Recording and Production in the News
Prism Sound and SADiE play a vital role in the success of Abbey Road's Beatles remastering projectCambridge, UK: Prism Sound converters and SADiE mastering equipment played a vital role in Abbey Road's marathon four year project to digitally remaster the entire original Beatles catalogue.
Abbey Road's Audio Restoration Engineer, Simon Gibson
The project, which involved 13 albums, took many hours of work by Abbey Road's specialist engineering team. This was led by project coordinator Allan Rouse and included Guy Massey (Senior Recording Engineer), Steve Rooke (Senior Mastering Engineer), Paul Hicks (Recording Engineer), Sean Magee (Mastering Engineer), Sam Okell (Recording Engineer) and Simon Gibson (Audio Restoration Engineer).
The first part of the process, which was undertaken by Guy Massey and Paul Hicks, involved transferring each song from analogue tape into the digital domain. Prism Sound's ADA-8XR multi-channel modular ADA converters were used to transfer the material into Pro Tools and the songs were then formatted into 24 bit/192kHz and video referenced.
At this stage Simon Gibson took over. Using a SADiE 5 system with built-in Cedar Retouch, Gibson began the careful process of restoring the audio without compromising the character of the original recordings. De-noising technology was used subtly and sparingly to remove noises such as audible clicks and pops from mics and faders, but performance-based imperfections, such as breaths and coughs, were retained.
"The integration of Cedar Retouch into SADiE 5 has literally changed the way I work by making the whole restoration process much quicker, easier and more precise," Gibson says. "The visual element provided by SADiE was essential on this project because I was able to zoom in and actually see what was happening to the audio. By changing the zoom I could look at the mid and low range frequencies and see how to get the best out of them. Each song on each album had its own issues, but with SADiE 5 and Cedar Retouch I could easily identify problems such as tape drop outs because the broad upper frequency shading was interrupted by a thin strip, which indicated where the audio needed gating."
While Gibson was restoring the album tracks, he also used his SADiE 5 and Cedar Retouch system to helped Giles Martin and Paul Hicks create the audio for The Beatles: Rock Band video game.
"In order to use the original songs within the game we had to isolate individual instruments and voices so that players can have individual control. Given that many of the Beatles earlier recordings were done on two or four track tape, this was quite a tall order. However, with SADiE 5 and Cedar Retouch I was able to pick them apart note by note and effectively rub out the frequencies we didn't want. It was incredibly labour intensive and took ages to do, but the results were worth it because the majority of The Beatles catalogue can now be used in the game."
Throughout the entire restoration and remastering process immense care was taken to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings. The whole team deliberated every change at every step of the way to ensure that the audio remained as pure as possible.
"We didn't want to have a negative effect on the resulting audio," Gibson says. "Instead, we wanted to end up with audio that was as close as possible to the original, recorded studio sound. In terms of audio restoration this meant taking a subtle, almost forensic approach to the job. I was fortunate to have both the time and budget to do this."
Following restoration, all 13 albums were mastered by Steve Rooke and Sean Magee, who handled the stereo and mono recordings respectively. Once again a SADiE Series 5 PCM8 DAW played a part in the mastering process, as did Prism Sound converters which were used to transfer the audio back into the analogue domain and for noise shaping. Most of the EQ-ing was done on Abbey Road's 1972 EMI TG mastering console, but a Prism Sound Maselec MEA-2 was also used for additional EQ where finer steps or specific target frequencies were required.
Abbey Road's marathon project finally came to fruition on September 9th when all 13 of the remastered albums were released through EMI Music and Apple Corps.
Commenting on the role Prism Sound and SADiE played, Graham Boswell, sales and marketing director for Prism Sound, says: ""Prism Sound has always been associated with high-quality analogue-digital conversion, commencing its manufacturing activities in 1993 with the AD-1 stereo analogue to digital converter. SADiE, working in parallel, at that time, was known for its professional audio editing software and in particular its reliability and ease of use. The focus then was on stereo devices, both for new recordings and for the re-mastering of analogue back-catalogue for the then-new medium of CD and Abbey Road were early customers for both products. Since then, many legendary works have been re-mastered for digital release on Prism Sound and SADiE equipment at studios around the world and SADiE has become part of the Prism Sound family, while both have developed multi-track products for recording and surround sound production. It is an extraordinary honour to have the SADiE editing systems, the Prism Sound conversion and Maselec Master Series analogue outboard processors used at Abbey Road Mastering for the re-mastering of the Beatles catalogue."
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