London, England, UK—October 2017… Quickly, name the most famous recording studio you can think of. Odds are, you named Abbey Road, the London recording home of the Beatles and countless other legendary artists. Even the crosswalk on the street is famous. To properly serve its A-list clients, everything at Abbey Road is first class, including the staff and equipment. So the Abbey Road team was acting naturally when they purchased five Manley Mastering Version Massive Passive Stereo Tube Equalizers.
Two of the Massive Passive units have been installed in Abbey Road’s new Gatehouse and Front Room Studios. Three more Massive Passives have found a place in three of the complex’s mastering suites.
With its metal-film resistors, film capacitors, and hand-wound inductors, the Manley Massive Passive can deliver a wide variety of tonal shaping, from subtle to vivid. Its tube stages handle huge high-frequency boosts without sibilance and deliver a big, fat sound without mud. Unlike a “true” parametric EQ, its Gain and Bandwidth controls intentionally interact, ensuring repeatability and a good, positive feel, while keeping the cost and space requirements down. The settings may sometimes look bizarre compared to conventional EQs but what matters is the sound.
The Mastering Version of the Massive Passive, selected by Abbey Road, employs Manley’s custom-designed, repeatable, mechanically detented knobs. Range is clamped down for focus where mastering engineers live and breathe. Filters go higher and lower for solving problems in the mastering stage. You get 11 dB boost or cut when Bandwidth is fully clockwise (narrow) in Bell mode or fully counterclockwise in Shelf mode. At the widest bell, the maximum boost or cut is 6 dB, and the narrowest shelf maxes out at 12 dB. The Bandwidth detents behave in a similar manner. This means that instead of a specific dB change per step, the amount varies according to where Bandwidth is set—but regardless of step size, you always have 16 steps.
“The Massive Passive is pretty much always in my mastering chain,” remarks Mastering Engineer Alex Wharton. “The make-up amplifier, with its multi valves, gives things real warmth and depth. The mid-range is so clean, and perfect for vocals and snare. A great bit of kit, brilliant for cutting purposes too. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves that analog sound.”
“Several of Abbey Road’s engineers worked with the units for a month or two on a wide range of projects before giving us the thumbs-up,” added Gary Ash of Sable Marketing, Manley’s UK distributor. “There’s other Manley gear in the racks at Abbey Road, but these guys get to use the best of the best—everything must clearly demonstrate it can earn its keep, helping the engineers create peerless results for their clients. I and the team at Manley Labs are delighted that Abbey Road chose the Massive Passive.”
Abbey Road’s equipment requirements are stringent, as they must be to deliver the quality for which the studio is justly revered. With its distinctive design, the Manley Mastering Version Massive Passive behaves and sounds different from other mastering EQs. With five of these unique EQs in their arsenal, mastering engineers at Abbey Road now have new and fresh ways to add finishing touches to music we’ll all be enjoying in the near future.