Smartphone manufacturers have been paying a lot more attention to higher quality audio hardware and software lately, which, as a recovering audiophile, is a trend that I’m very happy to see continue (and no, Beats audio doesn’t count!). Wolfson, a global supplier of high performance mixed-signal semiconductors, is at the cutting edge of this trend, having recently announced its new 192kHz chip for mobile devices.
Over the past few years there’s been a growing trend in ultra-high quality audio files. We’re not talking lossless FLAC files ripped from a CD anymore, in this case we’re only interested in super high-end 24-bit, 192 kHz Studio Master audio. For the uninitiated, a Studio Master file contains a track that matches what the original artist and producer recorded and mixed, before it’s slimmed down to fit on a CD or hacked to bits to confirm to the size of an MP3.
Most of highest-tier smartphones, like the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, are current limited to 48 kHz audio. Good enough for CD quality playback, but falling well short of this new high end trend. However, we are starting to see smartphones move into the high-end audio realm, with the LG G2 being the first smartphone to support 24-bit, 192 kHz playback, and the Galaxy Note 3 quickly following suite.
Anyway, Studio Master quality music is set to become much more widespread in smartphones, as Wolfson has just released information about its new WM5102S chip, a 24-bit, 192 kHz high-resolution Master Hi-Fi audio hub. You may recognise the company from the Galaxy S3’s audio chip.
With Studio Master quality recordings increasingly being made available for download onto mobile devices, consumers understandably want to experience these recordings on their mobile devices at the same quality that they would enjoy on premium home audio systems. Tim Page, Principal Product Line Manager at Wolfson Microelectronics
The hub is built around Wolfson’s WM8741 Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC), one of the company’s leading audio DACs designed for CD, DVD, and home theatre systems. Obviously the WM5102S is designed around the low power requirements of mobile devices, but it still packs in a ton of features. Here are some of the more important specifications:
- Standard sample rates from 4kHz up to 192kHz
- Enhanced DRE processing (eDRE) for 120dB Signal to Noise Ratio
- Dynamic Range Control and fully parametric EQs
- Integrated 6/7 channel 24-bit Hi-Fi audio hub CODEC
- 0.1% Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise from 29mW into 32Ω load (6.5mW typical headphone playback power consumption)
Without the techno babble – this little chip offers pretty much everything that you’ll need if you’re looking to playback ultra high quality audio from your smartphone, with minimal noise or distortion. Of course, whether or not you really need 192 kHz audio is an entirely different matter.
The WM5102S is currently out sampling to customers and distribution partners as we speak, but keep your eyes (and ears) on the lookout for this little chip in future smartphones and tablets.
Are you sold on the 192kHz trend, or is the MP3 judged too harshly?