Wyclef Jean on his new tech partnership and the future of audio

Exclusive: Musician by day, audio engineer at night

While other rappers spent their month starting Twitter wars and picking fights with Neil deGrasse Tyson over the shape of the Earth, Grammy Award-winning artist Wyclef Jean is busy forming groundbreaking partnerships with international audio manufacturers and plotting the future of sound.

In an exclusive interview before his show at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, Jean filled me in on his new partnership with Creative Labs, makers of the Sound Blaster Roar, Sound Blaster Roar 2 and new iRoar Bluetooth speakers.

While the naysayers out there would call Jean's partnership a similar deal to Dr. Dre's line of headphones – all name and no effort – Jean says it's the exact opposite.

The partnership starts with Creative's aforementioned new Bluetooth speaker, the iRoar. Jean will create a custom-tuned version of the speaker later this year, the first of many products he and his team will help craft with Creative.

The goal, according to Creative, is to leverage the artist's discerning ear and natural gift in creating and refining sound with the company's strength in producing audio gear. Together, the two hope to create something better, and slightly different, than the products Dr. Dre is working on.

But the iRoar is only the honeymoon phase in this budding love affair.

In our half-hour chat, Jean said he plans on elevating the partnership even further from a hardware collaboration to a software one.

He dreams of something called "super stereo," a term he uses to describe binaural audio created by taking artists' studio tracks and running them through Creative's software. This audio mastering technique was most famously used by Pink Floyd in the '70s to create harmonies and a uniquely ethereal sound, a sound which Jean believes has been missing from the audio landscape ever since.

Binaural audio, or "super stereo," could be one possible route for the future of audio, and one that Jean believes could be closer than ever, thanks to his partnership with Creative.

Over the course of the interview, Jean shared the story of how he got started in music, some of the audio engineering he did behind the scenes while he was with The Fugees and how he feels like Sim Wong Hoo, the president and chairman of Creative whom he lovingly refers to as "Mr. Sim," understood him in a way that executives at Sony could not.

This level of understanding is due, in part, to Creative's ability to use a small speaker, like the Sound Blaster Roar series, alongside software to create a wide soundstage. Without that, Jean says, there's no way to create the binaural sound he's aiming for.

The story of Wyclef Jean's partnership at Creative is just beginning, and while there are big plans on the table, nothing is exactly set in stone.

For now, it seems like the world will just have to settle for good ol' two-channel audio until we hear more.

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