LABS UI - I don't get on with it....

edited October 7 in LABS

Hi all

I'm new on the forum, so forgive me if I'm treading any old ground.

I have seen lots of people praising SF's plugin UI design, but I have to say I don't feel the same. very aesthetically pleasing sure, but looking at LABS now:

  • large amount of blank wasted space
  • parameters labelled with abstract symbols instead of meaningful words
  • big knob which you have to individually select multiple parameters from - more mouse clicking, why not just show all the parameters as sliders, simultaneously, labelled, side by side?
  • sound menu that disappears every time you choose a sound from it
  • sound menu that it too widely spaced, why all the blank space? I do like a nice tight list so I can find what I'm after quickly
  • to actually see find an individual instrument (e.g. the Ondes Martenot) I have to scroll for miles through a non-alphabetical (!) list until I stumble across it. I could narrow this by filtering for category (in the non-alphabetical(!) category list), but I'd have to remember/figure out what category it's in, and then find that...

All a bit of a workflow killer for me, form over function! The sounds are FANTASTIC. But there are countless examples of better implemented sound databases across various plugins and DAWs, right? Analog Labs for example?

Just my own thoughts!




  • They are free and I like the UI - chacun a son gout

  • You are not the first to bring up any of these points. And yeah, sure Labs is a free tool, but this same UI is the same basic layout for all their non Kontakt based libraries. Some of the issues have work arounds when using some of their more advanced libraries like the BBC SO because you can access the big knob functions in another way, but even that wastes screen space.

    When dealing with a smaller or even a more defined library the navigation of patches isn't as much of an issue, but on any of the libraries that have a lot of patches that you might want to navigate or search quickly it's clearly an interface that has was not designed to serve a large patch list. Labs has clearly outgrown it's UI. In one way that is great. In another it makes it so I only bother to use it when I know exactly what I'm looking for and am motivated to take the time to dig it up.

    Basically, just saying you're not alone in any of these critiques.

  • Somehow I'd like to imagine that SA is still working on it, especially the navigation, which is really awkward.

    I'd also wish there was an option to NOT automatically load a patch at startup. Somehow this bothers me quite a bit and feels unnecessary. A simple checkbox to deactivate that would do the trick.

    I don't mind the "wasted" space as much, because it does provide a sense of calm and abundance for some reason. Might be tough for agoraphobics, but I understand the spirit of it. It's ironic, because I tend to make overly tight GUIs for my things, hehe. Old-school so to say.

    The symbols I love, because they don't even try to convey anything and just won't bother you with trying to recognize what it is, HAHA. If you wish to switch, you click on it and get the list of parameters, which won't stay visible afterwards so they won't take away energy from you as you do the little that is left to be done in the GUI.

    The big dial has the potential to give you a sense of precision as you dial up a value. The appearing dots however almost work against that sense again, which is also sort of funny. I could imagine a slightly nicer way of visualizing where you're at besides the handle you're using. Like a small dot that keeps moving exactly with your handle before it leaves a large dot behind. Possibly like a little meta-ball, hehehe.

    But, yeah, navigation to instruments is still the worst problem and hopefully will get addressed at some point. Even if there simply was an alternative display mode. At least there is a favorites list, which can help, if you were ever to use it, HAHAHA, because I somehow don't, yet. Tried it early on and it just isn't realistic.

    Totally perfect would be custom categories and a choice to switch between Factory Lists and Custom Lists.

    • In Custom Lists you could define your own category names and then put any patches into them.

    • Right Click on a patch with the option to navigate to the set it belongs to. Or maybe a symbol to click on instead.

    • Sorting options (release date, alphabetical, last used)

    GUI design is tough. It's so much easier to criticize it than to come up with a genuine identity that serves both form and function. I had to chuckle about this GUI, especially after my wife said it reminder her of dishes, HAHAHA. I had to make a cover art for my LABS tracks to honor her perception, hehehe... hilarious and cute.

    Still, as much as this GUI breathes, it gives me a sense of fresh air, too, along with a sense of ease. That is a valuable achievement.

  • Decades of experience and research have gone into the standardised UI toolkits and guidelines for each operating system, so app developers can easily create interfaces that are flexible, intuitive and responsive to e.g. different screens and accessibility needs. Personally, it drives me a bit mad that audio apps are one of the last fields where it's considered acceptable to throw so much of that away. This isn't all the fault of plugin developers: users clearly demand ornamental interfaces that don't work :-) or, more seriously, maybe demand interfaces that mimic physical hardware. Also, without a lot of overhead, plugin developers may be limited to the UI facilities provided by cross-platform AU/VST frameworks like JUCE (I think this is the basis of Spitfire's plugin) and those don't look great out-of-the-box.

    Anyway... so this post isn't just a rant... :-)

    @Taron - expect you know already, but the non-LABS plugins I've seen already have the option to start without a loaded preset by default (gear icon, "Settings", "Plugin", "Default preset"), I guess motivated by the much higher disk/memory load from those instruments. I can see why it'd be annoying not to have for LABS, though. It's not quite the same as "none", but you could save a favourite preset as the LABS plugin's default in your DAW? (In Logic, you would do this by choosing your preferred preset, then selecting "Save as default" from the drop-down in the plugin window's header.)

  • Taron
    edited November 5

    Thanks, @aldous , but in BBCSO Core, setting Default Preset to "None" (which appears to be default), still will automatically load up Violin 1. If you now throw out all patches, except legato, which I virtually always do, adding a new instance will continue to load the rest of Violin 1.

    In the VST 2.4 version of it I can already promise you that it will not remember the chosen default preset. I've saved my own Violin 1 legato only as a test, chose it as default preset and it will not remember my choice. SO....that's unfortunate.

    Still have to try it for VST 3, though.

  • Nope, most definitely BBCSO cannot hold Default Preset setting in either VST version (2.4 nor 3). It just can't hold it. Set a default preset, save, close settings, go back into settings and no default preset is set. 🙄

  • aldous
    edited November 5

    Hi @Taron... that must be very irritating. Just to be sure, you're clicking "Save" on the settings dialog, rather than just closing it? (The "save" button is off-screen by default for me, and it doesn't warn about closing with unsaved changes, so I've been there myself!) [Edit: only just seen your second post confirming you do this, so never mind.]

    Otherwise, if the plugin is not remembering your choice, perhaps it's not updating its settings file. I just tried editing the file manually and it worked fine, so you could try that if you're comfortable doing so?

    The file is called 'BBC Symphony Orchestra.settings', in 'Users/username/Music/Spitfire Audio/Settings' on a Mac, and - the manual tells me - at 'C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Spitfire Audio\Settings' on a Windows machine. If you open that in a Notepad (on Windows) or TextEdit (on Mac), you should find one or more <VALUE ....> tags with 'name' set to 'uniqueDefaultPreset' with/without a number on the end, e.g. <VALUE name="uniqueDefaultPreset5" val="Strings: Violins 1"/>. At a guess, I'd expect you to see two or three. They're not necessarily next to each other in the file.

    If those tags don't already have 'val' set to "None", then that could indeed be the issue. I updated each of the 'uniqueDefaultPreset...' tags so that val="None", e.g. the example above becomes <VALUE name="uniqueDefaultPreset5" val="None"/>. Saving the file, re-opening the DAW, and creating a new instance of the BBCSO plugin then gives me an empty instance with no preset selected.

  • Yes, of course, I wrote it up there, too. When I see "SAVE", I assume I'm meant to hit it! 😌

    I'll have a look at the Settings file, see if it does the trick. Thanks for that tip! So you are saying it does work for you? In my case, on Windows, using Cubase and MuLab, both won't keep it. At least it does keep my custom preset, but definitely not the default preset setting. I haven't checked, if it keeps the other settings at all.

    But, yeah, that's definitely a bug rather than design shortcomings. Might have a better home in its own thread, but I'm still happy we've had this exchange! 👍️

  • Yes, it works for me both in the plugin and when testing the manual change. It's only an educated guess about the underlying problem, but hope it works. If it does, and they're not too appalled, maybe our hosts can put it on the wiki until there's a fix.

  • It's a simple UI. You can save and recall 'starred' Labs instruments within the Labs UI and filter for starred only, just as you can for categories like 'strings' or 'drums' on the left hand panel. The UI for individual instruments seems designed to primarilly be used with a MIDI controller where you've enabled MIDI learn. This is logical and most people will use it this way.

    I have no issue with Spitfire's Labs interface. It also has continuity and commonality with Originals and Abbey Road, and as you move up to these, you'll find the free space gets filled in with other options. It's all very clear, visible and useable.

    If I have an issue with Spitfire's UI, it's with some of their Kontakt instruments such as Orchestral Swarm and the beautiful Harpsichord. Kontakt doesn't scale within my DAW; I'm working on a 21" monitor and the ostinatums (ostinati?) are postage-stamp sized illegible. This is frustrating and eye-straining. At some point I hope NI will fix it.