Abbey Road Rooms: Mastering Suite 30 with Frank Arkwright and Miles Showell

Abbey Road Rooms: Mastering Suite 30 with Frank Arkwright and Miles Showell

Our latest behind-the-scenes room tour sees us step inside Room 30, home to engineers Frank Arkwright and Miles Showell.

Frank has worked on music by the likes of Cat Burns, Arcade Fire, New Order, Belle and Sebastian, Johnny Marr, Mogwai, Frank Turner and Buckley and Butler while Miles' discography includes music by ABBA, Sam Ryder, Amy Winehouse, The Beatles, The Cure, Iggy Azalea, The Alan Parsons Project and INXS.

They are both a part of our online mastering team and are available to master your music to get it sounding as good as it possibly can.

Read on to learn about the incredible gear housed in their room.

1. AMPEX ATR-102 tape machine


"These are glorious beasts. This is Abbey Road’s ATR which was acquired from Olympic Studios and would have been used on many legendary sessions there.

For the machine, I have sourced my own custom tape heads in order to extract the maximum possible quality from any given tape.

ATRs are the best fun you can have with analogue tape, but the best is about to get better with the addition of my own ATR bought from Genesis so it too has an excellent pedigree."

2. Benchmark DAC


"DAC stands for Digital to Analogue Converter. I like the Benchmark for its great clarity and detail. We have various different DACs to choose from but I frequently use this one which still sounds excellent. If it was good gear then, it’s probably good gear now!"

3. Sontec MES-432-C Equaliser


"The very first unit I bought for Room 30 was this equaliser. The Sontec is a legendary piece of kit, hand-built in small numbers by Burgess McNeal in Virginia, I was lucky to get it when I did as they are not often available.

Sontecs sound really musical and they never 'ring' or sound harsh. Lesser EQs can have a nasty character which gets worse the more gain you add, the Sontec is smooth and sweet."

4. PMC MB2-S-XBD-A Monitors with Bryston Amplifiers


"I like these because they’ve got the extra bass driver below, so even at low volume they sound exceptionally good. Obviously, they sound fantastic at high volume as well, but even at low volume you still get plenty of bass. The mids and the highs sound so sweet. You can hear such detail in the mids that you can tell if you go one notch too high on any frequency."


"I just love PMC. The detail and accuracy on offer is glorious and second to none. They are extremely true to the source, which means if there is a problem in a mix, the PMCs can be cruel and ensure the problem stands out, but this exactly is what I want. Armed with this knowledge, I can hear exactly what needs doing in order to rectify it.

Some speakers will make everything sound nice; this might be good to have in certain circumstances at home but is particularly hopeless in a professional mastering environment where you need to know exactly what you are dealing with. Having worked professionally with PMC loudspeakers for the best part of 30 years, I honestly would not want to use anything else."

5. Analogue Tube AT-101 Compressor


"Another of my personal acquisitions and an item that has already had its own blog post (here) is this very faithful recreation of the legendary Fairchild 670 stereo compressor. These too are hand-built and because of the quantity of valves (tubes) in them there are no printed circuit boards (it gets too hot so a PCB would either melt or fail) everything internally has point to point wiring.

It takes Simon Saywood (Mr. Analogue Tube) 80 hours to build one. Simon uses the same transformers, the same valves and the same balanced audio path and transformer bias supply as Fairchild did. Many people have and are attempting to make Fairchild clones, while some of them are OK, in my opinion the AT-101 is the only one that actually sounds like a Fairchild.

The upshot of all this diligence from Simon is an incredible sounding unit that can as aggressive or as subtle as you, or rather the session dictates."

6. Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor


"This valve compressor has a lovely warm sound. I like the way it gives some space and depth to the mid-range frequencies. I’d say I use it on about 50 percent of projects, if something is a little thin-sounding and needs some body."

7. Dolby 740 Spectral Processor


"Something else that is rare is the Dolby 740. I bought this from Genesis when they closed their studio. This is an analogue EQ and transient processor like no other.

Launched in the mid-1990s it was a bit ahead of its time and not in production for long, so consequently not that many were made. It works on harmonics and can be a powerful tool in bringing a spark to a lifeless recording. I have had mine restored to new condition (upgraded power supply and new switches and pots fitted). I do not use it that often, but every time I do it puts a smile on my face."

8. Neumann VMS-80 disc cutting lathe


"My baby, I could hardly not mention this! I spend many happy hours every week cutting vinyl masters on this exceptional lathe. It was in a sorry state when it was found at the old EMI Archive building in Hayes. Hidden under 20 years of dust and various broken bits it was not in bad shape as it was low hours for a lathe.

Working initially in partnership with Abbey Road, I had it restored, rebuilt and upgraded to my specification and genuinely say that it is the best sounding lathe I have ever used (and I have used some excellent examples in my time, including a couple of the other lathes in this building).

Great though it is, I have not just been complacent and sat back with it. I continually look for ways of improving it still further. Recently I had some newly designed replacement boards installed in the amplifier path and these took it to the next level. I cannot say too much for now, but there are more upgrades in the pipeline!"

Pass your songs through the incredible gear and experienced ears in Room 30 by using our Online Mastering service.


Related News