Networked Audio: A Trend Gains Traction

Networked Audio: A Trend Gains Traction

The what & the why of networked audio solutions.

One noteworthy trend in the commercial AV industry over the past decade is the steady migration of traffic from dedicated AV networks to LANs and other IP networks that the customer already owns. Benefits include lower installation costs and more options for monitoring and managing AV gear.

Technologies such as Audio Video Bridging (AVB), CobraNet, and Dante are helping to enable that migration by making it easier to bring a wider variety of devices onto the network.

“We’ve set it up so it’s more plug and play,” said Lee Ellison, CEO of Audinate, the organization that oversees Dante. “For example, Macs use Bonjour for discovery. Basically we’ve taken that and put it into Dante so that when you plug in a device, all of the equipment discovers themselves.

“So it’s very easy to set up routes. That’s really helpful for the IT or AV technology manager. Ease of use is very important in terms of what we’ve tried to create.”

Kramer Electronics recently became the 150th vendor to use Dante.

HARMAN’s Crown Audio DCi Network Display Amplifier line “[Popular] technologies will be the ones that allow the user/customer/designer/integrator to feel that he gets exactly what he wants at a fair price and lend themselves to easy installation,” said Yuval Kramer, audio line manager.

“The ability to use a Layer 3 network—allowing the client to decide if he wants to add Dante to his existing network or do the infrastructure work for his audio network—the plug-and-play ability and the cost of the technology. All of these provide all right answers in today’s market.”

For vendors, the decision about which technology to build into their products also depends on market traction.

“We leaned more toward AVB than Dante,” said Tim Root, Revolabs CTO and executive vice president of new business development. “Dante is a viable solution. It has a little bit of a lead as AVB is trying to get its standards finalized and more people implementing it, whereas Dante already existed.

“I think over the course of this year, you’ll see more people looking at AVB. We see AVB as the better long-term solution from an architecture perspective than Dante and CobraNet.”

For technology managers, vendor support is a key factor to consider when deciding which networked audio ecosystem to buy into.

“If you’re thinking about deploying any kind of a streaming media application across your network, you should consider an AVB switch,” Root said. “More and more applications will be coming out that will leverage the AVB signaling over the next five years.”

Here are a couple of recent products to consider:

Dante Via.

Announced in June, 2014, this software turns Macs and Windows PCs into networked I/O devices to create a standalone audio system, all without the need for any dedicated Dante-enabled hardware on that network. That architecture eliminates the distance and other limitations of point-to-point alternatives such as USB cables. For example, Dante Via lets users create an audio bridge so their PC can connect with FireWire and Thunderbolt audio interfaces to turn them into networked devices. It also lets users distribute or loop back audio via the network from applications such as Cubase, Nuendo, Pro Tools and Skype.

HARMAN Crown Audio DCi Network Display Amplifiers.

Also announced in June, these are the first pro audio endpoints that the AVnu Alliance has certified for AVB interoperability. They’re available in a 125W, four-channel model and a 600W, eight-channel version.

Can You Really Hear Me Now?

Are all of your organization’s amplifiers, DSPs and other audio gear working right now? How would you know?

Utlelogy is one way—and better than waiting to hear from an employee, executive or professor. The platform uses LANs and other existing networks to provide centralized control and management of AV gear, including audio devices.

The company says its solution supports any manufacturer and model as long as the equipment already has some type of control interface. Utlelogy then adds a small driver file to enable control and monitoring.

If a device doesn’t already have a network jack or alternatives such as USB and infrared, Utlelogy says connectivity can be added “with a low-cost device such as those from Global Cache.” Programming also isn’t required. Just install it on a computer and then use the configuration application to start connecting devices.

Besides identifying equipment problems before they become noticeable to users, Utlelogy also is a way to track assets. For example, some organizations share a wireless mic system across multiple rooms in order to maximize usage and thus ROI. So Utlelogy could be a way to identify where that gear is to ensure it’s available on short notice.

Four Tricky Audio Gotchas

By Perry Goldstein

With audio making its way into new environments, people unfamiliar with specific audio characteristics are being asked to mic a room. An audio novice is bound to oversimplify the situation. While consulting with audio professionals is always recommended, here are common “gotchas” audio newcomers should keep in mind:

1) Trying to find a one-size-fits-all mic solution. Professional audio engineers will show up to a recording session with an arsenal of mics. That is because they know each mic has its own pick up characteristic. The IT manager or classroom instructor should get a basic introduction into sound and mic technology before attempting to mic a situation.

2) The mic is too far from the source. This is true for large rooms. The most common error is placing a mic on top of a monitor in a conference room; it picks up every little noise, and has difficulty picking up the speaker farthest from the mic. Move that mic as close to the speaker as possible. Don’t worry if it can be seen in the picture. You are conducting a conference, not producing a blockbuster movie.

3) Overlapping pick-up patterns. Know your polar patterns and always test before using.

4) Relying on built-in mics. This is especially true with web cams for web conferences. Built-in pinhole mics in web cams are not very good for large conference rooms. The same holds true for video production using camcorders, DSLRs, and hand-held devices. Know what you are trying to achieve, and use the appropriate mic. Using the built in mic on an iPhone for an interview in a noisy room is will not give you a good audio track. Use a handheld, lav, or shotgun.

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.