SANTA CLARA, Calif. " For engineers designing digital audio systems, choosing the right audio codec isn't always a straightforward exercise.
A sampling of different audio technologies-MP3, Dolby AC-3, MPEG-2 AAC, MPEG-4 AAC, DTS and others-shows how tough choosing one standard can be. And that's just the first step in a longer process that includes licensing, compliance testing and royalty assessments.
But for Tensilica Inc., the fragmented state of affairs of digital audio presents an opportunity. This week, the company said, it will roll out a package of audio codecs and new instructions for its Xtensa processor that take some pain out of digital audio design. At the same time, it promises to raise the bar on sound quality.
The audio package includes 10 encoders and decoders in C and assembly code, a binary-compiled version of the software and audio-specific instructions. These special instructions were developed by Cute Solutions Pvt. Ltd., one of a handful of companies that Tensilica works with to develop application-specific instructions for its configurable processor.
Tensilica doesn't claim to support all of the available audio standards but says it can support some of the more widely known, such as Dolby Digital AC-3, MP3, MPEG-2 AAC, MPEG-4 AAC as well as the G729AB speech codec for voice-over-Internet Protocol. The price starts at $50,000 for a basic MP3 decoder engine.
"It takes a long time to learn the standards and then translate that into an SoC design. This is more efficient, and in the long run it's cheaper," said Larry Przywara, director of strategic alliances.
Solid State Systems Co. Ltd. of Taiwan has endorsed Tensilica's solution, saying it's expected to speed development of an upcoming product.
Besides time-to-market, Tensilica's audio engine aims to improve sound quality by including instructions for a 24-bit media access control.