Resolution and AMS-Neve 88R at 20 years old
Posted on: Wednesday 10th of November 2021
When AMS Neve got in touch with us to talk about the fact that its iconic 88R desk turns twenty this year, it occurred to us that the history of Resolution is somewhat intertwined with it. The very first issue of this magazine appeared in May of 2002, not all that long after the launch of the desk that would come to occupy some of the biggest scoring stages in the world for the next two decades. So, we thought it would be interesting to have a look back through our archives for notable appearances of the 88R and later 88RS in the magazine. And, you know what? It was!
You can find many of these articles, and read them in full if you wish, via the Resolution Archive. Find it, as well as new issues of the magazine, at issuu.com/resolutionmag.
The very first issue of Resolution, saw us pay a visit to Sony’s brand-spanking new Japanese in-house facility, which had Studios 1, 2, and 3 (of five) equipped with the new Neve 88R consoles. The move was a refresh of the company’s old Shinanomachi facility, which had leant heavily on the 88Rs predecessor, the VR – but now needed to be ready for 5.1 production across all of its rooms – and its handling surround sound was, of course, a key selling point of the then-new console.
Tesuo Tomita, the senior director of the facility’s archive room, told us: “Our engineers like the Neve sound and they worked for a long time on the VRs and when we heard about the new desks we were obviously interested… Also, for music production recording, and comparing them to digital desks, the 88R is very flexible.”
In the September issue of the same year we caught up with country music producer and engineer Chuck Ainley, a pioneer of 5.1 music production. He was, at the time, mixing Mark Knopfler’s third solo LP at AIR Lyndhurst – famously, one of the first studios to install the new 88R (and, at the time, it was also the largest) as part of an upgrade to its Hall facility. Ainley was mixing the majority of the LP on the older AIR VR, but tracks from it that were intended for use on TV were, he told us, being mixed on that new 88R.
In the spring of 2003 our News pages reported on the install of a Neve 88R in Studio 2 of the Sony Music New York facility; specifically an 84-channel model for mixing to the then-next-new-thing SACD format. David Smith, Sony’s VP of engineering said the choice was “specifically due to the design having been “optimised for surround from the design phase,” and that the unit had great versatility of operation in surround – with subgroup capability, stem management, surround panning, routing and monitoring capabilities.”
The very next month, the love for the 88R – or more specifically the 1081R pre amp – was coming from post-production facility, Hackenbacker. While the company had gone with AMS-Neve MMC for its then-new Soho facility, owners Nigel Heath and Julian Slater had plenty of praise for the 88R pres, which the company had made (and still make) available as separate modules. In fact, they described them as “stonking”.
In the News section, we also reported on an 88R making its way to Iran’s long-established Bell Studios as part of a technical upgrade. Pleasingly, according to recent posts on the studio’s Facebook page, that Neve desk is still getting regular use to this day.
While Angel Studios closed its doors in 2019, back in the summer of 2003 we reported on the reopening of Studio 1 there, complete with its new 88R – which over the next 15 or so years, would see action on a host of top-flight LP and soundtrack projects at the Islington site. Happily, the building is now under the ownership of Abbey Road Institute and has become the flagship base for education programmes.
The new year saw Sony Pictures open the doors to its new Barbara Streisand scoring stage in Culver City, California – a facility equipped with a new 96-channel AMS Neve 88R. Our article reporting this, is also the first mention in the magazine of the new SP2 Scoring Panel and routing matrix that would soon become a central feature of the desk’s success in film scoring and post.
Autumn of the year saw us talking about the inclusion of an AMS 88R as part of a massive equipment deal to kit out Indian studio, Yash Raj Films. The console, a 60-fader model was for the company’s music studio, intended “for international clients with state of the art acoustics and equipment,’ according to Daman Sood, the company’s music mixer and technical consultant.
Italy’s Forward Studios featured heavily in the first Resolution issue of 2005, especially its Caesar room, which had opened in October of the previous year. At the time, Forward boasted Italy’s first AMS Neve 88R – a 72-channel console with Encore recall. Even 15 years ago, the stunning layout and location of Forward seemed to be a throwback to a more fruitful time for such concerns, and we question the potential of building such a facility in the midst of the concentration and consolidation the industry was going through at the time. Massimo Scarparo, the owner was quick to counter our query, though: “Forward Studios is a new type of studio for Italy,” he said. “It was not previously possible to find rooms here that are as good as those in the best international studios in the world. I’ve always thought that it would be a good idea to build something like this. I suppose I’m a little crazy, but I have a passion for this business and I believe that there is room for an international standard studio like this when you look at the global market. The Italian market is not of primary interest to me. There is never a best time to build a place like this but it is always a good time to build top quality.”
Ultimately, he has been proven right, as Forward – and that Neve 88R – are still going strong over 16 years on from this feature.
A few years after our initial story, we would revisit the Yash Raj Films – but this time as part of a visit to Mumbai to see the now-completed facility for ourselves. As well as charting the history of the studio founded by Yash Chopra in 1970, and which had by then grown into a wide-ranging entertainment empire, we caught up with that new 88R, now in situ in the 990ft2 control room of its Studio 1. We also caught up with Daman Sood, who’d been tasked with kitting out the studio and its “frighteningly well-stocked outboard racks.”
In 2007 20th Century Fox’s Newman Scoring stage was claiming the world’s largest ever AMS-neve analogue console, a custom 96-input 88RS. Our News section reported Armin Steiner, who was among a team of engineer’s that recommended the install, was the first to mix in the upgraded facility, and praised the console’s clarity, bottom-end, imaging, and flexibility. Denis Saint-Armand, a long-serving scoring project engineer at Fox who has credits for films such as Avatar, Despicable Me, Super 8 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, commented that the 88R was “essentially two consoles for the price of one, since we can assign the first 48 tracks to the main recording system and still have 36 scoring stem buses – and we now have the ability to mix in a highly automated environment, further adding to the flexibility of the stage.”
We ended 2007 by exclaiming in our review of AMS-Neve’s 8801 that it was “a product that now seems obvious,” and that you “might wonder why it has taken Neve so long to produce it.” Which is, to say, we wondered. For those unfamiliar, the 8801 Channel strip essentially takes (in the words of George Shilling) “Neve’s wonderful heritage and highly regarded 88R console technology and stuffs it neatly into a jam-packed 1U.”
Control is courtesy of 22 suitably retro-style rotary knobs and we pretty much loved every one of them. To be honest, though, we did comment that our only real criticism would be “that it really should have been a 2U affair.”
Hop forward a year and a bit, and we were out in Eastern Europe reporting on the massive Alvernia Studios development near Krakow in Poland, a facility we saw as “a new economic and technological standard for what can now be achieved”.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Stanislaw Tyczynski, founder of Poland’s first independent private radio station – and based around a futuristic, space station-styled complex of interconnected concrete domes described as ‘escape pods’. While the complex covers pretty much all aspects of film production within its 13 distinct zones, at the centre – indeed, in K-01 – is a scoring stage that easily accommodates a 100-piece symphony orchestra, with a large private lounge for rehearsals and relaxation. Studio C in that facility holds its 72-input Neve 88R console with Encore.
This issue featured our interview with AR Rahmann, Bollywood music composer/legend. While, at the time, the double Oscar-winning composer told us that he composes in Logic before transferring to Pro Tools, his studio is equipped with an Neve 88R for tracking. That’s the kind of thing you can afford when you successfully redefine a whole genre’s perception across the globe, we guess.
Another much-loved 88R turned up in this issue as the centrepiece of Les Studios de la Fabrique in Saint Remy le Provence, France. Specifically, the centrepiece of its 100m2 control room, sat a 72-channel console previously installed in Paris’ Plus XXX studio and described by its owner, Herve Le Guil as “one of the best sounding analogue consoles ever made.”
If the name La Fabrique rings a bell, that’s because it subsequently became the home of the popular residential courses offered by Mix with The Masters, a company co-founded by Le Guil’s son, Maxime – who at the time of the article was managing La Fabrique’s studio in Paris. That metropolitan studio, in its intended new form, was featured as part of a Resolution feature in V21.3, as it will form the new home base of Mix with The Masters after a considerable redesign courtesy of Walters-Stroyk Design Group. You’ll be seeing more of that soon in Resolution.
As part of our feature on the production of ‘surprise’ Pink Floyd LP, The Endless River, back in 2014 we chatted to one long-serving member of the band’s team, engineer Andy Jackson, about the unusual process that saw the idea of the album become reality. Part of that process was the decision to abandon mixing the sprawling project in-the-box for the sake of ease, and instead choosing to mix the record on the Neve 88R at David Gilmour’s Astoria facility.
Jackson told us that: “Initially, the sessions appeared so vast that there seemed to be no possibility of doing an analogue mix… It was David [Gilmour] who asked if we could try and do it analogue, firstly because he wanted to make sure it was as good, and secondly because of the physical interface factor; he does like to come in and ride the board a bit for his guitar solos. So I picked the piece that was logistically the easiest and did it again. We did a blind A-B test and, well, there was no competition… the analogue sounded much better.”
With the AMS Neve Genesys and Genesys Black well established in the company’s product line and we sat down with the man behind the AMS Neve brand, Mark Crabtree, to talk a little about their creation. Across the next few years after this, when the 88R is mentioned, it’s usually in relation to its role as inspiration for elements of the Genesys line — a range designed to be far more suited to the financial and physical realities of many modern recording setups. It’s role as a touchstone, remains undeniable, though.
“The analogue 88RS and the SP2 scoring panel for 127 buses are still attractive products for a specific applications,” Mark told us, “but the broadest analogue desk appeal is the Genesys in standard and Black.” He went on to say that the company “spent a lot of time getting all the classic 1084 EQs being digitally controllable — we also have the 88R — and these are effectively hardware plug-ins for the desk. If you want to work with a workstation you’re going to need some faders and mic preamps, some meters, some monitoring, all those things you need and can make out of a bare-bones Genesys… It wraps around any workstation and you’ve got the quality — and possibly more features — of the 88R in a compact and affordable frame. It’s meant to be as seamless as possible — its codename was 88KI, for ‘Killer Integration’.”
In this issue, we reported on the new 88RS at Katara Studios in Doha’s Middle Eastern Art Development Centre. The orchestral-focused Studio 1 of the facility had installed a 96-fader console as part of a technology package put together by UK-based studio Metropolis, with the rooms themselves designed by WSDG.
Having won the Resolution Studio Facility Award a few months earlier, we took a closer look at British Grove Studios in the Spring of 2017 – talking to the man who is as much responsible for its excellence and success as anyone, studio manager David Stewart who sadly passed away in 2020. The London facility, owned by Mark Knopfler, features a host of vintage analogue gear and an attitude to audio engineering that harks back to a somewhat bygone age, with a taste for bespoke electronics that you won’t find anywhere else. While the ultra-rare EMI REDD.51 (one of only two of this style of desk still fully operational, having been acquired by Knopfler from EMI Italy in Milan) is the piece of kit that often gets the headlines – even amongst what we described as “some of the most recherché audio equipment in the world” – at the heart of British Grove’s Studio 1 sits a 96-channel custom-made 88R that handles the much of the work.
Right there on the first page of a wide-ranging, fascinating interview with prolific and accomplished classical producer Jonathan Allen, is a photo of him at work in Abbey Road Studio 1 on the Neve 88RS installed there.