No external IC required: integrated analog audio IP on system-on-chip

Audio processing is critical for mobile phones, portable media players, digital cameras, camcorders, electronic toys, and many other products that require high size and power consumption. In addition, advanced portable products such as GPS navigation devices and smartphones need to add value and differentiate them from other similar products by setting audio functions, which creates an expanding market for audio processing.

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A few years ago, audio functions required one or more discrete integrated circuits to handle, especially when true Hi-Fi (such as over 96dB dynamic range) audio performance was required. Many different ICs that were previously required can now be integrated into a single SoC, yielding the same quality and, in many cases, more discrete audio ICs. This significantly saves chip area while reducing power consumption and extending battery life. Recently, the all-digital "Class D" audio amplifier has become an audio function module that can be integrated into the SoC design, with a power output of up to 1 watt, enough to drive headphones and small speakers.

IC designers and end-product manufacturers have found that integrating audio functions into their SoC designs is increasingly taking into account the pressure to achieve product size miniaturization while integrating high-quality audio, extending battery life, and delivering products at competitive prices. Attractive. Current state-of-the-art SoC audio performance is highly competitive with discrete audio ICs.

SoC IC Technology Overview

SoC designers don't have to start from scratch, they can put together the design blocks that have been developed and designed to perform signal processing on the SoC. These building blocks are called kernels, and the intellectual property required to build these cores is called "IP core" or "IP."

Figure 1 reflects a 1 kHz signal output from the MIPS Technologies CI7822dl 24-bit stereo DACIP core. The strongest 3 kHz harmonic is lower than the test signal. 95 dB total harmonic distortion is -92 dB. The dynamic range is 104 dB.
SoC manufacturing plants or foundries have realized a shrinking range of semiconductor technology nodes. At present, 180nm and 130nm technologies are mature, 90nm and 65nm nodes are becoming more and more popular, and 45nm and smaller technology nodes are coming soon. Each smaller technology node represents a new set of challenges. For example, entering the deep submicron region requires the development of shallow trench isolation (STI) technology to prevent leakage between portions of the device components. Providing adequate electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection in deep submicron processes is critical and more challenging than ever. In addition, analog audio signal processing is highly susceptible to noise. As more and more digital processing at higher clock frequencies is added to the SoC, the ability to integrate smaller process sizes is becoming more and more challenging for designers.

MIPS Technologies offers SoC designers a range of analog audio IP products, including audio codecs, converters, amplifiers, and other audio features designed specifically for portable device designers. Sometimes, it is difficult for a single SoC to perform a specific function, and designers will integrate various chips into a Multi-Chip Module (MCM) or a System-in-Package (SiP). MIPS Technologies' Audio IP can be used for all of these system design methods.

Dynamic Range

The term "dynamic range" refers to the ratio of the maximum possible undistorted sound to silence. The high dynamic range is the best proof of the low noise of the audio IC – which proves why it is the most important audio specification. The dynamic range of a standard audio CD is 96dB, which is the most outstanding performance for a consumer audio system. For professional audio applications, discrete audio ICs with up to 120dB dynamic range can be found on the market. However, such high performance often exceeds actual demand for consumer electronics applications because both power consumption and small size are important.

While key features such as codecs and amplifiers for discrete audio ICs are required for any product that pursues “Hi-Fi” reproduction, these features can now be easily integrated into SoC designs with advanced high-performance audio IP. .

MIPS' analog audio IP core for Hi-Fi applications delivers a full 96dB dynamic range for a wide range of cost, power and size requirements. They are ideal for mobile phones and portable devices.

For true audiophile applications, MIPS' IP enables SoC designers to achieve dynamic range of up to 104dB without the need for discrete audio ICs. While it requires a relatively large amount of chip area and power consumption, this balancing solution is also valuable for applications such as high-end cameras, camcorders, digital TVs, and set-top boxes.

Advanced analog audio capabilities

Advanced audio capabilities that help system designers save power and improve performance make MIPS Technologies' analog audio IP unique in the industry. These advanced audio features include:

* Ultra-low ripple linear phase digital filtering: True True-Fi quality with in-band ripple below ±0.02dB and 0.1μ below linear phase.

* Headphone check (electronic socket insertion detector): If there is no earphone plugged in, why should I power the audio headphone amplifier? When not needed, the amplifier power can be turned off without the need for additional socket terminals, like the traditional "General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) Mechanical Switch with Comparator".

* Capless / Phantom ground / True-ground: Capacitors are a large external component required between many audio codec ICs and headphone jacks. Designers use audio output that connects the IC directly to the socket, saving space and material costs.

* Integrated Phase-Locked Loop (PLL): Convenient for audio IP to work with any system clock, from 12MHz/24MHz USB to 27MHz video, including GSM 13MHz clock. It even enables the operation of audio IP left and right without the need for a high speed master clock.

* Sample rate conversion: Allows simultaneous multi-time domain sync audio frames to be connected to audio IP.
* Automatic level control: It is good for the recording level to be consistent regardless of the input signal strength. This is very useful when recording sources from unknown strengths such as moving subjects.

* 5/10-band audio equalizer: The built-in graphic equalizer helps SoC designers save on the valuable processor MOPS for critical system tasks.

* 3-D Audio Enhancer: Added pseudo-center audio channel for richer audio effects

* Microphone Bias: Provides a noise-free power supply for the electret microphone unit, so that the recorded signal is likely to achieve the best quality.

* "Flexible clipping": Smoothing strong signals to avoid severe distortion.

* Soft Gain Slope: Balances the slope of different gain settings to avoid "zip" noise.

These features, along with standard codecs, analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog converters, mixer/volume control, and amplifier functions, form the complete "integratable" analog audio IP family. Designers can select the features they need based on the specific needs of the application, enabling these features on a minimum chip area.

Customize IP according to "your way"

Integrating unneeded features into SoC designs is not efficient for cost, chip area and power consumption. The obvious advantage of MIPS Technologies' Audio IP is its ability to precisely tailor these features to the level of quality customers require.

This is beneficial for consumer electronics products that are very sensitive to material costs, such as low-cost electronic toys, which may only sell for a few dollars. As designers integrate Class D audio power amplifiers into SoCs, today's system designers can achieve unprecedented power consumption in low-power, low-cost custom SoCs.

For system designers who don't need a full codec, MIPS also provides the right features for audio drivers, digital-to-analog/analog-to-digital converters, and IP. If designers need a 44.1 kHz phase locked loop (PLL), MIPS Technologies can provide it for their needs. It is optimized for 44.1 kHz (CD audio sampling frequency) rather than a universal design. Embedded audio analog front ends, output amplifiers, and any features that are required are available from MIPS Technologies.

When system product designers design out-of-the-box audio ICs, the audio reputation of the product will be attributed to the IC manufacturer. When integrating audio IP to SoC design, SoC will be well received for its superior sound quality, which adds value to custom SoCs.

In addition, SoC designers can control their own supply chain with integrated audio IP. Of course, they can also benefit from designing audio from scratch for SoCs, but this can lead to significant increases in time to market and even poor performance.

in conclusion

Whether you're designing audio for mobile phones, high-performance media players, cameras, or cheap toys, MIPS Technologies' audio IP can help design engineers get faster and better. Hi-Fi audio requirements previously only available with discrete ICs, including efficient Class D amplifier capability for driving headphones and small speakers, can now be implemented with SoC designs for MIPS analog audio IP.

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