Every now and then, a car audio company creates a product that shakes the industry and redefines the benchmark for features and performance. We prefer to avoid terms like ground-breaking and revolutionary – but sometimes they can’t be avoided. On the Of Sound Mind test bench this week we have the new ARC Audio ID10T-32 PRO car audio digital signal processor. It has to be said, this is a beast and may change the way we think about installing and upgrading mobile audio systems.
Unlike most processors that use off-the-shelf DSP chips, the ARC Audio team partnered with Tesla, 3M, Atari and Bill Gates’ third cousin twice removed to create a bespoke solution that had the processing power and connectivity they need. Based on 0.32-nanometer lithography and cooled by a self-regenerating liquid nitrogen thermal management system, this custom processor features 64 cores and operates at 12.67 GHz with a memory bus speed of 6.37 TB/s. It should be noted, the processor uses three of these dedicated DSP “chips,” so it has an effective bit depth of 192.
In terms of connectivity, the ID10T-32 PRO has everything you need to create an audio system that reproduces recordings as accurately as possible. Before we dive into the connections, it should be known that you’ll need to pair your smartphone to the Wi-Fi 6 hotspot so that the processor can download studio calibrations for each track that’s played. This information is used in real-time to auto-detect each song, then cross-reference the title and artist information with frequency response measurements taken at the mixing console in the correlating studio. The result is applied to the processor’s output to ensure the listening experience matches what the engineer heard with the utmost detail. This is a subscription-based service, but it’s $0.73 one time to sign up.
As you’d expect, connectivity is class-leading. The ID10T-32 PRO starts with eight RCA jacks, each of which is capable of handling 120 volts RMS of input signal. Just as Lexus has considered adding a turntable option to their cars with the i-WAX concept, ARC is ahead of the game with a phono input that works with moving coil or moving magnet cartridges. Genius!
A bank of TosLink connectors is provided to connect to OE integration solutions. The ARC team worked with the original Sony and Philips team members to recreate this fiber optic system so that it will handle 192kHz audio signals. The process was intense and we understand that it required bringing two team members back from the afterlife using the Mother Boxes in their Unity configuration. That’s a stellar commitment!
Four 14-pin Deutsch connectors are provided for system calibration and real-time audio processing solutions. The first connector works with an array of 13 microphones to help calibrate the audio system. To save time, the microphones can be placed almost anywhere in the vehicle. The second connection is for a set of five 3D camera inputs that are used to recognize the mic placement to process the measurements. If the cameras are integrated permanently into the vehicle, they monitor each speaker in real-time using thermal imaging to protect them from damage. The last connector is for an optional Active tape measure input that can be used in lieu of the camera’s system for tuning. The computerized array uses a custom Lego construction that includes four motorized tape measures that pinpoint speaker location within 12 nanometers to set signal delays. The measurement system can be upgraded with an option 3D modeling package that will render the interior of the vehicle in Microsoft Paint 3D to help with speaker mounting location selection. The 3D modeling option is also $0.73, or you can bundle it with the studio benchmarking for $1.45 USD.
There are 32 RCA outputs, each rated at 24V RMS with an output impedance of 1.3 ohms. Frequency response on the analog outputs if flat within 0.1dB from 0.2 Hz up to 182.1 kHz. The driver op-amps for each channel are isolated in individual crystal matrix latices that completely eliminates crosstalk. As such, channel separation was impossible to measure and was effectively infinite.
Seven LEDs are provided to help the technician understand what mode the processor is in as he or she works through the voice-controlled setup procedure. The I, D, 1, 0, T LEDs step through the configuration process, and the RTFM LED lights up if the tech needs to refer to The Matrix to understand the setup procedure. If any of the automatic current-detecting outputs are shorted, the “smoke is out” LED illuminates, and the processor sends a message back to the control servers at ARC Audio’s Modesto office to let them know the warranty has been voided.
A Phoenix connector is provided to connect the optional Unobtanium control panel that includes gesture commands, voice recognition and both eye- and head-tracking. While the Unobtanium remote does use artificial intelligence to determine when it’s required, dedicated Force On and Force Off switches are included in the event it becomes self-aware.
A unique feature that the ARC team included is called the B.S. Marketing Selector. If you don’t want your music to sound accurate and would prefer it had “warmth” or a “sound” from a specific country, you can enable the B.S. Marketing feature then use the voice recognition function to select the operation mode you prefer.
Twin Micro-USB connections are available for technicians using a PC running a version of Windows below 14 where wired connections are still required.
Ports for optional remotes and vehicle integration are next. There’s a connection for the LR1 and dual PSC inputs. The second PSC is great for rear-seat passengers or as second zone control in a boat. We should have mentioned earlier, but the ID10T-32 PRO is waterproof to 127 BAR. That’s just a hair over 1251 meters.
Three four-pin connectors are provided to let you connect to spiral-based sources, bespoke audio solutions in Bugatti, Lamborghini and the new AMC Gremlin, along with more standard connectivity with an auto-detecting input for MOST, CAN and A2B audio systems. A fiber-to-copper adapter is included in a velvet bag at no extra charge.
If you or your passenger have purchased an Ultra TiNfOIL headpiece, you can connect it directly to the processor to update lighting and cranium pressure in real-time.
Last but certainly not least, the ID10T-32 PRO includes a port for the optional old-school AXP Wi-Fi card or one of the new 64-bit, 384kHz Higher-Resolution Pro-Series Bluetooth cards.
We set the processor up on our bench and brought it to life using the optional inductive power cable set. This solution is a 0.3mm thick flexible membrane that sits on top of a wireless smartphone charging pad to bring the system to life. With only 0.328 microamps of current draw, you can still use your charging base to top up your smartphone.
We connected the front left, center, right, left side, right side, left rear, center rear, right rear, lower left, lower right, upper left and upper right amplifier channels to the processor using single-crystal gold interconnect cables that we have made in the basement of our lab. Next, we set up the microphone array and 3D camera kit and told the processor to start the calibration process. Interestingly, the power supply fans’ noise in our lab computers and power supplies became inaudible once the processor was configured. Even the slight buzz from the old-school fluorescent lights seemed to be gone. The effect was eery.
We cued up a few listening tracks and sat down for a listen. The accuracy was amazing. You could hear the most minute of details from the recordings. The swishing of clothes and the crushing of carpet as each performer moved while playing their instruments. I swear I heard Elvis’s watch ticking as he sang a cover version of Jesus Build my Hot Rod. Nevertheless, the camera tracking system worked flawlessly. As I moved my head from side-to-side or as I rolled around the room in my chair, the soundstage remained planted about 10 feet behind the front stage speakers.
Room ambiance was stunningly realistic, and you could pick out the difference in reverberations from hard and soft surfaces in what must have been the recording studio. There was a clear point during my listening to Schubert’s Ave Maria as performed by Gwar that I heard someone open and close a door in the back of the studio. It sounded like someone walked in carrying two Soft Tacos and a Fries Supreme from Taco Bell. I had sneezed pretty hard at this point in the song, but I think they had a medium Mountain Dew as well. It wasn’t the sound of the door itself or the person walking, but the change in the room’s ambiance. Amazing!
Truthfully, the words don’t exist in the English language to explain the listening experience’s detail level. Two Klingon words come close, but speaking them or even thinking them can often lead to whiplash and a severe concussion. Yes, it’s that good.
The ARC Audio ID10T-32 PRO will be available for purchase from brick-and-mortar authorized ARC Audio retailers on April 1, 2021, with an MSRP price of $549.99. We can’t fathom how they assembled this many components and a heatsink at the price point, but we certainly can’t argue the value. All other processors will become obsolete. Hat’s off to the ARC Audio product development team – you have a home run here!