We last visited legendary console designer and audio guru Rupert Neve in Tape Op #26, in 2001. In 2005 his corporation Rupert Neve Designs debuted the amazing Portico Range of equalizers, mic preamps, compressors and more. A few years later the 5088 Discrete Analogue Mixer (Tape Op #73) made its debut and I became the very satisfied owner of a 5088, serial number 27. I traveled to the serene rolling hills of Wimberley, Texas to meet up with a very gracious Rupert, Josh Thomas (Director of Sales and Strategic Alliances), and Craig "Hutch" Hutchison (Senior Design Engineer, formerly with Manley Labs).
Josh, how did you meet Rupert?
Josh: I was working for a place in Chicago called Soundlink Audio with Howard Sonyacoff and Lewis Frisch. He got me passes to the AES show. I showed up and I was basically a kid from the Midwest in the big city of New York. Lewis said he wanted me to meet somebody; I turned around and he introduced me to Rupert Neve and Les Paul — three minutes in! [laughter] It hasn't gotten better than that since!
Rupert: It would've been '93.
J: It was the US launch of the Amek Medici [equalizer]. R: I joined Amek [Systems and Controls Ltd] in April of '89. In '90 and '91, there were several visits to the US to meet different dealers and distributers for Nick Franks, who was the owner of Amek.
When did you stop working for Amek?
R: When did Amek wind up?
J: Harman [International Industries] didn't know what they were going to do with it, it seems. I think '05 is when they officially stopped trading.
Were you still under contract with them at that point, or had you moved on?
R: I was under contract. I think it was initially five years, but that just rolled on and on. Nick Franks and I had become good, personal friends. I don't remember that we had any formal renewal of the contract; we just continued as before. Nick had a number of problems on in the circuits and the sound. He wasn't an engineer or designer; but he could tell me about transformers and whatnot. I would make adjustments and then we would make comparisons between transformer-less circuits and ones that had transformers. I found that extremely helpful. You can measure and measure and you'll get results, but it's not definitive. You need to get the golden-eared person to supplement your own findings on the circuits. Billy had a lot of ideas and between us we pulled The Masterpiece into shape. Now, you came in on the scene shortly after that? used transformers. They've been very successful and they still are.
My feeling, as a recording engineer, is that you just grab the gear that works and you don't think about what's in the box. But it's also sales, preconceptions and hype.
R: It's a question of how you use them, like everything else. When it came to a console, I wanted a greater dynamic range. We just wanted something straight- down-the middle, the best there is. So, we developed his plate with the running of the company and various his plate with the running of the company and various financial problems, which had accrued from that. He had some very good people who joined him. When did John Oakley join?
J: John would've been 2001 or 2002.
R: Yes, yes. John had been with Soundcraft. He joined Amek as Managing Director. Unfortunately not long after he joined Amek he had a heart attack and was out of commission for some months. But he sailed back into the stormy seas and did a first class job. I was still generating new ideas and products.
Josh, did you work for Amek at some point?
J: I started working for Amek and also became friends with Nick Franks. When Harman exercised their right to purchase Amek, I was with them [Amek] for another two years — five or six years all together. I was there for the 9098i in-line console and the Channel In a Box [channel strip].
How did Rupert Neve designs come out of this? You also had your ARN Consultants Corporation at this time?
R: My wife [Evelyn] and I came over [to the US] in 1994. I was with Amek at the time and continued to work with them doing design work and a certain amount of representing — going to shows and meeting up with people. I was doing additional consulting and design work for various people. I met up with Taylor Guitars and did some design work for them [the acoustic K3 preamp and ES pickup].
What lead to Billy Stull's Legendary Audio and The Masterpiece Analog Mastering System in 2004?
R: I actually met Billy...