Meet the Team James Todd

Meet the Team

Meet the HARMAN Luxury Audio Team

Name: James Todd
Position/Job Title: Senior Global Product Line Manager
With HARMAN Since 2018

With Meet The HARMAN Luxury Team, our goal is for you to get to know us better. In each edition we feature a different member of the team, and this month it's James Todd, Senior Global Product Line Manager – Luxury Audio.

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How would you describe what you do in your current role?
My work starts at the very beginning when a product is an idea or a concept. I work with immensely talented teams of hardware, software and mechanical engineers, and I must not omit the dedicated project managers. All work to make the concept a reality. It is up to me to nurture that concept through the design process to ensure it will offer the best solution for customers at a sensible cost and in a realistic time. Meeting all those criteria is immensely challenging but those concepts that make it through are all the better for it. Once a concept has made it to production, the GPLM gets to set it free in the marketplace – to take its place in our dealers’ store fronts and then into our customers' homes.

I am not alone in this task — there are three other Global Product Line Managers on our team, all looking after individual projects for new and exciting products. I work exclusively on electronic products such as integrated amplifiers, streamers and AV receivers with our team in Cambridge. It gives me great joy to work in this field as an audio enthusiast myself. I know the benefits such a product can bring to someone at home, both socially with friends and privately to wind-down after long days.

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?
I specialized in science and math at school. I then applied this at university when studying Audio Technology to follow in my father’s footsteps. He worked for over 25 years at Panasonic so we were surrounded by their products at home, including the revered Technics stack! I never imagined doing anything else and started my career in a local home appliance store before graduating into specialist audio retail after university.

How did your career path lead you to HARMAN?
I worked for over 15 years in front line specialist audio retail, including over seven years at a long-established retailer in London with an enviable reputation. There, I also worked on installed custom multi-room audio, video and lighting projects. These years were the highlight of my retail career, working with some of the best audio and video products for music and movies.

During that time, I had the pleasure of establishing some brilliant relationships with colleagues across the industry. Specialist audio is not a vast industry. Most of us know each other and mentor each other as we know it is best for this industry to retain the best people wherever possible.

Personally, my wife and I were ready to raise our family away from the hustle and bustle of the UK’s capital city and so I explored opportunities away from London. I was deliberate in my pursuit of a new challenge within the industry I know and love. So, it was time to experience what goes on within a manufacturer and I joined the great big HARMAN family.

What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?
I am lucky enough to do what I love, and I am sure that helps, but I have never really done anything I didn’t get a buzz from. So, I guess that would be lesson one, if there’s nothing to get you remotely excited about work, move on. Lesson two would be something I have learnt at HARMAN, that being part of a large matrix organization re-enforces: don’t try to do everything for everyone. Let others excel and stand on their own. Be excellent at what you do and let them be excellent at what they do. Praise and support each other, for that is true teamwork, and that is how we all get better. None of us in the HARMAN Luxury Audio Group are a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. We own what we do, and we rely on each other.

Any other advice you would offer people just starting out in this industry?
Train your ears and never stop listening. Regular listening to different products and solutions will arm you with a wealth of experience and knowledge of what is right, and what is not right. Regular reflective listening will arm you with the ability to listen to people (customers) with attention. This industry is full of opinion and conjecture, some of it is genuinely misleading, others are personal preference. It is important to know the difference and understand a customer’s personal preference from bias.

When it comes to critical listening, know your own ability to empower your ability to confidently critique. One very useful tool is HARMAN’s How to Listen tool, created by Dr. Sean Olive, Senior Research Fellow at HARMAN International, and past President of the Audio Engineering Society. It is a desktop application developed for the purpose of training and selecting listeners for audio product research and development. You can read more information here and download the application for Windows or Mac.

What are you most proud of in your life?
In my career, I have delivered large residential projects and been part of award-winning teams. Naturally, these achievements bring pride, but never lose sight of what is really important, those people who mean the most but are right in front of you every day. Nothing has made me prouder than becoming a father, being a part of the evolution of my first son from infant to a child who can read, write, tell stories, has desires and dreams. That really is the good stuff, and the hardest work of all!

When did you first realize you had a passion for music or audio?
“Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night,
I can see paradise by the dashboard light.”

RIP Meat Loaf, 2021.

What current technology impresses you the most?
It is sometimes quite hard to be really impressed with any technology when you immerse yourself in it every day. That being said, I am most impressed with acoustic optimization solutions of multiple loudspeakers and subwoofers in a room, in a single process. Extended sub bass, endless dynamics, and sublime musicality, with a single set of measurements. Love it!

What's your favorite music genre?
I’m told by the Genesis/Pink Floyd/Dire Straits brigade that I have bad taste in music, but I’ll listen to anything once! I am partial to Electonica (from Disco to House), Rock, '90s Indy, pre 2000 hip-hop, Country or even Opera! There are albums from each genre that resonate with me.

The desert island question, of course. If you were marooned for eternity and could listen to only three albums, what would they be?
1. Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell II
2. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
3. Metronomy – English Riviera

You have the floor. In closing, tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself.
I will finish with one bit of advice — never stop listening to albums. Music on demand offers an overwhelming amount of choice, makes it easy to listen to trending tracks and favorite tracks repeatedly. But if you're not listening to complete albums, you are missing out on a whole story. The best albums are better than any one track. They transport you away to another world and for me, at least, they can trigger the mental reset I need to relax and unwind. Each will be personal to you and something you relate to. So don’t worry about trends and what others have to say – each to their own!