Higher Performance from TI, Intel

In mid-April, Texas Instruments and Intel announced developments likely to improve the experience for many music fans in the near future. TI announced the industry's highest performance four-channel audio digital–analog converter (DAC), and Intel released the final v1.0 specification for "Intel High Definition Audio."

TI's new PCM4104 is designed for professional audio applications, such as digital mixing consoles, digital effects processors, multi-track recorders, and broadcast studio equipment, as well as high-end surround sound processors and high-end A/V receivers. The 24-bit DAC from the company's Burr-Brown Pro Audio product line features a 118dB dynamic range, total harmonic distortion of less than -100dB, and up to 200kHz sampling. It also consumes very little power.

"There is no other audio DAC on the market that offers this level of integration and performance," said Mike Centorino, marketing manager for TI's Burr-Brown Pro Audio products. "The PCM4104 also features low-power operation with approximately 200mW total power consumption for all four channels, while competitive high-performance audio DACs consume the same power for only two channels."

The PCM4104 employs delta-sigma technology with a high-performance, multi-level modulator and a switched-capacitor output filter. This architecture is said to "yield lower out-of-band noise and a high tolerance to system clock phase jitter." Differential voltage outputs (6.15V p-p) are provided for each channel and are "well suited to high-performance audio applications." The differential outputs are easily converted to a single-ended output using an external operational amplifier IC, according to an April 15 press release.

The PCM4104 has a "flexible audio serial port interface," supporting standard and time division multiplexed (TDM) data formats. "Support for TDM formats simplifies interfacing to an audio DSP, such as TI's C6713 Pro Audio DSP, while supporting a cascade connection of several PCM4104 devices," the TI announcement stated. The PCM4104 operates from a +5V analog power supply and a +3.3V digital power supply, and is "compatible with +3.3V logic families." The PCM4104 is available now from TI and authorized distributors.

Intel Corporation is also pushing the high-performance envelope with its final v1.0 specification for "Intel High Definition Audio." Intended to replace the AC '97 specification, Intel HD Audio is designed for a broader range of audio applications, especially in PCs and portable devices. The specification was developed with the support of more than 80 participating companies, including PC and CE manufacturers, codec vendors, software providers, and others, according to an April 15 announcement from Beijing. One overriding concern was "stable audio architecture with performance headroom for future expansion," according to Business Wire.

The specification includes accommodations for high sampling rates and increased bandwidth. Intel HD Audio allows 192kHz, 32-bit, multi-channel audio, and "increased support for multi-channel array microphones, dynamically allocated bandwidth, and audio device configuration flexibility."

HD Audio architecture is aligned with Microsoft's Universal Audio Architecture" (UAA), and engineers from both companies have been working together closely on specification development. The Microsoft UAA Initiative "aims to create and maintain Windows audio class drivers for High Definition Audio, USB audio and 1394 audio technologies" read the Business Wire report. Intel HD Audio should "propel the PC to truly topnotch audio performance," said Intel manager Thomas Loza.