Tag Archives: Rich Tozzoli

Leapwing Al Schmitt Signature Plug-In Review

The legendary Al Schmitt
The legendary Al Schmitt

How do you capture the essence of a legendary engineer/producer with 23 Grammys, 160 gold and platinum albums and a ‘who’s who’ resume, and put that into a piece of software? Well, that’s just what Leapwig and the iconic Al Schmitt went for with the new Al Schmitt signature plug-in. The team literally encapsulated his gear, mixes’ textures and workflow to come up with something that ambitious.

When first opening the plug-in, you select from a Source dropdown menu that offers up Vocal, Bass, Brass, Mix, Piano or Strings. These are referred to as ‘profiles’ and each of them are tuned differently with their own character and tone. Each profile also features a different ‘tuned’ amount of harmonic distortion. Within each profile, there are a number of options as well—for example, Vocal features Body Level, Air Level, Echo Level, Compression, Air Type and Echo Type.

This approach to plug-in design has led Al and the team at Leapwig to create something that operates in a unique fashion. When audio is played, rings that represent loudness are played around the relevant icon in the center in real time. If there is something like gain reduction happening, the outer rings tighten up accordingly at ½ dB per ring. For instance, if there are four rings happening, you’ve got 2 dBs of reduction. It’s something your eyes have to get used to because it’s simply a new way of operating.

The METAlliance Report – Al Schmitt, Frank Filipetti Talk Miking

Since each source features its own customized parameters to tweak, you quickly adjust to how to get around. For example, Mix features Sub Boost, Low, Mid and High Level, Low, Mid and High Comp, a compressor link and Air Boost. Bass is nothing but Compression, Body Level and Air Level, but it includes additional harmonic distortion within those parameters. Piano, which is one of my favorites, features Compression, Echo Level and A/B/C Echo Type. Note that “echo” is actually a reverb, a name that was chosen since that is what Al calls it. Aside from that, there’s In and Out Meters with up to 12 dBs of gain.

Leapwing Al Schmitt Signature Plug-In
Leapwing Al Schmitt Signature Plug-In

What I like about this plug-in is that you can dial in some taste very quickly. When first listening, it helps to run through each source to understand what the parameters do. To hear the echoes clearly, I would simply put on audio with attack and stop the transport, listening to what sound is created afterwards. The others, such as Sub, Air bands and EQs are easy to hear. Compression is subtle yet clearly audible. I found it useful to also mix and match—for example, using the compression in the bass source on something like a piano. Then, if I wanted more, I put another instance after in the DAW and used the EQ in Echo in the Strings source, or the EQ and Air settings in the Mix source. Once you have a feel for it, your instinct knows where to go. I saved a number of presets for easy recall: I like Echo Type C on the Strings source, so that’s now my “RT Echo 1 Strings’ preset, and I also captured a nice Mix bus preset with Sub Boost, Air Boost a few dBs of Gain and a touch of Highs as “AS Master 1.”

The METAlliance Report: The Recording of Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’

Aside from being easy, this plug is fun to use. You can get to a sound with just a few quick fader slides and most importantly, it works as advertised. It’s not big, bold and aggressive, but subtle and tasty, especially in the reverb/echo fields. Most importantly, all of these sounds are clean, clear and tasty. I would also use the word “refined,” which is a testament to the team making it. Since you probably can’t get him to your session, now you can bring a little of Al Schmitt’s magic sonic touch to your own tracks.

Rich Tozzoli is an award-winning, Grammy-nominated producer, engineer and composer for programming such as FOX NFL, Pawn Stars and Oprah & Deepak Chopra. www.richtozzoli.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Avid Pro Tools 2020.11’s New Features – A Real-World Review

Avid Pro Tools 2020.11’s new Routing Folder feature.
Avid Pro Tools 2020.11’s new Routing Folder feature.

Having worked with Avid’s new Pro Tools 2020.11 and likewise new Carbon interface for some time now, I wanted to highlight a few fresh features that I’ve found useful in the daily workflow.

Routing Folder: This organizational tool lets you select tracks and route them into a neatly packaged folder which behaves like a traditional Aux channel on steroids. There are two approaches to this—you can create the Routing Folder then put tracks into it, or select tracks and create a Routing Folder directly from them. For me, the value of the Routing Folder is that you can process it like an Aux, but then collapse it with the click of a button. You still have access to Solo, Mute, Insert, Send and so on.

For organization, you can collapse the entire folder structure by clicking on the small folder Icon at the bottom of each Routing Folder; simply click it again to unfold it back. Also, when in the Edit window, you can place the insertion point anywhere in a Folder track and select Shift-F to toggle between closed or open.

If you already have an Aux track setup for such purposes, you can also just click on the Aux and select ‘Convert Aux to Routing Folder.’ You could also just create a ‘Basic Folder,’ which has the same functionality minus the ability to process or route. Folders can also be created within folders for additional sub processing.

By using these folder tools, it makes the session much more streamlined both visually and functionally.

Apple Mac Pro Rack: A Real-World Review

Convert Audio to MIDI: There’s only one word for this feature: Wow! With Pro Tools 2020.11, you can take audio tracks from your timeline and convert them into MIDI files. By selecting your audio clip and dragging it onto an Instrument Track, a Menu box appears with the ability to choose Automatic, Universal, Percussive, Percussive Pitched, Melodic, Polyphony Sustain or Polyphony Decay Conversion Types, and it offers you the option to Consolidate the Clip. You can also choose selections from the Clip List, by selecting the Copy Audio as MIDI dropdown menu option. From there, just drop the Audio Clip with its associated MIDI track to the Timeline. It’s that easy.

All of this is enabled through the authorization of Melodyne in your Pro Tools account. Pro Tools subscriptions and Software Update + Support Plans come with Melodyne 5 essential, which, aside from helping with the Convert Audio to MIDI, allows you to fix those questionable notes.

The first thing I did was take a recorded bass track and turn it into MIDI. From there, I tweaked a few note lengths (only had to do a few!) and assigned it to an Omnisphere stereo sub bass patch. The combination together was ridiculous. I then took a kick drum and turned it into MIDI, assigning that to an 808 kick in another piece of software. Imagine where we can go from here.

Dark Theme: For those who like the drama of the dark side, you can alter how the Mix and Edit windows look. By going to Preferences > Display > UI Theme, the dropdown menu lets you select between Classic or Dark. If you select Dark, Pro Tools will ask you to restart for the UI theme change to take effect. After restarting, you’ll notice a whole new world of color attitude. I like it just for a change of mindset, and I hope to see more adjustments available for it in future updates to allow for various gradients and more. It is cool, though, for the late evening sessions or when you want to lower the lights and have some attitude.

Avid • www.avid.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Apple Mac Pro Rack: A Real-World Review

The Mac Pro Rack dominates the 10 RU rack that houses it in Rich Tozzoli’s workspace.
The Mac Pro Rack computer dominates the 10 RU rack that houses it in Rich Tozzoli’s workspace.

If there’s one thing that we studio people like, it’s consistency in our gear. As the primary brains to most setups, the computer is central to that theme, so when my trusty Mac Pro “cheese grater”—which ran perfectly for 10 years—went down for the count a few months ago, I didn’t take it lightly. It was time to make some big decisions. I weighed the basic questions we should always ask ourselves when upgrading: Do I stay with my current platform (a Mac, in my case)? What’s my budget? What’s the latest hardware on the market to fit my I/O needs? Am I buying for the short term or long?

Over the last few years, I thought about upgrading my old Mac Pro, my primary DAW platform, when I ran into roadblocks with OS upgrades, software and Pro Tools compatibility, but the little “trash can” shape that Apple used for Mac Pros manufactured between 2013 and 2019 just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to put my Avid HDX card and my UAD Octo card into a chassis. The trash can form factor is now history, however. After working on my laptop for a few months to get me through my “crisis,” I made the move and went big with a new Mac Pro Rack.

Inside the Apple Mac Pro Rack
Inside the Apple Mac Pro Rack Apple

Luckily for me, my friend, producer/drummer extraordinaire Omar Hakim, had recently been through the whole process, so I had a guide. “Right before I got my new Mac, my ‘trash can’ suffered a catastrophic thermal meltdown,” he told me. “I ended up using a laptop for a few months while I was waiting for the release of the new Mac Pro Rack. I settled on a 12-core Mac Pro Rack model with 96 GB of RAM, a 2 TB factory SSD card and a base video card. I added two 2 TB internal Samsung SSD EVO 970 NVMe M.2 cards with two Vantec PCIe adapters—components I purchased, assembled and installed myself. I then loaded up my two Avid HDX cards and Universal Audio Satellite PCI card. My studio has never run smoother!” He noted that he purchased the base amount of RAM from Apple and bought the rest from OWC.

With his feedback in mind, I made the decision to purchase a Mac Pro Rack over an iMac Pro or Mac Mini. I visited Apple.com and went through the process of ordering the components I wanted: a 3.2 GHz 16-core Intel Xeon W processor-based machine with the base 32 GB of 2933 MHz DDR4 RAM to get started.

I also worked with Rob Zenn at Alto Music on this purchase; Zenn convinced me to get the AMD Radeon Pro W5700X 16 GB graphics card, as it includes four additional powered Thunderbolt 3 ports. We made sure the hardware came with macOS Catalina version 10.15.5 installed so as not to get into conflicts with the upcoming Big Sur OS release.

The good news: I had a machine that would rock. The bad news? It came to a whopping $9,900. However, since this is the brains of my setup, which I use every day to compose, mix or create music, I judged it to be a good allocation of funds. Besides, it’s a tax write-off!

The new Mac Pro Rack was quickly teamed up with the brand-new Avid Carbon interface.

When the machine arrived, crated in foam, I couldn’t believe what a monster it was. It’s built like a tank. I was taken aback by its design and downright sturdiness. I’ve had a lot of Macs in my day, but nothing like this. It came with eight PCI Express expansion slots, two of which were filled by my Avid HDX card and the Universal Audio UAD-2 OCTO card.

Engineer Mike Dwyer and I slipped on the heavy-duty rack rails (sent separately from Apple) and slid it into the 10-space rack I purchased for it. We hooked up an HDMI video cable from my Samsung to the Mac, set up the cool black wireless keyboard and mouse, and fired it up. Within a few minutes, it was game on.

Next, we attached a single AVB Ethernet cable from my new Avid Carbon interface (which I reviewed last month) to the Mac Pro, and plugged in a Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 keyboard and PreSonus FaderPort 8 into two of the included USB ports. I had made an Apple Time Machine backup of my laptop the night before and saved the data on a portable SSD drive, which I hooked up to the new computer.

REAL-WORLD REVIEW: Avid Pro Tools Carbon Production System

Using Apple Time Machine’s Migration Assistant, I transferred the files from my backup to the new Mac Pro Rack, and while it took almost two hours, everything transferred over to the new Mac: Pro Tools 2020.11, Reason, all of my Vienna Instruments, Omnisphere, Universal Audio Console and all of my plug-ins. I opened Pro Tools and everything simply worked. With just a few software updates, it was the easiest migration I’ve ever experienced.

This week, I’m ordering 32 GB more RAM and a few SSD internal drives to load the chassis up even more. It’s been flawless in its performance so far, and not even my heavy virtual instrument sessions can choke it. For the first time, I’ve found a machine that works faster than I do, which has already helped my creativity. For me, it’s already worth the money.

Apple • www.apple.com

 

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Softube Summit Audio Grand Channel – A Real-World Review

Softube Summit Audio Grand Channel
Softube Summit Audio Grand Channel

The Summit Audio Grand Channel by Softube is an emulation of the Summit Audio EQF-100 equalizer and TLA-100 compressor combined into a single channel strip perfect for adding analog-like vibe to your mixes. The first thing you’ll notice about the Grand Channel is it has character. Just by putting it on your tracks with all the settings flat, you’ll hear it adding its signature sound.

The EQ section features four bands plus high and low pass filters. Each of the four bands has seven expertly chosen selectable center frequencies, a bandwidth control, a cut/boost/bypass switch and a gain knob to control how much you’re boosting or cutting. The two mid bands are bell filters, and the high and low bands can be set to either bell or shelf shapes. I would consider this to be a tone shaper as opposed to more of a surgical EQ. You’re really able to make extreme moves with this EQ, drastically altering the sound of your tracks without ever making it sound unnatural.

You almost can’t make this thing sound bad. The low band is perfect for adding weight and warmth to bass or drums. The high band is incredibly silky and smooth, perfect for adding air to vocals or acoustic guitars. We were amazed how far we could push the high end with this EQ without it ever getting harsh. We found the mid bands to be great for sitting guitars into the mix, pushing anywhere between 1.5 and 4k to help the guitars cut through a dense mix or cutting in the same area to tame overly aggressive tones.

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Moving on to the compressor, we have a gain reduction knob to control the amount of compression, a makeup gain knob and two switches to choose between fast, medium, and slow attack and release times. Softube took this compressor one step past its analog counterpart by adding a few new features.

For one, there’s a wet/dry knob for effortless parallel compression—a feature I wish every compressor had. Softube also added a low cut filter which can be placed either in the audio path or in the compressor’s sidechain detection path. The low cut can go all the way up to 600 Hz, so using it in the audio path is great for cutting out unwanted low end before your signal hits the compressor. Using it in the side chain detector path, on the other hand, is useful when compressing signals with a lot of low end like bass or drums to keep the low end from pumping the compressor too much.

Finally, there’s a saturation knob so you can control exactly how much analog character you want, from squeaky clean to gritty and anywhere in between. If I had to describe the sound of this compressor with a single word, it would be transparent. It’s capable of controlling even the most unruly tracks without making them sound over-compressed. This is one of the few compressors that really works for me on electric guitars, able to control the dynamics and bring the guitars forward in the mix without sounding squashed or flat. On bass, it’s the same story—you can really clamp down, locking it in place without taking the life out of the performance.

Softube • www.softube.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com