Dirac: High-Fidelity Audio for Your Smartphone

The company’s software minimizes the limitations of small speakers and headphones

3 min read
photo of headphones and smartphone
Photo: iStockphoto

In the years since the iPhone was launched, in 2007, smartphone manufacturers have competed primarily on the size and resolution of their screens, touting display capabilities sometimes to the exclusion of anything else. But as mobile display technology matures, manufacturers are looking to other areas to distinguish themselves, such as sound.

This is good news for a company like Dirac, which provides algorithmic audio-optimization tools. A few of the bigger brands around the world that already include Dirac’s optimizations are Alcatel, Huawei, Infinix, Motorola, and Tecno. So when Dirac offered IEEE Spectrum a chance to try out its demo suite, I took it. I wanted to see if these tools really made a noticeable difference.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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