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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » Microcontrollers and Programmable Logic
Parallella
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DrJustice



Joined: Sep 13, 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:46 pm    Post subject: Parallella Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I just found out about the $99 Parallella, a single board parallel computing device and thought others might be interested. It comes with :

- Xilinx XC7Z020, dual ~700MHz ARM cores, 85k gates programmable logic + 220 DSP slices, heaps of IO
- Epiphany E16G301, 16 x 1GHz RISC cores, dual issue, local and shared memory, on/off chip multiprocessing network
- GNU toolchain

This board looks ideal for a powerful synthesizer or FX processing device. The Epiphany chip is the main attraction here of course. It looks very nice with a 32 GFLOPS peak performance. While this card has a 16 core chip, 64 and more (thousands) core versions will follow.

Very tempting.. but also potentially very time consuming Smile
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JovianPyx



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It does have some powerful features, however, I don't like those expansion connectors, they look expensive and probably not easy to DIY. Why no PMODs? I also noticed it has no codec (and PMODs would make connecting one very easy). I'd actually prefer a VGA port instead of or in addition to HDMI. I also don't see a USB host port.

On the plus side is 1G of RAM (RAM goes away real fast even in an embedded Linux environment). The hardware is indeed powerful enough for a multi-voice multi-timbral synth or high quality effects processor, but several hardware items need to be added for that, namely a good quality stereo codec with input antialias filters at minimum.

Just my 2 cents worth...

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DrJustice



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wouldn't say you need a lot of extra hardware to use it, just the DAC (Linux -> USB?). It has an USB connector on each short end of the board (host and device). And face it, the days of VGA are gone... Smile

I agree that the expansion connectors aren't the most DIY friendly, but at least for the Epiphany multi processing network some reliable high speed connectors are needed. Anyway, the community already has breakout boards going, and if nothing else there are UART pins on the board for MIDI (yes you need an optocoupler...).

In any case it looks like a great little board with lots of synthesis power.
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JovianPyx



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You mentioned effects processor in your post - I suppose it counts if you apply an effects processor after a synthesizer, however, when I saw that, I thought of a more general effects processor, such as can be used on any external instrument or device. For that, an ADC is also required (or a codec that handles both ADC and DAC).

As for a DAC on USB.... this is just MY OPINION - but I think that basically sucks unless you have one of those optically isolate USB things that can eliminate the USB noise. Even then, the DAC competes for time resources with other devices like a thumb drive and of course the keyboard and mouse. USB DAC also makes it much more difficult to use the FPGA fabric to have a synth that is controlled by the Linux-based ARMs. And in an FPGA environment, with all those hundreds of pins, there is really no excuse for putting a DAC on USB because you can make or get drivers for codecs or DACs/ADCs for linux. I think a more optimal solution is a codec that is connected directly to FPGA pins, especially for timing considerations. I think sample rate ranges of available parts are going to be better for direct to FPGA as well. And this isn't something that's out of comm speed range for PMOD.

As for the MIDI opto-isolator, a PMOD would be such an easy interface to make a simple little board to do that.

As for VGA, we shall agree to disagree. I think that especially QVGA has a place in the synth/effects arena. I also have 4 or 5 working VGA units here, so I, personally, am not done with VGA.

As I said previously, I think the Zynq chip is a powerful tool worthy of wonderful audio DSP experiments.

I will be interested in reading about and listening to the projects you design with the Parallela.

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DrJustice



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I agree that a USB DAC is the long way around, just mentioned it as a convenience plug-and-play possibility. I'd think that any USB DAC worth it's weight in silicon is properly isolated from USB noise though.

For the Parallella and other boards like it, something like this I2S DAC might do t he trick. In the case of the Parallella you could have a stand alone >40 GFLOPS C-programmable audio processing system for less than USD 150. That's a pretty enticing prospect...


Edit: I wanted to edit a typo and found that the "edited" message sits immediately below the last line of the posting with absolutely no air - I wonder if it didn't it sit lower down in the message previously. Anyway, I've created some air around the paragraph above by inserting this "Edited" explanation Smile

Last edited by DrJustice on Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:47 pm; edited 3 times in total
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BobTheDog



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very interesting, I have registered my email with them and will get one. The 64 core one would be pretty nippy.
Last edited by BobTheDog on Sun Mar 23, 2014 12:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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jksuperstar



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

This thing looks like a GPU style architecture, without the graphics, from what I can tell.

Great little development board, however. Between these new SoC/FPGAs and the return of analog synths and drum machines, I think I died and am in heaven.
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BobTheDog



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

They have an RC of OpenCL 1.1 as well, looks like it is not quite complete though:

Quote:
The OpenCL implementation for Parallella presently targets the 1.1 standard specification. Programmers should be aware that not all of the standard is implemented at this time and extensions have been added to expose features of the Epiphany architecture not addressed in the standard. The primary objective is to use OpenCL to provide a useful parallel programming model for Parallella programmers.
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DrJustice



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

jksuperstar wrote:
This thing looks like a GPU style architecture, without the graphics, from what I can tell.

It's quite a bit different. Each core is a complete general purpose RISC core, a bit like a small ARM. As such there are no GPU 'strangeness' and dedicated units.

Some cool things: The on and off chip multiprocessing network has a hardware supported messaging protocol, where any core can send a message to any other core(s), also as multicatsts. Each node can access the local memory of any other node, and each node can access the off chip shared memory.

All in all, programming the Epiphany efficiently should be very straightforward. I haven't tried it, but I have read large parts of the docs. Here is the Epiphany Architecture Reference manual, with the programming model explained. It's a bit tight now, but come better times, I'll be getting a Parallella.

@ Andy: What kind of CODEC and hook up will you use? If the community would come up with a "standard" CODEC arrangement, that would lower the threshold for getting audio projects running on the Parallella...
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jksuperstar



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I did find the reference docs, and can see each unit has a floating point processor, too. I'm trying to grok what the total delay time would/could be from cores to I/O through the eMesh.

An ADAT codec is fairly simple, and fully digital for experimentation (with optical isolation!). The FPGA could easily do all the heavy lifting, even if heavy is pretty lite in this case. Pure audio is good, too Wink
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engineer



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:07 am    Post subject: FPGA Parallella for sound Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am really impressed about this board which is really incredibly priced. Hard to understand.

Well the FPGA is too small for my needs but there is a strong need for ARM processing for sound because of MIDI and random Arpeggios.

I have a similar board running during my main business (video) it is a former Zynq from Digilent, so I have no idea about this Epiphany CPU. I will have to inspect that the detailled way.

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