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Pioneering audio equipment engineer Rupert Neve dies aged 94

Rupert Neve
(Image credit: Gary Miller/WireImage)

Grammy-winning musical electronics engineer and designer Rupert Neve died on 12 February, aged 94 in Wimberley, Texas as a result of non-Covid pneumonia and heart failure.  He leaves an incredible legacy as one of the key figures in the history of audio engineering.

Neve's designs have become a byword for quality since he made his reputation building mixing consoles in the late 1960s and went on to design some of the most respected audio equipment ever made. These include the the 2254 compressor, 1073 channel amplifier/EQ (1970), 1081 channel amplifier/EQ (1973). 

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Born in Newton Abbott in 1926, Neve showed interest in electronics at an early age, repairing and building radios as a child following a move to Argentina. As a teenager he volunteered to serve during World War II, joining the Royal Signals to provide communication support to the British Army. 

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 Neve designed and built his first audio mixing console after being commissioned by a composer in Ireland. The founding of the Rupert Neve Company followed in 1961, operating from the home he shared with wife Evelyn in Cambridge. It would move to a factory premises in the late 1960s period that would see Neve become a globally recognised designer in the professional audio industry.

Neve designed the first transistor-based equalizer in 1964, followed by his first transistor mixing console, for Philips Records’ studios.

Wessex Sound Studios in London commissioned Neve to build its A88 console with the then-new 1073 mic preamp and EQ channel strip. King Crimson would be the first to use the trailblazing equipment Neve created in August 1969 for their Lizard album. Neve's console was the first 24-track desk ever installed in the city. 

Further commissions for the world's tops studios would follow with the Neve 80 and 50 series mixing desks becoming hugely desirable.  

Neve

A Neve 88r 60-channel console at Angel Studios, London (Image credit: Future)

Neve adopted digital technology in 1977 and pioneered again by 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 also integrated digital assignable controls into an otherwise analog design.

In the 1980s Rupert and Evelyn Neve's entrepreneurial spirit as ARN Consultants would see them found Focusrite in 1985 with an early commission seeing him return to Air Studios to build extensions for its custom Neve consoles. The company now trades under six brands including Novation.

Rupert Neve also developed techniques and equipment to enable the building of low-budget studios around the world and 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 would eventually move operations to Wimberley Texas, working on new projects including a preamp and pickup for Taylor Guitars and in 2011, a partnership with SE Electronics to design a signature series of microphones. 

Rupert Neve

(Image credit: Rupert Neve Designs)

His contributions to the professional sound industry were recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Technical Grammy Award in 1997 and his greatest analogue innovations continue to be enjoyed by musicians today as digital plugins, including Universal Audio's 1073 Preamp & EQ Collection.

Rupert 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.