When Seattle grunge band Nirvana recorded their groundbreaking album, “Nevermind,” at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Calif., In 1991, they used a massive mixing console created by a British engineer named Rupert Neve.
The Neve 8028 console and others he made had by then become studio staples, hailed by many as the most superior consoles of their genre in their handling and combination of instrumental and vocal signals and largely responsible for audio quality from albums by bands like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.
For Dave Grohl, the Nirvana drummer and later the frontman of Foo Fighters, the console “was like the coolest toy in the world,” he told NPR in 2013 when his documentary film was released on the Californian studio, “Sound City”. “And what you get when you record on a Neve desktop is this really big, warm representation of everything that goes in there.”
He added, “What’s going to come out on the other side is this bigger, better version of you.”
In 2011, long after forming Foo Fighters, Mr. Grohl bought the console as Sound City was shutting down, 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 favorite: English cathedral music, with its organs and sounds. choirs.
After his death last Friday, 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 world of engineering. RIP to KING !!! “
Mr. Neve (pronounced Neeve) died in a hospice 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 the southwest of 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.
Rupert developed a facility with the technology as a boy taking apart and repairing shortwave radios. It accelerated during World War II, when it served in the Royal Corps of Signals, which provided communication support to the British Army.
After the war, working in an old US Army ambulance, he began a corporate recording, on 78-rpm acetate records, marching bands and choirs as well as public speeches, such as those by Winston Churchill and the Queen Elizabeth II when she was a princess.
Her future stepfather was not impressed. When Mr. Neve told him about marrying his daughter, Evelyn Collier, the old man couldn’t imagine saving as a way to earn a living.
“He had never heard of it,” Mr. Neve told Tape Op, a recording magazine, in 2001. “To him, a recorder was a man who sat in a courtroom and noted down the procedure.
During the 1950s, Mr. Neve found work in a transformer design and manufacturing company. He also started his own hi-fi equipment manufacturing company.
With his growing knowledge of electronics, he recognized that mixing consoles worked better with transistors than with vacuum tubes, which were bulky and required very high voltage.
It delivered its first bespoke solid-state console to the Phillips Studios in London in 1964, and its success led to thousands of additional orders over the years – purchased, among others, by Abbey Road Studios in London (in the post years -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 about eight years ago for his Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio, also in Wimberley. It wasn’t long before he praised his “warm, open, transparent” sound.
“It all depends on its transformers,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the components Mr. Neve designed that connect the signals from the microphone 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, that’s how the sound goes through 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 satisfied with the loyalty his consoles had garnered.
“I’m most proud of the fact that people are still using my models which started many years ago and which in many ways haven’t been replaced since,” he said. “Some of these old consoles are really hard to beat in terms of the recording quality and the effects people will get when they record.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Neve is survived by his daughters, Evelyn Neve, 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 the singers and bands whose albums benefited from his audio magic.
This preference was confirmed when rock stars approached him after the screening of Mr. Grohl’s documentary “Sound City” at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin in 2013.
“They all wanted to take pictures with him,” Josh Thomas, managing director of Rupert Neve Designs, said in a telephone interview. “And after every photo he asked me, ‘Why is it important?'”