Abbey Road, one of the most famous studios in the world, has brought another golden offering to the audio plug-in world; the mighty RS124 compressor. The hardware originals are tube compressors specifically made, and modded, by EMI engineers over the ’60s and ’70s for in-house use at Abbey Road. Each unit is so unique, the RS124 plug-in bundles together three of the best examples.
The differences between first two (modeled on serial numbers 60050A and 61010B) are quite subtle, while the last unit, 60070B, has three times faster attack and release times. A simple input control determines gain and compression, and an output attenuator offers up to 30 dB reduction after the compressor. I found it quite easy to overload the plug-in; you have to carefully balance the output with the input control.
The Recovery/Hold control is a six-way selector for release times, plus an interesting Hold position. This EMI mod solves two problems. First, it holds the release time so the compressor is primed with gain reduction before the audio is passed through it—this addresses the problem of getting an audible thump when first hit by a track. Second, when a track fades, the release brings up tape and ambient noise as the sound decays. Switching to Hold at that point solves that problem.
One option that is not a feature of the original hardware unit is SuperFuse mode, activated by clicking on the front panel’s fuse-holder. This mode sets the release time to match the attack time, which produces very aggressive compression that can be used for dramatic punch on drums and dynamic material. It’s a fantastic addition, and possibly a “deal-sealer.”
There are AU, TDM, VST and RTAS versions for both Mac and Windows platforms, and it’s easy to purchase directly as a download from abbeyroadplugins.com (LE/AU/VST—$335, TDM—$560).
I first tried a vocal through the RS124 and really couldn’t believe the effect—an instant creamy sound. The much quicker 60070B was my main model choice. No matter what the material, it sounded fantastic—especially acoustic guitars and vocals, with instant full, rich body—lower harmonics were boosted, while the high frequencies seemed smoother but still crisp. For live drums, the SuperFuse setting is simply outrageous.
Having compared the RS124 plug-in to a long list of popular valve-style plug-in compressors, I’d guess it would take the top spot in most collections very easily.
Abbey Road Studios