If you’ve ever tried to intentionally double track a vocal track you know that it can be a lot tougher than you think. Trying to match the timing and nuances of a vocal takes a lot of time and can be super frustrating for both the singer and the production team. That’s why Abbey Road chief engineer, technical director, and later studio manager Ken Townsend came up with an ingenious way of simulating a double track for The Beatles by using a couple of tape machines that’s still tough to duplicate even today (although Waves now has a nice simulation). He called the effect ADT or Artificial Double Tracking.
Today we have so much that we can use to manipulate the sound to get an effect that’s in the ballpark to ADT, but it just doesn’t provide the same sound. Some might say that Townsend’s invention is the closest artificial double tracking has ever come to the real thing.
The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, loved to double track vocals but hated the act of doing it. Not only that, back in the 4 and 8 track days, the doubled vocal would take up a track that could have been used for another element of the production.
The solution that Townsend came up with is ingenious, considering how limited the tools were back in the 60s compared to today. That said, it’s also a rather complicated setup that you can only grasp if you know how 3 head tape machines work.
Here’s Ken describing how the effect was achieved.
Waves has managed to do an excellent job of recreating the original Abbey Road ADT sound in its Reel ADT plugin. Even better is that the plug is on sale now for just $69.99 instead of its normal $249. If you want that original Beatles doubling sound, check it out.