In my mind, the name Neve has always been synonymous with “musical.” Before mixing in the box was even feasible, a console was the center of every mix, and a Neve console was always my favorite.
I was excited when AMS-Neve announced the Genesys a few years back, and while the console market will likely never return to what it was two decades ago, this desk is the perfect blend between old-school musicality and sound quality and 21st-century flexibility and computer integration. The hand-built Genesys is an inline digitally controlled analog console incorporating full DAW HUI control.
The 16-channel Genesys weighs 165 lbs. and is 42.9 inches wide (1,090mm) and 35.7 inches (905.5mm) deep. While this isn’t what I would define as portable, it is easily movable and thus it will likely find its way into mobile recording systems. One of the benefits of the Genesys system is that it is expandable, allows users to get into a system at a cost-efficient price, and expand as their needs require. Priced slightly less than $50K, the base configuration provides 16-channels of Neve 88RS mic/line preamps, 16-channel DAW monitoring and 32 channels of analog summing at mixdown. Also included are four mono and two stereo aux sends, two dedicated cue mixes, a full talkback setup, metering for all 16 channels, four stereo effects returns, eight group outputs, and a main stereo output with monitor speaker feeds for two stereo and two 5.1 systems.
Genesys is fully upgradable as the requirements of its owner change. At full capacity, the Genesys is expandable to 64 channels (making it 122 inches wide) with options including Encore moving-fader automation, Neve’s proprietary Total Recall, mastering-grade A/D and D/A converters, digitally controlled Neve 1084 EQ and dynamics, remote mic pre control, and transformer mic pres.
The EQ and dynamics are independently added as 8-channel analog cards that are inserted into the rear of the console. The AD/DA card provides eight channels of highquality, two-way conversion at sample rates up to 192 kHz. Parameter adjustment and visual feedback of the status of these options is via the user surface as well as the console’s software. DAW integration is via MIDI control, utilizing either the MIDI I/O connectors or the faster and more stable MIDI over Ethernet configuration. While in the DAW mode, four-character alpha displays above each fader reflect the DAW track labeling and a pair of arrow keys allow DAW fader control to be switched in banks of eight; so a 16-channel desk can easily control a session with a track count of several times that.
The desk is configured with two onboard computer systems. The first covers general management and setup and the second covers the console’s recall and automation if those options have been implemented. Keyboard, mouse, monitor, and USB connections are found on the back of the Genesys, and a second USB port is located on the front of the desk, making it convenient to store setup data on a USB thumb drive. The surface of the Genesys includes a touch pad, and there is a port for adding another pointing device if a trackball or mouse are preferred.
The console’s metering is comprehensive, and each of the channel meters — eight bus/return meters and main stereo output meters —has a dual scale that shows VU on the left and dBu on the right. Buttons adjacent to the main output meters select what is being displayed, which scale is being used, and peak/peak hold and scaling for PPM mode to +14, 18, or 20 dB. Each channel strip contains all the elements of a traditional channel and monitor-path inline design including gain (+20 to +70 dB), phantom power, Hi-Z, phase reverse, high-pass filter (fixed at 90 Hz), and pad (-20 dB).
The console’s headphone output is fed from the control room monitor options, although it can be switched to monitor external sources or cue mixes. The console is also equipped with an oscillator, master selection controls for quick global selection of input source for channel and monitor paths and solo modes, and a hardware routing matrix accessible by any of your audio paths.
While I have yet to drive the Genesys during an actual tracking or mixing session, I did get enough hands-on time to feel comfortable with its basic navigation, and I was able to spend over two hours of one-on-one time with Robin Porter, the console’s designer. Porter, the head of analog design for AMS-Neve, has been with the company for over 35 years and, in addition to being the primary designer of the 88R, has loads of experience with the classic 8068, 8078, and VR consoles. Porter walked me through the console’s architecture and operation and, needless to say, I was impressed.
The desk has the look and feel of a classic Neve console, making its operation feel comfortable and appealing from the get-go. A closer look reveals that all of the console’s switches are “soft,” meaning that every switch setting and routing configuration can be stored and recalled instantaneously. This is also true of the EQ and dynamics settings.
For this evaluation, Porter had the console connected to a Pro Tools rig using MIDI over Ethernet; the operation was flawless. The desk effortlessly swaps between internal and DAW control at the push of a button. Engineers comfortable with the 88RS and Encore Plus will feel at ease with the Genesys, which in many ways feels like the 88RS’s younger sibling. The console surface and layout architecture is logical and straightforward and the controls are clearly labeled. I found the metering on the desk to be accurate, visible, and quick. Neve clearly made the decision not to compromise functionality, so users should expect somewhat of a learning period to fully grasp the console’s all-inclusive flexibility and control. The console’s build quality is impressive, especially when you consider some of the Genesys’ primary competition.
The EQ and Dynamic circuits are easy to assign and adjust. Since the adjustments are made on a monitor, these circuits are reminiscent of DAW plug-ins. They are not plug-ins, but actual hardware circuits. They sound incredible, especially the 1084 EQ circuit. I would like a HP filter on the EQ, but otherwise the circuit is perfect; there is a HP filter on the mic pre, but it is excluded from the EQ. I should also mention that the equalizer’s Q is fairly broad, so engineers in need of surgical precision may need external EQ to complement the onboard EQ. Since each channel on the console has two insert points, it is easy to integrate outboard gear. Additionally, the routing sequence of the insert points and the internal dynamics and EQ is completely configurable adding to the consoles flexibility.
The console’s surround implementation is thorough though not as straightforward as I would like. When mixing in stereo each module can support two inputs: one via the channel path and one via the monitor path. When mixing in surround, each module supports only one input as the channel path determines the level in the front left and right speakers (the center is controlled by aux 1) and the monitor path determines the level in the rear left and right.
The Neve Genesys perfectly blends analog warmth and musicality with digital flexibility and control. The console’s expandability makes it affordable to buy now while allowing the console to expand as the needs of the studio grow.
Russ Long is a producer, engineer, and mixer. He owns the Carport studio in Nashville. russlong.ws