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Cadence HiFi Family Adds a Little One

November 2, 2021

Author: Mike Demler

Cadence’s Tensilica HiFi DSP family has a nearly 20-year history of enabling low-power audio processing. Back in 2012, HiFi 3 upgraded from the original 24-bit instruction-set architecture (ISA) to 32 bits. Since then, the HiFi 4 and HiFi 5 DSPs have delivered more performance by implementing wider VLIW architectures with more compute units, at the expense of progressively greater die area and power. The new HiFi 1 extends the lineup in the opposite direction, consuming about 15% less silicon than HiFi 3 and providing even greater power savings.

The company introduced HiFi 1 at this week’s Linley Fall Processor Conference. The design succeeds the entry-level Fusion F1, although it omits the legacy 24-bit hardware that DSP uses for backward compatibility. This omission isn’t an issue for most customers, but HiFi 1 can emulate the 24-bit instructions in software.

The new DSP targets audio streaming and sensor fusion in hearables and other wearable devices. Despite its small size, design improvements enable HiFi 1 to consume fewer cycles than HiFi 3 when executing some core functions of those devices, such as the new Bluetooth 5 standard’s Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3). Cadence also optimized HiFi 1 for always-on sensor processing and AI-enabled contextual awareness. It delivered production RTL to lead customers in June, but HiFi 1 is now available for general licensing.

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