Profile: Kevin Ivey14 September 2010
With the creation of a Commercial Audio Division and a clutch of new product developments, 2010 is shaping up to be a very eventful year for Peavey’s pro-audio business. The new division intends to make it easier for contractors and installers to put together integrated solutions based around products from its three brands: MediaMatrix (audio processing, control and distribution), Crest Audio (amplifiers, loudspeakers, consoles and control) and Architectural Acoustics (contractor-oriented audio tools).
The refreshed approach is complemented by a new-look senior team, under general manager Kevin Ivey. Based out of Peavey HQ in Meridian, Mississippi, Ivey spoke to PSNE about creating a ‘roadmap’ for Peavey’s pro-audio brands and the possible future of MediaMatrix within AVB.
What is your background in audio prior to joining Peavey?
"I came to Peavey after 25 years in the broadcasting, video and audio production industries. I began in Meridian, Mississippi in radio as a teenager, earned a degree in broadcasting, and spent the next 20 years in production and technology development at the network level. I was vice president of research and development at CNN in Atlanta, where we worked on the first non-linear digital video and audio production workflows, and pioneered large-scale digital asset management applications. Following CNN, I served as vice president of technology for BBC Technology North America, where I led our project team on BBCT’s contribution to ESPN’s high-definition production systems.
"So how did I end up at Peavey? I decided to move back home to bring my family back in touch with our extended families, and as fortune would have it, I was able to come home to Peavey, which is based in Meridian. So things have come full circle, and I am pleased to be here."
What do you regard as the highlights of your Peavey career up to now?
"I was fortunate to come into Peavey at a time of change in the industry and in our company. I spent the first five years as general manager of engineering, where I worked with a talented team of analogue and digital engineers on projects that ranged from the Vypyr modeling guitar amplifiers to the latest NIO cards for the NION platform.
"I had the pleasure of working with Charles Anderson in forming Peavey Digital Research, and putting the engineering teams together in Oxford, England and in Boulder, Colorado. We laid the groundwork for a lot of the new technologies and products you will see from Peavey Commercial Audio.
"A year ago, I was asked to take over the helm of the MediaMatrix, Crest Audio and Architectural Acoustics brands. I was very excited at the prospect of building these brands into a cohesive and complementary set of technologies and products. Moreover, this position plays to the skills and experience I gained in my previous positions in broadcasting. I’ve been on both sides of the contracting and installations table, as client and as contractor, and that perspective is proving very valuable in my new role."
What are your primary objectives for the Peavey Commercial Audio (PCA) division?
"All three brands – MediaMatrix, Crest Audio and Architectural Acoustics – existed as vertical product offerings. The idea behind Peavey Commercial Audio is to create an umbrella under which they can all live and to set about positioning the products and the brands so they complement one another technically and can be regarded as complete sets of tools by designers and consultants. Ultimately, I would like us to be a ‘one-stop shop’ so that anything the designer can conceive, they can create with Peavey Commercial Audio products.
"Previously, there wasn’t always a technical path for that level of integration, but that is changing. For example, the Crest CKi and Ci series amplifiers include firmware that allows them to be controlled and monitored via NWare, which is the main software application within MediaMatrix. Also, the new Digitool DSP products from Architectural Acoustics involve technology based on a subset of DSP engines within the MediaMatrix Nion processing frame.
"We see NWare as becoming the overarching software application for the design, implementation and control of systems across MediaMatrix, Crest Audio and Architectural Acoustics. Now that we have the technical path that will tie these products together, I think it will be [much clearer] to the market as to how they integrate."
To what extent has MediaMatrix realised its potential thus far?
"I think that it has performed very well at the top end of the market for a long time; for example, it was used at nine out of the 10 World Cup stadiums and is also present in many leading airports. But now we want to take it down to the middle market and realise more share there. The first product designed [with that objective in mind] is the Nion nE DSP platform, which will lower the barrier of entry for more designers and contractors to use MediaMatrix in a wider variety of projects.
"On a related note, the next generation of the ControlMatrix paging hardware and software system – ControlMatrix Host – integrates seamlessly with MediaMatrix NWare. We are looking to provide the same level of control capability within NWare that you might see from companies like Crestron and AMX, and to provide the consultant or contractor with the means of designing and programming control systems without having to go to a third-party contractor."
What about the latest developments in the Architectural Acoustics and Crest Audio brands?
"There are three new Digitool products: the MX16, which is 8 in, 8 out and has one AES pair; the MX32, which is 16 in, 16 out with two AES pairs; and Digitool LIVE, which is designed for live applications and features 8 in, 8 out, with balanced XLR connectors.
"Regarding Crest Audio, the main thing I would like to see us do – and which we are doing now – is to offer a broader range of power amplifiers: more multichannel products with DSP onboard. We have new topologies on which to base the new products, and we understand the power and price points necessary to be competitive. We will position the Crest Audio power amps clearly for the pro-sound and installation markets."
Looking at other parts of the Peavey portfolio… how does the Versarray line array system, for example, fit into this new integrated vision? And how is it performing in what is a very competitive market?
"What we have sought to do with Versarray is to provide innovation at a very competitive price, and the system has achieved a very good level of acceptance since it was introduced in 2008, thanks to the excellent results we have achieved in A:B comparisons. The Versarray can be bought as a turnkey package with an entire complement of Crest Audio amplifiers and processing, which makes it easy to buy a rig that is immediately usable and roadworthy."
In light of the new division’s more integrated approach, where do you think networking technology will be five years from now?
"I think by then we should have seen the ratification of AVB (audio-video bridging) on the consumer and pro side, and I think there will be new interoperability standards at work. We still support CobraNet and Dante, and right now we see Dante as our path of migration over to AVB. As members of [AVB-supporting organisation] the AVnu Alliance, we are watching progress in this area very closely, and we can see a time when MediaMatrix will interoperate with other manufacturers’ gear. [Consequently] we are considering what that means for us in terms of the future of our products and what other functions [we may need] to engineer into our range to ensure it remains competitive and satisfies the broadest possible portion of the market.
"We have I/O modular cards for Dante and CobraNet for MediaMatrix, and in the future we see there will be an AVB card available that would allow us to do multichannel audio over an AVB network. We are working with Dante in terms of what that migration path may be, and with the other people within the AVnu Alliance to determine what it is going to look like [from that side] as well.
"In the US, AVnu Alliance-related meetings are taking place pretty much every week among the technical groups, and that’s something we are contributing to via our Peavey Digital Research offices located in Eynsham, UK, and Boulder. A good number and variety of companies are involved in the meetings, and there is a very good level of co-operation among groups that are typically competitors."
So, adding it all up – the new division, multiple new products, AVB – it certainly sounds like you have enough on your plate…
"The creation of the Digital Research team in Oxford three years ago was really the point at which we began looking at how the market will change. Our investment in R&D will increase as times goes on: we need to stay on top of the changes in the market and we have AVB approaching, so we need to be ready for that. So, yes, in terms of R&D, we certainly have our hands full!"