Flexibility is the Name of the Game
Of course, each consumer product is unique and every SoC inside is specifically designed for its target application. The IP inside these SoCs have to be designed in a way that enables SoC designers to easily configure and perfectly optimize the IP for the intended system application. This is especially important in designs where performance is critical.
For example, processors should be fully configurable to get the highest system performance at the lowest cost. Audio processors, for example, can be tuned to their application, whether it is low power during music playback for portable devices or high definition, multi-stream audio processing in a set-top box. Innovative processor architectures such as the the one used in the DesignWare ARC processors allow users to add custom instructions to get the most ideal optimization for the specific application.
To keep up with the dynamic audio market, designers need to be able to quickly react to changing product specifications, update the configuration parameters of the various IP, and make a new code release available. Design configuration tools allow SoC integrators to easily configure the complete audio subsystem in just a few hours – from specification to the complete design (hardware and software).
Prototyping for Faster System Integration and Validation
Virtual and FPGA prototypes are important components of an audio subsystem. Virtual prototypes of an SoC reflect the actual hardware implementation, allowing the application software to be developed (and simulated) based on the virtual prototype.
A significant benefit of virtual prototyping is that it allows software engineers to start development much earlier in the design cycle, well before the actual RTL design is available, resulting in a huge time-to-market improvement. The application software allows designers to integrate the individual software components of subsystems within the SoC, including all audio software.
Software engineers can then use the same audio software stack that later will run on the actual silicon, to create, assemble and verify the system application, for example, a media-player that includes both video and audio processing. Virtual prototypes apply optimized simulation models, allowing the application software to run real-time, so system engineers can evaluate and, if necessary, adapt their design early in the life cycle of a new product.
Before handing it over to the physical design (layout) teams, engineers need to validate the design from a complete system perspective. Will all the integrated hardware and software IP provide the intended functionality at the required performance? FPGA-based prototyping platforms provide system integrators a means for hardware/software co-validation at the system level using the real hardware design as it will be implemented in silicon later.
Enabling "Drop-in" Audio Functionality with a Pre-Integrated IP Subsystem
Complete IP subsystems consisting of hardware, software and prototypes that can be easily "dropped-into" an SoC means that designers don't have to add missing parts (either hardware or software) or negotiate between different IP suppliers, thereby reducing integration risk, effort and time. Using a pre-integrated, pre-validated solution also takes away the effort of verifying that all the IP works together – a task that is normally done by the designer.
Synopsys' DesignWare® SoundWave Audio Subsystem includes all the required hardware components, including single or dual-core 32-bit ARC™ audio processors with an XY memory architecture, analog audio codecs with over 96 db resolution and digital peripherals (e.g. I2S, S/PDIF). The SoundWave Audio Subsystem's software stack includes certified audio decoders and encoders plus post-processing software, as well as a pre-integrated MSF that enables users to easily create any audio use-case. A GStreamer plug-in for the host processor provides seamless integration into the application software.
Synopsys' Virtualizer™ Virtual and HAPS FPGA-based prototyping systems accelerate software development and validation of the full system. An easy-to-use configuration tool, allows designers to configure a complete subsystem from 'spec' to design including all hardware and software in just a matter of hours instead of weeks if done manually. Finally, Synopsys' Lynx Physical Design System has been extended with a dedicated SoundWave plug-in, enabling SoC designers to complete a layout implementation in less than a day.
Figure 4: Synopsys' complete, pre-integrated and pre-verified DesignWare SoundWave Audio IP Subsystem.
About the author
Henk Hamoeni is Senior Product Marketing Manager at Synopsys, Inc.
This article originally appeared on EDN's Consumer Design Center.