Sharc DSP helps pack audio recording studio into a laptop - Embedded.com

Sharc DSP helps pack audio recording studio into a laptop

PORTLAND, Ore. — An audio recording studio has been packed into a laptop computer card by harnessing Analog Devices' Sharc floating-point digital signal processor (DSP).

Universal Audio's Solo ExpressCard for Mac or PC laptops, released today (June 26), is intended to unshackle professional recording engineers and producers from the studio, enabling them to mix audio tracks anywhere. The card can mix and master at sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz while emulating analog effects from vintage devices made by such companies as Moog, Neve, Roland and SPL.

“I take Universal Audio's Solo card on the road with me,” said veteran producer Elliot Mazer, a beta tester. “There is no comparison to any other device, since it lets me have most of what I have in a big studio on the road, but at a fraction of the cost.”

Along with the Sharc floating-point DSP, the card packs a Xilinx FPGA, SRAM, flash and glue logic in a format measuring about 25 x 100 millimeters. The Solo does stick out slightly from a laptop's ExpressCard slot but is small enough to be tucked in a pocket when not in use, said Mazer who has done mix-downs for such artists as Pink, Santana, Switchfoot, The Who and Neil Young. “Then when I get home, I just transfer the files to my studio system.”

The card is compatible with Universal Audio's family of software-based analog effects, which emulate all the classic sound processing devices used for professional mixing and postproduction. Thus, recording engineers and producers can use their laptops for those tasks without changing the way they work.

“Audio professionals have become attached to vintage analog effects, some of which are only available using our emulation software since the original devices are no longer being manufactured,” said Brent Elder, vice president of engineering at Universal Audio. “Packing all our capabilities onto an ExpressCard was the most difficult engineering task we've ever performed.”

Denis Labrecque, ADI's DSP marketing programs manager for professional audio, said Universal Audio is the first company to put the Sharc DSP onto an ExpressCard. The internal 2.4-Gbit/second PCI bus process all the signals necessary for complex mix-downs, Labrecque said.

“With today's music, only 10 percent of the time is spent recording the actual tracks, and 90 percent doing the mixing and post production,” said Labrecque. “Universal Audio's hardware accelerator on an ExpressCard is a game changer.”

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