Where does this creative spark come from?

Radial president Peter Janis explains: "As a young teen, I would listen to progressive rock. Bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis and Yes were creating amazing sounds using Moog and ARP synthesizers. In 1974, at the ripe age of 16, I convinced my teacher that an essay on synthesizers would be fascinating. Equipped with a cassette tape recorder, I went down to Steve's Music store in Montreal where the manager was kind enough to let me play around with a new Minimoog that had just arrived. Back then, no one knew how to use one. Oscillators, filters, resonance... ADSR envelope controls – all alien terms for the average musician of the day. I drove the store staff crazy for about 5 hours as I tried desperately to make this device work. I brought the recorded results back to school where the teacher promptly gave me an F for producing such painful results. But this was the spark that got me interested in how sound could be manipulated.

"I often joke that I was breast fed on a Minimoog. Here's a picture of me with 'Mother' - the one and only Robert Moog." - Peter Janis

Within a few years, I was overseeing the high-tech department at Steve's where we brought in the very first Oberheims, Arp Avatar guitar synths, the venerable ARP 2600, Roland's preset synths and some of the Korg's first keyboards. I left Steve's in 1978 to become a rock star playing both guitars and keys. By then, along with a bunch of guitars and amps, I had amassed a Minimoog, an Arp Solina String Ensemble, Yamaha CS60 polyphonic synthesizer and a Yamaha electronic piano.

In around 1980, after two years of living on the road, disco had come in and it had become difficult to find gigs for the type of music I liked to play. My parents had moved to Ottawa, so I decided to move there and take a break from gigging by getting a day job. I ended up at Lauzon Sound where I was given a free hand at expanding their high tech division. We brought in the latest Korg 3100 and 3300 hundred polyphonic synths along with the ground breaking Sequential Circuits Prophet-5. A few years later, I was hired by TMI (Fender Canada) as 'New Product Director'. Back then CBS owned several brands including Fender guitars, Rhodes pianos, Rogers drums and ARP synthesizers. My job was dealing with all this new technology and training our sales team and dealers how to understand and sell it. As we grew, we added several brands to our portfolio including Alesis and then Akai. The Akai S900 and S1000 got me involved with sampling technology and digital recording right from the onset.

All of this experience in manipulating audio is the foundation that gets me excited when I think of the possibilities yet to be uncovered with the 500 series. The Tossover is in many ways a regurgitation of some of the cool effects that could be conjured up using a Moog or Arp synthesizer."

Tossover™ Development

For those who are creative, the very notion that 'it has all been done' is wearisome to say the least. There may be only 12 notes to a western scale, but if you think about it... there are many frequencies in between each half-note that are used in eastern music plus an infinite number of rests and poly-rhythms that can be combined to push music outside the confining walls of 12 bar rock & roll. Creative options are, in fact, unlimited.

At Radial, we have a similar point of view: bringing innovative recording tools to market is all about nurturing the creative spirit. As a manufacturer, our task is to find ways of opening the door to new processes by pioneering innovative products that will enable the more adventurous engineer to find new sounds which in turn will enhance and enthral the audience.

Why build a Tossover in the first place?

One of the most common devices used in professional audio is a crossover or frequency dividing network. The primary application for a crossover is to separate the frequencies to feed the different components in a loudspeaker. In a two way hi-fi system, one selects the desired crossover point and divides the audio by the sending the bass frequencies to the woofer and the highs to the tweeter. In a PA, this can be divided to three, four or even five different frequency bands.

We thought it would be really cool if we could give the more creative recording engineer a tool that would enable him or her to divide the frequencies from a given instrument so that they could be processed separately.

The result is the Tossover - a clever tool that can be used to process high or low frequencies separately so that various effects can be applied to a specific frequency region without necessarily affecting the other. An example would be applying compression to the bass range of a snare drum while allowing the highs to be fully dynamic. Another would be adding distortion to the upper registers of a bass while leaving the bottom end unaffected. The options are truly unlimited. But most important of all, for a new tool to be truly effective, it must be fun to use!

Where things really get exciting is when you split the signal into two frequency stems and then apply different effects to each frequency range. Imagine dividing the sound of a bass whereby you could compress and EQ the bottom end using a Radial Komit and a Q3 coil EQ while adding a chorus to the top end using a Radial EXTC effects insert module and a Tonebone Vienna Chorus. How about dividing a guitar track whereby one channel could be recorded as usual while the other could have accentuated mids... the Tossover opens up the door to both parallel processing and band-pass filtering so that you can do this. Best of all, it employs old school analog all the way through!

Establishing the Tossover feature set

The Tossover in its simplest form can be thought of as a two-way crossover with a high frequency range and a low frequency range. We did not reinvent the wheel. The Tossover follows tradition with a variable frequency control to determine the crossover point and an amplitude control to set the output. The angle or degree at which the signal is cut off is determined by the slope of the filter. These vary depending on the desired effect. For instance one may use a 12dB per octave filter to gently roll off bass or a more radical filter to create more audible effects.

Back in the 1970's, pioneers such as Robert Moog and Tom Oberheim used 2 pole (12dB per octave) and 4 pole (24dB per octave) filters in their synthesizers to warm up the tone of the voltage controlled oscillators (VCOs). One could, for instance, generate a saw-tooth wave with lots of overtones and smooth it out using a 4-pole filter. These combined to create the signature Moog bass tones and the fat Oberheim synth-brass effects that are still used today. We chose to offer three slopes on the Tossover (12dB, 18dB and 24 dB per octave) so that some of these effects could also be created. One simply sends a signal into the Tossover and then applies the filtering as needed.

Working with older API racks

One of the limitations of the old API spec is that each module is designed to process a single channel of audio. This means that unless you have a Radial Workhorse, you cannot audition the two filters separately. The good news here is that for the most part, you will find that a single output will give you tons of flexibility. To address this, we connected the two filters in series where the signal first passes through the LPF (low pass filter) and then the HPF (high pass filter). You merely set the output selector switch to the HPF setting, then turn on the filter that you want to use and you are set to go. If you turn both filters on, you will create a band pass filter where the mid range in between the two slopes will be accentuated.

Using the Tossover in a Workhorse

Radial Workhorse power racks are equipped with a special connector called Omniport. This ¼" TRS connector can be implemented in various ways depending on the module at hand. With the Tossover, we decided to designate the Omniport as an alternate output. In other words, if the low-pass filter was routed to the XLR output, the high-pass filter would automatically be routed to the Omniport. This enables each frequency stem to be processed separately and simultaneously. This can be particularly fun when combining multiple modules together along with various effects.

You can, of course, still combine the two filters to create a band pass effect by depressing the band-pass switch and monitoring the output from the HPF. The LPF will still be active. With a full-blown Workhorse, the options are incredible! You could assign the dry signal to channel-1, the low-pass filter stem to channel-2 plus various effects into channels 3 and 4. Then send the high-pass filter stem into channel-6 and add effects via channels 7 and 8. Who knows where your creative mind will take you...