Totally understand. Happy to explain my role/involvement, and my background.
A friend of mine is funding the project. He knew I did technology commercialization and product development for premium/high-end audio products. This has been my entire career. I started obsessively collecting and reading Hi-Fi magazines and tech/computer mags when I was … 11? I was a weird kid, lol. The product creators and engineers applying ‘real tech’ to audio products were my heroes.
My first audio-tech start-up was late 90’s/early 00’s and positioned as a technology supplier; networkable DSP based amplifier modules. Classic too early story. Most of the heavyweight brands at the time dismissed it out of hand. Class-D amplifier technology could never sound ‘Hi-Fi worthy’ and networked music/audio in homes? Who’d ever want to buy that!? Fun fact: The exact part we settled on using in our modules after lots of architecture fooling was recently introduced as a groundbreaking innovation by a well known character in the Hi-Fi industry.
That company was called N.M.I. Devices (Network Media Interface). We only had a landing/contact page because our goal was to be the source of innovation for big brands so there’s basically no record of it’s existence.
Next I decided to try my hand at the consumer Hi-Fi space. That company was called Mass Fidelity. We had a slow start. First we made traditional Hi-Fi stuff. Speakers and amps. That wasn’t make ends meet. Because of industry friends I knew that Sonos was growing like crazy - even though most consumers hadn’t heard of them. Lots of installers were spec’ing them in because it eliminated a huge expense for them - wire pulling - and consumers could use their existing computers to control everything which was a big deal at the time.
I decided to pivot into that space because my other love - ‘computer tech’ - could be applied. We built our own Linux distro (StereOS - too good to be true or what? lol) and I worked with a friend in the Philippines to create the hardware for a ‘developer system’ that I showed at a Hi-Fi show in Montreal. We integrated Grooveshark - I had become friends with one of the founders (RIP), YouTube, and personal storage. Because we had such limited resources, we got around the app thing - which was an absolute nightmare at the time; blackberry needed to be supported, and it wasn’t clear if Palm’s new smartphone was going to be a hit or not, lol - by broadcasting a website from the systems that could be password protected if desired, but more importantly easily accessible by any phone or computer.
Too early again. For clarity, too early to get strong support from distributors in the global Hi-Fi sales channels. Squeezebox had an early adopter following but hadn’t blown up/been acquired by Logitech. Sonos was in a sort of purgatory in the CI channels. The idea of consumers wanting to pull music from streaming services and home networks and blast it around the house in the context of ‘Hi-Fi grade equipment’ was still too weird. However, I did have two other things that I’d been working on.
One was a bluetooth DAC, which was initially sneered at. Until they listened to it and saw how easy the experience was. That was the first product ever listed on the apt-X website.
Then I got into advanced acoustic rendering technologies which IMHO is the future, but who knows how long it’ll take. The technology I first worked with was provided by a Swiss crew, and it was acquired/integrated into Sennheiser’s Ambeo program. They’ve gotten the closest to how I think the technology should be used.
After that, some consulting for big audio-tech/Hi-Fi companies, and joining forces with some friends to bring a company called Periodic Audio to life. We’ve got some pretty awesome stuff about to drop. That company’s mission has been compact, high-value, and cutting edge electromechanical/electronics implementations. No over-ears though.
A few years into the Periodic Audio journey, my friend - who’s funding the project - asked me to work with them on the concept of a headphone that had tubes integrated into it. That’s Ecoute.
You should have seen the first prototypes they showed me. LOL. To be fair, it actually worked and used ‘real’ tubes. But it would’ve been a nightmare to produce, and virtually impossible for the customer to maintain - which you have to do with tubes.
Initially my view was that the tube part should be moved outboard as an accessory to be done properly. But to Kendal’s credit (one of the founders) he stuck to his vision and ended up finding and introducing me to the NuTube part.
At the time, there were no mobile products using it. It had only been integrated into some pro stuff for stage musicians. Then I found a presentation Nelson Pass did on it. He did an exploration of the device and came to the conclusion that not only did it work just like an S.E.T. stage, but that it was very well implemented and suitable for battery operation.
That’s the only stamp I needed on it to move forward. Nelson Pass is one of very few people in the world that have allocated the time to plunge the depths of what’s missing in measurements as they relate to audio amplification and how those missing elements and seemingly inconsequential details that can sometimes be observed impact our perception of reproduced sound.
The first design that integrated the NuTube didn’t sound that great. It was more of a proof of concept though. But having the experience of hearing ‘the first pass’ at hundreds of Hi-Fi products, if you’re paying attention, you acquire the ability to hear potential. It irrefutably had that; in spades.
I talked to my friend who’s funding it a few days ago, not even about this project, but he said they were getting ready to launch. The first prototypes were working well before covid. That threw a monkey wrench into timelines, but in the end I think a blessing in disguise. A lot has happened on the technology front since then that will yield a much more exciting product, and we’ve had time to play with lots of little details.
So, while I don’t know exact timelines as I’m not in the day to day, I do know it’s coming soon and it’s technology platform will be a lot more mature than if it was launched years ago, as originally intended.