I love ostentatious examples of what science, engineering and art can do when they play nicely. I'm hardly alone — my weekly viewing group for the TV show "Grand Tour" (formerly "Top Gear") has my more knowledgeable chums arguing about cams and airfoils while I just marvel at the cars and their growling engines.
Even if I don't understand it all, I really love the level of effort and attention to detail in these world-class machines. In general, I think that being aware of what's possible in a given field really opens you to greater understanding of the field throughout.
When I was a kid, I saw Alvin Alley in a private show at a massive performance hall. My dad would drag me to see Yo-Yo Ma live when he performed with the local orchestra. Watching Tiger in his heyday taught me some new things about golf. And on and on. Witnessing the best of something teaches you so much.
You know I love music, so when I get a chance to see, hear and touch crazy new audio technology, you know I'm not going to miss out.
Digital Signal Processing of audio is all around us these days, used in phones, airplanes, cars and in homes. With the rise in quality of the consumer technology and advancements in the state of the art, DSP is even being applied to make things work that, according to the laws of physics, really shouldn't. Crazy new speaker designs are popping up that shouldn't sound great, but they do thanks to DSP.
For example, take a look at Wheel-Fi, a company based in the New York Catskills. This is a cool, artisan company making no-holds-barred vintage speaker systems and consoles out of solid wood, iron and other natural materials. A glance at their products indicates they're prioritizing looks and design above other considerations, and for good reason. Their systems make me twitch and drool just looking at the pictures.
Looking good takes work though, and often that work doesn't jibe with what's needed for good sound. The designers' solutions to these sonic challenges is to use real-time DSP to make corrections before the sound hits the speakers.
They're using a technique that has been common in the DIY audio community for a while. But now, the technology is good enough to be relied upon in extravagant luxury systems like Wheel-Fi's.
There are compromises made in every speaker design anyway. No scientific or technological solution is exactly perfect, but most designs do have their strengths. Now, even lower-quality speakers (or in Wheel's case, abstract off-the-wall designs) can incorporate DSP and raise the bar a little higher for audio quality in the mainstream.
Wheel-Fi's systems cost around $20,000 for the medium-sized model. Mahgad. For people like you and me, DSP is doing similar hero work as outlined by noaudiophile.com's awesome reviews of cheap speakers fixed with DSP.
This guy has taken $20 computer speakers to new heights using Digital Signal Processing, and he shows how you can, too. Hell, use DSP on your nice speakers. This is the new age of DSP, where all can be made well with a little processing power.
Read more Taylor: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk him: instagram.com/duncanxmusic.