The secret to the sound of Neve console…..

I am blessed to be able to work as an intern in swedish studio svenska Grammofonstudion now and they have a Neve 8048 from 1973.

What is so special with these old consoles ? Why is there a hype? The feeling is there but is there a real technical explanation ?  And what about the efforts to recreate “analogue sound”?

I have decieded to dig a little bit into that area here in my blog. Im doing it mostly for myself becouse noone ever reads my blog anyway! 🙂

I thaught that the most logical way was to listen to the words of the man behind the consoles, mr Rupert Neve.  Besides reading a lot of information, I also watched a really wonderful lecture at CRAS.

A little intro….

As we all know early sound engineering was based only on analog audio signals. Great soundquality has always been about treating the signal in the best manner from point A to B.

The challenge these designers of analog recording equipment always had is to get the noise rate down as much as possible. There is many different types of noise that can come out of electrical devices. Every electrical module has self noise.

This chain is important:

Good acoustical sounds, good microphones (output impedance) , cables, their length and impedance, (Bruce Swedien thinks even Power Cables plays an important role to the sound quality) preamps (transistors, transformers) ,A/D converters…. Nowadays software plug-ins provides the option to recreate the analog behaviour. But is it satisfying? Avid has performed a few tests on the subject, comparing their HEAT device application to expensive analog consoles. Love those youtube-clips ! Watch and see for yourselves.  But is it really the key to the secret of good quality sound??

What really is sound inside an electrical device?

It is electrical current.  Analog signals are basicly acoustic sound waves transferred into alternating current (växelström) signals. The relationship in a electric cirquit is explained by Ohms law: V = IR Where V is voltage (electric pressure), I is current (the flow of electric charge) and R is the resistance. Resistance is measured in ohm. In AC systems, resistance is replaced by impedance which really is a more complex term then I can explain here. (I will try to go into impedance more in depth in another article) The impedance varies with the frequency of the signal. The alternating current is defined in the same way as acoustic waves; frequency (waves per time), amplitude (peak) and the period which is the periodic cycle of wave complesion.  Acoustical sound is transformed into alternating current where positive volt is equivalent to Acoustical compression (how sound behaves in air) and negative volt is Acoustical rarefaction. Some soundsystems use the opposite transformation where the phaze is reversed. 

What really is sound inside a digital device? It is NOT sound ! Its just binary numbers! (1 and 0) 

The electric current is then treansferred into digital information.  A/D converters. (The digital interperation of the wave is in theory limited (even though we use a very high resolution (bit depth) ) while the analogue wave carriying the full wave “picture” is in theory more acurate.) Digital sound really is 1 and 0. Numbers.  I will cover this more in another article.

Back to Neve….

The Neve console was different because Rupert Neve who came from Tube design thaught it was logical to use transformers such as found in valve design. So the designs were single sided.

// A single sided supply cirquit connects the op amp to a positive voltage and ground. Instead of generating negative voltages, a virtual ground is used. (A split supply on the other hand consists of a positive supply and an equal and opposite negative supply.) //

Because of the single sided design there were no crossover distorsion. The aim of those days were always to get rid of noise. To find the best possible Way to lead the signal from point A to B. 

According to Mr Neve, it is important to also consider the frequencies outside of the audible range. This is perhaps also the key to the success of the analouge.  There is more to the perception of frequencies than we think.

Is the chain from recorded music into compact disc format considering these frequencies? No. In fact, Compact Discs removes frequencies above 20k and replaces it with noise according to mr Neve. The format we use is waw files with 44.1k 16 bit, this format cuts off frequencies above 20k. Is that really the way to go?? What about the compressed formats, mp3 and so on? What about our loudspeakers, headphones? What do we hear nowadays? What are we missing out on???

I will work more on this text i guess…..

So the secret to the sound in Neve consoles basicly lies in Tube design. 

More info: 




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