The Beatles Gone Soft...
Some of the most recognizable songs of our generation have been made by the same band, made with the same instruments and even in the same room!
The legacy George Martin and The Beatles left musically is so heavily documented and is almost intangible to admit the breakthroughs these people made in the field of Pop ‘songs’ and modern music production.
Much has been said about EastWest's ambitious Fab Four virtual instrument/soundbank, due in part to the fact that it focuses on The Beatles, probably the most permeating and influential pop music group ever. But it's also because the 13 GB worth of sounds are themselves so convincing and because of the pedigree of the package's creators and sound sources. Long in the making and finally delivered well past its initial ship date, much has been made about how impressively accurate the sounds are to the original song layers they re-create. My goal, however, was to discover whether Fab Four's sounds could really hold their weight in a more modern-styled production session; sure, they work great for making Beatles-y tracks, but will they work for anything else?
Magical mystery collection
For those who haven't seen or heard about Fab Four since its introduction way back at the 2007 Winter NAMM show, this high-profile (and not officially Beatles-endorsed) soundbank focuses on re-creating some of the most classic setups achieved by The Beatles and their producer/engineers, rather than just the instruments themselves. Sparing no expense to find just the right pieces, dedicated project producer Doug Rogers began by gathering and restoring not only the original drums, basses, keyboards and guitars (some of them costing more than $200,000 supplied from private collectors), but also the original period amplifiers (Fender, Vox), rare microphones (Neumann, AKG, Cole, STC), preamps and unique compressors/limiters (Fairchild, EMI modded Altec) and even the same Studer tape machine and EMI Redd tube mixing desk used in making the original songs. To step up the credibility notch even further, Rogers enlisted the help of Ken Scott, the legendary Beatles engineer who worked on “A Hard Day's Night,” “Help” and “Rubber Soul” and was main engineer for Magical Mystery Tour and The Beatles (White Album), among many other amazing credits. Then, to help play the instruments he had gathered, Rogers brought in drummer Danny Seiwell and guitarist Laurence Juber, both longtime members of Paul McCartney and Wings. Once everything was painstakingly sampled and organized, they added a powerful new GUI with a graceful articulation-control solution and a killer implementation of the Beatles' legendary ADT technique (artificial double tracking).
The cumulative result of this labor of love is a virtual instrument that has proved to be sonically true to the original, yet completely 21st-century in usability. Fab Four also includes EastWest's recent 64-bit (and 32-bit-compatible) Play Advanced Sample Engine, which streams from disk very capably with no voice stealing and impressively high polyphony. Using Legato Detection, Play is able to sense smoothly phrased or repetitive playing and respond dynamically, alternating samples or adjusting articulations. For many of the patches, Play uses a small group of MIDI notes as “switches,” making it easy to move between chains of samples on the fly with one hand while playing with the other.
The convolution-based emulations of Abbey Road's many reverbs (both physical and electromechanical), ADSR envelopes, detailed Delay section, incredibly useful Stereo Spread control, Pan, Mono/Stereo settings like L/R Swap and Mono Sum and extensive MIDI input filtering all offer extended flexibility to the patches, some of which are already highly processed. Play can load multiple sounds into its chooser simultaneously for quick switching, and the slick Browser window helps you quickly find the sounds you're after. As a powerful bonus, the awesome built-in Network Control functionality allows you to load instruments on extra computers and control them from the master computer without KVM switching and without needing to purchase extra licenses. And don't forget the truly impressive ADT, which pairs a very short delay with a slightly moving phase shift that I swear makes just about anything sound better (especially guitars).