AES06SF: DSP Made Obsolete?

Fairlight Crystal Core CC-1 multimedia engine on a chip promises quantum advances in performance      09/10/06
AES06SF: DSP Made Obsolete?


In what they say is a groundbreaking introduction that radically changes the world of audio processing technology, sampling pioneers Fairlight have introduced the patent-pending Crystal Core (CC-1) audio production engine. Based on the latest Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) silicon technology, Fairlight claim that Crystal Core technology immediately and comprehensively obsoletes DSP/Time Slice Bus architectures and delivers quantum performance gains by shrinking hardware into a single purpose-built media processing chip. The company say that Crystal Core technology delivers improved quality, unparalleled flexibility, scalability, enlarged system scope, and previously unattainable price performance gains.
John Lancken, Chief Executive Officer, Fairlight told us, "Crystal Core technology is the product of 15 man-years of development coupled with Fairlight's 150+ man-years of focused innovation, which includes the invention of digital audio sampling and sequencing in 1975 to our pioneering application of OLED technology in control surfaces just last year. Crystal Core technology will shake the digital media world to its core by delivering new standards and raw performance capabilities previously unattainable even with the most expensive DSP based solutions. It instantly enables powerful new business and production models that will open up new opportunities for everyone�
As always, new technologies present new opportunities. Fairlight has used the programming flexibility of FPGA chips to run different processes at different bit depths. This is called Dynamic Resolution Optimization (DRO). Dynamic Resolution Optimization allows Fairlight engineers to choose the best processing for each system task. This not only ensures unsurpassed audio quality, but exponentially increases efficiency, providing greater performance at a lower cost.
Older DSP-based systems perform all processes at a single resolution even if some processes would sound better with more resolution, or just as good with less. In Fairlight’s Crystal Core system, each process is tailored exactly to its needs. With DRO EQ processing can be performed at 72-bit floating-point precision, whilst at the same time Mixing is performed with 36-bit floating point precision and metering functions at 16-bit fixed-point resolution.
CC-1 has been designed from the outset to utilize the FPGA’s ability to be re-programmed on the fly thus enabling the creation of a universal hardware platform for a wide number of media applications that require real-time audio and video processing power. This means that a system deployed for sound design activities in the morning could conceivably be redeployed as a Hi Definition video color grader in the afternoon and then be re-purposed for a music recording session in the night. The CC-1 architecture is implemented on a new generation FPGA chip that is manufactured by Altera Corporation.
The first audio production products based on the Crystal Core engine will be capable of delivering 230 channel paths; each with eight bands of EQ, 3 stage dynamics processing, floating insert point with return, on board Pyxis HD video, 12 auxiliary sends and up-to 72 user definable mix busses: all from a single CC-1 card. Crystal Core technology will support the DREAM II Family of controllers and mixing surfaces. In line with Fairlight's long-held commitment to provide its customer base with an affordable and practical upgrade path existing DREAM QDC powered systems can be upgraded to the new engine without purchasing a new surface.
John Lancken has the final word, "With Crystal Core technology, the rules of the game have changed irrevocably.This patent-pending technology embodies the true definition of disruptive technology by radically overhauling the expectation that businesses - and ultimately consumers — will have of their media production and playback technologies. Crystal Core technology raises the performance bar by delivering more channels more busses, greater processing and lower latency than any available DSP platform."
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