Global Silicon

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Global Silicon Limited
Industry Semiconductors
Founded October 28, 1997 (1997-10-28)
Founder Martin Brennan, Morgan Colmer
Headquarters Hong Kong SAR
Number of locations
Hong Kong SAR, China PRC
Products Semiconductors
Services Consultancy

Global Silicon Limited is a fabless semiconductor company founded in 1997 in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Global Silicon designed and produced system level semiconductors for the consumer audio market. Global Silicon created a number of new ICs that were noteworthy for the level of system integration that was achieved. Initial products focused on solutions for CD players, later expanding to also include MP3 and WMA compressed formats. Global Silicon's DART IC was used in the CD/MP3 Boombox (Philips AZ3038[1]) and a subsequent IC (Xin) was used in a number of consumer products including the CD/MP3/WMA boombox (Packard Bell OP10). Global Silicon created a number of patents to cover the new technology that had been created. Global Silicon did not achieve commercial success, the investors decided to close the company in 2006 citing lack of sales traction.[2][3] In 2007, the CTO of Global Silicon purchased the company's intellectual property (excluding patents), stock and assets including a HK subsidiarity and has been operating the company from Hong Kong since. Currently Global Silicon is a consulting company and consumer audio design house.

Founding and investment[edit]

Global Silicon was founded in Cambridge, UK[4] by engineer Martin Brennan. Initially the company was called "The Cheap & Cheerful Chip Company Limited".[5][6] Brennan was joined by engineer Morgan Colmer in 1998. Together Brennan and Colmer developed an FPGA based demonstration for a new CD player IC that integrated the functions of several system ICs into one system-on-a-chip (SoC). After successfully raising £2 million (GBP) from investment firm MTI[7][8] in 1999, the company went on to turn the demonstration system into an ASIC. The company changed its name to Global Silicon prior to the first round of investment. In 2005, Global Silicon received further investment of £5.7 million (GBP) from a consortium of investors made up of MTI, Quester and Celtic House.[9][10][11]


  • William Jeffrey served as CEO and Chairman from the initial investment in 1999 until he took a leave of absence in 2006 following being diagnosed with terminal cancer.[12]
  • Martin Brennan served as Managing Director until he left Global Silicon in 2001 to form a new audio company called 3GA.[13]
  • Morgan Colmer[citation needed] served as the CTO for the company until 2006 and then participated in the management buy out of company assets and from 2007 has served as the Managing Director.
  • David Leith[citation needed] served as the CEO of the company from 2003 until 2004.
  • Steve Cliff[citation needed] served as Sales and Marketing Director from 2004 to 2005.
  • Andrew Hamer[citation needed] served as Sales and Marketing Director from 2002 to 2003.
  • Nick Rich[citation needed] served as CFO from December 2004 to October 2006, then served as Managing Director until December 2006.


Global Silicon produced 6 different ICs with varying degrees of success. All of the semiconductor products are now discontinued.

IC name date of release number produced target products details
DART[14] 2003 <100K CD/MP3 boombox 0.35μm NEC process
ARROW 2003 <1K CD/MP3 boombox 0.5μm ASM process. Was never brought to productions due to cost issues
DART2 2004 <1K test chip 0.35μm CSM process. Was created as a test device for the next ICs
Xin[14] 2004 <1000K CD/MP3/WMA boombox 0.18μm CSM process
Xif 2005 <1K Flash MP3 Player 0.18μm CSM process. Not released due to a major bug
Xif2 2006 <1K Flash MP3 Player 0.18μm CSM process. Bug fixed version of Xif

Patents and technology[edit]

Global Silicon's initial products focussed on the Compact Disc player market and one of the key pieces of technology that was created on the Xin-Core platform, was a complete CD player including servo, data decoder and audio player. Upon this base, the company also created their own hand-crafted implementations of MP3 and WMA decoders. Additional DSP effects were created as was a User Interface (UI) layer that could easily be customised for the majority of consumer audio applications. Patents created by the company were:

  • Digital audio processing[15]
  • Driver circuit for a liquid crystal display[16]
  • Radio receiver[17]
    • Divisional filing for above relating to novel demodulation technique
  • Method for cancelling a beat frequency in a radio receiver
  • De-bouncing Circuit[18]
  • Replaying digital media[19]
  • Sigma-delta modulator[20]
  • Random number generator[21]
  • Flash memory error correction[22]
  • A sigma delta modulator utilizing feedback loop and logic circuit[23]
  • A network set-up device[24]
  • Radio tuner user interface[25]

Closing the UK company[edit]

In December 2006, the board decided to close the business and a buyer was sought for the IP, stock and assets. The investors cited "investment in Global Silicon was written off following its failure to get significant sales traction despite having a proven product".[2] It is also self-evident that the loss of the company's Chairman, William Jeffrey due to cancer[12] will have factored in the decision process. The timing of the closure was also at a pivotal point in the consumer audio market, with Compact Disc equipment sales falling and being replaced with products such as the iPod.[26][27] The company's extensive patent portfolio was sold separately.

Management buyout[edit]

In January 2007, the company CTO, Morgan Colmer, purchased from the administrators the intellectual property (IP), stock and assets of the company including a Hong Kong subsidiary. All assets and intellectual property were then transferred to the subsidiary company (of the same name) and has operated since as a consulting business in Asia.


  1. ^ "AZ3038/00 Philips CD Soundmachine AZ3038 MP3 with Dynamic Bass Boost - Philips Support". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  2. ^ a b "QUESTER VCT 5 | Final Results | FE InvestEgate". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  3. ^ "Appointment of Administrators Notice :: GLOBAL SILICON LIMITED". OpenCorporates. 2006-12-13. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  4. ^ "Radar company - Global Silicon Limited". Tornado Insider. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  5. ^ "Global Silicon Limited: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  6. ^ "Slipstream: The Konix Multisystem Archive". 2006-07-04. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  7. ^ "Mti Partners To Acquire Global Silicon Stake". Telecompaper. 1999-04-13. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  8. ^ "MTI Invests GCP 2 Million in Audio Chip Concept". UK Venture Capital Journal (94). 1999. 
  9. ^ "Cambridge's Global Silicon Secures £5.4-Million Investment". Thames Tech Wire. 2005-09-06. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  10. ^ "Canada IT". Canada IT. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  11. ^ "U.K. startup raises $10 million, seeks CEO". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  12. ^ a b "Bill Jeffrey". The Times. 24 May 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "3ga Limited". Bizzy. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "UK digital audio firm lines up major players - 9/3/2003". Electronics Weekly. 2003-09-03. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  15. ^ "GB2001002096 DIGITAL AUDIO PROCESSING". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  16. ^ "Driver Circuit For A Liquid Crystal Display - Global Silicon Limited". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  17. ^ "Radio Receiver - Global Silicon Limited". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  18. ^ "Debouncing Circuit". 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  19. ^ "Replaying Digital Media - Global Silicon Limited". 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  20. ^ "US Patent # 7,567,192. Sigma-delta modulator". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  21. ^ "Random Number Generators And Systems And Methods Relating To The Same". 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  22. ^ "Flash Memory Error Correction". Patentscope. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "A sigma delta modulator utilizing feedback loop and logic circuit - United Kingdom Patent GB2409118". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  24. ^ "GB2007004224 NETWORK SET-UP DEVICE". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  25. ^ "Radio Tuner User Interface". 2006-05-22. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  26. ^ Smith, Ethan (2009-01-02). "Music Sales Decline for Seventh Time in Eight Years -". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  27. ^ Plambeck, Joseph (30 May 2010). "As CD Sales Wane, Music Retailers Diversify". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 

External links[edit]