PORTLAND, Ore.—Tensilica Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) is banking its future growth on the world's largest electronics market by adding support for China's Dynamic Resolution Adaptation (DRA) standard to its entire library of over 100 audio encoders, decoders, an sound enhancement chips for adding high-fidelity audio digital signal processors (DSPs) to mobile handsets.
Tesilica predicts it will top the billion unit mark in shipments of its high-fidelity DSP audio chips into mobile phone market by 2014, up from 300 million units today. Tensilica's software partners to address this market include Dolby, Acoustic Technologies, DTS, SRS, QSound, Sensor, Audyssey, AM3D and Arkamys.
DRA was selected by China as its national audio coding standard in 2009.
"The world is changing the way they use their ears and mouth," said Chris Rowen, chief technology officer at Tensilica "Audio is starting to look like what video did two or three years ago. Today there is an escalation in the expectations of users in the quality of audio experience for both voice as well as for enjoying movies, sports and gaming on their mobile devices."
Processing using microphone arrays, such as beam steering and noise cancellation is making new demands on audio processors in addition to surround sound and stereo sound stage widening for entertainment content.
"We have only just started to develop the possibilities of high-fidelity audio in mobile devices." said Rowen."We are just now passing the 10 billion unit market in units of high-fidelity audio for mobile devices."
Audio chip growth at 300 million today at Tensilica is predicted to top 1 billion by 2014, with total market growing to 10 billion by 2016.
According to Rowen, the voice requirements are not just outpacing battery technology, as is generally acknowledged, but are also outpacing Moore's Law for audio chips. As a consequence, Tensilica and other audio core vendors need to innovate to keep up, since designers can't just wait for Moore's Law to to provide the extra audio processing capabilities they need to scale up to higher performance.
Today smartphones need about 200MHz audio/voice DSPs for voice and music, but according to Rowen in 2-to-3 years designers will need at least 600MHz to meet the higher bandwidth requirements of voice codes, wide-band VoIP, audio pre/post processing and adaptive processing on receiver side of calls to improve fidelity.