Apple designer you’ve never heard of is making noise
Stringer says Cell Apha is just the first in a larger product line. For now, he is convinced that Cell offers unique value because it delivers a sonic dimension that others have not even thought of. To move beyond our current soundscapes and enter the world of spatial audio, he argues, we have to move beyond monophonic and stereophonic to – wait for it –triphonic. Yes, that’s a word coined by Syng. “It had to happen,” says Stringer of the triphonic era he just invented, “because we’re trying to establish the special stable standard that prevails. We believe we have the only technology that fills the map. “
Stringer refers to the coming era of mixed reality where sound – not just music, but everything we hear – will have to match or exceed ambient sound sources in the physical world. A multicellular speaker setup can present music, or even a theatrical performance, in a way that mimics the experience of a live performance. Essentially, it creates the soundtrack to the holographic gigs you just know are coming. (If only we would have had these holographs and cells before the lockdown.)
Stringer also showed me a few tips that weren’t part of the initial release, but which highlight the possibilities of Syng. One demo involved a specially recorded version of “Eleanor Rigby” by a string quartet where Stringer’s team was able to isolate each musician. Using the Cell app, they showed me how you can drag and drop each instrument as if you were moving the real instruments to different parts of the room – violin on the sofa, cello by the kitchen door. In another demo, Syng’s staff acoustics engineer Elisabeth McMullin showed me how the system can integrate sounds from a recording (in this case a Radiohead song) with other songs, or even sound effects like footsteps, birds or sirens. In these cases, Syng essentially provides the equivalent of a soundboard in a recording studio, where you can turn the volume down or up for each track. But instead of making the track louder or quieter, you move it through space.
Syng, located in Venice, Calif., Now has around 50 employees and backers have invested $ 15 million so far. It’s a tribute to Stringer’s call that his investors include both the lawyer representing Apple in this patent lawsuit and the opposing lawyer. He reports the enthusiastic responses of the best musicians and producers (whose names he will not reveal). “For three years now, I’ve been giving demo after demo because my heart is to stir the passions of creators,” he says. “These people need tools like this to take their creativity to the next level. We hear a lot that there just isn’t enough space in stereo to do what they want.
Stringer himself has never been so moved. At Apple, he had always been in the background. He says he was okay with that, perhaps because of a long-standing reluctance to engage in public places. But now, as the 56-year-old CEO (even though he looks like he’s stepped out of a Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter reunion), he feels rejuvenated. “I just knew I had to do something else,” he says. “It really had to be outside. To come up with a solution that you want to support, you need to be involved throughout the process. You can’t just be a stopover on a journey. It just had to be that, it just had to do something. It’s when you’re comfortable enough to be uncomfortable. “
I hear it.
Christopher Stringer was on Apple’s design team in 2001 when the company released its best-selling music player, the iPod. In July 2004, I wrote a Newsweek cover story documenting how the product became a cultural artefact in its own right: