Chandler TG12413 Limiter, TG Mastering Pack – MacUser, 2007

TG Limiter Pack and TG Mastering Pack
by: Jonathan Wilson
MacUser – Issue 23 7 (March 2007)

Now that Apple and Apple Inc. have finally kissed and made up, Beatles-loving Mac musicians are free to indulge both their passions without any emotional conflict of interest. And what better way to celebrate this new era of peace, love and understanding than with software emulations of key sections of the Abbey Road mixing console on which late-period Beatles albums were recorded?

The Abbey Road series of plug-ins is the work of US-based Chandler Limited, which for the past few years have been faithfully reproducing original Abbey Road studio hardware, designed using original schematics and circuit board drawings supplied by EMI. Chandler’s first two software products – the TG Limiter Pack and the TG Mastering Pack – are finally available, and from our tests have been well worth the wait.

Historically, their sound originates in the 1969 TG12345 recording console (which had an integral compressor/limiter, the TG12413, on every channel) and the TG12410 transfer (or mastering) desk from 1972. The TG12345 was installed at Abbey Road’s Studio 2 in the winter of 1968 in time for the Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions during 1969.

The TG Limiter Pack consists of two versions of the TG12413 compressor/limiter. The 1969 version is the more historically accurate model, featuring the original Hold control. This sets the threshold, whereby turning it clockwise exercises more gain reduction and an overall increase in level. The 2005 version replaces the Hold knob with a standard Input control, further adding 12dB of higher input to the compressor. This pushes a stronger signal into the gain reduction section, exponentially increasing the squeeze. In practice, the 1969 version is better suited to more subtle tasks, while the 2005 version allows for more radical sounds, eliciting that vintage pumping and breathing effect.

The Recovery (aka the Release time) switch on both is marked 1 to 6 in a similar fashion to the legendary Fairchild 660/670 valve compressor (which the 1960s TG12413 was initially designed to replicate). The times range from 0.25 to 10 seconds for the compressor and 0.05 to 2 seconds for the limiter. Similarly, the attack time varies, fixed at 47ms for compression and 8ms for the limiter. Finally, the compressor ratio is fixed at 2:1, while the limiter controls up to 20dB of gain reduction.

These fixed settings might sound limiting, but there’s easily enough variation across both plug-ins to present a rich palette of subtle or super-squashed Beatles-esque sounds. If pushed, we’d probably find more use for the limiters, with their pumped-up vintage sheen, but the subtle compression also sits nicely in a mix.

The TG Mastering Pack, meanwhile, consists of the EMI TG12412 EQ and the EMI TG12414 Presence Filter, both of which were part of the 1972 TG12410 transfer desk, as used on Paul McCartney’s early solo work, as well as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The TG12412 EQ has 20 selections on each of its four bands, with five shapes per band: shelf low, blunt, medium and sharp bell curves and shelf high. The bands are divided into two for the lower frequencies (Hz) and two for the upper (kHz), with possible cut or boost of 10dB in 1dB steps. While the TG12412 might not seem to offer the level of micro-control of modern surgical EQs, there are enough tone-shaping options on board to carve out space for any sound, from 32Hz to 16kHz. The net result is a very musical EQ, similar in its modus operandi to a Pultec EQ, with a buttery smooth quality to the sound.

The TG12414 Presence Filter features five controls: high pass, low pass and two presence controls, plus a line amplifier. The high- and low-pass circuits are 18dB per octave and provide four and five selections respectively, with a total of 10dB of cut or boost on eight frequencies also possible. It’s worth noting that the EQ points presented here are the same EQ points as were on the original TG12345 console EQ used during the Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions.

As with many vintage devices, simplicity of operation often belies the magic of their sound. So it is with the Presence Filter. Equally adept at livening up or brightening a dense mix as adding a little extra sparkle and shine to individual tracks, the TG12414 is a very useful secret weapon to have in your arsenal.

All four TG series plug-ins are excellent. Granted, the authentically period nature of their sound – transparent, they ain’t – might be off-putting to some people, but the obvious counter argument would be that if you don’t want that late 60s British sound, these plug-ins aren’t for you.

You also need an iLok key and a spare USB port, which is an inconvenience, and actually getting hold of these plug-ins is much less straightforward than it could be. The simplest approach is to email Chandler Limited directly and ask for a demo or full license.

However, this is real nitpicking. The sound is first class and the price is very fair, given the immediate sonic benefit of installing these accurate, richly rewarding slices of Abbey Road history in your own studio. If that enduringly familiar vintage sound is something you’ve long craved, your search may well be over.

—Jonathan Wilson