FPGA Voice Recorder

I built a digital voice recorder as the final project in ENGS 31, Digital Electronics at Dartmouth. This class taught the basics of digital design, as well as how to program FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) using VHDL. For the final project, we worked in pairs to develop a device that used an FPGA to accomplish a task.

We chose to design a voice recorder that allows a user to record themselves using an onboard microphone and then play the recording back. The recording is saved to an SD card.

We broke the design down into a number of subsystems, each of which is largely independent and contains its own state machine. The project was developed in stages, initially only storing the recordered audio in RAM, and then adding SD card storage.

The core of the system is the audio controller, which is responsible for reading samples from the A/D convertor connected to the microphone, and writing to the D/A convertor connected to the speaker. Both of these perihperals communicate over SPI. Samples are written and read to a dual port RAM block used as a circular buffer. The SD card controller also reads or writes into the RAM, depending on whether recording or playback is occuring. The SD card controller uses SPI rather than the native SD protocol, because it is simpler and fast enough for the purposes of the project. The SD controller is implemented entirely in VHDL without any kind of soft processor. The controller supports plain SD cards, as well as SDHC and SDXC cards.

The system is capable of recording many hours of 44.1 KHz audio at 16 bit resolution (although the A/D and D/A convertors used are only 12 bit). We also wrote a Python program that makes it possible to write audio to the SD card to be played back by the recorder.

More detailed design information and the VHDL code for this project can be found in the project report.