Digital Signal Processing (DSP) has been around for about 30 years, but it has never been more crucial to the audio industry than today. With DSP, audio engineers can develop products with superior acoustical properties even as the dimensional envelope they work in continues to shrink.
The Advantages of Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
Throughout most of the history of the audio industry, it has taken weeks or months to design, validate, and implement an audio product. New manufacturing techniques have dramatically sped up the process. Plus, with DSP, acoustical compromises can now be accommodated at every step of the process without losing quality.
DSP functions like a sound studio inside a chip. The chip resides on an amplifier board and works to replace many of the large, expensive, bulky components that were previously used. One tiny DSP chip now delivers compression, time delays, crossovers, equalization, and other functions.
DSP resolves acoustical compromises like peaks and dips in the frequency response that develop as a result of embedding an audio device inside another product. For example, today’s smartphones use DSP to enhance the sound output generated by very small transducers. Game consoles, vehicles, medical equipment, and professional and consumer sound systems all benefit.
How Digital Signal Processing Works
Digital Signal Processing helps audio engineers eliminate sound quality issues that naturally develop when a speaker is placed behind a grill or a baffle, inside a monitor, or into a cavity on a product. All of these scenarios interfere with the optimal “flat” frequency response.
Once all hardware is in place, DSP can be configured to operate automatically and restore a desired frequency output, generally by reducing peaks and boosting dips. The standalone performance of the speaker must be measured in detail so it can be digitally recreated in the finished product.
To achieve results, a DSP chip launches several different algorithms in tandem. The DSP adjusts timing of individual components to produce the right offset for the required sound output. This is used in the creation of surround sound in both professional and consumer applications.
Some other elements of sound output DSP can influence include crossover frequencies and points, cues, and stereo widening. While DSP is most often used to flatten frequency response, it can also be used to raise high frequencies for ambience, or raise low frequencies to enhance a product’s bass.
The Digital Signal Processing Workflow
Digital signal processing can save months in the development of new audio products, in part because it is not necessary to develop an analogue custom crossover network that may take weeks on its own to perfect, and consume valuable space within the product. It also ensures consistency in performance, as all units can be pre-configured with the same DSP settings.
DSP can enhance the performance of a small speaker, easily making a two-inch unit sound like a four-inch unit. While it can’t cheat the laws of physics – that same two-inch speaker will never sound like an eight-inch one – it lets audio engineers push the envelope and maintain quality at smaller sizes.
Coupled with appropriate audio output testing, DSP can also help lower the costs of manufacturing and maintaining a product. DSP is used to monitor the break point of a transducer or woofer, creating new opportunities to get maximum excursion out of the component while reducing the cabinet size.
To get the most from this exciting technology, it is important to choose a vendor that works closely with your team. Many audio companies refuse to provide customers with the DSP configuration file or enable them to make their own adjustments in the future, which can reduce the value you receive.
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