08.15.2023 | News

Celebrating the Legacy of the McIntosh Amplifiers: How the McIntosh MC3500 Powered the Iconic Woodstock Festival

August 2023 marks the anniversary of the widely celebrated and historic Woodstock 1969 Festival. The commemoration of this massive music festival held for three days between August 15 and 18 brings an air of nostalgia. It also reminds people across the nation of the message of unity, peace, and love the Woodstock Festival spread. This iconic landmark event and its influence on the music industry was fueled in part by McIntosh with our revolutionary and robust audio equipment.

McIntosh amps under the stage at Woodstock
Racks of McIntosh amplifiers under the stage at Woodstock. Photo courtesy David Marks.

In this article, we’ll delve into how McIntosh powered Woodstock and transformed sound engineering during the age of rock and roll through its groundbreaking amplifiers. Further, we’ll discuss how the brand’s unwavering dedication and innovations in the audio sphere powered one of the world’s most legendary music festivals.

Celebrating the Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival – What Happened on this Day in History?

Held in August 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival instantly became the most celebrated rock festival, an honor it holds to this day. Although organized by four inexperienced promoters seeking investment opportunities, the Woodstock Festival successfully signed several legendary rock artists, including Jimi Hendrix, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, the Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, and Janis Joplin.

The Woodstock Music Festival was held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, and sold only a few tickets, yet over 400,000 people showed up. As a result, the highways and local roads came to a standstill, and the audience, packed with people enjoyed one of the world’s most famous concerts.

How Did the MC3500 Amplifier Deliver a Historic and Memorable Experience at the Woodstock Festival?

The Woodstock Music Festival amassed nearly half a million people, but the festival was more than a mere concert. The landmark event was unique in human and music history, showcasing how love and art united people of different politics and religions.

Hanley Sound was the company hired for the sound production at the Woodstock Festival. When Bill Hanley, founder of Handly Sound, was once asked why he used McIntosh MC3500 amplifiers at Woodstock, he replied "It was the best amplifier on the marketplace. It was the most reliable, and quietest, you hardly could tell it was running… it really was well designed. Everybody else’s hummed. [Other brands] had problems, theirs didn’t… It kept the sound system going." Hanley Sound engineer Harold Cohen added that up until then simple PA systems had mostly been used at concerts that were growing larger and larger, but "Thanks to McIntosh, we now have what is known as concert sound."

McIntosh x Woodstock: Hanley Sound
McIntosh President Charlie Randall (left) and Bill Hanley at The Woodstock Museum at Bethel Woods with one of the original MC3500 amplifiers Hanley Sound used at Woodstock. Bill was gracious enough to sign a poster of him with one of his many McIntosh setups.

As the first chords of Richie Havens’ guitar rippled through the air, synergizing the audience gathered on a New York farm, the McIntosh MC3500 amplifier was at the forefront of the audio equipment industry. While the festival had its share of issues caused by the weather and the unexpected size of the crowd, the sound quality was not an issue as everyone could clearly hear what was happening on the stage.

With the McIntosh amplifier and its robust systems, the rock ’n’ roll icons delivered an unforgettable performance to the 400,000 spectators amidst the extreme weather and sudden change in crowd size.

Although McIntosh amp technology has evolved since the Woodstock Festival, the McIntosh MC3500 is nowhere near obsolete as many are still used today by music lovers around the world.

A Seismic Shift: The Truth Behind the McIntosh-Powered Sound Engineering Transformation in the Age of Rock

The Woodstock Festival remains the pinnacle of rock ’n’ roll, and McIntosh an able partner in shaping multiple historical events and helping transform live performances.

The MC3500 amplifier delivered over 300 Watts of clear and distortion-free sound, delivering the attendees a once-in-a-lifetime music festival. Moreover, the amplifier's robust vacuum tube design and Unity Coupled Circuit output transformer inspired countless sound engineers to push the boundaries of music technology.

The sporadic rain and massive crowd size testify to the McIntosh MC3500 amplifier’s unwavering quality, keeping the crowd alive and engaged. Besides this, the Woodstock Festival and McIntosh’s contribution to transforming the audio equipment in the golden age of rock and roll set the stage for a new generation of sound engineering and live performance explorations.

Despite the advancements in amp technology since the time of the Woodstock Festival, the legacy of the MC3500 amplifier continues to be valued for its capabilities. Today, McIntosh continues to design vacuum tube amplifiers and preamplifiers along with solid-state amplifiers, such as the MC2KW or MC1.25KW, using the experience gained from the MC3500.

Continuing the Legacy: How the McIntosh Power Amplifiers Continue to Amplify Musical Performances

The MC3500 Mk II Vacuum Tube Amplifier embodies a unique blend of history, passion, and innovation that powered a pivotal moment in music history where thousands of fans relied on the equipment to deliver crisp sound from the most famous rock ’n’ roll bands.

Today, McIntosh continues to redefine the audio industry with unparalleled, innovative sound technology.

Amplifying Music Into Historic Experiences: The Final Tour

Grateful Dead Wall of Sound powered by McIntosh amplifiers
The Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound.

McIntosh's amplifier technology continues its journey in the public eye as it powers another significant moment in the history of music. In the spring and summer of 2023, Dead & Co., the spinoff of the Grateful Dead – the band that trusted McIntosh to provide the best sound quality for their "Wall of Sound" in 1974, embarked on their final tour. McIntosh powered Dead & Co’s intermissions with an MT10 Precision Turntable and C12000 Preamplifier, which played a selection of vinyl records curated by the band.

McIntosh and Dead and Company on tour
The McIntosh powered audio system used for vinyl playback during intermission of Dead & Co's The Final Tour 2023.

From the comfort of your home, or right in the front row, you'll get to witness the powerful synergy between McIntosh's audio equipment and he Grateful Dead's iconic music. Amalgamating surreal talent and exceptional audio quality, McIntosh, and the Grateful Dead, create an experience that sends ripples through the decades of their rich history.

As McIntosh continues to refine the art of amplification and travel the path set down by the legendary MC3500, we are not just enhancing concerts. We are pushing boundaries, setting new standards, and elevating the way we experience music, one performance at a time.