Lab X's SHARC®-based Module Supports 8-Channel Home Theater Systems

There's an old expression, "variety is the spice of life," which was meant to convey the idea that just as a cook uses different spices to create a constantly surprising palette of flavors, having a lot of different experiences makes life complex and interesting. "It's up to the OEM," says Lab X Technologies, LLC President/Design Engineer Lee Minich, "to add the 'secret sauce' with just the right amount of 'spice' to make a finished product interesting." Minich is speaking about the audio module his company designed for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to incorporate into their designs. "In the end," concludes Minich, "discerning customers will enjoy a great listening experience."

The Lab X Technologies module is the Mako 2126x DSP and features SHARC® ADSP-21262 or SHARC 21266 processors from Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI). There were three reasons Lab X chose SHARC processors. First: SHARC processors dominate the audio industry. Second: Lab X's clientele demanded them. And third: Performance. "In the audio industry, SHARC is the de facto standard," says Minich. "SHARC has more than enough horsepower for sophisticated algorithms. Plus SHARC reduces the complexities associated with new designs. It's great technology, backed by a company that has proven expertise in developing world class audio processors."

Lab X Technologies Solutions
Lab X Technologies works with OEMs to develop audio and connectivity products for their customers, including user interfaces, preamplifiers, studio-mixing boards, home theater, sound distribution, MI, and broadcast solutions. The Mako™ 2126x DSP module is one of two current Lab X OEM products (the other is an audio network interface module). OEMs can integrate the Mako board into their designs, or Lab X can do it for customers, even turnkey solutions. Lab X can also be contracted for specific product and service needs. Mako is especially designed for integration into home theater, pro audio, and commercial audio applications, with features that are essential in this market. "An increasing number of audio applications require substantial amounts of signal-processing capabilities because software modules are emulating analog audio-processing functions," said Minich. "With a SHARC processor on board, Mako will save OEMs time and reduce development costs."

"In the audio industry, SHARC is the de facto standard," says Minich. "SHARC has more than enough horsepower for sophisticated algorithms. Plus SHARC reduces the complexities associated with new designs. It's great technology, backed by a company that has proven expertise in developing world class audio processors."
Lee Minich                            
LLC President/Design Engineer
Lab X Technologies                

SHARC is a 32-bit/40-bit floating-point processor optimized for high precision, signal-processing applications such as audio, which requires high performance for math-intensive decoders and post-processing algorithms. The SHARC ADSP-21262 achieves an instruction cycle time of 5 ns at 200 MHz. With its Single-Instruction Multiple-Data (SIMD) computational hardware, the SHARC ASDP-21262 can perform 1200 MFLOPS running at 200 MHz. Mako is also available with a SHARC ADSP-21266 processor to provide home theater decoders for PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby DPL2, and THX post-processing algorithms.

SHARC processors also include such on-chip system features as dual-ported SRAM memory and on-chip, dual-ported mask-programmable ROM. In various configurations, and in combination with three separate on-chip busses, the dual-ported memory allows for data transfers, two from the core and one from the I/O processor. The processors include an 8- or 16-bit parallel port that support interfaces to off-chip memory peripherals. "We used the SHARC ADSP-21262 processor's parallel port to provide an interface to external SRAM for time alignment delays," said Minich. SHARC also includes a direct memory access (DMA) controller that allows zero overhead data transfers without processor intervention.

SHARC features six full duplex serial ports that provide an inexpensive interface to a wide variety of digital and mixed-signal peripheral devices such as ADI's family of audio codecs, digital-to-analog converters (DACs) or analog-to-digital converters (ADCs). The processor contains one serial peripheral interface (SPI), which enables a SPI-compatible port to communicate with other SPI-compatible ports, and a Digital Audio Interface (DAI), which enables various peripherals to connect to any of the processor's 20 DAI pins. SHARC contains up to 13 synchronous serial ports for 12S, or Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) input and output, to interface ADCs to the audio processor devices.

Another very important reason Lab X chose SHARC was because SHARC enabled the company to "gang" the boards together into multi-Mako configurations, or farms, which are ideal for multi-processing applications.

In addition to the SHARC processor, the Mako 2126x DSP Module features an optional Cirrus Logic CS8416 Digital Receiver with an eight-channel multiplexer for interfacing to American Engineering Society/European Broadcasting Union (AES/EBU) or Sony/Philips Digital InterFace (S/PDIF) digital input streams. S/PDIF is a serial interface for transferring digital audio between devices such as CD and DVD players and amplifiers and is the consumer version of the AES/EBU interface.

The Mako also contains two 512K x 8 SRAMS that provide 256K long words and yields up to 5.46 seconds of 32-bit delay at 48 KHz, as well as an optional 4M x 8 flash available for program boot and non-volatile memory. The Mako system also supports booting from either flash or a slave SPI.

Another component on the Mako is a Xilinx Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD), which provides flexible options for clocking, header pin usage, and a module addressable SPI host interface. And finally, Mako includes onboard reference clocks, which send signals to slave ADCs and DACs at 48 kHz or 96 kHz sample rates.

Exceptional Tools
For tools, Lab X started out with ADI's EZ-KIT Lite Evaluation Kit, which consists of a standalone evaluation board and a suite of the VisualDSP++ integrated development environment to facilitate architecture evaluations via a PC-hosted tool set. The company used the tools extensively, especially VisualDSP++, which enables programmers to develop and debug an application. It includes an easy to use assembler, which is based on an algebraic syntax, an archiver (librarian/library builder), a linker, a loader, a cycle-accurate instruction-level simulator, a C/C++ compiler, and a C/C++ runtime library that includes mathematical functions. The compiler has been developed for efficient translation of C/C++ code to assembly. SHARC has architectural features that improve the efficiency of compiled C/C++ code.

"The SHARC architecture is very straightforward to use," said Minich. "The development tools, VisualDSP++, are great and the compiler, C/C++, is exceptional. The code is very easy to understand and optimize. We were able to hand code in assembly when necessary and write non-performance critical code in a high-level language, C. We wanted a seamless transition between the high-level language, such as the C compiler, and the underlying assembly code. We chose SHARC because it gave us development tools that were advanced and user friendly, and it offered development in both C and assembly language."

Lab X also used ADI's VisualAudio, which consists of a tool suite and a set of software libraries built upon VisualDSP++. It provides a variety of software building blocks required for audio system design including volume controls, tone controls, delays, compressors, and more. It also supports custom-written audio modules. It provides an intuitive drag-and-drop graphical user interface (GUI) and works out-of-the-box on readily available reference hardware platforms such as ADI's EZ-KIT Lite. The company also took advantage of SHARC Melody processors that provide a platform on which to build high-quality audio receivers with high-fidelity audio decoders such as those available in home-theater systems. SHARC also provides a JTAG test access port so Lab X could monitor and control the board during emulation.

Going Forward
Lab X Technologies selected SHARC because they wanted a processor and a company that had a well-defined product roadmap that met the increasing demands of the audio community. Lab X is already planning its next generation of Mako with a pin-compatible version of SHARC processors.

For more information about Lab X Technologies, visit their Web site at www.labxtechnologies.com.

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