A Discussion of FPGA Vs DSP

A Discussion of FPGA Vs DSP

Modern music is leaning more and more heavily on electronics. It’s a noticeable trend that as technology as improved, and become more widely available, creative types have found novel uses for it in different fields, such as the music industry. Less and less 5 piece or more bands are being seen at major festivals and venues, and instead minimal numbers of people are operating a growing number of electrical devices in order to produce music. This is just one example of how technology changes the world around us.

Behind the curtain of the music itself lay the workings of the electronics systems that produce the sounds we love. More importantly is determining which types of electronics will produce the best results. When it comes to feeding back the sounds into the recording or speaker devices, there is a question of whether FPGA board or DSP implementation is superior.

In order to figure out which of two things is more effective, we must have a working definition of what these things are, as well as their functions and capabilities in order to have a working contrast. FPGA is an acronym for Field Programmable Gate Array. They are essentially a circuit that is created specifically to be programmed by the owner after being purchased. This makes them incredibly versatile, since they can be programmed to meet any application or function that the programmer desires. There are FPGAs that are One-Time Programmable (or OTPs) which means they can only be programmed one time, for one specific functionality, the most popular types have the ability to be programmed as the design evolves in order to meet more requirements. Often changes to the program can be updated remotely for even more convenience.

DSP stands for Digital Signal Processing. It is essentially the mathematical manipulation of any kind of digital information signal, in this case, sounds, voices, music, etc., that have been recorded, in order to improve the signal in some way. It essentially takes those digital signals and relays them back into the real world; a sound happens, it is recorded, and then relayed through a medium such as a speaker. During this process the sounds can be improved by DSP.

The main high card that DSP has over FPGA is that newer models have the ability to perform FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) processing, which, for the sake of not getting overly technical, is a rapid computing algorithm that is a benefit to faster processing speed. Therefore, some will recommend DSP for complex feedback processing, such as filtering, or anything that may call for FFT.

However, the debate over whether FPGA boards or DSP is easier to use and install is a heated one. There are hardcore DSP proponents, and enthusiastic fans of the FPGA boards’ easy programming options, and they go head-to-head on this issue. For some, cost is a factor, and the research on costs alone will make their decision for them. However, it is often a cost versus performance problem: The DSP is often cheaper, but does not have the same range of options that the FPGA does. It also depends on the function that needs to be performed. At the end of the day, it may be a question of programming, and if that is the case, the FPGA is the way to go.