THE WORDS “ABBEY ROAD” BRING TO MIND A
stream of iconic images that include the Beatles
hard at work on their album of the same name and
Pink Floyd tracking The Dark Side of the Moon.
But the legendary facility—known as EMI Studios
before 1970—has not only been where many great
albums have been recorded, it is also where many
of them have been mastered. Now Abbey Road
has made it easy for mere mortals to have their
albums mastered there, too, using the studio’s
Online Mastering service.
“We decided to offer an alternative to our £175
hourly rate, to suit a wider range of customers,”
explains Lucy Launder, Head of Mastering and
Video Services. “At the hourly rate, the client can
attend the session with the engineer of their choice,
but with our online service they are charged a flat
rate per song, and I allocate their job to one of our
expert engineers. We are still able to honor specific
requests, however; for example a classical
project will be allocated to an engineer with more
classical experience.” The online CD mastering rate
is £90 per song—currently the equivalent of $149
U.S.—and vinyl pricing is based on disc format (7"
or 12" single, or LP album).
Once you have registered at abbeyroadonlinemastering.
com, you can upload up to 2GB of
uncompressed WAV or AIFF files (16- or 24-
bit/44.1kHz or higher) to a secure server. Users
may log specific requests during the registration
process, with follow-up communication via email
if desired. Once the tracks have been mastered,
which takes no longer than five working days, users
receive notification that they are ready for download.
Abbey Road includes a reference for listening,
and the finished master is provided as either as a
WAVfile, downloadable DDP Image file, or an audio
PMCD. Vinyl is provided in the format requested.
The abbeyroadonlinemastering.com homepage.
Abbey Road’s mastering suites feature vintage
EMI TG 12410 analog mastering consoles
and SADiE 5 PCM8 DAWs; Meyer and B&W monitors;
Benchmark and Apogee converters; Prism
Sound, Weiss, Junger, SPL, and TC Electronic outboard
processors; CEDAR software plug-ins; and
Neumann cutting lathes.
To demonstrate the process, Abbey Road mastered
a track from my upcoming album,
Hologramatron. I created an online account following
the simple instructions and quickly uploaded
a 24-bit/48kHz AIFF file. Veteran engineer Geoff
Pesche mastered “Stars of Sayulita,” a track featuring
vocals by Harry Manx and Deborah Holland,
and relatively lush instrumentation that includes
Moog Guitar and Robert Powell’s pedal- and lapsteel
Pesche used SADiE to play the digital audio into
an Apogee Rosetta converter, and then routed the
analog signal to the TG console for equalization.
Compression and additional equalization were handled
by Prism Sound Maselec MLA-2 and Maselec
MEA-2 processors, before the audio was converted
back to digital (via the Apogee) and finished off
with a Junger accent2 hardware digital limiter.
The results? Expert use of compression and
limiting increased the level dramatically without
compromising the dynamic range—no mean feat—
though other differences were difficult to detect.
Visit guitarplayer.com to compare the unmastered
and mastered versions of “Stars of Sayulita” for
yourself, as well as to read an interview with Geoff
Pesche in which he discusses his mastering philosophy.