TOKYO ( ChipWire) -- Emboldened by strong sales of audio devices to Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers, Cirrus Logic Inc. plans to introduce a video processing engine to complement its audio portfolio and a programmable digital signal processor for high-end audio systems, company officials said.
Though both areas are new territory to Cirrus, the Texas-based company believes it can leverage its position as a leading supplier of audio decoders as a way to gain a foothold. Cirrus estimates it has a 55% share of the market for Dolby audio decoders going into consumer A/V equipment, said Terry Ritchie, vice president of DSP Technologies for Cirrus Logic's Crystal audio chip division in Austin, Tex.
The decision to jump into video processing chips comes at a time when the company's book-to-bill ratio for consumer electronics devices has hit 1.4. Because of the strongbookings, customers are being told to wait an average of 12 weeks for consumer
audio devices, which include DSPs, data converters, transmitters, receivers and
codecs. Much of the demand is coming from makers of DVD players, which is "the
fastest growing consumer electronics market ever," Ritchie said.
While demand is already robust for its audio devices, Cirrus believes it could get eclipsed by competitors if it doesn't soon get involved in video processing as well. "We have to have video or risk getting outflanked by companies that have video but not audio yet," he said. "It's a great simplification for our customers if their audio supplier brings in video."
It makes sense to offer audio and MPEG-2 video decoders to makers of so-called mini-systems, which include a CD player, tuner, tape drive and soon DVD drive in the same unit. Cirrus Logic officials hinted at their video decoder plans here during a press conference promoting the company's latest CS493xx multichannel AAC decoders.
At the same time, Cirrus plans to soon move deeper into the audio decoding with a new programmable
digital signal processor. The 32-bit DSP will provide more processing headroom for OEMs that want to
build in their own features such as hall effects or cinema-like sound effects.
"Almost every A/V manufacturer has their own secret sauce, and they don't want people like us to do it for them," Ritchie said.
The programmable audio chip will include two DSP processors, both of which will draw from a bank of shared memory. Stressing the importance of internal memory to boost performance, Ritchie said 80% of the chip's die area will consist of RAM for I/O, shared memory, programmable memory and data memory. The device will also include an SDRAM controller for optional off-chip memory expansion, he said.
The programmable DSP will serve as a back-end processor that will modify the audio signal once it has already passed through dual-precision 24-bit (48-bit effective) processing at the front end. The device is intended for high-end A/V receivers, DVD players and set-top boxes, Ritchie said.
With its programmable audio DSP, Cirrus hopes to take the wind from the sails of Analog Devices' Melody chip set, which is based on the company's 32-bit floating-point Sharc DSP. ADI counts Denon, Madrigal, Sony Electronics and TAG McLaren Audio as customers for the chip set.
"What we're doing is knocking the Sharc out of the water," Ritchie said. He said Cirrus should be able to "drive the manufacturing cost low enough to take almost all of the sockets."
While the programmable device marks a new direction for Cirrus, the company does not wish to jump into the general-purpose programmable DSP market to challenge leading DSP vendor Texas Instruments. Such a move would require a huge investment to develop the software tools and build a support infrastructure. "We're focused on market-specific processors," Ritchie said.