I’m very excited today! We get to try out the BRAND NEW (we got an advance copy!) Waves Abbey Road RS124 Compressor! I’m sure many of you know what this is… it’s a very famous compressor!
First designed in 1960 by Abbey Road Head of Technical Bill Livey, Deputy Head Len Page and seasoned EMI Audio Designer Mike Batchelor, the EMI/Abbey Road RS124 compressor is one of the most coveted pieces of recording equipment ever developed.
Still in use today at Abbey Road Studios, and most recognized for its use at virtually every Beatles recording session, the RS124’s true inner-workings have remained an enigma to recording engineers. Through the years, from incomplete information and supposition, some have tried to recreate the RS124 compressor, though never fully realizing the elusive signal processor.
The story goes that in the 60s they wanted to get an “American Sound.” At the time, American records seemingly had more low end, and there was something quite unique about them. From what I’ve read, George Martin had gone to some American Studios studios, and seen a lot of Altec equipment in there. So they bought a bunch of Altec 436 Compressors. They bring home a bunch of these home to EMI studios.
First they decided to change the power supplies so they could run on 22oV to 240V as opposed to 110V! And then of course they decided they wanted to upgrade it – make it a bit more hi-fi, and less noisy, so they changed the tubes and the valves! And before they knew it, they had modded the schnizzle out of it! I actually have an Altec 438 that has been modded to have some of the features that is in the EMI.
As many of you know, Abbey Road still makes the hardware version of the RS124 with Chandler! Which I used on a session that we’ll be taking a look at in the RS124 Review Video below!
Introducing The Acclaimed Waves Abbey Road RS124 Compressor
The Waves Abbey Road RS124 is an authentic modeling of the ultra-rare EMI-designed RS124 compressor, heavily used in Abbey Road Studios during the ‘60s and ‘70s and heard on practically every Beatles recording.
Known for its silky-smooth, velvety tone, the RS124 has a fixed attack time that isn’t super-fast, allowing even more aggressive threshold settings to deliver pleasing results. It was among the most important pieces of analog gear shaping the sound at Abbey Road and has since become a “holy grail” compressor with almost mythical prestige. In particular, it is said to be responsible for some of the best bass sounds ever captured on tape.
As with everything vintage, each original RS124 was different. Valves can naturally stray away from being “in spec” and morph into a beautiful beast, giving each unit a different character. The RS124 was no exception.
We Wanted To Include Two Different Flavors Of The RS124:
Studio: This one models the original tubes found in RS124 serial 60070B – the favorite unit used at Abbey Road from the late 50s into the 60s. Though these valves varied from the original EMI specs, they turned out to have a “squashed” sound to them, which has since become part of the RS124’s familiar charm.
Cutting: This unit is a modification with a slower attack time. The slower RS124s found their way into the Abbey Road cutting rooms during the 60s.
The plugin also includes a “Super-Fuse” mode, which matches the attack to the release time and creates a uniquely aggressive compression tone where the compressor feels like its “fighting against itself.”