LONDON, ENGLAND-The annual PLASA show in London last month was the scene of two significant announcements for the EtherSound camp. In response to growing demand for EtherSound-enabled products worldwide in live and installed audio applications, Peavey Electronics has licensed EtherSound networking technology for use in products from its four brands: Peavey, MediaMatrix, Architectural Acoustics, and Crest Audio. In tandem with this development came a licensing declaration from Yamaha, which demonstrated its commitment with four new EtherSound-enabled products at the show.
Both Peavey and Yamaha have added the EtherSound license to existing commitments to CobraNet, and in the case of Yamaha, EtherSound joins a list of networking modules that include those which support Aviom and mLAN protocols. It's inevitable that audio manufacturers will have to support any and all of the networking protocols demanded by the market, explained Mark Pinske, chief operating officer of Crest Audio and general manager of MediaMatrix and Architectural Acoustics. "We have distributors not just asking, but telling us we have to have EtherSound modules in order to stay competitive," Pinske said. "Especially in Europe, EtherSound has caught on very strongly, and as a manufacturer, we have to respond to that."
EtherSound's multi-point-to-multi-point protocol and low latency have garnered a lot of interest in the live sound sector, and consequently a significant portion of Crest Audio's customer base is seeking EtherSound-enabled products. Additionally, EtherSound's gigabit Ethernet solution (ES-Giga) offers much on the installation side, a factor which manufacturers will find difficult to resist once the industry switches over to even higher speeds. Helping to encourage that transition, EtherSound has provided a 100 megabit data path within its gigabit solution for manufacturers to employ for control protocols such as Harman's HiQnet, QSC's QsControlor and even DMX lighting controls.
"You could run as many different protocols as you can fit in a 100 megabit pipe alongside 256X256 EtherSound audio channels," explained Jimmy Kawalek, business development manager at EtherSound. "That's where we're winning the major manufacturers over. They're seeing that we have a roadmap that is something of value to them, and we have simplified implementation and use of our product. If companies don't start to look at how we can make this as easy as possible to operate, they're setting themselves on a course for failure. As an industry we need to go to that next level and really focus on the customer."
Peavey will take advantage of EtherSound's rapid implementation support to introduce EtherSound-enabled products, initially within its Crest Audio division. "From the standpoint of the three types of divisions which I manage-small install, large install and Crest, which sells to live sound and retail-we primarily wanted to step into EtherSound first from the Crest amplifiers side and then take a serious look from there at digital consoles," Pinske said.
Backwards compatibility is something Peavey will consider as it looks at possibilities within its other brands. "The other technologies in most installations haven't flipped over to gigabit yet," Pinske observed. Particularly with the amount of life safety and specialized equipment with which MediaMatrix has to communicate, there are pressing compatibility issues. "If some of the major players shift over to using only EtherSound, then we can't ignore looking at bringing some of that compatibility into some of our other layers, but at this particular point in time we're starting off primarily with our Crest amplifiers and the Crest Audio division."
As for Yamaha, the corporation has made the EtherSound networking technology part of its mission to create "The Future of Music and Sound." In fact the company is already committed to EtherSound through its relationship with AuviTran, which produces EtherSound network cards for Yamaha consoles and digital signal processors, and through Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems' distribution of NEXO loudspeaker systems, another EtherSound licensee.
"EtherSound enhances the capability and value of Yamaha digital consoles and digital signal processors," said Keisuke "Kevin" Kobayashi, general manager for Yamaha Commercial Audio Business Unit. "Our customers have proven that this technology is reliable and flexible. EtherSound makes it simple to make Yamaha digital consoles part of networked audio systems including products from multiple manufacturers."
Presenting its new DME satellite series with three "ES" EtherSound-equipped models at PLASA, along with its new LS-9 console complete with an EtherSound slot, Yamaha is an exemplary licensee, according to Kawalek. "It's one thing to license a technology, but you've got to actually do something with it, and Yamaha has definitely made some significant moves."
"Is there going to be someone that wins the overall networking war, I'm not so sure," Pinske speculated, "because everybody has different types of functionality. It isn't for us to say who's going to win. It will depend on who does a better job with product development, marketing, delivery, and providing what the installer needs. EtherSound just keeps plugging away and they're obviously doing a pretty good job at it."
Ever the goal-oriented champion of audio networking technology, Kawalek had similar questions. "Are we at the proverbial tipping point? A lot of people at PLASA seemed to think that this was enough to drive it in that direction. My jury is still out. I think that we need a few more players."