Robin Porter AMS Neve

The Neve 88R Series – A Studio Icon

Relied upon to capture some of cinema’s most impactful scores, AMS Neve’s hugely admired 88 console series has weathered twenty years of sustained use across the music production, scoring and commercial studio worlds. But, what is it that makes this extraordinary desk so widely beloved by engineers and producers across the globe? We speak to Chief Analogue Engineer Robin Porter to learn more about the Neve 88R’s impeccable design, which has left a considerable mark on the pro studio world.

From the very start of his namesake company, music technology pioneer Rupert Neve was motivated by an ethos that centrally focussed on clarity and faithful audio reproduction. His groundbreaking 1073 preamp-equipped A88 and the BCM10 ‘sidecar’ desks set a precedent for excellence in large format recording console design that would be maintained even after Neve sold the company in 1975. The Neve name was synonymous with top tier purity across professional recording studios, broadcast and scoring. But, by the mid-1990s, the marketplace’s growth meant that Neve’s dominance was in question. The then current VR console had been launched in 1987, and as the century neared its end, was paling beside next-level console designs from rivals such as SSL’s brand new ‘superanalogue’ 9000 J.

AMS Neve 88R

Keen to push AMS Neve forward while still sticking faithfully to the fundamental qualities that were key to the brand’s renown, designer Robin Porter began speaking to engineers, recordists and producers to inform the making of a new kind of console – one that could take pride of place for all manner of high-intensity recording work without flagging.”

“The first thing we wanted was obviously to move the audio on, and also to enhance the operation of the console from [Neve’s previous desk type] the V Series.” Porter explains, “In other words, to make something technically better and also bring more functionality which was needed by the time. But, it had to exist within the family history of Neve products, I didn’t want to design something that was completely unfamiliar in its operation to all the people that had used Vs. They were our client market after all, and we needed them to be able to comfortably swap out their Vs for 88Rs.”


Those fortunate enough to receive the first orders of the Neve 88R were astonished by its myriad routing and automation features, in tandem with an impeccable 4-band parametric EQ. This was a staggeringly efficient, modern desk, while internally holding true to Neve’s analog-centric philosophy. Initially available at frame sizes between 48 to 96 channels, and with 48 multitrack outs (and six main outputs), some vital fine-tuning helped refine the desk into a true studio icon.

Robin takes up the story, “The first Neve 88R customers and deliveries were in 2000, after about two years of development. It had on it a lot of new features that we’d surveyed VR customers about, and asked what they wanted to see, they were things like an automated small fader, 5.1 capability, remote mic preamps control, changes to the channel strip to allow for more cut and boost on the EQ and more effects ability within the dynamics etc.” Robin details.

“From our point of view, we made sure that it was fit for purpose for the current market, which meant having 5.1 mixing and monitoring on it as standard. Having a passive monitor meant that the sound was as clean as possible to match with the cleanliness of the console’s signal path.” explains Robin, “Another thing that was key with the 88R was optional remote mic preamplifiers. These had first been developed by us for the AIR Montserrat consoles in the 1970s, we learned from this process that microphones close to the mic preamps improved the captured sound quality. That thinking was applied to the 88R.”

88R Console

Shortly after the Neve 88R began rolling out, further conversations led the design team to thinking in more detail about the specific needs of score recordists “What happened was that we had a scoring stage that was for Sony in Los Angeles, it was the old MGM scoring stage. That had an old Neve VR on it that had seen better days.” Porter remembers, “The engineers there that frequented those studios such as Sean Murphy, Dennis Sands and Simon Rhodes all told us that they wanted to see 7.1 monitoring, as well as the ability to record stems as well. The film companies not only wanted the individual tracks (the multitrack) but they wanted the ability to mix down the stems into 5.1 and deliver a composite 5.1 as well. So all the woodwinds would be a stem, all the brass would be another and all the percussion or the choir etc. The first 88R didn’t do that, therefore we set about building this specific scoring system that catered to all of these requests”. Robin remembers.

What Porter and the team came up with was an all-in-one solution to these numerous requirements, named the SP 2 Scoring System, “So, this had an extra 36 busses for stem recording and included a 7.1 monitor, which was becoming the current standard format for film music at the time. That was in 2003/4. Then after the development of that system and additional changes in the module we decided to incorporate into an enhanced model of the 88R, which we called the 88RS. In the monitor section we added a mix down ability to mix down the 5.1 mix to a two track, and that was the basis of the 88RS, which we have today.”


The launch of the Neve 88RS perfected the design, and fairly soon the 88RS became an indispensable, sought-after staple within the scoring world. It was snapped up by Abbey Road Studios, Skywalker Sound, British Grove, Fox’s Newman Scoring Stage and AIR Studios, amongst others. Now, twenty years after the series’ initial launch, those original designs are still going strong. “The first 88R we installed was in Sony Music in Japan in 2000, and that will be working right now. As we speak.” Robin confidently tells us, “That’s what I’m most proud of, people still really love them.” It’s not just a studio icon for the soundtracking world though, Daft Punk’s 2013 global mega-hit, Random Access Memories was lovingly recorded with an 88R at Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles. “That record really emphasises its analog sound” says Robin, “It was a nice moment to hear that they were using the 88R, coupled with the fact that still, today, 80% of the music on any film that you see will be recorded at Abbey Road or Warner Bros or Fox – all still reliant on the 88RS. That’s pretty mind-blowing.”

AMS Neve 88RS Console

“I’m just very happy and very pleased that the console has been behind so much music” enthuses Robin, “It’s not only its warm sound that means it’s a studio icon, it’s the ability of the desk to allow people to just get on and make music with ease. Functionality is so important and the 88R has everything – from EQ, filters, gates/expanders and compressors – laid out where it needs to be, straight to hand. The buttons you press, you get what you expect. Fundamentally, with the 88 series, we were trying to move on audio and the art of recording. We wanted to make it easier for the engineers to do that and make something more reliable. A classic example of that is the one in Abbey Road Studio One, that’s been there for twenty years! They’ve certainly got their money’s worth!”

Further Neve consoles, the Genesys and the recently released 8284 have both taken cues from the foundations set by the 88R, with Porter taking a critical role in their construction, and the latter opening up much greater DAW integration for contemporary hybrid workflows.

But ultimately, while computer-based, digital tech seems to be frequently needing updates, upgrades or memory expansions, the analog construct of the 88RS has stood strong as a reliable stalwart of the studio world. “I wanted these consoles to be a good investment so that the people who bought them would see the cost as money well spent because they weren’t constantly having to replace, repair or upgrade,” Robin concludes. “The reason 88R desks are still working today is because they were built to last.”


Robin Porter AMS Neve

On September 5th, Neve’s Chief Analogue Engineer Robin Porter will celebrate his 48th anniversary with the company that he first joined as an 18 year old teaboy in 1973.

A friend helped him get his foot in the door and, as someone who played bass in several bands (a lover of Pink Floyd, Led Zep and modern jazz), Robin figured that working for Rupert Neve’s console manufacturing company was much more interesting than working at the power supply firm he’d joined after leaving school.

In 1975, Robin took a brief sabbatical to study electronics and acoustics at university, but Neve continued to provide him with holiday work. When he completed his degree, Robin returned full time.

His career at the ever-changing Neve has seen him hold a number of different positions – from working in the Test Department to engineering in the Custom Engineering Department and eventually moving into Analogue R&D.

His achievements have been even more numerous, being instrumental in the design of many of Neve’s most iconic products including the Neve 88R Series of consoles, the development of the Genesys and Genesys Black consoles and the recently released 8424 summing mixer.

Asked which projects he is most proud of, he cites the design of the Aux module for Sir George Martin’s AIR Montserrat console, on which he was also Test Engineer. He is equally proud of the design of the 88R console and the SP2 scoring system, which is used on 80% of all the film music recorded today.

Despite other companies trying to poach him – including the late Sir George who offered him the job of Maintenance Engineer at AIR – Robin says he has stayed with Neve because he finds the work forward-looking and always interesting. Robin has no plans to retire, but when he does, he’s got a few classic car and old house restoration projects he’d like to pursue – and he hopes to see more of the world, preferably by train.