NUGEN Audio’s Dr. Paul Tapper on ‘playing the long game’

AMI catches up with Paul Tapper, NUGEN Audio’s recently appointed CEO and the brains behind many of the original algorithms in use by the company’s products today…

How did NUGEN first come about and how were you involved in its creation?

NUGEN Audio started back in 2004 when co-founders Jon Schorah and I discovered a mutual interest in audio software, coming from very different directions. At that time, I was the lead programmer on a console games project with a leading UK game developer. Meanwhile, Jon was working as an EDM producer and DJ with a major UK record label.

When a mutual friend, who had booked a mastering studio to cut a track to vinyl, was told it wasn’t possible due to the stereo in the bass, we became interested in finding a solution to the problem through software. I applied my PhD in Pure Maths to provide a musically pleasing correction to the damaged audio with a software plugin, and after some design and useability work, NUGEN Audio’s first plugin was released. This was soon followed by more stereo-image related plugins, and then plugins exploring other applications of mathematics to music and audio in general.

NUGEN Audio’s UK office

How has the company’s ethos helped it to become a market leader and what role have you had in this?

Right from the outset, NUGEN Audio has been fully focused on providing solutions to real-life problems. Despite our fascination with, and love of, the technology and theory behind audio processing, we believe in the role of NUGEN being able to apply those techniques to create the tools that real users actually need day-to-day. The goal is always to enhance our users’ lives – either making existing challenges easier to overcome, or producing new and exciting possibilities to ignite the imagination.

“The goal is always to enhance our users’ lives – either making existing challenges easier to overcome, or producing new and exciting possibilities to ignite the imagination”

NUGEN has always endeavoured to identify product categories that are either new, or currently under-served, and then striven to create the most practically useful solutions in those categories. My personal involvement in this was initially the audio algorithm design and then software implementation of the products. Over the years my role has gradually transitioned into more management and business development, and led to my current role as CEO – although I do still enjoy being involved in the occasional technical discussion, and still offer advice on the audio processing.

Could you describe the company’s growth trajectory over the last few years? Do you plan to leverage that growth going forward?

We experienced rather rapid growth as a company about five years ago and since then have experienced more moderate sustained growth. We have used this as an opportunity to consolidate and upgrade our processes, infrastructure and staff team to match the increased scope of the company. Also, as our brand has become more established within the broadcast and cinema audio post-production communities, we have have been working hard on providing truly professional grade robustness in our software engineering, QA processes and our customer support. We know that our customers rely on our products to get their jobs done and we take this responsibility very seriously.

Are there plans to develop your current products? And what do you think has made them industry standards?

As a company, we are constantly listening to our customers’ feedback, through support queries, one-to-one conversations at tradeshows, site visits at customers’ facilities and semi-regular customer surveys. As a result of all this listening, we always have a large pile of feature requests, niggles to fix, new product ideas, wishes and pipe-dreams. So, we’re never short of ideas for developing our existing products or creating new ones, but, of course, the challenge is in deciding which ideas will add the most benefit and value to our customers.

I think a key part of the success of our loudness measurement and correction set of plugins is the Loudness Toolkit. It has become the industry standard for loudness, thanks to its robust reliability, great flexibility and versatility. It sometimes feels like every few months there is an update to (or new requirement of), the various international loudness standards, and we are devoted to keeping up with these and realising their potential in the best possible way in software. Our surround audio processing plugins, Halo Upmix and Halo Downmix, have also become something of industry standards. In this case, I believe this is due to the creative freedom given by the audio-processing algorithms, while ensuring that the final result is always pristine quality, undamaged audio.

Can you tell us about any developments in the pipeline with regards to future products?

We always have a wide array of different developments in-planning or underway, from bug fixes, usability improvements and feature extensions for existing products, to whole new product ranges, but I’m not going to tell you much about them… Just yet.

One really interesting project that we have in current active development, which I can allude to, is a collaboration with a UK university that utilises a unique new audio process to provide a new level of user control – currently unachievable with existing methods – to a much used common audio process. It’s always exciting to be on the cutting-edge of technology, and I personally really enjoy the challenge of taking some groundbreaking new ideas and making them practically applicable in software in a way that can really make a difference for users.

How would you summarise the NUGEN journey so far?

As with all fairly young companies, our journey has been a constant exploration, learning curve and an adventure. As a company we have a motto, “playing the long game,” which impacts everything we do and every decision we make. There’s often a temptation to cut a corner for a quick gain, in product development, customer support or marketing, but our approach is that we should always choose the option that will give the best result for the customer and the company in the long-term. This often involves taking the option that is less convenient in the short-term, but our belief is that over time, users and partners come to appreciate the approach and it works out better. We’ve been playing the long game for 15 years now, and plan to keep playing it for the next 15 ahead.