Early RUPERT NEVE consoles and their stories | PART ONE: 1959-1962 | ‘Rupert’s first – the valve/tube mixers’

2022-06-18 6 By David Taylor

Researched and written by DAVID TAYLOR
With information and photographs by JOHN TURNER

Much of the information available on the internet concerning Rupert Neve and his mixing consoles isn’t wholly accurate, so with the help of John Turner, the longest serving employee of ‘Neve’ – in its various guises, we will try in this series of articles to give a more accurate account of the history of the early Rupert Neve consoles; with an historical timeline from his first mixer, up until 1975, which was when Rupert himself left his own Neve company.

Neve engineers built these consoles as creative tools, so as well as detailing the consoles, we’ll put in some names of the people who built them; those that used them and some of the work they produced.

I haven’t individually credited all the many images that John Turner has contributed, but hopefully the other photos are correctly credited.


This part only covers the earliest known Neve valve (tube) mixers. We will follow with another covering the earliest ‘shiny black’ finished germanium transistors mixers, to be followed by parts covering many of the more interesting of the subsequent mixers up to 1975. So if your interests are in say the ’80’ series mixers. you’ll find those in a later Part.

Rupert Neve’s early working life

Rupert Neve outside The Priesthaus in Little Shelford in 1968.
Photo: Rupert Neve Designs

“Just after WWII, I was running a little recording/public address system. We used to record brass bands, male voice choirs and choral society during the Winter, and we used to do public address for shows in Summer.
Doing recording was great fun. There were about four recording studios in the whole of the United Kingdom at that time. I didn’t have a studio, we had a room which we used to rent over a music shop. Of course we recorded straight to disc. There was no second chance, so you had wasted your blank if you didn’t get it right. So I went and got a job in London with a company that ran cable-radio. I found myself designing amplifiers, pre-amps, and making it sound good, doing equalizing on the lines and so forth. I found myself more or less in charge of the audio of the group and learning electronics. But the sound always interested me”

Rupert moved into transformer design within Rediffusion, the company which had developed and ran a cable-distributed radio system and he became a real specialist in the design of audio transformers; which became particularly important in the later development of his consoles. He then worked for another transformer company until:

” It all added together when, finally, I left that company and started on my own. The first thing I did was design a bookcase-style speaker. It was one of the very earliest high-quality, small size speakers. High- quality in those days meant huge, great big corner cabinets with sand-filled baffles and goodness knows what. They sounded terrific but were not very practical. Anyway, it was the first of these and we got good reviews on it, and it sounded nice, but again, there wasn’t any money in it.” [1]


1| 1959:  ‘Making the music concrete’ – Rupert Neve’s first console for Desmond Leslie

An ‘avant-garde’ composer, Desmond Leslie asked Rupert to build a mixer for Leslie’s ‘musique-concrete’ compositions, and Rupert had to ask for one-third of the cost in advance, as he hadn’t the capital behind him to buy the parts. Rupert must have already built mixing equipment for his PA and recording work and we can probably assume that there wasn’t too much original design work in the Leslie console circuitry employing published designs such as from Mullard.

This first commercial Neve mixer, a valve (tube) design, was simple and consisted basically of four hi-level inputs, to which echo could be added and it gave both stereo and mono outputs.
It still exists at Desmond Leslie’s home, Castle Leslie in Ireland [2]

The Desmond Leslie display at the Armagh County Museum.

“In relation to Desmond’s mixing desk, it is still part of the families collection at Castle Leslie. It was briefly on loan to Armagh County Museum in 2015 but has been back at the Castle for a number of years.”

“Commissioned by Desmond Leslie, the Irish musique concrete composer for a series of LPs of Shakespeare plays. It was built on site in Desmond’s flat on Grove End Road just across the other Zebra crossing from Abbey Road Studios. Rupert came after work each day with more parts and lugged them up the two flights of stairs until it was eventually completed. Desmond gave him an upfront payment which allowed him to purchase the parts.

Desmond Leslie with Agnes Bernelle and Rupert’s first mixer.
Photo: Getty Images

Desmond is pictured with Agnes Bernelle here and appeared on the front page of the Sunday papers as he gave Bernard Levin a box live on TV for his overly critical review of Agnes performance in a show. This studio had quite a bit of traffic being across the road from Abbey Road and apparently George Martin was a regular during his comedy productions of the early 60s.
The story of when Desmond met Rupert initially is hilarious as both were obviously on different planets and innocently came to an agreement that got Rupert his break.

Desmond was described in Ireland as ‘a bit eccentric’ and took great exception to this. His description was being a lot eccentric’. Desmond returned to Ireland permanently along with Neve No.1 shortly after the incident with Bernard Levin and by that time Rupert was starting to become successful.” [3]

The four-channel valve control panel built for mixing Desmond Leslie’s ‘musique-concrete’ compositions.
Photo: Patrick Delany

The presence of a valve Quad 22 pre-amp in the upstand possibly dates this to 1959, when Quad released the control unit, although the upstand part, being cruder-looking and mounted on formica, was most likely added by Leslie afterwards.

The Desmond Leslie mixer controls

The controls for the four channels of the mixer have labels that don’t conform to what we’d later use:
At the top, four pots labelled ‘send gains’, with basic ‘treble’ and ‘bass’  controls under each of them. They would be the ‘echo sends’ and obviously a simple Baxandall channel EQ .
The next four down are just labelled ‘mono‘, with beneath them four more labelled  ‘balance‘. I’ll leave it to you therefore to decide which are ‘pan-pots’, ‘faders’ and ‘echo send’ controls!
In the bottom left there are ‘remote start’ toggle switches for the separate tape decks that Leslie used, with indicator neons.
The top right large knob is labelled ‘master echo’ and it has two ‘treble’ and two ‘bass’ controls, with beneath them a pair of the big faders, each labelled ‘stereo’. The worn red knob is ‘echo balance’ with an ‘echo on’ neon beside it and centre bottom is ‘master balance’. There are two ‘power’ neons with matching fuses and finally in the bottom right is the ‘master gain’.

Mentioning ‘Echo’, back in the days when echo ‘chambers’ still very much existed, makes me conjure up the idea of a dungeon in Castle Leslie being used, but as the building dates from 1878, that alas doesn’t seem likely. Perhaps a ‘bed-chamber’ then?

Close-up of the ‘Rupert Neve & Co., Harlow, Essex’ label on the mixer.
Photo: Patrick Delany

The name ‘Rupert Neve & Co., Harlow, Essex’ was already being used by Rupert, as the labelling on the front of the mixer shows. The 1961 date usually credited as when Rupert Neve started his company in Harlow, would therefore be the date he made it into a limited company.

“The first mixing console, per se, was made for Desmond Leslie, this amazing musique-concrete composer, and the disadvantages of a tube mixer were the high voltages and the cumbersome nature of the whole thing. And customers were starting to ask me for features that could not be accommodated in a tube mixer, just because you needed an awful lot of circuits, and you couldn’t fit those circuits into a reasonable space. Not to mention the fact that these high voltages of the tubes were lethal. There was the occasion when I was working in the middle of the night with Desmond Leslie and I’d switched everything off and I was reaching inside the cabinet to do something or other. He came into the room and switched it on again without my realising it and nearly killed me! And all he did was say:

“Sorry, did you get a shock?”
 “Yeah, not only a shock but….”.
So that was one of the disadvantages, if you like, with tube mixers.”

Castle Leslie

Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Count Monaghan, Ireland.

Castle Leslie

Now an upmarket hotel, Castle Leslie in the late ’50s was still an unlikely place for a ‘sci-fi’ composer.

Desmond Leslie’s ‘Sci-Fi’ music

There is a lot of the fascinating history of Desmond Leslie available elsewhere, so I’ll keep it to a minimum here, however, to give you a flavour: 
“When a guidebook to Ireland described his family as being ‘mildly eccentric’, Desmond Leslie took offence and wrote to the publishers informing them that, on the contrary, the Leslie’s were very eccentric.” [5]
Leslie wrote books, directed films and produced music for his own films and those of others.
In 1953, he wrote a book called ‘Flying Saucers Have Landed’ which consisted of two parts; the first being Leslie’s reasonings for the existence of visiting aliens and he gave the second part over to American George Adamski describing his sightings of the same. It sold remarkably well during that period of high interest in UFOs.

Leslie and Adamski
Desmond Leslie on the left during his 3-month visit to meet George Adamski, on the right in 1954. This was after the book had been published.
Photo: Castle Leslie Archive

Therefore it’s not hard to understand then that when Leslie turned to composing, it wasn’t the usual music of the 1950s, but ‘musique-concrete’, and after writing pieces for radio and films he produced the compilation LP pictured below in 1959:

Leslie’s LP containing “Music Of the Voids Of Outer Space, The Day The Sky Fell In, Death Of Satan and Sacrifice B.C. 5,000”.

Andrew May wrote about another Leslie LP in his book ’The Science of Sci-Fi Music’:
“Produced between 1955 and 1959 for various films and TV and radio dramas, he later compiled the pieces into an album called ‘Music of the Future’, which was re-issued on CD in 2005. Here is a quote from Leslie taken from the back cover of the CD: “As I see it, musique-concrete is the arrangement and selection of sound patterns into an intelligent, evocative and potent new musical form. Its basic instrument is the magnetic tape recorder so that the composer has the advantage of becoming orchestra and conductor as well…….The tape recorder, coupled with other devices, can produce an almost unlimited variety of sound spectra. Hence the first problem is not the creation of new sounds but to select and organise.”
While the use of a tape recorder may have been high-tech for its time, the production of raw sounds to go on the tape was often distinctly low-tech – as Leslie makes clear in his description of another section of the same work depicting the planet Mercury: “I have only used two sound sources, a humming top  and a motor horn employing a single rhythmic pattern throughout”. As for another piece on the CD – music for the film ‘The Day The Sky Fell In’, which Leslie says “caused a near riot at the Venice Film Festival in 1959” – he writes that: “the opening blasts of the play-in started life as a fast electric fan chucked into the strings of a grand piano”.[6]

There were no rules with regard to musique-concrete and it appears that some of the first sounds being mixed on a Rupert Neve mixing console were Desmond Leslie’s recordings of him rather abusing bits of his domestic equipment.

From his ‘Music Of The Future’ compilation, here is part of the sound-track used for the sci-fi film ‘The Day the Sky Fell In” which Leslie worked on in 1958:

AUDIO : Desmond Leslie – Destruction Of The Flies

There’s an obvious use of his grand piano, rather like a ‘prepared piano’ used by John Cage and I think that the ‘swotting’ of the flies, at 01.43 minutes, shows some of Desmond Leslie’s humour!

“The Day The Sky Fell In – When producer Barry Shawzin brought me the cutting copy of this brilliant pithy filmed comment on the absurdity of super-weapons, I felt that here was the perfect film on which to graft my sounds. I was right. It was a composer’s answer to prayer, and the finished film caused a near riot at the Venice Film Festival in 1959.” [7]


1961/1962: ‘Inside and Outside’ – Two valve mixers for Recorded Sound, London

Desmond Leslie’s mixer was only required to mix his tape-recorder outputs, so the first professional recording studio mixer that Rupert made that was complete with microphone amplifiers would therefore be in 1961; one of the two consoles that he made for Recorded Sound Studio in Bryanston St. London W1.

One of Rupert’s very early clients was Leo Pollini of Recorded Sound in London, for whom he designed and built two valve consoles. The first was for the studio, a 10 into 2. The design was based on the successful equipment Rupert had built in the Plymouth days and included features that were innovative for that period. The other was an outside broadcast console. Recorded Sound had a contract with Radio Luxembourg to broadcast a series of live Sunday afternoon concerts for which they needed a high quality, reliable, transportable console with all the features of studio equipment and the capability of feeding music landlines. This console was based on the earlier studio console that had been working successfully at the Bryanston Street Studio.”

 “My first two or three sound control consoles for London studios were actually tube consoles, simple by today’s standards, but I think, the one that comes to mind was the one I designed and built for a studio called Recorded Sound in Bryanston Street, and Leo Pollini was the engineer and he specified a whole lot of features for this console that I had never heard of. He talked about  ‘SFB’; well ‘SFB’ I had to discover, meant ‘studio foldback’, and then there was ‘Rev’. What was ‘Rev’ – ‘Reverberation’.  I was totally unfamiliar, in those days with the pro-audio scene. But I realized that these were ‘auxiliary circuits’, which the console had to feed; had to provide. So I built a 10-channel console, which had 2 outputs and we could switch between the two outputs, therefore it qualified as a ‘stereo console’. And the essence of the console was not only high-quality – and all my previous attempts at high quality now came into play – became invaluable because I could apply them in this professional field. And I was able to not only make the circuits sound good, but I was able to make them reliable, so people would have little fear of breakdown during sessions.

2| 1961: The Recorded Sound studios 10-channel valve mixer

First Recorded Sound mixer
The first valve studio mixer for Recorded Sound.

The desk Rupert built for the studio at Recorded Sound has 10-channels, into 2 outputs, which as Rupert says above, ‘ therefore it qualified as a stereo console’. Above each of the, the big rotary faders are similar to Baxandall bass and treble controls, like the Leslie desk had. There’s a Group fader beside each set of 5 faders and the 10 ‘echo send’ pots are moved off onto the upper right, along with an ‘echo master’. The two different coloured cover plate panels may have been added to facilitate modifications that were inevitable in the rapidly changing recording studio world.

The Recorded Sound mixer is now at the AMS-Neve Burnley HQ.

Here’s a look inside:

Tag blocks are used for input and output connections inside the Recorded Sound Studio mixer.

The visible tag blocks show that this was connected to an external jackfield. On one of the input transformer cans, the writing is almost certainly that of Rupert himself, giving the details of his hand-built transformer.

Undoubtedly Rupert Neve’s writing on a transformer housing in the Recorded Sound Studio mixer.

A young Ric Holland joined the Recorded Sound Studio in May 1969 as a trainee ‘tape op’ and by then the studio had gone through a rebuild with a new transistor Neve 20-channel installed (see Part Three for that one). However the original old valve Neve was still in use in ‘Studio B’ in the basement of a townhouse over the road in Bryanston Street which also housed the studio tape store. [9] Studio B was a ‘voice only’ studio and when I queried Ric on the valve desk, he replied:

“I must admit I don’t recall it being as sophisticated as in the photo nor it having 10-channels but it *has* to be the one. Particular characteristics are the green Formica backplate, round pots and the wooden cabinet. It originally had a gooseneck talkback mic and a fairly deep desktop in the front which matched the length of the console. This desktop featured a black Formica top.” [10]

Studio B was gone by mid-1971 and at some stage the valve mixer ended up back in Rupert Neve’s hands and was displayed in the reception of his Melbourn factory for many years and is now at the AMS-Neve factory in Burnley. A significant historical item indeed.

2a| Recorded Sound’s valve mixer recordings

Recorded Sound Studios Ltd., 27-31 Bryanston Street, London W1.

Recorded Sound was a studio originally established in the 1950s. [11] Leo Pollini must have been the studio manager and main mixer and Recorded Sound is the studio where the 28-year-old Bob Auger first started in audio. [12] Bob went on to have a distinguished career running Pye Studios, at ATV House, just up the same road, before switching to location work, mainly in classical recording.

Modern engineers would be appalled at the idea of mixing music on a desk like Recorded Sound’s 10 channel, with its rotary faders, and most desks of the period still weren’t fitted with any equalisers, but Neve gave his valve mixing desks some basic bass and treble EQ. Engineers brought up on old equipment like this used their skills with microphone choice and placement and didn’t expect to dive to an equaliser control as soon as they’d brought the channel fader up!

So what was the new Neve 10 into 2 being used for in the 1960s? The studio would have done plenty of band work with London session musicians but it’s hard to find any evidence of Leo Pollini’s work nowadays. There’s an album he recorded of jazz ballads in 1967 that has survived, with four session players who also worked as The Tommy Whittle Quartet, called ‘Sax for Dreamers’….just so it could be sold with a blatantly sexy girl on the front!

The LP cover of ‘Sax For Dreamers’ by The Tommy Whittle quartet

AUDIO: The Tommy Whittle Quartet – Moonlight In Vermont

Certainly, nobody was likely to get ‘stressed’ in the making of the album as all the tracks are ballads like that, so I imagine the old valve Neve didn’t get too near overload either.
The quartet was Tommy, playing that breathy Coleman Hawkins like tenor, Kenny Powell on piano, Lennie Bush on bass and keeping very quiet there, Jackie Dougan on drums. The producer was Gus Stephens who I think was a regular at Recorded Sound for the Masquerade label.

3| 1962: Recorded Sound’s location 10-channel valve mixer

The other valve mixer built for Recorded Sound by Rupert was for location recordings to fulfil the contract with Radio Luxembourg which broadcast to the UK in the evenings on a very powerful medium wave transmitter located in the ‘Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’.
Radio Luxembourg was however limited by the UK Musicians Union in its ‘needle time’; the amount of commercial discs it could play. It therefore recorded many shows for broadcast and a number of the UK recording studios vied to provide facilities to cover these location jobs during the ’50s and ’60s. They were often comedy and game shows in front of audiences and as Luxembourg did lots of music they also often recorded the big bands and singers of the day.

The Third Valve Mixer?

The above photo has been displayed on a website, labelled as ‘The First Mixer’, and credited as the Desmond Leslie console, the above console however is the second of the Recorded Sound mixers, the location one, and it’s most likely the third that Rupert built.

In 2007, in an internet audio forum, an American sound engineer wrote the following:

“I’ve reverse-engineered one of the pair from Recorded Sound Ltd; I assume the remote broadcast console. I’ve had it laying around on and off several times over the last 3 years. Belongs to a client of mine. Sounded pretty nice during brief tests. It had panning added at some point, among other various mods. This one appears to have the same construction and general styling of the slightly later Recorded Sound Ltd pair. I’ve always heard Rupert farmed out the actual construction to someone, and if so, I’d assume the same person(s) did all three.” [13]

This mixer was in fact the later of the two built and it would be strange for Rupert not to also have built it himself at the time as he later remembered:

RUPERT NEVE (in 2001):
“I already had some contacts, and one studio owner in London commissioned a mixing console, which was tube. And he liked that, and then we built him another one, and he liked that. In fact, at NAB the other day, a gentleman who collects these things came back and showed me a photograph of Number 2 — he’d bought it. Well, we sold for £450, and he paid $27,000 the other day.” [1]

I subsequently corresponded with Doug Williams regarding this console. He runs the wonderfully titled ‘Electromagnetic Radiation Recorders’, a recording studio and a vintage audio repair facility in Winston-Salem in North Carolina:

“It fell to me to do reverse engineering on it at one point, and I had it around about a year. It was modified for stereo use sometime in the late ’60s, originally it was 4×1 3×1> 1. It had various update/mods done to it at later times by someone.” [14]

Here’s the front view in one of Doug’s photos taken when he was investigating the circuitry of the 10-channel valve desk, and you can see the modifications he mentioned:

Removed from its metal case it matches the console pictured immediately above, with the later modifications being obvious.
Photos: Doug Williams

Pictured then in the early 2000’s and both externally and internally there are many similarities with the Recorded Sound studio mixer.

Here’s some more detail starting with the left side:

The modifications here are the additional blue ‘pan-pots’

The mixer’s 10-channels route into 3 Groups. The 4-channels to ‘Group I’  have ‘mic/hi-z’ select switches and ‘echo send’ pots, with an ‘master echo’ which also has an added pan-pot (so mono echo then). All channels have ‘PA on’ select switches and basic ‘treble’ and ‘bass’ controls. The blue collett knobs are the later added ‘pan-pots’, with new labelling on a couple of them. Upper right is a locking ‘talkback’ switch of the type we used to call a ‘kellogg switch’.
And over on the right side of the mixer:

There are more changes on this side of the mixer

The mixer has four channels fixed to ‘Group I’, three channels to ‘Group II’ and another three to ‘Group III’, and initially this mixer was certainly only ‘mono out’ and the later addition of the pan-pots shows it went on to be a stereo mixer. A further indication of that is the removal of the ‘Group III Fader’ and here there is just a blank hole in the panel in the photo above. In the first picture of it (from the RND website) it has an added plate at that same place; hence two more additional holes above. The 3 channels of ‘Group III’ would have been rewired to the other, now ‘stereo’ groups.
The two output VU meters are on a replacement blanking plate, though they are different ones from the older photo.
In this right side detail photo, we can see that there are kellogg keys for talkback to two ‘Cue’ circuits, a Monitor switch labelled ‘console/tape’ along with a ‘monitor gain’ fader. There’s a ‘power’ switch with fuse and a ‘mixer on’ neon at the top with ‘PA gain’ fader beneath it.

The label on the front of this mixer says ‘Rupert Neve and Co., Cambridge, England’ however the label on the first Recorded Sound mixer, the studio one, says ‘Rupert Neve and Co., Harlow, Essex’. John Turner explains this difference in the next section.

Here are a couple more of Doug Williams photos:

Separate mic amps using standard ‘pre-amp’ valves, EF86’s and 12AX7’s.

Looking at these photos, we don’t know how much work Doug Williams or someone before him might have done on the old console though:

“The transformers match the ones in the earlier Recorded Sound Studio mixer. But I think the shiny individual chassis with rivets are all revamped from the original. It’s too clean and felt tip writing looks too new.”

The rear panel.

Compare this rear panel shot with the one below of it in its early guise, an old picture that John Turner had in his archive:

John’s photo shows it is the same console before ‘modernisation’.

John Turner’s picture shows that it originally had mic inputs on big old Cannon EP3 connectors which are now replaced with blanking plates holding new XLRs. The EP3 was the UK standard mic connector until XLRs began to take over in the early 1960s. This change was still going on in my first year in sound in 1966 and I was often making up EP3 to XLR converters and rewiring studio mic wall panels. The Amphenol multicore connector socket has been blanked over and a few additional jack sockets fitted in.

Here’s a closer look at that back panel:

The rear after modifications including the change to XLRs.
Photo via Doug Williams

The large rear panel seems to have been cut into two near the power supply section and there were now two outputs, on both XLRs and jacks. Perhaps the original multipin connector was for a tape deck that has now become jacks as well, which are also now fitted for Echo ‘In’ and ‘Out’.
In the two earliest photos, we can also see that the mixer was in a metal case, as suited its ‘location’ use and it also has a PA output. So definitely a location and not a studio mixer.

We don’t know exactly what Leo Pollini used it for, but with the first four channels being the only ones with ‘echo sends’, it indicates that perhaps only a small group of musicians was expected to play in the shows he was recording for Luxembourg.
As for ‘echo’; the engineers had to improvise and sometimes the venue’s gents toilet was quite often blocked off and a speaker and mic positioned to make it a temporary ‘echo chamber’. These were the days when the BBC booked a pair of equalised phone lines from the ‘OB’, so that they could use a real echo chamber ‘back at base’.

The photos of this mixer for comparison

Here, on the left is a photo of the Recorded Sound desk as it was after the first conversion to stereo, compared with one after its final modifications.

There is one other photo that appeared in the very first Neve brochure which is most interesting:

From the first brochure
The location mixer appears in Neve’s first brochure

This photo has to be of the Recorded Sound location mixer in its original ‘mono’ form. Note the carry handles and clasps for a front cover just visible at the side. The replacement of the single larger meter with the blanking panel to take the two smaller VU’s becomes obvious now, and of course, it doesn’t have the later ‘pan-pots’.

Afterlife: Just a bit more history

Recorded Sound’s Studio mixer:

As stated earlier, the first Recorded Sound valve mixer ended up back with Neve and finally at the AMS-Neve headquarters in Burnley. Here’s a news item that explain’s how it got there:

From The Cambridge Evening News, Friday June 30 1978 page 17 via Simon Rooks.

Recorded Sound’s ‘location mixer’:

We’ve also subsequently discovered a bit more about the Recorded Sound ‘location’ mixers past life

“The “US tube” that you detailed was definitely mine.  
I sold it to a US buyer for Lenny Kravitz in about 2000-2001, but then it disappeared from view for 20 years. 
Somewhere I have the original paperwork for that tube console that Rupert wrote back when he made it; that will complete the story.”

So this was another historic tube mixer that has passed through Lenny Kravitz’s hands, as the Abbey Road REDD.37 had gone his way in 1991.


“Rupert Neve & Co., Harlow, Essex”

By the late 1950s, Rupert had already been working on his own producing domestic hi-fi equipment and his ‘CQ’ bookshelf loudspeakers for a few years. His son John recalled his own first memory, at the age of 4, of his father’s work:

“Rupert had a workshop above a range of shops in London, which was where we lived and one of the shops was a fish-and-chip shop, and I remember it caught fire and Rupert stayed in the building desperately rescuing all of the work which he had produced; his amplifiers, and his tape recorders which he was making and he had to be rescued by the fire-brigade through a warehouse door from the first floor. “ [15]

Rupert with Evelyn and his children then moved to a simple single-storey house in Harlow, one of the post-war ‘new-towns’, and this was where Rupert’s first mixers were built and where ‘Rupert Neve & Co.’ had its modest beginning.

Rupert Neve’s house, 331 Northbrooks, Harlow – pictured in 2009.

“Rupert built the first Recorded Sound studio mixer in his garage in Harlow – Rupert states this on “The Shelford Interviews – Moving to the Little Shelford Rectory and other early production sites”. So both the Desmond Leslie and the Recorded Sound Studio console were manufactured in Harlow with the Recorded Sound location mixer being manufactured after the move in 1964 to Cambridge.”

“The garage belonging to 331 Northbrooks is the one on the left. At the time when we lived there, it had black side-hung wooden doors so there has been some modernisation since!  It was before the days of insulation and maintaining a temperature above zero during the winter must have been difficult.”

The ‘Harlow’ label on the first Recorded Sound mixer.

There’s a story that Recorded Sound’s Leo Pollini told that “Rupert assembled the Recorded Sound mixer on his kitchen table”.

“Rupert building equipment on the kitchen table was a myth, as there were five young children in a not very large house.”

Perhaps though that garage needs an English Heritage ‘Blue Plaque’!


To Come in Part Two

With his company producing more mixers, Rupert next moved ‘Neve’ to a large house in Little Shelford, near Cambridge, and he also moved to using the new ‘transistors’. It was a change which enabled ‘the modern mixing console’ to come about and Rupert Neve & Co. was responsible for so much of that ‘revolution’.

With John Turner’s photos, we are able to explore many of these early ‘shiny black’ Neve mixers and the continually changing audio modules they used as the equipment kept developing.


Credits and references:

[1] Rupert Neve interview with Steve McAllister in TapeOp magazine Nov/Dec 2001.
[2] Confirmation that Desmond Leslie’s Rupert Neve mixer is still at Castle Leslie, came from the Castle Leslie archivist in September 2021.

[3] Thanks to Irish recording engineer Terry Cromer for the information about Rupert’s first mixer built for Desmond Leslie.
[4] From Rupert Neve Designs video series ‘The Shefford Interviews’ 2013 via www.the rupertneve.com This series of videos available on YouTube, is a great resource for seeing Rupert talking about the early days of Neve. He recorded these in 2013 at the age of 86, so we can excuse a few lapses of memory that are revealed in the timeline of the products and their developments. Thanks to Rupert Neve Designs for keeping them available.

[5] From the advertising for ‘Desmond Leslie-The Biography of an Irish Gentleman‘ by Robert O’Byrne.
[6] ‘The Science Of Sci-Fi Music’ by Andrew May. Published by Springer 2020.
[7] From the sleeve notes on ‘Music Of the Future’ re-released on CD by Trunk records 2005.
[8] Video interview with Rupert Neve-October 25/26th 2013 – At the SAE Institute, Paris.
[9] From Ric Holland’s book ‘As I Heard It – In the music industry 1969-1979. Pt.1 ‘In the Recording Studio’. (Kindle)
[10] Correspondence with Ric Holland in Nov 2021.
[11] From www.philsbook.com archived and retrieved from ‘The Wayback Machine’ website. We await a new look Philsbook website as it’s a great resource now missing from the web.
[12] The wife of pianist John McCabe, who was recorded often by Bob Auger, Monica McCabe writing in 1999: http://www.mvdaily.com/articles/1999/04/auger2.htm
I think Monica must be incorrect with the 1956 date, because Bob moved to Pye and in 1956 was working under the American engineer Bob Fine doing classical location recordings and was then soon recording them for Pye himself. Bob was ‘Head-Of-Sound’ at Granada TV in Manchester between 1960 and ’62, when he returned to Pye as Technical Manager. Auger certainly retained a good relationship with Granada, as they funded his ‘Granada Recordings’ location recording venture in 1968.
[13] Doug Williams on the Gearspace.com forum.
[14] Doug Williams correspondence September 2020.
[15] From a video interview with her father John, by Alice Neve (Rupert’s granddaughter) posted on her website.

[16] From recent conversations with Rick O’Neill, who runs Turtle Rock Mastering in Sydney.

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