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Airwindows Desk! (AU)
Old 2nd December 2009
  #1
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Airwindows Desk! (AU)

So, here's the deal- I have been reading about Harrison Mixbus, and as I so often do, I went HEY that's a really good idea, I wonder if I can do something like that only a lot better but only available as an AU plugin without any blinkenlights or GUI fanciness

Well... depends.

Airwindows Audio Unit Plugins

Note lack of GUI fanciness- like ADClip and ShortBuss, this one is totally blank. No controls at all. You put a copy of it on absolutely everything- every channel, buss, aux, output etc. It's specifically meant so you can go through lots of instances of the plug at each stage without ruining the sound- no mud.

This causes a problem- maybe. You see, I decided what I was hearing out of MixBuss was too exaggerated- I have plugs to do tape effects like Iron Oxide, stuff for making a buss soak up peaks like ShortBuss, I didn't want this to be more of the same. I wanted it to do its thing but remain totally versatile.

I set it up so that I could slam brutally treble-boosted shiny synth pads through multiple instances without obliterating the shininess- so I could slam loud tracks at nearly +18 db over clipping (thank you, Logic floating point bussing) before things went splat. They go splat like a console going splat, not like tape saturation- you don't really want this as a fuzzbox, it doesn't work like that.

How does it work, and what does it do?

It takes the linear math of each DAW stage, and replaces each stage with ultra-clean but nonlinear math. Throughout. Both in signal amplitude- AND in slew, which is a significant upgrade over pretty much anything still using ordinary saturation and EQ methods.

If you liked Channel, and like so many people ended up going for that 'API' setting on the slew limiting and about 50% on the added density- and especially if you tried the revised Channel and freaked out and made me put it back- guess what, I have figured out why the original code was so much better than the 'new coke' version, and this new Desk plugin is like what you were appreciating in the original Channel, but MORE so. Frankly, it makes Channel sound like crud- and Channel already beat out a lot of other stuff, partly because it was so gentle to most sound. For a lot of sounds, Channel's slew clipping never kicked in and the added thickness was a super gentle curve with a break in it right where you hit 0 (digital clip) if you used 50% on the slider, as most people did.

Well, this time the slew isn't clipping, it's a continuous curve that's always in effect. The density function isn't a curve mixed with dry signal, it too is a continuous curve but it only peaks out at near +18 db, so it's even more gentle and deals with peaks going over 0 on the Logic buss accurately. This time, you can track into Logic like you were gain staging on a real console- track at the desired mix level with faders around 0 and have the sounds automatically gel- hit a buss really hard if you want to get silly- work like it's on a real console and have it behave correctly, not like hypothetical digital math equations.

The kicker (which might turn and bite me, I don't care) is this: it won't sound like fake plugin warmth or faux tape mud. No mud. You will have to have decent monitoring and use several instances to CLEARLY hear an obvious difference between the raw DAW and Airwindows Desk. I didn't set this up to sound cool and grungey and rock and roll all by itself. This one's for the golden-ears. This one's for the guys who actually know how to gain stage on real consoles, who want it to sound huge and clean and undistracting yet still alive.

If you can tell the difference between raw digital buss and a really GOOD console even when the latter isn't clipping left and right, if you want analog spaciousness but don't want to give up any of the airy highs you know how to convey, if you are done with both clinical and muddy and want to just get down to business- merry Xmas, or indeed any other holiday you prefer

If you just want to hear it for yourself- there IS a demo (my usual periodically-muting, not-for-real-work demo- look for DeskDemo.component in this- http://www.jinxtigr.com/f/AirwindowsDemos.dmg )

Then if that seems promising, the actual plugin can be had right away at the big red button on the Desk page- Airwindows Audio Unit Plugins and in honor of Harrison being so nice to price their Mixbuss at $80, Airwindows Desk is ten bucks cheaper than my usual top price just so I can get it into the hands of more people- Desk is $49.

Like with all my stuff I support it for life for free- which is easy for me to say since I don't have to deal with any of the hard things a real mix platform has to deal with like CoreAudio and aggregate devices. Each instance of Desk is just an AU with no controls and no interface, which is way easier to keep going reliably.

Happy holidays, folks- I'm probably spent for the year at this point, but I think this is a big deal and I'm excited to start using this. As always, this post means the thing is out right now- enjoy

-chris
Old 2nd December 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 
miro's Avatar
 

chris on fire again heh
of course i'm interested in the sound of "desk" but wondering that you really
compare it to HMB, which seems a different thing, since it's an entire enviroment. i like your "channel" in my mixes, esp. drumbuss etc. applies more balls and density especially on low end without increasing the peak too strong.
at the moment, when it's about "console on your daw channels/busses" people are raving (incl. myself) for alex b's console impulses
AlexB Nebula Libraries by Alessandro Boschi
(did you ever try nebula? it's available for mac, even if not "official" yet...but you can buy it) sorry to throw this in here aswell, but i think these comparisons are always worth an open discussion

i said it before, i love airwindows stuff! did you ever think of making bundles of your plugins? could be attracting!

cheers
M_
Old 2nd December 2009
  #3
Lives for gear
 

tried it and didn't like it, sorry
i thought it made the high-end dull
Old 2nd December 2009
  #4
First ONLY RTAS, and then ONLY AU. whats with the VST hate?
Old 2nd December 2009
  #5
Lives for gear
 
hey_mavis's Avatar
 

nice
Old 2nd December 2009
  #6
Great - I will check this out ASAP....
Old 2nd December 2009
  #7
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
I compare it to Harrison Mixbuss because that's what inspired the project- from what I can see, the environment of Mixbuss is like an alternate DAW and what's really lighting people up is the sound of it, which is something that can be done inside Logic (at least the general concept of the sound)

hankdrummer- cool, my main worry was that people wouldn't be able to hear it at all I don't mind that it affects highs- all fake tape/console/etc stuff tends to do that, I was trying to do it less than most competing approaches. I was testing it out on some pretty aggressively bright stuff and set it up so that it would have an effect but not seriously change the character of the sound, just lay it back.

Raw DAW will always have more unrestrained highs than any faux desk plugin or even real live gear- the question is whether that's good, consensus seems to be 'no, you always want to address digital highs in SOME way'. I agree with that, hence Desk
Old 2nd December 2009
  #8
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miro's Avatar
 

then you should at least include a saturation, as HMB has
Old 3rd December 2009
  #9
A side note, but isn't "console" a more sexy name then "desk"

Trying it out now - will report back.
Old 3rd December 2009
  #10
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by miro View Post
then you should at least include a saturation, as HMB has
There is. It saturates at about +18 db. It's just like with the slew curve- at normal levels you shouldn't hear it as saturation. I've got plenty of other plugs for doing saturation points nearer 0 db. This one is for operating nowhere near its clipping point

Again, it IS doing a saturation but it's even gentler than Channel at 50%- and it's doing a slew saturation rather than a hard clip or limit, which is more unusual and the reason one poster heard a loss of highs. I was more worried nobody would hear a difference between it and bypass, because it's awful transparent due to the extreme gentleness of the curves.
Old 3rd December 2009
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Sounds like a great idea, I find a lot of saturation plugins to be over-the-top. Unfortunately, I'm in VST land and can't try it out...
Old 3rd December 2009
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Same here, VST version of your plugins will be nice...
Old 3rd December 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
 
everythinglouder's Avatar
 

Chris, I like pretty much everything you do -- DrumSlam and ClassicChannel are in most of my projects -- but I indeed find Desk to be *too* subtle. Just my opinion, and my ears may not be as golden as others'... but even with 3 instances in a row, I couldn't hear enough of a change to warrant 3 slots on my Logic mix sub-window.

I could hear a tiny bit of saturation and transient hyping on the upper-mids, but I didn't hear any added fullness. Regardless, good luck and I'll be looking forward to your products in 2010.
Old 3rd December 2009
  #14
ep1c0ne
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by hankdrummer View Post
tried it and didn't like it, sorry
i thought it made the high-end dull
Have to disagree with you on that. It seems pretty dynamic depending on how hot the signal is. I think it's just right.
Old 3rd December 2009
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Mixocalypse's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by everythinglouder View Post
but I indeed find Desk to be *too* subtle. Just my opinion, and my ears may not be as golden as others'... but even with 3 instances in a row, I couldn't hear enough of a change to warrant 3 slots on my Logic mix sub-window.
I havent tried this yet.. so

I think the idea is to replace your entire mixer with this. Meaning you need it on all tracks, buss/aux, outputs. then create a full mix. As suggested this should make your daw "act" more like an analog console. So its not like you just pile it on a single channel and expect it to act like a saturation plugin... thats not the case. the effect should come as an analog summing type deal.
Hopefully leading to more "analog like" mixes... wider, fuller with the ability to saturate like a solid state console can.

Im interested in trying this out when I have time.. neat concept Chris.
Old 4th December 2009
  #16
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Yup, StaticStudio has it exactly right

Cool, it looks like I'm getting complaints from EVERY direction which of course means it's perfect

No seriously- I joke, but I am pleased, because here's the thing- I always want some form of analog-console-deskifier, but as soon as I DO put something on (including stuff of my own like Iron Oxide) it's too much and I want it to be clean again. I did ShortBuss which was my best up to now, and it's a more pronounced effect, but I wanted more openness out of it (that said I may still end up using it on 2-buss for its peak-eating capabilities). I did ADClip which is the other extreme, but unless it's clipping it does nothing, so in normal use it's not enough. The porridge is always too hot or too cold or possibly flavored with hideous artificial sweeteners that induce psychosis and unmotivated despair.

Desk really is going to be 'just right' for some people, because to me the heart of the matter really is getting the 'magic analog involvingness' vibe going while not invoking ANY distracting colorations, apart from typically eating some of the digital highs- but even then you should only be able to tell through A/Bing on damn good monitoring.

Anything more obvious is putting layers of goo in the way of the music, so it should always seem as though nothing is there.

Anything LESS obvious is failing to address the problems we get in DAW mixing like disassociated, over-forward tracks that won't gel together and that vibe like shattered glass. I'm still convinced that pure linear math isn't musical. Performances can be, but to convey them in audio requires a more natural way of combining the sound.

I guess if someone found Desk to eat TOO much digital highs, they could just put one instance on the 2-buss or on an aux- I've never done quite as good a digital glare-eater, so it surely can serve other purposes as well. I'm pretty sure nobody else is doing anything like this- working directly on slew has been my thing for some years now, but there's a big difference between a slew clipper like Classic Channel and a continuous saturation curve like in Desk.

That's separate from the amplitude saturation curve, BTW- that makes two different continuous curves in Desk both with 32-bit floating point resolution on the saturation part. Can't fault the smoothness of the routines
Old 5th December 2009
  #17
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Thanks everybody- this one turned out to be a huge success looks like I have another Iron Oxide on my hands, which is just awesome

Again, the idea with this one is for it to be like the spine of the DAW- it goes last on channel strips so things like EQ etc. are affected, but it goes before everything on the 2-buss so if you have peaks way above zero that will be handled by limiting or clipping, you should get the correct coloration out of the buss from Desk. If you put it after 2-buss limiting, it'll prevent the full flavor from coming out.

Think of it like the Desk plugin is the two ends of the patchcord connecting anything to anything else. It comes out of the channel (which is otherwise clean) and then the other end of the patchcord is the 2-buss end, where a single copy of Desk sums everything. It doesn't directly handle overs- what it does is give you the flavor of how the desk sounds on overs. Subsequent limiting, compression or clipping then give you the output signal.
Old 5th December 2009
  #18
Lives for gear
 
XHipHop's Avatar
More user reviews please!

Are you guys liking the character it imparts on your mixes?

Are mixes coming together easier for you? The same...just a slightly different tone?
Old 5th December 2009
  #19
Gear Addict
 

Sounds interesting. Got demo but didn't fully try yet. But man it takes a lot of faith buying this plugin. It's a blank instance/plug on your chain. So much for an atheist engineer.heh
Old 5th December 2009
  #20
Ok, this "desk" is the bomb - tried it on all my groups & busses post fx as Chris suggests (not every individual track-probably 12 instances) and things were totally creamier and more 3D - subtly, yes, but that what this is all about - I am posting some examples for you pleasure.

Nice work Chris - this really useful and tasty...
Attached Files
File Type: aif Somalil.aif (1.88 MB, 694 views) File Type: aif Somalil Desk.aif (1.88 MB, 679 views)
Old 5th December 2009
  #21
Lives for gear
 
farjedi's Avatar
 

hard to tell in that example, there is a slight softer quality to the desk version perhaps, but it could be placebo, it's doing something but you could live without...I'd be more interested in hearing someone abusing it and showing off it's capabilites. How much CPU does it use?...
Old 5th December 2009
  #22
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Very little CPU. And to abuse it you'd probably run it on an aux, hit the aux super hard and then keep the aux fader relatively low- it dies horribly at about +18 db. You're basically talking about intentionally gain staging wrong in order to hear how it breaks up in extremis. When you blow way past +18 db it sounds very strained and can even choke up on some sounds- overdriving a console isn't always like overdriving an amp or the input stage of a console. There's already a million plugins to do that.

Desk's capabilities ARE to change the texture and space of the mix without radically altering any of the sounds. If you need it to really be slammed in order to be happy you should not use it, you should use something else. This is for people who have heard more heavyhanded channel/buss/toob/tape effects and do not like them...
Old 6th December 2009
  #23
Gear Head
 
muzikhead's Avatar
 

Lightbulb

Hi Chris,
Congrats on your new Desk!
I like my MixBuss a lot but until ardour has decent MIDI capabilities I'll have to stick to Logic for a little longer. For this reason I was intrigued to see your new Desk.
For some time now, I've been gain staging my tracks per Bob Katz's system (0db analog = -14dbfs digital). Can you make Desk to do it's magic on that range? how about having an option to choose between 0 to +18 dbfs effective range to -12dbfs to +6 dbfs?
Also, I think it'll be killer if you could let people decide how subtle Desk is . Suggested mode names:
Sex
Drugs
Rock'n'roll!

Cheers
Old 6th December 2009
  #24
Lives for gear
 
farjedi's Avatar
 

Well, the audio example posted shows little change in depth and space, that I could tell..Its not that I necessarily just want to distort stuff but understand what this tool is capable of achieving..so far my impression is it's so subtle, why bother...
Old 6th December 2009
  #25
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
he he, sex and drugs and rock-n-roll?

Placebo means it's not doing anything, and that's not fair to Desk. This isn't supposed to be an EQ move or anything (though I did have one listener decide he lost too MUCH high-end to Desk)

I still feel there's lots of plugins that do the 'more' thing, including my own. If you want lots more softening (in a different manner, but still) get Smooth, dial that in, that's quite extreme. If you want lots more fatness and ability to go into distortion, get ShortBuss- I use that myself. If you want lots more up-frontness and body, run Density, dial it in, that one's even free and it won't hurt the sound unless you set it to do so. Not every plugin has to do everything, especially when some of the alternatives are totally free.

Harrison Mixbus is almost as inexpensive as Desk and has the controls over different stuff having different saturation, and a more obvious sound- or range of sounds. It's not as subtle but why should it be? There's room for different approaches and preferences.

Consider that if I'm that dead set on making Desk be exactly this subtle, and to be set up in exactly such a way, that maybe even if it doesn't sound like a huge massive change there's a reason I wanted it exactly at that level.

There's a reason I wanted it exactly at that level.

I serve the song and the musical expression first, not the desire of the mix engineer to hear a big difference when the plug kicks in. I think I have it at the RIGHT amount of subtlety vs. audibility. Gain staging will do the rest... track airy stuff kinda low and it won't get stomped on, track normally and things will gel without the tones getting overly stepped on.

Trust me
Old 6th December 2009
  #26
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Mixocalypse's Avatar
 

thinking out loud.....
I mean if we are comparing Desk to MixBuss... I look at it like this.

A bought mixbus... for me the biggest pain in the ass is routing out of logic. It is easy enough but.. ehh... ya know.. just slows work flow for me.
Im not about to drop logic and work exclusively in MB thats for sure...

Mixbuss is a DAW its self, I think that Desk is offering an attempt at the whole restructuring of our daws mix engine. I like that concept better and feel thats where Harrison should have gone, there where even rumors of UA doing this a while back when we saw ad pics of the UAD2.

Anyway I think Chris is onto something here and hopefully other plugin guys will start to develop stuff like this.
Or even the DAW makers should open their mix engines in order to "insert" a global mix buss.

It would be cool to see Desk or others like it even do the sound of, API, SSL, NEVE, Harrison, Trident, Helios... mackie kidding...

Still haven't tried this yet, the idea is great.


Pete
Old 6th December 2009
  #27
Gear Head
 
muzikhead's Avatar
 

When working on an analog console I can decide how much I drive it. I don't won't to change consoles (=plug-ins) every time I need it to be a little more colorful, nor I want to _think_ about it. (I'd pick my console ahed of time depending on the material I'm working on). I just want to do it right there and then. It's like having to replace my tires every time I want to drive my car out. It's better to make a tire that work for most situations (for the area you live in) so you can just go.

I think you're on to a good thing with Desk.

For me, I need just _one_ tool that does that console behavior emulation well for most situations so I can move on to take care of the other gazzilion things I have to do on the mix. just my 2 cents.
Old 6th December 2009
  #28
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
cool- actually I thought of the perfect analogy. Desk is the salt in the recipe. JUST salt.

You almost always have salt in stuff (if you don't cook with it, check out the ingredients of processed foods) because without it, the flavors don't come together right. But almost never are you looking for the OBVIOUS flavor of salt. Almost always, if it's strong enough to fight with other flavors, that's wrong (we'll ignore stuff like pretzels and movie popcorn). The idea is you have to have it but it brings out everything else without always calling attention to itself.

THAT'S what I do with Desk. It's there to bring out other textures more than to directly produce a sound. It's taken some years to solve the problem- it's fine to sample impulses off various desks and if you want those 'spices' more power to you, but to me it was a problem of finding what made the ideal console- what would DO the console things without just being slapped-on coloration. I'm happy I found it.

The secrets are definitely using WAY gentler curves and nonlinearities than people usually go for- and putting a curve on the slew as well, rather than just brick-walling it. I have to encourage other developers to fool around with slew behavior, not just amplitude behavior- there's a whole world of creamier, juicier DAW sounds waiting to happen when you realize that there is no isolated sample, there's just the relation between successive sample points and what that means to the underlying waveform. A sample all by itself means NOTHING. It doesn't even represent a voltage anymore...

Coming down from abstract ideas a bit, you know that you can use anything in the way I'm suggesting Desk be used. Anything after channel effects and also before 2-buss effects will function like the 'spine' of a console. Particularly stuff with some saturation behavior, and stuff with subtle tonal effects.

The only reason Desk is better than that other stuff is because it's the right kinds of saturation/restriction, and because it's unusually transparent while applying those sounds. Anything with opaqueness or artifacts will do more damage than help. Like I always say about tape effects- test that stuff by hitting it with sine waves ramping up and down in volume, that will ruthlessly expose anything that will cause you problems. If you get anything like a sweeping flangey sound or an edge that changes with the amplitude, you found something you don't want as the backbone of your DAW.
Old 6th December 2009
  #29
Lives for gear
 
XHipHop's Avatar
Hey Chrisj,

I'm about to pull the trigger on Desk and throw it into the fire on a mix I have to do tonight (hopefully the store you use delivers fast).

Anyway, do you recommend also mixing with shortbuss? I believe i read somewhere but I can't locate it now.
Old 6th December 2009
  #30
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by XHipHop View Post
Hey Chrisj,

I'm about to pull the trigger on Desk and throw it into the fire on a mix I have to do tonight (hopefully the store you use delivers fast).

Anyway, do you recommend also mixing with shortbuss? I believe i read somewhere but I can't locate it now.
I'll keep an eye on my email and if Kagi is slow for any reason I'll hook you up.

ShortBuss is for soaking up peaks above 0 db, which Desk by itself will not do- you should quick try out the demo and see if you like how that works. Without Shortbuss or ADClip or a limiter, Desk won't stop your output from clipping. Shortbuss gives more of a 'mix sound' and ADClip is more soundless when not actively clipping.

My own setup now defaults to Desk on every channel and first on the 2-buss, and then ShortBuss after it so I can hit the buss harder if I want and not get overs. I like mixing directly to the desired output level, rather than keeping lots of headroom and then 'mastering' afterwards...
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