- by Frank Hammel
LAS VEGAS — The Parnelli Board of Advisors will honor Greg Mackie, whose groundbreaking work redefined audio mixing, with the 2016 Parnelli Audio Innovator award at this year's ceremony, which is set for Oct. 22, 2016. Note: FRONT of HOUSE inadvertently ran "November 22" instead of "October 22" in the current May issue, page 47. The correct date is Saturday, Oct. 22. FOH regrets the error —ed.
“Greg Mackie is a miracle worker,” said FRONT of HOUSE editor George Petersen. “This musician and ex-Boeing worker successfully launched well-known audio brands such as TAPCO and Audio Control before founding the company that bears his name.”
Mackie was born in Mukilteo, WA, and was playing drums in a band in the early 1960s. “What little equipment was available was expensive,” he said. He got a Fender amp and took it apart, and started building his own audio gear. After high school, he served during the Vietnam War, and upon returning to the Seattle area, he started TAPCO with friend Martin Schneier in 1971.
The two began by making amps, but then realized a greater need. “P.A. equipment was a big deal, and all there was the Shure Vocalmaster — and nobody was making mixers, especially ones that didn’t distort with the volume and dynamics that rock bands were playing at,” Mackie said. Working with Rodger Rosenbaum, they released the Model 6000 Audio Mixer, one of the first mixers built specifically for rock bands playing the bars. This was one of the first designed with a completely variable gain mic preamp and was nearly impossible to overload. It was his first — but certainly not his last — to be built with the idea that form was as important as function. With this and all Mackie products that followed, how it looked and felt was as important as how it sounded. After growing TAPCO into a multimillion-dollar pro audio institution, he left the company and founded AudioControl, where he created stereo equalizers and analyzers for the then-booming car stereo systems market.
In 1988, he founded Mackie. “He launched the Mackie CR-1604, a small, compact mixer that was affordable, sounded great and in his own words, was ‘built like a tank,’” said Petersen. “It was an instant hit — everyone had to have one. It remains in production in its latest generation, having sold hundreds of thousands of units over the years.”
However, a lot more was to come, including Mackie’s SRM-450 P.A. speakers, with sales approaching the million-unit mark, and Mackie’s 8-bus consoles, recording monitors and more. In addition to being a brilliant designer, Mackie also knew the value of good marketing. He took his wildly successful company public in 1995, and purchased Radio Cine Forniture (RCF), Fussion Audio and Eastern Acoustics Works (EAW) in the ensuing years. He also released the SR 32-4, a popular pro-audio board still in use today. In 1995, he sold his 100,000th mixer and built a state-of-the-art 89,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Woodinville, WA. His UltraMix Universal Automation System was his first software-based mixer, allowing the engineer to automate, store and replicate up to 136 channels.
“After selling his share of the company [in 2002], Greg could have retired on an island somewhere, but that isn’t his style,” added Petersen. Mackie consulted and worked on various other endeavors until he formed a new partnership with former Trident Audio designer Peter Watts in 2008. “Soon after, the pair were developing projects such as the innovative and popular TouchMix series of digital consoles for QSC.”
“I am surprised and honored,” said Mackie of receiving the audio industry’s highest honor. “I’ve always believed though, it’s not just technology that is important, it’s about building a successful company. I always want everybody to feel a part of whatever I’m involved in, and be successful and have fun doing it.”
Mackie will receive the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award on Oct. 22 at the 2016 award ceremony, which takes place once again at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Others receiving top Parnelli honors this year include Lifetime Achievement honoree Richard Fernandez and Parnelli Visionary Award winner Danny O’Bryen.
For more information on the Parnelli Awards, go to www.parnelliawards.com, and follow the Parnelli Awards on Facebook.