This is the Lathe Miles Showell Used to Cut "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

The lathe in the picture, located at Abbey Road Studios, is the one Miles Showell used to cut at 1/2 speed, the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band remix. It began life as a Neumann VMS82 DMM that according to Showell had been "...routinely stripped for spares".

Here's what else he told me:

"When I discovered it, it was looking very dirty and was in a sorry state. However, fortunately for me all the broken parts that had been swapped out had been retained. There are probably six people in the world that can be totally trusted with Neumann lathes.

I am in the fortunate position to personally know two of them (Crispin Murray and John Goldstraw who, like me, are both ex-Metropolis employees). Even better is that all of us work well together. Crispin and John were confident that given enough time they could repair all the broken boards so the three of us set about planning a resurrection. The owner of the lathe shell and broken parts was not interested so I made them an offer which amazingly was accepted.

Pictured (L-R): Touraj Moghaddam (Vertere Acoustics), Crispin Murray (Guilde Productions), Showell and John Goldstraw (Hathor Audio). This was taken around an hour before Showell started cutting the first acetate of Sgt. Pepper.....

"The lathe was collected and work progressed. The three of us decided to really go all out to make it the quietest and cleanest sounding lathe in the world. Progress was slow and the work took almost eighteen months. But it was done by February 2017 and Sgt. Pepper.... was the first cut done on it. The install took two days, at 7pm on the second day I started work on ...Pepper... Crispin sat with me until we had played the first acetate and we were confident that all was good. He left at 2:30am and I sat there cutting the masters for the main LP until 6am. It was a very long but extremely rewarding day.

The restoration work includes:

- Convert lathe from DMM to lacquer operation (a considerable job as a lot of things need to be changed).

- Complete rebuild of the power supplies (in both the lathe and cutting amplifiers)

- Replace all capacitors in the lathe control (groove spacing) systems

- Upgrade all capacitors in the audio signal path power amplifiers with long life hi-fi grade types (there are dozens. Change one and you will hear no difference, change them all and it really improves the sound).

- Upgrade many of the transistors in the power amplifiers for newer and better sounding equivalents.

- Remove the patch-bay and tracing simulator from the amplifier rack as these are not necessary and only serve to degrade the audio.

- Upgrade the opamps and rebuild the acceleration limiter (an upgrade largely learned from Chris Muth* with whom Crispin and John share knowledge) thus making the cleanest sounding and fastest reacting de-esser I have ever heard.

- Rewire the entire system with the finest audio cables (many of these cables came from Vertere).

We also made some cosmetic changes so it looks a lot prettier. Gone is the awful green Formica console. The leather drop down tool cover had been lost so we had a new one made.

Fortunately, underneath all the dust and diesel soot (the lathe had been dumped in a warehouse for a few years in the 1990s) the mechanical parts and the lathe body were in a good physical condition.

The result of all of this is the best sounding (and best looking) cutting system I have ever worked with, and I have used some fabulous systems in my time. This is not hyperbole. The cleanliness of the high end sounds far more Ortofon than Neumann (which is perfect as I pretty much have the Ortofon sound but with Neumann reliability).

When John and Crispin were finished, they both said they had wanted to upgrade and customise a cutting system as much as mine has been, but that no-one had given them such a free reign. My attitude was simple, yes it is a lot of money, more than I really have to spend, but seeing as they had a jigsaw puzzle anyway, better to hot-rod everything as they went than to save money now only to take the system off air for a month or more to do it in the future.

The three of us could not be more delighted with the finished results. Next time you are in the U.K. do come to Abbey Road and see it."

You can be sure I will!

More about Chris Muth

COMMENTS
alucas's picture

this is my go-to pepper lp. it sounds so beautiful, the harmonies and johns voice, wow!

PeterPani's picture

I am impressed. Also, because Abbey is charging affordable prices for the records. The best sounding outlet (to my ears) at the moment is Electric Recordings Co. They don't go digital anywhere in the chain. And all is tubed. But the prices...!

Martin's picture

The Electric Recording Co. the Exile on Main Street, Disraeli Gears and What's going on tapes to cut to vinyl.

Please.

And a real dreamer, ship the tapes to "Blue and Lonesome" too for a good (re)-issue.... The recording itself, apparently... Was to analogue tape.

Jay's picture

I'd actually pay the prices that ERC ask!

Martin's picture

The best - relatively affordable - reissue label in the world.
IMO naturally............

Those two guys deserve medal and appropriate funding to continue

Martin's picture

Now when do they start cutting all analogue?
No digital step(s).?
Seriously, I would buy - have bought - the recent Exile on Main Street release if it had been done analogue from the tapes.
But NOT 96/24.
Completely pointless.
But a good Exile reissue, done from whatever the original tapes are these days, sure, in a minute. Price would not be a factor, happy to pay two or three (four) times that half-speed mastered digital thingy.
There's some great equipment now, how about using it?

Michael Fremer's picture
Worse than digital. I believe the digital was sourced from the crushed files produced for the box set.
Martin's picture

Haven't heard it, but I have stayed away from all the "96/24 half speed mastered" stuff.

My go-to version of Exile by the way is a UK pressed copy, mastered at Artisan. But missing the extra numbering. I did some research, I am guessing the plates used were from the very first cut done by Glyn Johns - really, he stated in an interview he mastered the first cut to vinyl himself - for the test pressing and the first UK issue. In any case, best sounding version of Exile I own.

And it's funny discussing Exile, not an audiophile gem, though a good sounding record, in the comments of review of what is an extraordinarly well recorded and pressed record.

It's all about the content :-)

Jack Gilvey's picture

This LP has left my other versions in the dust. I am so looking forward to what might happen with Abbey Road.

Martin's picture

I think I will spin the (all analogue) 45 rpm MoFi reissue of "Blonde on Blonde", and wonder of how good Sgt. Peppers could be done at 45 rpm by MoFi.

Or of Exile done by MoFi or ERC at 45 rpm.....

Half speed mastering, what was that again?
The lacquer cut at 16.7 rpm??
Aren't 45 rpm 12" discs mastered at 45rpm?
or are they done at 22.5 rpm?

Martin's picture

96/24 implies a limit of information transmitted of 2,304 kilobytes per second. Per channel. That's it.
Like a CD, 44.1/16 is a limit of 705.6 kb/s. That's all.

A magnetic tape and a vinyl disc - the interactions are at a molecular level. Iron oxide on the tape... Fe2O3. PVC on me rekkerds - C2H3CL.

I'm not a physicist. I would however hazard the bet that the information stored and transmitted at the molecular level is somewhat more than 2,304 kilobytes per second.

Martin's picture

And funny.
I have yet to hear a CD that comes close to sounding as good as the vinyl. It's easy to compare the two, lots of stuff around available as CD and vinyl.

More and more stuff around available as 96/24 and vinyl. Still doesn't match up.

Or 192/24....

I am guessing when 356/32 recordings (and higher resolution) become more available, with 11,392 kb/s information transfer, digital will get to the quality of a good analog disc.

Till then, it's dreamtime. It's fantasyland to think that current widely used digital technology can physically equal the information content possible in analogue.

eatapc's picture

Thanks for this report. My "Sgt. Pepper's" LPs are indeed great sounding and as quiet as I've ever heard.

azmoon's picture

For example, the Beatles Mono LPs, the John Lennon remasters, as well as the recent Elton John remasters were cut at Abbey Rd in the not too distant past. Was this machine used? If not, what was so bad about what was used at AR that made them feel they needed to refurbish this and use it for SP?

Wonder what they were using at AR before this?

Michael Fremer's picture
More than one cutting room and mastering engineers at AR. Miles Showell is a disciple of Stan Ricker and prefers half speed cutting. So this is his lathe set up for 1/2 speed mastering.
azmoon's picture

that makes sense. Unfortunately I don't like the remix, I prefer the original mix. Maybe they will use this rig for something in the future.

Ken K's picture

What other discs besides Sgt Pepper's have been cut on this lathe? I'd certainly like to have them in my collection.

robertstewart257's picture

I believe the 45 RPM re-issues of Brian Eno's first 4 albums were cut on this lathe. My copies of them have a certificate from Miles Showell saying he half-speed mastered them on a specially adapted Neumann VMS-80 lathe.

Ken K's picture

Thank you! The Eno discs are due to be delivered here mid-week. Can't wait to hear them! Per Discogs, since Pepper's, he's also cut Mike + The Mechanics "Let Me Fly", Cranberries "Something Else" and
Mike Oldfield "Return To Ommadawn". The latter sounds stunning in 24-96 from HDTracks, ordering the vinyl now.

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