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Abbey Road Studios

Beatles 4-track

Lester Smith with Beatles microphone

The zebra crossing

Studio 2

Studio 2 from the floor

Lady Madonna piano

Ribbon mike RM1B

Studio 1 mixing board

Abbey Road NW8

Studio 1 patch bay

Studio 1

Studio 3

Toy cupboard

Very early mastering EQ

Neve digital console in the 'Penthouse'

Studio 2 mixing room console

Fairchild 660 vale compressor

TL M50 and M50 microphones

Studio 2 screen

Studio 2 mixing room

Piano

Cables

Rooftop echo chamber

Echo chamber with pillars

Brain of the penthouse

Giles Martin

Writing on the wall

Magnetized microphones

Plate A

LONDON--For 80 years, Abbey Road Studios has been one of the most important places in the music business. But of course it is best known for the work done there by a group of four young men from Liverpool, England: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. The Beatles.

Today, it is still very much a working studio, and artists from all over the world come to record and mix there. CNET got a chance to visit and see some of the most impressive studio rooms and equipment in the industry. Including a microphone that both McCartney and Lennon often sung into.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Throughout Abbey Road Studios, there is recording and mixing equipment everywhere. And since the studios have been used by everyone and anyone in the industry for nearly eight decades, you never know what you'll run into. In one hallway, placed unceremoniously against a wall, this four-track recorder sits in relative obscurity. Until you find out that it was used to record many of The Beatles' songs.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

Lester Smith oversees Abbey Road Studios' collection of hundreds of microphones. Stacked on several sets of shelves are case after case of them, most of which are still used today, despite--or perhaps because of, their age.

Here, Smith proudly displays a 1950s-era vocal microphone used frequently by The Beatles. "I can happily say that both John and Paul used this same mic," Smith said.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

In the United States, we call this a crosswalk. In London, it's a zebra crossing. Either way, this one is perhaps the most famous in the world, made so by The Beatles on the cover of their "Abbey Road" album. Today, fans of the band from all over the world come to show their respects by posing for pictures in the crossing.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

This is the famed Studio 2, a large recording room considered a "mecca" by many in the music business because it's where The Beatles made the majority of their songs. All told, the band recorded more than 90 percent of their songs at Abbey Road Studios, with most of those being done in Studio 2.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is a view of Studio 2 taken from floor level.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

In a corner of Studio 2, this is the "Lady Madonna piano," which Paul McCartney played in The Beatles song of the same name. Recently, McCartney surprised people working in a nearby studio room by showing up and pounding out "Lady Madonna" on the piano, something that the sign on it clearly says is not supposed to be done.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

According to Lester Smith, this is an original ribbon microphone from the mid-1930s that has been a mainstay for Abbey Road Studios ever since. It is used on many film scoring sessions, as well as many orchestral recordings.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is the mixing console for Abbey Road Studio's Studio 1. According to sound engineer Simon Rhodes, the studio works with the manufacturers of equipment like this to ensure that it gets the exact machines it needs. A console like this Neve 88RS costs about $800,000. Although digital is all the rage in music, these consoles are strictly analog due to the fact that for professionals like those at Abbey Road, digital is not yet up to the quality standards demanded by clients who pay a lot for the privilege of working there.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is one of the most famous street signs in Europe.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

This is the patch bay in Studio 1. Usually, this would have so many wires plugged into it--bringing sounds in or out of the mixing board--that it would look like a "swirling mass of snakes," said Rhodes.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is Studio 1, which has a 40-foot-high ceiling and is used extensively for the recording of film scores and orchestral pieces.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is Abbey Road Studios' Studio 3, a longtime popular room. In here, Pink Floyd recorded "The Dark Side of the Moon," and more recently, Lady Gaga made "Born this Way."

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is the "toy cupboard" at Abbey Road Studios, where hundreds of pieces of "outboard" equipment are stored and regularly shuffled in and out of recording sessions.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is a "very early" mastering EQ, according to Rhodes. "It's quite hysterical what's in this cupboard if you appreciate it," he said.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

Abbey Road Studios maintains a mixing studio that is all-digital known as "The Penthouse." There, musicians working on many kinds of recordings, including the scores for large numbers of feature films use this Neve digital mixing console.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is a brand-new Neve 88 RS that is used to mix sound in Studio 2.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is one of at least six Fairchild 600 valve compressors owned by Abbey Road Studios. Each one is likely worth at least $15,000 on the open market.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

On the right is an M50, and 1950s-era microphone made by the Neumann company, and on the left is a later version of the same mike, a TL M50 that's about 20 years old. The newer model employs transistors to make sound as high quality as its predecessor, but while the newer model has great sound, Rhodes said it's not quite up to the same standards.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is a large folding screen that has been in Studio 2 for decades. It can be moved around as required by each artist.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is the mixing room for Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios in London.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is a piano in Studio 1, which is used to record many orchestral sessions.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

In a small cubby space behind the Studio 1 mixing room, there are endless numbers of cords and cables, mainly because the studio used analog recording equipment that requires a different cable for each of dozens and dozens of channels.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

On the roof of Abbey Road Studios is a very small room behind a tiny door. Inside is this old echo chamber.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is another echo chamber at Abbey Road Studios. In this room, these old pillars act to reflect sound around the small space.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

These are the computing "brains" behind the digital mixing console in the Abbey Road Studios "penthouse."

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is Giles Martin, a producer who has recorded at Abbey Road Studios for years, is the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin. Among his most famous projects is the collaboration between The Beatles and the Cirque du Soleil on the remixing of the famous band's songs for the soundtrack of the Las Vegas show "Love."

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

Outside Abbey Road Studios is a stone gate, on which Beatles fans have written endless amounts of homages to the band.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Lester Smith shows how the magnets in two microphones are strong enough to allow one mike to hang from another

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig

This is one of four reverb plates stored in a musty rooftop room above Abbey Road Studios. The plates are used to add reverb to recordings but are able to be kept permanently in the small room because wiring connects them to recording equipment below.

Caption by / Photo by Kathleen Craig
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