Research into audio-based real-time digital signal processing (DSP) led to the creation of a spinout company, Signal Wizard Systems Ltd, of which the university holds a 20% share (see Appendix 1 for timeline).
The current flagship product is vsound (pictured above), a revolutionary and unique effects pedal that modifies the sound of an electric violin, producing an output that matches the timbre and voice of a high quality acoustic violin. There are good reasons why this is a commercially attractive proposition; a typical electric violin costs in the region of £200; a Stradivarius costs £10M or more. By characterizing carefully these treasured instruments, it is possible to modify the sound of electric instruments to mimic very closely their acoustic cousins. The vsound brand is unique to the University of Manchester and represents a compelling impact activity, in particular in the minds of vsound customers, all of whom are professional musicians or scientists.
The first small production run of vsound (50 units) was made possible by UMIP, who made an investment of £10,000 in the company (Signal Wizard Systems Ltd), in return for a 20% share of the business. Vsound was launched in July 2018, and so far 100 systems have been sold, directly via the website, via our distributors in the USA (the Electric Violin Shop), the EU (Elvari Violins) and Europe outside of the EU (JV). Many of our customers are from the USA, but they also include those in Canada, the UK, Israel, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland.
As part of our activities on the pathway from research to impact, vsound will be exhibited at the 2019 NAMM Show, in Anaheim, California, from 24-27 January. NAMM is an annual event in the US that is the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products, pro-audio and event tech industry. It is visited by professional musicians, engineers, developers and academics working in the music industry and music acoustics research. It is not a public event, but specifically intended for those working in the audio industry. The NAMM exhibition in January 2019 so far has 115,000 registrants, 7,000 brands, over 400 educational sessions and 150 networking events. Clearly, this event dwarfs traditional scientific conference by two orders of magnitude, and represents an opportunity to promote our research at the University of Manchester, and vsound, far more widely and with more compelling impact than any conventional scientific meeting.