The Abbey Road Plug-ins Brilliance Pack plug-ins are modeled on actual hardware devices used by numerous artists, including the Beatles. The suite contains the RS127 Rack (left), the RS127 Box (center), and the RS135 (right).
When it comes to recording studios, one monolithic name towers over the past 40 years of record production: Abbey Road. For decades, engineers near and far have been searching for the holy grail of the Abbey Road sound, as epitomized in the records of the Beatles. The new Brilliance Pack plug-in suite ($499 TDM, $249 RTAS/AU/VST) from the studio's tech department brings us mere mortals one step closer.
PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR
The Brilliance Pack consists of three plug-ins, all of which replicate in software the hardware boxes designed at Abbey Road in the early '60s. The RS127 Brilliance Control (or Presence Box) was a remarkably basic, passive treble control with two knobs, one for up to 10 dB of boost or cut in 2 dB steps, and one for selecting one of three center frequencies (2.7 kHz, 3.5 kHz, or 10 kHz, chosen to complement the EQ on the REDD mixing consoles at Abbey Road). The Presence Box came in two flavors: the gray Rack model or the green Box version. The actual Rack and Box RS127s have identical circuitry, but when the plug-in engineers were analyzing the units, they discovered that a certain transformer (utilized to interface the RS127s with modern equipment) colored the sound in a desirable way, so the virtual RS127 Box has that transformer coloration as part of its sound.
The third plug-in in the Brilliance Pack is the RS135, which is known to many simply as the “8 kHz box.” It‘s even more basic than the RS127, with only one control for boosting 8 kHz up to 10 dB in 2 dB steps. All three plug-ins are exact visual replicas of the originals and are reported to be aural replicas as well. Having never used the original boxes, I'll have to take the manufacturer's word on that one.
LOAD 'ER UP
After loading the authorization into my iLok Smart Key (required to run the suite), the first thing I noticed using the Brilliance Pack in Digidesign Pro Tools LE was that there are no AudioSuite versions of the plug-ins, so non-real-time bounces are out of the question. This is a minor drag for people with older or slower computers who rely on AudioSuite processing in order to be able to use a lot of effects. With the plug-ins loaded up as inserts, though, I immediately forgot such trifles. I was instantly hooked on these plug-ins, which all sound amazing and quite different from one another.
The RS127 Rack sounds the cleanest of the three. It was extraordinarily easy to achieve gentle presence boosts on vocals, snare drums, or guitars, and the results were pleasing to the ears. I heard none of the undesirable phase-shifting or harshness/honkiness that can arise with lesser EQs boosting high-mid or high-end frequencies. The Box version of the RS127 is quite a bit more aggressive; when set to the same frequency and boost amount as the RS127 Rack, the signal gets a significant volume boost comparatively and sounds a lot more forward in the mix.
This has become one of my favorite vocal-presence boosts, especially when set between 2 and 6 dB at 10 kHz. This boost can often cause clipping, and because there is no gain control in these plug-ins (an oversight, in my opinion, despite the lack of a gain control on the original units), I usually had to insert a Trim plug-in before the RS plug-ins to bring my signal down a few decibels. Because these boxes have the ability to cut as well, I successfully tamed some harshly recorded guitars with the Box plug-in by knocking 2 dB off at 3.5 kHz.
As stated earlier, the RS135 has a single control that boosts 8 kHz in 2 dB steps. In actuality, because the original box was passive, it attenuated all frequencies except 8 kHz, which is somewhat apparent in the plug-in version, because your signal doesn't get a whole lot louder even when boosted to the extreme. However, because of the resonant peak created, you still need a trim control to prevent clipping when boosting signals anywhere close to 0 dBfs.
The sound of this plug-in is phenomenal. It can really make instruments poke their head through, so to speak, without seeming much louder. I've been using it like crazy lately to get guitars, bass, and backing vocals to assert themselves without taking over the mix.
You might be wondering how plug-ins that seemingly do so little can compete with the myriad of plug-ins out there that do so much. For my money, I'd much rather have a simple EQ with one knob that sounds fantastic than a mediocre EQ with ten bands and oodles of parameters. It's refreshing to get back to the basics of tonal control, and it doesn't get much more basic than the Brilliance Pack. It certainly won't serve as your utilitarian, catch-all EQ tool, but it can augment your existing EQs in a simple, elegant, and extremely exciting way. And if one band of EQ isn't enough for you, stacking them sounds great, too.
Value (1 through 5): 4
Abbey Road Plug-ins