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Qualcomm Amps Up Smart Speakers

April 9, 2019

Author: Mike Demler

Qualcomm’s new smart-audio platform enables in-device speech recognition of more than 100 phrases. It includes four models of the QCS400-series application processor, targeting products ranging from speech-enabled mini-speakers (e.g., Amazon’s Echo Dot) to display-equipped devices (e.g., Google’s Home Hub). The processors work with the CSRA6640 direct-digital-feedback amplifier (DDFA), which integrates an audio DSP and a class-D amplifier that delivers up to 20W per channel to stereo speakers, making it suitable for small sound bars. Alternatively, the CSRA6640 can bridge the output drivers to create a single 40W amplifier.

The QCS400 chips are new designs, but they repurpose major elements from older Snapdragon smartphone chips. They provide a new wireless baseband that implements 802.15.4 Zigbee, which is popular for smart-home applications. The other wireless basebands are the same as in premium Snapdragons, including Bluetooth 5.1 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The latter implementation supports 1x1 and 2x2 MIMO. Qualcomm withheld the process technology it uses to manufacture these chips, but we expect it’s 28nm.

To ease product development, the company offers two system-on-module (SoM) development kits, which integrate a QCS400 processor, a WCN3980 Bluetooth+Wi-Fi RF combo, and a PMS405 PMIC. The SoMs are user configurable, but Qualcomm designed them to be production ready. An optional speaker casing contains two speakers and up to eight microphones. Software support includes a mobile app for music streaming and connection to Alexa voice services.

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