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                                    The famous EMI REDD recording\mixing desks

Much of the recording and mixing equipment used at Abbey Road was actually designed, fabricated, tested and refined on premises. There were very few pre-built, off the shelf retail recording desks available in the 1950's and 60's. Most studios had to come up with their own  custom built gear. The EMI had a large developing department and the REDD desks used to record the greatest band in history bears this out. EMI continued to manufacture their own desks well into the 1970's. As the years went by, microphone technology progressed remarkably thus allowing studio techs far more latitude in mic placement and channel alignment when recording artists to say nothing of obtaining much better balance between all the instruments and amplifiers. Not surprisingly, with more mic latitude, came advancement in recording consoles with more features such as more channels. By the mid 1950's, mixer design entered into a golden era of wide experimentation and fabrication with EMI leading the way. This would have a distinct and profound effect on the sound of the Beatles.

REDD series all tube design desks:
EMI started experimenting with stereo separation as early as 1954. When this started, all the engineers knew that entirely new equipment and technology would be needed. Abbey Road Technical Engineer Len  Page was tasked with establishing a new department with this mandate. He established a design team known as REDD: Record Engineering Developement Department. Finally launched in 1955, REDD set about to address all of EMI's technical needs and to look into the future and anticipate future needs. After numerous experimental desks, REDD came up with the REDD. 17 Desk. It was the first recording console that would resemble what we now know and consider a proper recording desk. The brain behind this "advanced" desk was a German named Peter Burkowitz who was stationed at EMI Electrola in Germany. REDD worked closely with Burkowitz and the result was the first World Class recording console in history, REDD.17. 

REDD.17:
This remarkable mixing desk included a row of faders, bass and treble EQs on each channel and many other modern accoutrements. It quickly became the standard EMI desk. It was also very portable. Burkowitz designed it using a modular theme such that it could be broken down and reassembled easily. EMI loved it.

During most of the Beatles era, the centerpiece of each and every control room was of course, an EMI recording desk. These were all "valve" units (vacuum tube) and served all the artists, including the Beatles, remarkably well over the years. Built is extremely limited numbers, these REDD desks now represent the "HOLY GRAIL" of Beatles recording equipment.

I
n 1957, Telefunken four-track machines were emerging from Germany and making a huge impact on the recording world. EMI immediately saw the benefit of four tracks and sought to built their own units. EMI committed to this concept as well as the idea that EMI studios would have ONLY EMI built gear installed. As such, REDD eventually came up with the REDD.37 Desk.

REDD.37:
This desk was basically an updated extension of the REDD.17 desk utilizing the same V72S amps with similar construction and features. The REDD.37 was a futuristic four track recording console that also mixed the sound and contained far more extensive EQ availability on each channel. EMI originally wanted eight of these desks to be built. The final number came to three. One desk wound up as a prototype serial #58070A and found a home at Kingsway Hall, another EMI recording facility. The other two were slightly upgraded models of the prototype and became actual production models. They landed at Abbey Road; #58121A went to Studio ONE while #58121B was installed into Studio TWO.

By the time the Beatles arrived at Abbey Road in 1962, the now famous REDD.37 Desk was already getting quite a name for itself. Thus, all of the group's material prior to 1964 was recorded on this 750 pound console. Then, on January 17, 1964 EMI  replaced the REDD.37 console in Studio TWO with the brand new and  upgraded REDD.51 Desk.

REDD.51:
This brand new and much sleeker desk was a marvel of engineering at the time. The primary functional difference between the two consoles was the amplification: The REDD.51 Desk used the brand new REDD designed REDD47 Power Amplifier instead of the Siemens V72S amp that EMI had been using for years. Studio THREE actually got a REDD.51 Desk in mid 1963 but since the Fabs hardly ever recorded in that room, they didn't realy make use of the REDD.51 until it was installed into Studio TWO in January 1964. Interestingly, Studio ONE held on to its REDD.37 for the rest of the 1960s.

Serial numbers for the desks were as follows: REDD.51 in Studio THREE was #59090A while the REDD.51 installed in Studio TWO was #59090B. EMI authorized the construction of a total of six REDD.51s to be built but only four were actually constructed. Oddly, these desks were authorized and designed in 1959 and for reasons STILL unknown, not installed until 1963 and 1964. Weird.

Trivia:

While the REDD.37 Desk has gotten the reputation as "The Beatles' Recording Desk," that was really not the case. As we have seen, it actually got the least amount of time with the FAbs. The Beatles' first album was recorded and mixed on the REDD.37 desks in Studios TWO and ONE. However, much of their second album was mixed on the new REDD.51 Desk in Studio THREE and  beginning in 1964, most of their recording and mixing would take place on the REDD.51 Desks installed in Studios TWO and THREE. In total, about 85% of the total Beatles recording was done on the REDD.51 Desk. More than half of the Beatles' material was recorded and mixed soley on the REDD.51. Aside from occasional orchestral overdubs in Studo ONE, few recording sessions with the Beatles after 1963 used the REDD.37. The striking exception to all of this was the "LET IT BE" LP: 

Some of you might recall the disaster/joke "recording" console that the village idiot "Magic" Alex "built" for the Beatles in the basement of the their then new studio in the basement of 3 Saville Row. It was a big piece of garbage that didn't do anything. In a rush, the Beatles asked to borrow equipment from Abbey Road. Abbey Road agreed and lent the Beatles the original REDD.37 from Studio Two as well as the REDD.51 that replaced it. Thus, each song on LET IT BE was recorded through a combination of both desks. After the end of the LET IT BE sessions, the REDD.37 was moved to Kingsway Hall where it replaced the original REDD.37 that was there. The REDD.51 made its way back to Abbey Road where it was installed in Room 4, a mix-only adjunct room. Phil Spector would go on to use that very desk to mix the final tracks for LET IT BE in 1970.

The REDD division was disbanded by cost cutting accountants in the late-sixties. Len Page returned to Abbey Road and watched as his beloved REDD.51 desks were eventually all replaced by new generation TG Desks that EMI introduced in the late 1960s.

*Studio ONE's REDD.37 Desk is now owned by Lenny Kravitz. None of Abbey Road's three REDD.51's have surfaced. But, the REDD.51 that went to Italy was found and now resides in a private collection. Don't forget, Abbey Road had a virtual "fire sale" of old gear in the early 1970's. They got rid of much of the recording equipment the Beatles had recorded on.

 

 

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