Abbey Road, “The most famous recording studio in the world” is celebrating its 85th birthday this year. The studio has evolved with the times, and now in addition to serving as a world-class recording and production facility, it has collaborated with numerous software companies to develop products that allow today’s producers/engineers to emulate the unmistakable sound and vibe of this legendary studio.
Here’s a run down of the numerous plugins that are inspired by Abbey Road, including some of my lesser-known favorites.
1. Softube Abbey Road Brilliance Pack
These are very simple and specialized tools that help bring clarity to higher frequencies. The GUI is wonderfully retro, and I find that it adds what I like to call “pleasant harshness” to tracks, meaning it helps elements cut through emphatically, without becoming fatiguing.
They can help on virtually any element in the proper context, but I really love them on acoustic guitar and bringing presence to vocals.
2. Abbey Roads Keyboard Reason Refill
Many do not know of this sample pack, but I find myself going to it time and time again. I have been using it for years, and even used it to replace an “overly MIDI-sounding piano” and for adding tubular bells on a recent mix.
It’s a large collection of meticulously sampled keyboards owned by the studio, recorded in a number of different configurations. Load them up in Reason, and then rewire into Pro Tools.
For productions that need a vintage piano or keyboard sound, I look no further. This refill includes the best mellotron samples I’ve come across. Hear them in use here.
3. Native Instruments Abbey Road Drums
Starting with the release of the 60s and 70s drums, Native Instruments has since sampled and released drum VSTs for virtually every era in recorded music production, allowing engineers to capture the drum sound that has found its way onto countless records from the 1950 to today.
I like using these for drum augmentation, using the kick, snare and rooms to add a spacious, sometimes explosive quality to my drums.
4. The Chandler/EMI collaboration
It’s hard to find existing information on this series of plugins that has since been discontinued, but I still find them to be very usable. There were a series of compressors, which work extremely well at adding warmth or dramatic “pumpiness” to drums, and a mastering pack, which not only sounds extremely vibey, but also does a great job of emulating the look and functionality of the original hardware.
5. Waves Abbey Road Collection
Definitely the most comprehensive collection of Abbey Road-Inspired plugins, I admire waves for not settling on EQs and Compressors, and rather faithfully reproducing some of the stranger tools that the engineers at Abbey Road used, or even invented, including Reel ADT. Automated Double Tracking was used heavily on Beatles Records, especially John’s voice, and I have to admit that this is one plugin that does what no others can. I also really enjoy incorporating the J37 into a multi-buss approach, and am quite looking forward to demoing the brand new plate reverb.
In summary, I have found these tools as a great way to pay sonic tribute to the studio responsible for capturing some of my personal-favorite recording artists. They don’t work on absolutely everything, but when applied with intent, they can add a distinct character and vibe that will set productions apart from the norm.