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Innovations: The State of Modern Networking Solutions—Focusrite RedNet: A case in point

For decades, studio facility and live venue audio wiring were based on multicore cable.

Focusrite’s RedNet range of Dante-enabled products

For decades, studio facility and live venue audio wiring were based on multicore cable. With digital technology permeating most workflow scenarios, facilities are implementing audio networking for multi-channel audio transport. Several professional networking protocols exist in various stages of commercial availability. Manufacturers use either ‘audio over IP’ Layer 3 networking transport or Layer 2 Ethernet transport. Legacy technologies, like CobraNet and Ethersound, were based on proprietary Layer 2 Ethernet.

Dante, Livewire/Ravenna and QSYS, pass audio using Layer 3 IPbased transport and therefore are routable. Q-Sys is a proprietary audio over IP solution used by QSC Audio. Ravenna is under development by mixing console supplier Lawo and has partnered with Livewire from Telos/Axia. Audinate, developers of Dante, is a professional media networking company.

Dante has become the de facto AV networking solution, with more than 100 OEM companies onboard, and new partners regularly announcing Dante support. Dante networking offers a highly functional interconnection approach between many popular professional audio manufacturers. Dante utilizes the more advanced ‘network’ Layer 3 IP protocol, with all devices having unique MAC and IP addresses. This optimizes network traffic and provides for maximum security. IT professionals seem to prefer Layer 3 when implementing professional audio traffic in a mixed-use network.

Dante’s ‘audio over IP’ Ethernet solution utilizes standard network cabling and commonly available/inexpensive network switches. Focusrite adopted Dante several years ago based on its robust design and its ability to offer high quality (uncompressed 24-bit/192 kHz), high channel count and low latency. Dante offers plug-and-play network configuration. The wide-scale adoption of Dante provides a high level of interoperability. This opens up new possibilities for AV systems that cannot be otherwise achieved. Signals are routed via the Dante Controller software running on a PC or Mac. Dante Controller easily routes signals from either one source to one destination or one source to many destinations.

Focusrite’s RedNet is a range of Dante-enabled products, available since early 2013, including a 128-channel, low-latency PCIe card, 8- or 16-channel AD/DA, 32-channel digital I/O, 8-channel Mic Pre Amps, 32-channel HD Bridge for Pro Tools HD and the latest 64-channel MADI Bridge.

All products utilizing Dante appear on and may be routed using the same Dante Controller. For example, Yamaha MY-16 AUD cards provide 16 signals in and out of their consoles and I/O boxes and onto the Dante network; several cards may be used at once. Newer Yamaha CL Series as well as Allen & Heath and Soundcraft consoles offer 64 channels of Dante I/O.

An emerging technology, Audio Video Bridging (AVB) is based on a set of core IEEE standards. AVB is presently being developed as a Layer 2 protocol. AVB will offer an IP-based Layer 3 transport in the coming years, but the initial deployments are non-IP based. Several audio manufacturers have announced AVB products. As a ‘closed’ system, they can only talk to themselves and are not necessarily interoperable with others. AVB does require specialized AVB support in switches.

The AVnu Alliance was developed to provide AVB interoperability certification. Initially, AVB switches will be tested for interoperability followed by AVB endpoints. In the next year, it is expected we will begin to see AVnu certified products announced. Audinate has already demonstrated its ability to incorporate the AVB transport in Dante and will offer multiple transport protocols in its solution suite.

The AES-X192 standards task group was formed to study audio interoperability over high-performance IP networks. Standard and proprietary media networks use common Internet Protocol (IP); however, they do not interoperate. AES-X192 endeavors to seek commonality among these offerings to see that the technology develops towards the center of interoperability. The AES standard has just been published as AES67, which will be discussed along with a host of networking issues at this month’s AES convention.

Networked audio is prevalent in the commercial installation market. Sound reinforcement venues (from club to stadium), house of worship and theme parks benefit from networked audio efficiency. Other markets are now employing networked audio based on increased product availability. RedNet devices are able to augment existing Dante networks.

Academic institutions with largescale campus networks are rapidly adopting networked audio, as audio networking provides many benefits.