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Qualcomm Introduces New QCS400 Chip That Can Make Smart Speakers Easier To Talk To

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Qualcomm plans to take smart speaker technology to the next stage with the release of its newest line of audio System-on-Chips or SoCs.

With smart speakers becoming more popular among consumers, the demand to make these devices better increases as well. That is exactly what Qualcomm's QSC400 series of chips promises to do by giving smart speakers more power than they ever had before.

Qualcomm QSC400 SoCs

The QSC400 SoCs feature a quad-core central processing unit and an Adreno graphics processing unit to give devices the power they need. It also has a Hexagon digital signal processor with Vector extensions to boot.

When combined with Qualcomm's signature AI Engine, these components help make playing audio on smart speakers a much more "robust" experience.

Devices fitted with the new SoCs have a far better voice response time compared to those that do not. The chips' DSP and audio interfaces give them more control over far-field mics, making it easier for devices to recognize keywords in user requests better.

Smart speakers rely heavily on internet connectivity for media streaming. The QSC400 chips provide options for advanced connectivity, such as beamforming, so devices can handle single- and multi-room streaming without much latency issues.

SoCs also support Dolby, DTS X, and aptX Adaptive technologies to enhance the audio quality on smart speakers.

Perhaps the biggest promise Qualcomm has made with its new QCS400 series is their ability to improve battery life for smart speakers.

The chips were designed to boost the standby battery life for devices by a factor of 25, even when active voice listening is enabled. Portable smart speakers with these SoCs can last considerably longer than before.

Qualcomm also said the SoCs will be able to handle some user requests even without connecting to the internet. They also make it possible to support multiple smart assistants on a single device.

Eric Zeman of Android Authority offered his thoughts on the new chips.

"In the demos I saw at Qualcomm's campus in San Diego, the QSC400 showed quick response times to voice commands and powered decent-sounding smart reference speakers," Zeman wrote.

"It will be up to device makers to really put the QSC400 to work."

Qualcomm currently offers four different SoCs as part of the QSC400 series:

  • QSC403 - Voice assistants, home hubs and entry-level sound bars

  • QSC404 - Smart speakers, sound bars and audio-capable mesh routers

  • QSC405 - Higher-end smart speakers, smart soundbars and home hubs with displays

  • QSC407 - Premium smart sound bars and audio-visual rooms  

Better Smart Speakers

Qualcomm also unveiled a new power amplifier to help enhance the audio on smart speakers.

Direct Digital Feedback Amplifier (DDFA) CSRA6640 can boost devices with 40 watts of power via a single channel or 20 watts through two speakers. It can also support smart speakers that depend on the multiple input and output options.

The CSRA6640 has lower total harmonic distortion because of its double feedback loop. Smart speakers with the Qualcomm amplifier will have better sound at higher volumes compared to other devices. It also reduces the buzzing sound often produced when speakers are used at silent or low-volume levels.

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