CC Blog Datasheet Directories

DSPs and DSCs

Written by Sam Wallace

Time is of the Essence

Digital signal processors (DSPs) and digital signal controllers (DSCs) are designed for time-critical execution of complex algorithms. These chips are crucial to many high-end, high-performance applications today.

  • Digital signal processors
  • digital signal controllers 
  • ADSP-SC59x
  • ADSP-2159x
  • ADAU1797
  • Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation
  • AK7709VQ
  • multi-core DSP 
  •  CS49834/44 Audio DSPs
  • WA’A 400G
  • 800G coherent digital signal processor
  • dsPIC33CK1024MP710
  • dsPIC33CK512MP60x 16-Bit DSCs 
  • MC56F80xxx 

Digital signal processors (DSPs) and their cousins, digital signal controllers (DSCs), are microprocessors optimized for, well, digital signal processing. That is, they’re built to handle complex mathematical computations and processing of digital signals in time-critical operations. You see them pop up a lot in audio signal processing, and that becomes evident in this month’s Datasheet gallery. But they’re also found in radar and sonar, digital image processing, telecommunications, and more.

Simple enough. Only, there’s the pesky business of names. The same device that might be called a DSP by some vendors could be called a microcontroller (MCU) by others. So here, we take a defining characteristic of DSPs to be the “deterministic” execution of tasks, which is their ability to handle tasks in a prescribed amount of time—no exceptions, no delays. That’s sort of their point: DSPs are meant for applications that require the processing of complex algorithms in a time-critical fashion.

To further complicate naming conventions, DSCs are hybrids of DSPs and MCUs. They have common DSP features—like barrel shifters, large accumulators, and single-cycle multiply-accumulate (MAC) units—with the fast interrupt responses and control-oriented peripherals typical of MCUs. Not everyone uses the term DSC, but you’ll see some examples in this month’s gallery.

The DSP and DSC market has long been dominated by a handful of key players. As such, a few companies pop up more than once this month, atypical for this column. 

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2024 #403 – Get a PDF of the issue


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Editor-in-Chief at KCK Media Corp. | + posts

Sam Wallace - became Circuit Cellar's  Editor-In-Chief in August 2022.
His experience in writing, editing, and teaching will provide a great perspective on the selection, presentation, and clarity of editorial content. The Circuit Cellar audience will benefit from his strong academic background encompassing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors. His passion for learning and teaching is a great fit for Circuit Cellar's continuing mission of Inspiring the Evolution of Embedded Design.

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DSPs and DSCs

by Sam Wallace time to read: 1 min