Developer Notes

Jonatan Liljedahl (Kymatica AB)


AUv3 Parameters

This article will give you some useful hints regarding AUParameter implementation. It’s mainly written for plugin developers.

Parameter flags


My host app AUM only lists the parameters that are marked as writable. So make sure to add kAudioUnitParameterFlag_IsWritable to your param.flags for all parameters that you want to expose for external control.

Linear vs Logarithmic

Another flag worth mentioning is kAudioUnitParameterFlag_DisplayLogarithmic, which is suitable for frequency, ADSR time values, etc. AUM checks this flag and if set it maps the linear input value to the param like this:

paramValue = pow(maxValue/minValue, inValue) * minValue

Note that a logarithmic parameter can never have values <= 0!

If the flag is not set, it treats the parameter as linear:

paramValue = inValue * (maxValue-minValue) + minValue

What many plugins do is to only expose generic linear parameters with ranges like 0.0 to 1.0 or 0 to 100%, and then do any exp/log mapping internally.

Changing a parameters value

There are two ways for a host to change a parameter of a plugin.

UI control

One is the simple setValue: family of methods suitable for UI control. Setting a parameter this way will call the plugins implementorValueObserver block.

Realtime events

The other is by realtime parameter events, which the host schedules using the audioUnit.scheduleParameterBlock. These events does not call the implementorValueObserver block, instead they must be handled in the plugins internalRenderBlock.

Realtime events allows to use timestamps for precise and jitter-free value changes.


First we make a common realtime-safe function to update values in the DSP state. Make sure you don’t use any Swift code, ARC, Obj-C calls, memory allocation, file I/O, or other unsafe code here, since this will be called from the audio thread!

static void MyPluginSetParameter(__unsafe_unretained MyPluginAudioUnit *THIS, AUParameterAddress adr, AUValue val) {
  if(adr < _MyPluginParameterCount)
    DSPValueSet(&THIS->_dspValues[adr], val); // Replace this with whatever code you need to update your DSP state

After creating your AUParameterTree, implement your implementorValueObserver and implementorValueProvider blocks.

The implementorValueObserver block is used to update your DSP state when the host changed a parameter via setValue:. It’s not called when we receive parameter events in the render block, unlike tokenByAddingParameterObserver:. The block is called on the main thread (on “AUParameterTree.valueAccessQueue”).

tree.implementorValueObserver = ^(AUParameter *param, AUValue value) {
  MyPluginSetParameter(THIS, param.address, value);

The implementorValueProvider block is called when the AUParameter value needs to be refreshed from your DSP state.

tree.implementorValueProvider = ^(AUParameter *param) {
  AUParameterAddress adr = param.address;
  return adr < _MyPluginParameterCount ?
      (AUValue) DSPValueGet(&THIS->_dspValues[adr]) // Replace this with whatever code you need to read your DSP state
    : (AUValue) 0.0;

In your plugins internalRenderBlock, we need to iterate through the realtime events and look for parameter events. We’ll get events here when the host schedules parameter events via the audioUnit.scheduleParameterBlock, but not when the host calls param setValue: (in which case implementorValueObserver is called instead).

Again, make sure you don’t use any Swift code, ARC, Obj-C calls, memory allocation, file I/O, or other unsafe code in your render block!

- (AUInternalRenderBlock)internalRenderBlock {
  __unsafe_unretained MyPluginAudioUnit *THIS = self;

  return ^AUAudioUnitStatus(AudioUnitRenderActionFlags *actionFlags, const AudioTimeStamp *timestamp, AVAudioFrameCount frameCount, NSInteger outputBusNumber, AudioBufferList *outputData, const AURenderEvent *realtimeEventListHead, AURenderPullInputBlock pullInputBlock) {

    const AURenderEvent *ev = realtimeEventListHead;
    while (ev) {
      if(ev->head.eventType == AURenderEventParameter
      || ev->head.eventType == AURenderEventParameterRamp) {
        MyPluginSetParameter(THIS, ev->parameter.parameterAddress, ev->parameter.value);
      // NOTE: this is also where you'd handle MIDI events coming from the host
      ev = ev->;
    // Do any signal processing and MIDI output here

    return noErr;


For jitter-free changes of parameter values, make use of the ev->head.eventSampleTime to see where in the current buffer the change should take place. Timestamping follows the same logic as for MIDI, see iOS MIDI timestamps.