AUSTIN, Tex. -- Aiming to cut the retail price of flash-based audio players to less than $100, Cirrus Logic Inc. here today launched a new processor that integrates 24-bit DSP and a RISC processor core from ARM Ltd. to dramatically reduce the cost of building portable digital players.
The new Maverick EP7409 processor will enable consumer electronics companies to develop Internet audio players built on a single printed-circuit board, while cutting power consumption to double the life of a battery in the systems, said Cirrus managers. In addition, the Internet audio processor will enable designers to eliminate the use of NOR-based flash for system firmware programs. Instead, NAND flash can be used to hold both programs and data (audio files), which lowers the overall cost of players, said John Woosley, business development manager at Cirrus.
"Most players today are typically made with two or three circuit board sandwiched together, but the high level of integration on the 7409 makes it possible to build a player on a single printed-circuit board," Woosley said. "That represents huge cost savings when you factor in the boards, connectors, and other components in the build of materials."
The savings from chip integration, reduction of boards, and lower flash memory prices can push the build-of-material cost to about $69 in new players using the Maverick EP7409 processor, compared to about $100 for most current designs. First-generation flash-based audio players had a build-of-material cost of about $130, said Cirrus.
In the cost of ICs alone, the processor is "saving $10-to-$15 in the build of materials," Woosley estimated.
The new Maverick processor will be fabricated for Cirrus Logic by it foundry company, Hynix Semiconductor Inc. in South Korea, using 0.25-micron process technology. Samples will be available in the third quarter and production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2001.
Cirrus said the new processor will be priced at $15.85 each in a 128-pin QFP package or $16.35 each in a 144-contact ball-grid array (BGA) in quantities of 10,000 through distributors.
The processor integrates a range of functions, including an ARM7 central processing unit, 24-bit audio digital signal processor, headphone amplifier, Cirrus' MaverickKey security technology, 104 kilobytes of SRAM, and 60 Kbytes of ROM.
Cirrus is aiming the chip at a number of portable audio player segments, such as flash-based systems, magnetic-media units, and optical CD devices. According to analysts, forecasts for portable digital audio player shipments ranges from 10 million-to-30 million units in 2004, compared to about 5-to-7 million players this year. Cirrus believes worldwide shipments will reach about 15 million units in 2004.
Today, Cirrus claims to be serving 25 different MP3 player models with its Maverick processor series. The new 7409 is aimed at extending the company's market share by cutting system costs and extending the life of batteries. "With the 7409, we expect to double the life of MP3 player battery life going from 10 hours to 20 hours on a single AA battery," said Woosley. "We have partitioned the system and optimized the hardware to do tasks that are best suited for Internet audio players."
For example, the 24-bit audio DSP performs single-precision math for codec decoders instead of the double-precision math required in 16-bit DSPs, he said. The ARM core is used by system programmers to program system features, such as user interfaces. "Everything that is needed for a portable player is integrated into this device," Woosley said. "It has USB Universal Serial Bus slave, and LCD interface that supports very large displays."