Digital Music Renaissance Dick Burwen’s algorithms may bring back analog’s rich, complex sounds

Mark Anderson writes: Neil Young has called the digital recording era the "dark ages" of music. Bob Dylan, in a 2006 Rolling Stone interview, called music from CDs "static" and "small." Just a couple of grumpy old rockers who can't get with the program—or visionaries who see that the times, they are a-changin'? A retired engineer's basement in Lexington, Mass., is the unlikely wellspring for some technology that could hold the answer.

Richard Burwen, designer of everything from stereo sound chips to the Pioneer spacecraft's magnetometers, has spent nearly 50 years building and tweaking his own 20 000-watt ultrahigh-end hi-fi system. And some of the tricks and algorithms he's developed could someday make your CDs and digital music files sound better than you ever thought they could.

In 1962, Burwen began designing his house around what has become the US $500 000 Burwen Sound Studio—"the ultimate man-cave," as one scribe called it. The rear third of it hosts racks of computers, control panels, and audio components of varying vintage, from 1960s dial-and-needle boxes to modern-day laptops. The rest is an enormous

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