It was the early 90s and I was a kid from the Midwest at my first AES Show in New York when I heard a familiar voice call me from across the hall. It was the great Lew Frisch, who said that he needed to introduce me to a few people - “Josh Thomas from Chicago, meet Les Paul and Rupert Neve.” In the first two minutes of my first AES Show, I'd managed to meet the two giants of the industry; essentially the fathers of the multitrack and the modern day mixer.
It’s who he is. Rupert is always chipping away at audio puzzles and thinking of ways to get the gear to sound closer to what he has in his mind. His design philosophies and 'secret recipes' have now been passed down to me and the engineering team here at RND enabling us to continue Rupert's vision and develop new products to serve the music creators in our industry.
His first couple of consoles were actually valve consoles - and in the last few years he has partnered with sE Electronics to create the RNT valve microphone. Rupert has always sought to use the best materials available for a particular purpose, and much of the harmonic content that is attributed to valves is actually derived from transformers and the output circuitry surrounding them. This is how we produce our ’Silk’ & ’Texture’ effects, and our custom-designed transformers are far more consistent than valves.
Some of the things that Rupert has always been a proponent of and instilled in his designs - such as extended frequency response (over 100kHz) and as much dynamic range as possible - complement current DAW work flows and are some of the many things that have kept our designs relevant. In the mid 1970s Rupert was told that the digital future was upon us and there was no longer a need for analogue designs. Here we are in 2019, and there is still plenty to be done!
One example of how we've evolved our products to integrate with the digital world is our Dante-connected mic pre (the RMP-D8) that was designed to provide a true Rupert Neve transformer mic preamp that would go straight to a digital mixer. Another example is the -6dB output on the Shelford Channel and 5211 which allows you to drive into the output circuitry and transformer, but at a level that won’t clip the A/D converter.
Josh discusses the origins of the RMP-D8 8ch Dante Mic Pre-amp
We are coming up on our 15 year anniversary - or company birthday, as we like to say - and have produced a number of products that have helped in no small way to shape the sound of some of the most important music of our time. It’s our view that this is our charge - to deliver the tools that allow artists and engineers to fulfil their vision. The 5088 mixing console, Shelford Channel, RMP-D8 Dante Mic Pre and the RNDI all accomplish this task - I would say they're all milestones in our catalogue.
One of the things that Rupert has said many times that resonates with me is “To measure is to know, but the ear must be the final arbiter.” I’ve known a number of designers in my time in the industry, but I’ve never known one to listen as much as Rupert does. He has taught us how to listen at every single point in the development of a product. There are a number of design philosophies that are integral to our products: extended frequency response, widest dynamic range possible, extended headroom, and the controlled use of 2nd and 3rd order harmonic content to help shape the tonal character, and making sure that nothing non-musical (5th or 7th harmonics) is generated at any point in the signal path.
There will always be a draw to the classics, be it original 10XX Series modules, '57 Les Pauls or classic cars. We’ve endeavoured to not just simply regurgitate vintage designs, but rather to take what is special and unique and present it in a format that in many ways better serves modern recording practices. For instance, our diode bridge compressor has all the familiar girth and grab as its prized vintage counterparts, but also allows for parallel processing, and can be much, much quicker and more useful than the vintage pieces. We also now have far better noise specs, to say nothing of the reliability issues that come with what are now four (going on five) decades-old pieces of gear.
As soon as we launched our first product, the 5012 Dual Mic Pre, and started going to trade shows, the two most frequently-asked questions were "How does it sound compared to a 1073?” and "When are you building a console?" Seldom a day would go by when someone wouldn’t call up and ask about us building them a console. After a number of conversations, Rupert and I were sure that we had something more to offer and to say, and the development of the 5088 was undertaken.
There is both a quality to the mix path and a cadence to the workflow that has yet to be equaled in the box. We initially thought that this would be a product that might possibly sell a few dozen pieces over the next few years. Here we are a decade or so later, and we currently have more confirmed 5088s on order than at any time in the history of the product, and have delivered over two hundred of them to date.
At any given point in time, we have between 10 and 20 projects in some level of development - from breadboard concepts to final prototypes ready to be sent to production. We have several new products slated for release within the next year, and we’re very excited about a number of the new directions we’re taking with some of them.
We are always pursuing the production of useful, clever, high-performance tools for audio professionals. The world of music production and playback is ever evolving and we exist as a company to preserve and advance the standards created by Rupert Neve all those years ago, because these standards will always remain relevant. We certainly have no plans to stop any time soon.
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