What is a dsp and why should I care?

Although you may not realize it you use a dsp all the time - there's one in your smartphone and one in a modern car sound system.  The most basic type of sound processor is just a volume control.  It lets you alter the level of the sound.  Bass and treble controls let you adjust the way the signal sounds.  A graphic equaliser provides more precise control over the frequency response.  In the analogue world this means lots of knobs.  A digital sound processor does everything by converting the analogue sound input into a digital signal, performing mathematical operations and then converting the resulting digital stream back into an analogue audio signal.

By transforming the original analogue signal into the digital domain it is possible to perform all sorts of operations and functions.  Things like parametric equalisation, compression, ambient noise compensation, gating, delay, auto-mixing, signal routing, automatic gain control, acoustic echo cancellation to name a few.  It is also possible to link a dsp to real world events, for instance to turn the volume down after midnight or if the room temperature rises above a certain value.  A dsp does everything automatically, operating in the background.  It's a bit like having your own mixer with a trained operator in the room all the time.

If you care about the quality of the sound, then you could benefit from a digital sound processor.

Audio and video conferencing are just two applications where sound quality is crucial to making a positive experience for the participants. It is also one of the most difficult thing to get right because of reverberation within both rooms, noise captured by the microphones and delays between the sound at both ends.  People won't use a headset microphone with the microphone close to their mouth, so once the room has been set up the only way to improve the sound quality is electronically.

A digital sound processor is the best way to do this.  It makes use of a number of different techniques to achieve better sound quality.  A dsp can improve the signal to noise ratio by filtering out steady state noise, automatically adjust the gain of each microphone in real time, compensate for the room acoustics, provide acoustic echo cancellation and remove sibilance.

Consider an auditorium or hall.  This will be used for a number of different types of meeting.  At important public events there'll be a technical person present to operate the sound mixer.  At less formal gatherings where there's nobody to work the mixer, you still need a way to get top quality sound.  That's one of the things that a properly programmed dsp can provide.  It also makes it very easy to switch between the different operating modes and to provide remote support.

The BSS Soundweb is one of the most powerful dsps available.  A network of over 100 Soundwebs was used as the core of the sound system at the London Olympic Games in 2102 to deliver quality sound to spectators at the event and broadcasters worldwide.  Whatever your sound problem a Soundweb can solve it.  Furthermore, it can be configured so that it is easy and intuitive to use.

Ascobra are Qualified BSS Soundweb programmers.