Hard Vacuum

TL;DW: Tube style saturation effects


Time to revisit an Airwindows classic!

This is one of the plugins Airwindows ‘made its bones’ on, brought up to date and converted to VST for Mac, Windows and Linux (and made open source!)

Hard Vacuum refers to vacuum tubes, and as you’d expect it’s a saturation device but with some interesting twists. It’s got a warmth control that brings in second harmonic and nonlinearity like you might see in a class A tube design, but set up to be abused if you’d like to produce exaggerated effects (that aren’t really ‘warm’ anymore, but if you want to play nice, don’t push this control too far). It’s got a nice Airwindows sine-based saturation curve… and it’s got a control called Aura that will bring out sparkly highs and hot searing overtones you might not have heard from a plugin before.

The way that one works is thus: I saw scope traces of tube circuits that were showing slanty tops on squarewaves, like the power supplies weren’t keeping up. It became an obsession to make plugin saturation do that, and I came up with something that turned into Aura. Note that this is NOT ‘analog modeling’, not as people normally mean it: I’m rarely interested in running hapless audio through lots of math pretending to be electronic parts. I generally want a simple, unexpected algorithm that’ll do what I intend with minimal unnecessary math, because I find that overprocessing digital audio hurts the tone.

As such, Aura doesn’t model any specific tube. You could probably combine it with Desk4 and who knows what else, to make a really good emulation given decent reference material, but Aura is simply a way to doctor the tone in a way that’s not EQ. By that I mean, the effect might lift up highs but it’s not working in terms of frequency zones, it sees only the amplitude of any given moment and the angle by which it reached that moment. Think of it as an extra thing you can do to the sound. This one’s sat around being Mac AU only for ten years before getting brought up to date (with denormalization fixes, noise shaping to the floating point buss, etc) and ported to VST, so now most of you can join in the fun.

This work is supported by my Patreon, and if I’d had that years ago, I might have been able to do all this by now! The only reason I’m still here with a busy schedule of plugins to release through April (including new suggestions: I was asked for a GrooveWear that was edgy like the one in ToVinyl but expanded like GrooveWear is, and liked the idea. Also, I have OneCornerClip, the Xmas-morning Console5 with a new optional technique for pulling back DC bias, and what you get when you combine PurestDrive with Console5…)

Anyway the only reason I’m doing all this is, I am making a humble living off Patreon. I will always buy gear rather than eat, but these days I can do a little of both! Thank you for helping me cling to this weird little lifestyle: it could grow into something amazing (so far I can’t really do things like hire people or expand into hardware beyond DIY-stuff, but maybe one day I can!)

Also, I’m starting to sort out live streaming on Twitch under the name Beatdruid. If you like that sort of thing, keep an eye out for when I’m online. I’m learning to stream live music, and teaching myself modular techno, and hope to jam out with a lot of possibly very strange electronic music (sometimes including keys or guitar or syn guitar) and even put the hi-res captures up on Bandcamp for those who liked the stream version. I’ve even learned for myself why Buckethead invented ‘Pikes’: did some longer-format stuff, but Bandcamp won’t let you upload FLACs beyond a certain size! And it turns out half an hour or so at 24/96 is what you can do. So, the format of Beatdruid is already shifting to become something where you can get your hands on hi-res if you like. Naturally, my heart lies with analog synths and keyboards and analog mix and analog modular, and what I’ll put up on Bandcamp is raw 24/96 capture, without even a gain change. Because I’m trying to work out how to get the most extreme ‘analogy’ audio out of digital hi-res, and being Chris from Airwindows, I’m prepared to put forth some effort.

But that’s a whole other thing. Hope you like Hard Vacuum :)