Spitfire Audio’s Abbey Road One set from 2021 provides an opportunity to program virtual orchestral sessions for a large band, packed with acoustics for one of the world’s most famous large recording rooms. But under the same roof as Abbey Road Studios’ Studio One, lies Studio Two, which is arguably a more sacred space.
Now, Libraries of Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings brings room sound to your fingertips, bringing five of London’s best Sessions players playing both separately and jointly, to allow you to compose and arrange with that sound. We take a look at the professional version of the library, which provides access to a wider range of microphone options and a wider range of hinges than the basic version.
Fab Four Studio
Often referred to as The Beatles Studio, the smaller (but by no means small) room in Abbey Road Studio was raised by the 1966 Series Order Record Eleanor Rigby. As the recording room favorite of many Fab Four songwriters, her sound is now deeply familiar to the hearts and minds of millions of listeners. Countless superstars flocked there too – Adele, Oasis, Little Simz, Pink Floyd and many more.
Particularly favored for smaller recordings, there is a unique quality in the relationship between room acoustics, intimacy, array of microphones, outdoor gear and players drawn to that space that has inextricably written itself into the folklore of recorded history.
Knuckles and microphone options
Abbey Road Two is a dedicated Spitfire Audio, rather than being hosted in Kontakt, like much of the brand’s recent releases at large. Loading up, the first patch is probably what you’d expect: a group of all five players (violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello and Double Bass) playing a Spiccato short expression with instruments set across keyboard range, instantly allowing you to take advantage of The Beatles are inside you and playing Eleanor Rigby.
You can select the hinges at the top of the interface, with group patches delivering all the chord sounds across the keyboard, tuned to the main range of each instrument. This works in tandem with the new Spitfire Arranger, which lets you deliberately select a key range for each pentatonic sound. These can either be fixed to low and high tones for each voice or can take advantage of Multi-Voice, a function with an encapsulated pattern.
Multi-Voice allows you to adjust the level of fade-out across tones in the lower key range and fade-in to the upper key range, musically fading out sounds as you play up and down the keyboard. It’s elegant and enables you to quickly produce an arrangement for an entire group before it is divided for each sound to take advantage of its own custom instrument. When that time comes, each stringed instrument is given a set of individual patches to cover the joints.
The all-in-one offers every possible expression under one roof, but if you prefer to limit the options to short or long variations, these patches are also available. Spitfire Audio’s Legato playback patterns feature front and center, with velocity controlling the velocity of transmission between tones, while modulation is mapped to the dynamic layers and articulation of the audio output, making for some stunningly playable performances.
Legato options have been improved within Abbey Road Two, with additional options offered via the Slurred legato and Portamento legato options. These provide alternative ways to control for subtle differences between observational transitions. Other than that, the hinges include non-portamento Longs, Sul Point, and Sul Tasto patches (playing on the bridge for more scratchy sounds, or on the fingerboard for more resonant, soft tones); Harmonics, Trills, Tremolos, Flautando (playing with fewer bow hairs for a more airy tone), Spiccatissimo shorts, Spiccato, Staccato, Pizzicato and Marcato. Plus, there are some great well-balanced brush sounds, which only last for a moment before fading out.
In the pro version of Abbey Road Two, this richness in gameplay is matched by a similarly generous selection of microphone options. They are arranged with access to single microphone arrays, or to four mixes, where the microphones have been mixed into two contemporary mixes and two vintage microphones.
The Vintage Mix 1 is a re-creation of the signal chain used for an Eleanor Rigby session: REDD’s office on Abbey Road, with parallel dynamic control from an RS124 compressor, to feed a signal to the J37 tape machine. Instead of the traditional Decca Tree arrangement, alternative mics include the M50 and Chandler REDD.47 in a left/center/right configuration, as well as Ribbon, spot condenser, Ambient mics, and more.
While the basic version’s mic options are more limited, it does offer the main mixes you’re hoping for, including the Vintage 1 Series. A range of reverberations from Abbey’s own road plate frequencies are also included. While there are no additional controls for these things beyond the amount of frequency, decay times are presented in half-second increments, so it’s easy to find the right spatial selection for your mix.
Record audio under your fingers
As you’ll hear from the audio shows and from the extensive walkthroughs on the Spitfire Audio website, Abbey Road Two is a triumph. Rarely does a series speaker library explode as this one does.
This author has been fortunate enough to score strings in Abbey Road Two, and the sound of this library is full of the qualities of that room. Arranger is a great addition, especially in the early stages of composing and arranging, as is the built-in echo that can be selected from the top of the interface.
The overall feel of the patches is broad, warm, and rich, but you can tame the stereo display if you want to. Microphone options are carefully selected and all offer complete customization in the Pro version. You might be under the impression that small string groups lack the richness and fullness of their symphonic counterparts, but Abbey Road Two should help dispel any such belief. Yes, it is a completely different sound. But, in addition to fragility and poise, these tools provide serious strength. And when pushed into higher and faster sequences, it comes to life with the detail and nuance of every arc stroke.
Without a doubt, this is the most exciting set of solo stringed instruments this writer has ever played, and used together, it provides the sound of one of the most coveted recording spaces in virtual instrument form.
If you don’t need a full set of microphone options and can sacrifice a few hinges as well, the “Standard” version of the Abbey Road Two is half the price of the Pro version. Either way, get ready for Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings to become a convenient option for smaller string fixtures and arrangements. Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings is a modern classic.
- Hosted by Spitfire Audio plug-in
- Features multiple band playing techniques (violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, double bass all together) and solo vocals.
- Multiple Mic Mixes – Using contemporary and legacy microphones/channels.
- Contact: Spitfire Audio