Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey


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I would be willing to bet that most guitarists and bassists on Earth have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Mississippi-based Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment that rival anything in the industry; my band has an out-of-production Peavey PA head that just will not quit. And Peavey was the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas.

I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him to tell us about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.

   

Andy Shaughnessy: Tom, tell me just a little quick about your job. I understand you are an electrical engineer at Peavey.

Tom Stuckman: I am. I manage the development of mixer products, analog, digital and signal processing products for the live sound environment. We use a wide variety of technologies. As a company, we still do product designs with vacuum tubes. We do discrete transistor designs. We do high-speed designs with DSPs microprocessors and FPGAs on up to 10-layer circuit boards.   

We really run the gamut.  One of the things that makes the design process very, very interesting for us is the combination of technologies.   When you combine high-speed digital with high-gain analog circuitry,  high-power switch mode power supplies and class-D power amplifiers, it creates a real challenge to meet performance expectations.

Shaughnessy: They don't always play nice.

Stuckman: No, they don't always play nice together.  Like most companies in the industry, we not only have to design the product to function well, we also have to meet FCC and UL requirements as well.  We are very concerned with controlling emissions from the beginning of the design.

It is a real mixed bag of layout skills required when you mix all of these technologies in a product.  We have some great in-house, circuit board designers that we work with. Our engineers work very close with them in during product design.

Shaughnessy: How many circuit board designers do you have?

Stuckman: We have three.

Shaughnessy: You keep them busy.

Stuckman: We keep them very busy. Yes, we do.

Shaughnessy: You guys get a lot of credit in the industry also because you just now started sending product overseas.

Stuckman: Absolutely. Our owner, Hartley Peavey, really deserves a lot of credit. Unlike many companies, especially in as competitive a business as this is, we have been very slow to try to move away from domestic manufacturing. We still do domestic manufacturing wherever we can. Some of it we contract and some of it we still do in-house. I think he deserves a lot of credit for his efforts.

Shaughnessy: Some friends of ours, Trilogy Circuits in Texas, have manufactured some boards for Peavey. They enjoyed coming out and getting to talk to Hartley.

Stuckman: That is always an interesting experience.   He is a very dynamic person.

Shaughnessy: So, I think you are the last U.S. company making musical instruments and equipment to start building overseas. Everyone else has been doing it for a decade or more, I believe.

Stuckman: You are absolutely right.

Shaughnessy: So, what are some of the most exciting things you think are coming up as far as technology goes?

Stuckman: I think the thing that is really exciting is to see digital processing and control becoming a part of a vast majority of our products in the marketplace. There is still a lot of analog processing, but as we get more and more into network distribution of signals and digital signal processing, it opens up more and more avenues for creative things that were much more difficult to do in the past. It is an exciting time in the marketplace.

Shaughnessy: It sounds great and it sounds like you have a great job.

Stuckman: Yes, it is.

Shaughnessy: I appreciate you talking to me.

Stuckman: Thank you, Andy. I appreciate it.

 

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