Recreate Abbey Road – in your bedroom

Studio engineers write software for amateur musicians that replicates distinctive sound of The Beatles
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The Independent Culture

It is the world's most famous recording studio, playing host to The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Oasis as well as a host of other musical legends during its illustrious history.

Now, amateur musicians can recreate the distinctive sound of an Abbey Road recording in their own bedrooms, thanks to a new piece of software designed by the studio's engineers.

For around £220, home recording enthusiasts can download the RS124 Compressor Plug-in, which matches the quality of the RS124 valve compressor – a piece of hardware used at the north London studios throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. A more complex and expensive version is available for professional sound engineers and producers.

"It has a really unique, identifiable quality and sound that people familiar with this sort of product will recognise," said Lars Hakansson, product manager at Abbey Road Studios.

"It makes the sound that you process through it louder and more punchy, and also affects the tonal quality. It reinforces the bass, the low end, and enhances the higher end of the sound, making it sound more sparkly and more exciting, if you like."

The original RS124 was custom-made by technicians at the record label EMI specifically for Abbey Road Studios, which the company still owns. It has never been available to buy commercially. The device was used as a matter of course in sessions from 1960 until the mid 70s, when it was dropped in favour of more modern, commercially made products. However, Mr Hakansson said it is still often used by artists wishing to create a sound reminiscent of those original recordings.

The plug-in was modelled on three RS124 units from Abbey Road's collection using the original hardware and schematics, with extensive listening tests under the supervision of director of engineering, Peter Cobbin. "These particular units have not really been seen outside of Abbey Road and very few people have used them," Mr Hakansson said. "People have known that Abbey Road had their own special compressors but they haven't really known what they were because there hasn't been any public discussion about them."

The studio, which is set on a residential street in St John's Wood, is best known for The Beatles' 1969 album, Abbey Road. The studio has also hosted the recording of many other famous records, including Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday, Oasis's Be Here Now and Radiohead's OK Computer. Earlier this year, EMI denied it was looking to sell the studio, which has since been Grade II listed by English Heritage as a building of "outstanding cultural significance".

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