Audiodevelopers was originally launched back in 2006/2007, as an attempt to establish a collaborative environment for audio buffs, engineers and die-hard hobbyists to help each other sell different parts of the audio chain. The site was intended to serve as a marketplace for selling amps, signal processors, cabinets, speaker design and so forth, where each vendor had their own set of pages to offer their wares.
One of the reasons for trying a collaborative effort like this was that audio technologies were undergoing some exciting changes that made high-end audio design much easier, especially for the serious hobbyist. IC manufacturers were starting to offer more complex and higher quality “mixed-signal” devices that combined A/D, D/A and signal processing, and the level of integration and quality kept improving, while the costs of the devices kept dropping. There were many exciting new products, such as the successor to the TAS3004 signal processor, the TAS3013, and the AD1953, and the break-through AD1994 class D amplifier that finally improved on the Tripath amps. And companies like Motorola were developing microprocessors that had built-in shadow emulation capability, so it was possible to write code to control these devices that was easy to debug.
Well, if you recognize any of those IC part numbers or followed Motorola’s microprocessor history, you know what happened: by the time anyone developed a design that could be sold at Audiodevelopers, the key parts had already become obsolete or else the part vendor had been sold to someone else. The pace of the technology changes was too quick, and there was also a flood of low-cost yet high quality amplifier and DSP boards from China that made it very difficult to sell custom audio products. So the original Audiodevelopers concept never had a chance to flourish.
But things are different now. Mixed-signal chip technology and microprocessors evolved quickly during the last 10 years, but now the technology is fairly mature, and the changes are going to be slower. And we know that we need solutions that can take advantage of those low cost Chinese-manufactured boards rather than compete with them. And we have a clearer idea how software is evolving, both for control code and user interfaces. So we are rebooting Audiodevelopers with a revised charter, and hopefully we are better aligned with how the audio world is changing.
Audiodevelopers is still embracing the original concept of providing a collaborative environment for designing and sharing audio products, but the focus will be more on software than hardware, and there will be less emphasis on selling and more on sharing. We’ll see how this works. And even if the collaboration aspect doesn’t work out, the Audiodevelopers website will be available as a source of information to the DIY’er who wants to learn more about audio DSP and enjoy the challenges of active speaker design.
I don’t remember too much about early childhood but remember quite clearly setting out on a family vacation in the late 50’s from Cincinnati to San Diego on my sixth birthday. Our parents fell in love with the area, and my dad left us there to go back and get our furniture.
It’s important to start with that story, as growing up in San Diego in the early 60’s was a unique experience for which I am truly thankful. It was an inspiring time with opportunities to learn and grow in ways that aren’t available to most people today. For example, while still in high school, I was able to drive out three times a week to UCSD for a computer class taught by Dr. Bowles of UCSD Pascal fame. And we drove up to the Newport Pop festivals to see Jimi Hendrix along with a host of other bands. These were exciting, liberating times, with a wide range of opportunities to explore.
I started college at UC Irvine, ready to pursue an engineering degree, but transferred up to Berkeley at the calling of a girlfriend. And with tuition at $50 a quarter and a scholarship that covered room and board, I had a lot of freedom to take classes that I found interesting, rather than having to focus on preparing for a career. Berkeley has always attracted great instructors and their visiting instructors are some of the finest in their fields. I had inspiring instructors for lower division classes in philosophy, art history, music history, political science and English literature, and I enjoyed every class I took. And when it came time to declare a major, I went for the courses that I found the most difficult but that interested me the most: philosophy. Would I do it again? Absolutely! If you have a chance to learn more about the culture that shapes you and how thinking and our understanding of thinking has changed through history, you need to seize that opportunity.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of great jobs that require someone trained only in philosophy, so I stumbled around a bit as an electronics technician. However, I eventually realized that I would need an engineering degree to get a better job, so I went to “reform school” to get a BSEE at UVA and later got a MSSE. I got a good job at Melpar–one of those “beltway bandits” destined to be bought by larger defense contractors. It turns out that having both a philosophy degree and an engineering degree is a perfect way to survive at a defense company. There are always cycles of “program capture” where the company needs people who can write and present compelling technical arguments, followed by engineering work after capturing the business. Since I could participate on either team, I was able to survive many layoff cycles that sidelined others. I was also able to contribute to papers on information fusion and artificial intelligence, which have been hot topics in military system designs for many years.
While at Berkeley I was fortunate enough to meet people who helped me appreciate the great music of prior eras–especially Bach. My lifelong hobby building high fidelity speakers and associated electronics has been driven by a need for clarity, accuracy and ability to resolve details buried in complex music. So, building speakers has been both a creative outlet and a means to an end.
I don’t think there are any other hobbies that span such a wide range, from DSP to woodworking to embedded code design to networking to cell phone and PC user interfaces. And with the evolving technologies, there have always been new approaches to explore, and plenty of opportunities for innovation. Hopefully, these pages have helped others explore these many facets of speaker building and I truly hope to have inspired others to try things that are difficult and challenging. I feel that I have been fortunate to have had so many opportunities to learn and be creative, and these pages are my way of helping others share some of that good fortune.