ARVUS founder: FIRE-2H fills "niche" for Firewire/home theater direct interface

Arvus, a New Zealand based company, recently announced the release of a new product, the FIRE-2H, a device that converts eight Firewire channels from the output of any Apple device into 7.1 HDMI. Matthew Simmons, who founded Arvus in 1983, says that the company discovered that there was “a niche requirement for a direct interface of 7.1 Firewire to domestic home theatre equipment.”

On the heels of its latest development, I posed a series of across-the-board questions to Simmons via e-mail in order to better understand the company.

GE: How did you become interested in audio technology?

MS: I started my business when I was twelve, fixing speakers, and it seemed like a natural extension of my fascination with music. While growing up, I played flute, cello, tenor horn, percussion, and harp.

I also studied Composition and Electronic Music at University, where I produced many hours of music. Along with the production work I did on some Balligomingo tracks from their first album. I wrote and produced the 16-second Motion Title music for Lumiere Pavillions Cinema Chain in China. Since March 2010, over 20 million people have heard this short piece, and it is now played 24 hours a day somewhere in China!

GE: How did you come up with the name of your company?

MS: I needed a new new name for a new product range, and I took the "avus" name from the Audi Avus picture on my wall and added the "R". My wife Julie and I coordinate about 150-250 different engineers, designers and companies in any month on dozens of projects. We have a core team of 30+ engineers who are based all over the globe and a "hub" team of six people. We also travel a great deal, as 95 percent of our business is actually outside of New Zealand. Our entire business is in the cloud, as it has been since about 2005.

GE: What is the core business of the Arvus Group?

MS: The Arvus Digital division of Arvus Group is less than 10 percent of our business — our core business is contract R&D, of which 30 percent is in the audio and optics field, and the other 70 percent is R&D for the energy sector. We are doing contracts in the nuclear and geothermal sectors mainly.

GE: Arvus has a business relationship with Sony. What brought the two companies together?

MS: Sony found us via our website and asked if we would be able to develop the solution we now call the HDMI-2A. They now use multiples of this model in the UK, Japan and USA for testing audio levels out of their playstations. Dozens of Playstation game developers use the HDMI-2A.

GE: Is the Hypacoustic division of Arvus still active?

MS: The Hypacoustic Audio Cinema system was started in 2003 and continued until 2010; the September Christ Church earthquake seriously affected that part of our business. There are about 100 Hypacoustic cinemas currently in operation, with over half in China and India. The rest are in New Zealand, Australia and Russia. KODAK used Hypacoustic in one of its Laser Pacific Screening rooms in Hollywood for about three years. Hypacoustic was also temporarily installed at the British Film Institute in London in 2008.

GE: Do many other companies manufacture eight channel AES/EBU to HDMI (AES-2H) and HDMI to AES/EBU (HDMI-2A) converters?

MS: No other companies provide eight channel HDMI to AES/EBU solutions; the market is very small, and we only sell directly to post production faculties. 

The AES-2H is now used all over the globe as a way to take the AES audio from a digital cinema server and plug it directly into a domestic home theater receiver. No other companies make eight channel AES/EBU to HDMI (Audio Only) converters. Our eight channel USB and eight channel Firewire to HDMI converters are world unique.

GE: What led you to the make the decision to build the 7.1 Firewire to HDMI audio converter?

MS: We were asked by Dolby if we could develop the eight-channel firewire-to-HDMI converter, and we did eventually come up with the solution. They were VERY patient! We had done a few contract R&D projects for them previously as well.

GE: What is unique about the products you bring to the audio post market?

MS: Arvus Digital is interested in solving low volume, unique digital audio interface problems for the post production, television, game and film industries. We really enjoy this market as we find the people who work in this industry are very passionate about sound quality, and I really get a buzz from working with passionate people who are pursuing excellence. If it's an interesting problem, we'll probably develop an interesting solution.