1961 was a watershed year in technology. It was theyear that a human being was first sent into space, and saw the launchof Telstar, the world’s first communications satellite - forerunner ofthe networks that cross the Earth today.
It was also the year that British electronics designer Rupert Neve formed the company that still bears his name. From the very beginning, Neve Electronics specialized in the finest professional audio consoles and systems, utilizing Class A designs and high-quality components to produce equipment unmatched in performance in the industry at the time. Following a move to the Cambridge area, in 1964 Neve designed and built the world’s first commercial transistor-based mixing console for Philips Recording Studio in London. The Neve name was established and the company had soon produced several custom consoles for distinguished studio clients. Building on this success, the company moved into a purpose-built factory in Melbourn, near Cambridge, entering the broadcast field - in 1968 producing the famous 2254 Comp/Limiter for ABC Weekend Television in the UK, followed by the world’s first solid-state switching matrix the next year - and making its products available in North America for the first time.
In 1970, Rupert Neve designed a microphone preamp module, the 1073, for a new A88 console for Wessex Studios. It became a legend, still widely regarded as one of the best microphone preamps ever designed. Neve developed a whole series of console modules in the 1970s that were so successful, the company went on to make them available as modules that are still some of the most sought-after designs on the market, and are still available today as part of the Outboard line.
The 1970s saw the pace of development at Neve speed up, with an immense number of new consoles leaving the production line including, in 1973, the 8048 with its famous 1081 modules that are available today in the form of the 1081R. Neve opened an additional factory in Scotland, and four new North American sales offices - in Toronto, Connecticut, Hollywood and Nashville.
1974 saw the first digitally controlled solid-state routing system, in a mixing console for the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
A year later, a chance meeting between Geoff Emerick of Air Studios and Rupert Neve resulted in a new console for Sir George Martin’s studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. The groundbreaking design work that went into this console has left its mark on Neve electronics and to this day modules influenced by its development are available as options for the 1081R.
Meanwhile, in Burnley in the north of England, inventions were made that had an enormous impact on audio technology and would ultimately change the world of recording. In 1976, a common interest in music and technology brought Mark Crabtree and Stuart Nevison together to create Advanced Music Systems (AMS), a company that became a leader in the digital audio revolution. The first product was the DM2-20 Tape Phase Simulator, first bought by ELO, 10cc and Paul McCartney.
Neve, too, joined the digital revolution. In 1977 the company installed the world’s first moving fader automation system, Necam (Neve Computer Assisted Mixdown) at Air Studios, London.
AMS released the world’s first microprocessor-controlled digital delay units, the DMX 15-80 in 1978 with 90 dB of dynamic range and 18 kHz bandwidth. Enhancements were regularly added, including dual pitch-changers and up to 32 seconds of delay/recording. ‘Loop triggering’ was added soon after, heralding the dawn of what we know today as sampling. The units became popular with musicians and studios across the world and many are still in use today. AMS went on to launch, in 1981, the first full bandwidth digital reverberator, the RMX16, which rapidly became an enormous success with artists like Phil Collins commenting that his seminal recording In the Air Tonight could not have been made without it. Its unique non-linear reverb and other reverberation programs helped to make it popular with a wide range of artists including Prince, Peter Gabriel and Culture Club.
Back in Melbourn, Neve was also pushing both digital and analog technology to new heights, first with the 8108 in 1979 - the first console to have assignable controls and memory faders - and then entering the race to build the first commercial digital multi-track console. Neve won that race in 1980, and the result was the Neve DSP, with the first unit sold to Tape One in London. On the analog front, the company followed up with the development of the V Series, unveiled in early 1985. The V Series (named after one of the design team, Greg Pope - V stands for ‘Vatican’) went on to become the most successful, and perhaps the most revered, of all Neve’s analog designs.
In 1984, AMS further helped define the future of audio with the launch of the AudioFile - the world’s first commercial hard disk recording system - an event with an impact comparable to the introduction of multi-track. The speed and flexibility - along with astonishing capabilities that particularly suited video/audio post-production - saw the AudioFile rapidly adopted across the industry and especially in television. To this day, four out of five of Britain’s top TV soaps are edited on the system. AudioFile was awarded an Emmy® for Technical Achievement in 1992 and a Scientific & Engineering Academy Award® in 2004.
The mid-1980s was a time of change and consolidation in the professional audio industry. Neve was acquired by the Siemens group of companies in 1985, and accelerated its work on the next generation of digital consoles, ultimately to be known as the Capricorn. AMS went on to develop the first fully integrated digital console and hard disk recorder, the Logic 1, released in 1988. In the same year, AMS developed and launched linear motor-based faders, and in 1989 Neve introduced the VR console.
1990 saw the release of the AMS Logic 2 - its first large format digital console - which established the ground-rules for fully automated control surface design that are still followed today. The first unit was sold to Editel in Chicago.
Then in 1990, Siemens acquired AMS, bringing two of the most revered and powerful brand names in British - and international - pro audio under the same umbrella, and two years later, in 1992 the companies were united under the ‘AMS Neve’ banner. The first AMS Neve console product - launched in 1993 - was also the world’s first large-format digital music console, the Capricorn, which was soon adopted by prestigious studios across the world, with Abbey Road and Skywalker Sound, to name but two, choosing the system. The first live digital audio production of the CMA Awards was performed on a Capricorn, and Titanic - the first movie to have a digitally recorded soundtrack - was mixed on a Capricorn in 1998. The
Logic 3 followed in 1994, extending the power of the Logic family to the smaller studio, with units sold to Oasis television and Sports BME.
The digital revolution was accelerating. AMS Neve became the first proprietary hardware manufacturer to endorse and implement the OMF (Open Media Framework) session data interchange format, allowing recording and post-production facilities to use their choice of platform, safe in the knowledge that their work remained accessible to other facilities working on the project.
1996 saw AMS Neve introduce the next breakthrough — the Academy Award-winning DFC, the first full-scale multi-operator Digital Film Console. It rapidly became established as the premier choice in Hollywood, with 80% of the top grossing films of 2003, for example, being mixed on the DFC. Some filmmakers were so impressed that they gave the company an end credit in the movie. The DFC was succeeded by the DFC2 and now the DFC Gemini (introduced 2005). In addition, a compact, effective single-operator version of the system is now available in the shape of the DFC PS/1 Powerstation.
In 1997 Libra Live was introduced at NAB, specifically designed for broadcast operation. MSNBC was the first customer, and seven Libra Live consoles were used by different companies covering the Athens Olympics. Skywalker Sound purchased a DFC and in 1999 mixed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace digitally on the console. The same year saw The Matrix mixed on a DFC at Warners.
Despite the enormous changes that have been wrought on the industry by the development of digital audio technology, to think that today’s professional recording, mixing and editing environments are a place solely for digital would be wrong. Analog has a distinct place in the overall scheme of things. The finest digital systems are nothing without precision, quality analog design - just the techniques and technologies that enabled Neve to make its name almost half a century ago. From mic amps to monitoring, analog has a fundamental role to play. Thus it was that 2001 saw AMS Neve announce the first totally new Neve analog console in almost two decades - the 88R.
Taking the best aspects of the acclaimed V Series and Encore Plus console automation, plus the multi-format surround-capable flexibility of the DFC and, of course, the legendary Neve sound, the 88R was an instant success and showed that analog audio was a vital part of the future, not simply of the past. Today the 88RS is its worthy successor with a level of audio quality that exceeds that of 192 kHz 24-bit digital and combines that Neve sound with the latest innovations in audio and control technology.
The company followed up its analog success in 2005 with the launch of a new AMS Neve digital console, the 88D, continuing the company’s tradition of pushing the digital boundaries. This powerful digital console combines a DSP engine capable of mixing 1000 tracks at 96 kHz with classic Neve 1081R mic pres for perfect sound acquisition, dedicated 8.1 surround monitoring of multiple sources, and Encore Plus automation with integration of popular DAW systems into the workflow.
AMS Neve continues to be renowned for its rack-mount modular products, notably the Outboard and the 88 Series lines, which combine legendary Neve analog electronics and design with the latest digital conversion technology, bringing the Neve sound to the latest analog and digital production systems.
Also in 2005, AMS Neve took another step into the future when the company was acquired by the SAE Group, the largest and most successful technology education group in the world. This alliance of two of the world’s leading audio industry organizations brings together the advanced analog and digital audio technology and reputation of AMS Neve with the unique and extensive experience and insights of SAE - a union that continues to define and redefine the world of professional audio, today and tomorrow.
Mark Crabtree, Managing Director at AMS Neve, emphasizes that 45 years is just the beginning. “Professionals the world over choose AMS Neve as the means to a definitive sound, and our standards lead the way for each successive generation of audio production,” he notes. “AMS Neve offers the tools for achieving ultimate quality - an ever-expanding range of options with an unprecedented level of functionality. Setting the pace for the strictest purity in analog design is our 88RS, with its groundbreaking feature set and uncompromising performance. Our ongoing advancements in the digital realm, such as the powerful 88D, have been readily embraced as the new path to total sonic integrity. Likewise, our Outboard series is the means for classic sound and contemporary expression. AMS Neve has a tremendous reputation for excellence, and the resources to continue doing in the future what it has successfully achieved for the last 45 years: creating the finest professional audio products and platforms in the world, with value that lasts and lasts.”