Dolby and TI Introduce IEEE-1394 to S/P-DIF Interface

Texas Instruments iceLynx digital interface, used for both DVD-Audio and SACD transmissions by Pioneer, can now be used to connect Windows® XP and Windows Media Center to attach to any home Dolby Digital equipped home theatre.

Dolby Laboratories and Texas Instruments Incorporated announced they have jointly sponsored the design and development of a device that allows consumers to easily connect PCs with IEEE-1394 (Firewire™) connectors to their home cinema systems.

The Firewire S/P-DIF converter allows Dolby® Digital and PCM audio to be transferred from a network of IEEE-1394 devices (which may include laptops and desktop PCs) to the S/P-DIF connection commonly found on today’s home audio equipment. This allows music and gaming enthusiasts to play back popular stereo and multi-channel 5.1 computer music files, such as MP3, AAC, and WMA, through their home cinema systems from their PCs. A prototype implementation of this design was shown at Texas Instruments’ booth at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

The converter, created by Island Digital Media Group, consists of an IEEE-1394 connector at one end and a coaxial S/P-DIF connector at the other. It requires no additional wires if power is available from the 1394 cable, though a DC connector is available on the device for an external power supply, if needed. The device runs on a Texas Instruments iceLynx-micro (TSB43CB43A) chip.

IEEE-1394, also known as Firewire and iLink™, was designed to be a universal connection between electronic devices, including camcorders, personal computers, digital televisions, A/V receivers, DVD players, printers and so on. Different types of digital signals can be carried on IEEE-1394 cables, including video, audio (including high-resolution PCM and DSD), MIDI, device control commands and computer data. Though A/V equipment with IEEE-1394 is beginning to appear on the market, the vast majority of gear in people’s homes still relies on the S/P-DIF connector as the link to digital audio. PCs, on the other hand, are far more likely to have an IEEE-1394 connector than a S/P-DIF connector, making it difficult to send digital audio (such as a DVD soundtrack from the PC) to the primary listening equipment in the home. The Firewire-S/P-DIF converter allows consumers to easily enjoy stellar digital audio entertainment from their PCs.

“Entertainment PCs have, for years, had the ability to output graphics and video to televisions; now they can finally enjoy high-quality stereo and 5.1-channel surround sound audio playback from their companion home cinema systems,”

said Bob Brummer, director of technology strategy at Dolby Laboratories.

“Because Dolby is prevalent in both consumer electronics and PC entertainment, Dolby Digital is an obvious choice for compelling audio entertainment that can bridge the gap between these environments. As home networks grow in popularity, PCs will play a more prominent role as home entertainment platforms. Simplifying and enabling the connection of PCs to traditional CE devices gives the consumer new ways of enjoying music and gaming entertainment.”

“TI’s iceLynx-micro was designed and tailored for the audio entertainment market,”

said Belal Ahmad, consumer electronics product manager for TI’s Connectivity Solutions group.

“The Firewire-S/P-DIF converter taps into the millions of 1394 PCs and S/P-DIF-enabled home cinema systems and addresses the growing demand to easily connect PCs to home cinema systems so consumers can enjoy private music collections.”

“We are delighted to work with industry leaders such as Dolby and Texas Instruments to develop this critical link,”

said Bob Moses, president of Island Digital Media Group.

“We look forward to working with OEMs to bring it to the marketplace.”

Parties interested in bringing this design to market should contact Island Digital Media Group at 206-463-6667, or via email at bob[at]isdmg (dot) com.

Texas Instruments Incorporated provides innovative DSP and analogue technologies to meet its customers’ real-world signal processing requirements. In addition to Semiconductor, the company’s businesses include Sensors and Controls and Educational and Productivity Solutions. TI is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and has manufacturing, design, or sales operations in more than 25 countries.

Island Digital Media Group is a consulting firm based on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, with labs in Minnesota, Colorado, and South Africa. The firm has expertise in networked audio systems, and has worked with a variety of companies in the professional audio and consumer electronics industries to design products with Firewire and other leading edge digital audio technologies.

Dolby Laboratories creates technologies that intensify and enhance the entertainment experience, making it richer, fuller, and more involving. For nearly four decades, Dolby has been instrumental in defining high-quality audio and surround sound in cinema, broadcast, home audio systems, cars, DVDs, headphones, games, televisions, and personal computers. Based in San Francisco with European headquarters in England, the privately held company has entertainment industry liaison offices in New York and Los Angeles and licensing liaison offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo.