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GENIUS! #4: Peter Burkowitz and the EMI REDD.17 console

Jon Chapple 5 February 2015
Brian Gibson, Peter Burkowitz

Recognition that stereo separation was set to effect a profound change on studio recording techniques, EMI established a new design team to ascertain and act on these new expectations – the Record Engineering Development Department (REDD) – in the mid 1950s. The REDD.1 – Abbey Road’s first dedicated stereo mixing system – was an early result of the initiative, but it was 1958’s REDD.17 that truly marked the beginning of a new era.

Through the analogue and digital eras, the design and feature-set of recording consoles has changed dramatically. The ten-input REDD.17, however, is arguably the desk that created the basic template, with a row of faders, bass and treble EQs on each of the eight channels.

Interestingly, the technical mastermind behind the REDD.17 wasn’t even based in the UK. Peter Burkowitz (pictured, right, with former Abbey Road technician Brian Gibson, who kindly supplied the photo) worked out of EMI Electrola in Germany, where he fashioned a modular design that would allow the REDD desk to be easily assembled and disassembled.

Burkowitz and the team back in London – which was led by Abbey Road Studios technical engineer and REDD project founder Lenn Page – worked closely together on a desk that soon became the default Abbey Road recording desk.

EMI REDD.17Perhaps most importantly in the long-term, the REDD.17 also provided the groundwork for the REDD.37, the console that marked Abbey Road’s entry into four-track recording. Additional EQ on each channel was among the features of a desk that soon became a legend of the studio world thanks to its use on The Beatles’ EMI material up until the end of 1963 – a hugely exciting period that saw the release of the Fabs’ first two long-players, Please Please Me and With The Beatles.

Meanwhile, many of The Beatles’ subsequent recordings were captured on the next generation of REDD desk, the REDD.51, which was introduced in 1964.

www.abbeyroad.com

Hail to the boffins! Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. Mailed out with the February print edition of PSNEurope, the 36-page supplement is also available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, at www.psneurope.com/introducing-genius.

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