The coming changes in audio
A look into the future
with speaker designers Pat and Meagan McGinty
During the last twenty years, improvements in speaker performance have come in vanishingly tiny
increments because we’ve pretty much taken the technology as far as we can. And now that HD music
is commonplace, the weakest link is the speaker.
So the time has come to rethink the speaker. Happily, the following two advances in electronics -
when combined - open the door to our next step forward:
1) Extremely well engineered, great sounding, economical, tiny, cool running and spectacularly
powerful amplifier modules.
2) Powerful and abundantly inexpensive high quality Digital Signal Processing. DSP.
Used together they let us tear down the old barriers with these three simple steps:
1) Move the amplifiers into the speaker for a short direct signal path.
2) Use one amp per band, often one amp per driver. A two way has two amps: one for the woofer
and one for the tweeter. A four way has four amps, maybe more.
3) Execute the crossover function in the data stream - before it is converted to analog and sent to
the amplifier. While we’re at it, also perform timing correction, output limiting, driver linearity
correction, room correction, and parametric equalization all without degrading the signal.
So...... where does this take us?
First: Dramatically better sound. Because:
1) A “bigger” speaker now fits in a smaller box. Instead of relying on a large internal volume of
air and a resonant port to coax bass from woofers, we now combine equalization with as much
brute force as we like. We trade size for power.
2) Because the amps are directly connected to each driver by a short run of wire with no
intervening crossover we enjoy greatly improved damping, speed and control, especially in the
bass. Gobs of power with plenty of headroom yields easy, sparkling dynamics. That is the life in
3) Compared to passive crossovers, DSP empowers the designer with a new, complete and fine
level of control that makes much higher levels of optimization readily achievable. We’ve replaced
a blunt instrument with a scalpel.
4) All components in the chain are correctly matched, developed and tested in unison.
5) Quick, easy, accurate room EQ, allows a much greater latitude over speaker placement,
correction for room acoustics and adjustment to the user’s personal tastes.
Second: Better functionality and serviceability:
1) Modular internal components that can be readily serviced by simple swap out.
2) Elimination of the old style stack of separate components and wires.
3) Easy control and music selection from an iPad or laptop.
Third: The new way results in superior total system cost compared with the old way. You get more for
The old way is over. And, to be blunt: if that were not so I would not be back at it.
For those so inclined, this page will offer a series of technical discussions by Pat and Meagan
highlighting our approach to interesting engineering issues.
This issue exposes our purpose and reasoning behind launching the next generation of loudspeakers.
Table of Contents