Ethernet AVB is set to become one of the defining standards in multimedia communication

Paul Boughton

Multicore microcontroller developer XMOS Semiconductor has developed new IP for using the emerging Ethernet AVB (Audio Visual Bridging) standard alongside several design wins.

Ethernet AVB is set to become one of the defining standards in multimedia communication, and makes some very specific hardware demands. The XMOS xCORE devices not only offer vendors the deterministic, low-latency performance required to implement Ethernet AVB products, but also allow for a rapid, simple development process. The new product will open up entirely new use cases in Ethernet AVB systems.

The company’s AVB technology has been used by customers and partners including DSP4YOU, Echo Digital Audio, EMBAS, and Pivitec, as well as beyerdynamic, which is using XMOS technology in its Quinta AVB wireless audio conferencing solutions.

“We're convinced that AVB has the potential to become the standard for transmitting audio data signals on a network, and XMOS has allowed us to get ahead of the curve. XMOS technology has, in effect, allowed us to steal a march on our competitors, bringing out a unique conferencing solution ahead of the rest of the market,” said Marcus Rembold, Product Manager Conference at beyerdynamic.

“The xCORE multicore microcontroller architecture lends itself perfectly to the low latency and precise synchronization needs of Ethernet AVB,” said Ali Dixon, Co-Founder and Product Marketing Director, XMOS. “For that reason we are seeing significant interest and demand in applying our Ethernet AVB solutions to a range of demanding applications requiring real time concurrent AV processing across Ethernet connections.

The Ethernet AVB IP running on XMOS chips allows routing of over 40 channels of audio via a single Ethernet connection as well as support for 1722.1 discovery, enumeration, command and control: ADP, AECP (AEM) and ACMP. There is also a library of free software-peripherals extending well beyond AVB functionality.

XMOS has also extended the capabilities of Ethernet AVB with software IP that allows devices to be daisy-cahined together without needed a central AVB switch while maintaining the latency needed for the AVB standard.

The Ethernet AVB Daisy-Chain (AVB-DC) reference design allows manufacturers of network-enabled audio and media products to create solutions that can be interconnected without the need for a central Ethernet AVB switch. The xCORE multicore microcontroller is able to integrate two separate Ethernet AVB interfaces plus an AVB switch fabric using its highly responsive, multiple 32bit processor cores, allowing the entire reference design to be implemented in a single device.

As well as cutting equipment costs, daisy-chain capability allows installers to employ a much simpler network topology, dramatically reducing the cabling and installation costs for an AVB network. For OEMs and product designers, it allows the creation of plug-and-play products – accelerating the already rapid take up of Ethernet AVB as the leading audio and media networking standard.

The new xSOFTip reference design product is based XMOS’s proven Ethernet AVB technology, which is already established as the 'gold standard' endpoint design for Ethernet AVB interoperability testing. To support the new product, XMOS also today announces a new Ethernet AVB Daisy-Chain hardware kit, based on its sliceKIT modular development system. sliceKIT gives engineers the ability to rapidly develop, prototype and test designs based on the xCORE range of multicore microcontrollers.

Ethernet AVB is a highly versatile standard that allows low latency streaming over standard IEEE networks. AVB-DC allows audio devices such as microphones and speakers to be connected together in a daisy-chain topology, without the need for a complex and costly central Ethernet AVB switch. It promises a revolution in the audio industry, dramatically reducing cost and cabling, and opening up applications that previously were not viable.

End users will now be able to easily connect together computers, audio devices and audio processing equipment, forming an Ethernet AVB network as they go, and allowing all the devices to communicate. Consumer laptops such as the Apple MacBook and MacBook Air already support Ethernet AVB.

“Ethernet AVB has grown dramatically over the past few years,” said Dixon at XMOS. “As much as half of the overall AVB market may benefit from daisy-chaining capabilities and this is a need that’s not currently being addressed by anyone else. XMOS offers the lowest-cost complete AVB solution on the market; built on a configurable multicore microcontroller platform that both provides a complete solution and allows our customers to add their own features, and therefore to build differentiated products.”

The Ethernet AVB Daisy-Chain xSOFTip reference design support up to 4 @ 48kHz audio channels simultaneous talker/listener or two streams @ 96kHz sample rate and runs on the low cost XS1-L16 microcontroller with no external DRAM or operating system.

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