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Reverb: TONZ uses machine learning for high-quality audio transformation

Duncan MacConnell said he wanted to give budding musicians access to the same high-quality audio found in studios with expensive equipment.

MacConnell, a Montreal-based software engineer, audio researcher and musician – and co-founder of TONZ said the barrier to entry in audio content creation is quite low. There are a lot of different programs to get you mixing music.

“The barrier to achieving quality is still expensive,” he said.

Studios have tens of thousands invested in different devices to improve audio quality, resulting in millions spent on equipment overall.

He said what Tonz is doing is using a neural network, machine-learning system to model the expensive production equipment.

MacConnell said their system is different from others in that they’re upholding the non-linear interactions at the lowest level of the digital signal. Others measure different circuits and then code things like distortion to create an effect.

“We do it a totally different way that, first of all, can’t be coded and second of all, just sort of has the capability to model things real-world interactions more accurately,” he said.

They don’t create custom code for each aspect of music production. That means they can keep the cost down for their music microphone plugins.

MacConnell said that makes it accessible to any musician, or audio content creator.

His experience operating recording studios in the past, plus the software engineer experience, was the perfect combination for MacConnell.

“I instantly knew that technology could be made into this product when we started developing it, so it just made sense that I came to this role,” he said.

Fast-changing sector: MacConnell

The TONZ team of five is jumping into a busy, and rapidly-evolving music scene.

Participating in the new Reverb Music Tech Accelerator with Platform Calgary, particularly with France-based companies, brought together different perspectives on the industry.

He said today’s music creators are young, digital-ready and have the platforms available to produce and disseminate music.

“The barrier to content creation is so low, and specifically in music, the tools are changing,” he said.  MacConnell said he still plays the piano and guitar – and that’s ancient for today’s artists.

“I’m already a dinosaur… I’m not too old at 34 years old.”

The plan is to have a product ready to go before the end of the year. After that, it’s further fundraising to continue development.

MacConnell said that investment in the music industry is an uphill battle. In a typical venture capital environment, music isn’t necessarily seen in the same light as other sectors.  Being a part of this group has helped them fine-tune the pitch to a world beyond music into audio transformation.

That’s where VCs are missing the boat, MacConnell said.

“We are very lucky to have a transformation technology,” he said.

“We don’t just have a product vision. We don’t just have a new way to do one thing. We have a new way of modeling, all different types of audio processing transformations.”