Review: Rupert Neve Designs RNDI

There is no single name that invokes a tingly feeling of lust in the recording biz as much as “Neve.”
By Jonathan Herrera ,

There is no single name that invokes a tingly feeling of lust in the recording biz as much as “Neve.” It all began in 1961, when English engineer Rupert Neve founded a company to produce his innovative recording-console designs. By the early ’70s, the Neve console was the end-all-be-all of recording technology, contributing its unique sonic signature to countless hit records. Neve products have only increased their mythic status over the years, with whole businesses emulating (or straight-up copying) Neve designs. Central to Neve’s brilliance is the legendary 1073 preamp, a Class A design with simple EQ and a reputation for adding warmth and thickness to any source it sees. After selling Neve to AMS over 30 years ago, Rupert Neve struck out on his own in 2005 with Rupert Neve Designs (RND), releasing innovative new products featuring his singular circuits. RND’s latest offering, the RNDI, is sure to excite bass players, especially those who think subtle is sexy.

When it comes to DIs, most of us put them into two categories: those that work, and those that don’t (usually at some point deep into a late soundcheck, just before doors). But DI quality can vary greatly. The basic task is simple: to convert an unbalanced instrument- or line-level signal to a balanced mic-level signal appropriate for a mixing console. But the means of achieving this conversion create the differences that can give DIs a signature sound. DIs can be further divided between passive and active designs, the latter of which require power to work. Passive DIs are favored for their durability and consistency, while a high-end active DI can offer better headroom and signal integrity than a passive design.

The RNDI is an active DI housed in a beautifully designed and rugged chassis. It can take the signal directly from a bass or, in speaker mode, the output of a power amp up to 1,000 watts. While that about covers the feature set, it’s what happens in between the input and the XLR output that makes the RNDI so magical. Using custom-wound transformers and Class A-biased discrete FET amplifiers, the Neve is perhaps the gutsiest and most musical DI I’ve ever heard. It isn’t totally transparent, as I discovered when I A/B’d it against the straight-wire inputs on an Apogee Duet A/D/A converter, a unit renowned for its hi-fi tone. But what the Neve lacks in transparency, it more than makes up for in its rich tone. It brims with luscious harmonics, propulsive depth, and shiny glisten. Transformers tend to add some pleasing distortion to audio signals, and the carefully designed transformers in the RNDI do all sorts of good things for bass. The RNDI is for players who know that what sounds good on record is usually the furthest thing from “hi-fi” as possible. If you want a DI that will make your good-sounding bass just sound somehow magically better, look no further.

SPECIFICATIONS

RUPERT NEVE DESIGNS

RNDI
Street
$270
Pros Rugged chassis; gorgeously thick and rich tone
Cons None
Bottom line Not the most transparent DI out there, but easily one of the best sounding.

SPECS

Input ¼"
Outputs ¼" THRU, XLR
Input impedance instrument mode, 2MΩ; speaker mode, 200kΩ
Power 48V phantom power
Made in USA
Contact rupertneve.com