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

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.