Beyond enterprise tech, venture capital and life sciences, Boston has become a major hub for the audio technology industry. From hearing-assisting headphones to award-winning software to the popular video game Rock Band, Boston’s tech companies are changing the way we hear, record and play music.
Boston has a wealth of music and music technology programs. Many of the premier music schools in the country call Boston home: Berklee College of Music, The New England Conservatory of Music, and Emerson College, just to name a few. These colleges provide Boston with a constant influx of worldwide talent, which fosters the next generation of musically creative thinkers and collaborators. It also keeps Boston on the forefront of both technology innovation and the future of the arts. For example, MIT’s Media Lab features some of the top research talent in imagining the future of music, like the work of Tod Machover.
As the co-founder and CEO of iZotope Inc., an audio technology company based in Kendall Square, I have had the unique privilege to work and learn from many of these local music and tech companies. While some of these companies are recognizable to consumer audiences, others may only be familiar to those within the industry. Here are some major Boston-based companies, and why you should get to know them:
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AVID: AVID makes Pro Tools, the industry standard digital audio workstation that is used for a range of sound recording and sound production purposes. If you have ever recorded, mixed or been involved in music production, you have probably worked with Pro Tools. Based just outside of Boston in Burlington, AVID most recently released Pro Tools 12.7, which enables artists and producers to explore and find audio samples faster and facilitates experimentation and sharing with versioning workflows.
Bose: Based in Framingham, Bose designs and imports audio equipment, and is best known for its home and professional audio systems and speakers, noise-cancelling headphones, and automobile sound systems. Always on the cutting edge of technology, last month Bose released Hearphones, hearing-assisting headphones that can be used to focus in on or amplify specific sounds, while actively canceling out background distractions.
Cakewalk: Besides iZotope, my only other job was at Cakewalk as an intern. Used by millions of musicians worldwide—including GRAMMY® and Emmy®-winning producers, composers, sound designers, and engineers— Cakewalk creates products for the professional music, film, broadcast, and video game industries.
Harmonix: Harmonix is an independent game development studio, best known for creating popular games like Rock Band and Dance Central. Based in Boston, they are constantly working to improve the quality of music gaming.
The Echo Nest: Headquartered in Somerville, The Echo Nest was co-founded by two MIT PhDs and was acquired by Spotify in 2014. The Echo Nest is a music intelligence company, providing developers with a greater understanding of music content and music fans.
SonicBids: SonicBids makes gig booking easy by connecting musicians with promoters to help them book more gigs and grow their careers. The company is based in Boston’s South End.
Sonos: Widely known for its smart speakers, Sonos is headquartered in Santa Barbara, CA, but has a large office in Downtown Crossing. What’s more, according to a post on the company’s blog, “Boston is the best location in the world for a tech company. Especially one with a musical bent. We’ve got great colleges and universities, strong technical roots, and an awesome and historic music scene.”
Vic Firth: Founded by percussionist, educator and businessman Vic Firth, The Vic Firth Company develops new designs and technologies so products sound and feel better, and inspires artists to create. It is headquartered just outside of Boston in Norwell, MA.
Zildjian: Arguably one of the oldest companies in the world since its inception in 1623, Zildjian is a cymbal manufacturer founded in Constantinople and today based in Norwell, MA. With a long and vibrant history, Zildjian has managed to keep it in the family - it is currently led by Craigie and Debbie Zildjian, the family’s 14th generation in business.
The talent pool in Boston is undeniable both in engineering and the arts - and often people who excel at both. At iZotope, we are determined to raise the bar for quality in sound technology, while also making it more accessible to artists regardless of skill level. Being surrounded by the level of talent and innovation within the Boston audio tech scene is a constant motivator and inspiration for us. It’s an exciting time for the music community in this city and I’m excited to watch it grow in the coming years.
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