Rupert Neve Designs, Focal | AXPONA 2019

AXPONA 2019 Rupert Neve

AXPONA 2019 Show Coverage brought to you by Core Power Technologies
AXPONA 2019 Show Coverage brought to you by Core Power Technologies

CHICAGO (PTA) — If it is true that we were all created in God’s image, some of us inherited more godlike ability than others. In terms of the ability to work miracles in the arena of audio engineering, many would argue that people like Rupert Neve were blessed well beyond that which mere mortals are typically endowed.

AXPONA 2019 Rupert Neve

The Story

If you are not familiar with Rupert Neve Designs, or the Neve Console, let me quickly fill you in. Some draw comparisons of Rupert Neve as the “Steve Jobs of recording consoles”, but even then the analogy falls short, as Rupert Neve was singularly more instrumental than Jobs when you dive into the details of the history. Rupert Neve also had no real detractors. And as my twelve year old son would say, “If you have a problem with him, you really just have a problem with yourself.”

In 1999, at the turn of the century, Studio Sound magazine conducted a survey inviting its readers to vote for the “Top Ten Personalities” of the industry in various disciplines. By the end of it all, Rupert was ultimately dubbed “Man of The Century”.

Rupert Neve has been awarded every major award that living people can find reason to bestow upon him. If there were a Nobel Prize for “being a bad-ass in the science of sound” he would likely have won it twice over. A Top-Ten list of Audio Personalities compiled by The Audio Century, placed Rupert Neve in the number one spot as a “Champion of Audio Quality”, with names like Ray Dolby, Sir George Martin, Willi Studer, Colin Saunders, Alan Blumlein, Georg Neumann, Michael Gerzon, Valdemar Poulsen, and Les Paul, rounding out the rest of the list.

When you sit at the top of a list, where guys like Les Paul come in tenth, you know you’ve done something. Of course all of this sounds like wildly mythologized hyperbole, akin to Chuck Norris memes, and the undocumented stories we’ve read about Bo Jackson’s athleticism — in this specific case, all the stories are true.

Dave Grohl even made a documentary called Sound City where the centerpiece of the film is a Neve 8028 recording console, upon which a long list of Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame alumni have had their greatest masterpieces recorded. Eventually the Neve 8028 console, now owned by Dave Grohl, will find its way to the Smithsonian.

At AXPONA 2019, I find myself touring the headphones and headphone amplifiers, giving as much of a hoot as I can, and then I see it. A Rupert Neve Designs logo in the distance. I try as I might, not to run through the crowd, but I do make it to the booth without haste. I meet with Temple Ray of Rupert Neve Designs and discuss a bit about the history of the company, and the most recent Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier.

The RNHP is based on the headphone output circuit in the 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer, the RNHP is a dedicated 24V reference-quality headphone amplifier with specifically-calibrated +4dBu balanced line, unbalanced RCA and 3.5mm (1/8”) inputs, housed in a rugged VESA-mountable steel chassis. With the ability to drive any pair of headphones without compromise. The RNHP is proudly made at the Rupert Neve Designs factory in Wimberley, Texas, USA.

The Sound

Using the Focal Stellia closed back headphones — which are probably in the top three headphones I’ve ever heard — the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP did impress. Power was readily available, as the Stellia has good sensitivity and an impedance rating of only 35-ohms. Where things really shine for me was in the mid-range. I don’t know how to pretend to describe it. Neutral it was not, but thrilling and livable for the long term in was. Detail and control were the name of the game with the RNHP for me. Never before did an informative presentation of music come across as so equally entertaining and fun, as it did with the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP.

AXPONA 2019 Rupert Neve

The System

Rupert Neve Designs

– RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier – $499 USD


– Stellia Headphones (closed back) – $2,999 USD

AXPONA 2019 Show Coverage brought to you by the LSA Group