Review: Waves Reel ADT – Abbey Road Studios Plugin

Review Waves Reel ADT - Abbey Road Studios Plugin

The Reel ADT plug-in by Waves is used to double vocals or a solo instrument. To do this, a technique was emulated that was first used by the Beatles in the Abbey Road studios. Also in 2015, plug-ins for doubling voices demand compromises: some deliver a washed-out to phased sound, and others turn out to be very power-hungry and hardly suitable for live performances. Is Reel ADT the ultimate solution?

ADT stands for “Artificial Double Tracking” (artificial doubling of a track) and was developed by Abbey Road Studios in the mid-1960s specifically for the Beatles by Ken Townsend. Due to the lack of digital technology, tape machines were used for this purpose: Reel stands for the reel of tape.

The technology was so sophisticated that the usual phasing problems of other methods (static, short time delays) did not occur.

From my time as an assistant engineer, I remember the setting up of ADT as being a lengthy process, but totally worth it. Not only hearing, but also controlling ADT for the first time was amazing. Using the remote Varispeed on the tape machine, it was possible to add lush movements, stereo width and dramatic depth to almost any track. For the first time ever, Waves has captured not only the true sound of ADT, but also the feel of this classic effect. – Mirek Stiles, head of audio products at Abbey Road Studios

In the original, the incoming signal was routed slightly delayed via the primary tape machine’s recording head connected to an output amplifier to a second tape machine, where a VCO was used to control the tape speed. The result was a variably time-delayed second signal. By placing the original signal and the double in opposite stereo positions, a luxurious, warm, and wide-ranging panorama sound was achieved, ideal for vocals and solo instruments.

The virtual version follows the original by offering sonic coloring through the saturation effect in addition to the primary goal of doubling. Separate drive controls for the original signal and the double allow individual dosing of the saturation effect. Both signals can be placed in the panorama and their volume can be adjusted.

According to Waves, in addition to doubling, authentic analog-sounding, rich delay effects, flanging, and phasing are also part of the range of services offered by Reel ADT plugin.

Waves Reel ADT VST Plugin

With the installation, various versions of the Waves Reel ADT plug-in ended up on the computer. In addition to the Waves Reel ADT, which is available in mono, stereo, and mono-to-stereo version, the same plug-ins are also available in a resource-saving “live” version. For twice the FX pleasure, Waves has equipped the Reel ADT2V with two effect blocks, and “live” offshoots are also available here.

First, let’s look at the regular Reel ADT Stereo variant. The pretty old-fashioned interface is easy to use. Waves has managed to bring the somewhat more complex structure of the original machines into a clear user interface.

The tape heads are shown in the upper area, the SRC is the tape head of the recording tape machine. He’s stuck in his position. The ADT is the tape head of the second tape machine, which receives its signal from the SRC. It can be moved within a range of 20 ms by touching it. Due to the negative scale, the signal can also be played out before the actual signal.

The control functions of the two tape machines are located to the left and right of the Varispeed unit, and they are equipped identically. In addition to a volume fader and panorama potentiometer, there are mute and phase buttons. Since both tape machines used work with tubes, the tube saturation can be adjusted via Drive.

On the far left is the input level meter and a source switch that feeds one or both channels of the stereo signal into the Waves Reel ADT. Of course, this switch is not available on the mono input variants. The output display is on the far right, also with a mono/stereo switch.

With the Reel ADT, Waves has created a real hit. The effect was previously not available for normal mortals and is, therefore (note: applying for higher political offices) without alternative. The software specialist has also managed to create a clear and easy-to-use interface for the plug-in. Useful extensions such as the LFO control and the double effect engine with the ADT2V round off the successful package.

Inside the Reel ADT plugin, you will find some very unique controls, a variation of tapes and valves from the vintage Abbey Road machine, much better than other tape-based modulation effects known before. With its authentic modeled valve tape machine, you can digitally create all the character, depth, and panoramic sound effects and get the impression of two separate takes.

The ADT sounds very musical, produces no phase problems, and brings both voices and instruments to life. It can be used quite discreetly but is also very psychedelic. Well done Waves!

Below are listed some of the main features of this great plugin:

  • Developed in association with Abbey Road Studios
  • Genuine tape-sounding ADT plugin
  • For the first time ever, a full exact recall automation of the ADT effect
  • Different tape sounds for source and ADT signals
  • Exclusive 2-voice component
  • Separate drive control for each path
  • Manual and automatic control
  • MIDI-assignable manual control
  • Varispeed can be controlled via MIDI, manually, or via built-in LFO, automatically.

System Requirements: Windows – Core Duo 2Ghz, AMD Athlon 64 or equivalent, 4 GB of RAM, Windows 7, Windows 8. MAC – Core Duo 2.3Ghz CPU, 4 GB of RAM, Operating System – 10.6.8 – 10.8.3.

The Waves Abbey Road Reel ADT plugin is available for £145 / $240 / €173.

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