Abbey Road Brilliance Pack Plug-Ins
By Barry Rudolph
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Abbey Road Studios' Brilliance Pack is a bundle of three plug-in processors modeled after the original circuit schematics for EMI's vintage units.
Call Presence Boxes, the RS127 Rack, RS127 Box and RS135 are each single-channel passive equalizer units. The RS135 has a fixed, medium sharp Q while the 127s have a sharp Q on boost and a medium sharp Q on cut. The Presence Boxes were designed to augment the limited equalizers in the studio's all-tube REDD desks. Those consoles, when fitted with the "Pop" EQ box, had +/-10dB shelving bass EQ at 100Hz and a +/-10dB 5kHz peaking/shelving treble EQ.
Introduced in 1962, the RS127 Rack unit was an immediate hit with the engineers and so the standalone RS127 Box was built to be easily patched in anywhere including in the mastering, transfer and post-production rooms. The Box version has fewer inductors than the rack version and included a matching/interfacing transformer because, at that time, Abbey Road studios were undergoing a changeover in impedance standards. The transformer "effect" exaggerates the EQ in the RS 127 Box. Otherwise both 127 versions are identical each having 2.7kHz, 3.5kHz and 10kHz frequency choices and up to +/- 10dB boost/cut in 2dB steps.
Abbey Road/EMI engineers built a whole series of specific purpose outboard boxes. Also introduced in 1962, the RS135 was a single-frequency equalizer originally designed for 16.4kHz but modifications made at the time cut this frequency by half enabling engineers to boost/cut up to 10dB at 8kHz in 2dB steps. Like the 127 units, the 135 has 10dB of loss through its passive circuitry and required a make up gain amplifier--on Beatle records sometimes the very rare Fairchild 666 limiter was used.
Abbey Road's plug-ins are available in TDM, RTAS, Audio Units and VST versions for Mac OS X and Windows-based systems. Packages include mono and stereo versions of both the RS127 Rack and Box versions and the RS135.
Brilliant, Isn't It?
Like great vintage hardware, these plug-ins offer a beautiful simplicity--they just work right away. In mixing, when I want something to sound only a little brighter (like the smooth sound of using the tone control on a good tube stereo), the RS127, with only three frequency choices, is the right tool. These plug-ins sound great on everything, and you can use two of them in series if 10dB isn't enough or you want to address more than one frequency. The Brilliance Pack plug-ins are great for vocals, electric guitar tracks and stereo programs or stems.
When I was close to completing a mix, I added the RS127 Box after the last processor in a lead-vocal chain, because the producer thought that the vocal was a tad dull sounding. My vocal chain was: Waves Renaissance Channel (vocal EQ and 2:1 compression), Universal Audio 1176LN (4:1 compression), Sonnox SuprEsser Dynamic EQ (set to compress certain upper midrange frequencies only) and the RS127. I set the RS127 to +4 dB at 10 kHz to open up the sound after the two compressors and the SuprEsser. The RS127 is so smooth that it just sounds like air on top without exacerbating the "S" In this case, it "framed" the vocal performance with an articulate clarity.
These plug-ins give electric guitars a more lifelike sound, the kind you get while standing next to an amp in the studio. For a touch of cut, I used +2 dB at 2.7 or 3.5 kHz from the subtler of the two RS versions, the RS127 Rack, and followed it with the RS 135 set to +2 dB. These two EQs together sounded more like cranking the Top Boost knob on a Vox AC30 amp that was used in the recording than an EQ plug-in for a DAW.
Setting the RS127 Box to +10 dB at 10 kHz was a popular setting back in the '60s at Abbey Road, and it's the reason kicks and snares on certain records from that time sounded super-bright yet not shrill. Of course, analog tape added compression, and the high-frequency limitations of vinyl certainly "sanded" down any grittiness caused by this extreme boost.
I liked all three plug-ins for program and mix stems. Neither the TDM or RTAS versions in Pro Tools use much DSP, so even when you've already maxed out your system, there's always room for a couple more Brilliance Pack instantiations. The RS127 Rack set to +4 dB at 10 kHz works great to put a high-frequency "lid" on string section stems--it makes first violins sound very glassy. Check you digital level meters when cranking up 10kHz--the sound is so smooth and addictive, more is more and you may overload--especially if you throw one across the stereo mix bus!
When I used a pair of RS127 Box plug-ins on stereo grand pianos, they sounded huge. Boosting grand piano tracks by 10 kHz sounded magical, as if I had used analog hardware with the keyboard reaching into frequency areas that are mostly occupied by cymbals. You can make pianos more audible without raising their levels.
The RS135 finds good use on reverb returns. Mimicking an old school mixing trick, boosting +4dB at 8kHz put a shiny top on the sound of plug-in reverbs especially room presets. It's different than changing the EQ in the reverb plug-in and sounds more analog.
Using Abbey Road's new Brilliance Pack processors is the next best thing to connecting the studio's actual vintage hardware units to evoke the adventurous and experimental sounds of the '60s. Use them in that spirit! They are the simplest and easiest plug-ins you'll ever own.
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