Canadian Musician - March-April 2022 - Page 22

ROAD TEST

Spitfire Audio Abbey Road 2 : Iconic Strings

By Adam Gallant

In December 2021 , Spitfire Audio released Abbey Road 2 : Iconic Strings . This virtual instrument has captured in immense detail a string quintet sitting in Abbey Road ’ s most famous room , Studio Two . Abbey Road ’ s Studio Two is arguably the most sought-after room in recording history , and the sound of strings in this space has been with music listeners for decades . The process of capturing the quintet for this plug-in was inspired by the “ Eleanor Rigby ” session from 1966 . Alongside this time-capsule-like approach , the team at Spitfire have also captured the musicians with modern microphones and single paths to offer users the best of both worlds . Users can easily manipulate different mixes ( microphones and signal paths ) in the Signal Mixer window within the plug-in . Details about the microphone configurations are displayed in the information panel to the bottom left of the plug-in . With choices like ribbon mics , the REDD desk , and the J37 tape machine , users can get a throwback sound that has just the right amount of dirt and grit . We also have a mix fader that incorporates the automatic doubling technique ( ADT ) made famous at Abbey Road . The software comes in both Core and Professional versions , and for this test we have our hands on the Pro version , which equates to more microphone and signal path options , as well as the added Legato Portamento bow articulation , which has an incredibly emotive sound on the individual instrument layers . The Core edition is 46 GB in size while the Professional version comes in at 292 GB .

The sounds within this collection are inspiring . It can be very quick to sketch out ideas with the full ensemble patch loaded , then break your compositions down to individual instrument layers on new instantiations of the plug-in for more detailed work . Patches are organized by either ensemble or individual string instruments ( Double Bass , Cello , Viola , Violin 2 , Violin 1 ). Beyond that , each patch has a sub-selection of bow articulations with a wide range of expressions . These bow articulations cover the gamut of needed sounds for any work with a very high degree of realism and dynamic range possibilities . The realism of the string sounds really shines in the shorter shots like the Pizzicato and Marcato . There is no strange digital wateriness , just pure , human playing . The long bow articulations are also void of the often-expected “ synth ” feelings we get from small string ensemble and solo string recreations .
The plug-in ’ s UI is elegant and simple . The instrument dynamics are mapped to the Mod wheel by default and this is where the human elements can easily and quickly shine . For example , the airiness of a bow sound on the Long Flautando setting is a dynamic gesture that changes when the Mod wheel is adjusted . We hear more air coming off the bow when it ’ s soft and less when the player digs in ( or rather , dials up the Mod wheel ). When composing with the Ensemble patch , the Multi Voice setting will create overlapping notes between the individual instruments , providing a kind of richness that lends itself well to pop orchestrations . For reverbs , the software also holds a chamber and a variety of plates at different lengths . The reverbs do not cloud up the feeling of realism on the string sounds and we have full control over their blend as well as other factors , such as the Release Time , Tightness , Vibrato , Compression , and Speed . Some settings are specific to individual instruments and others affect the whole ensemble patch only . Spitfire has added a lot of versatility within this plug-in without making it feel like there is any kind of learning curve . Not an easy task with such a large undertaking .
The software is available as AAX , AU , VST2 , VST3 , and Native Control Standard formats . I was testing AAX on Pro Tools in Windows and the instrument ran smoothly . The plug-in displays information about CPU , Disk , and RAM usage to help with resource management . Depending on your hard drive speeds , you may have some short load times when switching between patches . I find having a template session with six instantiations of the plug-in to be a good start . A full ensemble on one track , then five tracks remain for each player in the quintet . Load up the desired bow articulations and you have incredible film scores and string orchestrations at your fingertips .
Abbey Road Two : Iconic Strings is taking a bit of our shared music past and bringing it to the cutting edge of music technology . This plug-in presents an astounding amount of history , technology , and art all wrapped into one . Big congrats to the team at Spitfire for their work .
Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production , from music composition to location and post audio for television and film . He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown , PE .
22 CANADIAN MUSICIAN