I have an electronics educational background, but I started studying music when I was 10 years old and then began playing the guitar. Then I moved onto learning everything I could about traditional recording and production with my first experience in digital music in the late ’80s and early ’90s, first with NeXT (anybody remember this Steve Jobs adventure?) and then with the Macintosh, where I was able to work on digital audio, making musical productions in dance and other styles.
I had been always passionate for computer music, back to the early days of MIDI sequencing with a Yamaha MX computer, one of the first examples of a music-dedicated computer that was in retrospect perhaps ahead of its time.
My first true digital audio-MIDI system was a Macintosh Quadra 840 doing eight audio digital tracks on Deck II (when it was made by OSC) syncing MIDI with Metro. Then I moved to Pro Tools with Session 8 and the SampleCell card. There were no plug-ins back then, apart from the first suite from Waves (L1, C1, etc.) running on Pro Tools NuBus cards. Later I worked on Opcode Studio Vision that appeared as the first truly integrated audio-MIDI sequencer working fully natively on the CPU, and later Digital Performer with its off-line pitch- and time-stretching capabilities, and then Cubase.
In the beginning of the ’90s the sample market was in its early stages, with very few titles on the market. I actually had the idea for our first software product from working with sample products such as those from companies like Spectrasonics. It was by the late ’90s that I envisioned a huge potential in developing software instruments and effects for the newly forming computer music market.
My musical background has been a great help in designing software. IK was founded in ’96 by myself and one of my main partners, Davide Barbi, an audio engineer with a strong background in electronics, who also happens to be a bass/guitar/keyboard player. Davide is our R&D director today and the “ear” behind many IK products. We started as a multimedia company with a focus on audio production, and by ’97 we had designed our first software called AXE, a preliminary version of what became our first successfully sold product worldwide: GrooveMaker, a loop-remixing tool with included sample content.
Initially the goal was to develop instruments that didn’t exist in the hardware domain, using the new possibilities offered by the computer. When I went to Winter NAMM in ’97 with our first version of GrooveMaker, I was demonstrating it on a Pentium I laptop, 75MHz, and our remixing software was offered with sample content in both 44kHz 16-bit but also 22kHz/8-bit in order to be able to run on a low-power CPU at that time. But hardware power has made tremendous steps, quickly passing through to Pentium II and III and the Macintosh Power PC, that was an opportunity for us to enter into the development of realtime effect processing and the realization of completely native software, which we did in ’98 with T-RackS, developing an all-in-one mastering station for every user. This opened the possibility of having a high-end tool with a studio-quality sound for the masses, with a price that anyone could afford. T-RackS was then able to set a sort of standard in analog-modeled mastering using computer.
The T-RackS 24 pioneered analog modeling with the computer and was very well received by many musicians and engineers. For us T-RackS was developed as an initial step toward the development of a series of technologies that started with the analog modeling of hardware for emulating EQs, compressors, and limiters and modeling analog sound in general. Actually, there are some extremely rare circuits modeled in T-RackS, for example the EQ was modeled on an analog console at Abbey Road studios in the ’70s.
SampleTank appeared in 2001 and it offered for the first time an integrated plug-in instrument with thousands of high-quality sounds with built-in effects. Software samplers already existed (I remember the now defunct Bitheadz Unity), but there was no strong integration between software, sounds, and DSP. But you’ll hear SampleTank, Sonik Synth, and Miroslav Philharmonik being used all the time on records, such as Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from the 8-Mile soundtrack.
In 2002 we also developed a completely integrated guitar amp and effects rig as a plug-in for all platforms. Here too there was already one example on the market, but with limited functionality and platform support. Our idea was to include everything the guitarist needed all in one plug-in, from stomps to amp, cabinet, microphone, and rack effects. We added AmpliTube for separate modeling of the various components of the amplifier, offering thousands of new amps from different combinations of the elements. It allowed the guitarist to use the software like a custom amp creation tool. In 2003 we released SampleTank 2, and in 2006 we are releasing AmpliTube 2, the sequels to our products in virtual instruments and guitar and effect modeling plug-ins.
With the launch of our first two hardware products at the 2006 Winter NAMM show, for us the future is leaning toward a stronger integration between hardware and software for the ultimate exploitation of the computer as a super-powerful musical instrument.