compressor aficionados (8) – Sascha Eversmeier

Sascha, are you a musician yourself or do you have some other sort of musical background? And how did you once got started developing your very own audio DSP effects?

I started learning to play bass guitar in early 1988, when I was 16. Bass is still my main instrument, although I also play a tiny bit of 6-string, but I’d say I suck at that.

The people I played with in a band in my youth where mostly close friends I grew up with, and most of us kept on making music together when we finished school a couple of years later. I still consider that period (mid-nineties) as sort of my personal heyday, musical-wise. It’s when you think you’re doing brilliant things but the world doesn’t take notice. Anyway. Although we all started out doing Metal, we eventually did Alternative and a bit of Brit-influenced Wave Rock back then.

That was also the time when more and more affordable electronic gear came up, so apart from doing the usual rock-band lineup, we also experimented with samplers, DATs, click tracks and PCs as recording devices. While that in fact made the ‘band’ context more complex – imagine loading in a dozen disks into the E-MU on every start of the rehearsal until we equipped it with an MO drive – we soon found ourselves moving away from writing songs through jamming and more to actually “assembling” them by using a mouse pointer. In hindsight, that was really challenging. Today, the DAW world and the whole process of creating music is so much simpler and intuitive, I think.

My first “DAW” was a PC running at 233Mhz, and we used PowerTracks Pro and Micro Logic – a stripped-down version of Logic -, although the latter never clicked with me. In 1996 or 97 – can’t remember – I purchased Cubase and must have ordered right within a grace period, as I soon got a letter from Steinberg saying they now finished the long-awaited VST version and I could have it for free, if I want. WTF? I had no idea what they were talking about. But Virtual Studio Technology, that sounded like I was given the opportunity to upgrade myself to being “professional”. How flattering, you clever marketing guys. Yes, gimme the damn thing, hehe.

When VST arrived, I was blown away. I had a TSR-8 reel machine, a DA-88 and a large Allen&Heath desk within reach and was used to run the computer as a midi sequencer mainly. And now, I could do it all inside that thing. Unbelievable. Well, the biggest challenge then was finding an affordable audio card, and I bought myself one that only had S/PDif in & outputs and was developed by a German electronics magazine and sold in small amounts through a big retail store in Cologne, exclusively. 500 Deutschmarks for 16 bits on an ISA card. Wow.

The first plugin I bought was Waves Audio Track, sort of a channel strip, which was a cross-promotion offer from Steinberg back then, 1997, I guess. I can still recall its serial number by heart.

Soon, the plugin scene lifted off, and I collected everything I could, like the early mda stuff, NorthPole and other classics. As our regular band came to nothing, we gathered our stuff and ran sort of a small project studio where we recorded other bands and musicians and started using the PC as the main recording device. I upgraded the audio hardware to an Echo Darla card, but one of my mates soon brought in a Layla rack unit so that we had plenty of physical ins and outs.

You really couldn’t foresee where the audio industry would go, at least I couldn’t. I went fine with this “hybrid” setup for quite a long time, and did lots of recording and editing back then, but wasn’t even thinking of programming audio software myself at all. I had done a few semesters of EE studies, but without really committing myself much.

Then the internet came along. In 1998, I made a cut and started taking classes in Informatics. Finished in 2000, I moved far away, from West Germany, to Berlin and had my first “real” job in one of those “new economy” companies, doing web-based programming and SQL. That filled the fridge and was fun to do somehow, but wasn’t really challenging. As my classes included C, C++ and also Assembler, and I still got a copy of Microsoft’s Visual Studio, I signed up to the VST SDK one day. At first, I might have done pretty much the same thing as everybody: compile the “gain” and “delay” plugin examples and learn how it all fits together. VST was still at version 1 at that time, so there were no instruments yet, but I wasn’t interested much in those anyway, or at least I could imagine writing myself a synthesizer. What I was more interested in was how to manipulate the audio so that it could sound like a compressor or a tube device. I was really keen on dynamics processing at that time, perhaps because I always had too few of those units. I had plenty available when I was working part-time as a live-sound engineer, but back in my home studio, a cheap Alesis, dbx or Behringer was all I could afford. So why not try to program one? I basically knew how to read schematics, I knew how to solder, and I thought I knew how things should sound like, so I just started out hacking things together. Probably in the most ignorant and naive way, from today’s perspective. I had no real clue, and no serious tool set, apart from an old student’s copy of Maple and my beloved Corel 7. But there were helpful people on the internet and a growing community of people devoted to audio software, and that was perhaps the most important factor. You just weren’t alone. [Read more…]

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compressor aficionados (7) – Dave Gamble

Dave, can you tell us a little about how you got into music, and your professional career as an audio effects developer so far?

Started writing trackers as a child, then wrote some code to allow me to DJ with trackers. By 14 I was writing commercial software. Had some great teachers and lecturers who helped me a lot. Did my final-year project with Focusrite. Won the project prize. Spent 4.5 years at Focusrite (I was employee 12 or 13) to add DSP to the company, during which time we acquired Novation, and grew quite a lot. We made a lot of money from audio interfaces, so that kinda took over, and I wanted to get back to the DSP (at Focusrite I did Forte suite, helped with Liquid Channel/Mix, Saffire suite, plus other non DSP projects). Left for Sonalksis, built all their shipping products (except CQ1 and DQ1), although I’d built tbk1 years before and they’d been selling it. Was fun but chaotic. Left to go freelance so I could start my own outfit, during which time I worked with Neyrinck, TAC System, Focusrite, Novation, Studio Devil, FXpansion, Brainworx/Plugin Alliance, etc. Then started dmgaudio. And here we are now. [Read more…]

announcing Thrillseeker VBL – Vintage Broadcast Limiter

Bringing mojo back – Thrillseeker VBL is an emulation of a “vintage broadcast limiter” following the classic Variable-Mu design principles from the early 1950’s. They were used to prevent audio overshoots by managing sudden signals changes. From today’s perspective, and compared to brickwall limiters, they are rather slow and should be seen as more of a gain structure leveler, but they still are shining when it comes to perform gain riding in a very musical fashion – they have warmth and mojo written all over.

Thrillseeker VBL is a “modded” version, which not only has the classic gain reduction controls but also grants detailed access to the amount and appearance of harmonic tube amplifier distortion occurring in the analog tube circuit. Applied in subtle doses, this dials in that analog magic we often miss when working in the digital domain, but you can also overdrive the circuit to have more obvious but still musical sounding harmonic distortion (and according side-effects) for use as a creative effect.

On top, Thrillseeker VBL offers an incredibly authentic audio transformer simulation which not only models the typical low-end harmonic distortion but also all the frequency and load dependent subtleties occurring in a transformer coupled tube circuit, and which add up to that typical mojo we know from the analog classics. This would not have been possible with plain waveshaping techniques but has been realized with my innovative Stateful Saturation approach, making it possible to model circuits having a (short) sort of memory.

Release date is not yet confirmed but most probably will be in May this year.

tasty meal preparations with Density mkIII

Since precise routing and stuff like that is not taken down into the cookbook as of now, here are some exciting tips and tricks to experiment with and maybe to obtain a different approach to cook audio with Density mkIII.

Starter

As a starter just use the default preset and dial in huge amounts of compression right with the DRIVE knob. Now mix this back to the dry signal by using the DRY:WET option to obtain a thick sounding result (New York style compression). Since the COLOR option ignores any DRY:WET settings one can dial it in afterwards to thicken the soup even further. Hmm, tasty!

Second course

Set DRY:WET back to a 100% wet signal but also pull RANGE back to the left so that there will be no gain reduction anymore. There is no compression anymore now but one can still use the MAKEUP knob to drive the gain of the non-linear circuits. Use this and experience a hot (driven) meal.

Main course

By finishing the second course, you not only have a sophisticated non-linear amplifier now where you can dial in the coloration with the COLOR knob to taste. You also can use this in M/S mode to adjust the stereo imaging in a quite unique fashion just by adjusting the amounts of saturation per channel right with the MAKEUP knobs. Omph, I’m feelin so wide now!

Dessert

Just dial in again some amounts of compression by turning RANGE clockwise, maybe full to the right but RELAX the attack times so that some transients can pass. Those will be eaten now by the non-linear amplifier as an added sugar.

Espresso, anyone?

the Dynacord VRS-23 analog delay

(click images to enlarge)

The VRS-23 was a quite successful BBD delay in the 80’s and some thousands of units were sold during that time. It’s a mono-in / stereo-out device and capable of delay times up to around 400ms. Providing also very short timings and a modulation option makes it capable of creating chorus and flanger type of effects as well. There were different revisions available and shown here is a later one with the white faceplate. [Read more…]

the Ibanez AD202 analog delay

The so-called bucked-brigade device (BBD) delay line generator is a somehow quirky and really unique technical design. Such  devices are built upon analog components entirely, but being discrete in time they are halfway digital. Their analog input voltage samples are stored and moved through a line of capacitors one step after another and hence the name comes from analogy with the term bucket brigade: a line of people passing buckets full of water. [Read more…]

NastyVCS – released today

NastyVCS

NastyVCS - Virtual Console Strip

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NastyVCS – I can has dynamics

NastyVCS - compression controlThe upcoming NastyVCS virtual console strip VST plug-in will feature three pristine and complementary tools to shape the audio dynamics. This allows a vast variety of different dynamic treatments and here is a very first and brief overview: [Read more…]

NastyVCS – virtual console strip

NastyVCS

virtual console strip

I’m really proud to announce the NastyVCS virtual console strip which finally brings the beloved “nasty” signal coloration series onto the next level.

Build entirely new around an opto-electric style compression unit, NastyVCS offers everything you need to shape your channels dynamics and tone. It offers a dedicated input stage featuring crunchy pre-amp saturation and a brickwall safety limiter  in the output stage while everything is set up to work in zero latency and so to have it available for hassle free tracking and mixing. Two dedicated filters can be used in either the audio path or in the compressors sidechain which can be external as well. [Read more…]

about audio signal coloration

In this comprehensive article some deeper explorations and explanations on this topic are given and at the end a brief but handy definition about audio signal coloration is proposed.  Some tips on mixing can be obtained here as well and – by the way – some myth about equalizing audio in the digital domain gets busted.

Digital image spectrum

Digital imaging spectrum

[Read more…]