With all the different types of digital signal processors (DSPs) on the market, how do you know which to use and when?
There are full featured, kitchen sink types like the Audison bit ONE and then there are single-duty processors like the JL Fix or TwK. A third type picks up the audio signal before it reaches the factory amplifier.
To choose among them, first decide whether you want to integrate into the vehicle, or tune the audio, or both. Most dealers are interested only in integration, said Ken Ward of Educar Training.
“Based on my conversations with dealers, a lot see [DSP] simply as a way to undo the factory processing. They are not worried about forcing it to sound great through tuning,” he said.
If all you need is integration, the next question is what type of car you are working on, and is there a plug and play before-the-amp solution for it. These solutions are low cost “preamps” that capture the audio signal before it reaches the factory amplifier where it’s subject to tons of factory DSP. These let you control the volume from the factory knob. They include the Maestro AR, Metra AX-DSP, PAC ampPRO, and NAV-TV interfaces such as the ZEN-A2B. Ward refers to them as external preamps.
“If you are putting in an aftermarket system and the car has an external preamp product available, you should use it. It’s faster, it avoids work, it avoids testing. The work has been done for you,” he said.
If there is no external preamp solution for your car, you can step up to a combination, “kitchen sink” processor (available from suppliers such as Audison, AudioControl, Mosconi, Rockford, and Helix) Or you can choose the JL FiX.
If you’ve sold a job based on providing great sound, you will want a combo processor as mentioned above or the JL TwK. Or you can use a DSP/amplifier with built in DSP for tuning.
Some of the “before-the-amp” processors also offer limited tuning capability.
Other questions to consider when choosing a combo DSP are how many channels you will need both in and out. And, do you have preferences about the controller, software Toslink, etc?
Make sure your DSP supports split L/R EQ tuning, if you are doing more advanced tuning.
Just another note based on a recent editorial by Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog (and a leader in DSP dealer training). It’s always helpful to learn more about audio tuning, a lost art to many of today’s installers.
“[DSP] is the most powerful product we have for making a car sound good and we can’t figure out how to sell it to customers. And that’s because they require us to intervene,” said Wehmeyer, explaining it requires salesmanship to sell high quality audio.