Monday, March 26, 2012

Synopsys combines H/W & S/W IP with protoyping tools, for a complete SoC audio subsystem.

In developing their new DesignWare SoundWave Audio Subsystem for System on Chip (SoC) design, Synopsys Inc. has strategically combined the assets from several of the company's acquisitions in recent years. The SoundWave solution bears a lineage born of Synopsys' 2010 acquisition of Virage Logic (ARC cores), and their Sonic Focus audio enhancement software (acquired by ARC in 2008), the CHIPit and Synplicity FPGA hardware prototyping tools, Chipidea mixed-signal IP (from MIPS), and the Virtio virtual prototyping technology for software development.

Henk Hamoen, Senior Product Marketing Manager for ARC Sound and IP Subsystems at Synopsys, says that SoundWave represents ten staff-years of development and integration effort, which involved more then 200,000 hours of functional verification testing, and development of 500,000 lines of code. Designers can configure the subsystem with a single or dual ARC 32-bit audio processor cores. Dual cores can be used to process multiple audio streams, such as in Blu-ray disc player applications. Hamoen says that the cores do not need to be identical, and some customers differentiate their end-product SoCs by using a second core to implement customized audio post-processing.

By taking a subsystem approach, Synopsys was able to eliminate the DMA (Direct Memory Access) functions normally required in the each of the I2S (Integrated Interchip Sound) and S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital InterFace) interfaces, combining the functionality in the shared Flex FiFo block. This saves area, and also simplifies the design process, says Hamoen. The SoundWave subsystem also provides an interface for customers to connect to Synopsys' HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) IP block. An ARM AMBA (Advanced Microcontroller Bus Architecture ) AXI (Advanced eXtensible Interface)/AHB (Advanced High-performance Bus) protocol interface facilitates integration of the audio subsystem into a SoC architecture. Customers have the option of including Synopsys' analog audio codecs to provide the connections for line inputs and outputs, microphones, speakers or headphones.

The SoundWave Audio Subsystem software development environment allows users to select from a library of codecs that includes Dolby Laboratories, DTS, SRS Labs and Microsoft, along with open source formats Ogg Vorbis and FLAC. Synopsys provides audio plug-in software for developers to use with the open source GStreamer multimedia framework, for integration of their audio subsystem software with host application software.

The Synopsys Virtualizer prototyping tools enable users of the SoundWave Audio Subsystem to integrate the audio software stack with their application software, before silicon is available. The HAPS (High-performance ASIC Prototyping System) FPGA-based prototyping system provides developers with a hardware model of the SoundWave subsystem for full system integration and hardware-software validation.

For physical implementation, Hamoen says that Synopsys has developed an optimized SoundWave plug-in for the Lynx RTL-to-GDSII SoC Design System. An example layout for the digital components (i.e. standard cells and  memories), in a 40LP process, occupies 0.21mm2.

Hamoen indicated that Synopsys will be launching other subsystem offerings, to continue to leverage the range of assets which the company can bring to SoC design, including integration services. By moving further up the design chain in SoC audio hardware-software integration, the company is coming at incumbents such as Tensilica and CEVA with a broader arsenal of tools, at the risk of disturbing their relationships as partners.

The DesignWare Audio Subsystem is available now for Synopsys' early adopters, and the company is planning a general release in April 2012.

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