by Clive Young.
New York (August 26, 2010)–Pro audio legend Keith Barr–founder of Alesis and numerous other companies–died on August 24 at the age of 61, felled by an apparent heart attack in his Vancouver, WA home.
Characterized by those who knew him as more an engineer and inventor than a businessman, Barr nonetheless founded a number of companies over his career, starting with guitar effect pedal manufacturer MXR Innovations in 1973.
Barr is best remembered, however, for founding Alesis in 1984. The company quickly made a name for itself with its first product, the XT Reverb, an all-digital reverb released in 1985 for a then-astounding $799. Under Barr’s aegis, Alesis soon branched out into drum machines, keyboards, sequencers, studio monitors and other products, but arguably changed pro audio forever with its 1991 introduction of the Alesis ADAT, which offered eight tracks of digital recording on VHS tapes for under $4,000. The machines became a cornerstone of home and project studios everywhere, arguably becoming the first step to the end of the large studio era.
After leaving Alesis in the early 2000s, Barr went on to found Spin Semiconductor, which produces signal integrated circuits for the consumer music and audio industries, and Exelys, a golf technology company. He leaves behind a wife and two children, and a pro audio industry that owes much to his creations and ingenuity.