Rupert Neve, legendary audio engineer and pioneer, dies age 94
British-American electronics engineer Rupert Neve died this week at the age of 94. For many, his name might not be familiar, but his pioneering work in the field of audio engineering and technology has shaped the way we hear recorded music for decades. So who was he, and what is his legacy?
Born in England in the inter-war years, Neve grew up in Argentina where he started to tinker with radio receivers from a young age. When World War 2 broke out, he started to manufacture radios to help with the war effort, and was enlisted in the British Army’s Royal Signals Corps. After the war, he designed public address systems, along with developing technology to record speeches, his systems notably seeing use by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II, before working on early cable TV systems, hi-fi speakers, eventually starting Neve Electronics in 1961 to concentrate on mixing consoles, a move that would cement his name in recording studio history.
For those familiar with Neve desks, they certainly weren’t cheap, but there was good reason for this. Rupert Neve was a stickler for quality and pioneering the latest technology to get the purest sound possible. Much of his equipment was hand built, with one-off prototypes being used by the likes of The Beatles, and as a result, such examples were highly sought after on the second hand market, commanding enormous prices even decades later. Enormous studio mixing desks such as the Neve 8078 were hand-wired analogue perfection, featuring a sound that lent them to a variety of styles. Examples of these desks are relatively rare, but due to their quality and sound are still in use across various high-end recording studios even to this day, with a console that saw decades of use in LA’s Sound City studio being personally purchased by Dave Grohl, who even made an entire documentary about it.
In the world of dance music, such large format desks are relatively unused, however Rupert Neve had plenty more up his sleeve. EQs, compressors, pre-amps, microphones, and other such equipment marketing under both the Neve brand and another company he founded, Focusrite, are seen in the studios of dance music producers across the world, with their reputation for quality and stunning sound carrying on to this day.
Since his death, the music world has been paying tribute to Rupert Neve, with the likes of Above & Beyond‘s Jono Grant, himself a massive fan of audio hardware, saying
“RIP Rupert Neve. A lot of music lovers may not have known how much this man contributed to sound, but music makers know full well the importance of his contributions.”
Image Copyright – Rupert Neve Designs