Korg Delivers Pro Audio Studio-Quality Recorders with Blackfin® Processors

Jazz/worldbeat legend Joe Zawinul and progressive rock keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman are just a few of the many musicians who agree that musical instruments from Korg greatly enhance their live performances and studio recording sessions. An international Japan-based corporation, Korg is one of the most highly-respected companies in the market, with an endorsement list that reads like a "Who's Who" of musicians from all genres. Since its founding in 1963, Korg has developed a wide range of products, including synthesizers, music workstations, virtual software-based synthesizers, digital pianos, dance and DJ equipments, video tools, digital recording studios and portable recorders, guitar effects processors, and instrument tuners.

Korg's engineers set out to design new cutting edge, professional mobile recorders based on 1-bit sampling technology – the first format since analog tape worthy of being used as a final mixing and archiving solution for both amateur and professional recordings. They wanted a signal processor powerful enough to handle the required processing, but cost-effective enough to make the end-products affordable to consumers.

Korg chose a Blackfin® ADSP-BF532 signal processor from Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI). With 400 MHz of performance, Blackfin® ADSP-BF532 signal processors are ideal platforms for next-generation consumer multimedia applications such as Korg's portable recorders.

Korg's MR-1/MR-1000 Portable Recorders
Korg's new MR-1 and MR-1000 Professional Mobile Recorders are based on ground-breaking 1-bit technology – the latest advancement in audio officially adopted for use in the critically acclaimed Super Audio CD (SACD) recording format. The recorders come bundled with Korg's innovative AudioGate™ software for Mac® and PC that enables the conversion of 1-bit recordings and mixes into all audio formats without degradation. Each recorder supports multiple recording formats, including Direct Stream Digital Interchange File Format (DSDIFF), DSD Stream File (DSF), and Wideband Single-bit Data (WSD) 1-bit formats, as well as the multi-bit pulse-code modulation (PCM) format, with resolutions up to 24-bit/192.kHz.

1-Bit Sampling Technology
Developed by Dr. Yoshio Yamasaki in the 1980s, 1-bit digital audio recording technology was adopted and promoted by Sony and Phillips as Direct Stream Digital recording (DSD) in their SACD configuration, and has been commercially available since 1999. Systems based on 1-bit sampling can digitize audio at extremely high sample rates. Until now, the typical maximum rate was 2.8224 MHz, but now with Korg's MR-1000 Professional Mobile Recorder, audio can be digitized at 1-bit sample rates up to 5.6448 MHz. This reproduces frequencies up to 100 kHz, which exceeds the dynamic range of all other recording systems, including magnetic tape. As such, steep input filtering and its objectionable coloration of sound in the audio encoding chain is unnecessary and can thus be eliminated. Also eliminated is the sound-coloring decimation filtering during recording, and oversampling and interpolation during playback. In summary, 1-bit audio sampling technology allows digitized sound to most closely resemble the original, raw material.

Korg's AudioGate software converts 1-bit recordings into Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) and WAV formats at various bit-rates and vice versa, offering real-time conversion and playback of 1-bit files. Users can easily transfer data from the device's internal hard drive to a computer via a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. The software also provides essential functions such as DC offset removal, gain control, and fade In/Out. With Korg's new mobile recorders and AudioGate software, users can record and archive their recordings with the same quality that once could only be achieved in a studio environment, and at a price they can afford.

A table top unit, the MR-1000 recorder is for professionals who want to record and archive their final mixes in the studio. Because of its compact size and portability, the recorder can also be used for on-location recordings. The MR-1000 delivers up to 1-bit/5.6 MHz recording and playback, doubling the industry DSD recording quality standards. The MR-1000 features a 40-Gbyte internal hard drive, studio quality, ultra low-impedance mic preamps with balanced XLR ¼-inch inputs, phantom power, and built-in limiting, plus XLR and RCA outputs. A high-speed USB 2.0 connection enables easy file transfer to and from a computer. The unit runs on AC power or AA batteries for mobility.

Once a user records/edits the audio tracks using a digital audio workstation (DAW) of choice, he/she can mix the tracks directly to the MR-1000 via an analog summing mixer. The 1-bit technology provides superb fidelity, and backing up audio files in this format "futureproofs" mixes for potential reuse. When transferred to a computer, the audio files can be converted to a mastering format of choice using the AudioGate software.

The handheld MR-1 portable recorder is ideal for location recording, broadcast journalism, live music performances, rehearsals, and song-writing sessions. The unit is capable of 1-bit/2.8 MHz recording and playback, capturing recordings in remarkable detail. It can also be used in a studio where it provides a superb final mix, and for archiving. The MR-1 features a 20-Gbyte internal hard drive, dual balanced mini plug inputs, a stereo mini plug output, and a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. The recorder comes with a stereo electret condenser mic and runs on AC power or a long-life rechargeable lithium polymer battery for mobility.

Why Blackfin?
The Blackfin ADSP-BF532 signal processor was an excellent choice for Korg's mobile recorders, as the processors are specifically designed to meet the computational demands of today's embedded audio applications. Blackfin processors deliver breakthrough signal processing and power efficiency with a RISC programming model, featuring a dual 16-bit multiply accumulate (MAC) digital signal processing engine, a RISC-like microprocessor instruction set, and single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) multimedia capabilities. And the processor's 400 MHz and 800 MMACs of performance meant Korg had more than enough power for its demanding recording application.

"Korg developers agreed that Blackfin's set of integrated peripherals was indeed very 'rich,' and another compelling reason for the company's processor selection. "

By integrating a rich set of industry system peripherals and memory, Blackfin processors are often the platform of choice for applications like Korg's that require RISC-like programmability, multimedia support, and leading-edge signal processing in one integrated package. Korg developers agreed that Blackfin's set of integrated peripherals was indeed very "rich," and another compelling reason for the company's processor selection. The Blackfin processor's integrated peripherals include: a parallel peripheral interface (PPI); two dual-channel, full-duplex serial ports (SPORTs) supporting eight stereo I2S channels (four In/four Out); a 12-channel DMA controller; an SPI-compatible port; three timers/counters with pulse width modulation (PWM); a UART with support for IrDA; an event handler; plus a real-time clock, a watchdog timer, a JTAG interface, an on-chip PLL capable of 0.5 x to 64 x frequency multiplication, a core timer, and an on-chip voltage regulator. Specifically, Korg utilized Blackfin's SPORTs and SPI-compatible port for its recorders.

The ADSP-BF532 version of Blackfin used by Korg also features 84K bytes of on-chip memory, two dual-channel memory DMA controllers, a memory management unit for memory protection, and an external memory controller with glueless support for SDRAM, SRAM, FLASH, and ROM. There are also flexible memory booting options from SPI and external memory.

Easy Development
Korg found the development process very easy with Blackfin. Korg developers took advantage of many of ADI's tools, including the EZ-KIT Lite® evaluation system, which is essentially a combination of VisualDSP++ and evaluation hardware, with development taking place on a PC. Korg used the Analog Devices Blackfin processor reference platform for Media Center Applications from India-based Jasmin Infotech, which has a circuit structure very similar to their own product, thereby simplifying the development process enormously. Once Korg's own hardware was ready, Korg used ADI's ADDS-HPUSB-ICE JTAG emulator, connecting a PC to the target hardware to download and debug the application software using VisualDSP++.

With Blackfin on board, Korg has developed the first-in-its-class of mobile digital audio recorders to leverage the quality of 1-bit digital audio recording. The company's marketing messages tout the benefits of the technology to end users, emphasizing that final mixes and/or master archives will be "ready for the future." As Korg looks ahead to the future, the large and constantly growing family of code- and pin-compatible Blackfin processors is good motivation for partnering with Analog Devices.

For more information, please visit Korg.

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