#audio-processing #traits #abstraction #buffer #processor #traits-structs #node


Traits for audio processor types and audio buffer types. Heavily subject to change.

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#29 in Audio

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Audio Processor Traits

crates.io docs.rs

Traits for audio processor types and audio buffer types. Heavily subject to change.


This is very much exploration based, and I'm still finding out the best API to express in Rust types.

I think I've found a good abstraction to handle AudioBuffer and basic FX AudioProcessor, but there's quite a lot more to uncover.


It'd be great to have generic traits for structs that process audio.

These may be 1 or more abstractions on top of audio processing which enable higher-level systems to manipulate audio processing nodes.

At its core, audio processing may be defined as a function:

fn process_audio(_input: &mut [f32]) { /* ... */ }

input would be your input/output buffer, and you could perform mutable operations on it. However, this does not encode several audio processing concerns, such as:

  • The buffer won't be always f32, it might be f64
  • The buffer channel count isn't expressed
  • The buffer layout for multichannel data isn't expressed (e.g. Interleaved data or otherwise)
  • Sample rate isn't expressed
  • Dry/wet configurations aren't expressed
  • MIDI & other concerns aren't expressed

We'd like some abstraction that covers some of these issues. Without thinking about external system problems (such as MIDI, state & dry/wet), a basic audio processor trait can solve buffer/sample conversion issues.


An AudioBuffer trait is provided. It provides an abstraction to get the size of the buffer and modify it.

The AudioBuffer trait may wrap samples in different layouts or with different ownership, however, it's recommended to process samples using the AudioBuffer::frame, AudioBuffer::frame_mut, AudioBuffer::slice and AudioBuffer::slice_mut.

The reason for this is that using slice iterators is much more efficient than iterating over a range of numbers and calling AudioBuffer::get.

It's very unfortunate, but there's not a uniform optimised way to iterate between buffers that have different layouts provided in this crate yet.

Something I think should work is to have some kind of channel iterator which will wrap the slice iterators. The channel count should be low so losing some optimisation when reading a frame shouldn't be an issue.

Note that 10-20x slowdown is based on a very trivial "gain" work-load. In practice this might be an issue.

On my computer, there's around 600ns overhead per 512 samples to use the get/set functions.

With the _unchecked versions which skip bounds checking, the overhead is around 300ns and with frames/slice there's no overhead.

In comparison, my current implementation of interleaved to VST buffer conversion takes around 1.15us to convert from CPAL into VST and 1.1us to convert out of VST back to CPAL.

That'd be roughly 2us spent on conversions per 512 sample block, vs a 300-600ns slowdown from iteration.

This has made me think is that it might be better that AudioProcessors only expose a process_sample(&mut self, sample: f32) function so that they are really not connected to the AudioBuffer at all.


The AudioProcessor trait is only two methods:

pub trait AudioProcessor {
    type SampleType;
    fn prepare(&mut self, _settings: AudioProcessorSettings) {}
    fn process<BufferType: AudioBuffer<SampleType = Self::SampleType>>(
        &mut self,
        data: &mut BufferType,

It provides a prepare callback, where channel & sample rate configuration will be provided and a process callback where a generic AudioBuffer is provided.

Design notes

SampleType associated type

The SampleType is provided as an associated type to both the AudioBuffer and the AudioProcessor traits. This enables implementors to use generic SampleType types in their processors.

For example, this is the SilenceAudioProcessor implementation in this crate, which should work for any num::Float type and any AudioBuffer implementation:

pub struct SilenceAudioProcessor<SampleType>(PhantomData<SampleType>);

impl<SampleType: num::Float + Send> AudioProcessor for SilenceAudioProcessor<SampleType> {
    type SampleType = SampleType;

    fn process<BufferType: AudioBuffer<SampleType = Self::SampleType>>(
        &mut self,
        output: &mut BufferType,
    ) {
        for sample_index in 0..output.num_samples() {
            for channel_index in 0..output.num_channels() {
                    <BufferType as AudioBuffer>::SampleType::zero(),

Pending work

  • MIDI trait
  • Richer API for applications
  • State management guidelines, using a background ref-counting garbage-collector & immutable 'state handle' references (while still allowing the internal state of a processor to be mutable)
  • Automatic implementation of the VST API for all trait implementors
  • Automatic implementation of the LV2 API for all trait implementors
  • Automatic implementation of a "stand-alone" cpal based App for all trait implementors (see audio-processor-standalone in this repository)
  • An audio-graph implementation
  • GUI support
  • Testing tools

Buffer performance

On a trivial gain benchmark, performance using the AudioBuffer::get APIs is between 10-20x worse on a VecAudioBuffer than a Vec.

Other things to measure:

  • Measure buffer conversion time on a small window size
    • Compare this with overhead of the AudioBuffer abstraction
  • Measure overhead in contrast to the grand scheme of a non-trivial processor (not gain)

Other thoughts

  • Which is the more efficient layout?
  • Should audio-processors expose a process function that works sample by sample? Perhaps this is easier to optimise




~63K SLoC