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Review : Airwindows Audio Unit Plugins for Mac
Airwindows (aka Chris Johnson) are makers of fine Audio Unit plug-ins for the mac, and offer a great selection of full-functional free versions to try before you pull out your wallet. This month we've test-driven three plug-ins, read on for our verdict . . .
Download and installation was a doddle; clicking the relevant link downloaded and mounted a disc image and from there you simply drag and drop the plug-in component file straight to Macintosh HD/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components  After re-launching Logic Audio the plug-in showed up under Audio-Units in the usual plugin drop down menu. Uninstalling was just as simple, just drag the component file to the trash.
First up we've got the 'Channel' plug-in which offers three models of classic hardware emulation. Choose from 'Neve', 'API' and 'SSL' and use the drive control to dial in the right amount of what AirWindows call 'analogifying'. I tried Channel out on a selection of individual instruments and an overall mix and found that the differences between the three model types are pretty subtle, perhaps more so then their real life name-sakes. I stuck with 'Neve' for most of my testing and the overall effect is like very soft-clip limiting, in that peaks are gently rounded while low-level detail comes up, creating fuller sounding audio without loosing any of the original punch. Throw this up over a drum or vocal sub-mix or even across the whole mix at bounce-down prior to mastering and you won't be disappointed.
Stereo Chorus:
Stereo Chorus may be light on controls, but it does the job and sounds very nice. While it's not capable of creating extreme effects, it's great for the kind of subtle warming and widening that really makes chorus an essential tool in any engineer's armoury. What makes this plug-in particularly useful is that it can work from a mono sound source, injecting some instant stereo interest into whatever you pass into it. Recommended in particular for basses, mono synths and backing vocals.
Ultimately you have nothing to loose by giving Airwindows a try and if you don't mind the lack of a fancy interface you should be very happy with any of the above. The Audio Unit format means that the plug-ins will show up in most mac-based audio software, making them a great addition to whatever came bundled. Airwindow's paid-for selection is also very reasonably priced so if go beyond the free options you won't be burning a hole in your wallet.
Density is described as a warm overdrive and offers a useful feature often absent from overdrive / distortion plug-ins, namely a 'Dry/Wet' mix control. This allows you to use a slightly more aggressive setting but then mix in some of the original 'dry' sound to maintain clarity (e.g. vocals). Another nice option for shaping the flavour of your overdrive is the high-pass filter, which should prove particularly useful when applying the plug-in to bass instruments, allowing you to avoid muddying the low end. The Density slider lets you  from the mild to the extreme and the output level can be used to tame hot signals. Coupled with a very pleasing warm and fuzzy tone, Density is a great one-stop solution for overdrive and certainly one I can see myself reaching for in future mixes.
Spot the difference: (above) The Airwindows channel plugin in ‘SSL’ mode, and the real thing
Density’s ‘highpass’ and ‘Dry/Wet’ controls make  it a very useful overdrive solution creating effect from the subtle to the extreme.