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Aurora Audio Geoff Tanner's Neve Technical Information Sheets

Published May 2011

The classic Neve consoles of the 1970s earned a sense of awe and respect, not just for their sound quality, but also for the underlying engineering. Geoff Tanner joined Rupert Neve & Co. Ltd. in 1971 as an electrical design draughtsman, and he became head of the Electrical Drawing Office (EDO) a year later, remaining with the company until 1985. His initials can still be seen on many of the illicit scanned schematics available around the Internet!

Aurora Audio Geoff Tanner's Neve Technical Information SheetsWhen Geoff became head of the EDO he found that there was no standard way within the company of building each console, and that it was really left up to the assigned project engineer. To try to resolve this potential chaos, Geoff created a set of 'Technical Information Sheets' to explain electronic fundamentals to his staff, and to dictate the correct procedures for setting gains and matching impedances. The Sheets also provided handy reference charts and useful formulae to make the calculations easier (this was in the days of slide‑rules and log tables, remember — calculators and computers were still many years in the future).

Geoff has now made these Technical Information Sheets available as a collection of PDF documents on CD, and they provide a fascinating insight into the Neve company ethos, as well as the design practice of the day. There are 31 Technical Information Sheets in all, covering an eclectic mix of things, starting with an explanation of the decibel and its application, how it is derived and used, the importance of stating and using the appropriate references, and a quick look‑up table of voltage and power ratios and their decibel equivalents.

The set continues with a look at different forms of audio attenuator (balanced and unbalanced) and how to calculate specific attenuator values (this topic is revisited in a later Sheet too). Mix-bus feed arrangements come next (and related aspects are also covered in several other Information Sheets), followed by panoramic potentiometer configurations. How to deal with click suppression when switching DC voltages for lamps, relays and so on is the topic for Sheet 8, while the next discusses input and output transformers, and the use of Zobel networks to minimise ringing. Getting the best crosstalk performance from Penny & Giles faders is the topic of another page, while Sheet 15 provides a fascinating list of practical design 'do's and don'ts'.

The low-frequency response determined by inter‑stage coupling capacitors is the topic for Sheet 19, and overall amplifier stage gain calculations are dealt with in Sheet 20. Deriving a mono signal from stereo sources is the subject of another page, while stepped attenuators and their calculation are also covered. My favourite page is Sheet 25 which is entitled 'Switch Trickery', illustrating some very nifty lateral thinking indeed! Sheet 27 contains a nomogram (younger readers should ask their grandfathers!) to solve Ohm's Law calculations. Bringing this Technical Information Sheet set to a close, the penultimate two papers describe a typical studio control-room setup, and explain how a Neve console is used for recording and mixing. Our education is completed with an explanation of 'potentiometer slugging' techniques to convert a linear potentiometer fader to provide the 'Neve Standard Audio Taper' response.

Interspersed amongst these pages are many more with some very Neve‑specific information, such as matrix patch board pin configurations, how to calculate the component values to set the frequency of the 503 line‑up oscillator, and how to distribute and switch its output to various multitrack machines. There are also pages on the various Neve standard amplifier module input impedances, frequency responses and headroom margins, calculating their gain setting resistor values, 'virtual earth mixing' topologies, and calculating bus mixing resistors for specific bus levels. There's even a sheet detailing the remote control wiring for Studer A80, B62 and C37 tape machines!

Clearly, these Geoff Tanner Technical Information Sheets are, by anyone's standards, something of a geek‑fest! I'm all for that, though, and I have to say that I found them — even the few console‑specific sheets — most interesting, insightful, informative and educational. Anyone with a nerdy interest in vintage Neve console technology will find this unique material of considerable interest, as will both budding and experienced electronics engineers... and audio‑technology historians! Hugh Robjohns

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Published May 2011