Best known as a founding member, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter for three-time Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band, John Driskell Hopkins (“Hop”) also records and performs with several other acts. The busy Georgia native formed his songwriter-oriented band Brighter Shade in 1996, then recorded two albums with the band. His forays into record production led him to found Brighter Shade Studios. There, in 1998, he recorded Zac Brown’s first album, Home Grown, which was never released but led to his long-time association with Brown. Brighter Shade Studios was later used for the first two major Zac Brown Band albums, The Foundation and You Get What You Give. Since 2011, Hopkins has also collaborated with five-piece bluegrass powerhouse Balsam Range, releasing the critically acclaimed CD Daylight in 2013.
Hopkins has been a fan of Mackie® equipment since the early years. “I used to mix on a Mackie CR-1604VLZ analog mixer back in the day, and the results were fantastic,” he recalls. “Then I had a Mackie 8•Bus 32-channel board for a long time. That was killer too. I started using Mackie HR824 studio monitors as soon as they came out; I used those for a long time. Now I have the new XR824 studio monitors, and I just love them! They’re clean, accurate, powerful, and versatile. I can use them with or without a subwoofer and be equally happy with the result.”
Mackie’s XR824 is a two-way monitor speaker with a 1-inch black anodized aluminum tweeter and an 8-inch Kevlar® woofer. A logarithmic wave guide provides acoustic alignment for balanced sound across the frequency spectrum, while Mackie’s ELP™ Bass Reflex System delivers superior output capability and extended low-frequency response. Combined with a 160W biamplified (100W LF, 60W HF), Class D power amp, these features account for the power Hopkins notes, as well as the full-range response that enables him to mix with or without a subwoofer.
Hopkins is building a new studio in his attic, with the Mackie XR824s as core pieces. “The new place will be 2,500 square feet, and the live room will have 17-foot ceilings,” he relates. “It’s going to be massive. The XR824s will be right next to the console. I also will use Mackie speakers in the live room.”
But the XR824s are more than resident monitors in Hopkins’ studio. “People don’t realize how versatile Mackie gear is,” he insists. “You can modify the XR824s for the space you’re in. I’ve taken the XR824s to hotel suites, and I change the settings to make it work in each room. I can do a low cut, say, if the room overemphasizes lows. There’s a high-frequency filter so you can boost or cut to account for different room sounds. If the speakers aren’t sitting the same way relative to the wall as they were at home, I adjust the acoustic space filters to keep the response flat. They’re truly like a Swiss Army Knife in that they can be used for many applications. I’ve recorded dozens of independent and regional acts using the XR824s, and I intend to use them forever.”
Naturally, Hopkins is eager to finish construction and start creating music with his favorite monitor speakers. “The Mackie XR824s are exactly what I need to make my new attic studio sound it’s best,” he asserts. “But then, Mackie has always been able to anticipate what musicians need and provide it. They’ve done it again with the XR824. They’re awesome.”