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This is a collection of stories first published on the original site in 2002

First, A646 Studio Barclay, Paris…This is the first of many tales about classic Neve consoles which I hope to continue if there is enough interest to justify the effort! Please leave a message on my Email if you want me to include stories about your particular Neve console. If you can give me an “A” works order number (found on a plate next to the DC input connectors) and a brief description, I’ll rack my ageing brain cells and offer some interesting recollections!

Let’s start with what I believe to be the largest Neve console produced. By largest I don’t refer to the number of channels (you folks with joined together 8068′s and 78′s can get back on your chairs!), I mean the sheer damn bulk of the beast and man, this one was huge!

The console in question was A646 Studio Barclay, built for a prestigious studio in Paris. If you can imagine the era in the early 70′s when Neve were hand wiring classic 8048 and similar 45mm module width consoles, it will come as a surprise to many that this console had 40mm wide modules. Talk about custom built!

The console had 36 channels of 4102 equalisers (specially adapted 1081′s), 16 groups, 6 Sub groups and 32 track monitoring. It was built in a “L” configuration with the wedge between the channels and monitor section filled with six joystick quad pan pots and two Astronic graphic equalisers. The console was extremely tall because, in addition to the 12″ high equaliser and 8.75″ tall 4704 Aux Routing and 4708 Group Routing modules, the meter section had two rows of large meters and there were rows of large illuminated push buttons above and below the faders. I’m 6′ 2″ tall and had considerable difficulty reaching the group routing buttons when standing in front of the console. The task would require orang-utan arms for a seated engineer!

The other unusual feature of the console was that every push button switch was illuminated. This looked most impressive in a darkened control room but you tech’s out there will probably be having nightmares about the effort required when replacing the 1,000+ bulbs and Neve did not make many consoles in this era that required three 20 amp power supplies! These illuminated switches were the console’s Achilles’ heal, but more on this later.

Once the console was assembled and testing was completed it looked very impressive. The transportation of consoles this large requires very careful arranging and attention to detail. Sadly, this did not happen but the results, traumatic at the time, are most amusing with 35+ years of hindsight!

A salesman at Neve (he left some time after but I’ll spare his blushes by not revealing his name) had a relative who had access to a truck and it was decided that he would deliver the console, saving Neve considerable shipping costs and lining his pocket at the same time. The console was loaded onto the truck and their journey to Paris, via the English Channel ferry, started off with high hopes of reaching their destination at the appointed hour. Sadly, this was not to be because no sooner had the truck’s wheels touched French soil, the transmission failed and the truck was abandoned in the huge port parking lot!

The driver, showing considerable lack of initiative, hopped on the next ferry home without phoning Neve to tell them of his dilemma! As one can imagine, once the appointed delivery hour had passed the studio owner became anxious for news of when his console would arrive. He naturally went ballistic when red faced Neve sales men admitted that they had no idea where it was! The errant driver was finally located and the fate of his truck revealed to a horrified Neve sales department.

The Head of Neve Technical Services was promptly dispatched to sort the sorry mess out and the studio owner arranged for a giant breakdown truck to tow the broken down truck the 120 odd miles to Paris. Even these plans fell by the wayside as the breakdown truck had a puncture and a second breakdown truck had to be dispatched to repair the first one!

Could anything else go wrong?

Yes!

When the console finally arrived at the studio it was discovered that little thought had been given to how the one ton + console was to be transported up to the second story control room! One can imagine the curses and perspiration of the team of men who had to carry the console up the many flights of stairs, one step at a time! The console was eventually installed into the studio and powered up. It worked perfectly and reflected the skills that had gone into its construction. At the time it was the finest recording console in Europe (and possibly the world).

Sadly the story did not have a happy ending. The illuminated Britec switches used for the Group assign and other functions started falling apart not long after the console was installed. The switches were sectional in construction by having contact blocks that snapped together and they were suspended from inter panels a-la regular Isostat switches. The switches were really designed to be PCB mounted and the unsupported sections were popping apart in use. The repair was to make custom PCB’s for each module’s switches and this restored the reliability of the console.

However, if one imagines the cost, pre computer cadding, of preparing and manufacturing custom printed circuit boards, then populating them with a fresh collection of switches and rewiring every module to accept the new circuit boards, you are looking at months of work and additional costs, none of which was covered in the original quotation for the console. So it means that the console, if it even made a miraculous profit, that profit was much diminished. This, in era of 1971-73, was one of the causes of the company’s financial problems that led to Bonochord taking the company over in February 1973.

As for the A646 console, my knowledge of its history became a little misty… I believe the studio was taken over by Decca Paris and the console eventually sold. I heard no more until I received an email from a reader in Paris who had seen the mighty console still going strong in a basement studio in Paris.

Good news…

Another, almost comical, tale of an unfortunate console will be posted next!

 
RCA Ballantine transportable console A1033

For the second tale of amazing Neve consoles we need to take another trip in the time machine, this time back 39 years to 1972. Rupert Neve and Co. were making BCM10′s, 8014′s, 8016′s and a variety of custom consoles.

Let’s home in on one particular strange looking custom console. . .

Rupert Neve and Co. were a very forward looking outfit and (besides their regular 45mm 80 series range of consoles) were already were nailing down the final designs to a whole range of innovative products. Necam, for instance, might look pretty basic compared with current systems by GML, Audiomation , and (of course!) Flying Faders, but back in the early seventies this motorised fader system was THE trail blazer! There was also a trend towards higher density circuit packaging with module widths dropping from 45mm to around 30mm.The PSM range of portable sub mixers was a good example of this technology.

In the attempt to get the modules slimmer still, the side covers were dispensed with and individual screening plates were built into the console frame to separate the modules and provide the necessary shielding. . . in fact the consoles looked rather like somewhere you’d file your post and collection of early Mix Magazines!

One particular console built this way was destined for a US based studio called RCA Ballentine. (Please excuse any typo errors here, it was 39 years ago and spelling was never my top subject!) This console, A1033 I believe it was numbered, was most unusual in that it was assembled in separate sections, each of which were transportable. The frames had wheels built into them (braked and retractable, I recall) and handles could be inserted into the front of the console sections to wheel them around to whatever location they were needed. To go with the custom designed frame all the modules were unique to that console as was the complex monitoring system.

Up to the early seventies Neve’s used a very complicated relay system based around a B212 relay logic card and much thought was given to coming up with a simpler system. A senior figure in the Neve hierarchy, Neill McDermott , was ex-RAF and Neve folk nicknamed him “Flying Officer Kite”. He came up with a brilliant system using Thyristors to control the relay interlock selections for the monitor source selections. Put simply, pressing a selector switch put a current to the gate of a thyristor latching it on. The thyristor supplied dc to the relays involved in the selection. Pressing another source selector broke the supply to the thyristor causing it to release the relays and for another thyristor to select an alternative relay selection. What could be more simple? It worked fine in the test department at Neve and the console was dispatched to it’s customer the other side of the pond.

Uh oh!!! OK, it’s easy to look back now with the smart knowledge that hindsight gives us, but who can recall the big problem with relying on thyristors to behave themselves?

SPIKES! That curse of our micro based society!!!

Needless to say, no sooner had the console been installed in the Studio than the monitoring system developed a mind of its own! Lights were flashing and relays clunking in a manner not far removed from an arcade’s pin ball machine!

The project engineer for the console, Mike Allen, was dispatched to the USA at top speed to resolve the matter. This task was not as easy as one might think as the monitor selection had to be replaced with relays (Good ol’ relays!) and new printed circuit boards made locally to accommodate them. I recall Mike was out there several weeks and had to hire local wiring techs to help him incorporate the modifications as soon as possible. Still, he fixed the console and effectively designed the BA320 relay interlock board, used on all consoles for the next 10 years or so. Yours truly laid out the tapes and designed the printed circuit layout for the BA320. . . this being the only PCB I laid out during my time at Neve (I delegated the task to others after that emergency!)

You will find that little PCB card in every subsequent Neve console fitted with a reed matrix for audio switching. The board is totally “bullet proof” and provides perfect interlocking between the switched functions. IC’s? Who needs ‘em!

Again, humorous, as these tales may be, one must look at it in the light of flying a tech out to the USA, hotel and car rental bills, paying for parts and local labour, and re-wiring the console to accommodate the mods. This, one off, console must have made a loss.

I say one off, but they actually made two console frames. The second one languished in the aluminium junk pile at the rear of the factory until finally hauled away almost ten years later!

Neve’s Greatest Consoles

What defines a great console? The sound? The facilities? The number of channels? The price tag, even? Well the consoles I have in mind had high scores in all of these and more!

All Neve consoles were special in their own individual way because of the perceivable skills put into their manufacture. Just look at the hand laced wiring looms and listen to the great sound. From the early Class “A” BCM10, 8014, 8016, and 8028 analogue consoles, the consoles have all been well revered in the recording and broadcasting industries. So what motivates me to rave about one particular type of console? It’s going to take another trip back in time to explain!

Zoom! We’re back to spring 1974 and I’m head of the Electrical Design Drawing Office, motivating Nigel, Richard and Janet to produce the “Two Wire” diagrams for the current work load which include an enormous range of consoles for the South African Broadcast Corporation. Colin Morton, one of the sales engineers of that era (later to move to Technical Publications) has asked me to look at a block diagram he has been preparing and confirm that a very tricky piece of monitor switching makes sense. I concur and find myself reading the specifications for an amazing new custom recording console. This is my first encounter with the EMI Neve series of custom consoles!

From that first encounter I was rapidly plunged into organising the production of the console diagrams with project engineer Robin Ireland. The first order was for five custom consoles (A3094 to A3098) and this was also the first major console order from EMI who had previously manufactured all their own consoles. I believe that it was EMI’s involvement in the specifications of these consoles that made them so uniquely adaptable.

The consoles all had a separate monitor section and several were configured in an “L” shape with the monitor section forming a separate wing on the left end of the console.

The consoles were built with 24 or 36 input channels with either 1093 EQ modules or 1091 modules with 1294 line input modules. Both modules were based on the BA382 motherboard which offered comprehensive four band equalisation. The motherboard was also used for Utopia Studio’s 1095 equaliser which in turn eventually lead to the standard 8078 console’s 31105 module.

The 1093 had a regular mic + line sensitivity switch (very similar to a 1081 except the BA382 motherboard used BA438′s and 440′s) but the console’s “Line” input was, in fact, a “Replay Input” from the tape machines selectable by a global Mic or Line switches and overridden by individual Mic/Line illuminated switches in the Auxiliary Panels above the faders. This meant that the 1093 system offered two high level inputs; Line input (only selectable in Mic mode!) or Replay (1) Input which bypassed the sensitivity switch and was the primary tape return input.

Better still, the 1091 used on the 36 Channel consoles had only Mic gain settings on its sensitivity switch and used a 1294 module mounted below the meters to look after the line inputs. The 1294 had two illuminated source switches that allowed three inputs to be assigned to the channel line input path. The module was fitted with a dual concentric gain pot with outer steps of 10dB and inner precise trim potentiometer. Also fitted was a Bach Simpson VU meter permanently assigned to the equaliser output. This was in additional to the regular 24 track meters that were switchable between 24T Output, 24T Replay #1, 24T Replay #2, and Follow Monitor.
A switched Solo was also available from the Equaliser output.

The 1975 Routing unit provided for 24 track outputs (remember that most Neve consoles of this era were 16 track) with separate pan pots for left <> right and front <> back. Above the pan pots was a three position rotary switch with lamps to indicate if other than the default (track) mode was selected. Turning this rotary switch one way sent the bus selection to the Monitor busses (which is simpler than the unfortunately confusing markings on the 8078′s 32424 passive routing module!) and turning the switch the other direction selected the Group busses. The Group busses could be selected by a block of 8 (or 12 on the larger consoles) input channels by pressing a red TJ switch at the base of the equaliser. In this mode the equaliser channel became a sub-group and could reassign any mix on its input to any other track, group or monitor bus. . . very flexible!
In Group Mode the Perspex scribble strip above the fader was illuminated red.

Down below the equaliser were the auxiliary panels. Each channel had eight auxiliaries switchable pre and post, and with 4 pots controlling the send levels in pairs. A block of four illuminated switches selected Mic or Line Inputs, Solo, and Channel Cut. Unlike earlier Neve consoles whose Rev signals were divided into “Channel Rev” OR “Rev on monitor” but not both, the EMI Neve’s had a source selector panel offering a choice of Channel Rev, Monitor Rev, or a mix of both. . . much friendlier!

All Auxiliary outputs were amplified by 2076 modules (2074 equalisers with 36dB gain). A separate monitor section accommodated 2074 equalisers in each monitor path with the 1978 Monitor Routing Unit offering the same pan pots and choice of destinations as their 1975 counterparts. At the flick of a switch any monitor channel could be routed to either Monitor 1 – 4, Track 1 – 4, or Group 1 – 4. The monitor sources could be toggled between Replay #1, Replay #2 or Sync Inputs and could be sent to four auxiliary outputs. Full size Penny and Giles monitor faders were fitted as standard.

The centre section of the console provided very comprehensive monitor and meter facilities. Large illuminated Licon switches offered a wide choice of stereo and four track playback sources and a wonderful array of similar switches changed the monitor mode from Normal (N) to Stereo (S) to Stereo Reversed (SR) to Stereo as Quad (SAQ) to Quad as Stereo (QAS) to Top Centre Mono (TCM). Individual illuminated switches enabled each of the four monitor outputs to be cut or phase reversed and global cut and dim controls were also provided. It was even possible to program different dim levels depending on whether the command came from the Monitor Dim control or the Talkback Keys. A four gang monitor level control was used in conjunction with a two gang front/rear balance control. There was also a “built in” illuminated “Alt LS” switch, a function fitted by many studios as an add-on, but seldom supplied as standard.

All the meters were fitted with BA386 VU buffer amplifiers which, besides removing the VU’s rectifier from the audio path, also provide +10dB and +20dB gain settings for all the meters. Below the 4 Track meters were three custom SIFAM 22F meters connected to an EMI Correlator module. The centre meter was a Phase Meter and the outer two meters indicated the noise floor of the 4 Track outputs. A level of -65dBu could be read (just) on these meters so it was a good job that the 4T noise floor was well below this!

A3096 (EMI Cologne) differed from the other consoles by using a VDU to indicate the 24 Track and 4 Track levels by vertical bar columns. A3098 (EMI Paris) had red LED’s beside each routing module switch. Many of the consoles were fitted with EMI Limiter Compressors.

The EMI Abbey Road console was particularly well known and used by Pink Floyd and other major artists/groups.

EMI must have liked the Neve interpretation of their specification because, barely three months later, they ordered two more consoles A3269 and A3271.

So zooming back 37 years to current time, where are these consoles now?

A3269 and A3271 were at Great Linford Manor Recording Studios, Milton Keynes, England, and were joined together (by yours truly!) to make one huge Classic EMI Neve console. It offers 56 channels, 12 effects returns, 24 track monitoring with custom two band EQ and P & G mini fader, and 68 Flying Faders controlled by a custom QWERTY control panel carefully crafted into the centre section. It has 92 inputs (80 with EQ) to the 4 track and Auxiliary busses and a remote mounted bantam (TT) patchbay. It is the largest EMI Neve in the world and has been used to record top artists including Jamiroquai’s 5 million best selling album and ten “top ten” UK hits in the past year. The console is now in Steakhouse recording studios in North Hollywood, USA.

As a result of the successful completion of this custom EMI Neve project I spoke with Pete Winkelman, owner of Great Linford Manor Recording studios, as to the feasibility of using the experience we gained to start another similar project! I had already discovered the locations of the EMI Abbey Road and EMI Paris consoles and we gave much thought to how these consoles could be linked to make the ultimate Classic EMI Neve console. As a result of these discussions I have arranged for Pete to purchase both the EMI Abbey Road and EMI Paris consoles and have organised their shipment back to his workshop in England. Blake Devitt joined them together but where that console is, at this moment, is a mystery to me. Last seen in a workshop at Great Linford!

So, to recap, of the seven EMI Neve consoles manufactured, four have been working for Great Linford Manor!

The three other consoles are scattered across the four corners of the world!

In Dublin the band U2 have a 24 channel EMI Neve extended to 36 channels. The console was split into two halves to enable it to be transported easier. I last saw this console in Marbella, Spain where it was being rented by The Spanish House Recording Studio. I had flown there to perform some emergency repairs and was rather alarmed to find what appeared to be a wooden railway sleeper wedged against the rear connectors of the 1975 routing units (by persons unknown!), the force of which had cracked some Amphenol back connectors. I have seen less drastic ways of improving the seating problems of old Neve modules! The console is back in Dublin now, with U2.

A3096 EMI Cologne is at ICP Recording Studios in Brussels where Aurora Audio and Blake Devitt have progressively restored the console back to its pristine original condition.. The console is in great shape and still making hit records!

Last, but not least, A3095 is at York Street Recording Studios, Auckland, New Zealand. This console was assembled as 16 track and used 1977 channel routing units. The console is in impeccable condition and still churning out hit records such as the last three “Crowded House” singles.

As can be seen, I have been associated with this series of consoles from the earliest moments of their design stage at Rupert Neve and Company to performing custom modifications on them over 20 years later and servicing and supplying spares to the others.

Thoughts re the Early Days of Rupert Neve & Co Ltd

After the first two stories, I would not want readers to think that those dilemmas were typical of the early days (for me, October 1971 onwards), and, obviously, there were also wonderful consoles leaving the factory at this time. The issue was, I believe, poor judgement in the running of the company and especially poor judgement in quotations for custom projects. It was a wonderful company to work for with a great team work attitude amongst the staff… all ernestly playing their part in producing the finest consoles in the world. We were very proud of our work and the final product. But the era around 1972, even though it was the dawn of some great consoles and innovations, was also one of financial nightmare.

I can recall at least two occassions that my pay cheque bounced and my mortgage payments were in jeopardy. Even the Neve News company magazine stated “Everybody knows that we had problems in 1972. We face 1973 confident that the inhibiting factors are now fully under control.”

The “inhibiting factors” were that the company was broke and about to fold. In February 1973, Bonochord aquired 51% of Neve Electronic holdings and Robin Rigby became the Chairman of Bonochord and Neve and Paul Bircher was made Managing Director of Neve Electronic Laboratories (as it was renamed) and Neve Electronic Production (Kelso). Shortly after the take over, Bonochord sold all the additional land originally owned by Rupert Neve (you can get an idea of the extents in my exagerated cartoon in the Neve pictures!) and this later became a Science Park.. still there today.

One wonders how history might have been changed had the land been sold before the takeover to pay off the “inhibiting factors”!

Anyway, I have many more tales to tell but these will be in a book I am producing… these stories are just a sampler!

My next stories will discuss the crazy things I discovered with my move to the USA and contact with consoles maintained by so-called “experts”

My Neve “Horror Stories” !

HORROR STORY #1

I’ve been dealing with Neve equipment since October 1971 and have seen some amazing things in this time.

This tale concerns a so-called Neve “expert” in the UK (now, thankfully retired) and an unsuspecting studio in Northern California.

The studio bought a 8068 console that was alleged to have been used by the BBC to record the East Enders daily soap. I was at Neve at the time that 8058/68′s were in regular production and the only one I am aware of that was adapted for a TV company was the 8058 installed in Granada TV’s studios in Manchester, England. It was fitted with Necam and used for recording live music shows. It now lives in a studio in North Hollywood and will be the subject of Neve horror story #2.

The BBC virtually always bought custom consoles so the East Enders link to this particular console was fictional, like the soap.

Anyway, in fact the console was an 8058 that had a 12 channel bucket added to the right to make it a quazi 8068 but minus the rev return circuitry and designations. The UK seller hadn’t got any 31102′s in the frame so he had a sub contract company make them and purchase the parts for him. The problem with that is that, no matter how good that wiring facility may be, you need to understand Neve technology before undertaking this work.

The important point being the famous BA283/AV card that uses a 2N3055 as the driver for the LO1166 output transformer. Any Neve aficionado will know that the power transistor is mounted on a “L” shaped heat sink and draws the current to the collector (the drive to the output transformer) via the mounting screws that connect to thick tracks on the circuit board.

Well, the sub-contractors, with good spirit and not knowing better, mounted the 2N3055 on a mica washer and used insulated spacers for the fixing screws. This completely isolated the 2N3055 from its load and the task was taken up by the BC184C driver transistor.

Now, you would think a silly little mistake like this would show up when the module was tested… or when the modules were in the console and the console was tested.

Well, dear readers, neither the modules nor the console was tested and the console was shipped to the unsuspecting studio who would be the first folk to pass electrical current through the console.

Pop, pop, puff’s of smoke… what the hell was that? It was a lot of BC184′s giving up the ghost!

The console had to have all the BA283′s rebuilt correctly and the transistors replaced. The console also had major crosstalk issues.

I also know of at least two other consoles that departed from this Neve “specialist” without testing so this was by no means a precedent!

Next post I’ll explain how you can take a classic Neve 8058 console and modify it so that it clips at +7dBu instead of > +26dBu… and charge money for the mod!

HORROR STORY #2

I briefly mentioned the Granada TV custom 8058 mark two console in the previous story. It had been fitted with a late series Necam fader automation system and had a four pole relay in the modified 32435 routing units so that the Necam fader and level pot at the bottom of the routing unit could be swapped so that the automation could be used with mixdown.

This console finished up in a North Hollywood studio but not before an (in)famous West Coast Neve modder decided to make a few “improvements”.

In the centre of an 8058/68 is an area that you can plug in optional correction units like the 32264 limiter compressor. In this 8.75″ high location were four blank panels onto which 4 x 1272 and 2 x 1271 were mounted to give Class A Quad bus and Monitoring.

On most vintage Neve consoles there is no separate Studio Loud Speaker amplifier… it’s wired off the unbalanced output of the monitor amplifier using an external transformer to balance the signal. On the 8058/68 the external transformer is a LO1173 with a primary impedance of around 70 ohms and 8db step up. On a 1271/2 you would use an LO2567 with a primary impedance of 200 ohms and 4db step up (connected with a 100uF coupling capacitor).

What Mister Neve fixer forgot to take into consideration was that, by retaining the original LO1173, the Monitor 1271 was driving three times the original intended load and dramatically changing the conditions around the 2N3055 driver stage.

The effect was that, at 0VU, the console sounded reasonably “Neve like” but the minute the signal was driven into the red on the VU’s (above +7dBu) the Monitor 1271′s went into premature clipping and sounded like crap. Obviously, the rest of the console could be working famously well but you listen to the mix on the monitor system and this will be what the artist/producer hears.

A famous LA producer was the first to use the console and, needless to say, this first session did not go well! I was called in and we swapped the LO1173′s for LO2567′s… to produce a much sweeter sounding console with no headroom issues.

Again, this is a case of a so-called tech charging big money for his work but not bothering to test the console properly. This should have been picked up before the studio opened!

“HORROR STORY #3″

This range of horror stories isn’t so much to poke fun at other Neve modders but more as a warning concerning the motto “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” because, with Neve equipment, unless you fully understand the principles involved, you can make some very serious errors. It’s very easy to assume that a circuit will work because it seems the right way to go… but you know what they say about “assume” making an ass out of “U” and “me”!
I don’t do Neve console work these days but am happy to advise anyone on who is best to do the work and who should be avoided…

This next story involves a console in North LA that is, in effect, two identical consoles joined together. The very same West coast modder as the previous tale did the task and I will describe how he wired it first… and how it should be wired second.

Anyway, I was called in to look at this console because the studio had a ton of problems with it, not the least being very noisy busses.

What had been done was that the consoles were joined together and the bus amplifiers in the left hand console were used to feed bus bar inputs on the right hand console. In principle, this is a good idea and one way of getting around a problem, albeit there are other ways of tackling this. The principle behind this being that the right hand console will have, for argument’s sake, 32 inputs to its busses and the feed from the left hand console just adds one more signal to this group, thereby having a minimal change to the bus impedance, although, obviously, that single feed will carry all the noise from the left hand console as well as the signal.

Still, the theory is good…. so how many of you spotted the flaw that I haven’t mentioned and that he completely forgot?

Let’s look how a Neve mix path works: The signal is generated by the output amplifier in the channel routing unit. The signal leaves the module’s bus switch and is fed through a mix bus resistor onto the mix bus. So far so good.

The mix signal on the bus bar is then taken to the primary of the mix bus amplifier’s input transformer and the return signal is taken back to the B- bus bar…… for the right hand console. But the signal was generated by a module in the left hand console that references to the B- Bus in the left hand console…… which was not connected to the B- in the right hand console! So how does the return path of that mix signal get back to the modules that delivered it? With great difficulty and via fortuous (or perhaps tortuous) paths where B- might be strapped to chassis and the chassis is linked via oxidised aluminium cheeks and rusty screws, etc.

In other words, not directly, and the noise from this return path is added to the signal to produce disastrous bus noise figures. Another case of not testing to see that the actual figure was acceptable.

What should have been done, once the consoles were joined together, was that a new, bloody great copper bus bar should stretch from one end of the console to the other. This has little really to do with the current capacity of the bus bar but everything to do with the impedance to B- for modules in the far left side of the console, which should be the same kind of impedance for modules at the far right hand side. That way, the return path from the transformer in the mix bus amp to any routing units will be as direct as possible.

You would be amazed at the number of consoles that I’ve seen joined that have not had this simple mod incorporated. The attitude should be that the result is not two consoles joined together… it should represent one darn big single console.

Again, big money charged for the modification but the console not tested before handover to check for errors in specifications.

“HORROR STORY #4″

This final story is the reason I came here, and is mentioned in the History pages of this site. Interestingly, several console “experts” were called in to try to fix it and all were unable to help and commented that the fault was deep down “in the board”.

The console I was called to visit was the Grandmaster Recorders 8028 that had some minor modifications to it from original, but was exhibiting alarming crosstalk. You could send a signal to one bus bar and the VU’s for the other 15 all indicated a signal down around the -20 region… it was highly audible.

The thing is that situations like this don’t normally occur overnight… someone has to do something to make a Neve sound or perform badly. This has been the theme of all these horror stories.

The first thing one has to do is to try to spot what modifications have been undertaken. In the case of this console, the talkback, instead of being operated by Pye TMC key switches, was selected by a row of 24mm x 18mm illuminated push buttons.

Wandering around the back of the console, I dropped down a rear panel and found, next to the XLR panel that provided the Auxiliary outputs, a section of strip board was screwed to the console cheek. On this strip board were relays that interrupted the cue signals and injected talkback into the paths. It was explained to me that the artists could not hear the talkback over the music in their headphones. The original Engineer’s and Producer’s talkback panels had been removed and replaced with this new relay system.

OK, has anyone worked out the problem yet?

Better yet, the solution?

Neve consoles of this era generally had two talkback stations. One in the centre of the console for the engineer and another in the wood tabletop of the patch area at the end of the console. These usually had a slate key that sent talkback and 30Hz tone to the 16T busses so that the tone would be a “bleep” when the tape was rewound and the message could be monitored. There were also keys sending to Cues 1 – 4 and Studio Loudspeakers.

So, taking the Group busses as an example, there are 16 bus resistors that are “tramlined” together four times for four feeds; Engineer’s talkback and 30Hz tone and Producer’s talkback and 30Hz tone. Normally these bus resistors are terminated to B- at the two slate TB keys but, as in the case of this console, if the panels/switches are removed and the wires simply cut, the group busses will be permanently bonded together by the links on the mix resistors.

The console has 15Kohm bus resistors and in four locations the Group busses were joined together via clusters of linked bus resistors.

The fix? Ground the links to the B- Bus. Instantly the crosstalk drops around 50dB into the -70dB region!

As for the “not being heard” aspect of the talkback to cue… the concept of the modification was OK, but it demonstrated again that a little knowledge, especially with vintage Neve equipment, is a very dangerous thing.

Generally though, the talkback amp has so much gain that simply turning the TB level up is enough for the talkback to dominate over the music in the headphones. That works with most vintage Neve consoles.

The talkback 1272 had been modified by one of the techs and, incredulously, the 10468 transformer had been replaced with a 120v – 12v ac power transformer wired backwards! It sounded like sh#t!

Replacing the tranformer and generally repairing the 1272 made everything better!

I hope you have enjoyed these stories!

C2012 Geoff Tanner

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Aurora Audio International has no connection with AMS-Neve LTD ™ nor are any opinions expressed here implied to represent the views of AMS-Neve LTD ™ or their representatives.

Company

Located smack dab in the heart of Hollywood, California, Geoff Tanner and Aurora Audio use the best of the past to take you into the future and beyond.