By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia

2011 CES Showstopper - GenAudio's Sound is a Beautiful Noise
Every year when CES comes to Las Vegas new technology rules and there is always plenty to see, but this year when it came to what could be heard, GenAudio was a showstopper as it presented demos in the company’s suite at the Venetian Hotel between January 6th and 9th.  Based in Colorado, the firm was founded in 2003 by CEO Jerry Mahabub, creator of AstoundSound, a 4D sound localization cue technology that can be integrated into software and hardware applications utilized by professionals and consumers alike.  The system changes the way people listen to audio by providing them with a 360-degree spherical sound field experience.

Jerry has over 22 years of experience in R&D developing and commercializing sophisticated technologies for hundreds of companies worldwide.  He has been researching audio technology since he was a teenager and is finally satisfied with how the AstoundSound process can be used to enhance music, movies, games and other forms of entertainment.  He developed the technology by studying how the brain processes information, rather than by utilizing the traditional “dummy head model” Mahabub believes that by taking this course of action he has eliminated the problems and issues facing his competition and offers a 30 day free trial of the consumer version, Astound Extender, just by downloading it off the website. He compared this new enhanced sound technology with the evolution of television.  “You think that after watching color TV for an extended period of time they could go back to black and white?  Well, that’s exactly what we’re hoping for here.”

Basically, the AstoundSound process can provide a Surround Sound experience using any two channel speaker system including headphones. Since 80% of the population worldwide uses two channel audio customers will immediately receive a better listening experience from their DVDs and music.  Professionals like Paul Massey, who was the sound mixer on “The Chronicles of Narnia” have commented that what was needed to make this task a reality was a software solution, not new hardware and AstoundSound more than fits the bill.  Acting as an enhancement, it very cleanly lifts the audio.  “You give your music an upgrade,” Jerry said.

Aside from the consumer version, there is also a professional plug in for Pro Tools and other audio units that took eight years to develop.  Launched in 2006, the product had work flow integration issues that needed to be refined, but now those have all been resolved.  “We’re ready to strike the market like no other,” Mahabub stated.  Refusing to be viewed as just another plug in, he is confident that no other product on the market can do what AstoundSound can.  To prove this GenAudio has developed a program combining 3D Cadd with audio demonstrating how the plug in operates, otherwise it’s difficult to show how the 3D user interface works on a two dimensional screen.  Acting cautiously, the company is very careful when it comes to protecting the technology.  “We don’t actually sell it.  We control it,” Jerry said, which ensures that no other firm can reverse engineer the system.  Instead, the firm prefers to provide the tools and allow others to utilize the process.

Mahubub’s philosophy as GenAudio’s CEO has been to “hire people that are smarter than you.  That’s the key.”  He has surrounded himself with a team of experts that includes Chris Fisher from National CineMedia, former New Line Cinema SVP of Post Production Brent Kaviar and award-winning free lance Sound Mixer Matt Marrin and is working hard to position the company for success, which means expanding on the markets and applications the process is being used for.  One of those areas being explored is independent film.  As the owner of Astound Studios, Jerry has begun working with producers who can utilize the new technology.  “You come to us.  You put our trailer in the beginning so our trailer is part of reel one.  We’re part of your press releases.  We’re talked about.  We get our brand out there.  We get our exposure out there.  You let the other people know we did some really special audio processing for this independent film,” he explained.  One of The first of these movies, a documentary “Discover the Gift” directed by filmmaker Demian Lichtenstein, is completed and set for release this spring and Jerry is hoping to have more projects in the works soon.  He believes action, sci-fi fantasy, horror and thrillers are all good fits for the technology, but Mahbub will consider other documentaries as well so long as they have some cool background.