The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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I'm admiring my new laptop computer. For a while it will be my best friend when I'm traveling, but I'm already resigned to having only a transient relationship. These things are fragile and fickle, and its predecessor had betrayed me on my last business trip.

I'm sure this will be a familiar story to many readers, but there I was at the start of a long trip, firing up my trusty laptop. Well, it had been trusty. This time, however, in the middle of the boot sequence, a message suddenly popped up on the screen that read: "Disk I/O error." My computer had suffered an aneurysm. What had been a beautiful electronic machine had been converted into useless junk by the fragility of a mechanical spinning disk.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
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Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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