09-07-2020

Jacob Krzywak

Internet of Things (IoT). What is it? In fact, it can also be called technology otherwise – Intelligence of Things. In simple terms, it is a system of electronic devices that can automatically communicate with each other, exchange data over the network. All smart home devices such as washing machines, cleaning robots, refrigerators, bathroom scales, televisions or air purifiers are part of this technology. By  connecting many devices, life becomes much simpler. This does not only apply to our everyday life and home appliances. LEA Professional, which designs and manufactures advanced power amplifiers, has implemented this technology for professional use.

Let’s start over. Behind the American brand there are great professionals, engineers, marketers who previously worked for many years in the biggest companies producing professional audio solutions. Blake Augsburger is one of the founders of LEA Professional. A veteran in the industry, a long-time director of Crown. Therefore, it is not surprising that new ideas, concepts and projects were created so quickly, are thoughtful and innovative.

LEA Professional is primarily an installation amplifier that is ideal for small, medium and quite complex applications. We have a wide range of amplifiers to choose from – from 80 to even 3000 W per channel in two, four and eight-channel options. It seems that there are already such solutions on the market and the American manufacturer does not stand out among the crowd. There is one thing, however… LEA Professional is the first manufacturer in the world to implement Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Thanks to this technology we have the possibility of remote monitoring of the amplifier and its configuration. How does it work? The amplifier sends the necessary data to the Cloud so that the engineer or installer can, without moving from the place, monitor the state of the device (analyze errors, power consumption, loads and much more). As you can guess, servicing becomes very simple in this case. A number of functions also allow you to react quickly in case of an unforeseen failure – the amplifier continuously sends out information about the situation requiring engineer’s intervention.

LEA Professional amplifiers are also innovative because of a number of features included in the DSP (power distribution between the DSP and the amplifier itself) and the automatic update function so that you do not have to worry about upgrading your new firmware. It also provides advanced networking capabilities (LAN, Cat5, Cat6, router and network switch) to independently monitor the operation of specific devices. Importantly, you don’t need to install additional software to manage your amplifiers. All changes in settings are made at browser level.

The interview with Brian Pickowitz (Vice President of Marketing, LEA Professional) is very inspiring. We talk not only about technology, amplifiers, possibilities, but also about the current situation on the world market, trends and the future. I recommend it!

Hi Brian!  At the beginning I wanted to ask you how you are feeling, especially in the current world situation 🙂

While the last few months has been something nobody expected to see in their lifetime, I have been humbled by most everyone I’ve interacted with in video conferences, phone calls, and emails willingness to follow their government’s guidelines to remain safe while still wanting to expand their knowledge and explore ways to keep their business in a good position given the situation.  Personally, I am doing well and kept very busy throughout the stay at home period continuing to grow and expand LEA’s global reach.

Do you think that the installation market will be strongly affected by the current economic situation?

I feel the installation market will come back fairly strongly once each country’s economy opens and restrictions are lifted, but I do believe there will be a slight dip in activity in the near future.  Projects that were already in progress, but stopped due to the pandemic will be finished, but projects where the design was put on hold during the pandemic will be where we see the slight dip months from now.  Installation sub-markets like House of Worship and Government, Education, and Corporate will likely do better than Retail and Hospitality, so not all markets will bounce back as quickly in my opinion.

Brian, how long have you been working in the pro-audio business?

I’ve been in the pro-audio business on the manufacturer side for almost 17 years.  I started my career out of University as an Electrical Engineer designing amplifiers for one of the top pro amplifier manufacturers in the world then worked my way up in Engineering before taking other roles in Business Development, Marketing, Sales, and Product Development.  I believe my past experience with responsibilities in multiple different departments set me up nicely for my current position as VP of Marketing for LEA Professional.  As a company with an aggressive growth strategy, nobody on our team can simply do the responsibilities of just their job title.  Everyone pitches in and contributes their knowledge and expertise across the entire organization and that has been a good fit for me and my past experience over the last 17 years.

I was wondering what it looks like to work in the structures of the HARMAN group…

My experience in the HARMAN group was great and I have a lot of great memories and friends as a result of my experiences there.  With LEA, I am really enjoying the speed at which we’re able to adapt to different challenges and make quick decisions and execute on the direction we decide to move.  It’s also very gratifying to provide expertise or advice on a topic and see the benefits first hand.  In order for LEA to grow, we need to adapt to the demands of the installation market and I’m always amazed at how quickly our entire team helps to identify the problem that needs to be solved and quickly moves towards the solution. 

You have really a lot of experience.  LEA Professional was the next stage?

Absolutely.  With the team that is in place at LEA, I could tell good things are going to come from this growing company and I wanted to be a part of that growth.  Not only did I want to provide my expertise in the areas I am strong in, I wanted to learn and be apart of growing a business from the ground up.  While there have been challenges in the last year and a half, there has not been a problem our team couldn’t solve.  I am very happy my professional career path brought me to LEA Professional and I am excited to continue to grow and expand our reach and become an industry leading brand.

Is creating a technology company from scratch a big challenge in the United States?

There are definitely challenges starting any business, but if you have a good foundation, you can overcome the challenges more easily.  Our foundation is our employees.  Given our location, we were able to build a team of experts in the Pro Audio market as well as in Engineering pretty easily, whereas most startups don’t have all of the right people from the beginning.  We had the advantage of having a great team from day 1.

What challenges did you face at the beginning?

At the very beginning given our past experiences, we knew the market needed another option for amplifiers, but we weren’t sure how well a new amplifier company would be received companies who don’t change their daily practices that often.  We are now pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and overwhelming acceptance we have received.  While our competitors make great products and there is business to be had by all, there are plenty companies that have seen all of the technologies that we include with our products and have began to use LEA products exclusively.

What is the current structure of the company?

We are pretty flat.  Everybody helps everyone else out when they have the knowledge to do so.  The management team, myself included, are responsible for managing and reporting our specific business metrics, but you’ll see each department helping out other departments when needed.  It’s really nice to be able to work on Engineering projects one day, Sales projects the next and then work with our CFO on financial projects.  It’s something different everyday and for me that’s important.

I would really like to know what work in the R&D department looks like. What specialists are working here. Could you tell me more about it?

Every person on our Engineering team has a specialty that they are the experts on.  Like most amplifier manufacturers, we have a power supply Engineer, amplifier Engineer, DSP Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Test Engineer and a Firmware/Software Engineer.  What makes our team different is while their job title may be a power supply Engineer, they have the experience and expertise to write firmware or help with the test systems when needed.  There are no silos.  Everyone pitches in and helps everyone else out.  It is really exciting to watch our Engineering department work.  They are all very driven to bring new and exciting technologies to our products and don’t mind getting help and observations from others on the team.

Of course I am prepared for this interview 🙂 What are the characteristics of your loT amplifiers?

Our IoT amplifiers are unlike any other device in the industry currently.  We don’t simply offer online cloud storage, we give the user the full control and monitoring of our products via the cloud meaning anything you can control and monitor on the local area network, is available on our cloud.  This provides significant functionality to integrators and the best part is we are offering this free of charge.  The other important aspect of our cloud is it is very secure.  We embedded Amazon Web Services IoT Core technology in our amplifiers which provides an encrypted SSL communication from the amp to the cloud and from the cloud to the users device utilizing the control and monitoring remotely.  We think this will be a very valuable tool that integrators will demand in their daily lives.

If you were to say something more about a good amplifier design. DSP, networks, amplifier modules, power supply. How do you connect all this to make it work perfectly?

Lots of planning.  When we first started talking about the Engineering spec for the Connect Series products, we all had ideas, but we weren’t the ones installing and specifying this equipment every day.  So, we went to the experts.  We enlisted 12 development partners to help us plan what the product should be.  This team of development partners do installs in retail applications all over the world, hospitality, performing arts, and many other markets, so we did get a variety of opinions on what the product would be, but for the most part they all wanted one thing.  They wanted a product that made their jobs easier.  Once we had the list of technologies we needed, there was quite a bit of planning to make sure it would all integrate together seamlessly.  We definitely took the time up front to make sure the product was well thought out before our first prototype.

What are the possibilities of the DSP that we find in LEA Professional amplifiers?

With the LEA Connect Series products, we’ve just scratched the surface with DSP.  In our upcoming 1500W and 3000W products our DSP will be industry leading with regards to DSP horsepower and it’s abilities.  In the future beyond that, there are many interesting things you can do with our cloud platform and DSP.  Stay tuned as we have lots of interesting developments coming in the DSP world.

I’ve taken an interest in one of the features of your amplifiers. Leaprofessional.cloud… What can we do remotely with the cloud?

First off, leaprofessional.cloud is a platform for us.  We intentionally build this platform the way we did so it’s easily expandable when we have new products or want to include new features.  Currently, our cloud allows for full control and monitoring of our amplifiers securely from anywhere in the world without the need for a VPN connection.  This is just the start.  In the future, you will see us add on new features and be able to provide functionality that our competitors can’t offer or you need extra hardware to perform certain features.  We are just at the beginning of a very powerful platform, but even at the beginning the leaprofessional.cloud allows integrators to be able to service their customers both proactively and reactively better than any other product in the market.

You also used Dante in your amplifiers. Why this protocol?

The demand for Dante and/or AES67 in the install market continues to grow.  There are other protocols that are interesting, like AVB, but the global acceptance of Audinate’s Dante protocol was definitely the right choice for us.  There is a great partnership between LEA and the Audinate team and seeing their vision for the future of their company matches nicely with LEA’s vision.  I’m sure Dante will continue to grow its market share and we will be right there with them in sharing the growth.

I understand that the company is planning dynamic growth?

Yes.  We have multiple plans for growth.  You will continue to see us grow our amplifier and cloud offerings under the LEA Professional name.  We have a very aggressive roadmap of some great products and features in the not too distant future.  We are also very well capitalized, so we have some ideas on how to grow our business and market share using that capital.  It is going to be an interesting few years for us.  I can’t give you all the details, but our goal is to grow and there are some exciting plans in the works for us to do so.

Thanks for the conversation 🙂

My pleasure!