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Connectivity Trends: AoIP, Wireless & Beyond

Savvy audio professionals know that when it comes to signal flow, it is truly the connections that matter.

The pro audio industry boasts a massive wave of new components in the pro audio category of interconnects. Whether they’re A/D dongle-type products from manufacturers such as Switchcraft, fresh ventures in fiber optics from firms such as Whirlwind, or new AoIP and wireless technology from Neutrik, savvy audio professionals know that when it comes to signal flow, it is truly the connections that matter.

Though best known for its connector lines, Switchcraft offers other modern connectivity solutions such as its AudioStix DI product line, intended for audio environments that must employ new signal distribution forms on a budget. Specifically, Switchcraft’s 318BT is said to be the world’s first phantom-powered Bluetooth 4.0 audio receiver DI.

With available cable and connectors of almost every kind, plus tons of “black box” interconnect products, New York-based Whirlwind has been in business for more than 40 years, providing U.S.-built networking solutions for a wide range of end users. Most recently, the company launched a fiber optic department and builds custom signal and power systems for major clients worldwide.

Yet Neutrik is our industry’s de facto leader in connectivity, whether by sheer number of patented high-quality audio connector types, connector proliferation in the field, or both. That said, Neutrik’s most exciting XLR audio product is arguably its low-latency Xirium Pro line, reportedly providing compression-free and FCC license-free wireless transmission of audio within the 5 GHz band.

“Without a doubt, we are living in an exciting time for multichannel audio transport,” offers Fred Morgenstern, product director at Neutrik USA. “Three enormous trends are affecting our industry: digital multichannel signal transport, A/V convergence and Wi-Fi device control. Even on mid-market and arguably lower consoles, AES50, Dante and other protocols are being used to send signals to the front-of-house position over one shielded twisted pair Cat 5e cable using [our] etherCON connectors. I should mention that Neutrik still sells an enormous percentage of the XLRs, quarter-inch plugs, and combo connectors used by the industry as well as speakON—another Neutrik invention. Those products remain at the core of Neutrik’s product portfolio, but in terms of trends, multichannel signal transport over twisted pair copper and fiber optics are what’s hot.”

The inevitable growth of AoIP technology within pro audio necessitated more robust interconnects, offers Morgenstern: “When Neutrik invented etherCON, we knew that the standard RJ45 was too flimsy for professional connections, but we also knew that it was inexpensive and ubiquitous. So, etherCON has always offered the best of both worlds: It rides the low expense and high availability of RJ45-terminated cables while adding excellent robustness via its metal locking shells.”

“The AV industry—especially once uncompressed, state-of-the-art video is added—just cannot seem to get enough bandwidth,” continues Morgenstern. “It’s telling that, in 10 years, we’ve gone from offering two strands of fiber in one cable assembly to as many as 24 strands—and they’re all being used! Once diverse AV signals are converged onto one network, the sky becomes the limit. It’s great to see the devices that can converge and distribute all these signals, and it’s really cool to see some of the applications.”

Neutrik •

Switchcraft •

Whirlwind •