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Microphone Month 5

Major Innovator Passes

Keith Barr, who invented and designed several key products in the history of the recording and music industry passed away at the age of 61. Barr was one of the founders of the original MXR company, and designed the original Distortion+ pedal, among other products the company made. He then went on to found Alesis, where he and his engineering team developed the XT reverb, the MMT8 sequencer and HR-16 drum machine, and the paradigm-changing ADAT. Later products included the Quadrasynth series of synthesizers, the X2 recording console, the DM5 drum module, and the Andromeda A6 analog synth. One of the strengths of Barr’s innovations stemmed from his insistence on creating his own IC chips rather than using off-the-shelf chips. In fact, a separate division of the company called “Alesis Semiconductor” was formed to produce and markete chips for the audio industry. After selling Alesis in 2001, Barr went on to pursue other scientific and technical interests, both in and out of the music industry.

The list of products — which were intended to provide professional performance at new, affordable price points — launched by Barr and his team revolutionized the recording and music industries in many ways, and were a major factor in the blossoming of the project and home studio worlds.

Never comfortable in the spotlight, Barr preferred to remain behind the scenes and under the radar, resulting in his being one of the great unsung innovators in our industry. Our condolences to his family and friends.

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