As one of the foremost pioneers in recording technology, the sound of Mr. Rupert Neve’s designs have guided the lathe of countless records in almost every conceivable genre. With 80+ years of design experience, Rupert’s story spans the globe; from growing up in Argentina before WWII, to creating the first “modern” recording consoles in England, to elevating analogue circuit design for the digital world in Texas.
As a boy in Argentina growing up during the days of shortages of World War II Rupert took advantage of the need for people to be able to hear the news on radio. He mended radios, built radios and sold them to friends, studied the Radio Amateurs Handbook, knew the valve catalogues by heart, and haunted the local radio shop discussing the merits and demerits of components, building a store of practical knowledge.
At the age of seventeen, in company with British boys all over the world, he volunteered to serve King and Country to fight the war. He joined a convoy sailing very slowly for England, where he served in the Royal Signals. Civvy street saw him in the West Country of England using a small legacy from his Grandmother to buy a Van which was an ex US army Dodge ambulance. He set about building and installing equipment to convert it into a mobile recording and public address control room. He recorded choirs, amateur operatic societies, music festivals and public events on 78 RPM lacquer disks (before the days of tape) where there are no second chances.
He provided public address for Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) at the opening of St. Andrews Church in Plymouth City Center rebuilt after the blitz. When Winston Churchill came to support the political campaign of his son Randolph in Plymouth, Rupert was there with a massive PA system covering the whole city center, microphones and loudspeakers feeding in and out of amplifiers he designed and built.
When romance blossomed and Evelyn’s father asked, “How do you propose to keep my daughter in the manner to which she is accustomed?” …it seemed the only thing to do was get a “proper job”.
Rupert gained audio design and manufacturing experience with Rediffusion, Ferguson Radio, and as Chief Engineer of a transformer manufacturer. The owner of the company also manufactured loudspeaker units, and in the days of huge sand-filled corner baffles, Rupert developed a small bookcase enclosure in his spare time. He then found a potential client who wanted to order 500. Rupert offered the design to his boss, but the boss was not interested. The old entrepreneurial spirit came to the fore and one day Rupert found himself sitting at a small table in his sitting room at home facing the reality of the fact that the only person he had to rely on for a paycheck at the end of the month was himself.
CQ Audio, in its short existence, expanded the horizons from designing and building one product at a time to the world of quantity production: stocking raw materials, testing, quality control, sales and delivery.
Rupert designed, produced and sold the following products:
One of the first small high-fidelity bookcase loudspeaker systems. Rupert demonstrated this at a lecture to the British Institute of Recorded Sound at the Royal Society of Arts in London and received a standing ovation for the amazing sound quality.
An innovative loudspeaker system making use of flexible walls to radiate sound energy. This product won a Council of Industrial Design Award and was exhibited at the Design Center in London for a season.
Hi-Fi Stereo Amplifier
10 watt Single-Channel Hi-Fi Amplifier
Stand-Alone Bi-Pole Tweeter
Stereo Tape Recording and Replay Unit
While not an overwhelming success, these early experiences with CQ Audio gave Rupert some of the production and marketing knowledge he would need when founding the Rupert Neve Company.
Desmond Leslie, a professional composer of Musique Concrete, had a room full of tape recorders (a new medium in those days) loaded up with “concrete” (real-world) sounds. He needed a device that would help him mix these sounds together, specifically for an EMI contract for the musical background to Shakespeare plays.
Rupert designed a mixer and gave Desmond a price, to which he agreed. But there was no money to pay for the parts. This was a truly unique, custom-designed piece of equipment, and not saleable to anyone else. Rupert and Evelyn decided to ask Desmond for one third of the price in advance, Desmond agreed at once, and the very first mixer was built.
Rupert and Evelyn had recently become Christians. What seemed a common sense solution was clearly God’s guidance. It protected the company from accepting custom console contracts that were not financed, and the policy has been continued throughout the life of the business.
In 1961, a new opportunity presented itself: the advent of the pop music scene in London. Two studios were foremost in London to recognize the need for new techniques for sound processing and mixing when recording the modern music of that day. They were Recorded Sound Ltd and Phillips Records Ltd.
One of Rupert’s very early clients was Leo Pollini of Recorded Sound in London, for whom he designed and built two valve consoles. The first was for the studio. The design was based on the successful equipment Rupert had built in the Plymouth days and included features that were innovative for that period.
The other was an outside broadcast console. Recorded Sound had a contract with Radio Luxembourg to broadcast a series of live Sunday afternoon concerts for which they needed a high quality, reliable, transportable console with all the features of studio equipment and the capability of feeding music landlines. This console was based on the earlier studio console that had been working successfully at the Bryonstone Street Studio. Both these consoles were used for many years by Mr. Pollini, who found them robust and very reliable – characteristics for which Rupert’s equipment became renowned.
By 1964, Rupert had developed high-performance transistor equipment that replaced the traditional valve designs. The first client for the new transistor equipment was Phillips Records Ltd. Rupert was commissioned to design and build a series of equalizers to enable them to change the musical balance of material that had been previously recorded. This was before the days of multi-track tape machines. Rebalancing a 2-track recording usually meant a new session with artists, producers and engineers, all reconvened at great expense. The success of the equalizers led to orders from Phillips and other recording studios for mixing consoles. These attained a reputation for excellent workmanship and sonic clarity. Demand grew rapidly.
The company was still operating out of Rupert and Evelyn’s home, the old Rectory in Little Shelford, England. A metal workshop and stores occupied the old coach house. A prefabricated building in the grounds accommodated the drawing office, project engineers and sales office. Before long, many of the rooms in the house were commandeered for research and development, purchasing, accounting, and secretarial services. Studio owners and engineers came to discuss their requirements not only from London but from many parts of the world including the United States, Australia, South America,and many countries in Europe and the Far East.
Early in 1969, the business moved into a purpose-built factory. During the next five years, a satellite factory to manufacture modules was established in Scotland. Sales offices were opened in Toronto, Canada; Bethel, Connecticut; Hollywood, California; and Nashville, Tennessee. Agents were appointed around the world. By 1973, the Neve team had grown to over 500 worldwide.
The business was built on principles of integrity, “going the extra mile”, amazing team loyalties, innovative but very simple technical designs, and workmanship second-to-none.
Neve Channel Amplifiers comprised a range of high-performance input amplifiers available for use on NEVE sound control consoles, which incorporated alternative arrangements of filter and frequency response curves.
These amplifiers were designed to accept signals from microphone and line sources and raise them to 0dBm for feeding a 600 Ohm load. Important features: low noise & distortion and generous overload performance.
High frequency, mid-frequency (presence) and low frequency correction controls were provided. The shapes of the curves and the frequencies were carefully chosen to give the maximum possible flexibility in high quality recording. In addition, a steep cutting high-pass filter with a choice of cut-off frequencies could be engaged.
During this period Rupert introduced “Moving Fader Automation”. The idea of storing and recalling fader positions had been introduced by a Canadian Company using two tracks of a multi-track tape machine and VCA’s (Voltage Controlled Attenuators); however, their long-promised console never appeared. Rupert questioned many of the world’s leading studio owners and engineers about their “dream” wish list, from which evolved the concept of NECAM: the world’s first moving fader system.
By 1976, a Neve 16/4 console had been equipped with machine control and George Martin was invited to try out the new system at the Neve Company studio. He spent a day remixing masters, at the end of which his comment was, “How soon can I have one?”
1975 brought a new phase. Needing new capital to fund the rapid expansion, the Neve Companies were sold to a public British company. Rupert and Evelyn entered into a non-competition agreement for 10 years. They set up ARN Consultants that they still operate, dealing in sound reinforcement and acoustics in difficult buildings such as churches and cathedrals and environmental control systems.
Rupert had time to develop techniques and equipment for low-budget studios around the world. He initiated the Cambridge Radio Course: a four-week, residential, hands-on experience designed for Christian workers who were motivated to use the medium of Radio to educate, inform and entertain their communities. During the 70’s and 80’s several hundred men and women from around the world attended the courses where professionals from commercial state-owned broadcasting organizations, lectured, tutored and counseled a rich spectrum of dedicated Christian workers.
In 1985, The Neve Group was sold to the Siemens Corporation of Austria. In 1992 Siemens closed down the Neve Group and it was incorporated into another Siemens subsidiary, AMS Ltd., who were very successful in the field of digital audio designs.
Rupert has no connection with the AMS/Neve company.
Right: Focusrite Master Rock Studio Console
Far Right: Focusrite Ltd ISA 110 Series
In 1985 Rupert and Evelyn Neve incorporated a new company called Focusrite Ltd. A new modern range of outboard equipment was launched to meet the demands of the studios such as rack mounted Equalizers and Dynamics processors, microphone and line driving amplifiers.
Under enormous pressure to go into mixing consoles again and with many promises of support and investment from friends in the industry, Focusrite Ltd. accepted orders for eight monster sound control consoles. Though the audio part of the design was complete and proven, the digital control side of the design (outside Rupert’s field of expertise) ran into delays. The company ran out of time and money that resulted in liquidation in January 1989.
Mr. Phil Dudderidge, who incorporated a new company Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd, bought the assets of Focusrite Ltd. He inherited the Focusrite Range designed prior to 1989 and continued to manufacture and market it. He has since added other units to the range. Rupert has never designed products for Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd.
In 1989 ARN Consultants entered into a consultancy agreement with Graham Langley and Nick Franks, owners of Amek Systems and Controls Ltd of Manchester England to design a new range of consoles and outboard equipment.
1993 saw the launch of the System 9098 range of outboard equipment and the 9098 series of console. Nick, Graham and Rupert agreed that it would be of benefit, in the context of world markets, if the Neves were to relocate their business in the United States.
In November 1994 Rupert and Evelyn Neve moved to Wimberley, Texas where years before Rupert had visited a friend and fallen in love with the Hill Country and the wonderful friendly people. ARN Consultants became a US Corporation – ARN Consultants LLC.
ARN Consultants entered into the Musical Instruments field: a new world for Rupert Neve. Taylor Guitars have launched a new project by commissioning Rupert to design a classic Professional Audio preamplifier known as the K3 for inclusion inside the guitar and an external version with extended features for use with high quality magnetic pickups. The designs follow Rupert’s classic principles, using balanced low impedance connections that ensure much lower distortion and noise than has been the previous norm with amplified acoustic guitars.
With encouragement and design assistance from Rupert, Taylor Guitars have produced a successful multi-sensor low impedance magnetic pickup assembly called the Expression System. The new ES pickups are electrically like a dynamic microphone.
The application of Professional Audio principles, balanced line and Pro Audio connectors combined with controlled levels. Accurate equalization and extremely low distortion and noise, together with the ES pickup provides a dramatic improvement in quality of reproduction which represents a giant step forward for the industry.
In 2002 Rupert and Evelyn Neve became US citizens. ARN Consultants, established in 1975, is now a US Corporation, ARN Consultants LLC.
After three years of R&D in close collaboration with Billy Stull, a product focused on the burgeoning field of mastering, “The Masterpiece” evolved. “The Masterpiece” was unveiled at AES San Francisco 2004.
The company acquired new premises in Wimberley, Texas to develop a new range of products based on the same sonic principles of Rupert’s classic designs, but with the features and versatility demanded in the age of DAW’s.
Rupert Neve Designs announced the Portico Series in 2005 to much acclaim. The Portico Series modules are high quality analogue building blocks for the front and back ends of digital systems (hence the name “Portico” as in entryway). In the years since release, the Portico Series has already garnered many important industry awards including nine TEC awards, multiple PAR Excellence Awards, Mix Certified Hit Awards, and a MIPA award among others.
The original color scheme featured grey powder coating with a black and red inlay design available in both horizontal and vertical configurations. The first 8 units were the 5012 Dual Pre, The 5042 True Tape FX, The 5032 Mic Pre EQ, The 5043 Dual Mono / Stereo Compressor, 5033 Five Band EQ, 5016 Mic Pre / DI (discontinued), 5014 Stereo Field Editor, & 5015 Mic Pre Compressor.
In 2009, the 5088 High Voltage and Discrete Mix System was released as the ultimate word in mix buss sound quality. The modular mix system is configurable to the user’s needs, and utilizes the various Portico Series modules for mic pre’s and signal processing. The 90 Volt rails of the 5088 provide more than 10 dB more dynamic range than any other Rupert Neve designed console, and the custom transformers on every input and output provide complete galvanic isolation.
With the release of the 5088 Portico Series modules also received an update with the same style of light blue powder coating with anodized aluminum knobs.
In 2013, Rupert announced the Shelford Series of modules, which were designed as a modern update his designs from the time he spent in rectory of Little Shelford. The preamp and inductor EQ were primarily inspired by the 1073 and 1064, although they still contain a few modern enhancements like the variable silk / texture control. The color is in the classic Royal Air Force blue associated with his vintage designs, which has been made available on 5088 consoles as well.