One of the most recog­nis­able and defini­tively fab room re­verbs in the his­tory of mu­sic can now be yours in plugin form

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Once upon a time (or maybe twice…), the eas­i­est way to add re­ver­ber­a­tion to a vo­cal or in­stru­ment in the stu­dio was to use an echo cham­ber. This was a small, re­ver­ber­ant room hous­ing a speaker for play­back of the source sig­nal and mi­cro­phones for record­ing its re­flec­tions; and the most fa­mous ex­am­ple in the world was – and, in­deed, still is – the one at­tached to Abbey Road’s iconic Stu­dio Two.

Cham­bers of se­crets

Abbey Road Cham­bers (VST/AU/AAX) is a plugin em­u­la­tion of that leg­endary space, and the ground­break­ing STEED (Send, Tape, Echo, Echo, De­lay) setup it be­came part of, along­side a tape de­lay and the stu­dio’s REDD mix­ing con­sole.

Waves have cap­tured the sound of the echo cham­ber as im­pulse re­sponses for con­vo­lu­tion pro­cess­ing, and mod­elled an orig­i­nal BTR tape ma­chine and the REDD EQ. The tape de­lay and cham­ber are set up specif­i­cally to repli­cate the STEED im­ple­men­ta­tion – a tech­nique con­ceived at Abbey Road in the 50s and used on count­less tracks by many well-known artists, most no­tably The Bea­tles. It in­volves feed­ing the out­put of the tape de­lay into the echo cham­ber, as de­scribed in Let it flow, right.

While the orig­i­nal Stu­dio Two ‘Cham­ber 2’ Re­verb Type – with its tiled sur­faces and dif­fu­sion pipes – is clearly the main event, you also get IRs cap­tured in Abbey Road’s Mir­ror Room and Olympic Stu­dio’s Stone Room. The first of th­ese is fit­ted with an­gled mir­rors on all four walls, the sec­ond is bounded by rough stone walls, and the sonic dif­fer­ences be­tween the three cham­bers are pro­found. ‘Stone’ is very dark, warm and short, ‘Mir­ror’ is bright, lively and has a longer tail, and the mid-lowem­pha­sis­ing ‘Cham­ber 2’ falls some­where be­tween the two.

While the real Stu­dio Two cham­ber was tra­di­tion­ally fit­ted with an Al­tec 605 speaker for play­back of the source sig­nal, and Neu­mann KM53 mi­cro­phones for pick­ing up the re­verb, Cham­ber 2 ex­pands on this with an ad­di­tional op­tion in each depart­ment. The speaker can be switched to a Bow­ers & Wilkins 800D, while a more mod­ern mic can be brought into play in the shape of the Schoeps MKH-2. The dif­fer­ence in tone be­tween the two mics is sub­tle, to say

“You also get IRs cap­tured in Abbey Road’s Mir­ror Room and Olympic Stu­dio’s Stone Room”

the least, but switch­ing the speaker has a ma­jor im­pact on the char­ac­ter of the re­verb. With its high-mid ‘poke’ and lack of bot­tom-end weight, the Al­tec is well suited to vo­cals and snares, while the B&W’s flat, mod­ern re­sponse gives a much weight­ier if less fo­cused sound that’s more ap­pli­ca­ble to synths, drum ma­chines, heavy gui­tars, etc.

Be­ing a cham­ber em­u­la­tion, the re­verb time is quite short, but the Time X con­trol mul­ti­plies it by any­where from 0.5 to 1.5. The shape and colour of the re­flec­tions and tail are also af­fected by the speaker and mic po­si­tion. In Cham­ber 2, the speaker can be set point­ing into the room for plenty of di­rect sig­nal, or fac­ing the wall for greater dif­fu­sion. The mics, mean­while, of­fer three po­si­tions: Room points them at the speaker, with the dif­fu­sion pipes be­hind them; Wall puts them up against the back wall for max­i­mum re­flec­tions; and Clas­sic points them at the wall with, again, the pipes be­hind. Note that the dif­fu­sion pipes don’t move at all; and with the pipe-less Mir­ror or Stone Re­verb Type ac­tive, you’re re­stricted to the B&W/Schoeps combo, with Near or Far mic po­si­tions.

Roll tape

The mod­elled stereo tape de­lay sounds fan­tas­tic, whether called on to feed the cham­ber or used on its own. De­lay times for the left and right chan­nels can be set freely (1–500ms, the de­fault 111ms em­u­lat­ing a 30ips BTR ma­chine with a 3.3" gap be­tween the play and re­pro heads) or synced (1/4 to 1/64T), in­de­pen­dently or linked. A trio of fil­ters (high- and low-pass, and a +/-6dB bell at 3.5kHz) is in­serted into the feed­back path for rein­ing in ex­ces­sive fre­quency build-ups and gen­eral shap­ing. Sat­u­ra­tion is on tap via the gain-com­pen­sated Drive knob, and tape-style pitch mod­u­la­tion is ap­plied by rais­ing the Mod con­trol.

The out­put from the tape de­lay is also fil­tered and EQed be­fore it hits the cham­ber, in the Fil­ters To Cham­ber sec­tion. Mod­els of the REDD con­sole’s 24dB low- and high-pass RS 106 fil­ters han­dle the ex­tremes, and the RS 127 +/-10dB bell EQ can switch be­tween 2.7, 3.5 and 10kHz.

Come to­gether

When we first clapped eyes on Abbey Road Cham­bers, we as­sumed we’d be able to re­lo­cate the mics, speaker and pipes as we saw fit, and there was a tinge of dis­ap­point­ment as we re­alised we were lim­ited to only a few pre­set po­si­tions. That dis­may dis­ap­peared, though, as we fired it up and in­stantly fell un­der its faux elec­tro-acous­tic spell.

Us­ing the de­fault STEED setup (Cham­ber 2, Al­tec speaker, Neu­mann mics), it re­ally does lend vo­cals a recog­nis­able vin­tage am­bi­ence, and the po­si­tion­ing op­tions are per­fectly ad­e­quate. In spite of that, for many po­ten­tial users, the shrewd ad­di­tion of the B&W speaker, and Mir­ror and Stone rooms could be the clincher, greatly in­creas­ing the ef­fect’s range in terms of fre­quency re­sponse and tone, and mak­ing it a far more ver­sa­tile and con­tem­po­rary propo­si­tion than it at first seems.

Ar­chi­tec­turally idio­syn­cratic and son­i­cally out­stand­ing, this charm­ing re­verb/de­lay is one of the plugin high­lights of the year.

“The mod­elled tape de­lay sounds fan­tas­tic, whether called on to feed the cham­ber or used on its own”

The Stone Re­verb Type is the dark­est of the three, while Mir­ror is, by some mar­gin, the bright­est

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