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Data Exchange

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In a modern plug-in, the UI representation and the audio processing do not share any data directly. This eliminates undefined behavior, as they run in different threads and any directly shared data would need to be protected by a mutex. But a mutex has no defined running time and may block the audio thread for too long, creating an audible glitch, which must be prevented.

The other issue with sharing data between the UI and the audio processing is that the audio is processed before the audio is streamed through the monitor boxes or headphones. Without synchronization, the visual representation is displayed earlier than the sound it represents. To synchronize the visual representation and the processing of the audio signal, the UI has to queue the visual data until the time is reached when the audio is heard.

This problem has already been solved for parameters which are automated by the host. The host delays sending the parameter change to the edit controller so that it is in sync with the audible audio.

But parameters are limited in how much data they can transfer, this may be enough for a simple peak VU meter display, but presenting an FFT curve with it is a nightmare.

Version 3.7.9 of the SDK contains the new Data Exchange API to send data from the realtime processing function to the controller in a safe and efficient way.

As this API needs support from the host and not all hosts provide this API right from the start, the SDK contains a backwards compatibility layer that either uses the API directly, if available, or an alternative method based on the IMessage API to emulate the API. See the tutorial on how to use it.

The Data Exchange API

The API consists of two interfaces, the IDataExchangeHandler which needs to be implemented by the host and the IDataExchangeReceiver which needs to be implemented by the plug-in.


The IDataExchangeHandler implements a direct and thread-safe connection from the realtime audio context of the audio processor to the non-realtime audio context of the edit controller. This should be used when the edit controller needs continuous data from the audio process for visualization or other "use-cases". To circumvent the bottleneck on the main thread, it is possible to configure the connection in a way that the calls to the edit controller happen on a background thread, see IDataExchangeReceiver below.

Opening a queue

The main operation for a plug-in is to open a queue via the handler before the plug-in is activated (but it must be connected to the edit controller via the IConnectionPoint when the plug-in is using the recommended separation of edit controller and audio processor). The best place to do this is in the IAudioProcessor::setupProcessing method, as this is also the place where the plug-in identifies the sample rate and maximum block size which the plug-in may need to calculate the queue block size. When a queue is opened, the edit controller is notified of this, and the controller can decide if it wishes to receive the data on the main thread or the background thread.

Sending data

In the IAudioProcessor::process call, the plug-in can now lock a block from the handler and fill it. When done, it can free the block via the handler, which then sends the block to the edit controller. The edit controller then receives the block either on the main thread or on a background thread depending on the setup of the queue. The host guarantees that all blocks are sent before the plug-in is deactivated.

Closing a queue

The audio processor must close an open queue. This need to be done after deactivating the processor and prior to disconnecting it from the edit controller (see IConnectionPoint).

What to do when the queue is full and no block can be locked?

The plug-in needs to be prepared for this situation, as constraints in the overall system may cause the queue to fill up excessively. If you need to transfer the information to the controller, you can declare a hidden parameter, which you can set to a special value and send this parameter change in your audio process method.


The IDataExchangeReceiver interface must be implemented by the edit controller of the plug-in. The host will call the queueOpened method when an exchange queue is opened by the processor. Later when the processor closes the queue, the host will call the queueClosed method.

While the queue is open, the host will call the onDataExchangeBlocksReceived method whenever the processor has sent data.

The edit controller can decide in the call to queueOpened if the host should deliver the data on a background thread or on the UI thread.