In our ongoing series, “One to Watch,” we profile TIers who are making a difference through innovation or citizenship.
Matt Beardsworth first fell in love with music when a friend in grade school introduced him to the 1970 Beatles album, “Let It Be,” by giving him a copy on a cassette tape.
Matt – who was only 9 years old – was captivated by the music on that cassette.
“I remember the album as a whole struck me quite a lot – particularly the guitar sounds, which were uniquely different from anything I had heard before,” he said. “I played that tape quite a lot trying to pick out every detail in the instrumentation of every song. Soon, I was listening to my father’s blues tapes – Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan come to mind. I was drawn to these for the same reason: the sound of those guitars.”That was the start of a lifelong passion for music and audio that led Matt to learn to play the guitar and join a jazz and blues band. It also led him to a career in audio engineering here at TI.
At age 25, this young music aficionado is an audio applications engineer in our high-power audio group. He is also a do-it-yourselfer who builds his own custom amps and speakers to tune his ear for music and find out how the technology works. “He lives and breathes audio,” said Tobias Nass, a product line manager who works with Matt. “While he has an excellent ear and is a musician, he is also an engineer. His passion for what he does makes him a great fit for our group.”
Amping upMatt started playing the guitar at age 12 and then became interested in the technical side of music and started building homemade guitar amps at age 14.
“I started building my own high-end home audio amps because I didn’t think there were many good products on the market for the price,” he said, adding: “I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’”
Matt built his first amplifier using vacuum tube technology in 2013 while he was studying electrical engineering at Boston University. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 2014 and then interviewed for a job at TI.
During the interview, he presented the technical design of his first tube audio amplifier. That presentation helped seal the deal, and Matt joined our apps rotation program that same year. “Matt has a very discerning ear for music,” said Brian Burk, his manager. “He can pick out subtle nuances not only in the music, but also in the amplifier and speakers that often go unnoticed.” Brian called Matt “a very talented young engineer” who wants to help his work group be successful. Tobias said he is a “natural” but also gave him the ultimate audiophile compliment by calling him a “golden ear.” “I consider Matt one of our ‘golden ears’ with his desire to try and measure what he can hear,” Tobias said. “This combination is really unique and is exactly what we need to define, develop and optimize our amplifier ICs.” In his spare time, Matt builds amps for the high-end audio space with a focus on creating the best possible sound quality. He has sold a couple of stereo amps to support his hobby, he said.
His latest project – and the one he is most proud of – is a replica of a Hartsfield speaker that looks like something straight out of the 1950s. The difference between Matt’s speaker and the beloved original horn speaker is a combination of volume and sound quality.
“In the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, amplifiers did not have good output,” he said. “I was going for a really clear, accurate sound at low frequencies where you can hear all the details within a note. Nothing really comes close to these for any decent amount of money. They sound really good.”
He made two wooden speaker cabinets from scratch with the help of a carpenter friend. The 375-pound speakers are a centerpiece in his apartment living room, where Matt hosted a listening session for his audio team at the end of last year. “It sounded magnificent, with lots of detail and realism,” Tobias said of the demos. “I can tell that Matt perfected the speakers from an acoustical, mechanical and aesthetic point of view. Not only did they sound incredible, but they are also a beautiful piece of craft.”
Matt said his hobby helps him in his job at TI because he is able to appreciate audio equipment from both technical and sensory perspectives.
“There are two audio camps – the camp that tells you the data matters to how things sound and the other camp says that’s meaningless and it’s all about sensory perception,” he explained. “I’m always bouncing back and forth between those two camps, and I’m somewhere stuck in the middle. And that’s what we do every day with customers.”
He said our customers demand specs – numbers – and that’s the biggest difference between high-end audiophile products and consumer products.
“In my work at home, the specs on paper don’t necessarily match up with the sound quality. This is a common theme and a problem in audio,” he said. “And this is an issue I would like to resolve.”
Are those 300B's on the amp you're holding?
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