One of the most famous recording consoles ever made is alive and well and living in Canada.

[I’m a huge nerd when it comes to audio gear, including the kind you’ll find in a state-of-the-art recording studio. The Globe and Mail has this feature on a console with a fascinating and colourful history. – AC]

“Sting and the Police abused it. Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits recorded an album on it that is arguably the greatest sounding rock disc ever made. A grieving Paul McCartney used it shortly after the assassination of John Lennon. It was also employed by Guns N’ Roses for the band’s historically contentious Use Your Illusions sessions, and it managed to survive the Civil War-singing experience.

“We’re talking about the Neve “AIR Montserrat” recording console (serial number A4792), perhaps the most revered analog sound board ever made. It was custom-designed in 1977 by the recording equipment pioneer Rupert Neve to the radically high specifications required by Beatles sound maestros George Martin and Geoff Emerick.

“The console was the centrepiece to Martin’s brand-new, state-of-the-art facility on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where the biggest rock stars of the eighties came for the surf and paid for the sound. The albums recorded at AIR Montserrat (and later, when the massive board was sold and moved to A&M Studios in Los Angeles) could fulfill your contractual obligations to Columbia House Records immediately and impressively. MTV and MuchMusic were practically built on the albums recorded or mixed on the beloved AIR Montserrat Neve.

“The Globe and Mail has learned that the world-renowned console currently lives under the radar in Toronto, tucked discreetly away and fully operational at Subterranean Sound Studios, a high-end/low-profile basement facility.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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