Meet the Team

Meet the HARMAN Luxury Audio Team

Name: Dylan Constan-Wahl
Position/Job Title: Principal Hardware Engineer
With HARMAN Since 2022

With Meet The HARMAN Luxury Team, our goal is for you to get to know us better. In each edition we feature a different member of the team, and this month it's Dylan Constan-Wahl, Principal Hardware Engineer.

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How would you describe what you do in your current role?

I design the electronics inside Mark Levinson audio hardware. This role involves a variety of types of work:
• System planning: creating a system block diagram from a list of product features
• Evaluation of new circuits, DAC chips, sample rate converters, or even Bluetooth chipsets
• Schematic design and board layout for audio and digital circuits
• Specification writing for any component that will be co-designed or selected
• Testing to verify that hardware designs work as intended
• Writing specifications and test plans for new hardware
• Assembling demo hardware for new product demonstrations

What did you study in school? Did you always imagine yourself doing something like what you’re doing now or did the fates just take you in that direction?

I studied electrical engineering, computer science, and a little bit of art/art history at Michigan State University. My principal focus in graduate school was analog circuit theory, which is my favorite engineering topic.

I wanted to be an electrical engineer probably since the age of two. One of my favorite books was the Audels Television Service Manual, which discussed the operation of all of the circuits in a television circuit. I did not know I would focus on audio until partway through my undergraduate degree.

How did your career path lead you to HARMAN?

Audio started as my favorite hobby, and eventually became the dominant part of my career. I started collecting and repairing professional reel-to-reel recorders and hi fi equipment in 1998. In 2007 I purchased my first record mastering lathe, a Scully with Ortofon electronics. I eventually owned nine record lathes and became an expert; I moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and started work as a consultant to many record mastering studios, designing audio upgrades for their mastering lathes. I’ve also worked designing automotive electronics at Gentex in Michigan and designing consumer electronics at Simplehuman.

What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?

My proudest technical accomplishments were not necessarily my most profitable. In general, truly innovative and new ideas, that actually function, grow out of long periods of frustration, where a problem has seemed unsolvable. Patience is an important virtue.

Any other advice you would share with people just starting out in this industry?

Try to surround yourself with people that are smarter/more experienced than you are, so that you can learn as much as possible. Also, as a manager, developing a team that you can delegate responsibilities to and trust is a true joy.

What are you most proud of in your life?

In my career, I’m most proud of my work on a cutting amplifier. It was a 400 watt per channel stereo tube amplifier with 90kHz full-power bandwidth and three degrees of phase shift at 20kHz. We used a collection of master tapes from the 1950s through the 1980s to cut comparison refs with it, and I have no reservations in saying it is the best sounding cutting amplifier ever made.
In my life overall, my wife is due with our first child in February, so my proudest moments are coming soon.

When did you realize you had a passion for music or audio? Was there any one band, song, or movie that did it for you?

It wasn’t hi-fi, but I did love listening to Motown records when my mother exercised. My bus driver in elementary school would blare Michael Jackson tapes, and I loved it, so my first cassettes were Bad and Thriller, and I played them endlessly on a small Panasonic battery-powered cassette player. I discovered classical music through playing oboe.

What current technology impresses you the most?

ChatGPT, Dall-E, and AI systems in general are remarkable. I think there are a lot of interesting potential for AI applications in music.

Favorite music genre?

I don’t really have one. I currently listen a lot to 1950s rhythm and blues. I also like a lot of current music (Billie Eilish, Japanese Breakfast, etc.), classical music (not so much Schoenberg), and jazz from the 1920s up to just before free jazz.

I do have a favorite musical period for music recordings: 1950-1968. It was the period in which music recording technology was advanced enough to make excellent recordings but not powerful enough to attempt to replace live playing talent with editing skill.

The desert island question, of course. If you were marooned for eternity and could listen to only three albums, what would they be?

If I was actually marooned I’d bring a wind-up player and a stack of 1950s 78 rpm singles, but the records have to wash up on the island because I’d drown trying to swim with them.

You have the floor. In closing, tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself.

I love the feeling of being transported into another time period when I use vintage equipment or drive a vintage or antique car. I have a 1948 Lincoln cabriolet, a 1956 Continental Mark II coupe, and a 1968 IH Travelall, and I feel like a different person driving each of them.

I don’t love owning antique computers, but I would have loved to have an iPad or a Macbook Pro as a kid.