NEW YORK, NY—Audio-over-IP has been a boon for live sound production. Flexible, scalable and reconfigurable, using easily deployable fiber, coax or category cable, digital audio networking can significantly streamline set-up and installation—yet some challenges remain.
KC and the Sunshine Band switched to a Dante-networked Yamaha system in 2014, following a brainstorming session involving FOH engineer David Dean (who is also a faculty member at Full Sail in Orlando, FL), monitor engineer Chad Griswold and production manager Rick Raymond. “Chad was talking about how you could put Shure ULX-D [wireless mic] signals on the Dante network and it sounded great. I said, what if we got rid of all our sub-snakes and put Rio racks out on each riser?” recalls Dean.
The new Dante-networked rig, featuring Yamaha CL5 FOH and monitor consoles, includes Rio 1608-D I/O boxes on the horn section and percussion risers, both linked via Cat 5 to a third Rio1608 in the drum riser rack, which also houses a Cisco SG300-20 switch. That switch is connected to an identical switch at Griswold’s position, where another Rio inputs the wireless microphone and instrument channels to the network. A 500-foot fiber snake connects to a third Cisco switch at FOH.
“The beautiful thing is, Chad can send his ear mixes to the outputs of all the riser Rio racks,” says Dean. “Think of all the cabling we’ve saved—pretty much a full trunk of copper, stagebox and multi-pin sub-snake system, not to mention the splitter box. These network-capable consoles make life just a dream.”
There were some early challenges. “But the gain tracking didn’t turn out to be as big a deal as I thought it was going to be,” he says. “Chad sets the preamp, and does a pretty good job of getting signal-to-noise where we need it, then we both go into digital offset. At any point, I can take over the head amp and adjust it, if I need to. So far we’ve had to do very little adjustment.”
It’s not unusual for a system to employ multiple transports. As Marc Waithe, production department audio supervisor at The Juilliard School at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, explains, a multiplicity of protocols, and the way they are implemented, may be challenging not only in terms of interchange of data but also redundancy.
Waithe’s system at the school’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater includes a pair of DiGiCo SD10 consoles on an Optocore fiber loop. Signals to the Lake LM-44 processors are via AES digital, converting to analog to feed the amps and speakers. Two Focusrite RedNet 6 MADI/Dante bridges enable interconnection with Waithe’s Windows 8.1 PC for redundant recording of 28 tracks at 96 kHz in Cakewalk Sonar using Audinate’s Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS) and allowing for virtual soundcheck. Twin Mac Minis are connected to the DiGiCo console using the Dante cards on the SD-Racks on either side of the stage for sound cue triggering via Mac-based QLab show control software.
A RedNet 4 mic preamp box allows audio to feed Rational Acoustics Smaart software on a Mac Mini, and supports inputs from peripherals such as CD players. Fiber and an RME MADI-to-analog converter provide a path to the separate recording department’s vintage analog consoles. “It’s like a huge lab of future protocols, all working,” says Waithe. “MADI, Optocore and Dante look like they’re here to stay.”
Optocore’s fiber ring topology offers innate redundancy; the signal simply closes the loop in the opposite direction if there is a break at any point. Dante, on the other hand, utilizes separate primary and secondary paths for redundancy—but not all equipment supports dual ports. Since the Mac Mini has a single port, “I can only put them on one Dante system. But having separate switches for the stage left and right DiGiCo Dante cards allows for a certain level of redundancy,” reports Waithe.
At Beltway Park Baptist Church’s new North Campus in Abilene, TX, a DiGiCo SD9 FOH console accesses a Dante network via a RedNet 6 MADI bridge. At the original South Campus, a similar RedNet system splits to an Avid Venue FOH console. Both systems can feed Pro Tools via a computer fitted with a Focusrite RedNet PCIe card, and machines equipped with Audinate’s DVS. At the North Campus, the Dante network, which runs on a backbone that carries other audio transport protocols, DMX lighting command data and multiple streams of IP-based HD video, allows audio to be routed anywhere in the facility through the Red- Net mic preamps.
“Say there’s a wedding reception and a band in the concourse,” says creative director Jacob Moore, “I could utilize my wireless microphones from the worship center as if they were in the concourse, and route that audio through RedNet to speakers in the concourse.” Various classrooms as well as a coffee shop that hosts singer-songwriter events are also on the Dante network.