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AV & IT: Learn the secrets of audio networking at a Shure seminar

 Shure’s Audio Networking Seminars continue to be incredibly well attended by sound engineers, AV technicians and more. However, Andrew Francis (pictured), senior applications engineer at Shure Systems Group UK, explains why AV and IT professionals would make great attendees at these sessions on transporting audio digitally across a network…

The audio visual industry is continuing to create systems and connect products using networks which have created a very real requirement for us to look seriously at networking technology, its language and love of protocols and acronyms, cabling types and who we share our digital environment with. It also means we may well have issues that may come about about how troubleshooting in the digital world differs from what we’re traditionally used to.

Fundamentally, because networking is transporting ones and zeros, we needed to carefully look at the industry that has been doing this for years – that is, IT.

The result is a seminar that addresses the limitations of analogue audio signals and how they are converted into digital bit streams, looks at a brief bit of networking history, discusses the OSI model and why it’s useful for us to understand how different bits of equipment communicate with each other (Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 3), and focuses on the how and why. For example, if you’re running a Layer 3 network, what type of hardware are you likely to come across and how should it be configured?

Another example might be a mixing console which has its own stage box, connected using CAT5e cable in a point to point manner and running its own protocol can be described as a Layer 1 network. You wouldn’t need to worry about IP addressing and can simply connect the two pieces together, and off you go. Layer 1 networks cover protocols such as AES, SPIDIF, ADAT, MADI.

Layer 2 networking builds on the foundations of Layer 1 and looks at protocols like Cobranet, Ethersound and AVB – now we’re adding some source and destination information to the bit stream which gives us the ability to route traffic between specific devices.

Layer 3 builds on this again and allows us to start routing traffic between subnets and across networks or vLANS. Protocols that use Layer 3 are Dante, QLAN and Ravenna.

Another important aspect to understand is how the network is physically and logically connected together – its topology. Throughout the day, we examine the various physical topologies: bus, ring, star and hybrid, explaining how you can physically connect your kit together, along with the pros and cons of each. For example, if your audio equipment has a switch-mode Dante chip you can daisy chain them all together, but bear in mind that if you lose one link in that chain, everything lower down will lose its connectivity.

Speaking the same language?

Meanwhile, there is also a belief within the audio industry that AES67 is the saviour of digital audio networking, but we believe that might not be the case. As AES67 has been designed as an inter-operability standard, rather than a fully-fledged one there are some aspects missing from it. Plus many people are wary of multi-cast traffic, but AES67 by design is only multi-cast traffic. So, potentially, there’s a lot more network management to do if you’re putting hundreds of channels of AES67 on the network.

The point of the day is to arm AV professionals with the knowledge that will enable them to engage with IT contractors and departments in the language those professionals speak. It will also help live sound professionals to understand digital networks and troubleshoot problems that arise onsite. This aids the process of getting networked audio kit up and running. If clients don’t have an IT department, it’s about helping contractors understand how to put the audio kit together, and how they can better manage the integration.

We recognise that technology is constantly evolving, and so to that end we continually make amendments to the seminar sessions

On the flip side, these seminars allow IT departments to understand what audio equipment does, why it’s sitting on the network and, importantly, recognising that it’s not pushing around too much data – but that this data needs to be managed properly and given high priority on the network.

Our seminars aim to show IT professionals that once the audio kit is set up on the network and starts pushing data around, it’s usually quite stable and doesn’t really need any intervention. As such, there are no software patches in the way as there are with traditional software platforms.

We recognise that technology is constantly evolving, and so to that end we continually make amendments to the seminar sessions.

We have had great feedback from people who have attended our audio networking seminars – finding that our sessions go hand-in-hand with other training available elsewhere, especially as we show real-life demos with working equipment – setting it up, showing what is going on, implementing VLAN changes and demonstrating what’s going to happen.

It’s very hands-on and can be applied to the real world immediately.

For more information or to book a place at a seminar, click here.

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