By Mike Garrison
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
For this week's Talk It Up Tuesday interview we sit down with Spektrum Surface Product Development manager, Nick Malato, to discuss the latest and greatest from Spektrum, SMART technology, the future for the brand, and more!
LiveRC: Welcome Nick to this week’s edition of Talk It Up Tuesday! A lot has changed for you in the industry since last time we spoke here back in 2013. For those who may not know you, tell us a little about how you got started in R/C racing.
Nick: Thanks for having me back!! My dad actually flew r/c planes for a few years – it was never quite exciting enough for me. One day at our local hobby shop I saw a Tamiya Road Wizard and had to have it. After a couple of weeks of playing in the driveway with it, they dragged me to the race track – literally, I didn’t want to go. Some 30 years later, I can’t get to the track enough!!!
LiveRC: Aside from being a racer you have worked within the industry for a number of years doing a variety of roles. What are all the various roles you’ve played in R/C and for which brands over the years?
Nick: I have been lucky enough to work in around the industry for a long time. One of my first jobs ever was in a hobby shop. I have worked with a couple different HobbyTown USA locations. For a couple of years I managed the old original Long Island Raceway. That led me to work with Trinity for several years in sales, development and warehouse operations. TQ Racing was small chassis company that I helped with operations, development, marketing and team management. A great time with Hobby Authority that let me work with the Viper and Maclan brands with marketing, development, team management and support. Which lead to my current position with Horizon and Spektrum.
LiveRC: You are now happily at home with Horizon Hobby, and more specifically Spektrum RC. What are your daily roles and tasks at Spektrum?
Nick: I am the Spektrum Surface Product Development Manager. On a day to day basis its working to maintain our current portfolio of surface transmitters, receivers and servos. As well, as development of new ideas and projects. Working with our surface brands like TLR, Axial and Arrma to make sure Spektrum is covering their needs and developing new products. Its everything from design of a new item to negotiating prices on parts.
LiveRC: How much of your time is spent in the office vs. out in the field either testing, working shows, supporting the team, etc.?
Nick: A large amount of time is spent in the office, working with our engineering team and vendors on product development, scheduling, testing and research. I am lucky enough to get out to some events to support our customers and race team – I was at the ROAR Nationals recently. We do get out to test quite often, and I am typically trying something different or new when I go club racing.
LiveRC: Spektrum has released an extensive lineup of new products recently ranging from servos, radios, batteries, chargers, and power supplies. Tell us about some of these new products.
Nick: We are always looking to release something new! The new 6340BL brushless servo was announced recently. It is a new high end 1/10 servo with great performance, metal case, and new look for Spektrum. And of course all the new SMART items.
LiveRC: What exactly is the new Spektrum SMART technology, and what are the benefits of it?
Nick: So much good stuff coming from the SMART technology program. First, all the Spektrum SMART batteries for surface and air. They will have a chip in them that will identify the batteries characteristics. The chip knows the chemistry and charge rates needed. It will be easier for the user make sure they properly use their batteries without bad habits like overcharging/discharging. Also if the battery is not used, it will automatically (slowly) bring the battery down to storage level for better lifespan of the battery. On the SMART charger, with a SMART battery just plugging the battery, it will detect the type of battery and needed charge settings. Also you can review the batteries information to see number of full charges, and any times there was an issue with the battery. While they may not be super high charge rate like some chargers (right now), we did use the new S2100 charger at the ROAR Nationals to charge Dakotah Phend’s TLR22T 4.0 to a National Championship. You can use any type of battery with the SMART charger, you just don’t get the SMART info. They are so small and easy to use!
LiveRC: Spektrum was the pioneer in 2.4ghz technology in R/C radio systems, what is next for Spektrum?
Nick: The SMART Technology items announced are just the start, more information and products (battery and chargers) will be coming in the near future. I have a great new radio project I wish I could share…. Keep an eye out for the holiday season!
LiveRC: What is personally your favorite Spektrum product and why?
Nick: The DX6R is by far my favorite Spektrum product. It had a rough start… but with all the improvements we have made over the last year it’s a completely different radio from what many “think” it is. It has been fun working with our team on the updates - Dakotah Phend and Brian Kinwald have been great in the feedback and showing how great it is. The touch screen is just so easy to use the Raceware app for changes. It's really cool to customize your radio models with your car pictures. And now with so many esc’s having android apps its great to be able to do those adjustments right here through the 6R.
LiveRC: What is your personal recommendation in Spektrum equipment for an entry-level racer looking to upgrade their equipment (servo, radio, receiver, etc.)?
Nick: On the radio side.. DX5C is just a great value. It a high end style unit at a great price. If you are using lights, winches, etc – all the programmable switches make it easy to use. The SRS6000 receiver that comes with the SPM5110 adds stability that makes it so easy to drive in different conditions. On the servo side… that is pretty open, it really depends on your vehicle – too many good options to give just one. Personally, I have used 6180 in some Vattera and Axial vehicles.
LiveRC: What is your personal recommendation in Spektrum equipment for an experienced racer looking to compete with the pros (servo, radio, receiver, etc.)?
Nick: You know I am big 6R fan, but if you are not an Android guy (or girl) the DX5 Pro gives all the same features, controls and options in a more standard display. New SR2100 antenna less receiver has been well accepted and for servos the new 6340BL or our 6240 has been the reliable go to servo for our 1/10 team. 6390BL is growing in popularity on the 1/8 side.
LiveRC: Have things changed much working for Horizon from your standpoint since the purchase of Hobbico?
Nick: No changes… just busier! From the surface side for me working more with Axial and Arrma to see how Spektrum can support future projects. They have had some key input on projects we have been working on. A bunch of great people joined our team from the Hobbico side. It’s been really great seeing how Horizon is moving forward with the new combined efforts.
LiveRC: Silly Season is just around the corner, are there any major shocking new driver signings in the works at Horizon and/or Spektrum?
Nick: I hope so!! I really can’t say much… nice try for asking.
LiveRC: Which events can we expect to see you at next?
Nick: Next big event for me is the JConcepts Midwest Carpet Nationals at Windy City RC, then our Horizon Hobby Midwest Classic at Leisure Hours.
LiveRC: Nick, we’ve enjoyed talking with you, but it looks like you have plenty of projects to be finishing up, so we’ll let you get back to it! Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Nick: Thanks Mike, and everyone at LiveRC. I'd really like to thank my wife, Lorena, and son, Matthew, for supporting me and helping me to spend the time needed to work on these great projects. To all the Spektrum customers/racers out there for trying and using our products. We are working all the time to bring you more great products!! Wish I could show you the cool stuff sitting here on my desk!!!