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In Memoriam: Rupert Neve, Audio Industry Icon, 94

George Petersen Editor-in-Chief FOH Magazine • Industry News • February 14, 2021

Rupert Neve

Rupert Neve, an innovator and business owner whose analog audio equipment designs have become an essential component in music recording, live sound production and home hi-fi systems, died on February 12, 2021 in Wimberley, Texas, due to non-COVID pneumonia and heart failure. He was 94.

Neve’s impact on the audio industry can hardly be overstated. It’s no exaggeration to say that millions of people worldwide listen to music every day that was produced using equipment incorporating Neve’s designs somewhere in the process, from the vocal recording to the final mix, if not from beginning to end.

His designs, ranging from large-format mixing consoles to compact 500 series modules, are ubiquitous, and may be found anywhere from the largest production facilities to the most basic home studios. His audio hardware designs have also been reproduced as software plug-ins, making them available to anyone with access to a computer.

Neve and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Wimberley in late 1994 and became U.S. citizens in 2002. In 2005, they acquired premises near where they had settled in the Texas Hill Country and established Rupert Neve Designs (RND).

Born in Newton Abbott, England, in 1926, Neve showed an enthusiasm for electronics from an early age, repairing and building radios as a boy while growing up in Argentina. At the age of 17 he volunteered to serve during World War II, joining the Royal Signals, which provides communications support to the British Army. Returning to civilian life in England, he built a mobile system to record choral groups and public events onto lacquer disks. He also supplied public address systems for events involving Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, and Winston Churchill.

The company manufactures the 5088 analog mixing console and a range of rackmount and desktop processing, summing and other equipment, including the Portico, Portico II, and Shelford lines. In 2012 RND began producing equipment in the 500 series form factor and in 2018 Neve released his first digital design, the RMP-D8 Dante-networked multichannel microphone preamp.

Neve’s contributions to the professional sound industry were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Technical GRAMMY Award in 1997, an Audio Engineering Society Fellowship Award in 2006, 16 TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Awards for Rupert Neve Designs products, and Studio Sound magazine’s Audio Person of the Century Award, in 1999.

After working for Rediffusion, Ferguson Radio, and a transformer manufacturer for a time, Neve set up his first business, CQ Audio, manufacturing home hi-fi amplifiers and loudspeakers. In 1960, a composer in Ireland commissioned him to design and build his first audio mixing console — the piece of equipment with which he ultimately became synonymous. In 1961, Neve and his wife established Neve Electronics.

Adopting the latest technology, Neve designed his first transistor-based equalizer in 1964, then produced his first transistor mixing console, for Philips Records’ studios. In subsequent years, he designed and manufactured many of the iconic pieces of equipment for which he has since become celebrated, such as the Neve 80 and 50 series mixing desks. Years later, individual microphone preamp, equalizer and processing modules originally incorporated into those consoles, such as the 1073 and 1081, became highly prized for their sonic character. The relative scarcity of original modules has spawned a host of boutique manufacturers making reproduction units.

Neve adopted digital technology in 1977, introducing the world’s first moving fader system, NECAM (NEve Computer Assisted Mixdown), and installing the first system at producer George Martin’s Air Studios in London. The Neve 81 series of mixing desks integrated digital assignable controls into an otherwise analog design.

Rupert and Evelyn sold the Neve Companies in 1975, by which time they employed 500 people worldwide with manufacturing locations in England and Scotland and sales offices across North America. Austria’s Siemens Corp. subsequently acquired the Neve brand from its new owner, later selling the company to AMS in England.

Rupert and Evelyn, now operating as ARN Consultants, established Focusrite Ltd. in 1985, producing outboard equipment and a large-format mixing console, of which just eight were made. Part of the mission of ARN Consultants was to provide sound reinforcement and acoustics solutions in difficult environments such as churches and cathedrals. Neve also developed techniques and equipment to enable the building of low-budget studios around the world. During the 1970s and ‘80s, he established the Cambridge Radio Course, an intensive residential course intended for Christian workers using radio to educate, inform and entertain their communities.

ARN Consultants moved on to work with Amek Systems and Controls Ltd. in Manchester, England. Neve’s first design project was “The Equaliser,” a stereo mastering EQ produced by Amek under the Medici brand. That led to further collaboration with the manufacturer and the development of another large-format mixing console, the Amek 9098, and a line of outboard equipment derived from the analog desk designs. Neve’s Transformer-Like Amplifier (TLA) design was integrated into several Amek mixing console lines.

ARN Consultants, now operating from Wimberley, TX, worked on a number of projects, including Legendary Audio’s “The Masterpiece,” a modular mastering system. Neve also became involved in the MI (musical instrument) market for the first time, designing a preamp and pickup assembly for Taylor Guitars. In 2011 he partnered with sE Electronics to design the Rupert Neve Signature Series of active ribbon, condenser, and tube condenser microphones.

In 2011, Yamaha launched the first Rupert Neve Designs plug-ins, approved by Neve, for its Steinberg platform. The plug-ins, emulations of the designer’s current and classic module circuits, have also been integrated into Yamaha’s CL Series and Rivage PM10 digital consoles for live sound production, another first for Neve. He returned to his roots in 2019 with Fidelice, a new range of product from Rupert Neve Designs for the high-fidelity audio market. The line launched with a headphone amplifier, phono preamplifier and digital-to-analog converter.

Neve is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Evelyn; five children, Mary, David, John, Stephen, and Ann; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A timeline and history of Neve and his companies are available here: https://www.rupertneve.com/company/history/

Here’s a statement from Rupert Neve Designs:

Rupert Neve, whose name is synonymous with quality professional audio recording equipment worldwide, passed away on February 13, 2021. He remained in great spirits to the end, enjoying his life in Wimberley, TX, where he and his wife Evelyn have lived for 27 years. At 94, Rupert remained engaged and passionate about his work, spending most days on a perpetual series of audio electronics projects and continuing to mentor our engineering team  on numerous design and development projects.

From his earliest memories, Neve had a love for music, electronics, and problem solving. These passions sparked a brilliant design career spanning over 80 years, during which he founded several historic companies, created the most revered analog audio equipment of all time, and became the most trusted name in sound. He received countless accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Technical Grammy Award in 1997, Studio Sound Magazine’s Audio Person of the Century Award in 1999, an Audio Engineering Society Fellowship Award in 2006, and 16 TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Awards with Rupert Neve Designs.

“I’ve known and worked with Rupert for nearly 30 years,” said Josh Thomas, Rupert Neve Designs’ co-founder and general manager. “When Rupert, his wife Evelyn, and I sat at his kitchen table and founded Rupert Neve Designs 16 years ago, he had two goals. The first was to set a new standard in the quality of recorded sound, drawing upon his unparalleled depth of experience to create high-end solutions for the modern recording engineer, musician, and listener alike. The second was to pass on his philosophies, techniques, and methodologies to a new generation of designers to carry his life’s work and passion into the future.

“It was always assumed that the company would outlive him on this earth, and for 16 years he poured his energies into creating a team that would become the caretakers of the theories, practices, and ideologies that truly constitute a Rupert Neve design. All of us at the company are exceedingly grateful for the years of careful instruction and mentoring with which he has blessed us, and we will continue to preserve his legacy in everything we do moving forward. The world certainly sounds better because he was here.”

While Rupert’s passions for music, creativity, and insistence on exceptional quality have made an indelible mark on the fabric of the recording industry, his kindness and generosity made him a legend to us all. Through his designs — both in terms of his earlier vintage devices, as well as the entire line in his Rupert Neve Designs company, and licensed circuits and plug-ins implemented in Yamaha’s flagship RIVAGE live sound consoles — his spirit will live on eternally through the the music created with them. Farewell old friend, rest well.

Arrangements for a celebration of his life for family and friends will be made when it is safe to do so.

Further information from Rupert Neve Design: www.rupertneve.com.

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