“I wanted to do something that would allow me to have a real sonic signature and a certain kind of ease of use,” explains Zappa. “I did not enjoy the issues that came along with the digital console, so we said, let’s simplify. We definitely have an easier way to do the majority of what we’re going to do now. We still need to use an old school patchbay, but I’m cool with that.”
The new Rupert Neve-designed and built analog console is paired with a digital audio workstation in what is becoming an increasingly common hybrid workflow that offers the best of both worlds. “For a lot of the work that we’re doing we’re using the computer for what it’s best for, in terms of automation and plug-ins and whatnot, then summing it through Class A, nice sounding analog gear for better headroom and that other sonic signature,” comments Zappa.
The 5088 console’s master section houses additional Rupert Neve Designs Portico signal processing modules. “We have the stereo compressor, ‘True Tape’ tape saturation, two mono five-band EQs, and the stereo field editor. It’s a whole analog mastering suite,” he says.
On the face of it, the new compact console might offer fewer bells and whistles than the previous desk, he says, “But the majority of what you do have recall on is on your computer. And I might have sessions that have 48 tracks or more but there are still enough summing capabilities to get what we need out of the 5088 in this configuration. Plus, it’s modular, so we can always add more if we find that we’re doing massive sessions.”
In truth, the limits of an analog console help focus the mind, he says: “To a certain degree this makes you want to work in a certain way and make better decisions while you’re working, and have less to deal with.” It’s certainly a simpler setup than a digital system: “The funny thing is, you look at this console and the manual that comes with it - I think it’s probably 30 pages at best. There are plug-in manuals with triple that!”
The Zappa Plays Zappa world tour has also featured a Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5042 “True Tape” module in Zappa’s streamlined guitar rig, introduced in 2009. The rig, which radically reduces the weight and therefore shipping costs of his previous setup, comprises two Fractal Audio Axe-Fx units, he says: “But because it’s a digital box I wanted to give it an analog footprint, so the last thing it mults out to is the Rupert Neve tape emulation box.”
Founded by Rupert and Evelyn Neve, Rupert Neve Designs is built on passion, experience and a desire to create products embodying the highest musical quality. In continuing his legacy as a pioneer in audio circuit design, Mr. Rupert Neve is currently focusing his talents on creating innovative solutions to the issues facing the modern recording engineer.