Making a Case for Sound
But audio is not what it once was. Audio has technically diversified and found its way into just about every product CE has come up with. "Back in the early '80s, when we first were founded, audio was just understood in [simpler terms] — the whole idea was perfection, and you just didn't want other signals present anywhere in the spectrum," said Hofer, "Nowadays audio has come to mean: What can you get by with and still sound adequate. You end up with people now wanting to analyze signals that are very obscure and non-traditional in terms of the word audio."
At the center of the trend is compressed audio. Whether the source is digitally coded material from a DVD player, or MP3 files from a portable digital audio device, these audio formats present new demands on test equipment. According to Frank Hall, director of product marketing, the testing setup can take longer than the test itself. "Most of the discussion around compressed audio really gets back to what our customers call an open-loop test," he explained, "That where you have an analyzer that is decoupled from the generator and the generator doesn't know what the analyzer is doing … it causes the analyzer to have to work very slowly to wait out the generator as it goes through these predetermined series of tests."
To help itself navigate the audio landscape and maintain its own relevancy, Audio Precision has been working closely with the industry in three major areas: PC audio, with companies like Microsoft and Apple; coded audio, with Dolby Labs; and switching amplifier technologies, with companies like Texas Instruments and Analog Devices.