Abbey Road Brilliance Pack Plug-Ins ReviewBEATLES-ERA PROCESSORS MODELED FROM EMI OUTBOARD GEAR 3/01/2009 7:00 AM Eastern
Abbey Road Studios' Brilliance Pack is a bundle of three plug-in processors that are modeled after the original circuit schematics for EMI's vintage units. Each plug-in retains the operation and characteristics of the original hardware, called Presence Boxes: the RS127 Rack, RS127 Box and RS135. Each one is a single-channel passive unit that was designed to augment the limited equalizers in the studio's all-tube REDD desks. 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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. They are the simplest and easiest plug-ins you'll ever own; use them on everything in that spirit.
Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer/mixer. Visit www.barryrudolph.com.