The Paul Reed Smith we all know and love is the avuncular doyen of high-end electric guitar (opens in new tab) design who has made his company the third largest guitar manufacturer in the US, behind only Fender and Gibson. His name is synonymous with boutique electrics with highly figured maple tops, but there’s a lot more on his CV.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday (opens in new tab), Smith was named their Power Player of the Week, acknowledging his work in high-end guitars – but also in high-tech imaging technology. The segment revealed that Smith has been dividing his time between PRS Guitars (opens in new tab) and Digital Harmonic (opens in new tab), a company he founded in 2015 and which applies advanced mathematics to enhance images and video.
Digital Harmonic has 100 registered and pending trademarks and almost 24 patents. Its tech can be applied in a variety of contexts, including medicine, astronomy, auto manufacturing and the intelligence agencies.
If an X-ray is a little soft, Digital Harmonic can bring out the detail.
The concept began when Smith was working on a synthesizer with his father. They were taking audio data from sound waves and amplifying it. They learned they could isolate instruments in the mix. It turns out, this concept could be translated to digital data.
When Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Smith what gave him most joy, making high-end guitars for the stars or building platforms such as the Precision Measuring Matrix, Smith equivocated.
"That's not fair,” he said. “You’re watching Carlos Santana play onstage, playing a PRS, that's good. I'm looking at information that I know no one has ever seen before? That's good, too. You can't compare the two. Both are good.”
Both said Smith, were tools. Carlos Santana needs his PRS doublecut to play, Digital Harmonic’s clients need its tech to “have clarity to make good decisions.”
Smith explained that, for him, making a guitar is synthesise of many disciplines. “It’s art and math mixed, and woodworking . . . For me, I am rotating that part in my head. I can see it.”
Having started in audio before moving into imaging, perhaps there there could be a musical application in the future for Digital Harmonic. If Smith can restore data from the pixels in an under-exposed photo, or separate instruments on a recording, perhaps Digital Harmonic’s tech could be used to restore old or lost recordings.
The question is: could record companies afford it?