I don’t know how
many TV Technology
readers know of
Neil Muncy. However,
it is highly improbable
that any of us haven’t
heard his work (he
has some credits to
die for, including some
great productions with
which we are all familiar); and it is almost
impossible to imagine that, if we’re in the
business, we haven’t all experienced the
influence of his work one way or another.
I’m sorry to report that Neil passed away
It’s worth a moment of our time to
note his passing and reflect briefly on the
effect that Neil has had on us all in the
audio industry. We have been blessed and
enriched by his presence.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE
Neil didn’t specialize, really, except in
excellence. We’ll get to that in a moment.
First, consider the range of work that Neil
did: circuit designer, console builder, recording
engineer, acoustician, studio designer,
teacher and electronics guru.
Neil was a console builder of distinction
before there were console manufacturers.
He built some gorgeous, great-sounding
and fabulously reliable custom consoles before
almost anybody had figured out how
to build consoles and many of his smaller
remote consoles from Suburban Sound Inc.
are still in service, 40-odd years later. That’d
be enough for most of us.
For Neil, it was just a beginning. He noticed,
for instance, that we didn’t understand
much at all about how to listen to
our recordings in control rooms, especially
as we began to morph into multitrack
production. So, Neil became an acoustician
and studio designer of the first order,
working to create control rooms that had
the same physical and acoustical integrity
that his electronic designs had.
Later, working with Peter D’Antonio
(of RPG Diffusors) and others, Neil developed
a control-room topology they called
the “Reflection Free Zone” (RFZ), which
has had a big impact on control-room
design. If you’ve worked in any modern
acoustically configured control room,
Neil’s thinking may very well have had an
effect on its design.
Neil was also a tremendous teacher.
That’s where I worked with him, teaching
for National Public Radio. Speaking as a
professional educator, I can tell you that
Neil’s basic lectures on acoustics, electronics,
signal flow, microphones, loudspeakers,
audio production, audio post
production and a host of other topics
(anything he cared to work up, actually)
were lucid, brilliantly clear and memorable.
My use of Neil’s materials for almost
20 years has enhanced my own classroom
presentations and effectiveness as a result.
| Neil Allen Muncy
Neil’s best-known work began in the
1990s, when he and Bill Whitfield, of Jensen
Transformers, began to systematize the
thinking about audio-grounding practices,
leading to Neil’s articulation of what has
come to be known as “The Pin 1 Problem.”
Some landmark AES presentations
in 1995 and 1996 have changed audio grounding
practices forever, and for the
last 15 years of his life, Neil devoted
considerable time and effort to just that.
Check out Mary Gruszka’s articles on the
Pin 1 Problem in TV Technology, if you
want more information.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE EXCELLENT
But what Neil really did for us, I think,
has to do with excellence. Excellence pertains
to obtaining performance and products
of the finest and highest quality. Neil
was never satisfied with less, and he both
drove and inspired us, his colleagues, to
always reach for such excellence. He was
wonderfully lucid and occasionally very
funny in his calls for excellence—it was
never an angry rant about our deficiencies,
but rather an expressed amazement
and wonder at the lengths we needed to,
and could, go to in order to obtain those
WHAT NEIL MUNCY REALLY
The following, adapted from my website
(www.moultonlabs.com), was written
back in 2001. It was true then, and is
Back in the 1980s, I was a state employee
of the mediocre kind, having just
“moved up” to state college faculty from
owning my own dinky, little demo recording
studio. I hadn’t had anybody push me
toward excellence since graduate school.
I was way more than satisfied with the
first easy, cheap, quick answer to present
itself in any given case.
But, through the agency of dumb luck,
while teaching audio at SUNY Fredonia
one summer, I found myself on a National
Public Radio teaching staff with a rather
remarkable group of audio professionals,
the most notable of whom was Neil
I quickly discovered that Neil was and
is an audio god; a skilled recordist with
some remarkable credits; a console designer
from the days before Neve; and
an audio theorist and acoustician. Neil’s
specialty for these NPR Music Recording
Workshops, in addition to teaching about
consoles, electronics, grounding and signal
flow, was acoustics and critical listening.
(Sometimes I think the rest of us
taught at the workshops just to be near
Neil.) Suffice it to say, Neil was way beyond
my pay grade.
Neil introduced me to a serious and
rigorous consideration of the audible
implications of stereophony and loudspeaker
behavior in reverberant spaces
for the very first time. He introduced me
to a more critical and considered evaluation
of how and what people heard when
they listened to music coming out of loudspeakers.
Neil listened very carefully, and also
thought very carefully about what he
heard. He created some remarkable,
temporary listening rooms that were extremely
effective, and taught us all how
to hear the benefits of their virtues, and
(a first, for me), how to hear the physical
goodnesses and badnesses that exist
in audio recordings, using the benefits of
those temporary listening rooms for fun
Over the next decade, with Neil leading
our pedagogical efforts, we taught
NPR engineers and producers all over the
country how to listen and how to hear.
And as a function of all that, I learned
a huge amount more about how to hear;
how loudspeakers work; how rooms
work; and why music and audio are so
important. It has become my professional
life. Without Neil, I really don’t think it
would have happened.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Neil was my mentor for audio. He was
also my mentor for excellence. He gave
me the inspiration to try for something
better than what I knew I could do easily.
He taught me to try to reach for the stars.
So, now you know. Whenever I start in
on one of my rants about loudness or resolution
or quality control, I’m still channeling
Neil, just trying to make it a little
better. Thanks, Neil!
And thank you all for listening.
Dave Moulton is still a mere grasshopper.
Thanks again, Neil, for trying to
help me be more than that.