Peavey Electronics powers up the circuit boards again on Episode 5 of the “Peavey Monitor” podcast, featuring John Fera, Digital Design Engineer at Peavey. A 28-year veteran employee, Fera is one of the central players on Peavey’s guitar amp design team who has helped to engineer dozens of products used in 136 countries around the world. In this interview with Peavey General Manager Fred Poole, Fera describes his earliest days in Peavey’s upstart keyboard department, some of his favorite guitar amp and pedal projects, and what he loves most about Peavey company culture.
A young John Fera saw two choices in life that centered around two passions. “I got accepted to Berklee [College of Music] in Boston and had to choose between engineering and music,” he described. “For a lot of long and boring reasons, I ended up choosing engineering, but I figured I could marry the two things by doing music equipment. That’s what I’ve been doing since 1991.”
Fera graduated from the State University of New York - Buffalo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. After working for 3 years at a nearby research center, he seized his dream job opening at Peavey, joining the specialized keyboard team as a software coder. The career move required him to relocate to Meridian, Miss. While he braced for a culture shock in the Deep South, he immediately felt at home in the hallways of Peavey.
“I like the atmosphere because we’re working on music equipment. It’s a bunch of music nerds, but it’s laid back,” Fera said. “It almost feels like working in a music store, but you’re building gear instead of selling it.”
Eventually, Peavey phased out its keyboard production, and Fera, a gigging guitarist, seized his next opportunity to join the guitar engineering team. Today, he specializes in digital circuit and embedded software design for audio products, including guitar amps, bass amps, effects processors, instruments, and mixers. Working on the kind of gear he would want to use on his own gigs has kept his engineering instincts in tune. He’s often tasked with explaining the “why” or “why not” for new product ideas. It’s not just a science but an art to take what seems like an impossible idea and transform it into a real product.
“You’re looking for that diamond in the rough,” Fera explained. “You’re looking for that really original idea and think, ‘Whoa, somebody needs to be doing that.’”
Fera is grateful to work in an environment that welcomes new ideas but also debates them at length. At times, Peavey founder and CEO Hartley Peavey will join in the debate. Fera believes that product disagreements are never personal at Peavey, and employees enjoy “freedom of speech” in the design process that eventually results in better products.
What are some of John Fera’s favorite Peavey products that he’s worked on over the course of nearly three decades and what is he currently working on? What are some of his biggest pet peeves about pedal boards and pedals that can help you preserve guitar tone? Find out on Episode 5 of the “Peavey Monitor” podcast.