Reading Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel Submission, I was struck by one of the statements he made and how it pertains to the future of audio. The book’s fictional protagonist, speaking about an author he has studied, states, “His masterpiece was a dead end–but isn’t that true of any masterpiece?”
High-end audio is a masterpiece. Traditional audio engineering has been perfected, at least in the sense that it’s been pushed about as far as it can go. Sure, new amps and DACs might sound slightly better than the ones we have now. The resolution of digital files can be raised to even higher levels. Improvements in mass production will bump up speaker quality slightly. Still, traditional analog and basic digital audio engineering are pretty much at a dead end. No improvement in amplifier, DAC, or passive speaker design is likely to result in a significant improvement in sound quality.
The good news is, we WILL see significant improvements in audio reproduction in 2016 and over the next few years. As I was walking around the show floor and attending presentations at the Audio Engineering Show in New York City in October, it was obvious to me that digital signal processing, or DSP, presents numerous possibilities for better sound in any system…and for better sound from smaller and less expensive products, too.