The legendary TG12345 consoles made by EMI are very rare and scattered around the world, from England to Brazil. If you have scratched the surface of recording history, you know the impact that EMI and Abbey Road Studios have had. Even if you have never heard of the TG12345, you certainly have listened to or have knowledge of The Beatles' Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon albums. (No? Please go to jail and do not pass go.)
The TG12345 was the next generation console following the REDD valve desks that were employed at Abbey Road Studios in London. The TG12345 was a modular solid-state recording and mixing console that introduced compression and limiting on every channel, along with expanded EQ features. The result, in short, was a console with more clarity and functionality across the board.
Waves partnered with EMI/Abbey Road on TG12345 Channel Strip, a plug-in that models the features, componentry, and tone of TG12345 MK I, the very console used by The Beatles. Does it sound like the real thing? I have no idea. But it certainly harkens a tone that your ears will find familiar if you have spent any time listening to the aforementioned classics.
You can use this plug-in on individual tracks, the master bus, or all of the above. I got the most out of it by using it on every channel in the session. By using the EQ and compressors of TG12345 exclusively (instead of other plug-ins), you start to appreciate the "sound" associated with the original console. Of course, if you want to take it a step further in working towards a true classic sound, you should return to (or buy if you haven't yet) Recording the Beatles [Tape Op #53, #56] and read closely the explanations of the techniques employed and the gear used. Oh, and also, get a second job to help pay for the gear you'll need, and while you're at it, buy yourself another lifetime to actually search for and find the gear and then learn how to use it. Ding! Time's up! But I digress.
The TG12345 plug-in is visually divided into three sections — Dynamics, EQ, and Master — and there is a routing switch that allows you to choose the order in which the signal is fed through the Dynamics and EQ sections before entering the Master section.
The original channel compressor/limiters in the TG12345 were fixed at 2:1 and 8:1 ratio to simulate the compression characteristics of the Altec/EMI RS124 and Fairchild 660 respectively, the two dynamics processors used heavily by the engineers at Abbey Road. The plug-in features the same 2:1 compressor ratio and a 7:1 for the limiter, and it has a fixed attack, selectable release settings, the Hold feature that was on the RS124, and the useful additions of a sidechain high-pass filter and a Mix knob for parallel processing. If you are familiar with the records that came out of Abbey Road in that era, you will know the sound of this compressor. Its classic squish is addictive and very fun. My favorite applications are compression on guitars and limiting on drums and piano.
The EQ is split into three bands, each with a variable ±10 dB boost/cut. Treble features a 5 kHz bell for boost or a 10 kHz shelf for cut. Presence is a semi-parametric bell with a center frequency that's continuously variable from 500 Hz to 10 kHz. Bass is a low shelf fixed at 50 Hz.
The Master section sports knobs for Drive and Noise; the former simulates overloading of the input electronics for adding harmonic distortion, and the latter brings up noise and hum. A Spread knob works in conjunction with an internal mid-side matrix to change the balance between the middle and side channels by changing the side level while leaving the middle constant. The Master section also has an L/R/Mono/Stereo monitor switch; vintage-style VU meters that are selectable for input, output, and gain reduction; peak-hold meters; polarity inversion switches; and channel selectors for L/R. (Some of these features are understandably unavailable when you instantiate a mono version of the plug-in.)
Subtle use of the Drive feature emphasizes the initial transients of certain sounds — especially percussive elements — and helps them cut through the mix. Conversely, aggressive use of this feature on electric bass yields really cool fuzzy tones that can really be brought home with the compressor. If this was all TG12345 could do, it'd be worth the money. However, moving into the more extreme settings of Drive (50-100), I hear a tonal filtering effect that could be fun to automate. On electric rhythm guitar, I like the Drive feature in small doses, but less so in extremes. I think with the right guitar/amp/mic/preamp combination (or even better, a DI), cranking up Drive on a solo could be great and even reminiscent of some of the guitar solos on Abbey Road.
As is the case with many things, less is more. And although TG12345 is far from having a limited control set, it has fewer options than many modern plug-ins and gear. I personally love the predetermined frequency, attack, and release settings found on many older and now emulated pieces of gear. They were chosen for a reason, and more times than not, they get you where you need to be quickly and musically.
TG12345 may be viewed by some as simply a plug-in to recreate classic sounds, and because of that, wrongly dismissed. It certainly does a good job of injecting some vintage vibe, but abuse of the tool set makes for some fantastic modern and aggressive sounds too. I turned a static drum machine into an absolutely crushed, distorted, pumping beast using only TG12345. Each turn of the Drive knob brought out new tones, harmonics, and character, with subtle but useful variations in each. When used on a stereo track, the Spread feature was really vibey and brought yet another dimension to the sound.
Speaking of Spread, it was fun to play with this on the master fader on a completed mix. It can be used to widen the stereo field of a mix or bring things closer to the center for a more mono feel.
The features of TG12345 are useful on individual tracks, and it can bring some degree of cohesion to a whole mix when the plug-in is used across the session. I typically mix using a combination of outboard gear for the heavy-lifting and character-defining elements, and plug-ins for light-duty applications. It was fun to rely only on TG12345 for all EQ and compression tasks, working as though the TG desk was all I had in front of me. The results were solid. I found the combination of TG12345 on each track in concert with analog summing and mix-bus processing even more of a win.
TG12345 Channel Strip provides a great set of tools that can help create classic or new tones for your mixes. For $100, you really cannot go wrong. When you want some vintage vibe across the "board" or just need easy-to-use EQ and compression that sound great with no fuss, TG12345 will fit the bill.