MMW-17 -- Yamaha's MA3 Sound Generation Chip

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 17
Wednesday, May 15, 2002


++ FEATURE: Yamaha's MA3 Sound Generation Chip

Kazaa Battles with Software Copycats
RIAA Blasts Jupiter Findings


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++ FEATURE: Yamaha's MA3 Sound Generation Chip

A few weeks ago, we covered the competition currently underway
between hardware versus software solutions for sound generation on
mobile devices. In this feature, we'll cover one of the state-of-
the-art solutions for the hardware side: the MA3 sound generation
chip from Yamaha Corp.

Earlier this year, Yamaha released a new 40-voice polyphonic sound
chip to improve upon its 16-voice MA2 chip. The new MA3 boasts
32-voice polyphony with an additional eight voices devoted to PCM
WaveTable generation. The release of the MA3 has been one of the more
exciting developments this year for ringtone and mobile music
software developers and has upped the ante in the battle for control
of the mobile sound generation market.

A major feature of the MA3 is the inclusion of a '4-operator' mode
for creating the sounds of the individual voices (instrument sounds)
used in a ringtone. Put simply, the primary advantage of 4-op
wave-editing is that there is much greater variety in the types of
sounds that can be used, allowing for more realistic sounding
ringtones. The 4-op mode is limited to 16-voices, however, so
ringtone creators essentially have to choose between using the
32-voice 2-op mode, which allows more polyphony but less sound
variation, or the 16-voice 4-op mode, which is limited in polyphony
but allows for exponentially greater possibilities in sound editing.

The second key point associated with the MA3 is the inclusion of the
8-voice WaveTable generator. The WaveTable greatly increases
possibilities for including sound effects and samples of live
instruments. In fact, the cellphone essentially becomes a
'mini-sampler,' allowing ringtone creators to include actual guitar,
drums, even vocals in their songs. While the actual quality and
amount of ADPCM data that can be included is still rather limited
(the chip has only 8KB of memory available), the improvement in ADPCM
sound quality over the MA2 is instantly noticeable.

In terms of market share, the MA3 is expected to further increase
Yamaha's already substantial lead in the Japanese mobile sound
generation market. The chip is found in all four of the currently
shipping 2.5G J-Phone models, made by Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba and
Kenwood. It is also rumored to be included on all of the latest KDDI
au models in production, as well as NEC's upcoming N504i i-mode
model, due out this month. Along with the 16-voice MA2, the MA3 seems
to have breathed new life into Yamaha's semiconductor manufacturing
division. At the same time, the chips seem to be helping the
company's mobile sound format (SMAF) gain a slight leg up over the
competing MFi format, made by Faith Inc. for DoCoMo.

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** Kazaa Battles with Software Copycats

Matt Richtel has written an interesting report in the New York Times
on the travails of Sharman Networks, the owners of Kazaa, in its
attempt to stop other companies from providing stripped down versions
of the Kazaa software, which have the advertisements and 'spyware'
removed. Richtel notes that makers of these programs are often
difficult to find -- for example, the provider of Kazaa Lite has
registered his Web site through Tokelau, a group of islands near
Western Samoa, presumably to make it harder for lawyers to track
him down.


** RIAA Blasts Jupiter Findings

Last week, we included a brief on the Jupiter Research report which
found that users of file-sharing services tended to spend more money
on music than they did before using the services. Not surprisingly,
the RIAA has publicly attacked the report as "faulty," complaining
that a key demographic group -- people under 18 -- were not polled.
The RIAA went on to present its own findings, citing a commissioned
poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates that polled 2,225 people in
the Fall of last year -- a few months after Jupiter's June
2001 survey.

The analyst who wrote the Jupiter report, Aram Sinnreich,
acknowledged the criticism from the RIAA but pointed out that
teenagers are "not really the majority of where music sales happen,
anyway." He also expressed skepticism with the RIAA-commissioned Hart
poll, saying, "Whose research is going to be less biased? Research
conducted by a lobbyist organization or research conducted by a
disinterested third party?"


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STAFF Written by Steve Myers (
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies, which
specializes in the development of music-related software

Edited by J@pan Inc editors (


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