Abbey Road Rooms: Mastering Suite 5 with Geoff Pesche

Abbey Road Rooms: Mastering Suite 5 with Geoff Pesche

Our latest behind-the-scenes room tour sees us step inside the legendary Room 5, home to mastering engineers Geoff Pesche (Yard Act, Kylie Minogue, New Order, Travis Scott, Mica Millar) and Christian Wright (Fontaines DC, Black Country New Road, Kae Tempest, Ed Sheeran).

We sat down with Geoff Pesche who shared the stories behind some of his favourite pieces of gear.

Geoff is one of the engineers on our Online Mastering portal, available master your music and raise it to its full potential.

1. Neumann VMS 80 Cutting Lathe

When I joined there was a DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) copper lathe in here, which cut to copper discs rather than black lacquer. DMM is not as good for records with rhythm or loud sides, so as a guy working on pop stuff, I preferred the lacquer. One of the guys who was looking after these, I think it was Sean Davis, was in contact with somebody at Record Industries in Haarlem in the Netherlands. They were saying they’d love another DMM lathe and would swap for a black lacquer lathe they had sitting in a cupboard which had been in the Philips Museum for 15 years.

So, Abbey Road’s head of technical services Simon Campbell and I hopped on a plane to Haarlem to have a look. We switched it on, and nothing went bang! I moved the lead screw, the carriage moved nicely, the turntable bearing was quiet, it had a cutting head that hadn’t had a lot of use, so I said, “Come on, we’ve got to take a punt on this”. Since then, it has been absolute bliss (touch wood…or MDF) and has taken an absolute hammering since the concept of Record Store Day. I cut records every shift now, whereas 20 years ago people were saying, “Oh, you still have a cutting lathe Geoff?”

2. EMI TG12410 Mastering Console

I was the first engineer brought into the mastering department by my current manager, Lucy Launder, when I came here 17 years ago. The existing team had all come through the ranks and trained at Abbey Road. I’d worked for four different mastering rooms in London for 25 years before I came here. At first, I was unsure of everything with EMI written on it but, you know what, I was pleasantly surprised.

The TG12410 units are nice and clean, the parametric is nice and passive, the input selection and everything is lovely, filtering all very good, stereo spread which is useful. I was surprised at how clean it was given its age and could understand why everybody was still using it. Another good thing about it is that its all modular, so if the fader breaks, they’ll have another one downstairs which we can quickly replace.

Things were so well-made around that time (1972) they were built to a standard, not necessarily to a price. There are now plugins based around these units, but people still like to come in and use the hardware because there’s really nothing else like it. No one ever comes in and says, “Right, we’ll take all this analogue toff out". Never.

3. Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus 801’s

Your monitoring in a mastering room is everything. If you don’t have great monitors, you can’t tell what you’re doing and the clients won’t know what they’re hearing, so monitors are all.

When I turned up here, these were on the floor at the back of the room almost touching the wall. Anybody who knows anything about speakers knows that a speaker, especially a speaker of that size, has to be off the floor and away from the corner of the room. It sounded muddled and dull and just boomy and horrible.

Simon Campbell got them off the floor and moved them forward and it was absolute night and day. Christian Wright and I both still love the sound of these, they’re timeless, they just work in this room.

4. Yamaha NS-10m’s

When you do this for a long time, you find tools that you like. I’ve worked with Yamaha NS-10’s for 30 years. They do vary with the amp that you drive them with (we use Bryston amps) but a lot of mixers still work with these and they can relate to the room straight away even if they don’t get the big speakers.

They’re also great for referencing at low volume, you know, “Alexa, play Basement Jaxx”. It’s the way of the world now, everyone listens small.

5. Sontec MES-432D9 Parametric EQ

Sontecs have been in all the mastering rooms in the world since the ‘70s. It’s a wonderful sounding parametric, 4 or 5 bands, it’s all you need really. This is my favourite, it’s something I wanted since starting but just took us a while to track down!

6. Prism Maselec MEA-2 / Prism Maselec MLA-2

I use this MLA-2 stereo compressor all the time, it’s old but it’s good. Sounds nice in the signal path and is really easy to use. You can see the MEA-2 parametric is kind of a Sontec copy, that way it’s laid out, but obviously with newer electronics and all that. Both sound very nice for different purposes.

7. MosCow custom-built monitoring and routing matrix

The good thing about the MosCow is that it’s not computer based, so if your computer goes down you don’t lose your signal path. Room 5 was the guinea pig when technical engineers Colin Johnson and Dave Forty designed it. Once it worked in here, then they put it in all the other rooms. Everything in our signal path from input to output is switchable, so anything can come in or go out.

All credit goes to the technical team, they are the unsung heroes of this place and without them we wouldn’t turn a disc. At seven o’clock at night when something goes pop, there’s always someone here that can help you.

Pass your songs through the experienced ears and incredible gear in our mastering rooms using the Online Mastering service.


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