ValhallaUberMod: The High Level Controls

ValhallaÜberMod has a minimalist GUI that is closely related to the previous Valhalla DSP plugin, ValhallaRoom. The basic concept is that the GUI reflects the hierarchy of the underlying algorithms:

  • The larger vertical sliders are used for the high level parameters. These are the controls that have the widest, most immediate impact on the sound of the effect.
  • The smaller knobs are contained within a window, with the particular knobs to be viewed selected by various “buttons” (rounded rectangles, to be precise) above the window. This is similar to the tabs concept in web browsers. Each button or tab selects a group of related controls, which tend to control the “tweakier” low level parameters.
  • The GUI has been organized around the idea that the user will dial in a specific sound via a combination of high level sliders and lower level knobs, with the high level sliders being used for broad overall changes to the sound, and the lower level knobs for fine tuning the sound.

High level controls, and the buttons used to select what knobs are visible in the “tweak” window, are represented in upper case. For example, DEPTH will be used to refer to the high level slider, while MOD refers to the button that selects the knobs used for fine tuning the modulation parameters.

A combination of upper and lower case words refers to a specific low level parameter. So, “MOD SlowDepth” refers to the knob under the MOD tab (inside the MOD window, selected by the MOD button,  part of the MOD menu, however you want to think about it) that adjusts the depth of the slow modulation waveform.

There are 5 high level sliders in ValhallaUberMod, and 2 combo boxes associated with these controls:

The sliders:

  • MIX: Controls the ratio of the dry input to the “wet” (delayed/chorused) output, displayed as a percentage. 0% corresponds to an entirely “dry” output (i.e. no effect), while 100% corresponds to an entirely “wet” output where only the delayed signals are present. In general, you will want to use a MIX setting of 100% for sends, and play around with the MIX level when ÜberMod is used as an insert.
    • MIX LOCK: The label of the MIX slider (i.e. the word “MIX” above the slider) does double duty as a mix lock. Click on the label, and the MIX slider will be grayed out. This is useful for maintaining a fixed mix level when browsing through presets.
  • DEPTH: Controls the overall modulation depth of the algorithm, displayed as a percentage. This acts as a scale on the various slow and fast modulation depths that are adjusted by the MOD controls.
  • WIDTH: Controls the overall width of the spatial image of the “wet” (delayed) signal, as a percentage.
    • A WIDTH setting of 0% sums the left and right delay output signals, such that the same delay mix is present in left and right channels.
    • A WIDTH setting of 100% is fully stereo: the outputs of the left delay line are sent to the left output only, and the right delay line to the right output only.
    • At settings above 100%, the high frequencies from one channel are inverted and added to the opposite channel, to create a “super-stereo” spatial image that can sound like it is coming from outside the speakers. The crossover for the high frequencies is set by the EQ SpatialEQ control.
  • DELAY: Controls the delay of the longest output taps, in milliseconds. The delays of the individual taps will be dependent on the settings in the TAPS menu, but the longest tap will have a base delay that corresponds to the DELAY setting.
    • It is worth noting that there are various low level controls that have an effect on the actual delay time of ÜberMod, in addition to the DELAY slider. For example, the WARP Speed control, when set to 1/2X, results in a delay that is double the DELAY setting, while halving the output bandwidth. In addition, high amounts of modulation width can cause the delay to deviate considerably from the value displayed by DELAY, and the DIFF section adds its own delay. These will be discussed in future blog posts.
  • FEEDBACK: Controls the amount of feedback around the network, as a percentage. The feedback path in ValhallaUberMod has been set up to be stable with feedback gains up to 100%, assuming that DRIVE isn’t enabled.

The combo boxes:

  • MODE: Selects the particular delay/chorus mode to be used. Each mode is a separate algorithm, that makes use of a specific number of output taps (reflected in the algorithm name) and a specific modulation scheme. The different modes will be explored in the next few blog posts.
  • SYNC: Selects the delay sync ratio of the longest taps. “Free” means that the delay time is specified by the DELAY slider, while the other values are specified in rhythmic groupings that are derived from the DAW tempo. A “.” indicates a dotted note of that time division, i.e. 1/8. is a dotted eighth, or 3/16ths. A “T” indicates a triplet division.

ValhallaRoom Updated to 1.0.8. Resizable GUI, new reverb modes

We’ve been working hard here at Valhalla DSP towers [i.e. I've been working hard typing in code on my laptop while sitting at the dining room table]. One of the fruits of this labor:

ValhallaRoom has been updated to version 1.0.8. The newest features:

  • Resizable GUI. When ValhallaRoom was first released, I received several complaints that the GUI was too big. Version 1.0.8 has been updated. Now the GUI can get much, much bigger. It can also get smaller, if that is your thing.
  • Two new reverb modes, Nostromo and Narcissus. The new reverb modes both have a sparser initial echo density than most of the ValhallaRoom modes, and take longer to build in echo density. This, combined with the high frequency attenuation, random modulation, and deliberately noisy delay interpolation, can be used to create grainy emulations of vintage reverbs, as well as denser decays that have a wide spatial image.
    • Nostromo is the biggest sounding reverb in ValhallaRoom, with audible echos at the largest size settings that slowly evolve into a rich decay.
    • Narcissus is Nostromo’s little sibling, with an initial denser decay. Narcissus is also the “lightest” reverb mode in ValhallaRoom, with a very low CPU hit.

Simon Stockhausen has some beautiful demos using the new ValhallaRoom reverb modes on his Soundcloud page. The first example uses Stockhausen’s amazing soprano sax playing, processed by Nostromo:

The next example uses Symplant through Narcissus:

The final example utilizes a ring modulated sound from Alchemy, and runs it through Narcissus:

Update links have been sent out to all VRoom customers, and demos of the GUI resizing and new modes can be found on the webpage.

ValhallaRoom: An Overview

Now that ValhallaRoom has been released for OSX and Windows, I want to put up a few blog posts that go over the features of the reverb, how to dial in the sound you want, tips and tricks, and so forth. To start things off, let’s take a look at the GUI, and go over the different ValhallaRoom sections:

  • At the top is the plugin title, “VALHALLAROOM.” This is where my love of typography comes to the fore. Futura Demibold, displayed as prominently as I can get away with. From a design standpoint, the title is used to balance out the large blank area at the bottom of the plugin (this blank area’s purpose explained below).
  • To the bottom left of the title are five vertical sliders. These sliders (Mix, Predelay, Decay, High Cut, Depth) are the controls that have the most immediately dramatic results on the sound, and will probably be the most heavily used.
  • The buttons below and to the right of the title are used to select whether the Early Reverb or Late Reverb section is being edited. Red means that the given section is being edited, gray means it isn’t.
  • Below the Early/Late buttons are the knobs for controlling the Early/Late reverberation parameters. These parameters tend to be “tweakier” than the larger slides to the red, which is why the user selects from different views as needed.
  • In the area below the sliders is the Reverb Mode selector. This selects between one of four reverberation algorithms, each of which has a distinctive sound.
  • In the area below the Early/Late knobs is the Preset section. The currently active preset shows up as a red title against the charcoal background. Click on the red word to bring up the preset menu, where you can browse, load and save presets, copy the current plugin state to the clipboard, and paste data from the clipboard into the plugin (which is a great way of exchanging presets via email or forums).
  • The black area at the bottom of the plugin window is where the tooltips are displayed. Mouse over a slider, knob, button, etc., and a tooltip will show up in this section, with a brief explanation of what that control is used for. The bottom right displays the current version number, as well as any relevant suffixes (b for beta, d for demo, PPC for PowerPC Macs). The company name and URL are also displayed, just in case you forget.

The idea behind the GUI was to organize the controls in a logical manner, such that their size and display status was an accurate representation of their relative importance. The GUI is also proudly 2D, with the controls being more of an abstraction of knobs and sliders than an ersatz depiction of hardware that doesn’t exist. Futura Demibold was chosen as the font, as it is specified as the control panel font in the NASA usability guidelines, and because it just looks cool. The tooltips area is an effort to incorporate documentation as a design element, in keeping with the minimalist/Swiss School influences.

Happy Birthday Kristin!

I just want to give a shout out to my best friend and love of my life, Kristin. Today is my wife’s birthday, and I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day than celebrating her arrival into the world.

Besides being beautiful and awesome in all ways, Kristin is the graphic designer of Valhalla DSP. The logo and the recent website redesign are all her work, and the new GUI was based on her artwork. Kristin has been amazingly patient and supportive during the protracted gestation of ValhallaFreqEcho, for which I am grateful.