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Full Introduction about QuickLogic ArcticLink III Family

Mediums are not just for storing or transmitting information. They can act as physical representations or interpretations of an experience. This post will examine how we conceptualize sound through mediums. They include airwaves, recordings, songs, and instruments.

QuickLogic ArcticLink III Family is relevant to this topic because it makes creating and using music a lot easier.

It is also relevant because this post is not only an introduction to QuickLogic ArcticLink III Family. It is also a means of understanding the actual nature of music. I want to understand how we create music, listen to it, and create sound out of any experience.

The ArcticLink III Family

ArcticLink III Family by QuickLogic is a small, cost-effective development board. It combines analog signal processing with digital signal processing into a single package. The board consists of a fully-programmable Analog Devices ADSP2100 DSP, a 64-pin QFP package. They contain 512KB of flash memory, and 256KB of SRAM from Atmel, an Atmel AT91SAM7S ARM7TDMI processor.

The board is fully programmable, but it is only suitable for 16-bit DSP functions, not 24-bit. This does limit the number of voices that a single chip can generate without using more chips. The software package provided by QuickLogic includes code for a basic synthesizer. However, it is entirely open-source so that you can program any instrument into it. The actual package comes in two different versions. At Rayming PCB & Assembly the ArcticLink III is a fully-assembled version that costs $249. On the other hand, the ArcticLink III Lite is a kit that costs $149.

However, if you go with the Lite package, you can expect to spend at least another $100 on assembling it yourself. The best reason for purchasing the fully-assembled ArcticLink III is that it includes everything needed to build a custom synthesizer in one package.

The QuickLogic site includes information about programming your instrument into the board, available under their resources section.

It is available in a QFN package, making adding it to the DIY Synth Builder Kit (DSK) possible. To use this board with the DSK, you need to purchase two QFN sockets and solder them on top of the board.

The DSK also comes with a USB-to-Serial adapter for using the board as a programmer for AVR microcontrollers. Unfortunately, no software is among the DSK – you will have to find your code from elsewhere on the web or write it from scratch.


CSSP-BXFDN120 PCB design elements

Type of circuit: Analog

• Number of layers: 3 layers

• Pad stack sizes: 0.1×0.1mm

• Hole sizes: 0.3mm

• Copper thickness: 1.0mm

• Layer traces/spaces: 1.0/2.5mm

• Inter-layer traces/spaces: 2.0/-0.25/-0.

• Board width: 156mm

• Layer thickness: 0.02mm

SMD pads/pins: 9.0×9.0mm

• Dip-Can holes: 3.0×2.5mm

• Number of LEDs: 2 x 0603

• Number of tactile switches: 3 x 5 x 4mm (bottom)

• Board thickness: 6.5mm (top)

• Operating voltage: 5 V

• Board height: 22mm (inputs)

• Box volume: 410ml (i.e. small box)

• External connections: USB port for programming and serial data, 2×0.1″ pin headers for breakout

• External power: minimum 0.5A, peak 0.

• Mounting holes: 2x13mm


Tones sounded by the instrument are divided into different octaves. This is because, to reproduce a tone, you must use a different number of synthesizer modules to generate that tone. It is important to note that this partitioning is only an idealized one. Many other factors like z-position and modulation levels affect how instruments. Examples include synths respond to notes played on the keyboard.

One significant advantage of using the QuickLogic ArcticLink III is its ability to create 16-bit audio files. It means it can take advantage of more than 8192 different frequencies in each tone.

This means that each of the sixteen synthesizer modules in the ArcticLink III can give way for a single oscillator with a frequency of 63.0kHz. It makes it possible to replicate the entire audible spectrum.

Another way to create complex feedback loops is through sound synthesis. This does not require an interface between the DSP and the musical instrument. You can set up several different tones to play simultaneously. Then you can use the resonance on one tone to modulate another tone. Some instruments, like old-school analog synthesizers, used this technique more than other instruments at their time.

Placement on the board

The ArcticLink III is small, but it is still quite a large PCB because there are many components on the board. The main parts of the board have only two layers, but only one side matters because they are placed on the board.

The central part of the board (the middle area) houses most of the processing power for synthesizing and editing sounds. There are eight audio processor modules here. Each module can take one tone from analog or digital input and translate that into a 16-bit waveform in memory. You can connect up to eight of these modules at once to create 128-voice polyphony simultaneously. In addition, each module has a sound synthesizer that we can program to make sounds of its own.

The eight input and output modules connect via two separate two-layer boards. They contain the universal data bus and the transconductance amplifiers.

The left half of the board houses seven square boxes that house the remaining processing power. These include oscillators, ring modulators, mixers, filters, and so forth. Each box also connects to its waveform memory. Unfortunately, each one is only 64 bytes in size (only 3.5 KB). However, this is sufficient for recording 256 waveforms at once, which might be more than enough for many purposes.


The ArcticLink III comes with a variety of connectors on the board. The most notable are two external USB headers. One which we can use to program the board and the other that we can use to connect an audio source via USB or CV/Gate. A serial data port also provides access to a serial device to program firmware updates and monitor sound parameters. There are also nine boards soldered onto the bottom side of the PCB, which make up six square “breakout” connectors. Each breakout contains either four QFN sockets for adding your hardware or four dip-can for prototyping projects.

The ArcticLink III includes a USB-to-Serial adapter (UART). It works similarly to the Adafruit Feather’s default USB-to-serial adapter.

There are two rows of input/output pins on the board, each with eight pins in each row. So, for example, the NanoKey should be connected to one row of those inputs and outs; UART and LEDs in the other.


The ArcticLink III connects with two headers attached to the bottom of the board. Each header has a USB-to-Serial adapter and a D-Sub connector for connecting to external audio sources, and a power pin. It comes in handy when you want to connect both the ArcticLink III and an external synthesizer at the same time.

There are four expansion connectors on the bottom side of the board: one for pushbuttons (usually under a rotary encoder) and three for LEDs. An audio output also allows you to connect your speakers or amplifier to the device.

A micro USB connection can connect it to a computer to program the board with different software.

Dip-Can sockets (2 x 0.1″ spacing)

The DSK comes with nine dip-can connections to interface with three tactile switches and a rotary encoder. Since the board itself only has three tactile switches, this makes it possible for you to add more switches if needed.


The ArcticLink III uses a 3.3V power supply that we can purchase separately. In addition, you can use one of their DualUSB adapters, which provides both 5V power and USB connectivity to an attached device (such as an Arduino).

The power supply can connect the board: the 5V pin and the GND pin. The GND connector is preferable, as it will provide power to all the components at once. We also recommend connecting a decoupling capacitor (100µF) across the 5V and GND pins, as this helps prevent voltage spikes from causing trouble for any of the sensitive components on the board.

Power consumption on this board can vary greatly depending on what modules are on and what modules are currently working. However, the bare minimum that the board will consume is 16mA, which is the absolute minimum current required to power the USB-to-Serial converter.

It is recommended to use a power supply capable of pushing out at least 0.25A, but not too great than 0.5A, as this will prevent voltage drops on the 5V supply line. A separate 5V supply can be safely used to power the board without damage or malfunctioning of any chips.

When running a program that uses the serial port on the board, you should use an external USB-to-serial adapter. This is because the one on-board is unreliable and can affect data integrity if it makes mistakes. Ideally, Adafruit’s TTL-232 cable can be helpful with this project. It provides some 5V and 3.3V power to keep the ArcticLink III running while providing a reliable serial connection back to your computer via a USB port.

Clock Routing

We do clock routing by the pins on the UART 2 connector, connected to pins A3-A0 on the NanoKey.

Arduino vs. NanoKey

Both Arduino and NanoKey share the same number of pins (20). However, because it needs to provide 5V power and uses a USB connection, Arduino is more difficult to connect to the board. This means that if you want to use Arduino for programming or debugging, you will need a separate power supply for both options.

Physically, they are very similar in size. Both have an ATmega328P microcontroller with an 8MHz clock rate and 16MHz crystal oscillator.

Arduino has more available IO (interfacing pins): 40, 61, 62, 71, 72, 73 (VCC), 74 (RST), and 75-76 (IOREF). The NanoKey only has 39 lines: 18 for GPIOs 1 through 14 and GPIOs 15-22.

Since all of the NanoKey’s pins are used for general IO, and the Arduino doesn’t have any I/O specifically dedicated to controlling sound generation modules or other multimedia applications, it might be necessary to use a software serial library. The Adafruit_Serial library is an excellent example of one that could be helpful with input or output.

High-Speed Differential Pair

The ArcticLink III uses a high-speed differential pair connector to interface with the NanoKey’s I/O pins. This contrasts with the I/O scheme used by the Arduino, which uses a single differential pair to communicate with its attached modules.

The Arduino’s IO pins connect to general-purpose input/output pins, which means that we connect to any of your module’s inputs and outputs. However, that may not be what you want. For example, a high-speed differential pair connector considers differences in speed between lines and can use one line as a clock while another line is read or written.

When using a high-speed differential pair, your inputs and outputs must be well isolated from each other and anything else around them. When any current moves through a circuit, electricity tends to flow in all directions until it reaches an opening. If a ground pin connects to an input, it may draw a current, sending that current to the 5V input and potentially damaging your Arduino. The same goes for the opposite scenario.

NanoKey has 18 high-speed differential pairs in total: 8 on each side of the board. We can program each side separately. However, they will be treated as one big “mess” when it comes time to make a connection. Any high-speed differential pair can be either input or output connections at any time.

To maintain its full speed capability on the NanoKey, you need to isolate your inputs from any surrounding grounds that might draw current away from them.


The ArcticLink III both use vias to pass electricity from one side of the board to the other. This is important as it allows current to flow through all components while reducing voltage drops across any connections.

On most electronic circuit boards, you will find that vias are in between some or all of the pins on each side, which can limit the speed at which electronics can process data. In addition, a full-sized (4-layer) printed circuit board will generally split into smaller pieces for easier handling, which means that some areas won’t have a via in them.

The exact distance between vias may vary but should be at least 0.006″ or 1.27mm, the smallest distance that allows for the fastest signal propagation.

The NanoKey case has a limited number of vias because it uses a half-sized printed circuit board. Unfortunately, this means that some signal traces will be right next to each other, leading to signal degradation and even signal loss altogether if there is too much resistance or damping in between them.

For example, look at a close-up of the NanoKey’s differential pair connector:

This points out two issues in this area: it’s hard to see where the wires go between two rows of pins because they are very close together (0.25mm isn’t a lot). The other is that there are vias on both sides of this area, which can cause signal degradation.

Due to the limited space available between pins on the ArcticLink III, you will need to place vias very close to where you are connecting pins. In some cases, it might not be possible to have vias at all due to the design constraints on your design.


The ArcticLink III requires high resistance to the board’s VCC pin (3.3V). A decoupling capacitor can provide this. It will help keep the voltage at 3.3V without causing problems for any other components on the board. This is generally not required. But, it can help ensure that no voltage spikes can cause trouble to any of the chips on the board while they are working.

A variety of different things can cause voltage spikes. One example is when you are programming the board with an external programmer, such as the FTDI basic breakout. This can cause voltage spikes that could harm the microcontroller or interfere with other components on the board.

Another way to cause a voltage spike is when an external power supply powers the board. Most external USB-to-5V converters have some way of limiting the output voltage or reducing it to something safe (such as 2.5 to 5 volts). If your board receives a voltage that it wasn’t expecting, this can damage the chips.

The best way to prevent these problems is to use a decoupling capacitor on the VCC pin on the ArcticLink III.

The exact value of this capacitor will vary depending on its placement on the board and how much current it is receiving from VCC and GND.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can cause damage to several different components. Some of these components may be in a position where they cannot protect themselves. For example, potentiometers and switches use conductive rubber or plastic not protected by the same system used to protect microcontrollers.

Electrostatic discharge can cause an object with a high electric potential to release that energy onto another object with a lower electric potential, which can permanently damage or destroy the electronics on your module. Therefore, it is essential to take precautions, such as using ESD-safe work practices or even purchasing an anti-static mat or wrist strap, so you don’t accidentally cause harm to your modules while developing them.

ArcticLink III CSSP-BXFDN120 applications Overview

The ArcticLink III chip is suitable for several different applications, such as:

Smart Textiles

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful with textiles to create smart clothing. This can include LED fabrics, shirts, gloves, and several other products. These products are generally low-voltage and high-current devices that need to be connected directly to the pins on the board.

For example, you could have a bright red shirt that turns green when you get close enough to something. To achieve this, you could connect a photoresistor R1 on one side of your shirt and R2 on the other side.

Home appliances

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful in intelligent thermostats, heating systems, and energy management systems. They often work with an external microcontroller that receives several inputs from sensors. They can also be helpful with the Raspberry Pi to add small computer-like features to devices that were not initially suitable for it, such as a small fan or light.

For example, you could have a device that controls -40 to +40 degrees Celsius in your house by receiving temperature readings and comparing them against a memory module. This would allow you to adjust the temperature at any time without having to worry about turning on or off the heater (or air conditioning).

Artificial Intelligence

ArcticLink III chips can create a small computer or even a smart home. This can include using the board to detect when someone is home, whether they are actually in the house, what they are doing, or if there are any activities in their bedroom.

As an example, you could have a board that detects your car and sends data back to you without having to set up anything: all you need to do is plug your car into the board and turn it on once, and it will automatically read how much gas there is in it.

5G Technology

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful in prototype devices part of the 5G network. They can also benefit devices that connect to a 5G network, such as smart TVs and cars.

This connection is often challenging to create, and the proprietary nature of 5G networks can make it harder to implement this kind of technology into your next project.

As an example, you could have a board that connects your smartphone with a TV or other peripherals without having any cables or wires between them. The phone could also automatically connect with any nearby devices on the same 5G network, which wouldn’t have been possible before.

Wireless Technology

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful in various wireless technology prototypes: including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RFID. In addition, ArcticLink III can also help in other 3G, TD-LTE, or LTE-M technologies.

This technology is more widespread than 5G technology and requires less complex hardware to implement. This makes it easier for you to implement many different products that require communication between devices over the air. An example of this would be a board that would allow you to connect a smartphone with an external antenna so that it could communicate with your car over your garage door.

Internet of Things

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful in various prototypes that are part of the internet of things (IoT) system. These include “smart homes” and entertainment systems.

For example, you could have a board that detects when your car arrives home or is parked in the garage and sends this information to several services, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo.

The complexity involved with creating IoT devices can vary greatly depending on the type of product you are trying to build. As an example, you could do something as simple as putting an LED on top of a wireless switch so that you can control if your lights are on or off without having any wires between them.

Medical Equipment

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful with medical equipment to help create smart implants. They can also help connect other types of monitoring systems to the internet, such as blood pressure monitors or pulse oximeters.

Security and Monitoring

ArcticLink III chips can be helpful for home security alerts, anti-theft systems, and several different monitoring systems.

For example, you could have a board connected to your house’s water system and use an LED on top of it to show any water leaking from it (or if something is wrong) without checking it manually every time.


In conclusion, the QuickLogic ArcticLink III Family of chips is a versatile product that we can use in many different applications. For example, the ArcticLink III chip can be helpful with your Raspberry Pi to add small computer-like features to devices that were not originally suitable for it, such as a small fan or light.

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