Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine Provides Low-Power, Turnkey 24-bit Audio

10/7/2005 - Tensilica(R), Inc., announced the Xtensa(R) HiFi 2 Audio Engine, an add-on package for Tensilica’s proven Xtensa LX processor, optimized specifically for today’s consumer audio functions. Tensilica also announced a comprehensive set of software encoders and decoders for all popular audio standards, including Dolby Digital AC-3, microQ from QSound Labs, MP3, MPEG-2/4 AAC LC and aacPlusTM, WMA (Windows Media Audio), and AMR (Adaptive Multi-Rate speech). As a low-power turnkey solution, the Xtensa HiFi Audio Engine enables system-on-chip (SOC) designers to quickly design audio-enabled devices such as cellular phones, portable music players, DVD drives, and set-top boxes.

“By the end of 2005, our customers will have shipped tens of millions of units that include our first-generation Xtensa HiFi Audio Engine,” said Chris Rowen, President and CEO of Tensilica. “This new generation product supports additional audio standards and is based on our leading-edge Xtensa LX processor, so it’s faster, lower power, smaller and more flexible.”

This new 24-bit embedded audio processor has inherent advantages over common 16-bit audio processors in use today. It provides superior sound quality of compressed files due to the increased precision available for intermediate calculations in the compression and decompression algorithms. And 24-bit audio is fully compatible with all of the popular audio standards.

Because the Xtensa LX processor with the HiFi 2 Audio Engine is fully programmable, multiple audio standards can run on the same hardware, allowing the same silicon to be used for multiple applications or the same device to play or record audio in different standards.

Sixteen Audio Packages
Tensilica offers sixteen audio packages for the Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine, so these functions can be integrated into a SOC design, with no additional codec software development required.

Audio-Specific Hardware Extensions
The Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine employs over 300 audio-specific DSP (digital signal processing) instructions, created specifically by the engineers at Tensilica to optimize the Xtensa LX processor for audio. It features a dual MAC (multiply accumulate) architecture supporting both 24x24- and 32x16-bit arithmetic on both MAC units.

The HiFi2 Audio Engine employs Tensilica’s FLIX (Flexible Length Instruction Extension) technology to provide an efficient architecture to minimize cycle consumption and power for audio applications, extending the base Xtensa LX configurable processor with a 64-bit instruction format containing dual multiply/accumulate and other DSP operations as well as loads and stores to and from two register files specific to HiFi 2. Numerous features such as saturation, fractional arithmetic, and signedness can be selected with the multiply/accumulate and arithmetic operations to ease codec porting and implementation effort. Also provided are operations to facilitate bit stream access and variable-length (Huffman) encoding and decoding.

The HiFi 2 engine's native 24-bit data precision provides a superior trade-off between sound quality and codec performance compared to many common 16-bit audio processors in use today, while support for 32- and 16-bit data items is also provided. And the HiFi 2 Audio Engine is fully compatible with all industry standard audio coding formats, and delivers noticeably superior sound quality even when decoding prerecorded 16-bit encoded music files.

Power Savings
Through a combination of significantly lower power per MHz, and architectural optimization of the new Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine instruction set, the Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine delivers dramatic improvements in energy efficiency that lead to increased battery life for portable and wireless applications. Based on TSMC’s 0.13 nm LV process, running at 200 MHz, static power for the Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine is 0.40 mW, dynamic power is 17.8 mW, and total power is 18.2 mW or .091 mW/MHz. Total power for the first Xtensa HiFi Audio Engine was .207 mW/MHz in the same process. Tensilica’s first HiFi Audio Engine’s worst case required MHz for the MPEG-4 AAC LC encoder was 85 MHz, while the worst case required MHz for the MPEG-4 AAC LC encoder with the new Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine is just 38 MHz. The total energy used for this example (MHz required times power-per-MHz) is a nearly 5-fold improvement in energy efficiency.

Lower Gate Count
Through careful engineering and by fully exploiting the new features of the Xtensa LX architecture, Tensilica was able to reduce the overall gate count of the Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine, compared to the first version, resulting in a 20 percent smaller size when targeted to 200 MHz. Total gate count, with the 300 audio-specific instructions, is approximately 78K gates.

Performance to Spare
Because of the efficiency of the Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine architecture, it requires only a fraction of the available MHz to perform the audio decoding and encoding functions. Targeting high-performance applications, it can support speeds greater than 280 MHz in TSMC 0.13 um LV, leaving lots of headroom for other control, media and signal processing tasks.

Pricing and Availability
The Xtensa HiFi 2 Audio Engine is available now and priced at $75,000 for the audio instruction set. The following software codecs are available now: MP3 encode/decode, MPEG 2/4 AAC encode/decode, AMR WB encode/decode and the microQ MIDI synthesizer. Others will be available over the next two months. Codecs are priced separately, starting at $37,500 for object code implementations of the MP3 decoder. Use of the HiFi 2 Audio Engine requires a license to the Xtensa LX processor.

About Tensilica
Tensilica was founded in July 1997 to address the growing need for optimized, application-specific microprocessor solutions in high-volume embedded applications. With a configurable and extensible microprocessor core called Xtensa, Tensilica is the only company that has automated and patented the time-consuming process of generating a customized microprocessor core along with a complete software development tool environment, producing new configurations in a matter of hours.

Tensilica and Xtensa are registered trademarks belonging to Tensilica, Inc. aacPlus is a trademark of Coding Technologies.

Tensilica’s announced licensees include Agilent, ALPS, AMCC (JNI Corporation), Astute Networks, ATI, Avision, Bay Microsystems, Berkeley Wireless Research Center, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Conexant Systems, Cypress, Crimson Microsystems, ETRI, FUJIFILM Microdevices, Fujitsu Ltd., Hudson Soft, Hughes Network Systems, Ikanos Communications, LG Electronics, Marvell, NEC Laboratories America, NEC Corporation, NetEffect, Neterion, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT), NVIDIA, Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., sci-worx, Seiko Epson, Solid State Systems, Sony, STMicroelectronics, Stretch, TranSwitch Corporation, and Victor Company of Japan (JVC).

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