Envelop Is Building A Nightclub For Audio Nerds

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We’ve been stuck in stereo for too long. Ambisonics is the future of audio, where sound can come from any direction in a 3D space. But there are few places to listen to this type of music, and it’s even harder for artists to create it.

That’s why a team of top-notch engineers are Kickstarting ‘Envelop’, an open source ambisonic music composition platform, and an ambisonic nightclub with 24 speakers and 4 subwoofers where that music can be played.

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Envelop has already built the audio hardware and software for what may become the most high-fidelity public listening space in world. Now it’s trying to raise just $27,000 to install the sound system so it can start hosting concerts, deep listening parties, ambisonic music composition workshops, and more events in San Francisco.

Here’s a look at Envelop’s Kickstarter video:

Envelop will preview its sound system tonight with a free launch party concert at SF’s Public Works venue featuring a performance by Blackbird Blackbird. Donations to Envelop’s Kickstarter can score patrons access to private concerts with electronic music virtuosos like Tycho and Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation.

Audio Virtual Reality

The initial Envelop installation will be a 75-person capacity room inside a new San Francisco entertainment complex in the Dogpatch district called The Midway. With an opening planned this summer, The Midway will feature a 3000-person DJ venue, a show kitchen with stadium seating for cooking classes, and have Envelop nestled inside to serve as an audio sanctuary and chill room during big events.

With Envelop’s software, artists will be able to create audio virtual reality. They could recreate a real-world scene, make music that spirals around you, or produce hypnotic soundscapes the confuse and elate the senses.

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Envelop co-founder Christopher Willits tells me that with its open-source framework, “We’ve shown artists, who’ve never even heard of this technology before, how to use the software in a matter of 15 minutes.” That means even if you can’t experience Envelop in SF, you could still benefit from their aural innovation, built in part by one of Facebook’s first data scientists, Roddy Lindsay.

“If you’re a performer and you’re using Ableton Live with a multi-track composition, you can take any track and place it anywhere in the space, and apply spatial effects to it” Lindsay tells me. The idea is for artists to design their own spatial audio effects, and then contribute them to create a “bank of effects that will grow over time”, says Lindsay.

9ad8a2de18dcf9014893843da6c13010_originalBy democratizing this rich sonic medium, Envelop could spur the creation of not only art, but sound science. There are plans to test the immersive sonic experiences for theraputic and brain chemistry effects.

Academic institutions like Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics have had a near-monopoly on ambisonic listening rooms. But if Envelop can get enough Kickstarter donations, it can liberate this audio technology from its ivory tower and bring it to more ears.