Audio: Listen to this article.
When the original iPhone was released in 2007, it shipped with a handful of built-in apps, and that was it. Apple released an update late in the year that contained the iTunes Store app for purchasing music. This is pretty much how many digital HiFi components are designed. They ship with a specific set of features and are updated with improvements and a few more features at a later date. For example, the dCS Lina DAC just received a fantastic online upgrade to version 2.0, with two new mappers, DSD128 upsampling, and new filters among other items.
One year after the iPhone came out, Apple announced its App Store marketplace. It launched with 500 apps and has ballooned to nearly two million apps today. Apple provided the iPhone hardware and software platform, and developers from all over the world unleashed their creativity.
What does this have to do with HiFi and specifically Dutch & Dutch, manufacturer of the highly praised 8c loudspeakers? It provides a blueprint for where HiFi can go, and Dutch & Dutch is leading the way. Last week D&D announced that its 8c loudspeakers can now run third party applications. Think about this, D&D provides the hardware and software platform running inside the 8c speakers, and developers from all over the world can create and sell software for the platform. Sound familiar?
At first blush, many music loving audiophiles will likely say, “OK, why would I want that in a loudspeaker?” This is a totally acceptable response. However, we must think bigger. Start with the Dutch & Dutch 8c loudspeakers, then think about other apps we use in our HiFi lives. What about Hang Loose Convolver for room correction, HQPlayer and its NAA endpoint, AES67 audio over Ethernet, a better UPnP implementation, or even immersive audio decoders from Dolby or Auro-3D? I’d love to to see an app / plugin on the speakers that enables use of different remote controls for volume because I’m a huge fan of items such as the new Simaudio BRM-1 Intelligent Remote and would love to see high end aftermarket remotes take this to another level. Those are just off the top of my head.
After the initial, “this is cool” stage, think about the other possibilities. It’s only limited by one’s imagination. Then consider the fact that Dutch & Dutch are very interested in expanding this platform to other loudspeaker manufacturers. The makings of an ecosystem, where applications and plugins from anyone can run on the loudspeakers, are here. D&D has done much of the work, and is now ready to work with the world to extend it as both professionals and consumers see fit.
The first piece of software announced for the 8c loudspeakers is the BACCH plugin. According to Dutch & Dutch:
“BACCH technology revolutionizes stereo sound reproduction. It was developed by Edgar Choueiri, a Princeton professor, and it focuses on crosstalk cancellation to create an immersive and realistic audio experience. The technology tackles the problem of stereo recordings not accurately reproducing sound localization in real life. Instead of manufacturing a phantom image, BACCH leverages the natural differences in arrival time, amplitude, and tonality between the listener's ears to create precise localization. It overcomes the issue of inter-aural crosstalk that occurs when sound is reproduced from two loudspeakers.
BACCH stands for "Band-Assembled Crosstalk Cancellation Hierarchy" and it introduces a novel approach to crosstalk cancellation. The technology avoids introducing any coloration or distortion to the audio signal, ensuring a transparent and natural listening experience.”
BACCH is really cool, but it’s only the beginning. I spoke with D&D co-founders Martijn Mensink and Kevin Kleine this morning to get more information and to understand if their enthusiasm for what they’ve launched matched mine. As soon as we started talking I felt a sense of ease and excitement. These guys are my people, they totally get it. We talked like geeks, like fans of music, and shared an appreciation of solid engineering.
The 8c loudspeakers have both an ARM based single board computer and DSP hardware. The ARM SBC is used for the third party applications and plugins, but the DSP hardware technically could be used for further processor offloading. The platform runs Linux and keeps these apps in their own Linux containers. To oversimplify things, adding a new app for the 8c means spinning up another Linux container on the internal eMMC or SD card. For now it isn’t as easy as accessing the speakers from a web browser and uploading an app. Dutch & Dutch is taking a cautious approach to make sure things launch smoothly and to also gauge where the largest areas of interest are for app developers.
We already have computers, why not just do all of this on a PC? That’s certainly a valid question, but it comes from inside the box. A platform to run highly specific apps on loudspeakers ensures they just work and will help the large group of people who just want it to work, adopt the technology. Think about how many developers create apps for iPhone, but not computers. A hardware and software platform with vetting a stability is the right horse for this course. I know geeks, myself included, would love to “root” the D&D 8c and run all kinds of things on them, but right now this isn’t the target market. Moving slowly, with quality control, to guarantee both the developers and consumers experiences are great, is the right way to proceed.
I honestly can’t wait to see and hear what people from around the world do with this new capability. In the right situation, I’d love to use Tidal Connect from an iPhone, sending audio straight from the cloud to a pair of 8c speakers, and have the audio go through Hang Loose Convolver for room correction before hitting my room. No music server or computer needed. Just a phone and pair of 8c speakers, and this solution would be incredibly powerful.