Our cover story this month on the blurring of consumer and pro-level audio products looks largely at the philosophies of manufacturers that have a presence in both marketplaces, but they’re hardly the only brands that want to bring a professional audio experience to consumers.
The process of integrating pro audio technologies into consumer offerings is different for every product, but it’s a balancing act every time—and one person with some insight into the process is Jack Joseph Puig. While he’s a noted producer, engineer and mixer who’s worked with everyone from U2 and the Rolling Stones to Jellyfish and Beck, in recent times, he’s also been Waves’ director of Creative Innovation. The position finds him inhabiting multiple roles, as something of an ambassador for pro audio’s aesthetic values; a futurist looking at the larger technological landscape that the individual consumer products are a part of; and a consultant providing expert insight based on his unique background. As a result, he’s been involved in the audio aspects of numerous consumer products, including various Oppo, alactel and Google Pixel smartphones; Google Home personal assistants; Fitbit earbuds and more, in addition to designing and developing the first hi-fi, all-in-one computer, the Dell XPS 27.
Puig refers to the process as “device mastering,” explaining, “All companies would like everything they sell to cost less to manufacture. However, this means creating demos that allow me to present an A/B comparison demonstration to let upper management experience the difference of what their product could and should sound like. When I do my A/B demo of a product that I have ‘tuned’ [Device Mastering], anyone can instantly hear and experience the difference in the audio quality, and that is the point where companies recognize that’s what their product needs to sound like—as it is going to be more marketable and will separate it from their competition.”
That device mastering process, says Puig, means “I am using my ears and the same sensibilities that I use to mix and produce multi-platinum records to ‘tune’ or ‘mix’ the sound and feel of Bluetooth, mobile, laptops and personal assistants, with the result that the audio and entire experience of using that device is more engaging and pleasurable.”
The weight of having a Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer combined with Waves’ technology, he says, “brings authenticity to the process, and it creates confidence for all these consumer brands to listen and trust. Being a creative person coming from the pro world and now taking that knowledge into the consumer electronics world means that I and my team are in the best possible position to know what the device should sound like. If you have made the records, you know how they should feel and sound—that is what we are bringing to the table.”
Related stories from Pro Sound News:, June 26, 2008
• Waves Launches Puig Collection, by Bud Scoppa, Dec. 27, 2011
• Puig Shows Off Waves Line of Signature Collection Plug-Ins, by Bud Scoppa, Dec. 27, 2011
• Jack Joseph Puig, Dell, Skullcandy and Waves Audio Announce Cooperative Effort, Oct. 15, 2012
That doesn’t meant there aren’t challenges—other concerns are still typically more important in the manufacturer’s eyes than audio quality. “For the last seven years, almost all consumer companies have thought that sound doesn’t matter and that ‘It’s good enough’ will suffice,” he says. “They have been focused on weight, battery life and screen quality. Industrial design—ID—is their other huge concern, but ID has not been a friend of audio. ID is always wanting to make it smaller and thinner, leaving no space for quality acoustic and transducer design.”
That mindset, however, is starting to shift, he says: “Now that audio is coming to the forefront as an important feature set, I have been seeing a trend of us being asked to get involved much more at the front-end of the design process. Each situation is unique as the products become more challenging from the stand point of Industrial Design, driving the products into smaller and smaller form factors, yet my goal, regardless of size, is to have great audio quality.”
And, it would appear, the products he has and continues to work on are not happening in a vacuum either, he reports, noting, “I am seeing and hearing this new wave coming with a demand for a better audio quality experience.”