Tag Archives: DSP Chips

DSP technology is amazing, but maybe I’m just a legacy receiver kind of guy?

The PL-380 was one of the first portable DSP radios I purchased. It was mind-blowing at time of introduction and I still have it in my radio arsenal.

Without a doubt, DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology has forever changed the portable receiver market in so many positive ways:

  • It’s made portable radios more affordable for consumers
  • It’s increased the profit margin for manufacturers
  • It’s made features like SSB mode and variable filter width affordable
  • When properly implemented, DSP technology can provide DX-grade performance even in Ultralight receivers
  • All-in-all, DSP technology has made portable receivers more accessible and has undeniably  reinvigorated the shortwave radio market over the past decade

All very good things!

But I must admit, I do miss legacy receiver design–for example, dual-conversion frequency synthesized radios like the Sony ICF-SW7600GR:

Or the Panasonic RF-B65:

For me? It’s all in the noise and static.

I think we’re probably all wired a little differently when it comes to how we listen.

I know radio enthusiasts that can pull station IDs out of the noise with their AM or SSB filters set to very narrow widths. I have trouble doing this and tend to actually widen filters when doing weak signal work (assuming there are no adjacent stations). It’s as if the filter in my brain needs more information–more bandwidth–to increase intelligibility. I only engage narrow filters to block adjacent signals or (for narrow bandwidth modes like CW) to decrease the influence and effects of atmospheric/natural noises (QRN).

I find that many DSP portables add a “mushy” audio quality to the static found in the noise floor of the receiver. I hear DSP artifacts and that “watery” quality especially if using headphones. No doubt, it’s the DSP simply doing its thing: minimizing background noise and seeking to clarify voice and audio information. But this actually tinkers (or interferes) with my brain’s ability to pull out intelligible information to some degree.

I find I prefer the audio quality of static in analog receivers.

Of course, a bit of this might also be tied to a receiver’s dynamic range and AGC; qualities I also tend to prefer in my benchmark legacy portables.

Does this make any sense?

In truth, this is difficult to explain and, dear reader, I may very well have lost you here. If not, I’m curious what you think.

Do you prefer the audio characteristics of DSP receivers, or legacy receiver architecture? Are there aspects you like of both? Please comment!

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Chorus 4: The DSP chip that supports AM, FM, DAB, DAB+, HD Radio and DRM

FrontierSiliconThe London-based digital solutions company, Frontier Silicon, has announced a new DSP radio chip that offers a wide array of available modes and is even DRM ready.

I have seen no specifications for this chip yet, and do not know if it covers the shortwave radio spectrum.

Still, this might be the perfect chip to allow radio manufactures to design an inexpensive, fully digital product in countries where digital platforms are gaining strength (anywhere from the UK to India, for example).

Many thanks to Rob De Santos for apprising me of this. I’ll post the specifications when they become available. Read the full press release below:


(Source: Frontier Silicon Press Release)

Chorus 4 a single-chip solution, integrating four previously separate chips

London, 17th December 2013

Frontier Silicon announces details of Chorus 4, its next generation digital radio chip. Chorus 4 is a single-chip solution, which integrates four previously separate chips to deliver significant cost and energy consumption savings.

Chorus 4 is the fourth generation chip from Frontier Silicon. The chip is designed to encourage the continued advance of digital radio around the world by supporting all major global digital radio standards. Chorus 4 provides solutions for multiple devices, including consumer radios, the automotive aftermarket and, for the first time, smartphones and tablets. The company’s previous solutions have already powered over 20 million digital radios worldwide.

The key features and benefits of Chorus 4 are:

  • Low cost, single chip solution: integration of RF front-end, baseband, application processor and DAC (“four chips in one”) delivers significant cost savings which enable high quality, entry-level price point digital radios
  • Ultra-low power consumption – one month’s listening for 5-6 hours a day on a portable radio with four D cell batteries (comparable to FM performance)
  • Multiple solutions for portable and table-top radios, smart-device docks, wireless speakers, hand-held receivers, sound-bars and audio systems
  • Automotive aftermarket – solutions for head units, integrated convertors and low cost adapters
  • Smart devices – enables digital radio solutions for mobile phones and tablets
  • Bluetooth connectivity – connecting smart devices and digital radios to enable hybrid radio (with interactivity and additional content delivered via IP), music streaming and remote control
  • Integrated service guides – new software will enable listeners to select stations from a single list of digital and analogue stations regardless of platform
  • Multiple radio standards – including support for AM, FM, DAB, DAB+, HD Radio and DRM

Digital Tick compliant – Chorus 4 solutions meet all technology requirements of the UK minimum specifications for both domestic and automotive digital radio devices.
Frontier Silicon CEO, Anthony Sethill, said

“Chorus 4 represents a step change for the digital radio market. After ten years of development on this and previous solutions, we now have our fourth generation chip – an integrated, single chip offering enhanced functionality, lower cost and significantly greater energy efficiency. Chorus 4 will power multiple devices, including low cost automotive adapters and devices with Bluetooth connectivity. For the first time, digital radio in mass deployment smartphones will become a viable proposition. As a multi-standard chip, Chorus 4 will address emerging opportunities around the world. I look forward to working closely with broadcasters, transmission operators and device manufacturing partners to address these exciting opportunities.”

About Frontier Silicon Limited

Frontier Silicon is the world’s leading supplier of integrated circuits and modules for digital radio and connected audio products. Frontier Silicon is part of the Toumaz Group, a pioneer in low-power wireless semiconductor and software technologies for the consumer audio and wireless healthcare markets.

The group is headquartered in London, England, with design centres in Oxford, Cambridge, Hong Kong and Romania. The company also has sales and technical support teams in Hong Kong, China and Japan.

Frontier Silicon’s audio products offer solutions for DAB/DAB+, Internet radio and connected audio – from silicon through software to production-ready platform designs.

Customers supplied by Frontier Silicon include Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Bush, Denon, Dual, Geneva, Goodmans, Grundig, Hama, harman/kardon, Hitachi, JVC, Magic Box, NAD, Onkyo, Panasonic, Philips, Pinell, Pioneer, Pure, Revo, Roberts, Ruark Audio, Sangean, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, TEAC, TechniSat, Tivoli Audio and Yamaha.

Frontier Silicon is a trademark or registered trademark of Frontier Silicon Ltd.

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