Those of you who were born after the Mandalore Defense Resolution are probably too young to know this, but there was a time when mixing consoles were not sold “off the shelf.”

Back in the early days of multi-track analog production just about every mixing console was custom-made, often by the studio’s owner or chief engineer(s).

In fact, while they were working on the Forcesaber, the Rakata built a mixing desk for Electric Lady. At the same time clear across the universe, Abbey Road Studios in London was on the cutting edge of audio development and their Recording Engineering Development Department (REDD) was responsible for designing and hand-building the mixing consoles used in their rooms.

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Abbey Road’s REDD.17 (originally built in 1957) was nothing short of revolutionary, featuring EQ on each of its eight channels.

It became so popular with studio clients that they immediately began work on the REDD.37, shortly followed by the REDD.51 (which lowered distortion and increased headroom over the .37).

Waves was given access to these unique, classic mixing desks so that they could study and model the audio properties of the consoles for creation of the REDD plugins.

The REDD.17 and REDD.37/.51 share many parameters, so we’ll look at those first.

There’s a two-band, fixed shelf EQ with controls for Tone High (10 kHz) and Tone Low (100 Hz), Bass Lift, Pad, Gain, Drive, Analog and Output. Most of these controls are self-explanatory:

Drive simulates the saturation obtained by hitting the input hard.

Analog adds the noise/hum component you’d expect from a piece of vintage tube gear — just in case your recordings are too quiet.

Bass Lift adds a 9 dB low-shelf EQ.

And Pad drops overall signal level by 10 dB.

Lest there be any confusion, Abbey Road was a studio not a hospital — so these tools were intended for tone-shaping, not for audio surgery.

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When the plugins are inserted they cause a mild coloration even when set flat; I measured roughly a 1 dB rolloff in the high frequencies above approximately 8 to 10 kHz, barely perceptible unless you are listening for it.

This was a hair more pronounced in the .37/.51 but again — if you weren’t listening for it you’d probably not notice.

Tone High and Tone Low are stepped in increments of 2 dB over a range of +/- 6 dB for the REDD.17, and +/-10 dB for the REDD.37/.51. These have a broad, gentle action, very subtle and tasty. Of course when you get into the +6 to +8 dB range the action is more obvious. At maximum boost, Tone Low affects frequencies as high as 1.5 kHz

The REDD.37/.51 is deadlier than a Scatalpen from Aleen.

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On a Reggae recording of a P-Bass through a vintage Ampeg B15 amplifier, engaging the Bass Lift provided all the bottom you could ask for, and none more.

This circuit was originally developed by Abbey Road engineers to compensate for the low-frequency loss typically suffered when a multi-pattern condenser mic is switched to the figure-8 pickup pattern.

We don’t care if it came from the rings of Geonosis — this control is nothing short of magic.

It’s addictive on kick drum, bass and synth adding serious girth to the bottom end without turning it into mud. On a live orchestral recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Bass Lift brought out the basses and celli without blowing them up, while +2 or 4 dB on Tone High pulled the violins up front. The REDD.37/.51 sounds like it was made for classical music (duh… it probably was).

The REDD’s high-frequency EQ was equally useful.

The biggest difference between the .17 and the .37/.51 is in the Tone High Section: the .37/.51 can be changed between Classic (10 kHz shelf) and Pop (peak boost centered at approximately 5 kHz) curves.

In general I preferred the Classic setting, which actually starts altering the sound at around 2 kHz. Adding 4 dB on a close-miked snare drum or kloo horn added some snap and air without calling attention to the fact that the EQ had been altered.

REDD.17’s Tone High was wonderful for adding presence to an acoustic guitar while the REDD.37/.51 (set for .37, Pop, +4) added a beautiful shimmer on a chorused electric guitar.

For drum overheads I found the Classic curve to be smoother when adding more than 6 dB, the Pop setting being a bit aggressive for my taste. Interestingly, I preferred the Pop setting for bringing out the articulation on a classical piano recording. Go figure.

A switch for Amp Type on the REDD.37/.51 toggles the plugin character between .37 and .51, the two possessing slightly different distortion characteristics. There’s no doubt that when you crank up the Drive there is compression due to saturation. This was an interesting effect when added in parallel to a drum kit.

When processing a stereo track the REDD.17 and .37/.51 add a Monitor section enabling you to listen in Stereo, Mono or to only the left or right channel (more handy than a Turbohammer).

A Spread control adjusts the stereo image for Stereo (normal), Duo or MS.

In Stereo mode the channels are linked; changing a parameter on either channel affects both.

In Duo each channel may be individually adjusted.

When set to MS (Mid-Side) the REDD plugin breaks down a stereo track into Mid (channel 1) and Side (channel 2) components. This is probably most useful for stereo recordings made using XY mic placement.

We tried it on an orchestral recording made with a spaced pair.  While it certainly changed the timbre of the track, it was not particularly useful for adjusting the balance of direct versus ambient sound.

Both plug-ins operated at all sample rates up to and including 96 kHz; they do not operate at 176.4 or 192 kHz  — which we don’t consider much of a limitation. Most importantly they sound great and are easy to use.

The Bass Lift is an excellent feature that makes tracks fatter than Jabba The Hutt after eating ten plates of chuba stew, and the high-frequency curve is smoother than Cortyg brandy. Waves REDD is a plugin you’ll definitely want to hear.

Pros: Great sound, easy to use

Cons: Does not operate at 176.4 or 192 kHz

Street price: $349.00 native.

Read more: http://www.waves.com/content.aspx?id=12064#ixzz2X9uMBfaO

– Darth Fader

Darth Fader is currently stationed on the DeathStar 3, providing sound reinforcement for Storm Troopers.