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Airwindows Beam: Mac/Windows/Linux AU/VST
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Software Airwindows Beam: Mac/Windows/Linux AU/VST



TL;DW: Beam is a wordlength reducer that tries to heighten sonority.

Beam.zip(333k)

So here we are again: Beam is a radical, unusual plugin. I'm not certain it works, at least not as intended. I do know that it does what I built it to do: the usefulness of that is more in question.

So, that's why I'm asking. Be critical, and tell me what you think. I've already got Dark and I know that does what I intended, and it's arguably better than NJAD. I don't know whether Beam is just a weird experiment… or better still.

What does it do?

Beam's a wordlength reducer like Dark, but instead of seeking to always give you the least departure from whatever trajectory the audio's on (like Dark: and that suppresses highs, including noise in the highs), Beam seeks to make all waveforms converge on the same angle (either ascending, or descending). Imagine a world of triangle-waves, the deepest frequencies taking the most energy, and progressively quieter until high frequencies are in balance with the lows. That's Beam. Beam has a 'focus' control that sort of optimizes the frequency range it's providing a window into (as in, lower settings SEEM to encourage focus on deeper sounds, higher settings SEEMS to highlight the treble, and the 0.5 is set to zero in on where our hearing's most sensitive.) And it uses those frequencies, across a broad range of possible sounds, to emphasize the energy and depth of the audio to shocking effect.

Except, it's not. It doesn't know what a frequency is. It's only 'dithering' in such a way as to try and accentuate certain waveform slope angles, and has no real power to do even that beyond statistical averaging of a bunch of samples.

On top of that, its noise floor is WEIRD. Dark gates into silence, sort of well-behavedly. Normal dithers become noise seamlessly. Beam goes nuts and screams, and the only thing I can say for it is, raw truncation is worse. It's super weird… and yet, even while it's doing that, the background audio retains a startling depth and personality. Or at least so it seems… even more than Dark, with this one you turn up DeRez and nothing happens to the sound at all. You don't even hear the noise until it's silly loud. (there will be a series of dither reissues with DeRez, both for auditioning and for lo-fi duties.) It might even be a 'sonic maximizer', putting tone qualities into the audio that weren't there to begin with.

I admit I don't know what to make of this at all. I know how I got it, and I know it's doing what I made it to do. But nobody knows what you get if you sculpt audio, not by frequencies or loudness, but by reinforcing certain waveform slope angles, because to my knowledge nobody has ever wanted to do that or had a way to make it happen, even in subtle ways like this. And now that I've done it, I'm not certain it's better than Dark. I understand what Dark's doing, and why that's useful. This is a wilder beast. Looking forward to getting people's reactions… because one of these may replace NJAD in my flagship Airwindows plugin, Monitoring.

BTW, I've already took apart my Lavry I was griping about, and reseated the ground screw connections (which is what can happen after more than ten years of use: same thing happened with my DA10) and it turned out the funny noises were actually coming from the 'Transformer' setting on the AD10, so I'm going back to 'non-distorted' while I sort stuff out. It was fun while it lasted

This work is supported by Patreon. I hope you like it. The stuff about the CMOS chips and reselling it at cost, is a plan that I have for a future Patreon goal, should I get there.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for Beam.
By the way, I like this demo song the best.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Hey Chris, long-time lurker and patreon sub. Love your plugins and your work - I've been turning on LA mastering folks and people in the hi-fi industry on to your stuff (A couple of my friends who are high profile dudes love and use some of your stuff on some really big projects that have come out recently by the way!)

I did shoot out Beam and Dark the other day, and I have to say, wow. Subtle of course, but tonally fascinating. I love that dark lends a real sense of depth to things, and almost seems to enhance or emphasize space around stuff, but Beam is a whole nother bucket. It seems around .32 I can get them to sound pretty similar, but Beam seems to have extra upper bass slam and 'moves' with the audio a little more in the way surge does a bit. I like that Beam is adjustable, it's incredibly subtle but I like it's vibe a lot... Dark wins my vote for easy to use, set-and-forget transparency. But Beam wins my vote for tweakers like me. If you have really good converters, speakers, room, etc. Beam seems more vibey and musically engaging for most program material. Dark might suit classical or sparse stuff more.

I do wonder if there's further applications for this bit of code you've come up with, something more dramatic, or that could be put inside a console version? I'd love to see a version loaded up with slew rate, the saturation encode and maybe this. I know I'm not alone in that I use your plugins to add vibe to otherwise very clean digital (I do a lot with high quality sample-based VSTs)
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ohlookaphoton View Post
Dark wins my vote for easy to use, set-and-forget transparency. But Beam wins my vote for tweakers like me.
I haven't compared them yet, but that sounds like Dark would be the better choice for Monitoring - keeping it accessible.

NJAD is my current main wordlength reducer, so I'm waiting for the reissue before I do my shootout. I do like the idea of being able to adjust to taste with Beam though.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Beatworld's Avatar
Chris I'm contemplating moving from Mojave to Catalina, using Logic.

Please remind me, are Airwindows AU plugins working in Catalina with Logic ??

Thanks
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beatworld View Post
Chris I'm contemplating moving from Mojave to Catalina, using Logic.

Please remind me, are Airwindows AU plugins working in Catalina with Logic ??

Thanks
Yes, but they must maintain backwards compatibility to 10.4 or so, and PPC Macs. So you have to clear them through Gatekeeper yourself, and that's not likely ever to change because it would kill the backward compatibility and I won't put up with Apple's practices in that regard.

Here’s my collection of Catalina gatekeeper instructions

I’ve got one report that says you can do a re-scan within Logic’s plugin manager, and then as you run ‘reset and re-scan selection’ you can go to system prefs/security and it’ll show that Gatekeeper stopped the plugin from opening but there was an option for ‘open anyway’. If you’re able to do it that way the plugin will pass validation in Logic.

If that doesn’t work, the Terminal command to run will be like this (if you have the NewUpdates folder open on your desktop):

sudo xattr -d -r com.apple.quarantine ~/Desktop/NewUpdates/*

sudo (you’ll supply your password) lets you do administrator stuff
xattr -d removes the attribute ‘com.apple.quarantine’ from things,
the -r means recursive so it will go into subfolders and anything in NewUpdates, so don’t point this at your whole hard drive
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Beatworld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisj View Post
I’ve got one report that says you can do a re-scan within Logic’s plugin manager, and then as you run ‘reset and re-scan selection’ you can go to system prefs/security and it’ll show that Gatekeeper stopped the plugin from opening but there was an option for ‘open anyway’. If you’re able to do it that way the plugin will pass validation in Logic.
I'm hoping this idea works
Are you saying to have System Prefs/Security & Privacy Open, then run "reset and rescan selection" then hopefully do the Gatekeeper biz in Security ?
Which setting do you select in the left hand menu in Security & Privacy ??

Accessibility or Full disk access ??
or something else ??

cheers
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beatworld View Post
I'm hoping this idea works
Are you saying to have System Prefs/Security & Privacy Open, then run "reset and rescan selection" then hopefully do the Gatekeeper biz in Security ?
Which setting do you select in the left hand menu in Security & Privacy ??

Accessibility or Full disk access ??
or something else ??

cheers
I would just do the Terminal stuff. I never did the 'reset and rescan selection' and it might not work. The Terminal thing is directly operating on the stuff that matters, and Terminal stuff is handy to learn if you're careful

I'm not going to Catalina. I'm getting a computer that'll still run Mojave, and sticking with that as long as possible, much like my dev laptop runs Snow Leopard
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Beatworld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisj View Post
I would just do the Terminal stuff. I never did the 'reset and rescan selection' and it might not work. The Terminal thing is directly operating on the stuff that matters, and Terminal stuff is handy to learn if you're careful

I'm not going to Catalina. I'm getting a computer that'll still run Mojave, and sticking with that as long as possible, much like my dev laptop runs Snow Leopard
Hhhmmmm.

Still not rushing to Catalina but with Big Sur macOS 11 coming I'm thinking I might at least move to Catalina.

Thanks
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beatworld View Post
Hhhmmmm.

Still not rushing to Catalina but with Big Sur macOS 11 coming I'm thinking I might at least move to Catalina.

Thanks
Mojave is never gonna support ARM processors. There'll come a time to basically jump over to the unholy hybrid of Unix and iOS, probably when Apple's ARM-based stuff starts to really clobber everything x86-based on all fronts. But that's not this year, or even the next.

Thankfully, the old gear remains useful too… if you're a musician, producer etc. And yeah, Apple actively tries to impede that (as if everybody can get new computers all the time, at Apple prices) but that's how Apple gets itself into a position where it can switch all its computers over to ARM-based and get away with it, as it's already done twice before (68k-PPC, PPC-Intel) so I'll just chalk it up to ideological differences and continue to develop for pretty much the entire installed base of everything, to the best of my ability
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Gear Head
 

Chris, I just wanted to say thank you for Beam, and Dark, and for generally being a smashing bloke. I've been lurking and using your plugins for a good few months now and haven't yet subscribed to your mission, but will be from now on.

I've had a chance to try Beam in a few sessions now and I think at the moment this is the one for me. I still don't really know what is happening and why I can hear a difference, because I probably shouldn't be able to, but I definitely can.. phew.. that old debate..

Here's my take:

Dark is great for sparse acoustic, singer-songwriter or classical music. It seems to add a nice solidity below 1k. I thought it was the one. The one true dither. Last week it was. I've been using it on everything since it dropped and will continue to. I also think it's more natural sounding than NJAD.

But now, I think Beam has the edge. It's perfect for dense mixes, or lots of reverbs, or too much saturation. It's even harder to say exactly what it's doing. Sonority probably is the right word. It adds the subtlest consistent punch to the top of kick drums and the middle of snares. It also seems to be something of a natural relaxer for vocals or acoustic instruments. I can only guess sonority is somehow favouring naturally occurring frequency presentations/relationships rather than the potential non-naturalness of ITB processing/aliasing/smearing.. I'm probably talking rubbish, but just trying to figure it out.. The most obvious nice thing that Beam does though is it seems to add the tiniest bit of punch to the extremes of the stereo field. Almost like the most delicate possible stereo spreading algo, or like side only mid frequency transient enhancement.

Can you shed some light on why I can hear all this stuff? Or should I just retire from the sound engineering game and start writing for Hi-Fi monthly?

Super impressed, and I'll be using this on mixes this week. What else have you got up your sleeve? Those are some pretty long sleeves at this point.
Old 5 days ago
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samson Sounds View Post
It adds the subtlest consistent punch to the top of kick drums and the middle of snares. It also seems to be something of a natural relaxer for vocals or acoustic instruments. I can only guess sonority is somehow favouring naturally occurring frequency presentations/relationships rather than the potential non-naturalness of ITB processing/aliasing/smearing... The most obvious nice thing that Beam does though is it seems to add the tiniest bit of punch to the extremes of the stereo field. Almost like the most delicate possible stereo spreading algo, or like side only mid frequency transient enhancement.

Can you shed some light on why I can hear all this stuff?
I'd also definitely be interested in if/how Beam would produce these audible results or whether this sort of thing is just placebo. As far as I'm aware isn't this just deciding whether the least significant bit of the audio data is a 1 or a 0 ?
Old 5 days ago
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcbpete View Post
I'd also definitely be interested in if/how Beam would produce these audible results or whether this sort of thing is just placebo. As far as I'm aware isn't this just deciding whether the least significant bit of the audio data is a 1 or a 0 ?
Yeah funny isn’t it. I know I’m not supposed to hear the difference but I can. Especially on a good pair of headphones. I can pick between all of Chris’ “dithers”. Critics might say that it isn’t dither which is why there’s an audible effect. Perhaps. But it sounds good. Could it be something to do with the AC zero crossing? I know we can’t hear the full dynamic range but if the waveform is constantly in and out, + and -, wouldn’t that mean that dither would have an effect on the micro envelope of everything? Shaping the attack and release of every waveform?
Old 5 days ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 
StoneyBCN's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samson Sounds View Post
Perhaps. But it sounds good. Could it be something to do with the AC zero crossing?
Interesting question. My understanding is, that dithers do their work on that last value either side of the zero crossing. A typical TPDF would randomize the value of that sample just outside of the zero crossing, within a certain range of probability; whereas Chris is using very deliberate methods to round that sample value using things like Benford Realness calculations. At least that's as far as my general understanding goes, and truthfully much that has come since the OG NJAD has evaded my comprehension.

It's definitely audible IMO, otherwise I and others would probably not be using them and testing all the revisions and new ideas (or so I'd like to think!). What I did a while back was take a mix project consisting of 16 stems feeding 4 busses, and applied Ditherbox on the 16 stem channels, the 4 busses, and the master buss - no other processing. Then, you can assign all those Ditherbox selectors to a single MIDI controller for easy auditioning. This helped me conclude that I'm not fooling myself, and I DO have a favourite or two!

Since we're typically tracking into 24-bit audio converters at best, I personally see no harm in tracking through Chris's dithers in realtime, having options like Dark or Beam to provide contrasting fundamental qualities; almost like choosing your older u87 over your newer u87 reissue, for that tiny difference in tonal quality that only we audio nerds tend to notice.

I can't be the only one intentionally "mis-using" Airwindows dithers for tone purposes?
Old 5 days ago
  #15
Gear Head
 
Cirrus's Avatar
 

I don't think that's quite right @ StoneyBCN .

Traditional dithers are low level noise added to the signal which affects the least significant bit(/s) through the whole range of amplitude - not just at the zero crossings.

Instead of noise, my understanding is that Chris's series of clever dithers make a decision over which direction to send the least significant bit of whatever wordlength the dither is intended for, based on what it's done in the recent past/ what the signal is doing. So in a sense it's still noise, but it's very very shaped and targeted noise to the point that it's not really sensible to think of it as noise any more.

The key point, though, is that dither is applied to every sample - not just zero crossings. It's just that as the signal gets quieter, the ratio of signal to dither noise changes and dither becomes a more significant effect - and obviously as the signal gets quieter, it spends more time near that zero crossing.
Old 5 days ago
  #16
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneyBCN View Post
I can't be the only one intentionally "mis-using" Airwindows dithers for tone purposes?
I literally started doing that yesterday!
On this record I started mixing this week I’ve started putting either Beam or Dark on some busses at the end of plugin chains just for the subtlest of tonal changes. Drums, Bass and Lead vocals get Beam for the contained, naturalistic transient poke. Acoustic instruments and BVs get Dark for effortless blending into the background.
To be honest I felt slightly silly to even do it but your post makes me feel like slightly less of a nutter. 😬
Old 5 days ago
  #17
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
I don't think that's quite right @ StoneyBCN .

Traditional dithers are low level noise added to the signal which affects the least significant bit(/s) through the whole range of amplitude - not just at the zero crossings.

Instead of noise, my understanding is that Chris's series of clever dithers make a decision over which direction to send the least significant bit of whatever wordlength the dither is intended for, based on what it's done in the recent past/ what the signal is doing. So in a sense it's still noise, but it's very very shaped and targeted noise to the point that it's not really sensible to think of it as noise any more.

The key point, though, is that dither is applied to every sample - not just zero crossings. It's just that as the signal gets quieter, the ratio of signal to dither noise changes and dither becomes a more significant effect - and obviously as the signal gets quieter, it spends more time near that zero crossing.
Thanks for your post. The intricacies of digital audio are not my specialty but I think I mostly understand. I’m still somewhat confused by “dither is applied to every sample”. Is that because every sample contains a zero crossing because of something to do with nyquist? I guess I’m confused as to why I don’t think I can really tell the difference between regular dithers, but with Chris’s I can and they sound great! It is super subtle but also one of the best ‘betterizers’ I have in my arsenal. I guess I don’t really need to know why, I’ll just keep on using it!
Old 5 days ago
  #18
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneyBCN View Post
Since we're typically tracking into 24-bit audio converters at best, I personally see no harm in tracking through Chris's dithers in realtime,
I don't think there could be any gain either. If the signal is already 24-bit there isn't anything for Beam to do - it makes the choices when you're reducing the wordlength.

The only way I could see it helping tracking is if you could hack the converters and apply Beam during the conversion from analogue to 24-bit. To be honest, I'm not even sure if that's something A-D converters can do
Old 5 days ago
  #19
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samson Sounds View Post
Thanks for your post. The intricacies of digital audio are not my specialty but I think I mostly understand. I’m still somewhat confused by “dither is applied to every sample”. Is that because every sample contains a zero crossing because of something to do with nyquist? I guess I’m confused as to why I don’t think I can really tell the difference between regular dithers, but with Chris’s I can and they sound great! It is super subtle but also one of the best ‘betterizers’ I have in my arsenal. I guess I don’t really need to know why, I’ll just keep on using it!
My understanding is:

Each sample is stored in your floating point DAW as a very long number. A 24-bit output file stores each sample as a shorter number. Truncating the number to a less precise one introduces a type of rounding error known as truncation distortion. (Bitcrushers intentionally change each sample to a much shorter number, making this distortion much more obvious!)

Normal dither has a noise to the least significant bit - on it's own this will be hovering around the zero crossing, but it will be added to each sample, whatever it's value. This randomises the bit where those rounding errors occurred and eliminates the truncation distortion (at the price of a faint noise which is generally agreed to be preferable to the distortion).

The Airwindows wordlength reducers make intentional choices about the last bit, so you get your shorter number for 24-bit, eliminating truncation distortion by shaping the tone - at the smallest part of each sample.
Old 5 days ago
  #20
Here for the gear
 

Hi, Chris! I totally agree, that Beam is the thing. Moreover, I think it's a new word in technology in general, because for me it sound much more musicial, than any dither in general. If you create few plugins with simmilar concept it actually can cover all the topic of word length reducing in general. The only question I have is: DeRez seems to raise bitdepth back to 64 in Reaper. Was it supposed to be like that? Does it mean, that when you use DeRez, you're not using the plugin as word lenght reducer anymore? Thanks!
Dima
Old 5 days ago
  #21
Lives for gear
 
candyflip's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by i_magi_nation View Post
The only question I have is: DeRez seems to raise bitdepth back to 64 in Reaper. Was it supposed to be like that? Does it mean, that when you use DeRez, you're not using the plugin as word lenght reducer anymore? Thanks!
Dima
Yes, that's correct. You would need to load up another instance and not use the DeRez part.
Old 4 days ago
  #22
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by candyflip View Post
Yes, that's correct. You would need to load up another instance and not use the DeRez part.
...which rather defeats the whole purpose of it. Using to dithering-plug-ins; one for bit-crushing to get the sound of the algorithm and a second instance to get the actual word-length reduction. As good as Beam sounds, who would go into such a hassle?

The only perspective I see out of it is to think of DeRez inside Beam as a different type of bitcrusher (different to the regular DeRez 2) to get a certain texture out of it. And then apply your regular dithering plug-in; most likely, the most transparent one you have (TDPF dither) because you already have the Beam sound from previously DeRez'ing it anyway. So it's really rather intricated, complex for such a small, subtle process. In my most humble opinion, of course.

Other than this, Beam sounds cool although its noise-floor makes me a bit nervous and I think I still prefer Dark or NJAD to it anyway. But there's of couse no doubt that @ chrisj is breaking the boundaries here.


Lic. Ezequiel Morfi | TITANIO
Buenos Aires, Argentina.-
Old 4 days ago
  #23
Lives for gear
 
StoneyBCN's Avatar
 

Thanks for the discussions @ Samson Sounds @ Cirrus and @ arkrabtree

Indeed, a Dither would be applying it's random noise to every sample - my bad for being unclear, as I often am. My line of thinking is that the process, while not actually applied selectively, is only valuable for it's work on either side of the zero-crossing; at least in the case of a TPDF Dither.

Before I go any further on the concept of applying these Airwindows Dithers for tone, I have a couple of new tracking sessions to set up for in the next few weeks (first since the pandemic) in which I'll endevour to sneak in a few further tests.

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