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Rupert Neve, the Father of Modern Studio Recording, Dies at 94

His equipment became the industry standard and influenced the sound of groups like Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Chicago and the Who.

The Neve 8028 console had by then become a studio staple, hailed by many as the most superior console of its kind in its manipulating and combining instrumental and vocal signals and as responsible in great part for the audio quality of albums by groups like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.

He added, “What’s going to come out the other end is this bigger, better version of you.”

In 2011, long after forming Foo Fighters, Mr. Grohl purchased the console as Sound City was closing, took it to his garage and used it to record the band’s album “Wasting Light.”

Mr. Neve’s innovative, largely analog equipment has been used to record pop, rock, jazz and rap — genres distinct from his preferred one: English cathedral music, with its organs and choirs.

After his death last Friday, the influential hip-hop engineer Gimel Keaton, known as Young Guru, tweeted: “Please understand that this man was one of a kind. There is nothing close to him in the engineering world. RIP to the KING!!!”

Rupert developed a facility with technology as a boy taking apart and repairing shortwave radios. It accelerated during World War II, when he served in the Royal Corps of Signals, which gave communications support to the British Army.

After the war, working out of an old U.S. Army ambulance, he started a business recording, on 78 r.p.m. acetate discs, brass bands and choirs as well as public addresses, like those by Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II when she was a princess.

His future father-in-law was unimpressed. When Mr. Neve spoke to him about marrying his daughter, Evelyn Collier, the older man couldn’t imagine recording as a way of making a living.

“He’d never heard of it,” Mr. Neve told Tape Op, a recording magazine, in 2001. “To him a recorder was a gentleman who sat in a courtroom and wrote down the proceedings.”

During the 1950s, Mr. Neve found work at a company that designed and manufactured transformers. He also started his own business making hi-fi equipment.

With his expanding knowledge of electronics, he recognized that mixing consoles performed better with transistors than with vacuum tubes, which were cumbersome and required very high voltage.

“It’s all about his transformers,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the components that Mr. Neve designed that connect microphone signals to the console and the console to a recording medium like vinyl or a CD. “They provide something intangible that makes the mix fit together. So when people get poetic about analog, it’s how the sound comes through the transformers.”

“I’m proudest of the fact that people are still using designs of mine which started many years ago and which, in many ways, have not been superseded since,” he said. “Some of those old consoles are really hard to beat in terms of both recording quality and the effects that people will get when they make recordings.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Neve is survived by his daughters, Evelyn Neve, who is known as Mary, and Ann Yates; his sons, David, John and Stephen; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Mr. Neve was more aware of the engineers who handled his consoles than of the singers and bands whose albums benefited from his audio wizardry.

“They all wanted to take pictures with him,” Josh Thomas, the general manager of Rupert Neve Designs, said in a phone interview. “And after each picture, he asked me, ‘Why is he important?’”

Category: Technology

Source: New York Times

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