This week, I stumbled onto a terrific video that clearly debunks many myths surrounding super-high-end audio gear like a $20,000 power cord that’s mentioned in the video. What’s this got to do with EDA? Simply this: an audio zealot’s belief that there are audible differences to be heard from an expensive power cord or from immensely expensive speaker wire over the inherent distortion from the speakers is akin to overly weighting the importance a single EDA tool in the long chain of tools now needed to get from RTL to layout.
Back in the early 1980s, ASIC tool chains came from single vendors—companies that optimized their EDA tool flows for their own captive IC processes. Then the industry went through a period where point-tool excellence became first a competitive game and then a blood sport. At the same time, the stack of tools needed to get from high-level design to GDS rectangles grew ever higher and higher. The key to starting up an EDA company became a matter of figuring out where one might insert a new tool in to the EDA “layer cake.”
At 40nm and below, we now have a pretty complex design path, one that’s trending back to unified flows where the tools can freely communicate up and down the tool chain to eke maximum performance from increasingly complicated IC process nodes that are extremely finicky about a number of design parameters—actually hundreds or thousands of design parameters.
What I am saying is that whatever you currently believe about audio or EDA may not be closely tied to current reality—that’s the message of this video and of this blog post. Here’s the video: