Why audio networking won

The 2018 AV Awards was a very special event. It was their 20th anniversary and to celebrate they created a special award for the Top AV Innovation of the last 20 years

 

The winner, by a unanimous decision from the judges, was digital audio networking. Uniquely, the entry was combined effort by RAVENNA, Audinate, QSC and Kevin Gross, and the team who developed Cobranet.

 

Here’s why it won:

 

Digital audio networking allows professional quality audio to be transported and routed across data networks. It has transformed professional audio and the AV industry as well as becoming a dominant technology for broadcast.

 

Digital audio networking has paved the way for digital video networking, currently an area of concentrated development. The lessons learned from deploying digital audio networking have moved us towards a completely AV- & IT-connected world.

 

With over 2,000 currently shipping products featuring integrated audio networking, no other AV technology has touched so many products. The vast majority of audio vendors have adopted this technology that was invented in 1996 and first used in an AV installation in 1998.

 

Audio networking is not a ‘better mousetrap’ -  it’s a whole new way of doing things - it’s a paradigm change!

 

Audio networking is the definitive example of AV and broadcast technology merging with IT, where not only control data but the media itself passes across networks.

 

 

User benefits

 

Even at the most basic levels of use, audio networking offers the AV industry tremendous benefits.

Analogue Cabled Systems Audio Networking

 More expensive, proprietary equipment (cables, routers etc.)

specifically made for audio

 

  

Standard, inexpensive IT equipment (cables, switches etc.)

Prone to interference

No interference 

Relativity limited distance

Effectively unlimited cable runs using fibre  

point-to-point unidirectional connection only

Any signal can be routed can be routed anywhere, in any direction, at any time

Requires patchbays or large routing matrices

Routing matrices can be hardware or software- based, oryou can use the network itself for patching

Encounters grounding issues when using different power sources across a site

Fibre connections remove any problem with connection a system from different power sources 

Tens of thousands of AV installations, live events and broadcast facilities use audio networking technology. It is likely that you hear audio delivered through an audio network every day of your life.

 

RAVENNA audio networking technology has been at the heart of the development of digital audio networking for the last decade. The features and benefits offered by RAVENNA are at the heart of why digital audio networking is the most important AV technology in the last 20 years.

 

Ease and flexibility of adoption

 

Manufacturers can adopt RAVENNA in a variety of ways:

 

Using free and open resources

By paying for support to help them adopt

By purchasing hardware to embed into their products

By incorporating into computer-based products



Market benefits

 

   Multiple vendors sell RAVENNA hardware, offering choice for manufacturers and subsequent users

 

    Many RAVENNA hardware offerings available with channel counts ranging from 2-in/2-out devices all the way up to 512-in/512-out

 

    A variety of RAVENNA software solutions are available for users, for audio streaming as well as for control, patching and monitoring of                     audio across a network

 

    Built-in compatibility with AES67 and ST 2110 to allow RAVENNA to connect to other audio networking technologies



A brief history

 

The first digital audio networking standard was CobraNet, invented by Peak Audio (now Cirrus Logic) and first demonstrated in 1996. The first CobraNet system was used on the Superbowl half-time show in 1997. The first permanent installation was Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998.

 

Peak Audio's business model was to sell networking hardware that manufactures could easily integrate into their products. This allowed manufactures to concentrate on what they did best - making AV products - whilst also allowing users to harness the latest IT technology.

 

Since then, Audinate developed Dante, which has largely been marketed via the same model of selling hardware for manufactures to adopt into products. The also offer a number of hardware and software solutions.

 

 

RAVENNA took a different approach, with their networking technology being open for anyone to adopt. However, it's developers, ALC NetworX, also provide support for those who would like some help. Currently, five vendors (including ALC) provide RAVENNA hardware solutions for manufactures. There are also software solutions from several manufactures to stream RAVENNA from your Mac or PC.

 

 

The Audio Engineering Society, the standards organisation for our industry, got involved in 2011 and the AES67 standard was agreed and subsequently introduced on 2013.

 

 

Importantly AES67 is not another networking protocol. It is an interoperability standard that allows many different audio networking protocols to connect together. Whilst native use of one protocol will offer specific benefits, AES67 allows a simple, compatible connection, provided some basic rules are followed.

 

The RAVENNA team was deeply involved in the work of the AES67 working group ensuring complete compatibility with AES67.   

Software Solutions

Producer Name Channels Notes Platform

AES67

ST 2110

 ALC NetworX RAVENNA Virtual Sound Card  8x16 Free Software Windows 7, 8 & 10 Yes
LAWO R3Lay Engine 8x8 Application  Windows 7 & 8 Yes
LAWO R3Lay Engine Pro 64x64 Application Windows 7 & 8 Yes
LAWO R3Lay Virtual Sound Card 64 Driver/Application 

Windows 7,8,10 &

Windows Server 2012 R2

Yes
MERGING VAD Standard 64

Multichannel version Free

with Hardware

Windows & macOS

Yes
MERGING VAD Premium 128 Stereo version Free

Windows & macOS

Yes

Hardware solutions

Producer Name Channels

AES67

ST 2110

ALC NetworX  COMI.MX 128x128 Yes
ARCHWAVE uNet Standard 32 Yes
ARCHWAVE uNet Compact 16 Yes
ARCHWAVE uNet Mini 4 Yes
DIGIGRAM LX-IP 128x128 Yes
ROSS Video BACH-canon 512x512 Yes
ROSS Video BACH-allegro 128x128 Yes
ROSS Video BACH-minuet 16x16 Yes
MERGING ZMAN Up to 256x256 Yes

the future

SMPTE ST2110 has been agreed to be the IP networking standard for the Broadcast industry. This is to allow broadcast quality IP video and audio to be passed over IP networks as synchronized, individual essences. Usefully, it has been agreed that AES67 is the audio payload for the ST2110-30 part. Furthermore, RAVENNA’s AM824 format for bit-transparent transport of AES3 signals has been adopted into the ST2110-31 document.

 

This means that all RAVENNA products on the market are automatically compatible with this new standard.

 

RAVENNA placed itself well to help the video side of the business integrate networked audio into their products.

there's more...

 

RAVENNA is proud to have won this unique and prestigious award along with the other entrants. It’s only been around 20 years since audio networking was first deployed but the indications are that the real progress will be made in the next few years and RAVENNA is well placed to be at the heart of these developments.