AMS brings hi-def audio to mobile devices

MUNICH, Germany — With the launch of a new high-definition audio player chip family, Austriamicrosystems (AMS) enables handset designers to set new standards for audio quality in mobile devices. With the chips, the company follows the usage trend towards lossless audio formats.

The Austrian chip manufacturer has launched a family of media player ICs which basically implements the architecture of a PC sound card, explained Roberto Simmanaro, Senior Director of Marketing at AMS' communications business unit. The devices are designed to act as audio subsystem in mobile devices such as cellphones or portable media players. Around an ARM processor, the AMS designers have arranged a newly developed audio engine and an audio post-processor. Besides popular lossy audio data formats such as MP3 and AAC, the subsystem also supports lossless formats inluding FLAC and lossless WMA.

The move reflects the increasing popularity of such data formats for internet download and storage on mobile devices, Simmanaro said. “We want to enable a new generation of devices with sound features comparable to home audio,” the AMS manager explained.

While processing lossless data formats hitherto resulted in high power consumption due to the high bit rate it requires, AMS claims it has brought power consumption under control; the new chips will content themselves with less than 10 milliwatts.

According to the vendor, the audio engine executes decompression and playback with zero CPU load. The audio post-processor implements an asynchronous sample rate converter with a multi-channel mixer and a graphics equalizer with three independent sets of I2S outputs which can be utilized to drive stereo speakers, subwoofer, and headphone or as multi-channel audio outputs.

The AS353x family presently consists of three members, each one streamlined for slightly different requirements in the area of mobile media players and cellphones. The AS3532, designed for mobile handset applications, can support either peer mode to a baseband processor or function as a separate 'black box' music subsystem.

The devices are presently in the sampling phase. Along with the chips, the vendor provides a software suite to support the usual user features as well as a software developer kit.

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