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AirWindows plugins

Postby Elephone » Sun Feb 03, 2019 6:26 pm

I'd like to know what people think of Chris and his AirWindows plugins. He has so many videos that I can't find it again, but he seems to have some insights into why accurate measurements might not yield 100% accurate emulations of analogue gear.
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:05 pm

Hi Elephone!

Chris Johnson is in my opinion a very talented guy, albeit with some idiosyncracies, and his Airwindows plug-in range can be a real rabbit hole that you can disappear into for weeks.

That's exactly what I've been doing with his Console 5 range, since I'm fascinated by his concept of a compromised real world mixing bus that DOESN'T perfectly sum every input sent to it, but instead the stronger signals can slightly modify the summing contribution of smaller ones. Some Airwindows plug-ins do have an obvious effect, while others are almost imperceptibly subtle in nature.

For instance, to my ears Console5 does manage to improve some aspects of 3D placement and front/back depth in a mix once a dozen or more tracks have been summed, but these are subtle changes, and some musicians simply won't notice the difference.

I've just spent some time evaluating his Desk4 (distinctive analog coloration), and found the changes too subtle for my now aging ears, but on the other hand I'm well chuffed with the results from Channel6 (a tone coloring plugin that gives more of an analog feel) with its Neve, API and SSL options and variable drive.

I've now got used to Chris' 'no GUI' approach since I agree that you should use your ears rather than your eyes when adjusting plug-ins. However, I would nevertheless prefer that his nominal parameter readouts (e.g. 0.0 to 1.0 or -1 through 0 to +1) are given in real world units i.e. frequency in Hz, amplitude in dB and so on.

I've also got used to Chris' proactive approach to releases, generally managing to get something new out on an almost weekly basis, but I do now hang back for a bit to see how others get on with each new release, as otherwise you can easily get totally lost. At this frequency, you don't get any manuals, just a personal Youtube tutorial from Chris that isn't always as clear and understandable as it might be.

Because of this, while you can download the entire Airwindows range free of charge, I prefer to only place those AW plug-ins in my vstplugins folder that I've tested out and fully understand.

There are plenty of absolute gems in the Airwindows collection though!


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby bmarsh » Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:12 pm

I've downloaded most of the Airwindows plugins but haven't had the time to really check them all out. A rabbit hole indeed, as Martin stated.

Two of them i have been using a lot recently are the Console 5 and the Guitar Conditioner plugs. Console 5 is very subtle but i definitely hear a difference with added depth and space as the tracks add up - especially when i bypass all instances and compare. Guitar Conditioner works great on clean and crunch guitar tracks, adding a nice top end sheen and subtle depth that i can't seem to match via EQ alone. It doesn't work on all guitar tracks (dependent on the guitar used and the tone you want to achieve), but i find most of the time it gets the job done - especially when amp sims are used. It makes them sound more "alive".
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby desmond » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:51 pm

Chris is a great guy and a DSP-beard of the finest order, but his products are not for me, really.

I don't want to have to remember which of the 11 different saturation plugins is the one that's thick, but not too thick, with an aggressive transient response versus the one that's a bit more clear but rather bitey in character, although not as clear as that other one that looks the same as all the rest...

It's too much cognitive load for me to really use them, so while I've occasionally tried them, they are not used much here.

The products I'd most like from him aren't the ones he wants to make - which is fine, all things aren't for everybody.

If you want to take the time to download, try them out, watch the videos, and find the few that really work for you, great... :thumbup:
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:08 pm

Firstly, welcome to the SOS Forums bmarsh! 8-)

Hope you enjoy your stay, and thanks for making your first post a useful one ;)


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:16 pm

desmond wrote:Chris is a great guy and a DSP-beard of the finest order, but his products are not for me, really.

It's too much cognitive load for me to really use them, so while I've occasionally tried them, they are not used much here.

If you want to take the time to download, try them out, watch the videos, and find the few that really work for you, great... :thumbup:

Words of wisdom there desmond, and I almost totally agree with you.)

Like you I think Chris is extremely talented in the 'mad scientist' mould (and I mean that as a compliment, since I aspire to the same moniker myself ;)).

The cognitive load is indeed a heavy one, but I find it offset by the educational aspect, as I learn what these algorithms actually sound like after the theory. After all, very few developers are as open about their methods.

And yes, I have downloaded them, watched (some) of the videos), and am in the process narrowing down the few that work reliably and well for me. Sometimes I totter on the brink of giving up, but then Chris releases another fascinating exploration into the plug-in art and I find myself donning headphones and performing yet more A/B tests and examinations inside the DDMF PluginDoctor utility.

It would probably help newcomers if Chris maintained separate 'best of' and 'archive' lists for his plug-ins, making it easier to audition the widely favorited ones and the 'this has its faults but some people still like it' versions.

Also, it would probably also help if Chris wrote at least some short .txt files to accompany each one that explain the function of every parameter, so newcomers don't have such a steep learning curve, but then he wouldn't be so free to continue exploring his plug-in fantasies and amaze us all on occasion :ugeek:

Nevertheless, I consider them worthy enough to support Chris on Patreon 8-)


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Elephone » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:15 pm

I'd rather spend time with plugins that approach truer emulations more closely, even if there is some messing about.

The simple interfaces don't put me off, as most plugins could actually be reduced to simple sliders anyway. In fact, I might even use the facility in Reaper whereby (I think) you can view all the parameters of any plugin as simple sliders (instead of virtual buttons, etc). Not so useful for something like FabFilter, but definitely for many plugins.

I like the Iron Oxide and ToTape plugins, at least tweaking by ear. I don't understand why he said TapeDust was a component of these because I can't hear the noise parameter when I turn it up. I'm not quite sure how to use Console 5 yet.

Cheers.
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Elephone » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:35 pm

Martin Walker wrote: That's exactly what I've been doing with his Console 5 range, since I'm fascinated by his concept of a compromised real world mixing bus that DOESN'T perfectly sum every input sent to it, but instead the stronger signals can slightly modify the summing contribution of smaller ones.

I do wonder sometimes about the slight lack of 'authenticity' when working entirely inside the box, whether this is the main reason. I mean, passing things through real circuits and preamps must add non-linearities before we even get into obvious effects of tape compression, etc. All kinds of strange subtle alterations must occur and accumulate using electronics. How transparent is a real volume fader compared to that of a DAW, for instance(?)

Martin Walker wrote: I've now got used to Chris' 'no GUI' approach since I agree that you should use your ears rather than your eyes when adjusting plug-ins.

To be honest, I find a lot of slick 3D interfaces distracting, or little more than a bit of cheesy fun. I don't feel they make plugins feel more legitimate, not anymore. I think FabFilter has the right approach in developing the best interface they can think of.

That said, I don't see why developers don't develop 'flip side' interfaces, with one representing the 3D gear and the other showing a more practical interface.
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby OK1 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:54 pm

Chris from Airwindows' approach is most gracious.

Plugins that you can try extensively, without pressure before you include them in your arsenal for more regular use.

Sure there are lots of them plugins, and the only real documentation is his unique style of videos.

And the only way you get a better sense of what might be happening, in my case is via tools like VST-Analyzer.

So his tools require an investment of time.

A while back I needed to change my workflow, to enable me implement all my key master channel, monitoring controls(mono, dim, volume changes), especially by very precise recall of stepped volume changes, via plugins which I could control quickly via keystrokes, rather than external MIDI controllers, or an external analog monitor controller, I discovered that theoretically, Airwindows plugin PurestGain, was the least colored gain/volume change plugin, as measured in VST-Analyzer, beating all monitoring plugins by other highly respected plugin developers. To me that was a testament to the outcome of his geek level.

Occasionally he makes changes, from his learning, and graciously modifies almost ALL of his plugins, and over the years version management is a huge challenge, cos you may prefer an older version, and there is no documented version control or any easy method to track back to the previous versions on his site.

On the other hand revising all plugins and making them available as a single download is exemplary on his part, and he does Windows, Linux, Mac, and 32/64 bit versions - that is some commitment on his part.

Interestingly last night, I wished I had a lot of money, enough to pay him a handsome wage, for a lifetime, like an endowment, so that he does not have the immediate pressure of money/Patreon/etc, and also hire a team to support the aspects like documentation and versioning, and release management, etc which he currently does not have time(or passion for) for., adding some pretty interfaces as an option for those who may like this.

As I do not have this money at this time, I wish someone like Justin of Reaper FM fame, would collaborate with Chris, e.g. make his plugins also available as Jesusonic plugins, which is another great platform for plugins.

Having a plugin developer one can actually see and interact with is special. His contributions need support, to preserve them for all of us, not just Patreon which is great for help with money, but other things, like publishing, versioning, etc.

We live in wonderful times - great minds....great opportunities...
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:25 pm

Well said OK1! :clap:

I agree that using Airwindows plug-ins requires an investment in time beyond most other developers, largely due to the lack of well-written manuals. I use DDMF Plugin Doctor to explore them more closely.

However, I personally find that investment of time well worth it, because I end up learning more about audio in its many guises, particularly by following some of Chris' more off-track experiments that turn out well despite sounding odd in print.

For instance, I've now spent a LOT of time exploring Console5 and its variants. At first I could definitely hear its effects, but they seemed very subtle indeed. However, I've now perfected suitable gain-staging to get the very best out of them, and can vary their effects from 'just perceptible' through 'spot on' to 'overly exaggerated'.


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Sun May 19, 2019 5:51 pm

Martin Walker wrote:I've now spent a LOT of time exploring Console5 and its variants. At first I could definitely hear its effects, but they seemed very subtle indeed. However, I've now perfected suitable gain-staging to get the very best out of them, and can vary their effects from 'just perceptible' through 'spot on' to 'overly exaggerated'.

Well, I've FINALLY finished a write-up of my Console5 findings on my web site, including hints and tips and a before/after audio demo.

SOUNDWORLDS 7: Optimising Airwindows Console5
http://www.yewtreemagic.co.uk/soundworlds7.php

Hope some of you find it useful! ;)


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby OK1 » Sun May 19, 2019 7:23 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Martin Walker wrote:I've now spent a LOT of time exploring Console5 and its variants. At first I could definitely hear its effects, but they seemed very subtle indeed. However, I've now perfected suitable gain-staging to get the very best out of them, and can vary their effects from 'just perceptible' through 'spot on' to 'overly exaggerated'.

Well, I've FINALLY finished a write-up of my Console5 findings on my web site, including hints and tips and a before/after audio demo.

SOUNDWORLDS 7: Optimising Airwindows Console5
http://www.yewtreemagic.co.uk/soundworlds7.php

Hope some of you find it useful! ;)

Martin

Brilliant.

I've bookmarked your excellent writeup.

Thanks for sharing the sterling results of your praiseworthy research.

It has given me a lot of food for thought. And your use of the the BlueCat Gain plugin feature to "VCA" the gains identically on multiple channels, and reverse the gain, on the mixbus. Brilliant.

One question. On the channels, is the Airwindows console plugin 1st or last plugin in the channel plugin chain, before the channel faders.....? I assume it's the last.

In more recent times, especially using analysis methods similar to those you applied (audio meters, spectral viewers like Voxengo SPAN, and VST analyzers - I alternate b/w the original VST Analyser and the new one from DDMF, etc.) I did give a few Airwindows plugins more attention, and have started to use its DItherBox plugin, for dithering tasks, as a result, and am likely to consider using more of his plugins.
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Sun May 19, 2019 7:50 pm

OK1 wrote:Brilliant.

I've bookmarked your excellent writeup.

Thanks for sharing the sterling results of your praiseworthy research.

Thanks for your kind words too :thumbup:

OK1 wrote:One question. On the channels, is the Airwindows console plugin 1st or last plugin in the channel plugin chain, before the channel faders.....? I assume it's the last.

Yes, Console5channel is the last plug-in on each channel, immediately before the channel faders. The faders themselves should all be left at 0dB to maintain the level parity between each of these channel plug-ins and the Console5Buss plug-in on the master channel.

In this screenshot of my typical Reaper project you can see them all in place, along with CHANDRIVE (Blue Cat gain positive) and BUSSDRIVE (Blue Cat gain negative) in place:

Image

You can vary each channel level with a trim plug-in placed before Console5channel, or via automation.


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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby CS70 » Tue May 21, 2019 12:54 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Martin Walker wrote:I've now spent a LOT of time exploring Console5 and its variants. At first I could definitely hear its effects, but they seemed very subtle indeed. However, I've now perfected suitable gain-staging to get the very best out of them, and can vary their effects from 'just perceptible' through 'spot on' to 'overly exaggerated'.

Well, I've FINALLY finished a write-up of my Console5 findings on my web site, including hints and tips and a before/after audio demo.

SOUNDWORLDS 7: Optimising Airwindows Console5
http://www.yewtreemagic.co.uk/soundworlds7.php

Hope some of you find it useful! ;)


Martin


Very cool Martin. I gave a try to Console5 on a mix I've in progress and I was sold immediately! Surely luck with gain staging I had :)
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby CS70 » Tue May 21, 2019 12:57 pm

One more thing, since I normally mix by sending stuff to busses and then mixing the busses (not necessary stems but stuff like snare mics into a snare bus, etc), I put the Console 5 on the buses. By definition they are a bit hotter than the raw tracks and that seems indeed to help.
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Re: AirWindows plugins

Postby Martin Walker » Tue May 21, 2019 1:54 pm

Hi CS70,

Thanks for the compliments, and I'm pleased your hearing the benefits already 8-)

As you say, perhaps your gain staging already suited the Console5 pair, although my experience suggests that the more tracks have Console5 on them, the more the euphonic effects blossom at the summing stage.

I put Console5 on my reverb buss as well as the normal channels, but then it gets a little complicated, since (referring to my above screenshot):

1. The final plug-in in each channel is Console5Channel.

2. The first plug-in in the reverb buss must therefore be Channel5Buss (to complete the pair), so that each aux send travels from c5channel to c5buss for summing together.

3. The final plug-in in the reverb buss is now Console5Channel again, so that when the reverb buss reaches the master Channel it sees the initial Console5Buss plug-in, to once again complete the pairing.

This routing may all sound complex at first, but once you incorporate it into a project template you never have to think about it again. That's partly why I wrote my web page - I had to think all this confusion through for myself, but many people seem to give up before this stage and abandon the potential 3D benefits, which is a great shame ;)


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