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MusicamUSA – Alvin Sookoo

The codec market is still in a growth stage and nowhere near maturity, as many broadcasting companies are amidst the beginning stages of foregoing pricey ISDN lines for IP solutions. Technology...

Q. Musicam USA has its roots in low-cost implementations of MPEG Audio. What is the company’s strategy now in this developing era of IP audio?

A. Developing IP codecs has been the strategic focus for expanding Musicam USA and broadcast opportunities since 2000, when it introduced the Netstar, the first of its kind in the country. Since then we have consistently been referenced, both domestically and internationally, as the industry leader in IP codecs. The Suprima line, launched in 2007, marks our fourth generation of IP audio codecs and has significantly raised the bar regarding specifications. Hence all of our IP codecs feature MPEG, AAC, APT and PCM algorithms and SIP compatibility as standards. This ensures our IP codecs are reliable and easy to use, so our clients can broadcast confidently, and with the highest quality audio possible. IP is the future of audio transportation, and we’re proud to have been the first codec company to develop it in the U.S.

Q. What will you show that’s new at the NAB Show, of interest to radio users?

A. We will unveil our new portable audio codec with the ability to perform over a wireless network (EVDO, 3G, etc.). As with all our IP products, it will be user-friendly, versatile and extremely reliable over the public internet for remote broadcast.

Q. The company was sold not long ago. Who owns it now? Where are you based, and how many employees do you have?

A. Musicam USA was purchased by Prodys and ATA Audio in March of 2007. We are still based in Holmdel, NJ, and currently have 12 employees, many who have been with Musicam USA for several years and are experts in IP technology.

Q. Codecs have been an intensely competitive market niche in the past decade. Is the codec market mature? Where will your growth come from in the next few years?

A. The codec market is still in a growth stage and nowhere near maturity, as many broadcasting companies are amidst the beginning stages of foregoing pricey ISDN lines for IP solutions. Technology changes rapidly and developers and users alike must adapt to the evolution of changes. A great benefit of Musicam USA is the compatibility of fresh products with previous units – they function together seamlessly.

Musicam USA developed the first ever digital audio codec in 1990, the Micro 56; then the CDQ 2000 was introduced to work over Switched 56 networks. Soon after, when ISDN became available the Prima line was developed, which is still an industry standard today and a global radio broadcast household name. We also patented portable audio devices using analog lines (POTS) and shipped the Fieldphone in the mid 1990s. Now with the Suprima line, we see our growth in the IP market and have already established Musicam USA as the industry standard in this domain (one of my favorite slogans this year was, ‘Keep Your Prima, Upgrade to Suprima’). Yet today, all of our products are still in use! CBS, ABC and other large radio groups still use our Micro 56, and at the recent Super Bowl in Arizona, the broadcast was delivered both domestically and internationally using our Micro 56, CDQ 2000, Prima codecs, Fieldphone and Suprima line (IP).

Some might argue that the considerable amount of consolidation in the industry over the past decade may have affected the need for codecs; however, the reality is demand for codecs, particularly for IP codecs, has grown exponentially over the past few years and we believe it will continue to surge as long as broadcasting exists.

It’s a fascinating journey for us and our clients. We get excited watching engineers and program directors at stations expand their possibilities with our codecs. We want to cultivate creativity in the industry while at the same time offer simplistic solutions. The key is to anticipate our clients’ future needs and deliver a solid product that exceeds their expectations.

Q. What’s the most exciting or unusual project you’ve been involved with lately?

A. We sold over 150 of our Suprima IP codecs to JFN in Japan for satellite backup in the latter part of ’07 and were really thrilled to be a part of their project. Domestically, most of our clients are switching their STLs over to IP using our Suprima codecs, and recently we shipped units to the US government to assist our troops with communication in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Q. Anything else we should know about your company’s business direction or new products?

A. We are always conducting research, testing our products thoroughly, and actively seeking client feedback to improve our IP codec line. Reliability over IP is the top priority, and we are confident and proud of the way our products are performing. Most importantly, our IP clients are extremely satisfied. Also, by the summer of 2008, we will release our first video codec, which is very exciting for us. Hope to be back for another Q&A on that topic later this year.