Josh Thomas, General Manager, Rupert Neve Designs When relating how he got into the audio business, Josh Thomas said he’s always been interested in recording. That stems back to his time as a musician, playing in a few bands and working at an independent record store, but he pinpoints his first job in the pro audio industry as being at AV installer ICB Audio in Cincinnati. In 1995, he joined Rupert Neve’s AMEK family, serving as NA Sales Manager, Studio Products until Neve decided to start Rupert Neve Designs, Inc. in 2005.
Neve himself has been designing professional recording equipment for nearly 60 years, first founding the high-end recording console company, Neve, in the 1960s, before later selling it. Moving forward, Neve designed equipment for many other companies, including AMEK, Taylor Guitars and Legendary Audio, before starting Rupert Neve Designs, where he hired Thomas as Director of Sales and Strategic Alliances in 2005.
“When an 82-years young Rupert Neve calls and asks if you want to join up with him to start a new company to make great audio gear, it becomes pretty attractive pretty quickly,” Thomas said. “I had known Rupert for over 20 years through AMEK, and we felt that there was still relevant design work to be done and offered to the recording community.”
By 2011, Thomas had been appointed to his current position as General Manager, working with a small team of designers to bring new and innovative recording gear to the industry.
“Like most small companies, I handle everything from managerial to janitorial work,” Thomas explained. “I manage 35 international distributors, and about the same number of domestic dealers here in the United States. This keeps me on the road about a quarter of the year at trade shows, events, studio visits and product training.”
Thomas also works closely with Neve and the Research and Development department, and is responsible for the majority of sales of the 5088 console, one of the company’s signature products.
“The 5088 Mixing Console, in my mind, is one of the single most important products in the pantheon of Rupert’s designs, and its high voltage technology has formed the basis for many of the products in the range,” Thomas said.
The main office of Rupert Neve Designs, Inc. is based in Wimberly, TX, and consists of only a dozen employees. “We are a design-based company, with Rupert Neve heading up that department, with a team of four others that work under him. We also do all of the 5088 manufacturing and module testing on site. There is also a small team that looks after order administration,” Thomas explained. Two remote employees also handle marketing and sales for the company, and another employee offers on-site training for retailers and end users.
As General Manager, Thomas said he does face some challenges, especially in recent years with the state of the economy. “With any new, privately held, somewhat boot-strapped business, the most challenging aspects involve managing the growth of the company and the product line through some fairly tough economic times,” he said. “Balancing a design team’s overactive imagination—at any given time, there are about a dozen new products in development—with the logistics of launching products in an ever- changing industry is always a challenge. We’re really pleased with how the company has matured, though.”
Even with those challenges, Thomas emphasized that it’s the original designs that Neve produces for the pro audio industry that makes Rupert Neve Designs, Inc. stand out.
“Every one of our products includes custom transformers designed by Rupert and made exclusively for our products; this is at the heart of our designs,” he said. “We have an amazing team of engineers here, and we have set up a series of talks and lectures that Rupert holds on a regular basis to make sure that his design philosophy and standards are used and implemented in everything that we make now and into the future. This is critical to everything that we do.”
Ironically, Thomas said the company’s main source of competition comes from the products that Neve designed and manufactured four decades ago. “This is a fairly unique challenge in the industry,” Thomas explained. “We believe that we have answered this challenge well; we’re very proud of the product that we’re turning out from the little village of Wimberly, and we hope that folks will still be cherishing our gear decades from now. Making the absolute best products that we can and staying true to our roots is our only path forward.”
Since its creation, Rupert Neve Designs has held a steady place in the U.S. and European markets, and in recent years, has worked on expanding its position in the South American and Asian markets. Looking to the future of the company, Thomas said it is looking to develop products that can benefit the live sound market. “We have found that many are adopting our products in critical live arenas, and we have a number of product ideas that take this a step further. Additionally, there have been some great advances in digital converter technology over the last three to five years, and we are investigating the best ways that we can implement some of those advances into forthcoming products,” Thomas said.
He also noted that the company will continue to develop strategic alliances with companies to create designs offered outside the scope of the Rupert Neve Designs product line. “Yamaha was the first company with whom we partnered, and they’ve included emulations of our EQ and Dynamics designs in their CL Series consoles,” Thomas said. “There is another company that we’ve been working with for the last year in another area entirely, and they are very close to launching a product line featuring transformers of our design. Mum’s the word on that for a little while longer though.”
Rupert Neve Designs