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Bringing HD audio to PCs is Wolfson’s new focus

Posted: 12 Jan 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HD audio? multi-channel codecs? psychoacoustic software?

Apple�s decision to drop Wolfson Microelectonics from its suppliers? roster (for products such as iPod, iPod Touch and 3GS iPhone) a few years ago spelled doom for the company. Appearing to have lost its biggest asset, Wolfson suffered a steep drop in its stock price following the announcement as well as consecutive quarterly losses.

For any chip vendor, it�s never easy to fall out of the Apple tree. What the industry needs to watch, though, is how the company picks itself up and starts all over again.

After it first admitted in early 2008 that it had lost key business supplier Apple, Wolfson acquired Sonaptic, a supplier of ambient noise cancellation technology. Wolfson has quietly beefed up its arsenal of psychoacoustic and audio post-processing software algorithms. It has also expanded its MEMS business, based on technology the company obtained through the acquisition of Oligon in early 2007.

Focused on its core competency in high quality audio, Wolfson developed what it calls �a hub designed on a single chip,? packed with ins and outs, its own micro DSPs and software, which smartly manages audio coming from different sources. In short, �we have put the bad news behind us and we�ve got new products out,? said Andy Brannan, chief commercial officer at Wolfson during an interview with EE Times at Consumer Electronics Show.

Wolfson�s �embedded audio on Linux core? has been already designed into a number of e-books and tablets, according to Brannan.

The Edinburgh, U.K.-based company�s newest endeavor, however, is focused on bringing to PCs and notebook computers ?HD audio that matches with HD video.?

Although bringing HD video to PCs is long established, very little has been done to bring HD audio to PCs, noted Wolfson�s Brannan. �More HMV stores are closing. Why? It�s because many consumers are buying music from online companies like Amazon. They are downloading music directly onto their PCs,? he said. �If so, why wouldn�t they want the best HD audio experience on their PCs??

Wolfson rolled out at the CES its new multi-channel codecs designated as WM8850 and WM8860. The WM8850 has three high performance DACs, enabling six channels of HD audio_ideal for 5.1 channel applications. The WM8860 has two stereo DACs.

For its demonstration, Wolfson engineers used Sony�s Vaio notebook computer to integrate WM8860. The company noted that no special partnership with Sony has been forged yet_at this point.

Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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