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Posts Tagged ‘audio’

Amlogic A111, A112 & A113 Processors are Designed for Audio Applications, Smart Speakers

September 9th, 2017 6 comments

Amlogic processors are mostly found in TVs and TV boxes, but the company is now apparently entering a new market with A111, A112, and A113 audio processors. I was first made aware of those new processors through Buildroot OpenLinux Release Notes V20170831.pdf document posted on their Open Linux website, where two boards with Amlogic A113D and A113X are shown.

S400 Version 03 Board

First, S400 board with the following key features/specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic A113D CPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 512MB SLC NAND flash
  • Display I/F – MIPI interface
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet SDIO WiFi/BT (AP6356S)
  • Audio
    • SPDIF_IN/SPDIF_OUT
    • LINE_IN/LINE_OUT
    • 2x Audio headers (MIC_Connector & SPK_Connector)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 OTG
  • Expansion – 2x PCIe ports
  • Misc – 6x ADC Keys, IR_IN/IR_OUT, UART Interface (RS232)

The second S420 board is based on A113X SoC, and comes with less features (no display, no Ethernet, no PCIe…), less memory:

  • SoC – Amlogic A113X CPU
  • System Memory – 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – 512MB SLC NAND flash
  • Connectivity – SDIO WiFi/BT (AP6356S)
  • Audio
    • SPDIF_IN
    • LINE_IN/LINE_OUT
    • 2x Audio headers (MIC_Connector & SPK_Connector)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 OTG
  • Misc – 6x ADC Keys, IR_IN/IR_OUT, UART Interface (RS232)

The document also explains how to build Linux built with buildroot (you’ll need an Amlogic account), and use audio via applications or frameworks such as aplay, gstreamer, alsaplayer, shairport (Airplay), VLC, DLNA, etc…

Information about Amlogic A113X/A113D processor is lacking on the web, but I eventually found that Amlogic had a YouTube account with now a whopping two subscribers (including yours truly), and one of the two videos was an Alexa voice services demo on Amlogic A113 with what looks like a microphone array inserted on the top of the board.

Further research led me to a page in Chinese discussing Amlogic A111, A112, A113 audio processors, and revealing that Xiaomi AI smart speaker is based on Amlogic A112 quad core Cortex A53 processor, that also shows up in GeekBench running Android 6.0. They also report that A113 features the same four Cortex 53 cores, but has better audio capabilities with 8x PDM interfaces, and 16x I2S interfaces. I also found a page about a microphone array designed for Amlogic S905/S912/A112, and based on Knowles SPH0645LM4H-B miniature microphones .

Finally, I decided to go directly to Amlogic website, and they do have pages for A111 and A112 SoCs, strangely not indexed by search engines so far.

Amlogic A111 key features:

  • CPU – Quad-core ARM Cortex-A5
  • Audio Interface
    • 2-channel I2S input and output
    • TDM/PCM input and output, up to 8 channels
    • S/PDIF output
  • Video Interface – LVDS and MIPI-DSI panel output
  • Security – Supports secure boot and secure OS
  • Ethernet – 10/100/1000M MAC
  • IP License (Optional) – Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Digital Surround, DTS HD, DTS Express
  • Process – 28nm HKMG

Amlogic A112 key features:

  • CPU – Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53
  • Audio Interface
    • 8-channel I2S and S/PDIF input and output
    • TDM/PCM input and output, up to 8 channels
    • 2-channel PDM input
  • Video Interface – RGB888 output
  • Security – Supports secure boot and secure OS
  • Ethernet – 10/100M MAC+PHY
  • IP License(Optional) – Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Digital Surround, DTS HD, DTS Express
  • Process – 28nm HKMG

If you are interested in evaluating / playing with those processors, and cannot get hold of Amlogic boards (since they only deal with companies), one solution is to get Xiaomi AI smart speaker available for pre-order/arrival notice on sites likes GearBest or GeekBuying, and expected to ship on October 1st.

Thanks to vertycall for the tip.

Google Assistant News – AIY Voice Kit For Sale, Offline Support, 3rd Party Smart Speakers Announced

September 1st, 2017 5 comments

There’s been a lot of development related to Google Assistant in the last few days. First, Google provided an update for AIY Projects, with their AIY Projects Voice Kit now available for pre-order on Micro Center for $35 including a Raspberry Pi 3 board, making the kit virtually free, although you may also purchase it. Note that Micro Center blocks traffic originating from some countries, so I had to use Zend2 to access the site. [Update 10/09/2017: You can also get it from Seeed Studio for worldwide shipping]

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Google also announced the Speech Commands Dataset with 65,000 one-second long utterances of 30 short words, which they are in the process of integrating with the next release of the Voice Kit, and will allow the devices to respond to voice commands without the need for an Internet connection. So if you lose your Internet connection, or want to isolate your Voice Kit from it, you can still perform simple tasks like turning on/off lights without an Internet connection.

In this first blog post, the company also showcased some projects based on the Voice Kit, and encouraged the community to provide input for the next version with Hackster.io, or showcase your work on social networks using #AIYprojects hash tag.

The next day, Google published another blog post explaining Google Home, eligible Android phones, iPhones, Google Allo and Android Wear, will soon be joined  by third party speakers supporting Google Assistant and supporting the same features like answering requests, playing music, and controlling appliances. One day later a bunch of announcements was made at IFA 2017, and the company updated their blog post with some list of 3rd party Google Assistant Speakers all scheduled to launch by the end of the year, or early 2018:

  • JBL LINK 10, LINK 20 and LINK 300 respectively 8, 10 and 50 Watts WiFi smart speakers coming to UK, Germany and France starting fall 2017 for 169 Euros, 199 Euros and 299 Euros.

  • Onkyo Smart Speaker G3 (VC-GX30) “acoustic suspension” speaker with 80mm pressed-pulp diaphragm woofer, and 20mm soft-dome tweeter. Available in Black of White.

  • Sony LF-S50G with clock showing through speaker, and to be sold for $199.99.

Availability will be limited to some countries only, likely partially due to a lack of language support, with most expected to be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and France.

Those Charts Show The Benefits of Microphone Arrays for Hot Word Detection

August 31st, 2017 11 comments

Since I started looking more into smart speakers, including DIY ones such as the I made with Orange Pi Zero board + Google Assistant with a single microphone, I was told about the importance of microphone arrays, but so far, I had not seen any clear study or data about that. That changed today, as I came across a review of mic arrays by the makers of Snip Voice Platform. They tested five arrays connected to a Raspberry Pi 3 with the system, and also added a generic USB microphone to the mix. The results speak for themselves…

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In that experiment, they measured the rate at which a hot word was successfully detected by incrementally increasing the distance between 0.5 meters to 5 meters (16 ft), and for each distance, repeating the hot word 25 times at 3 second intervals using pre-recording to keep the voice level constant, and the same gain for all microphones. They did so in a silent room, a room with white noise, and finally one with background music. The generic USB microphone works just as well as mic arrays in a silent room up to 2 meters, but further away, the success rate drops dramatically.

The case for the arrays is even better when white noise is added, as the USB microphone’s success rate is only comparable around 50 cm away. When you add background music to the mix, it’s a bit messier, with the USB microphone performing even worse than with noise, and while microphone arrays’ success rate drop, most managed fairly well. The best array based on that test is PlayStation 3 Eye, which comes with 4 microphones and costs just $8 US on Amazon, significantly cheaper than any competitors in the test including the USB microphone… ReSpeaker does not perform too bad either, and MiniDSP appears to be the weakest of the lot, especially for tests at one meter, despite using the same XMOS XVSM-2000 chip on in ReSpeaker array.

Categories: Audio, Hardware, Testing Tags: audio

X-Powers AC108 is a Quad-Channel ADC Chip for Microphone Arrays

August 28th, 2017 2 comments

X-Powers, a company better known to supply PMIC “companion” chip for Allwinner processors, also made some audio chips including AC108 is a chip specifically designed for microphones arrays with support for 4 microphones, and a I2C + I2S output interface to the host processor. Microphone arrays are particularly useful for smartspeakers, and especially hot word detection (voice activity detection) as single microphone setups like I use with Orange Pi Zero, may have trouble detecting hot words like “OK Google” in noisy environments (music playing, alarm ringing…).

X-Power AC108 specifications:

  • 108 dB dynamic range (A-weighted) @ 0 dB boost gain
  • -90 dB THD+N (total harmonic distortion plus noise) @ 0 dB boost gain
  • 4x programmable boost amplifiers with 0dB to 45dB in 3dB step
  • ADC sample rates supported – 8kHz,12kHz,16kHz, 22.05kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz,96kHz
  • Analog mixer and digital mixer in record data path
  • 4x fully differential microphone inputs: MIC1P/N ~MIC4P/N configurable as pseudo differential,  single-ended mode, or digital MIC data pin
  • 4x low noise mic bias outputs: MIC1_BIAS~MIC4_BIAS with a 1.5V to 4V programmable bias voltage
  • 2x DMIC SCLK output @ 1M~3.25M
  • Two I2S data output configurable as
    • I2S/PCM format using 1 pin to output 2 channel data of 1 devices.
    • I2S/PCM format using 2  pins to output 4 channel data of 1 devices.
    • TDM format using 1 pin to output 4 even 16 channel data of 4  devices.
    • Encoding format using 1 pins to output 4 even 16 channel data of 4  devices.
  • DPLL support a wide input for 6-/12-MHz, 6.144-/12.288-MHz, 5.6448-/11.2896-MHz, 13MHz and 19.2MHz.
  • Control Interface – I2C / TWI from 100 kHz up to 400 kHz
  • Integrated LDO allowing single 3.3V supply
  • Power Consumption – < 4mA per ADC channel
  • Package – 48 pin, 6×6 mm2 QFN

The product page does not provides that much more information, but there’s apparently EVM which you can purchase by contacting the company.

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I could not find pricing information, but X-Powers normally provides price-competitive solutions. I could not find any boards using AC108 yet, but we should get more info about that tomorrow.

Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: audio, automation, speaker, x-powers

Sony Spritzer is an Arduino Compatible Board with Built-in GPS, Audio Codec

August 14th, 2017 9 comments

Look who is joining the maker community! Sony has showcased their Arduino compatible Spritzer board during the Maker Faire Tokyo on August 5-6. Despite lacking on-board network connectivity, the board is said to have been designed for IoT applications with features such as an integrated GPS and an advanced digital audio codec and amplifier.

Sony Spritzer specifications:

  • MCU – Sony CDX5602 ARM Cortex-M4F ×6 micro-controller clocked at up to 156 MHz with 1.5MB SRAM
  • Storage – 8MB Flash Memory, micro SD card
  • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, supported
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack
  • Expansion I/Os
    • Digital I/O Pins – SPI, I2C, UART, PWM ×4 (3.3V)
    • Analog Pins – 6ch (3.3V range)
    • Audio I/O – 8ch Digital MICs or 4ch Analog MICs, Stereo Speaker, I2S, CXD5247 audio codec with 192 kHz/24bit High-Resolution audio
    • 2x camera interfaces
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming
  • Power Supply – Via Power barrel and Vin pin?
  • Dimensions – Arduino UNO form factor?

In case you wonder why they bother to include GPS, but not WiFi or Bluetooth, that’s because the board is actually based on a Sony GPS chipset (CDX5602GF or CDX5602GG) that’s manufactured using FD-SOI process allowing for much lower power consumption. I don’t understand the meaning of “x6” in the specs, unless that’s an hexa-core Cortex M4F MCU, which I don’t think is possible.

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The block diagram above does a decent job at explaining what’s feasible with the two chipsets used in the board. You’ll have to connect external module to get Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE, a display up to 360×240 resolution can be used via SPI, all sort of sensors can be connected via the expansion header, the board is suitable for microphone arrays, and it can be powered by batteries thanks to a charger circuit and fuel gauge inside CXD5247 audio codec / PMU chip. The board can be programmed with the Arduino IDE and USB cable.

The company demonstrated the board the Maker Faire with a drone utilizing the GPS and the 6-axis sensor support, a smart speaker utilizing the audio functions, a self-driving line-tracing miniature car, and a low-power smart sensing IoT camera using the camera interface of Spritzer.

You’ll have to get patient before getting hold the board, as the Spritzer board is planned to be available for developers in early 2018. Visit the product page (in Japanese) for more details.

Thanks to Jasbir for the tip.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 Boards – Intrinsyc Open-Q 212 and Kaynes Technology SKATE-212

July 7th, 2017 No comments

Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 (APQ8009) quad core Cortex A7 processor is used in entry-level smartphones, but it’s also one of the processors which the company expects to use in their Smart Speaker Platform leveraging Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and other A.I. voice services. Two company has designed single board computers that can be used for this purpose: Intrisync Open-Q 212 and Kaynes Technology SKATE-212.

Intrisync Open-Q 212 SBC Development Board

Contrary to some other Open-Q board, but not all, Open-Q 212 is not comprise of a baseboard and a system-on-module, as everything is soldered on a single PCB. Open-Q 212 specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 (APQ8009) quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.267GHz with Adreno 304 GPU, QDSP6 DSP
  • System Memory – 1GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC (non-POP) flash and micro SD card socket
  • Connectivity – Ethernet,  pre-scanned Wi-Fi 802.11n 2.4Ghz (WCN3610) with chip and U.FL antennas, Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • Display – Up to 720p LCD; up to 720p HDMI Type A
  • Video Codec – [email protected] playback; up to 720p playback with H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HVEC); up to 720p H.264 (AVC) capture
  • udio
    • WCD9326 audio codec
    • 4x microphone inputs
    • 2x amplified speaker outputs, 2x stereo line outputs
    • Qualcomm Fluence HD with Noise Cancellation, Qualcomm Snapdragon Voice Activation, Qualcomm Snapdragon Voice+
  • Cameras – Up to 8MP over 2-lane MIPI CSI
  • Misc – Serial,  RTC, I2S, GPIO, Sensor header
  • Power Supply
    • 12V/3A or single-cell Li-Ion battery
    • PMIC (PM8208) and Li-Ion battery support (SMB1357/STC3117)
  • Dimensions – 120mm x 120mm (Nano-ITX form factor)
  • Temperature Range – 0oC to +70oC

The board support Android 7 Nougat by default, but you’d have to give them call to ask for Linux support, and possibly pay some NRE fees.

Intrinsyc is not exactly known for their cheap development boards and SBCs, and while they call it a low cost board, it’s sold for $595 without LCD, microphones, and cameras, and with shipping scheduled for the end of July. You’ll find more info on the product page.

Kaynes Technology SKATE-212 SBC

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SKATE-212, made by an Indian embedded systems and manufacturing company, is likely to be quite cheaper, but I could not find any picture for now, only the block diagram above, and the specifications:

  • SoC –  Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.3GHz with Adreno 304 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, DirectX
  • System Memory – 1 GB LPDDR3 (Expandable upto 2GB)
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash (Expandable upto 16GB) +  micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Display  – 7″ capacitive touchscreen, full size HDMI port (Only one or the other can be used at a given time)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.x LE, GPS with optional GLONASS support
  • USB – 1x micro USB device port (Can not be used at the same time as Ethernet, and other USB host ports), 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB debug console
  • Camera –  8 MP primary camera; 2MP secondary camera
  • Audio
    • Mono loudspeaker output
    • 3.5mm stereo audio jack with mic
    • On board single (default)or dual microphone
  • Sensors – 6-axis MEMS gyroscope & Accelerometer;3-axis Magnetometer
  • Power supply – 12VDC power adapter or optional 3.7V/2,500 mAh battery
  • Dimensions – 90 x 70 mm

The company explains the board is well suited for Android or Linux based applications for industrial, medical, IIoT, mission critical and surveillance verticals. The 7″ LCD display and 8MP OV8865 camera module will be sold as options.

Availability and price are not known at this stage. You may want visit the product page for a few more details, and possibly request more documents by email via the Documents tab on the page.

Intel Quark S1000 “Sue Creek” Processor to Support On-Chip Speech Recognition

June 19th, 2017 3 comments

Intel may have announced plans to discontinue several of their IoT boards, but based on some documents I received, the company has not given up on the Quark family, although they may have given up on the Intel architecture for low power microprocessor, as Intel Quark S1000 – codenamed “Sue Creek” – will feature two Tensilica LX6 cores (yes, just like ESP32), and is designed to handle speech recognition at the edge (e.g. locally), so some of your voice commands should still work when Internet is down.

Intel Quark S1000 key features and specifications:

  • Digital Signal Processors
    • Dual Tensilica LX6 cores @ 400 MHz with HiFi3 DSP
    • Single precision scalar floating-point instructions
    • 16KB 4-way I$; 48KB 4-way D$
    • Up to 2400 DMIPS, 3.2 GMACS (16×16), 800 MFLOPS of Compute
  • Speech Accelerators
    • A GMM (Gaussian Mixture Model) and neural network accelerator
    • Low power keyboard and limited vocabulary recognition
    • Up to 9.6 GMACS (16×16) of compute
  • Internal Memory
    • 4MB shared embedded SRAM
    • 64KB embedded SRAM for streaming samples in low power mode
  • External Memory Interfaces
    • Up to 8MB external 16-bit PSRAM
    • Up to 128MB external SPI flash
  •  I/O Interfaces
    • Host I/O – SPI for command and control, I2S for streaming audio, IRQ, reset, wake, optional USB 2.0 HS device
    • Microphone – I2S/TDM 9.6 MHz max. bit clock
    • Digital Microphone – 4 PDM ports 4.8 MHz max. bit clock
    • Speaker – I2S/TDM 9.6 MHz max. bit clock
    • Instrumentation – I2C master @ 100/400 MHz
    • Debug – UART Tx/Rx/RTS?CTS up to 2.4 Mbaud/s
    • GPIO – 10 mA sink/source, 8x PWM outputs
  • Power Management / Consumption
    • Low power idle (memory retention); voice activity detection; play through; full active
    • Clock and power gating support
    • < 20 mW voice activity detection
    • < 250 mW full active
  • Package (preliminary) – FCCSP132 7.45 x 8.3mm 0.6/0.7mm pitch staggered/orthogonal
  • Temperature Range – Commercial: 0 to 70 °C; industrial: -40 to +85 °C

The diagram above shows Quark S100 is supposed to be connected to a host processor providing network connectivity, getting commands over SPI, audio over I2S, and the Intel processor can handle some speech recognition likely for a limited subset of words, and use cloud based recognition for more complex requests. The solution could be used in product like Google Home or Amazon Echo look-a-likes, or other voice-controlled appliances.

I don’t know when the processor will be available, and I could not find any information online yet.

Qualcomm Announces Audio Platforms for Smart Speakers, Headphones, and Hearables

June 15th, 2017 No comments

Smart speakers are getting a lot of buzz recently with products like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and many home automation products are advertised with Amazon’s Alexa support, so that they can be controlled by voice commands. Qualcomm is now going after this market, and others audio markets via 5 new platforms for streaming audio, high resolution audio, wireless audio, USB -C audio devices – due to the “death” of the 3.5mm headphone jack -, and hearables.

The five platforms include:

  1. Bluetooth and BLE Audio SoCs such as Qualcomm CSRA68100 for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The SoC comes with flash, DSP, a 2-ch audio CODEC, USB & I/Os interfaces.
  2. Qualcomm QCC3xxx entry-level Bluetooth audio SoC for mid to low-cost Bluetooth headsets and speakers.
  3. Qualcomm WHS9420 (192kHz/24-bit audio) and WHS9410 (entry-level) USB-C audio SoC for USB-C headphones
  4. Qualcomm DDFA Digital Amplifier Technology with CSRA6xxx amplifier
  5. Smart Speaker Platform shown above based on APQ8017 or APQ8009 (Snapdragon 212) SoCs, and DDFA amplifier, and interacting with Bluetooth and USB-C solutions listed above.

The Smart Speaker Platform will support multi-mic far-field voice capability with “highly responsive voice activation and beamforming technologies”, multi-room audio streaming through Qualcomm AllPlay, and AptX HD audio technology. Support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Google Cast Audio is coming later this year,

You may be able to find more details about Android and Linux solutions based on APQ8009 and APQ8017 on that Qualcomm page (provided you can gain access).

The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform is expected to be available in Q3 2017.