Rupert Neve, inventor of mixing consoles and preamplifiers that shaped the sound of recorded music in the 20th Century, has died aged 94 of non-Covid pneumonia and heart failure. Often credited with designing the modern recording console, Neve’s creations have had a massive impact on the recording industry. They defined the sound of classic rock in the 70s, and are still much sought-after today.
His Neve 8028 console was instrumental to the production of records by Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, Nirvana, The Cure and Tom Petty and is still a key component in contemporary records by The 1975 and Jay Z. The consoles are highly regarded for providing a thicker, fatter, warmer sound that was difficult to achieve in the early days of music recording. This was achieved through Neve’s signature EQ design and resulted in what would later become known as the “Neve sound”.
Born in Newton Abbott, UK, in 1926, Neve began designing audio amplifiers and radio receivers from the age of 13. World War II increased demand for radios, and Neve began repairing and selling radios until joining the army to serve at age 17.
After the war, he worked for a number of electronics firms and manufacturers before founding his own company, Neve Electronics, in 1961. The Beatles and their producer George Martin became his customers, and he designed the first-ever commercial transistor-based mixing console in 1964 for London’s Phillips Studios. His desks would be installed in Abbey Road, the Kinks’ Konk Studios, New York’s Electric Lady and George Martin’s AIR studios, among others.
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters considers Neve desks to be, ‘the Cadillacs of recording consoles,’ as he told NPR in 2013 while making his documentary Sound City, about the studio where Nirvana recorded Nevermind.
Neve’s contribution to professional recording was honoured in 1997 when he was the third person ever to receive a Technical Grammy Award for lifetime accomplishment, while so many of his inventions and long discontinued products continue to be considered classic equipment and highly desirable. As songwriter Frank Turner described Neve’s impact, ‘The sound of every record you like was shaped by his work’.