Introducing PolyCore1

PolyCore1

For a long time we had a dream. We were thinking of a tiny Linux based audio board that would even fit in the smallest housings or speakers. Super flexible connector options as well as very low power consumption had also high priority. Existing solutions were either too bulky with connectors always on the wrong place (e.g. all the standard single-board-computers like RPi or BBB) or were just too expensive to integrate in a low quantity project (basically all the system-on-modules / SOMs).

We really wanted this dream to become true so we pulled the trigger and started the development. The result is a 65 mm x 48 mm sized board with a maximum hight of 4,5 mm called PolyCore1.

At the heart of PolyCore1 there is an i.MX6 UltraLight from NXP. We took this specific processor because of its great audio connectivity, the very low power consumption and of course its long-term availability and the superior documentation + software support the vendor offers. We carefully selected this SoC and it perfectly meets all the requirements for a high quality audio streamer.

Some of the core features of PolyCore1 are three independent serial audio interfaces (I2S), S/PDIF input + output, power management for low power operation, 2x USB, native Ethernet, 2x SD, RTC, ONOFF button handler, 24bit RGB display interface and much more.

The standard versions is clocked at 528 MHz and comes with 512 MB DDR3L RAM, a native Ethernet PHY 10/100 that supports Wake-On-LAN (WoL), all the power management and a RGB LED for status indication.

PolyCore1_hand

But wait! Where are all the connectors for power, LAN and the SD card? This looks much more like a hard to integrate system-on-module (SoM) rather than a simple to handle single-board-computer (SBC)!

PolyCore1 combines the best of both worlds.  It is as small and as flexible as a SoM but also as easy to handle as a SBC. All the bulky components are off-loaded on a small separate PCB that gets connected via a super flexible FPC cable. All connectors -including the SD card that holds the operating system- are bundled together on a single location. Never worry again about accessing the SD card or power connectors that are on the wrong side!

Same goes for the AUDIO, the LCD and the GPIO connector. All peripherals can be connected using FPC cables. This is much more professional and also a lot more space saving than any other solutions.

PolyCore1_interface

The interface board (65mm x 30 mm) including connectors for RJ45 LAN, USB host, USB slave (power), S/PDIF out and the SD card will ship with the standard version of PolyCore1.

There will be a range of great audio peripheral boards as well as a 800 x 600 LCD with capacitive touch and also a native WiFi+BT extension a bit later.

The price point of all the components will be very appealing if you take into consideration that all is engineered and also manufactured in Germany.

We will provide you with a customized Linux kernel that includes all the necessary drivers for our additional products. We are also offering a Debian Jessie image for rapid development and a custom distribution dedicated to audio streaming called PolyOS. All software will be open source – of course.

 

More details are coming soon. Stay tuned for updates! If you have questions feel free to post them in our forum or as a comment below.

Update 1 – Introducing new peripherals
Update 2 – Details on pricing

16 thoughts on “Introducing PolyCore1

  1. Looks very promising! 🙂

    Does the i.MX6 UltraLight have four serializers, three used as I2S and one used as S/PDIF?
    Is it possible to switch the I2S-ports between input/output operation?
    Is it possible to use the S/PDIF serializer as fourth I2S-port?
    Which protocol are you going to use for network audio?

  2. The i.MX6UL has three I2S subsystems. Each with 1x DATA-IN and 1x DATA-OUT serializer.
    Yes, full-duplex input/output is possible. Even with different sample-rates at the same time.
    Each of the three subsystems looks like this:
    – MCLK
    – BCK IN
    – BCK OUT
    – LRCK IN
    – LRCK OUT
    – DATA IN
    – DATA OUT

    S/PDIF is a different subsystem and independent from the I2S system. We are targeting to use this as general audio output and also as an input in combination with the new PlainAMP.

    i.MX6UL does also include a high quality audio sample-rate converter. This could be useful in some constellations but of course bit-perfect is always our main target. More on this to come soon.

    Between devices running PolyOS we are using gstreamer. Our own OS will also come with an automatic-update-function as well as a DLNA renderer and shairport support.

    1. This means 3 PlainAMPs can be connected with 6 separate power-amp channels overall?

      What options are there to connect a measurement microphone (impulse response, latency measurements)?

    2. Hi Renne,

      yes, in theory there can be up to 6 output channels.
      The third I2S bus is multiplexed with the LCD pins. So you have to choose to either connect an LCD or use the 5. and 6. audio channel.
      The other four output + input channels (I2S 1 + 2) are available through the audio connector.

      Technically seen implementing some kind of measurement mic is possible. We might look into this a little later.

      All the best,
      Phillip.

  3. Hi guys !
    Looks really nice. Sorry I’m a bit unpatient, but should we expect a release after few days, few weeks or months ? By the way wifi functionnality is a must !

    1. Hi bruno,

      thanks! 🙂
      PolyCore1 is ready to enter mass production. We just want to make sure that our software is well tested and stable before sending them out.
      Our current plan is to start shipping in August.

      We decided not to integrate WiFi directly because we will offer a little more expensive WiLink8 module from Texas Instruments on a separate PCB. So people who are looking for a wireless solution will get a very good one and the other who are using wired connections don’t have to pay the extra fee.

      Best wishes,
      Philip.

      1. Will there be a 5 GHz WLAN module to avoid the overcrowded 2.4 GHz wave band (neighbour WLANs, microwave ovens, remote garage door openers, etc.)?

    1. We are currently preparing a new prototype of PolyCore1 that includes WiFi and BT as well as one TAS5756 amplifier and a nice ADC.
      In the last couple of weeks the original PC1 was under heavy testing including all kinds of power failures. Not a single problem. Maybe a backup battery for safe shutdown is not worth the effort. Even if there would be a problem with the filesystem you can easily access the SD card for reflashing. But we are really expecting no problems here.
      What we might offer a little later is a charger solution for a large battery (for portable equipment). So you could easily reuse this for stationary solutions.

  4. At a first glance the PolyCore1 looks exactly what I am looking for. I have built several audio streamers in the past based on Raspberries, BeagleBones, Odroid C1’s, Olimex boards, FriendlyArm NanoPi (Zero)’s, just to see if it would be possible. Most of the problems that occurred were software related userspace or kernel related issues with Alsa or the bad support for USB audio. I did not use MPD or squeeze based players (like Rune, Volumio or Roon) but my own custom written software. I would like to try this PolyCore1 board, any news on when it will become available for purchasing?
    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    1. Hi djagab,

      as written before we are currently working on an advanced version of PolyCore1 that directly includes several audio related things. ADC, TOSLINK, amplifier, audio clocks, …
      In contrast to all the other manufacturers of generic single-board-computers we are specialized on audio. When designing our PolyCore board the most important thing we had in mind always was audio connectivity and sound quality while keeping the price on an affordable level.
      We decided to go with an expensive Freescale/NXP SoC since they offer excellent support of recent linux kernels. We are using this as the base to include our custom drivers for the amplifier, the ADC, WiFi+BT, …
      For the userspace we will offer several options. Our own (PolyOS) is packed with audio features like multiroom sync and EQ / crossover and includes an updater. It’s based on Yocto and of course we will also maintain a meta-layer for this OS/board. If you want to tinker there will also be a generic Debian image.
      Also remember that you are directly talking to the developers here. This allows fast solutions if you are having any difficulties with specific SW or HW configurations.
      We are receiving the new boards by the end of next week. This is also the time when we will release more information about them.

      All the best,
      Philip.

  5. Brilliant – I am very keen to see the outcome. Better quality is best, rather than designing to a price….

    Your updates are very encouraging…I have to be patient….:-)

  6. Dear All,
    Thanks for the update and congrats with the newly presented CoreAMP1.
    I left a message on the CoreAMP1 section but it probably did not pass moderation ;).
    I therefore ask the same question again, here:
    I really like the modular approach the PolyCore1 was presented with. This way there is room for tinkering and creating a setup that suits your own needs.
    The CoreAMP1 has everything you need to build a wonderful streamer, I agree.
    But, everything is just to much for me. I like to tinker 😉 And…. I don’t need the amplifier part.;)
    So, will the PolyCore1 be completely replaced by the CoreAmp1, or are these products that can and will co-exist? Please let me know…. Thanks..

    1. Hi DJAGAB,

      sorry for the late reply.
      No, CoreAMP1 is not a direct replacement for PolyCore1.
      Passing CE/FCC certification is much easier with one single PCB rather than having e.g. five different modules that can be combined in multiple ways.
      So we are currently concentrating on bringing CoreAMP1 out of the door. When this is accomplished it is possible that we will add WiFi/BT and a DAC to PolyCore1 and do the same here.
      You still can tinker as much as you want as there is a 40 pin expansion connector offering e.g. free I2S, I2C and SPI busses. 🙂

      All the best,
      Philip.

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