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Incubus Guitarist Michael Einziger’s Startup Mixhalo Raises $10.7 Million for Better Live Event Audio

San Francisco-based audio startup Mixhalo has raised a $10.7 million Series A round of funding as it sets out to use earbuds and mobile phones to improve the audio experience at concerts and other live events.

The funding round was led by Foundry Group, with participation from Sapphire Sport, Founders Fund, Defy Partners, Cowboy Ventures, Red Light Management, Another Planet Entertainment, Rick Farman and Rich Goodstone of Superfly, and Charlie Walker of C3.

Mixhalo is the brainchild of Michael Einziger, who is better known as the guitarist, co-founder and songwriter of Incubus. Einziger has been using headphones on stage for decades to better monitor his band’s sound during challenging live venue conditions, explained Mixhalo CEO Marc Ruxin in an interview with Variety this week. At one point, he had an epiphany, asking himself: “Wouldn’t it be cool to give what I hear to my fans, using phones?”

Just like musicians on stage, concert attendees often struggle with subpar audio conditions. Maybe they’re too far back to hear well. Maybe there’s some other interference. Or maybe the audio is just too damn loud for their taste — and their cheap earplugs filter out all the high frequencies.

Einziger’s idea was to take that pristine master audio signal, and send it straight to the phones of concert attendees. He got lots of encouragement for the idea both from tech industry insiders and musicians, and ended up talking to folks from the network vendor Meraki about a path forward. One of the main challenges was Wifi networking. “At a big event, it always sucks,” said Ruxin.

Mixhalo ended up hiring a number of Meraki staffers to build its underlying technology, which replaces traditional Wifi with custom-build broadcast / multicast networking, and also accounts for the position of a user in the space to make sure that the delay of the main audio corresponds with what they’re hearing over their headphones. All of this is designed to work with regular phones, and the cheap headphones concertgoers might have in their pockets. “We don’t want anyone to have to use a wearable,” Ruxin explained.

The resulting solution has been tested in a variety of environments over the past couple of months. Metallica, which was among the investors for an earlier seed round, took the technology on tour, and served up a special mix for attendees looking to zero in on individual band members. Aerosmith used it for its residence in Las Vegas. Pharrell Williams, another early investor, used it for his “Something in the Water” festival. Tech blog Techcrunch tapped Mixhalo for its Disrupt conference. “We’ve had hundreds of thousands of people use Mixhalo,” said Ruxin.

The company now wants to use the new cash infusion to further grow its customer base to add concert venues and music festivals. It is also looking to expand to live sports and other non-music events, where the headphone audio may add supplemental audio, akin to the radio feeds that people sometimes listen to during baseball games.

What Mixhalo doesn’t want to do is push too much information to attendees, explained Ruxin. “We are not trying to create an immersive second-screen experience. We think people spend enough time looking at devices.”

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