Reminiscent of how large-scale line arrays caused a monumental change in professional audio, I believe we’re in the midst of another massive shift.
The days of “conventional power amplifiers” in upper-level sound reinforcement are dwindling, replaced by the newer, rapidly emerging breed of “intelligent amplifiers” outfitted with sophisticated digital processing and sometimes, a whole lot more.
After this new generation of amplifiers of intelligent amplifiers (“smart amps”) was introduced, it took me a while to get my head around the concept.
Incorporating digital processing in every single amplifier seemed like a financial waste when one processor is capable of controlling so many identical amps.
But as I continued to ponder the idea, the more sense it made for several powerful reasons.
JUST A BAND-AID?
First, there’s the flawed concept that a bank of amps with the same model number are always identical.
The fact is that the output power of each amp is affected by its loudspeaker load, and rarely in the real world are all amps driven at identical loads.
Then there are issues like blown loudspeaker drivers and/or miswiring.
Smart amps are capable of analyzing loudspeaker loads, monitoring drivers and flagging improper wiring, and letting the operator know about these factors immediately.
This additional smart capability, in turn, allows loudspeaker manufacturers to further increase the quality and capabilities (i.e., sound better and get louder while blowing fewer drivers).
The plot recently thickened further with the (somewhat shocking) announcement by Dolby that they’re leaving the processor manufacturing business with the almost immediate discontinuance of the Dolby Lake Processor.
Yes, Dolby seems to prefer licensing versus making hardware. but for one of the top manufacturers of digital processors to pull the plug is saying something.