Philip Newell offers a personal design and consultancy service, dealing with the realms of both acoustics and electroacoustics. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics, Member of the Audio Engineering Society, an was formerly the technical director of the recording division of Virgin Records. In 1984 he co-founded the acoustics branch of Reflexion Arts, then London based, but left in 1988 and has worked independently since then, although he has since done many designs in conjunction with the current, Spanish-based Reflexion Arts.
He has also been responsible for many pioneering designs. The Manor Mobile, in 1973, was the world's first, purpose-designed, 24 track mobile recording studio.
The stone room at The Townhouse, in London, (perhaps the first such room in a major studio), was the result of the experience gained with the mobile recording studios, recording in castles, for example, and returning to base with sounds that no electronic processing could emulate.
The Townhouse stone room rose to fame after the recording of the drums on Phil Collins' 'In the Air Tonight', and gave rise to many subsequent stone rooms, in many countries.
Another of the photographs on this page shows what was the Sonic Solutions room at The Townhouse. This began as a disc-cutting room, designed by Philip Newell, but heavily based on the other control rooms at The Townhouse, designed by Tom Hidley and constructed by Eastlake Audio.
The room was notable, however, as being the first disc-cutting room in the world to pass, as standard, the direct signal from the tape reproducer to the control mechanisms of the lathe, and to digitally delay the master audio signal going to the cutting head.
It had been customary to cut from special tape reproducers, with advance heads to feed the control mechanisms for the groove spacing of the cutting lathes, but Philip wanted to use the then new, Ampex ATR 102 tape machines, which were not available with advance heads. A select team of Virgin engineers decided that te ATR machines and the Ampex ADD1 digital delays gave a superior sound to conventional reproducers, but the concept was highly controvertial back in 1980. Digital delay systems did not have a good reputation for their sound quality in those days, so the staff of The Townhouse were instructed not to bring up the subject of how the cutting was being done unless specifically questioned by the clients. Only after about three months, when several high profile LPs had already been cut and critically acclaimed, was the
gagging order lifted. The cutting engineer, at that time, was Ian Cooper, now a renowned mastering engineer, and the digital delay process is now almost standard.
Since the mid 1980s, collaboration with universities has been an essential part of the development of Philip Newell's designs, both acoustically and electro-acoustically. The work has usually been of a generic nature, not restricted to specific products, and the results have been widely published as papers, articles or books, and are thus in the public domain.
The photograph of El Peixet also has an interesting story to it. No; it is not exactly a Philip Newell design. The owners bought some of his books, followed the concepts described, then asked him to visit the almost finished construction to offer advice. It works surprisingly well.