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Qualcomm unveils the QCS400 series SoCs for smart speakers and next-gen audio applications

Qualcomm's QCS400 SoCs aim to bring advanced audio capabilities to smart speakers. (Source: MobileSyrup)
Qualcomm's QCS400 SoCs aim to bring advanced audio capabilities to smart speakers. (Source: MobileSyrup)
Qualcomm has revealed the new QCS400 series SoCs dedicated for smart audio applications in smart speakers, soundbars, home theatre systems, AV receivers, and IoT hardware. The QCS400 series comes in four SKUs and offers a tri-radio coexistence, AI enhancements, up to 32-channels of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, low-latency streaming, and next generation voice capabilities. The higher-end SKUs also come with an Adreno 306 GPU for visual output. The QCS400 series aims to be more power-efficient and can be tailored by developers to offer specific experiences to the user.

The next generation of smart speakers might get even smarter thanks to Qualcomm's new QCS400 series SoCs. The QCS400 is a dedicated audio processing chip designed to meet the needs of smart speakers, soundbars, and AV receivers (AVRs). The QCS400 combines advancements in audio, connectivity, and display on a single platform.

The QCS400 series is comprised of four SKUs — QCS403, QCS404, QCS405, and QCS407. QCS403 and QCS404 are targeted at the smart assistant and smart speaker segments while the QCS405 aims to bolster soundbars, home theatre systems as well apart from smart speakers. The high-end QCS407 has features to cater to advanced AVR systems.

These SoCs offer an AI Engine, dual audio DSPs, and up to four CPU cores (QCS403 has a dual-core CPU) along with an Adreno 306 GPU (QCS405 and QCS407 only) and the Hexagon DSP with Hexagon Vector Extension. OEMs can leverage these SoC features in their audio solutions to offer a whole new immersion level. These chips come with native support for up to 32 channels of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding and offer built-in wireless AX, Bluetooth 5.1, and Zigbee coexistence without the need for additional hardware. Low-latency streaming is facilitated via the Qualcomm DDFA amplifier and aptX audio codec.

Qualcomm says that the QCS400 series offers 25x longer standby with voice wakeup and extended battery life. The AI chops help in detecting keywords in speech and can offer customizable user experiences with support for multi-mic beamforming noise suppression with mono, stereo, and multi-channel noise-cancellation.

Developers can use the Audio Development Kit and the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDKs to make the best use of the features of the QCS400 and customize it to their preferred choice of voice assistant. Qualcomm is also making available the Smart Audio Platform 400 built around the QCS400 series to help developers in getting up to speed with the new SoCs.

Qualcomm QCS400 series spec sheet. (Source: Qualcomm)
Qualcomm QCS400 series spec sheet. (Source: Qualcomm)


Qualcomm Launches New, AI-Enabled Highly Integrated SoCs and Dedicated Smart Speaker Platform to Help Drive the Evolution of Smart Audio

QCS400 SoCs designed for “smarter” Speakers, Soundbars, Home Assistants and AV Receivers, with Integrated Compute, Mesh Wi-Fi, BLE Mesh, Voice-User Interface, Audio technology, and support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Security Features

Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), today launched the new Qualcomm® QCS400 SoC series. In these SoCs, Qualcomm Technologies brings its unique high-performance, low-power compute capabilities together with its unrivaled legacy in audio technology - to help deliver highly optimized, AI-enabled solutions that are designed for smarter audio and IoT applications.

The QCS400 SoCs are built to deliver evolved premium audio experiences throughout the home. They tightly integrate high-performance processing, the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence (AI Engine), connectivity, and multiple advanced audio and visual display capabilities in a single, power-optimized chip architecture.

For users of smart speakers, the QCS400 SoCs support a more robust voice assistant experience with faster, smarter voice UI, even in noisy environments compared to our previous SoCs– including AI-based local automatic speech recognition, low-power, multi-keyword far-field voice pickup with beam-forming and echo cancellation, and support for cloud-based voice assistants.

“These new SoCs raise the bar on both feature integration and power performance for smart audio compared to our previous technology. This will help manufactures to more easily overcome significant technical challenges and build smarter speakers and assistants with more intuitive voice UI, connected user experiences and exceptional sound quality.” said Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The next generation of smart audio products must be robust, highly interoperable, feature-rich, and smart, yet extremely power efficient. Qualcomm Technologies helps to meet these needs with our new SoCs, which are unique and comprehensively integrated to combine enhanced compute, AI acceleration, and low-latency audio distribution in a single chipset. These integrated solutions are designed to reduce development time of next-generation smart speakers, home assistants and soundbars.”

Utilizing the latest Dolby advancements in sound technology, Dolby Atmos® is designed to deliver impressive clarity, richness, detail, and depth. Dolby Atmos helps to bring consumers inside the story and action as the sounds of people, places, things, and music come alive. This high level of integration helps OEMs to more efficiently and economically create smarter audio products with richer sound quality, extended battery life and improved voice assistance capabilities

“The Qualcomm® QCS400 SoC series will enable our sound bar and AVR partners to bring Dolby Atmos experiences to more people,” said Mahesh Balakrishnan, vice president, Enhanced Audio Experiences, Dolby Laboratories. “Through this close working relationship, we are expanding the availability of best in class audio experiences.”

“We are pleased to work with Qualcomm Technologies to support our flagship immersive audio decoder, DTS:X, for their new line of SoCs for premium sound bars and Audio-Video Receivers and look toward to delivering additional DTS audio solutions on the QCS400 SoC series,” said Joanna Skrdlant, general manager, home and solutions licensing at Xperi.

With these new SoCs, Qualcomm Technologies is helping people enjoy great voice and audio, virtually everywhere. Advanced connectivity with tri-radio coexistence and low-latency audio streaming mean users can enjoy superior music listening almost anywhere in their home. Power improvements driven on the QCS400 series support up to 25 times longer standby with voice wakeup and extended ‘un-plugged’ battery life compared to our previous technology, so people can take their speakers with them into the yard or even further afield and enjoy playback with voice commands for hours at a time.

Key features of the QCS400 SoC Series include:

  • Highly-integrated, yet flexible, single-chip architecture - with the Qualcomm® AI Engine, dual DSPs and up to four processor cores, engineered specifically for audio applications and designed to deliver substantial power efficiencies, performance improvements and flexibility for advanced feature innovation.
  • On-board connectivity - industry-leading Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Support for Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive designed to deliver low-latency audio streaming in the room or throughout the home, and tightly synchronized audio and visual content for a superior entertainment experience. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee coexistence is designed to allow for control of virtually all types of smart home devices, helping OEMs to design products to serve as hubs and interfaces to the smart home.
  • Truly rich and immersive audio - up-to 32 channels of integrated audio processing, support for Dolby Atmos immersive audio and DTS:X® as well as compatibility with Qualcomm® DDFA™ amplifier technology and aptX audio.
  • Improved Voice UI - Utilizing our far field voice, multi-channel echo cancellation, and high performance, low-power multi-keyword detection algorithms (Qualcomm® Voice Assist), products built on the QCS400 SoCs can capture voice commands even during high-volume audio playback or from further afield.
  • AI Engine – To meet the growing demands of audio processing, QCS400 SoCs support the Qualcomm AI Engine for enabling high-performance, energy efficient AI acceleration including a quad-core CPU, Qualcomm® Adreno™ GPU and Qualcomm® Hexagon™ DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtentions. The Qualcomm AI Engine offers support for myriad neural network frameworks including Tensorflow, PyTorch and ONNX, as well as the Qualcomm® Neural Processing SDK for easily executing AI algorithms on device. This advanced AI hardware and software suite helps smart speaker and sound bar OEMs deliver a variety of robust AI-powered voice UI features.
  • Reduced development time - Designed specifically to support reduced development time and cost, the new chipsets will be available at multiple tiers with a common architecture, allowing implementation across multiple product lines, to better utilize development resources.

The QSC400 SoCs are highly flexible and customizable using Qualcomm Technologies’ Audio Development Kit (ADK) and the Qualcomm® AI Engine can be utilized by developers through the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ Neural Processing Engine (SNPE) Software Development Kit (SDK). Developers have the freedom to choose the cloud-based voice assistant that best suits their product vision.

Qualcomm® Smart Audio Platform 400

To help streamline the process for developing a smart speaker, Qualcomm Technologies is also announcing the Qualcomm® Smart Audio Platform 400, available as a comprehensive, customizable development kit and example design, built around the Qualcomm® QCS400 SoCs. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform 400 is the evolution of Qualcomm Technologies’ unique end-to-end solution designed specifically to help reduce the materials cost and development time associated with creating next-generation smart speakers.

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About Qualcomm
Qualcomm invents breakthrough technologies that transform how the world computes, connects and communicates. When we connected the phone to the Internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, our inventions are the foundation for life-changing products, experiences, and industries. As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, all of our engineering, research and development functions, and all of our products and services businesses, including, the QCT semiconductor business. For more information, visit Qualcomm’s websiteOnQ blogTwitter and Facebook pages.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 03 > Qualcomm unveils the QCS400 series SoCs for smart speakers and next-gen audio applications
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2019-03-19 (Update: 2019-03-19)