I still have a vivid memory of unboxing my first Mackie product, the CR-1604 16-channel, 4-bus mixer-almost twenty years ago. After a stint at the then fledgling Digidesign, where I had been fortunate to have participated in the development of the first affordable hard-disk recording system, I was a grad student at the MIT Media Lab studying computer music and signal processing. Alex Rigopulos, who later went on to found Harmonix Music Systems, the company that developed Rock Band and the original version of Guitar Hero, was an undergraduate researcher in my group. Together, we unpacked the mixer, marveled at its rotating jack "pod" that doubled as an on- desk prop-up, and gushed at the mixer's feature-set and build-quality-way beyond par. As the two of us examined each button, knob, and label, we quizzed each other on all the capabilities of the mixer; we had both excitedly studied all the advertisements from the Mackie marketing blitz that introduced this ground-breaking product. Our studios at the MIT Media Lab were equipped with many $100,000s worth of gear, but we knew then that this little $1000 rackmount mixer was a real game-changer, and the playing field was about to change drastically. ••• 2009 marks Mackie's 20th Anniversary. At the January 1989 NAMM show, Mackie introduced its first product, the LM-1602 line mixer, the culmination of company founder Greg Mackie's extensive at- home tinkering to design a contemporary mixer with circuitry stripped down to only what was necessary for excellent sound quality. Greg was no stranger to this goal, having previously designed and manufactured a line of affordable, high-quality, live-music mixers for TAPCO, a company he and a partner started in 1969. The CR-1604 was Mackie's follow-up to the LM-1602. It defined a whole new category of consoles, and in doing so, heralded a whole new way of recording music. For many years, the CR-1604 was known as simply the "Mackie", and whether you needed a practice-space mixer for your band or a utility mixer for your high-zoot production facility, you'd ask your salesperson for a Mackie, and there was no question what you wanted. (Even when competitors released similar products, "Mackie" remained synonymous with the whole class of compact mixers.) If it weren't for the Mackie, I doubt I would be penning these words right now. The Mackie, along with a handful of other revolutionary products from a few leading- edge companies, paved the way to how many of us make music now-unencumbered by the limitations and costs of recording in "pro" studios. Every bit of Mackie's message to us was about accessibility to the everyman. Even the company's advertisements were extremely educational (remember the tip about inserting a 1/4'' TRS plug only part- way in to turn an insert jack into a direct out?) while still poking fun at the industry. Other companies tried to copy Mackie's gospel, but none were as successful. ••• Twenty years later, going through the gear in my home and in my personal studio, I still count many Mackie products in my family's daily-use arsenal: three Mackie compact mixers (U.420, 402-VLZ3, 802-VLZ3); three pairs of Mackie monitors (HR824, HR824mk2, MR5); and an Onyx Satellite FireWire interface. And that's not counting the myriad of Mackie products installed in the several "pro" facilities I co-own. Pretty much every Mackie product I've purchased has had class-leading-or in many cases class- creating-features associated with it. That's proof to me that Greg Mackie and the many "Mackoids" that are employed by Mackie (and show up as real faces in the company's advertising) are true innovators. -AH

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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