Coming soon to a theatre near you: Better sound from a Latvian inventor

More than 20 years in the making, a Latvian invention is about to transform the audio industry. With this software and hardware solution, sound emitted from a loudspeaker becomes clearer and more natural than ever.

The applications are numerous, ranging from high-end sound studios, cinemas, theatres to home entertainment systems, computers and sound players on the move—car audio or portable audio including MP3 docking stations—and even outdoor concert venues.

The technology is called CONEQ and its inventor, Latgale-born Raimonds Skuruls, has spent most of his life looking at better sound reproduction from loudspeakers. The first time the technology was publically demonstrated was during the “Lāčplēsis” opera performance more than two decades ago. Later, Skuruls worked as a sound engineer with Latvian rock group Jumprava. In 2004, Skuruls together with investor Viesturs Sosārs formed Real Sound Lab.

CONEQ is already featured in products such as the Hitachi HDTV Ultravision and Wooo brand plasma and LCD television models, Panasonic VIERA brand Plasma television products and Kenwood music entertainment systems. Los Angeles-based Mi Casa Studios, renowned for top-end sound quality on film projects such as Lord of the Rings, The Golden Compass and other blockbuster films, is also using the CONEQ audio correction system.

To date the company has invested more than LVL 1 million and has also received a significant proportion in European Union funds. Today Real Sound Lab has offices in both the United States and Japan, plus a dealer network stretching to the other side of the world. In 2008 Skuruls received the most innovative product award from the Ministry of Economics and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and in 2009 was the third person to receive the Latvian Academy of Sciences Walter Zapp (inventor of the Minox camera) award for his loudspeaker correction technology. It is especially encouraging to see the company adopt the model whereby the non-key competences such as programming, hardware design and manufacturing are outsourced to other local Latvian companies and to the University of Latvia.

Eager to experience CONEQ, I visited the headquarters of Real Sound Lab located in an understated office building just outside the centre of Rīga. Atis Straujums, director of development, was quick to correct my preconceptions about CONEQ. This technology is all about correcting loudspeakers so that they can accurately reproduce the original sound source. Correcting room acoustics is another topic. In other words, if you play recorded violin through a CONEQ-corrected loudspeaker in a subway station, it should sound like a violinist playing in a subway station and not like a violinist playing in a concert hall or elsewhere.

Straujums chose to correct the monitor speakers connected to his laptop. With a measurement microphone attached to the laptop and running the CONEQ software, it was a simple matter of waving the microphone in front of each of the speakers in a zig-zag pattern for no more than two minutes. From the accumulated measurement data of more than 300 points the CONEQ software calculated the acoustic power frequency response of each of the speakers and a correction filter was created. The difference in sound quality was quite noticeable.

The CONEQ software comes in both Starter and Workshop versions, is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh computer systems, and starts at around EUR 100.

For professional producers in studios (or audiophiles who want to apply CONEQ to their home entertainment systems) a rack-mounted APEQ hardware equaliser is also available. This unit, currently available in a 2-channel configuration and later this year as a 8-channel unit, is loaded with the appropriate correction filters and placed before the amplifier and speakers.

But the real market for CONEQ won’t be direct sales to home users. The main strategy is to approach the big names in the audio and multimedia industry and convince them to begin incorporating this technology into their TVs, entertainment and speaker systems, portable players, mobile telephones and other consumer and professional audio appliances. The first wave has already begun and ongoing marketing efforts will ensure a Latvian success story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *