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Abbey Road Plug-Ins TG Mastering Pack (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review

May 1, 2009
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Abbey Road''s TG Mastering Pack is a pair of equalizer plug-ins that deliver the smooth, musical sound used on countless legendary records.

Abbey Road''s TG Mastering Pack is a pair of equalizer plug-ins that deliver the smooth, musical sound used on countless legendary records.

TG Mastering Pack is a pair of plug-ins that closely mimic the EQ modules in Abbey Road Studios' custom-built TG12410 mastering desks. Those desks, known for their fantastic sound, were installed at Abbey Road in 1972 and are still in daily use. Much of the circuitry is derived from EMI's designs used to record the Beatles in the '60s. TG Mastering Pack ($560 TDM, $335 RTAS/AU/VST) is as faithful a re-creation of the hardware modules as possible, vetted by a picky group of Abbey Road engineers.

TONE CONTROL

TG12412 is a 4-band parametric EQ. Each band has five discrete frequency selections, 10 dB cut or boost, and five possible EQ shapes. TG12412's frequency bands were chosen to correspond to musical pitches rather than mathematically convenient numbers, and they proceed mostly in half-octave increments (see the online bonus material at emusician.com). The hardware unit is a very musical, smooth EQ that has been used on virtually every mastering session at Abbey Road since the early '70s.

The five EQ shapes are what give this plug-in so much flexibility. The blunt, medium, and sharp shapes make each band operate parametrically. Blunt is a low-bandwidth setting, useful for broad, gentle boosts and cuts across a larger range of frequencies, whereas sharp is better for more-surgical problem solving. But things get really interesting with the addition of low- and high-shelving shapes on each band. It's actually quite useful to have shelving options in mid-frequency EQ bands. They allow you to create low or high shelves anywhere in the frequency spectrum. That means you can create very broad tonal changes with the shelves, which you can augment with sharper alterations at narrower frequency ranges by using other bands as parametric shapes.

FILTER MODULE

TG12414 consists of lowpass and highpass filters, a master level adjust, and a single-band midrange EQ referred to as “presence.” The lowpass filter has five discrete frequency values, and the highpass filter has four. These filters are so smooth and noninvasive that I had to toggle bypass on and off repeatedly to convince myself that they were working.

Presence has eight frequency choices between 500 Hz and 10 kHz, with up to 10 dB of cut or boost. The presence circuit was first used in the group and master sections of the TG12345 mixing console that the Beatles used to record Abbey Road. It was later integrated into the TG12410 mastering desk. I threw TG12414 on a rock drum track, and as soon as I cranked presence to +10 dB at 6.5 kHz, the snare started sounding very Ringo-esque.

THAT CERTAIN SOUND

I remixed a grunge song that originally had been mixed in the analog domain, and I just couldn't get the overall flavor right. My Digidesign Pro Tools remix sounded big and punchy, but it still didn't have the airy lift in the highs that the original did. I strapped the TG12412 plug-in across the master bus and dialed in the sought-after sound within seconds, boosting the highs from about 5 kHz and tucking in the lows by 2 dB at 128 Hz and below. I then went to a few master mixes from my Under the Big Tree album, mixed on modest gear a decade ago. As soon as I started playing with TG12412, I wanted to go back and remaster the whole record. The plug-in smoothed the highs, punched up the lows, and cleaned up the low mids effortlessly.

Nothing is perfect, of course. While playing back content, I heard a high-pitched click when switching between EQ shapes on TG12412; to be fair, EQs from other manufacturers exhibit the same behavior. Although the plug-ins work beautifully with a hardware controller, operating the knobs with a mouse can be cumbersome. In addition, I wish that each EQ band had its own individual bypass.

TG Mastering Pack is all about creating a certain sound that has appealed to generations. TG12412 and TG12414 are not the be-all and end-all, Swiss Army knife EQs that will cover every mixing circumstance, nor are they intended to be. But if you love the sound of legions of classic albums that have emerged from Abbey Road Studios and you're looking to capture a bit of that magic in your own recordings, then these smooth, musical equalizers are the way to go.


Value (1 through 5): 3
Abbey Road Plug-ins
abbeyroadplugins.com

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