New Audio Devices Target Next-gen Audio System Designs

May 03, 2022 by Kristijan Nelkovski

Three semiconductor companies have recently announced devices aimed at next-gen audio. These ICs aim to enable engineers to improve the quality and capabilities of their audio system designs.

Streaming and broadcasting audio is a part of everyday life today thanks to the combined advancements in digital electronics and telecommunications. These innovations have enabled high-quality sound reproduction using devices smaller, more powerful music players—players with longer battery lives and a fraction of the cost of devices of the past.

These technologies that enable these systems are capable of high fidelity sound capture and reproduction with as little data loss as possible with latency times in the tens of milliseconds. That said, engineers are always working towards developing the next generation of audio electronics with the goal of improving the experience of media consumption via future audio systems.


High-level example of audio system components. Image used courtesy of Yamaha


In this article, we’ll zero in on three new developments in audio electronics from major semiconductor players. Qualcomm has announced two audio platforms for wireless listening and recording, while STMicroelectronics and ROHM Semiconductor have each unveiled devices that expand their audio portfolios.


Class G Automotive Amp from STMicro

For its part, STMicroelectronics has recently announced a new addition to their family of audio amplifier ICs. Called the TDA790, the chip is a class G automotive power switching amplifier designed for efficient and high-definition audio applications.


The TDA7901 class G automotive amp has an integrated buck controller.

The TDA7901 class G automotive amp has an integrated buck controller. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics


The device features an integrated buck controller, enabling simplified circuit design. This eliminates the need for extra components and the associated firmware. That in turn shrinks development times as well as the size and weight of audio system designs.

The integrated buck controller of the TDA7901 IC is also able to automatically optimize the voltage supplied to the bridge-tied load power stage depending on the level of the audio signal input resulting in a smoother analog sound with near class D efficiency at regular listening levels.

For handling high definition audio, this chip has a bandwidth of 80 kHz with a dynamic range of 117dB, capable of delivering four times 43 W of power at loads of 4 Ω with saturated outputs at 14.4 V on its four intelligent BTL outputs. It also features I2S and I2C digital input which can be used for real-time monitoring and diagnostics systems using warning tone generators in safety-related applications.

According to the company, this component is designed for the development of in-vehicle information systems such as car entertainment, smart cockpit, and other types of external amplifier applications.


32-bit D/A Audio Converter from ROHM

Another recent development in the field of audio electronics comes from ROHM. Earlier this year, it launched a D/A converter IC, along with a complimentary evaluation board.

The 32-bit audio D/A converter named BD34352EKV was created for converting high resolution digital to analog sound signals, supporting playback for the use in high fidelity audio devices. 


Circuit block diagram and features of the BD34352EKV

Circuit block diagram and features of the BD34352EKV. Image used courtesy of ROHM


This chip features a dynamic range of 123dB suited for high-end audio equipment development, sampling frequencies of 32 kHz to 768 kHz, two types of digital FIR filters as well as an I2S DSD input.

Similar to ROHM’s MUS-IC flagship chip called BD34301EKV, which has been highly evaluated for its sound quality, the BD34352EKV chip comes in a pin-compatible HTQFP64BV package featuring the same advanced customizable digital filter.

Complementary to this component, the BD34352EKV-EVK-001 is an evaluation board centered around the BD34352EKV chip allowing for testing and demonstrations of high-resolution audio playback on high fidelity audio equipment.           

To position this D/A chip, ROHM says its goal is to continue to work towards extracting as much sound data as possible. That means advancing their products in order to deliver the best sound quality, processing, and peripheral power management for a wide range of applications in audio equipment development, according to the company.


Qualcomm’s Duo of Wireless Audio Platforms

While perhaps best known for its mobile-focused Snapdragon processors and wireless technology ICs, Qualcomm, announced two new audio platforms earlier this year with the goal of redefining the wireless listening experience.

According to the company, their S5 (QCC517x) and S3 (QCC307x) audio platforms are designed to be feature-packed, ultra-low-power wireless platforms optimized for the Snapdragon Sound technology using Bluetooth as well as the latest LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) wireless audio standards.


The Snapdragon S3 and S5 support high-quality Bluetooth audio

The Snapdragon S3 and S5 support high-quality Bluetooth audio. Image used courtesy of Qualcomm


The two new platforms support both a lossless 16-bit 44.1 kHz Bluetooth audio quality as well as a high resolution 24-bit 96 kHz Bluetooth audio quality. They also feature a 32 kHz wideband setting for crystal clear voice calls as well as stereo sound recording for gaming, streaming, and other types of audio capture. 

With 25% less latency compared to its predecessors and competitors, at only 68-ms audio and voice back times, these two platforms were designed for ultra-low latency in mind. Qualcomm’s new platforms will also have third-generation adaptive active noise canceling as well as natural leak-through capabilities targeting future generations of gamers and most importantly content creators. 

The two new platforms are capable of robust connectivity even in RF dense environments with multipoint Bluetooth for a seamless transition between audio sources optimized for low power integration of LE audio for both sharing and broadcasting of sound.

Backed up by years of experience in the area of wireless communications as well as digital processing, the company has a strong standing for launching these two new wireless audio platforms with sampling availability set to open sometime in the second half of 2022 to customers with commercial products.


A New Generation of Media Consumption

Until just a couple of years ago, removing the 3.5 mm audio jack in popular phone brands such as Apple was an unthinkable move, arguably a marketing mistake. Today, thanks to seamless and easy-to-use wireless connectivity and fast mobile Internet standards the landscape has changed. As a result, wireless speakers, earbuds, and headsets are the norm and make up a fairly large percentage of audio devices.

Streaming, broadcasting, and private voice-over-IP dominate a new generation of media consumption and communication, slowly phasing out older technologies while delivering the same level of quality—sometimes even exceeding in quality.

Feeding those engineering needs are companies such as STMicro, ROHM, and Qualcomm. They’ve enabled engineers to work on new ways to use each iteration of electronic components and incorporate them into their designs of networked devices with high fidelity audio and stable wireless connections.