The adoption of IT infrastructures and their adaptation for the interconnection of digital audio equipment has been a mixed blessing. Sure, it’s easier and cheaper to connect one box to another with a single “computer cable” than it is with tangles of copper wire or multicore snakes, but just because two devices each have an Ethernet connector doesn’t necessarily mean they can communicate.

An Aviom Pro64 audio network installed at the new Cary Church of God facility in Cary, NC is an addition to the church’s original Pro16 Personal Mixing System.
With network connections now almost ubiquitous on pro audio equipment, houses of worship can implement flexible and complex systems without the need for costly, heavy, bulky and labor-intensive wiring. Lines can more easily be shared between multiple mix positions and get split off to broadcast and recording equipment using inexpensive category cables (Cat5, 5e, 6 or 6e, depending upon various criteria). Depending on the network protocol, a single cable might carry not only multiple channels of audio but also data, allowing remote control and monitoring of equipment. Ethernet cabling installed in the walls of a facility permits gear to be relocated and plugged into the network elsewhere in the building or campus.

But not all networks are alike. In 1979, the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) developed a standardized architecture enabling the construction of computer networks from miscellaneous components. Three of the model’s seven protocol layers have been implemented by the pro audio industry, with any item of equipment only capable of exchanging data with gear supporting the same protocol.

Layer 1, the most basic, defines the electrical means (wiring, components) by which data is transmitted. Because data is not transmitted according to Ethernet standards, the hardware tends to be proprietary. Audio products utilizing layer 1 protocols include Aviom’s A-Net and Riedel’s RockNet, plus Music Group brands Klark Teknik, Midas and Behringer, which communicate via SuperMAC, a version of the AES50 standard.

Crossroads Church in Corona, CA, recently upgraded its sound reinforcement system with the addition of 24 QSC PowerLight 3 Series PL380 amplifiers and two Q-Sys I/O Frames, all controlled by a Q-Sys Core 500i Integrated Core.
Layer 2 protocols are slightly more complex, and while some can utilize off-the- shelf network components, they may require proprietary hardware. The new AVB (Audio Video Bridging) industry standard, for example, requires dedicated, AVnu Alliance-certified switches in order for users to benefit from all of the network’s capabilities. The AES51 standard format, Allen & Heath (ACE), Cirrus Logic’s CobraNet, Digigram’s EtherSound and Roland’s REAC all utilize layer 2.

Layer 3 protocols, including ALC NetworX’s Ravenna, Audinate’s Dante and QSC Audio’s Q-LAN, offer full compatibility with all IP standards. Since these protocols move data similarly to an Ethernet network, they can utilize standard bridges and routers, but may require a little more technical savvy to set up than Layer 1 or 2 networks.

In practical terms, a particular network may be implemented in a house of worship system in order to, for example, transmit the microphone signals to the mixing console. Console manufacturers may offer separate I/O boxes containing the preamps, which may be remotely positioned and connected to the console by a network or audio transport (such as MADI) cable. Yamaha’s CL Series, for example, allows users to connect multiple Yamaha Rio I/O boxes via optional Dante cards to the console, which can remotely control the system’s head amps.

An Optocore network over fiber optic cable lets a DiGiCo SD7 at FOH, another at a broadcast mix position and an SD10 at monitors share access to seven SD-Racks inside the Anchorage Baptist Temple in Alaska. Signal Hill Lutheran Church in Belleville, IL uses a Dante-networked Symetrix system to optimize the 125-seat house of worship’s sound system and provide simple control from an iPad.
Alternatively, a dedicated stage box and digital snake system might be utilized. Mission Lutheran Church, located in Laguna Niguel, CA, installed Riedel Rock- Net 100 digital audio network to transport up to 80 channels, with full redundancy, from the stage to its Yamaha LS9 console at FOH. The system is interfaced via an optional card—bundled with the RockNet system—in the console.

Shure has included Dante connectivity in its flagship ULX-D digital wireless microphone receivers and other products, eliminating the need for a stage box. When used with a console fitted with a Dante card, a single category cable conveys the mic signals directly to the desk.

At the Anchorage Baptist Temple in Alaska, a DiGiCo SD7 at FOH, another at a broadcast mix position and an SD10 at monitors share access to seven SD-Racks via an Optocore network over fiber optic cable. The monitor desk can be removed from the system and used standalone, and an onstage SD-Rack is fitted with an Aviom card that enables the worship band members to create their own monitor mixes.

Music worship leaders have become very familiar with Aviom’s personal monitor mixers, but the company’s A-Net system also operates as a signal distribution network. At the Cary Church of God facility in Cary, NC, an Aviom Pro64 audio network links a Yamaha M7CL at FOH to a Yamaha 02R96 console in an A/V recording room, which creates mixes for CD, DVD and webcast distribution, over a single Cat 5 cable. All 64 channels are additionally interfaced to a digital recorder, and 32 channels are sent from FOH to an Aviom Pro16 personal monitor system onstage.

At the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City, MO, worship leaders are using Harman’s dbx PMC16 16-channel personal monitor system, driven by a Soundcraft Si Performer console at FOH. Multiple units can be daisy-chained using Cat 5e cable, and may be interconnected using Harman’s proprietary BLU link, which can offer fail-safe redundancy. At First United, the band uses six PMC16s while a seventh is used to create mixes for the church’s video productions.

At the First Baptist Church of Leesburg, FL, an Allen & Heath IDR-48 Mixrack is the center of a Dante network which directs signals from an A&H iLive T112 console at FOH interconnected with an A&H GLD 80 in an adjacent broadcast and recording center.
At the First Baptist Church of Leesburg, FL, an Allen & Heath iLive T112 console at FOH is interconnected with an A&H GLD 80 in an adjacent broadcast and recording center via an A&H IDR-48 Mixrack, which splits the signals out over a Dante network. One split separately feeds 64 lines to an Apple MacMini for editing and disc production.

Any digital audio network is bidirectional, of course, which means that recorded tracks can be played back through the console, allowing operators to soundcheck virtually, without musicians present. Audinate simplifies that process with its Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS), which allows any computer to act as a Dante node while eliminating the need for a hardware soundcard. At River Hills Baptist Church in Corpus Christie, TX, a Yamaha M7CL feeds three computers, each with DVS installed—one running Avid Pro Tools and the others running Renewed Vision’s ProPresenter software. The set-up enables streaming as well as fast turnaround of sermons as podcasts.

Crossroads Church in Corona, CA recently upgraded its PA system with QSC Audio power amps and a Q-Sys Core 500i DSP platform, which utilizes Q-LAN. Q-Sys controls and monitors all 24 networked amplifiers, allowing operators at the church to keep tabs on heat and impedance loads. They have also designed an app, using QSC’s free software, which allows them to monitor and control the amps on an iPad.

Signal Hill Lutheran Church in Belleville, IL is using a Dante-networked Symetrix system to optimize the 125-seat house of worship’s sound system and provide simple control from an iPad. A pair of Symetrix SymNet Radius 12x8 DSPs accept a variety of mic inputs, including a praise band, and the processed outputs feed three speaker zones. SymNet also generates feeds to stage monitors and a recorder. Using CommandFusion software, the church has designed an iPad interface that replaces a traditional mixing console, enabling wireless operation from anywhere in the church.

Interoperability will eventually allow users to assemble a system from any components they desire. Industry standard AVB-enabled products are now shipping and certified AVB switches are becoming available. Audinate, meanwhile, has reportedly licensed Dante to more than 130 OEMs, making it almost a de facto standard. In February 2014, Audinate and QSC announced that they would be implementing AES67, the Audio Engineering Society’s Layer 3 standard for audio-over-IP interoperability, in Dante and Q-Sys, respectively. For its part, Music Group makes the Klark Teknik DN9650, which bridges AES50 networks to Dante, A-Net, CobraNet, EtherSound and MADI.