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LEA Professional Debuts at NAMM

By Clive Young. Introduced at NAMM, the new amplifier manufacturer announced ambitious plans, including product introductions across the next 18 months.

Anaheim, CA (February 21, 2019)—Pro audio startups appear all the time, but rarely with the pedigree of amplifier company LEA Professional. Based in South Bend, IN, LEA may be brand new, but it takes much of its inspiration—and leadership—from nearby Elkhart, where amplifier manufacturer Crown Audio was founded and based for 70 years until being moved to Dallas and Los Angeles as part of a massive consolidation of its parent company, Harman Professional, in 2017.

With the opportunity to start fresh, LEA executives formally announced the company at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, in January. Founder and CEO Blake Augsburger—formerly executive vice president of Harman Professional—outlined the fledgling company and its ambitious plans to roll out a series of products over the next 18 months, starting at InfoComm 2019 in June.

Seen on the Scene: 2019 NAMM Show, Day One

“Starting from a blank slate affords LEA a unique opportunity to address the middle of the market with a fresh, uncompromising approach to design, user experience, system performance and networking,” said Augsburger. “This enables a radically improved end user experience in a host of verticals, from education to corporate, worship, retail and entertainment.” As Augsburger sees it, that means there’s “an opportunity … to provide channel partners and integrators with high-performing, cloud-configurable and yet affordable and easy-to-use pro audio technology that just rocks.”

That effort will start with the Connect Series, which the company has envisioned as a line of IoT-enabled pro-grade amplifiers. The first iterations, debuting at InfoComm, will be two- and four-channel models intended for small- to medium-scale installations. Next, models aimed at medium to large installations will be unveiled at the 2020 NAMM Show. “As we move into 2020, we will start looking at new markets such as portable P.A. and live sound,” said Augsburger, alluding to plans for InfoComm 2020.

All the models will have some traits in common, including DSP, wired or Wi-Fi connectivity, and webpage configuration and control. “Our vision is to create audio technology that is smart and as connected as other technology realms in our lives,” said Augsburger, “and to lever technologies from these other realms, not the least being cloud and, in the future, AI.”

The products will connect to the internet via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, act as Wi-Fi hotspots, and will be offered in both network and Dante versions. “We will add a cloud and mobile app during the second half of this year,” Augsburger said. “The cloud offers opportunities for integrators’ monthly recurring revenue models. You can see all connected devices over the firewall, update security software and firmware, perform health analytics, store speaker tunings, and manage external drivers and API.”

LEA’s customer-facing leadership team includes a number of former Harman Pro veterans, with Scott Robbins as vice president, sales and marketing; Jeremy Bules as vice president, engineering and operations; and Brian Pickowitz, senior director, sales and marketing. They are joined by some executives new to the pro audio industry, including Matt McClain, vice president, finance and administration.

“We are very passionate about the product and the overall market, and we really want to make a lasting difference,” said Augsburger. “The business is extremely well capitalized for investing in the future, both organically through products and marketing, and inorganically through acquisition. We have built an efficient business model with zero legacy baggage that is structured for growth.”

Every startup wants to get moving as soon as possible, and Augsburger and company are no different, sensing an opportunity is at hand. “I believe time is of the essence,” he said. “Innovation has slowed; independent, agile thinking is missing. Unfortunately, commoditization is at play. With these shifts occurring, LEA offers a fresh, independent but highly informed vision.”

LEA Professional •