The market for digital signal processing (DSP) is heating up fast, if the number of suppliers entering the segment is an indication.
Phoenix Gold, Cerwin-Vega and PowerBass are each planning to offer their first DSP. Massive Audio just began shipping one. JL Audio is planning two new processors. And Cadence and Rare Audio showed them at CES. Plus Mosconi and Helix are adding new DSP models.
Additionally, more companies are adding DSP to amplifiers including Kicker and JBL. AudioControl is planning a DSP/amp and Rockford is considering one.
Currently signal processors sell at a rate of only $2 to $3 million annually (wholesale), according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But AudioControl believes they could become a $25 million market over the next several years.
“Certainly, the DSP category is poised for growth because it’s the ONLY appropriate way for the aftermarket to keep up with the OEMs. The obstacles for that growth lie in installer training,” said Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog.
“With the cars coming with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s going to be much harder to change head units,” said Phoenix Gold’s Ken Wiseman. “So to get aftermarket stereo into those vehicles, you’ll need some kind of processor to integrate with them.”
Cerwin-Vega’s Larry Frederick said, “The only way to go is DSP.”
But DSPs are not an easy product to sell and install and a massive dealer education program will be required. On the other hand, the products cannot be easily installed in the driveway by DIY’ers, which could prove an advantage for specialist retailers who invest in proper product training.
When the processor is not properly tuned it can actually make the system sound worse. And a full hour or two of tuning may be required on some of the DSP models.
One technical support manager said, “The tech support calls will soar by 300 or 400 percent” once his company offers DSP. “It’s going to be ugly,” he added.
Rockford, which sells the current 3Sixty said it doesn’t see the category taking off at retail until suppliers are able to offer DSPs with an “EZ button” that offers good sound and then a means to tweak the system further for those who want even better sound. Said Dan Bowman…”There’s a steep learning curve. It takes an hour or two to fully tune a vehicle to get the sound you are looking for.”
DSPs convert an audio signal to multiple digital channels that can be manipulated to control crossovers, equalization, time alignment and compression. Then you can also add channel summing and OEM integration so the DSP becomes a gateway for adding aftermarket amplifiers and speakers to a factory radio.