“Our business effectively started in a bar in Stuttgart, well past midnight, some time in 2004. Well, that’s the beginning of our story,” recounts David Pringle, managing director of Soundtheory, a software company based in the UK, Europe and Australia which developed a product to make audio sound better and named it after an Icelandic waterfall, Gullfoss.
“I used to manage the software development of a computer games company and we had just taken over a group in Stuttgart. As part of our “get to know you” day, we travelled from London to Germany to meet the new team. It was in the very early hours when I confessed that I had once-upon-a-time been a nuclear physicist. “You’ll need to meet our physicist, Andy, in that case,” was the reply.
“So Andy and I duly met, and we discussed everything from the origins of quantum physics to audio software. Andy asked me if I was interested in new possibilities for polyphonic pitch detection. What an intellectually exciting offer! And so we began collaborating.
“Fast forward 12 years and there were three of us. Andy was in Germany doing the hard maths and theory. He had developed a brilliant perceptual model of human hearing based on quantum mechanical mathematics that no-one had ever considered before. Andreas was in Spain creating the framework for our application software. And there was me in Australia trying to tie things together.
“We were destined to be the longest running start-up in history. As we were self-funded and running out of cash, I said that it was now or never. We needed a product for the market within a year. Well, necessity is the mother of invention. Andy and Andreas came up with the concept of Gullfoss. And so we incorporated the company Soundtheory Ltd, and got to work fashioning a product to sell to real people.
Andreas, Andy and David Pringle meet renowned film score mixer Alan Meyerson (third from left).
“Our product Gullfoss is a very clever bit of software that, to put it simply, makes audio sound better,” explains Pringle. “Since our software perception model knows how humans hear, we also know to make things sound clearer, by maximising the amount of information that gets processed by the brain.
“Gullfoss can do things that other software can’t do, and it’s exceptionally easy to use. It comes in the form of a software ‘plug-in’ that fires up inside any audio workstation available for Windows or Mac computers.
“Gullfoss is used by a very wide range of people spanning Hollywood music composers and major record label sound engineers all the way to home-based music enthusiasts. Many thousands of such people now fire up Gullfoss every day,” adds Pringle.
Thriving in lockdown
As a software company Soundtheory sells its product on the web and Pringle acknowledges it is lucky to have been both pandemic and Brexit-proof. “Our company has always operated remotely in a distributed Zoom video conference type of format,” he says. “So, lockdowns didn’t present a logistical challenge for us. And, very fortunately, many customers wanted to make music at home during lockdown last year, so our business thrived.
“Although we are a UK-registered company with employees in Europe, we haven’t been affected much by Brexit. Our business model is international digital delivery of software via an electronic merchant based in the USA, who looks after all of our country-specific sales tax issues. So, we’ve been fairly Brexit agnostic in a business sense. A year ago we were assuming that both the pandemic and Brexit would be harmful to us, so we have breathed a collective sigh of relief,” he says with a smile.
FX in effect
As a company all Soundtheory’s earnings are in US dollars, but it mainly spends in euros, pounds and Australian dollars.
“For us, it’s vital to have a foreign currency provider that is good value, reliable and efficient,” posits Pringle, who is Scottish but based in Adelaide, Australia. “CurrencyFair is all those three things.”
“Luckily, I've known CurrencyFair for some time, as I started to use it for personal currency exchanges in 2014. So it was highly convenient to set up a CurrencyFair business account for Soundtheory in 2018, when we first started selling product.
“I’ve done over 850 transactions and I’ve had a seamless experience since then. I can’t rate CurrencyFair highly enough!
“Traditional banks are a very expensive way to do foreign currency transactions, and often they use old-fashioned legacy software for businesses as well. We’ve saved many tens of thousands of dollars on transactions with CurrencyFair,” he admits.
As a growing borderless business Soundtheory has its sights set firmly on the future. “When it comes to software for processing audio, the two major shifts in the coming years will be the gradual but inexorable increase in processing power of computers and the rise of AI,” explains Pringle.
“Already, many of our competitors use AI in a way that we didn’t foresee even 3 or 4 years ago. As with every new technology, there are good and bad ways to implement AI. We’ll soon be complementing our work with appropriate (good!) AI to help leverage our technological advantage.
“Shortly we are launching Gullfoss Live, which will let sound producers use Gullfoss for live music events and broadcast. Since we’re a very customer-focused business, we’re providing this for free to all our users. Our aim is to keep our customers satisfied and enthused as our business grows,” he concludes.
Now there’s a sound idea if ever there was one!
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Soundtheory had not received any gratuity in respect of this article.