DO YOU RE­ALLY NEED DSP IN YOUR AU­DIO SYS­TEM?

Pasmag (USA) - - I SSUE PREVIEW -

Lately it seems like ev­ery other au­dio prod­uct I touch has DSP in it in one form or an­other. My car stereo, my home re­ceiver, my mo­tor­cy­cle's ra­dio, my in-hel­met au­dio sys­tem, my clock ra­dio, my smart­phone, my com­puter, hell even the lit­tle iPod I take to the gym has DSP in it. DSP or Dig­i­tal Sig­nal Pro­cess­ing is in­vad­ing our au­dio prod­ucts, and I'm here to tell you that it's not al­ways for the bet­ter.

Pyou can se­ri­ously screw up a po­ten­tially good sound­ing sys­tem with DSP if you don't know what you're do­ing. Go and talk to any real au­dio­phile and ask them if they have any DSP in their sys­tem. The an­swer (af­ter they stare at you to see if you're ac­tu­ally se­ri­ous) will be no. There is an old au­dio­phile quote that a per­fect am­pli­fier would be “a straight piece of wire with gain.” So why in the hell does ev­ery prod­uct we touch in­clude some form of DSP?

I be­lieve it is for no bet­ter rea­son than it's easy to do, since the chips have al­ready been de­vel­oped, and many prod­ucts in­clude the DSP func­tions sim­ply to check off a box on a list of fea­tures that com­pet­i­tive prod­ucts have. Now don't get me wrong, I think a good DSP pro­ces­sor can be a key el­e­ment in an ex­cep­tional sound­ing sys­tem. In fact, my Corvette Grand Sport uses the ex­cel­lent Arc Au­dio PS8 DSP, and with­out it the car just wouldn't sound as good as it does. That is, af­ter about 30 hours of tun­ing and crit­i­cal lis­ten­ing. It can to­tally be a good thing, but the ad­just­ments must be done by a trained pro­fes­sional with enough time and ex­pe­ri­ence to get things right.

That said, ob­vi­ously I have noth­ing against us­ing the dig­i­tal realm to ma­nip­u­late au­dio sig­nals when it's done for good rea­son and done prop­erly, but try­ing to get a two-inch clock ra­dio speaker to sound like a con­cert hall sim­ply isn't a good rea­son.

Al­right, so rather than tell you how to use some­thing to make your sound bet­ter, in this col­umn I'm go­ing to tell you what to leave alone to keep from ru­in­ing what you have. As an ex­am­ple, I tem­po­rar­ily in­stalled a DSP-pow­ered preamp in my lis­ten­ing room and ran its out­put through a stu­dio-grade am­pli­fier to a pair of Fo­cal book­shelf speak­ers and an Au­diomo­bile 12-inch woofer. With my stan­dard (non-DSP) au­dio­phile preamp, this sys­tem has ex­cep­tional sound qual­ity and amaz­ing stereo imag­ing. It is also very lin­ear, mean­ing there is no em­pha­sis on any par­tic­u­lar seg­ment of the au­dio band, re­gard­less of vol­ume. I con­nected the new preamp into my sys­tem and with ev­ery­thing set flat and a min­i­mal of

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