In just over a decade, serial entrepreneur Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe has grown into one of the music industry’s foremost innovators, steadily evolving his revolutionary approach to improving and reinventing the way we consume music. Anstruther’s lynchpin in the music world began in 2012 when he founded the London-based record label Housekeeping Records. Shortly thereafter, he and musician and producer Dallas Austin Tape London founded a hybrid venue, notorious VIP nightclub and state-of-the-art recording studio. But it was the manifestation of his dream to host the greatest meditation session ever in the deserts outside of Los Angeles, where his fascination with sound technology and its effects on the human mind became hyperdrive.
IRIS CEO and founder Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe
During this event, Anstruther met influential New Age therapist Don Estes, who is also the inventor of VibraSound® Sensory Resonance ™, a technology used by both professionals and non-professionals in music, sound therapy, relaxation, entertainment and augmented states uses mind “. The duo would eventually team up and in 2018 IRIS was born with Anstruther’s expertise in business development and fundraising.
At the heart of the patented IRIS technology is a proprietary algorithm that essentially creates a live listening experience from any audio present. IRIS amplifies sound details, levels and quality in a detailed way and returns them over an astonishingly wide range of frequencies, engaging and training the brain of its listeners in unprecedented ways. The technology has been proven to more than improve the quality of sound when you hear – it also has profound, science-based mental health benefits. With the highly anticipated release of the IRIS Flow headphones in late 2020, listeners will now be able to use the IRIS experience to achieve “flow status” from any device. Forbes spoke to Anstruther to find out more.
How would you describe audio in the digital age?
Anstruther: Over the past twenty or thirty years, from vinyl to CDs to MP3s, audio quality has steadily declined. Despite the innovations in visual technologies like tablets or iPhones, audio has really paid a price in the digital age. It is now convenience over quality. You can see that the industry is desperately trying to innovate just to make innovation possible.
Engineers today will add effects like panning, echoes, and reverb to simulate the richness that is lacking in an original live experience. Then an audio production company will do its own frequency manipulation to improve the sound. Each layer of this engineering process has kept the listener less and less preoccupied – while creating a more passive experience – with our brains not responding as it would in a live environment. From an audio engineer’s point of view, this additional frequency manipulation effectively only treats the symptom: trying to make it sound better.
IRIS technology promises to induce a “state of flow”.
Why do you feel like it is time for a major disruption to the industry?
Anstruther: We listen with more than just our ears. So how we experience audio is a comprehensive thing. There is “real” sound and “imaginary” sound; The former comes straight to your ears from playing an instrument, and the latter is everything else, including the historical or emotional resonance of what you are hearing. Our brains process audio very differently from person to person, and listening to music is one of the few things that activate the entire brain.
What exactly is IRIS and how does it differ from standard post-production audio editing?
Anstruther: IRIS records any previously recorded audio – a song, a lecture, a spoken word – and spits it out between 28 and 30,000 different frequencies, swinging from ear to ear at all times. It’s more than just a sound quality difference: research [for IRIS] came from a background of neuroscientific understanding. Our chief engineer studied the effects of psilocybin on the brain in the late 1970s and spent the last 25 years restoring this positive neurological activation through sensory input. That is, we study how the brain reacts in a living environment.
IRIS differs in that it removes all artificial technology and presents the information to you acoustically, as if you were in a near infinite space. You hear the sound as if you were in every seat in the room, not just one. And because of this huge increase in the amount of information being sent, we are seeing an increase in brain activity. This comes from the brain, which creates a natural “positioning” for the sounds it hears, as well as simulating missing information. When someone hears audio going through IRIS technology, we can actually see a synchronicity between the left and right brains that induces a “flow state”.
The IRIS Flow headphones
Can you explain the state of the flow in more detail?
Anstruther: The flow state is what happens to the brain in a state of deep meditation, or what an athlete would feel when preparing for optimal performance. It’s like being “in the zone” when the left-thinking part of your brain calms down. It’s not easy to come by, but we can train the brain to do more. We’re working with the Aston Martin Formula 1 team to induce the flow state off the track so they can stay in that high performance state longer.
Tell us more about the research process behind IRIS.
Anstruther: There is a lot that we don’t understand about the brain, but there is also a lot of finger-pointing evidence and other studies in the world of cognitive behavior and human performance. This is one of the reasons we partnered with Mount Sinai [Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance in New York City] because they have some of the best human performance scientists. We don’t want to be another wellness company making false claims without hard, actual evidence.
Does it matter what you hear, or can this technology be applied to any type of audio?
Anstruther: We focus more on how you listen than what you hear. Different audio can have an increased effect in conjunction with IRIS, depending on whether it was developed for something, such as a wellness soundscape that is supposed to make you focused or relaxed. The effects of IRIS beyond that will result in a much greater uplift. But even with the spoken word, we see higher absorption and storage of information, which is indicated by a huge increase in beta and gamma waves of almost 700%. People are happier when they have high levels of gamma waves.
A screenshot of the IRIS app.
Bogdan Dreava on IRIS
How can consumers use IRIS technology?
Anstruther: At its core, we are a B2B licensing company that is changing the way you handle all forms of audio in real time. However, we did create a data app that is now available on the iOS and Google App Stores. It’s a call for consumers to experience the technology by being able to toggle IRIS on and off to see the difference between a standard stereo track and an IRIS-optimized one.
Last year you partnered with Sound Healer Jeremie Quidu For a Unique sound bath experience using IRIS technology. How did this collaboration come about?
Anstruther: For the last 10 to 12 years of my life I’ve been in the music industry – I’m also an electronic artist and I’ve spent a lot of time in Ibiza. I ended up going there on my own spiritual journey to experience wellness and spirituality including sound healing with Jeremie who is truly one of the best sound healers I have ever come across. He does a [sunset session] once a week with a view of Es Vedrà, known as the third most magnetic place in the world after the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle. We became good friends and I wanted to give back to help people connect during this challenging time.
Last year, IRIS teamed up with the sound healer Jeremie Quidu to provide a comprehensive sound bath experience.
Tell us about the IRIS Flow headphones that were launched last year.
Anstruther: We challenged ourselves to create the perfect audio experience with the IRIS headphones by hiring the best acoustic engineers and designers on the market. The IRIS Flow has a patented acoustic chamber and is the purest form of IRIS with the technology integrated in the headphones with on and off function. (IRIS Flow Headphones retails for $ 399.00)
How long does it take to feel these psychological improvements from listening to IRIS enhanced audio?
As with practicing meditation, you will feel the effects over time. So with IRIS we are essentially saying: don’t change what you do, just do it better.
This interview was edited and condensed for Forbes.