When Seattle grunge band Nirvana recorded their breakthrough album “Nevermind” at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in 1991, they used a massive mixer developed by a British engineer named Rupert Neve.
The Neve 8028 console and others he made had become studio staples, referred to by many as the most superior consoles of their kind for manipulating and combining instrumental and vocal signals, and in large part for the audio quality of albums from Groups like in charge were Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.
For Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer and later the leader of Foo Fighters, the console was “like the coolest toy in the world,” he told NPR in 2013 when his documentary was released through the Californian studio “Sound City”. “And what you get when you record on a Neve desk is that really big, warm display of what’s inside.”
He added, “What will come out on the other end is this bigger, better version of you.”
In 2011, long after the founding of Foo Fighters, Mr. Grohl bought the console when Sound City shut down, took it to his garage and used it to record the band’s album “Wasting Light”.
Mr. Neve’s innovative, largely analogue equipment has been used to record pop, rock, jazz and rap genres different from his favorite: English cathedral music with its organs and choirs.
After his death last Friday, influential hip-hop engineer Gimel Keaton, known as the Young Guru, tweeted: “Please understand that this man was unique. There is nothing around him in the engineering world. RIP to the KING !!! ”
Mr. Neve (pronounced Neeve) died in a hospice facility in San Marcos, Texas, near his home in Wimberley, a hill country town where he and his wife Evelyn moved in 1994. He was 94 years old. The causes were pneumonia and heart failure, according to his company, Rupert Neve Designs.
Arthur Rupert Neve was born on July 31, 1926 in Newton Abbott in south-west England. He spent most of his childhood near Buenos Aires, where his parents, Arthur Osmond and Doris (Dence) Neve, were missionaries with the British and Foreign Bible Society.
As a boy, Rupert developed a facility with technology that disassembled and repaired shortwave radios. It accelerated during World War II while serving in the Royal Corps of Signals, which assisted the British Army with communications.
After the war, he began doing business with an old U.S. Army ambulance on 78-RPM acetate discs, marching bands and choirs, and public speeches like those of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II when she was a princess.
His future father-in-law was unfazed. When Mr. Neve spoke to him about marrying his daughter Evelyn Collier, the older man could not imagine taking in to earn a living.
“He had never heard of it,” Neve told Tape Op, a recording magazine, in 2001. “For him, a recorder was a gentleman who sat in a courtroom and wrote down the proceedings.”
In the 1950s, Mr. Neve found work with a company that designed and manufactured transformers. He also went into business for himself and manufactured hi-fi equipment.
As his knowledge of electronics grew, he realized that mixing consoles with transistors performed better than vacuum tubes, which were cumbersome and required very high voltages.
In 1964 he delivered his first custom-made transistor console to Phillips Studios in London. The success led to thousands of other orders over the years – including from Abbey Road Studios in London (in the years after the Beatles) Power Station in Manhattan and AIR Studios in London and on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, founded by George Martin , the producer of the Beatles.
Singer-songwriter Billy Crockett bought a Neve console for his Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio, also in Wimberley, about eight years ago. He quickly praises its “warm, open, transparent” sound.
“It’s all about its transformers,” he said in a telephone interview, referring to the components that Mr. Neve designed to connect microphone signals to the console and the console to a recording medium such as vinyl or a CD. “They offer something intangible that fits the mix together. When people get poetic about analogs, the sound comes through the transformers. “
Mr. Neve received a Technical Grammy Award in 1997. In a 2014 interview with the Recording Academy, which sponsors the Grammys, he said he was pleased with the loyalty his consoles had encouraged.
“I’m proud of the fact that people are still using my designs, which started many years ago and in many ways have not been superseded since,” he said. “Some of these old consoles are really hard to beat in terms of both recording quality and the effects people get when they are recording.”
In addition to his wife, his daughters Evelyn Neve, known as Mary, and Ann Yates survive Mr Neve. his sons David, John, and Stephen; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Mr. Neve was more aware of the engineers handling his consoles than the singers and bands whose albums benefited from his audio wizardry.
This preference was confirmed when rock stars approached him after showing Mr. Grohl’s documentary “Sound City” at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin in 2013.
“They all wanted to take pictures with him,” said Josh Thomas, general manager of Rupert Neve Designs, in a telephone interview. “And after every picture he asked me: ‘Why is it important?'”