Bowers & Wilkins and Abbey Road Studios have a forged bond

There’s a story that floated in the hallowed halls of Abbey Road Studios in North West London for over a decade. It revolves around a group of studio engineers who have come together to listen to a famous recording by a pianist for the first time on the new Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond speakers.

The engineers had heard the recording before, but as the session progressed and the band strained their ears to pick up the detailed sounds from the brand new speakers, something started to happen. “Engineers discovered there was a sound they hadn’t been aware of before,” says Jeremy Huffelmann, managing director of Abbey Road Studios. “They first thought it was a fault in the speaker, but it became clear that what they were hearing for the first time was something else entirely.”

The phantom sound was described as a “weak tapping” by Andy Kerr, director of product marketing and communications at Bowers & Wilkins. Andy says the company engineers were asked to come in more than once to measure and re-measure the Diamond 800 series speakers to ensure there was no distortion resulting from a misaligned placement or a faulty transducer.

After their third trip to Abbey Road studios, the Bowers & Wilkins team finally had the engineers play back the recording so they could hear that spectral crackle for themselves. They pressed play, and of course there was the sound: a faint dull click like a pencil eraser tapping on a piece of paper. “It’s really weak, and the engineers turned to each other and said, ‘What is this?’ said Kerr. “And what it ended up being was the pianist’s cufflinks hitting the keys as the piano played. No one had ever heard that before.”

That the Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond could produce such incredible clarity and detail came as no surprise to the Abbey Road team. They’ve used speakers from the 55-year-old British audio company since 1982, a 40-year relationship that has produced countless pieces of iconic music and made the speakers a fiercely preferred standard for the exceptionally talented behind the boards of Abbey Road Studios.

The first Bowers & Wilkins 801 loudspeakers in Abbey Road Studios, 1981

Credit: Bowers & Wilkins

“When you talk to engineers about why they trust Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers so much, they talk about detail and precision. When they listen, they can visualize in their minds where they placed the microphones in that room, they can audibly ‘see’ where the instruments are.” says Huffelmann. “This level of detail gives you the confidence to know that whatever is being performed is being captured and relayed as accurately as possible.”

Each space which includes the studio apartments of the 3 Abbey Road studios expresses itself differently, bringing its own sonic signature to everything recorded. Studio One’s drama and depth make it a favorite of composers like Howard Shore and John Williams, the talents behind The Lord of the Rings and star wars scores, respectively. “The first time we heard the main theme of star wars As it was being recorded, everyone in the control room just got goosebumps,” says Andrew Dudman, Principal Sound Engineer at Abbey Road Studios, who had the pleasure of working with Shore and Williams on these scores. headlights.

The iconic Studio Two has a slightly smaller space where illustrious artists from the Beatles and Radiohead to newer acts like Wolf Alice, Sam Smith and Black Pumas have recorded; and Studio Three is a more intimate setting that has been graced by one-of-a-kind singers from Amy Winehouse to Florence Welch.

The real magic of Abbey Road Studios comes from the convergence of engineering talents like Dudman who are behind the alchemy of mixing and mastering, and the high fidelity tools at their disposal. “With Bowers & Wilkins speakers, you can identify where the sound is placed, where the instruments are across the sound field,” says Dudman “The detail is crazy.”

The Bowers & Wilkins sound was first heard at Abbey Road studios over 40 years ago. In 1980, John Bowers and his chief acoustic engineer Steve Roe personally delivered a pair of 801 loudspeakers to the studio and demonstrated them. As Andy Kerr tells the story, after about 10 minutes of listening, “The Abbey Road Studios [team] told them something like, ‘Yeah it’s okay, you can leave them here.’ The speakers remained, and have been there ever since, a carefully crafted symbol of the enduring bond between Bowers & Wilkins and Abbey Road Studios.

At the heart of the relationship between the two teams is the pursuit of a single concept: True Sound. True Sound is the acoustic principle that underpins everything Bowers & Wilkins stands for. According to this philosophy, speakers should neither add to nor take away from a recording. “A loudspeaker is the primary means by which any engineer or producer is going to hear something. It’s the only means of transmission, so it must be good,” says Chris Parker, assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios. “And if you notice a speaker in a room and say, ‘Wow, those speakers are X or Y,’ then that’s usually not a good thing.”

The Bowers & Wilkins speakers found in Abbey Road studios are renowned for disappearing into the background of the recording studio, serving as a seamless link between artist and engineer that can deliver results. incredible. Chris worked on Little Simz’ harrowing 2021 album Sometimes I could be introverted which was recorded in Studio One and Two. Simz and producer Inflo wanted to give the record a great theatrical quality, so they recorded the strings and horns in Studio One while the drum sessions took place in Studio Two. (Chris calls Studio Two the “best sounding drum room in the world.”)

Little Simz at Abbey Road Studios

Little Simz at Abbey Road Studios

Credit: Bowers & Wilkins

The pursuit of True Sound is a feedback loop between engineers at places like Abbey Road Studios and the Bowers & Wilkins team, who are constantly looking for ways to improve their technology. “They’re listening. If we say, ‘Oh, this needs adjusting’, Bowers & Wilkins say, ‘Okay, we’ll adjust this,'” says Sean Magee, senior mastering engineer and veteran of Abbey Road Studios for over 25 years. “When they brought in the 800 D3s and we gave them grades, they redesigned it and we were able to add to that process. And then the next-gen D4s came out, and it’s clear they had listened.

This deeply rooted acoustic philosophy flows consistently from professional-grade reference monitors such as the 800 Series Diamond through to the entry-level 600 Series range, Formation wireless speakers, and more recently the new Zeppelin wireless speaker, recognized as Rolling Stone Essentials 2021. – Best smart speaker. “Every product we make, from the minute it’s designed to the minute it’s sold, is built on this True Sound philosophy,” says Giles Pocock, vice president of brand marketing at Bowers & Wilkins. “This DNA isn’t just about the professional, studio-grade monitors we make; it applies to the entire family of products, whether headphones, wireless speakers or in-car audio systems. »

The intertwined history of Abbey Road Studios and Bowers & Wilkins testifies to this guiding belief. After more than 40 years of giving artists, musicians and engineers the opportunity to hear the true nature of their creative output, the feedback loop that drives both institutions to strive for perfection drives the industry forward, whether it’s be it capturing the magnificence of a symphony orchestra or unearthing the phantom tapping of a pair of cufflinks on a legendary recording.

Find out more about the special 40-year relationship between the two legendary musical institutions below, in a new short film from Bowers & Wilkins. where the music begins offers an intimate look inside Abbey Road Studios and how Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers have become synonymous with the distinctive sound of iconic studios.

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