Introducing our Latest Collaboration with Waves Audio - Abbey Road RS124

The Waves Audio / Abbey Road RS124 Plugin

The Abbey Road RS124 is the Holy Grail of Smooth Compressors. Give your music the sound of silky-smooth Abbey Road RS124 compression – the legendary velvety tones heard on every Beatles recording made at Abbey Road. With two distinct flavors to choose from, this classic tube model is the only software emulation of the ultra-rare RS124s approved by Abbey Road Studios.

Few pieces of gear define music history as the RS124 does. The custom-built RS124 compressors were the secret weapon of Abbey Road engineers during the '60s – favored by Geoff Emerick for punchy bass sounds, by Ken Scott for lush guitar treatment and by Norman Smith for lightly gluing the entire rhythm bus. Furthermore, the RS124 was also a popular choice for mastering in Abbey Road’s cutting rooms. The legendary RS124 left a huge sonic fingerprint on the Abbey Road '60s sound. The RS124 sound is especially famous for the thick, creamy bass tones it produced on Beatles classics such as Rain and Come Together.

Abbey Road engineers would typically push the input of the RS124 deep into 15-20 dB of gain reduction, producing wonderfully lush results on numerous sources. Since its rediscovery in the early 2000s, this important, rare and unique compressor in still being used at Abbey Road Studios today. Now, its one-of-a-kind sound is available for you as well.

Mirek Stiles, Head of Audio Products, Abbey Road Studios comments, “The RS124 left a massive sonic fingerprint on Abbey Road Studios’ 1960s sound. This rare beast is a thing of beauty for any genre in the modern production chain. Inserting the RS124 plugin instantly creates vibes hard to emulate in other ways. It pumps beats and glues synths quite unlike anything I have ever heard in the studio. It’s unique, crunchy and lush – it will not disappoint.”

The Story Behind The RS124

The RS124 was actually an extensive in-house modification of the American Altec 436B compressor. It is believed only 25 units were ever created, and each unit/serial number was hand-built by Abbey Road/EMI technical legends Bill Livy, Len Page and Mike Bachelor. Naturally, no RS124 unit sounded exactly the same. Each had different sonic qualities and attack/release times, due to constant tinkering of the components used. As a result, some units were more suited for tracking, others for bus compression and disc cutting/mastering duties.

After years of storage at Abbey Road, they were eventually revived and brought back into daily use. Modern engineers and producers rediscovered its special sonic qualities and declared the 1959 design to be as good as (or even better than) any contemporary recording equipment. Whilst working with producer Jon Brion on a Fiona Apple record, Jon managed to befriend legendary Abbey Road microphone technician Lester Smith.

Lester told Jon he had found three RS124s in the back of a dusty old cupboard. He didn’t know if they worked, but would open them up and have a play. The next day Lester entered the studio with one of the units and, although a little noisy, he managed to get the unit up and running in full working order. Jon jumped at the chance to try it out and immediately put a bass guitar through the unit – the same recording chain Paul McCartney used on almost all his Beatles recordings. I remember all of us just looking at each other and saying, that’s the sound — the sound that no one had used on a recording since the early ‘70s. The exact secret of what went on inside those units was kept a secret until we started working with a really talented hardware designer called Wade Goeke. His company Chandler Limited re-created the first-ever true Abbey Road RS124 compressor, allowing modern music makers all over the world access to its beautiful sonic qualities.

Features of the RS124 Plugin

Accordingly, the Waves Abbey Road plugin features two distinct RS124 flavors, modeled from the original hardware:

Studio models RS124 serial no. 60070B – a favourite unit used for tracking at Abbey Road from the late '50s into the '60s, due to its faster attack and release times. This is the more aggressive sound of the RS124, which creates a beautiful “squashed” sound on transients.

Cutter is a modification with slower attack and release times. The slower RS124s were favored for studio reduction mixes and in Abbey Road’s cutting rooms during the '60s. The more relaxed attack made these units suitable and more forgiving for bus compression and mastering purposes.

The RS124 is a feedback compressor with a variable recovery. Want it to become more aggressive? The included “Super Fuse” mode matches release time to attack time, creating a brutal compression character that sounds like it’s “fighting against itself.” Try this on your drum bus for complete room destruction.

Waves Abbey Road RS124 features:

• Precise modelling of Abbey Road’s ultra-rare RS124 tube compressor
• Silky-smooth tones for vocals, bass, drums, bus compression & mastering
• Developed with Abbey Road Studios
• Heard on every Beatles' recording made at Abbey Road
• The go-to creamy compression tone for classic recordings: From Paul McCartney’s bass to Beyoncé’s vocals
• Two distinctive RS124 tube flavors included: Studio and Cutter
• Super-Fuse mode added for more aggressive results
• Sidechain, Mix knob and MS options included

The Abbey Road RS124 Compressor is included in the Waves Abbey Road Collection bundle.

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