Just this week, Waves released another plug-in re-creation of a classic processor from Abbey Road Studios, the Abbey Road RS124 compressor. The original units were rare tube compressors that were regularly used on Beatles records and on those of many other artists who recorded at the vaunted facility. The RS124 is the epitome of a “character compressor.” It can sound smooth and warm or heavy and aggressive, depending on the setting.
The RS124s were not built from the ground up but were heavily modified versions of 1959-era Altec 436B, vari-mu compressors. The engineers at Abbey Road converted them into significantly different units. They didn’t build many of them, and each one sounded slightly different. The RS124s were only available in-house at Abbey Road Studios. They were never commercially released.
Waves was able to get hold of one of these rare units and model it for the plug-in, saying that the RS124 plug-in “offers the gain reduction curve, attack or release, and dynamic frequency response of the original hardware.”
As you would expect, the plug-in version also re-creates the original controls. Those include an Input knob to govern the amount of compression; an Output Attenuator for output level; a Recovery knob for adjusting release time; and a button called Auto Hold. The latter is a feature designed to reduce certain compression artifacts, mainly when a loud transient follows silence.
For visual feedback, a re-creation of the original Altec meter provides readouts of the input, output or gain-reduction levels.
Waves also added several features that were not on the hardware units. One is called SuperFuse, which matches the release and attack times and creates an excellent-sounding heavy compression effect when you hit the input hard
Pressing the Expand button opens up a lower section that includes a Monitor control area (on stereo instances of the plug-in) where you can switch between stereo, dual-mono and mid/side operation. The latter allows you to dial in some cool image-widening effects. Also on the plug-in only is a sidechain highpass filter and a Mix control for creating parallel compression.
Finally, although Waves only modeled one actual RS124, the plug-in offers two different “Unit Types.” By varying the conditions during the modeling process, they were able to reproduce the behavior of another RS124 that was of the type more often found in Abbey Road cutting rooms. It had different tubes and slower attack times. You can switch the plug-in between Studio, which is like the unit modeled, or Cutting, which simulates the behavior of the variant.
The Abbey Road RS124 plug-in lists for $199, but Waves is currently offering it for an introductory price of $39.99.