Transparent Audio Explained

A Q&A with Cirrus Logic’s Jonathan Taylor

For immersive audio experiences that capture the true essence of a live performance, playback should deliver near-perfect reproduction of the original recording. Achieving this level of transparency is crucial, especially as audio transitions between analog and digital domains.

In technical terms, ADCs and DACs play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between real-world audio and digital playback to deliver ‘transparent audio’. But why is this important, and how is Cirrus Logic bringing these innovations to market?

To find out more, we spoke to Cirrus Logic Product Line Manager, Jonathan Taylor, who explained our ethos and how the concept is elevating audio recording technology to new levels.

What is ‘transparent audio’ and what does it mean in the context of audio converters?

To be considered transparent, the analog-to-digital process should preserve everything that makes a live, studio or recorded performance special and unique, without introducing noise or unwanted harmonics. Our ADC solutions are designed to carry out the conversion process but add nothing extra. The same is true for our DAC, where our objective is to bring recorded audio into the real-world domain as accurately as possible – an approach which also requires our DAC technology to be transparent.

More specifically, our devices have been built so that our converter circuitry outperforms the technologies around them. As a result, they don’t introduce limitations to the process, giving our customers the freedom to personalize their own front-end or output without our solutions impacting the sound they want.

For example, our digital filters have been optimized for each sample rate, with a focus on transient response. These have been designed to pass along everything the ear hears while presenting the cleanest transient response (reduce pre/post ringing) for the most accurate real-world replication. In addition, the noise presented by our devices is pure analog, meaning users have the most accurate representation of real noise.

How do audio converters achieve transparency when transferring sounds between analog and digital domains?

There are a range of important capabilities and techniques used within our products that help deliver audio transparency. These include the low noise floor that users expect to ensure audio quality, signal fidelity and dynamic range, together with low THD+N, so our ADCs and DACs don’t produce additional harmonics that are not in the real performance.

Given that it’s also possible to muddy audio by having a poor digital filter, we have developed filters that reduce the amount of compromise our customers usually have to deal with. We have taken advantage of our process node, optimized for digital processing, to give our customers more flexibility. Not only have we hand tuned filters across sample rates, but we have provided configurable filters. This allows end customers to tune to their circuitry and their signature sound.

How can end-users use this technology to personalize their audio output?

Today’s end users increasingly look for very accurate, transparent recording performance so they can then add whatever additional audio elements or effects they want. Whether it’s adding simple effects like reverb to leaving a recording as true to the original as possible, our objective is to empower those choices.

Can you provide an example of the real-world impact of transparent audio?

Whenever you go to a concert, you are typically there to immerse yourself in live music and for the unique sense of authenticity that experience delivers. In the context of recordings, you want to hear what the musicians are playing on stage, and it should faithfully reproduce how they intended their performance to sound. You don’t want your ADC or DAC getting in the way or changing the audio from what’s happening on stage and what is coming out of the speakers. The role of transparent audio is to capture and maintain the audio quality that, before now, only live performances could provide.

How can people find out more about Cirrus Logic transparent audio technologies?

You can find more information on our High Performance Audio Converters page.

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