Two weeks ago I toured world famous Abbey Road Studios in London, England. I was fortunate to be lead around by a gentleman who has been with Abbey Road since 1965. I don't believe there is anyone on the planet with more knowledge of this Studio and what's taken place over decades at the Studio than this person (who shall remain nameless unfortunately). During the personal tour I was introduced to someone who'd won a Grammy for his work on Beatles 2009 remastered albums. After a brief introduction I had to ask about the sample rate(s) used for the 2009 releases and if we'd soon hear The Beatles in high resolution.
Circumstances out of my control: No photography allowed inside the doors of Abbey Road Studios (I found out the hard way) and I don't have permission to release the names of the individuals I talked to at the Studio.
That said I still want to share the experience with Computer Audiophile readers. I believe I have a scoop on The Beatles that I've yet to see anyone release. In fact I've seen and heard other people "in-the-know" repeat incorrect information about the 2009 Beatles project. When The Beatles 2009 remasters were released on CD followed by the 24/44.1 USB Apple, a few people said they "knew" the remastered albums were converted from analog to digital at 24 bit / 192 kHz. After talking to a person who won a Grammy for his work on the project I believe I have the information straight from the horse's mouth. The Beatles analog to digital transferring was started around five years prior to the albums release date on 9/9/09. At that time high resolution was not on many people's radar. Thus the decision was made to transfer all The Beatles material from analog to digital at 24 bit / 44.1 kHz. That's right 24/44.1 is all we're going to get out of the 2009 remasters. I vividly remember many people crying foul when the USB Apple was released at only 24/44.1. Many people, myself included, thought higher resolutions would be released in the coming years. This would allow maximum money extraction from true Beatles fans who purchased the material first and would repurchase at the higher sample rate. I guess this cynicism was unwarranted as The Beatles did release the highest resolution material available form the 2009 remasters. "At least there is job security for those involved in another possible A to D transfer at high resolution." Said two engineers at Abbey Road Studios.
Continuing on my tour I really enjoyed seeing the original EMI consoles built for Abbey Road. These are still working today but not used as much as the newer consoles from Neve and SSL. Once in awhile an artist will ask for the old EMI consoles because a certain sound is needed. The sound is not necessarily more accurate it's simply different. I also saw a nice selection of tape machines from Studer and a host of other digital components I'd love to have in my listening room. Prism Sound is well represented at Abbey Road and a bit of Sonic Studio gear is still in use. One engineer I spoke with about analog and digital sound said unequivocally that digital is by far more accurate than analog ever was. Sure this is one person's opinion, but it's an opinion of someone who has been around the block a few times and knows how his recordings should sound. If the decision is up to him he said he'll never use analog again.
A few interesting notes about the actual recording studios at Abbey Road. Many readers already know but it's worth sharing again. B&W loudspeakers and Classe components are in heavy use around Abbey Road. This B&W / Classe equipment is used for monitoring in at least the main studios. In studio number three there is a very unique room for recording drums or piano. It's an incredibly live room (opposite of over-damped) to say the least. The walls are all mirrored and full of asymmetrical shapes commonly seen in concert halls for diffusion. I'm no expert in studios or recording but I was a bit surprised that such a live room was needed. Lastly, studio one at Abbey Road is gigantic. This studio can house a full orchestra for a recording session. While I was in the studio such an orchestra was setting up to record the score to a video game the following day. It's nice to know video game producers are spending the money to record at such an illustrious place and including high quality sound into their games. Back in the days of Atari, Nintendo, and Sega Genesis I bet nobody saw this coming :~)
For a much better view of Abbey Road Studios check out the website http://www.abbeyroad.com