TAPCO Model 6000 Mixer and Preamplifier

The Model 6000 was TAPCO's first mixer built to handle rock music on the bar band circuit. "It was built like a tank, and it was priced right for musicians and bands."
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Product PointsTargeted Users: High-quality audio mixer for bar bands, musicians

Years Manufactured: 1971 to 1975 (other versions were also manufactured through the early 1980s)

Retail Price: Approximately $148 in 1971.

Key Features: Six-channels, six XLR inputs, six TRS 1/4-inch mic inputs, RCA and 1/4-inch aux. inputs, separate bass/treble tone controls, separate input gain control for each channel, high and low level stereo outputs.

Selected Performance Specifications:

(input section) frequency response, 10 Hz to 40 kHz, plus or minus 1 dB; distortion, .1 percent; input level, 70 mV RMS, Maximum mic input level, 1.7V RMS (low z), 2.5 V RMS (high z); input noise, -122 dBM; gain, 120 dB; EQ frequency center, 80 Hz (bass control), 10 kHz (treble control);

(output section) maximum output, +16 dBM into 600 ohms (high-level output); weight, 7 pounds; dimensions, 15.5 inches long x 7.25 inches wide x 3.25 inches tall.According to Greg Mackie, cofounder of TAPCO, "I started TAPCO (an acronym loosely inspired by Mackie's receipt of a box labeled "Ted Nichols Auto Parts Company) almost out of frustration at the integrated sound systems of the time. We wanted to create an evolution for a better product for the evolving music and the increased dynamic music of Rock'n'Roll."

Mackie said the Model 6000 was TAPCO's first mixer built to handle rock music on the bar band circuit. "It was built like a tank, and it was priced right for musicians and bands," he said.

Mackie said the single-knob, variable gain mic preamp control, a combination of channel volume and trim, was quite an unusual design for its time. "Nobody had ever designed a completely variable gain mic pre except for a very early Traynor/Vega powered mixer," Mackie recalled. "The final circuit was a real weird, three-transistor, variable gain design that was almost impossible to overload when used properly...it accepted low-Z microphones and high Z microphones, although it loaded the heck out of the output of any hi Z mic." The result was a mic pre gain of 80 dB and the mix amp gain offered another 40 dB of gain for such low volume recording tasks as distant voice pickup.

In my retro-retest, I plugged a couple of Shure SM-57s (mounted in front of a Twin Reverb) into the TAPCO 6000 and fed the outputs into a DAT recorder. My recorded results showed that the 6000 is still a pretty good mixer. The microphone channels are not up to the Mackie VLZs, in terms of noise performance, but I found the gain and overall sound quality to be quite good. Feature-wise, it is Spartan compared to today's mixers with their on-board EQ, phantom power, extra inserts, etc; the 6000 also has no metering of any kind. The large, old-fashioned rotary knobs are quaint when compared to the small knobs and faders of today's compact mixers, but they do the job. I found them a little hard to turn. Mackie said the pots were designed to be "sticky" so they would have a quality feel. Each CTS pots received an application of a long-molecule, polymer compound developed at TAPCO. The unintended side effect, however, was a difficult-to-turn knob in hot weather, Mackie added.

TAPCO churned out thousands of these mixers and other versions, including the 6000R - with spring reverb and effect sends/returns - and the 6200 series through the early 1980s. The company was sold to Electro-Voice in the late 1970s, which continued to manufacture under the TAPCO name for several years. Mackie left in the late 1970s and founded AudioControl and later his namesake company. The TAPCO 6000 was an important evolutionary link for portable PA mixers.