Multicore microcontroller delivers low cost daisy-chain Ethernet audio

June 12, 2013 // By Nick Flaherty
XMOS Semiconductor has developed a reference design for its xCORE multicore microcontrollers that allows daisy chaining of Ethernet AVB (Audio Visual Bridging) equipment without the need for a central switch.

This will allow a new set of more cost-sensitive audio transport end products as well as supporting time sensitive networking applications in which latency and timing are critical.
The new 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 multiple 32bit processor cores, allowing the entire reference design to be implemented in a single device.
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.
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 launched a new Ethernet AVB Daisy-Chain hardware kit, based on its sliceKIT modular development system. sliceKIT gives engineers