News from Cirrus Logic

Cirrus Logic has initiated cutbacks in its workforce and other cost-reduction moves that are expected to save as much as $12 million annually. The Austin, TX–based semiconductor company stated May 15 that the measures are part of a general restructuring of its business model, in which its magnetic storage chip business will be de-emphasized in favor of its semiconductor business. Cirrus is the parent company of Crystal Semiconductor, maker of many high-performance digital audio chips.

The layoffs will affect about 120 employees worldwide, or about 9% of Cirrus Logic's total workforce, according to CEO David D. French. He described the layoffs as "difficult but appropriate" and necessary for the success of the revised business model. "Our continuing strong investment in R&D will leverage our position as the world's leading audio chip supplier and will accelerate our efforts to create more integrated entertainment products for the networked home," French stated.

Toward that end, Cirrus Logic announced two new high-efficiency class-D audio amplifier chips at the Audio Engineering Society Convention, held in mid-May in Amsterdam. Designated as "TrueDigital class-D," the chips are the CS44210, an amplifier controller that operates at up to 50 watts at better than 90% efficiency, and the CS44L10, a low-power headphone amplifier, designed to deliver higher output volume with longer battery life.

Energy wasted as heat has long been an engineering obstacle, requiring massive heatsinks in amplifiers, resulting in design limitations, increases in shipping costs, and ultimately, higher utility bills for consumers. "For stereos, DVD players, receivers, and virtually every other type of home consumer electronic device, the size of the power electronics and heat from the amplifiers dominate the box," said Jason Carlson, vice president and general manager of Cirrus Logic's Consumer Products Division. His company claims that the CS44210 will consume only 55 watts of electrical power while generating 50 watts of audio power. By comparison, traditional amplifiers, which are only 50% efficient, use 100 watts to generate the same 50. The emphasis on efficiency comes at a time when the US and other countries are beginning to experience electrical power shortages, the partial result of a massive increase in the number of electronic devices in use without a commensurate increase in new sources of power.

Cirrus Logic believes that the new chips will allow consumer electronics manufacturers to "dramatically shrink the size of their product offerings"—by as much as a factor of four. "A large shelf-top stereo mini-system can now be reduced to the size of a portable CD player and still deliver the same sound volume and quality," according to the announcement. "Our TrueDigital class-D solutions provide a smaller, sleeker, better-sounding option," said Dr. Skip Taylor, vice president of the company's PWM technologies division. "You will see robust, leading-edge audio that results in higher performance, higher quality, sleeker entertainment offerings."

Cirrus has also entered into a strategic partnership with International Rectifier to incorporate Cirrus Logic's new amplifiers and software into International Rectifier's power driver ICs and MOSFETs for "complete system level solutions."

With 24-bit conversion and support for sampling rates up to 96kHz, the CS44210 can deliver up to 50 watts of power—a dynamic output range of 100dB. The device is expected to find a wide range of applications, including "shelf-top audio systems, audio mini systems, audio/video receivers, boom boxes, small professional amplifiers and powered speakers," the company's announcement stated.