it on the master buss, but I just wanted to mention Capacitor here, because I use it just about everywhere else, especially in the first position on aux sends. It's quite possibly the most natural sounding HP/LP filtering I've ever heard, which is funny since it technically has that little notch that would usually be considered a bug, that Chris talks about in the video. I try to do all of my highpassing on individual tracks, though, and virtually never put any kind of highpass on a master buss (unless you count the occasional elliptical EQ, usually the one in SlickEQ M, but even that's rare).

Last edited by TMOQuantity; 2 weeks ago at 04:27 PM.. Reason: Pomposity.
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Guru
Genre to me, means if you're mixing Rap and EDM, that may not translate so well to acoustic folk ballads, or pure jazz.....
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Maniac

I guess to me the thing is that none of those terms really mean that much in the context of a specific piece of music, even though they're (sometimes) useful ways to think about the larger context of a particular piece of music. But to me, concepts like genre are more meaningful in the context of musicology or marketing than the actual practice of making music.

But I don't really want to derail the thread with this stuff.
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Maniac

I guess to me the thing is that none of those terms really mean that much in the context of a specific piece of music, even though they're (sometimes) useful ways to think about the larger context of a particular piece of music. But to me, concepts like genre are more meaningful in the context of musicology or marketing than the actual practice of making music.

But I don't really want to derail the thread with this stuff.
Old 2 weeks ago
Gear Guru
Music is a huge topic. If someone is doing pop music or baroque organ, you need some sort of triage........ both are organ music...... has nothing to do with marketing, just some sort of context. Bluegrass ain't hip hop......
Old 1 week ago
Gear Maniac

Verified Member
Seems like a fun discussion cos I LOVE airwindows plugins.

I use them in purely digitally mastering electronically produced music, so anything sample and synth based. But that's only cos that's what I've worked with so far, not because I can't work with other genres... I just haven't had the opportunities yet.

So what I enjoy is Spiral2 as my initial clipper into Newfangled Audio's Saturate Spectral Clipper. Love the Presence control.

Acceleration in MS setup [Metaplugin] is brilliant, beautiful sound. Usually set at less than .075. Usually don't use mix either but if I do it's generally between .7 - .975 mix.

Buttercomp2 MS, often with the same mix for both channels but with

Pop MS. Either less than .075 or cranked up to .270-.375 with very low mix less than .075

NJAD is great, not always the dither I use though.

Hermepass is pretty much the only HP filter I use in mastering because it's simple and clean and can be tuned quite easily to the source. I guess what I've found with all these AW plugins is that I find my own 'preset' numbers that I remember and then user over and over again. Almost always start with and end up at .7/.72/.75 as the filter slope and set between 0 and .070 on the frequency dial.

Aura is very nice for bringing out detail in the top end, usually set less than .120 sometimes up to .175 but most often less than .070.

Hermetrim is a must as the first gain plugin which I use to tune the entire chain of effects to find the right focus point, or space, for the track. And to tune the perfect balance of the Side channel.

Wider is amazing for width it brings, it also features in a special modular plugin setup for bringing out spectral detail I made in Metaplugin.

Purestdrive is great for applying a tiny bit of density and glue to the master.

Speaking of density, Density2 is great, I just boost the level a bit to push the master just a bit more in a nice and transparent way.

Basically, although they miss the standard values I don't really find them to be standard tools and they exist within their own sphere. I've found my own system of working with them quickly and efficiently and I never feel the need to transfer or compare settings with other plugins. I've also discovered a workflow which enables me to use particular set numbers, one of which will always work.

I love them, they're essential to my mastering chains

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