A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Neural Audio.
What: Neural Audio, based in Kirkland
What’s new: The garble and hiss that come with traditional radio disappear if stations opt for HD (high-definition) radio — digital radio that produces clean, crisp broadcasting with CD-quality.
What’s newer: Neural Audio’s technology piggybacks on the digital radio wave, offering broadcasters a way to offer 5.1 surround sound. Listeners with such systems can access radio stations in the format. Those without a system still get a richer sound.
The technology: Neural is pitching its technology to digital broadcast stations. Its appliances are compatible with the broadcaster’s existing infrastructure.
A tale of two geeks: Founders Robert Reams and Paul Hubert were working amid ants and cockroaches in a converted garage in the ’90s when they came across something that irked them: Recordings didn’t sound the same when compressed into the MP3 format. So they tried to figure out how listeners could hear exactly what the folks in the recording booths heard. Neural Audio was born.
The exterminator: In 2001, Geir Skaaden stepped in as chief executive and got rid of the cockroaches. “He gave us the business brain. … He helped us develop technology that made sense and had value and was useful,” said Reams. The company is now “very profitable,” Skaaden said.
What’s in a name: “Neural Audio” describes how the company’s technology works — if you understand engineering lingo. It refers to the term “neural networks,” a branch of computer science that mimics how a brain solves problems in a self-correcting loop.
HD radio: XM Satellite Radio was the first to get onboard. Neural Audio works with broadcasters at various levels, including Infinity, NBC, ABC and FOX.
Sampling the technology: Songs that best showcase Neural Audio are old Beatles songs, Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Motown classics and No Doubt’s “Hella Good.”
— Christina Siderius