Many Dealers Clueless About DSP

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Ken Ward Educar Training

The vast majority of car audio dealers, up to 90 percent, are still burying their heads in the sand when it comes to Digital Signal Processing (DSP) devices, according to our poll of industry members.

But DSP is a key tool for the aftermarket to gain entry into newer cars, and it represents a means of ensuring the viability of the aftermarket as cars grow even more complex.

Plus DSP can make a car sound great.

Ken Ward who is a former IASCA judge and who runs Educar Training said DSP can make a car sound better today “than I would have dreamed I could make a car sound when I started 30 years ago.”

There’s a high learning curve to install and adjust DSP, but the rewards can include higher ticket sales and an advantage over a retailer’s competitors.

“The numbers say that we’re not supporting DSP as a category yet. …I can say, generally, many DSP manufacturers don’t feel they’ve found the secret formula to adoption,” said Ward.   “The number of DSP-enabled products we’ve seen introduced in the last five years have outpaced our ability to support them.”

Ten years ago, tuning involved setting a crossover.  Now, with DSP you have about 40 or 50 adjustments just to get the crossovers playing and hundreds of settings on the eq.  Then there’s time delay settings. And there’s very little instruction on how to set up DSP.  Most of the instruction is about connecting wires, said Ward.

DSP therefore requires learning a set up process, and then about a dozen hours of hands on experimentation with the products, he said.

Orca Design & Mfg. (Focal, Mosconi) said it has simplified its training and added some audio basics to try to address the problem.  It teaches things like level matching, and source to amp gain setting.  “Then we have a 7-step DSP training,” said Sales Director Nalaka Adikari.

Dealers are also overwhelmed by the large number of DSP products now on the market.

One leading retailer said, “DSP, we’re trying to get there. …We’re trying to educate ourselves better. It’s a little bit confusing.  All of a sudden, we’re getting bombarded with a lot of product and what’s the difference between them…when do I use a JL when do I use a Rockford, when do I use an Audison? We all have to work on our selection of products.”

Then there’s tuning.  Some dealers experimented with DSP and found it required more time tuning than anticipated, which caused them to lose money on the job.  So they tossed the category aside.

Finally, to sell DSP salesmen have to be onboard.  “We’re trying to shift from only training technicians to training sales people…DSP can raise ticket prices because when you sell DSP, your going to sell higher priced speakers and higher priced amplifiers,” said VP of Elettromedia USA Rob Wempe.

“Guys should be using DSP because now there’s a means to make even less expensive speakers sound better than more expensive speakers that aren’t using DSP,” said AudioControl’s Chris Bennett.

We’ll offer some tips to retailers for entering and prospering in the DSP market in a separate story to come.

Photo: Ken Ward teaching Educar training class.

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  1. @ Richard: So.. basically taking your car to any common stealership today is what you’re describing to me, LOL.

  2. What Chris Bennett said is right on. The car interior and some factory head units are more of a problem than cheap or expensive speakers. What can be done today is MUCH easier and less labor intensive than what used to have to be done for the average consumer to fix phasing and placement issues. These are amazing tools that can fix problems that we have had for more than 25 yrs. Some, like the Kicker Key amp will tune DSP itself with pink noise, a temporary mic and a button push. Maybe 5 more minutes than a normal amp install. I wish I had this stuff when I competed in SQ back in the day.

  3. At Santa Rosa Cartunes Digital Sound Processors have become a new category. Yes, I do call it a new category. It’s a new category that we are very excited about at this juncture in our industry. If demonstrated correctly, DSP is hard for many consumers to turn away from because they are going from a listening experience to an emotional experience. When it comes to music, if you can tap into their emotions you’ve got them, or better said, you’ve educated them.

    When the Audison Bit-Tune came out, we bought one right away and completely educated ourselves on every aspect of it. Since then, we have added any and every necessary tool required for tuning to our existing toolbox. We have always had AudioControl’s SA-3052 and all necessary microphones. The latest piece we have added is AudioControl’s DM-RTA (which recently released) and with that we also picked up a UMM-6 USB microphone.

    We have no problems selling to the DSP category now. We actually prefer to go to it, hence the benefits spoken about in Amy’s article. We currently display four active processors, stock about eight different processors, and just picked up the Brax and Helix line. One of the processors installed in our soundroom sounds so good that when we had an Alpine X-Perience event, the Alpine product trainer Chris Sinh stated that it was one of the best he had ever heard.

    I do feel that this is something that needs to be displayed not only at the store level but also in demo vehicles. When the customer hears the difference, you can just sit back and see how they’re willing to invest in the sound that they have been missing out on all this time. Imagine…there’s a generation out there that hasn’t even experienced sound quality that many of us considered just normal in 1980. It’s amazing that we’re selling old technology as if its something new.

    These are exciting times for us because this is a category which requires special tools and skill sets, which equal profit. I encourage all of those that have not jumped into DSP to get involved and don’t let this opportunity pass you up, not to mention the next level of accomplishment we enjoy so much when we fire up that sound. Something I feel that shouldn’t go unsaid is many thanks go out to Rob Wempe from Elettromedia. His push and support behind this category should not go unrecognized. Thanks Rob, Phil, and Steve.

  4. DSP is an excellent example of where the consumer is far more educated than the reseller. A good friend of mine once said, “The knowledge is out there for those who seek it.” Could you imagine taking your car to be serviced where the mechanic was unable to download trouble codes from the ECU, interpret them, and formulate a diagnosis? I’d take my car elsewhere.

    It’s 2019 . . .

  5. Great article Amy and yes a big opportunity for our market. Certainly many dealers have still to start to adopt DSP integration as part of their selling tools and audio solutions to address many of the audio challenges in today’s vehicles. Our experience is that the tide is turning and more dealers are starting to want to understand more and take the time to train and bring their teams up to speed. Yes it is an area that will take investment of time and resources and we all have a role to play in that whether a manufacturer or dealer or individual.

    At AudioControl, our DSP category is up 40% in 2019 and, as many have said above, we are all focusing as an industry on training and awareness to support the learning curve ahead. It is exciting to see the way we are starting to move this forward but yes we all have work to do and it is a big opportunity for all of us and of course our end-user customers…

    It was very encouraging and an important sign to me last week, at the PNWCEE tech dealer event in Seattle, the evening before the show began a number of leading brands including our own Chris Bennett from AudioControl alongside a number of other key manufacturers from JL Audio, Focal, Audison, Kicker and more held a DSP round table facilitated by Ken Ward and the anticipated 30 attendees turned into over 80 attendees with standing room only and a great discussion and debate on the benefits and the need for DSP took place, alongside the key message that DSP is a gateway to getting back to the fundamental basics of audio in the car today. I was there and it was a great thing to see!

    DSP, no surprise is a key ‘plank’ in our strategy here at AudioControl including addressing the key message by Ken and others above on training, awareness, selling techniques and an intuitive interface that when dealers take the time to learn, not can BUT WILL increase ticket value, profitability, customer satisfaction and of course ‘make good sound great’ for all our customers….

    We are excited here at the impact we are having and the way the industry is rallying around to help address the way DSP is adopted by our industry….

    Thanks for a continuing DSP focus Amy in your work…

    Alex Camara
    CEO, AudioControl

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