Meet the HARMAN Luxury Audio Team
Name: Todd Eichenbaum
Position/Job Title: Director of Engineering
With HARMAN Since July 2013
With Meet The HARMAN Luxury Team, our goal is for you to get to know us better. Each edition we’ll be featuring a different member of the team, and this month it’s Todd Eichenbaum, Director of Engineering.
How would you describe what you do in your current role?
I wear many hats, but that’s the way I like it. I work with our product management team to help flesh out product concepts. I work with our engineering team to develop the hardware architecture, and in particular with our principal analog engineer on ideas for circuit topologies. I work with our project management team to help organize development projects and keep them moving forward. I work with our suppliers to help ensure they know what we want and we give them what they need. My most enjoyable role, though, is listening to the products and working with the engineering team to “voice” the products and wring out every ounce of performance we possibly can.
What did you study in school? Did you always imagine yourself doing something like what you’re doing now, or did the fates just take you in that direction?
My degrees are in Electrical Engineering. Yes, I always imagined myself doing what I’m currently doing, and I have always considered myself very fortunate to have been able to break into this industry right out of school and stay in it for the last 32 years.
Share with us a little bit of your career arc.
My first audio job was an internship with Koss Stereophones in Milwaukee (my home town) the summer of 1987, between my two years of graduate school. Toward the end of graduate school, I interviewed for and accepted a position with a/d/s (remember them?) in Boston. Just before I was due to leave for Boston, a/d/s fell on hard financial times, and I instead wound up accepting a position as a design engineer at Krell here in Connecticut. I met and worked with many wonderful people, some of whom have remained friends for life. (And two of whom introduced me to my wife.) After seven years at Krell, I moved to Phoenix in 1995 and spent three years working on high end aftermarket car audio as a senior engineer at Precision Power (a/k/a PPI). The mid ‘90s, of course, was car audio’s heyday—it was great fun and an opportunity to work with more wonderful people. In 1998, for a variety of reasons, it was time to come back to Connecticut. I returned to Krell in an expanded engineering role for another 14 years. I tallied up at least 60 new products I worked on during my total of 21 years at Krell, each of which was an invaluable learning experience. In 2013, however, it was time to move on, and I found this position at HARMAN through mutual friends of the former VP of Luxury Audio. It has been the biggest challenge of my career and very rewarding. I have had the pleasure of assembling a great engineering team — some former colleagues who are now colleagues again, and some who were new to me — all of whom are very talented at what they do.
What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?
Every project, no matter how simple you think it will be, is going to serve up at least one challenge that you never would have expected. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance, surround yourself with a team of people whose viewpoints and thought processes are different enough from your own that you will learn a new and better way to meet that challenge.
Any other advice you would offer people just starting out in this industry?
If you’re looking to enter the industry as an engineer, get a good theoretical and practical foundation; having both is greater than the sum of the two. Regardless of what aspect of the industry is of interest, learn as much as you can. Read and, above all, listen. Trust what you hear. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people in the industry. Most of the people I have met and worked with are really nice and approachable, which should come as no surprise: their jobs are to make products which have the sole purpose of bringing people happiness.
What are you most proud of in your life?
My sons. (My wife played a rather instrumental role there too, I might add…)
When did you first realize you had a passion for music or audio? Was there any one song, band or movie that did it for you?
It was so long ago that it’s difficult to say. I grew up in a house where music of some form was always playing, whether on a table radio, on a sound system, or on our piano. There was so much music from so many genres at my house that there was not any one in particular that did it for me. My father, and especially my brother, had an interest in the equipment as well as the music, and their influence combined with my childhood fascination with electronics led me here.
What gear are you rocking at home these days?
Purchased when I was a much younger man, but still in regular use: Thorens TD-126 MkIII turntable. From my previous role: Krell Resolution 1 speakers. From my current role: Mark Levinson No519 digital audio player, No526 preamp, No536 monaural power amps.
What current technology impresses you the most?
Streaming. No, it’s not the latest, but I love that people are applying the power of sophisticated computers and high speed internet connections to let us search for and listen to almost any music we want. (This is likely the result of scars remaining from hours spent calling radio station request lines as a kid.)
What’s your favorite music genre?
The desert island question of course. If you were marooned for eternity and could only listen to three albums, what would they be?
It is completely impossible to pick only three albums. Nevertheless, I will list three albums below, all of which, at various times and for various reasons, have greatly improved my life. In no particular order.
Steely Dan: “The Royal Scam”
Buddy Rich: “Class of ‘78” (originally a direct-to-disc)
Oscar Peterson: “Oscar Peterson Jam, Montreux ‘77”