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Plugged In

Biamp’s Matt Czyzewski has Seen the Future and it’s Networked
by Kirsten Nelson

QUICK BIO
NAME: Matt Czyzewski
TITLE: Vice President of Business Development
COMPANY: Biamp
PERSPECTIVE: Czyzewski’s audio integration background informs his product development efforts at Biamp.


SCN: What was your electronics eureka moment?
Matt Czyzewski: I’ve always built things and I’ve always done carpentry and those kinds of things. But it was over the summers when I was in junior high that I got really involved with car audio and building speakers. That’s when I decided I want to get more into electronics. That’s when it took off. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that had a one-hour electronics class that you could take for four years and I signed up. Actually, I’ve never taken biology in my life because I couldn’t fit the electronics class into my schedule my sophomore year, so I looked at the school requirements for graduation and college prep, and biology was not a requirement. Physical science, chemistry, and physics, were, so I went to my counselor and said this is what I want to do and they actually denied me and I had to have them bring out the college prep manual and point it out to them and then I was able to take my class.

It was my years in high school that got me into the commercial audio industry. I basically owe my entire career to a guy by the name of Ned Ludlum, he was the owner of TMS Sound, a contracting firm in Toledo, OH. He was also my high school electronics teacher and when I was a freshman he hired me to work in his business. I worked there all the way through college and I’ve never left the audio industry.

That’s how I got my electrical engineering degree at the University of Toledo. I paid for it while working for a contractor.

SCN: How did the field work you were doing for TMS Sound compare with your electrical engineering education?
MC: I also did repair work at TMS for all the electronic equipment that we sold. So I learned a lot of things from parts that would go bad, or circuits would be bad, and I learned how to troubleshoot. But I didn’t always know the “why” behind everything, and as my education progressed I started to understand how these things work.

SCN: You had an early start in the field of electronics, but what else fuelled passion for audio?
MC: I think it’s a common thread in our industry—at some point, most people have some connection to music. I’ve always been into music. I grew up playing the trumpet and I still play today. I don’t play in a band, but I enjoy playing. My mom’s a very talented musician, both vocally and instrumentally with piano and organ. She worked at the Toledo Symphony and I knew a lot about the life of a musician, and I realized that was probably not what I wanted to do professionally. And once I started to get more into professional audio, it just clicked with me. I really enjoyed it. I still enjoy it.

SCN: When was your next step after TMS Sound?
MC: I decided to take a job in Massachusetts working for Simplex. My charge was to head up their audio division. From there I went to a manufacturer called IRP in the Chicago area. I really enjoyed working for manufacturers, and after a brief stint at Peavey I joined Biamp and I’ve been here for 14 years.

SCN: So what is it you like about manufacturing?
MC: I think my engineering background made me like the manufacturing end. I get into the circuit board side of things. I can play with prototype boards and those kinds of things and get into the mass production of products and at the same time still fill that creative part where you’re coming up with new product ideas, new implementations, and new solutions to old problems. What helps fuel that is my time working in the contracting industry. I reflect on those times and that knowledge all the time in order to come up with new product concepts.

SCN: What will be your next new solution to an old problem?
MC: I’m not sure that the problem I’d like to solve next is really an old problem, it’s probably a newer one. Easily the last five years, and maybe slightly more, I’ve really focused on the network side, and how with all this connectivity, audio devices should really become network appliances. I’ve been involved with moving in that direction at Biamp.

The whole AVB thing is very interesting to me. It’s very central in my thoughts. I really think that going forward that’s the right direction. We’ve been involved with AVB for a year, but we’ve been involved in the networking side of audio since 2002. At Biamp we have definitely kept our eye on emerging technologies and how things are changing.

Around two and a half years ago we heard a presentation on AVB, and just from the description of it I thought that if this really catches fire, this sounds like the way to go. AVB was still in its infancy then and then over the next year and a half or so it started to develop, and then it came to the point of this is real we as a company need to start doing something with this.
There’s a fine line when you’re a manufacturer—you can’t jump on every new thing because a.) it’s got to be available, and b.) you need to know that it’s going to be around so you can supply products. You can’t change with the wind, but you still have to make educated risks. I think enough happened with AVB that it made sense.

SCN: What is AVB going to mean to the average integrator?
MC: Overall, AVB is going to be a better network experience for everyone. Because what happens right now is a lot of people get scared of networks, but AVB will make it easier to get into networks. Having audio and video data living on the same network as other data and not having to think about whether it’s separated here or there will not only make the integrator’s life potentially easier but it also potentially gives the IT person an easier go, too.

The integrator that we know today is going to get pushed more and more into the network world. If they’re not already there, they probably need to be there. To me that’s what’s going to separate integrators. If you look at products, not only from us but other companies, it doesn’t matter if it’s a speaker, amplifier, signal processing company, video company, they’re all doing something with the network.

SCN: Why do you think they’re all doing something with the network?
MC: The cable infrastructure is ubiquitous, the way to route things around is also the same, and we use the same network hardware. And it becomes cheaper—the cabling is cheaper, the network hardware is cheaper—because we are leveraging the buying power and the high technology of these big computer companies.

If the audio industry came out with a super cool networking technology and said it will only run on this really special switch that only can be made by a handful of people, it would never catch on because that switch would be too costly. When you walk into a building today it’s already wired for networking. So you can come in with a device and say, “Hey I can put this on your network, you can have audio in this room and it can transmit across the building over your network,” and you don’t have to pull a 600-foot twisted pair cable.

SCN: How is that going to change the AV model?
MC: As AV integrators become more network savvy, they will also need to know how to talk to IT directors. I attended a conference once where the audio industry was described as a bottom-up sell, while the IT industry is a top-down sell. We’re not conditioned normally in the audio world to talk to “C Level” people. That’s not who typically makes the decision on what audio system you’re going to put in. However the C Level person can be the one making decisions on network purchases. So somehow we’re going to have to learn to go top-down as well, because what we’re seeing is certainly in the industry there’s a trend of people of IT departments absorbing the AV department or the AV decisions—they may not even have an AV department. So at that point, you’re talking to different players.

The first step in learning how to talk to an IT guy is… Take some networking classes—Microsoft or Cisco certification classes—and learn the language. It’s sort of like when you start out in the audio industry. You may not know how to talk the audio jargon, but the more you talk to people in the industry, all of a sudden you know what everyone’s pain points are. I’d also read some books and stay ahead of the curve, attend conferences, just get involved at that level.