Review: Leapwing Audio Al Schmitt Signature Plugin
06.05.2021

Review: Leapwing Audio Al Schmitt Signature Plugin

Words by Mixdown Staff

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Key Features: The recording industry recently lost a giant in Al Schmitt. The legendary producer/engineer who passed away last month at the grand age of 91, left behind a legacy that will likely never be repeated, with a whopping 21 Grammy awards, two Latin Grammys and even a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. 

Al’s discography reads like a Spotify playlist of the biggest selling artists of all time, having worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and Duke Ellington, through to Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Madonna, Michael Jackson and many more.

His abilities as a recording and mix engineer are nothing short of legendary and now thanks to Belgian Software Haus Leapwing Audio, we are able to bottle a bit of his sonic brilliance, in the form of the recent Al Schmitt Signature Plugin, released just prior to his passing.

Featuring accurate virtual recreations of six of Al’s signature go-to signal chains/processes the Al Schmitt Signature Plugin, is both a doff of the hat to one of the greatest to ever do it and one of the finest plugins on the market for creating subtle harmonic separation and adding a sense of real world depth and placement within the stereo field. 

The plugin itself is separated into six very distinct instrument profiles coming mostly from the Jazz/Orchestral realm-with effect chains for Bass, Vocal, Brass, Strings, Piano and with a Mix chain for the Stereo Bus.

Each profile features its own source specific set of adjustable parameters, with modelling that is unique to the specific treatments devised by Al on that particular sound source over his 60+ years in the recording business. 

The layout of the plugin and the UI, instantly puts you in that classic recording headspace so synonymous with Schmitt’s body of work.

 Parameters are presented in classic recording parlance, with names like ‘Body’, ‘Air’ and ‘Echo’ all indicative of their traditional Decca Tree-era definitions and the natural interaction between Al’s pre-ordained frequency curves, the analogue warmth of the modelled circuitry and the expensive, top end sheen of the stereo chamber verbs are at this point, part of the fabric of popular music. Honestly, I wish you the best of luck trying to pull a bad sound out of this thing. 

The handy A/B switch allows you to toggle between the default and most recent settings and this combined with the bypass function at the top of the plug provides more than enough monitoring scope to get you in the ballpark with very little fuss. Just be sure to maintain correct gain structure throughout-after all, this is the Al Schmitt plugin we are talking about here.

Mixdown Says: The quintessential engineer’s engineer, Al was a throwback to a time when recording engineers prided themselves on tangible hard skills like impeccable mic technique, mastering the intricacies of the acoustic space and having a deft touch in the control room.

It’s this sense of classic, tasteful audio engineering that is all over the Al Schmitt Signature plugin. 

When it comes to providing subtle separation, consolidating the front to back hierarchy in a mix, or offsetting a misplaced microphone or less than ideal sonic capture, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better suited to the task. Its masterful EQ curves, expensive sounding reverb chambers and molasses like harmonic richness are perfect for finalising tracks or changing up textures.

While the six frequency profiles, might have non-jazz/classical engineers a bit miffed, we actually found the plugin to be an awesome tool for adding depth and harmonic fire to a whole host of VST’s, DI’d and Close mic’d sources on top of the instruments already indicated in the UI. 

Overall: An innovative and classy audio processor designed for both mixing and mastering, the Al Schmitt Signature Plugin is one of the finest digital approximations of the classic school of Audio Engineering we have found in the DAW space. 

Both a fitting tribute and an extremely workable plugin in one, it’s ability to provide subtle by extremely pleasant sonic character to any sound source or mix that passes through it, is alone worth the cost of entry and is sure to see it turn up on many an effect chain and mix template.  

Rest In Paradise, Al.

Get the Al Schmitt Signature Plugin via Leapwing Audio.