Abbey Road Studios is noted for a lot of things but one that stands out is the sound of their dedicated echo chambers. Real-life live chambers are really rare these days thanks to sky-high real estate prices and inexpensive digital alternatives, but back in the day every large studio had its own. Abbey Road had some of the best and hence used by Waves used for its Abbey Road Chambers plugin.
An echo chamber is a reflective room with hard surfaces with a speaker to energize it and at least one mic to pick up the reflections. That sounds simple but there’s so much more that goes into it. Not only will the type of hard surface have an effect on the sound (tile, sheet rock and mirrors are popular), but also the speaker and its placement, and the type of microphone used to capture the effect.
In the case of the Abbey Road Studio 2 chamber, it’s an old Altec speaker and Nuemann KM-83 omnidirectional tube mic that have everything to do with the sound, as you’ll see in the video below.
Among the things that are discussed in the video include Abbey Road’s innovative S.T.E.E.D. process. Depending who you ask, it either stands for Single Tape Echo Echo Delay or Send Tape Echo Echo Delay, but the results are the same. It’s a way of sending a filtered pre-delay send to the echo chambers but with a twist. It also provided for a feedback loop to supply a number of echo repeats inside the chamber itself, which was pretty heady stuff back in the totally analog 1960s. The most famous use of this was on John Lennon’s vocal of “A Day In A Life” where you can really hear it during the sparse beginning to the song.
Check out the video below to find out more about Abbey Road’s echo chambers as well as the excellent Waves plugin. Also, check out this great article on how the company does its modeling.