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Innovations: LEA Professional Connect Series Amplifiers

By Brian Pickowitz. LEA Professional was founded earlier this year by a team of former Harman executives and engineers who aimed to a new installation-oriented, IoT-enabled professional amplifier with cloud-based control and monitoring. Months later, LEA’s first products are rolling off the line, and VP of Marketing Brian Pickowitz recounts the journey to this point.

The idea of an IoT-enabled professional amplifier with cloud-based control and monitoring is one that many of us at LEA have been dreaming up for a while now. We always knew it wasn’t going to be a simple undertaking and we really had to wait for the stars to align so we could get to work on it. That happened, however, when our founder, Blake Augsburger, started a brand new company and hired a team of unmatched industry engineers. Once LEA Professional was started, we began work on the industry’s first IoT-enabled professional amplifiers and our first product line, the Connect Series.

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With the Connect Series, we wanted to create a product that directly addressed the needs of system integrators and installers. Many integrators we had spoken with had voiced their frustrations about other manufacturer processes and products. We armed ourselves with that information and used it to imagine a process and a product that was built specifically for the integrator/installer. The vision was to create a virtual Swiss Army knife of professional amplifiers. It would have to address the various power points needed by installers, with the variety of features and flexibility that can’t be found in any other single product.

First, we knew we wanted a product that was powerful but also flexible. Those criteria drove the need for a few critical features. Among them are Direct LoZ and HiZ (70V or 100V) selectable per channel, channel bridging and a Universal Switch Mode Power Supply with PFC.

When the topic of channel bridging came up, we decided that in order to best serve the system integrator, we would have to take this feature to the next level. That meant figuring out the best way to maintain all amplifier channels during the bridging process, so we developed our proprietary Smart Power Bridge technology. The idea of Smart Power Bridge is to allow a single channel of the amplifier to emulate the results of bridging two amplifier channels. This provides the flexibility offered up by bridging without having to lose a valuable amplifier channel.

The next must-have criteria we identified was ensuring that installers have total control over the units and also the way they shape the audio signals. Many installers and integrators in the pro audio community use multiple devices and multiple platforms in their daily lives, so if we came out with a Windows-only application, it would alienate the people who use macOS; similarly, if we picked iOS, we would alienate all of the Android users. This led to a big question we had to solve that had great impact on the overall project timeline. We reviewed many software development options and the winner was clear. We wanted an option that would quickly and efficiently control and monitor our Connect Series on any platform our users used, and that would not require time to learn or software to download. That led us down the path of using a web browser-based user interface.

We also wanted to ensure that integrators would be able to fine-tune their amplified signals through the Web App UI to meet the specifications of any job, large or small, so we decided it was crucial to include 96 kHz Analog Devices DSP. With that, integrators would be able to simply log in to the Web App UI from their device, connect the product to the network and, just like that, start adjusting the amps’ DSP settings such as input routing, up to 48 dB/Oct crossover filters, eight parametric EQ filters, user-configurable speaker limiters, and real-time load monitoring, among many other features.

With all of that accomplished, we felt we would be a major competitor in our space.

Another way we wanted to differentiate the Connect Series from competitive products was with a variety of network connection types. The motivation behind this was, once again, to give as much flexibility to the installer/integrator as possible, so we included the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network, the ability to turn the amp into a WAP (wireless access point), and the ability to make the traditional network connection through Cat 5 or Cat 6 cabling. With all three connection options, we felt confident that an installer could show up and control our product in virtually any job. From older buildings with no network infrastructure in place to any venue with a unique network, our product can be networked easily. It is a critical feature that we felt we needed to deliver to the integrator community.

We’re proud to say that we packed all of these killer features into an ergonomic and energy-efficient 1 RU device. We spent a lot of time working with outside development partners to design and refine a unit with a sleek, industrial look that fits in a 1 RU space. Now we like to tell people that it’s going to be the best looking gear you put in a closet.

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But the real game-changer that we felt would drastically improve the integrator experience was the IoT technology. Cloud storage provides a unique benefit to the installer through remote control and monitoring, as well as instant push notifications alerting them of system errors and failures. There is no other professional audio product like it. Possibly even more valuable to the installer is the opportunity this technology creates for monthly reoccurring revenue contracts. With the potential for 24-hour system monitoring and data collection, integrators will find real value in setting up contracts with their clients to ensure everything is always functioning as it should—and all of this will come free to the installer.

The hope is that the Connect Series truly is something that integrators will be proud to install in any project and happy to work with due to its laundry list of features that cater directly to their needs. It’s been a long road getting this product to market, but at the same time, it all seemed to happen so fast. The Connect Series perfectly encompasses everything that our company stands for, and we think that once these amps make their way into install projects around the world, everyone will have an even better idea about just who LEA is and what it means to do things the LEA Way.

Brian Pickowitz is vice president of marketing for LEA Professional.

LEA Professional •