Luca Capozzi: "Support is the key for being recognized as a good or bad software company. And it's one of the most diffcult parts of our industry..."
Luca Capozzi CEO of Audiority is not only a great programmer. He is also an enthusiast of old analogue equipment, he is a man who has set himself the goal of immortalizing the rarest, most iconic devices for creating and producing music, transferring their character, magic and uniqueness on the ground of digital software.
He started his professional career by creating great sound banks for Omnisphere and other well-known VST plugin instruments. Today he successfully manages his own company, which from the very beginning has one goal, rich analogue sound that does not burden the customer's wallet. You can get to know it thanks to the great sounding plugin reincarnation of Binson Echorec's classic analog delay, which we will also talk about today...
We will also talk about the In The Box environment, programming methods and what distinguishes Audiority from other plugins available on the market. If you use plugins, if you interested in sound production, or just want to learn more about Audiority products, make sure to read this interview.
Adrian Lucas Witaszczyk: Hi Luca! Great to have you here! Let's start from the core, I mean your plugins…
Are they a kind of software hybrids, that are only loosely based on original analog devices? Or your goal is to make a one to one digital reproduction of the hardware gear?
Luca Capozzi: Hi Adrian! It really depends on what the final product should be. If I have to emulate a specific hardware (like the Binson Echorec T7E for Echoes), the goal is to make a one to one reproduction and being able to add some extra features that doesn't exists on the original device.
So, how close is your plugins compared to the original units?
I prefer to get the original device before start coding the simulation. I record some test signals and some musical clips (either guitar riffs, synths and so on) in order to have a quick A/B comparison between the original device and the simulation. In this way I can make sure that the final simulation result is as close as possible to the original.
There are so many plugins on the market... why plugins? What do you have to offer what other developers do not have?
I love sound! I started as a bass player, then moved to synthesizers, to sound design and then to coding. Its great we live in an age that allows us to create endless ways to sculpt sounds and get so many different results from the same sources.
It's true that the plugin market is pretty much saturated, but I see there's still a lot left to offer. Computers are getting more powerful than before, so today we are able to make software that wasn't possible to make just few years ago. My idea, specifically about analog modeling is: if we can reproduce an existing circuit, then we can make our own. Our newest plugin (LDC2 Compander) is a practical example: we didn't modeled an existing hardware, but we developed small "blocks" that creates a very complex circuit that, in the real world, would have been very difficult and expensive to make.
LDC2 Compander? Sound interesting! Tell me more about it. What you can do with this plugin?
Basically, LDC2 Compander is an optical compressor followed by an optical expander. Today, most optical compressor plugins on the market are based on the iconic LA-2A, but there's nothing much if you want some LDR/Vactrol type compression. So I thought to create a plugin that lets you choose between different optical circuits for compressiond and expansion. The result is very musical on any source!
Can you tell me a bit more about your technology, how you create your plugins?
Old good math! We use mainly C++ for coding and some 3D authoring tools for the interface design.
Old good math. Isn't it too little for today?
All DSP code is based on math, so it's never too little. Where it comes to analog modeling there are different approches: black box, grey box and white box modeling. Black Box modeling is replicating a device without knowing what happens inside it and it's achieved with technologies like Dynamic Convolution or Volterra Kernels. White Box is the opposite: we need to know what happens inside the device and digitally replicate it. That's done via circuit analysis and simulation (think about SPICE). Grey Box is in beween: some behaviour are "sampled" and other are calculated. Personally, I use White Box modeling because gives me a more granular control on what is happening inside the simulation.
Can you tell me more about the beginnings of your company? Contrary to appearances, this is not a simple market…
It is not, indeed! Commercially speaking, I started on 2010 exclusively selling our own soundbanks for Omnisphere and some Kontakt sample libraries. I started pushing the brand and, few years later, I decided to give coding a try. Nowdays, plugin development takes me pretty much all of my time.
How do you choose the equipment that becomes the basis of your plugins? Do you have some kind of key?
I just fall in love with some of them. I'm always looking for vintage equipment and when I find something that looks interesting and sounds good, I look for more information and recordings. Some of them will become plugins eventually.
Plugin manufacturers usually talk about advantages and what about disadvantages?
Support! That's the key for being recognized as a good or bad software company and it's one of the most diffcult parts of our industry. Once a product is out, you have to provide support for either technical issues (activation, compatibility and so on) and continously improve the product with updates.
Let's talk about the Echoes T7E... is this the effect of love for Pink Floyd, a Kind of homage to this band? Or maybe it's because of the city in which your company previously had an office? (Dublin is the place, where thanks to the Edge, delay got its second life)
Basically, I'm a delay and reverb junkie... and a huge Pink Floyd lover. As I said before, for the Echorec it was love at first sight. It's a very simple yet advanced unit for the time it has been made. When the rest of the world used tape, Dr Bonfiglio Bini (the father of the Binson company) devised that a magnetized flat metal band could offer a wider bandwidth and better stability (in term of wow/flutter) than plastic magnetic tapes. I think that was kind of revolutionary, considering that the first Echorec has been released in the 50s.
Oh yes! It was and still is the piece of art! This plugin is probably your biggest success. The product that is associated with your company. Have you worked on it for a long time? Can you tell me how it was made?
Echoes took me at least 6 months of work, mostly spent on studying the circuit. Once the simulation has been made, I had to compare it with the original device and tune our simulation to get it as close as possible with the hardware. After that, I had to get the hardware to a photo studio, to get high quality pictures of each side of it. These pictures has been used as references for the 3D model used for the GUI. This was the first time I got seriously commited to learn 3D modeling. It's VERY tough and time consuming, but I love the result.
How would you describe its sound to someone who has not tested it yet?
Creamy and psychedelic.
So, why should I buy exactly this delay?
Because it sounds pretty much unique and can get wild. Did I told you that you can get it to self-oscillate without having any input playing?
No, but I have read about it. It caught my attention and I had to ask you about it... Tell me something about the original unit, that was used to create this plugin? Where did you get them from?
I started looking for this unit around, but the ones I could physically collect were in such a bad shape that I decided to start looking online. I found a very good unit, not totally restored, with the right amount of grit... it was just lovely, you know what I mean?
Oh yeah! Do you think that plugins will dump analogue equipment someday?
Yes and no. I guess that some day, those who owns units that are hard to maintain will find that digital counterparts can offer results so close to the original hardware, that will be very glad to use plugins leaving the hardware in place for the final mixes. Most importantly, hardware units (mostly the older one) can sound very different between each other, so each studio who owns such equipment has his own "signature" sound.
What do you think about today's technology is there a place for character, for soul?
Absolutely. The downside of such technology is that musicians are becoming lazy and they expect fast results. We should not forget that the most iconic tracks in the past has been made with way lesser technology and way more ideas.
What the digital cannot do?
Well, even if we are achieving some great results, surely digital can't replace our own taste. Today there are lot of automated services for production and post-production. Yes, they can be useful in some scenarios, but they cannot replace the need of an experienced engineer.
Which Audiority plugin convinced Martin Gore?
If I remember, his first purchase ever was The Abuser. Then he became an happy returning customer.
Do you have any information, on which song or record he used this plugin? What captivated him in it?
Now a little dangerous question... In private life do you prefer software or hardware?
Both! I enjoy using a modular synthesizer as well as going deep in Reaktor or VCV. When I play guitar, sometimes I fire up some of my pedals and sometimes I love to chain some of my plugins instead. Lately I got a very nice chain to play Pink Floyd songs: LDC2 -> Big Goat -> Echoes T7E -> Pre X7 -> any cab simulator that features an HIWATT cabinet.
Oh! This sounds like a great Floydish chain! What does a typical day in Audiority office look like?
Basically, a lot of coffee is involved. I start the morning by looking at the support requests and the sales. Then I dedicate at least a couple of hours to study math, electronics and look what's new in our industry. Other parts of the day are dedicated to code updates, for existing products, and develop new code for upcoming ones.
Each company today has a kind of hook, some specialty in the sleeve, does Audiority have such hooks?
I honestly don't know if we have an hook and I don't look for one. I believe that we are doing a fine work, trying to offer good sounding plugins, with something unique in each one and at a fair price.
Let's move to the distortion pedals area ... There are many of them on the market, it's a paradox because the distortion is something that is still not quite successful in the world of digital. What do you think about it and how you describe your Distortion PedalBoard Bundle?
Yes, there are a lot of them already on the market, but I found few of them really convincing. When I started working on PedalBoard Distorsions, I wanted to make something that would have allowed me to play Pink Floyd and other bands with a good sound, without having to set up my hardware rig each time.
Were you not afraid that it will not be possible to capture such a sophisticated analog distortion? For you it was probably a situation in which you had to bet everything on one card?
Not quite. I started with the DS-1 simulation, because it's the one I know best. Once I got the results I were hoping for, I purchased the other pedals I wanted to simulate.
So, these effects are based on specific hardware stompboxes?
Absolutely. Blue Face is based on a silicon Fuzz Face, Big Goat is based on a mid 70s Big Muff Ram's Head and Distortion 1 is based on the iconic Boss DS-1.
How did you choose them? Do they have a sort of personal story?
The choice of the pedals was very personal. I love how dynamic can be the Fuzz Face, even if you only have two knobs; the Big Muff Ram's Head is just THE Gilmour sound, so I had to develop a simulation for it; the DS-1 was the first pedal I ever had, when I was a teenager, from my dad. This last is one of the worst distortions ever made, but it's iconic on its own and there are so many way to mod it to get it sound better.
Yeah, but many guitarists used it with great results... A great example is John Fruscinate... BSSM, Californication, By The Way, Stadium Arcadium - On all this records you can hear the first, old DS1...
It looks like a lot of guitarists just doesn't like the stock tone of that pedal. The distortion is very "dirty" (because the input signal is amplified by over 35dB, which is A LOT for a distortion pedal) and the tonestack is not the best. Said that, I have to admit that modding this pedal is a real joy. You can get TONS of different colors out of the same pedal.
Which of these stomps you are most happy with?
I love all of them, but my personal favorite is Big Goat.
Recently you realesed one more product, which I just cannot not ask… the PRE X7. What is this stuff and how you describe it sound?
It's a preamplifier based on an old tube bass preamp. We made some modifications to the original circuit, so it can sounds good with many sources. We also included some extra goodies, like a peak limiter, so you can overdrive the tubes without going over 0dB.
What are your plans for the future? What can we expect from Audiority? Are you working on something special now?
I have a lot planned for the upcoming two years. There will be more simulations, more custom circuits and more updates.
I'll keep crossing my fingers for you and your company! Thank you for your time and interview! It was a pleasure to talk with you Luca!
Thank you again for your time!
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