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Picture Post: Abbey Road Studios Visit

February 15, 2014

Arrival at Abbey Road Studios

A real treat for me this month as I visited Abbey Road Studios for the first time and was treated to a tour around what is pretty much hallowed ground for audio geeks and music fans, both of which descriptions apply to me. Arrival over the iconic zebra crossing and I was met by Jon Eades from Abbey Road who was kind enough to show us around. First up was Studio 3 for a run down on the history of the studios and of the changes in audio tech that have taken place during its illustrious career. The building was first converted into a recording studio in 1931 by The Gramophone Company, later becoming EMI Studios and finally becoming known as Abbey Road Studios in 1970. We’ve had a couple of students on work placement here from our audio courses at University of Salford over the years and one is still working there today.

EMI TG21345 console

EMI TG21345 console. A piece of music history still in use today at Abbey Road (the TG name is from ‘The Gramophone Company’, EMI’s predecessor)

Studio 3 was our starting point and is one of the smaller studios here, mostly used for pop and rock music recording – Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was recorded here.

There’s a lovely analogue SSL desk and Pro Tools setup but the most unexpected feature for me was that at one end of the studio sits a 1970s TG12345, perfect and ready to go. The distinctive audio quality of its circuitry is still so in demand that it is still in regular use at Abbey Road.

In fact the mix of classic old and new is a theme throughout the building. The sound of the mixing consoles developed by EMI in the 60s is still considered so good that sessions at Abbey Road often use these TG desks as part of the signal path. The signal is routed through the TG12345 as part of a Pro Tools recording workflow.

This theme continues in a mastering studio elsewhere in Abbey Road.

Pro Tools screen and vintage mastering console (above) feeding copper disk cutting lathe (below)

Pro Tools screen and vintage mastering console (above) feeding copper disk cutting lathe (right)

Disc cutting lathe for copper disks, one of only a few left

Disc cutting lathe for copper disks, one of only a few left

Pro Tools monitors sit above vintage mastering consoles and feed a copper disk cutting lathe. This is one of one of the very few of this type of lathe still working in the world. It seems the Scientologists bought up the last few that came up for sale (seriously) and they’re unlikely to be cutting any records that I’d want to listen to.

Downstairs and Lester Smith showed us round his microphone collection, pretty much heaven for an audio geek like me. Drawer upon drawer of mics dating back to the mid 1930s. Most of these are still in regular use today with mics from the 50s and 60s used as standard for orchestral recordings because of their high quality sound.

Here are a few more pictures of the day, many many thanks to Jon and his colleagues for showing us round, it was a real treat.

Studio 3 from the control room.

Studio 3 from the control room. Looks a bit different since Pink Floyd recorded Wish You Were Here. Note the B&W Nautilus speakers.

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