Tech Focus: Digital Audio Networks, Part 2 — The Major Players

Audio-networking platforms have proliferated in recent years, underscoring the shift from copper to fiber for signal transport. They offer significantly more channel counts and the virtual elimination of latency, but their diversity in types and features — not to mention the added complexity of IT-based foundations converging with the traditional A/V base of the broadcast plant, remote ops, and sports venues — makes for a complicated transition. Here’s a look at the major players in the audio-networking sector at the moment.

Click here for Tech Focus: Digital Audio Networks, Part 1 — A Proliferating Presence in Sports Venues.

A standard for audio-over-IP interoperability, AES67 was developed by the Audio Engineering Society and published in September 2013. It is a Layer-3 protocol suite based on existing standards and is designed to allow interoperability between various IP-based audio-networking systems, such as Ravenna, Q-LAN, and Dante. The Media Networking Alliance was formed in October 2014 to promote adoption of AES67.

Created by Audinate, Dante is an uncompressed, multichannel digital media-networking technology, with near-zero latency and synchronization. The company passed the 200-licensee mark this year.

Owned by Cirrus Logic, CobraNet is a combination of software, hardware, and network protocols designed to deliver uncompressed, multichannel, low-latency digital audio over a standard Ethernet network. Developed in the 1990s, it is widely regarded as the first commercially successful implementation of audio over Ethernet. It was designed for and is primarily used in large commercial audio installations, such as convention centers, stadiums, airports, theme parks, and concert halls.

Digigram’s EtherSound is compliant with IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standards and has been developed as both ES-100 (for use on dedicated 100-Mb Ethernet networks or within a Gigabit network as a VLAN) and ES-Giga (for use on dedicated Gigabit Ethernet networks).

Livewire+ is an audio-over-Ethernet system developed by Axia Audio, the studio-audio division of Telos Systems. Introduced in 2003, Livewire+ is designed primarily for radio stations’ routing and distribution of broadcast-quality audio. Livewire is interoperable with Ravenna standards-based systems and equipment. The most recent iteration of the protocol enables full AES67 interoperability. Designed as a superset of functionality using common protocols and formats, Livewire+ is available as an open standard through Axia’s Livewire+ Partner Program. To date, there are more than 80 Livewire+ partner companies. As of 2015, Livewire+ was installed in more than 6,000 studios worldwide, and more than 60,000 individual Livewire+ devices were in the field.

A proprietary digital audio and video network, Optocore is designed to carry 1,024 inputs to any output of all network nodes at the lowest fixed latency (41.6 μs is currently achievable).

QSC’s software-based DSP platform, Q-SYS provides a Layer-3 network-audio protocol natively on the same Intel hardware with no additional cards or hardware required. Q-LAN, QSC’s network-audio protocol, also provides device discovery and conveys control and monitoring to and from system peripherals. The Q-SYS Platform comprises the Core 3100, Core 1100, Core 500i, and Core 250i hardware and, combined with Q-SYS Designer Software and peripherals, makes up the complete platform.

Using standard network protocols and technologies, ALC NetworX’s Ravenna can operate on most existing network infrastructures. The format has primarily targeted the professional-broadcast market, including in-house signal distribution for broadcast plants and other fixed installations, interfaces at venues and live events, outside-broadcasting support, and inter-studio links across WAN links and production facilities. Ravenna has its biggest traction in the European markets.

Riedel’s RockNet real-time, low-latency audio-distribution network conveys 160 24-bit/48-kHz audio channels counterrotating on a single Cat 5 cable. The system can accommodate up to 99 devices on a single network.

Based on Internet Protocol, Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP network system enables audio to be intelligently distributed to devices across scalable networks. It enables all audio sources to be available to all devices (mixing consoles, control surfaces, software controllers, automation devices) and to be controlled from any and all devices. WheatNet-IP is AES67-compatible and represents an entire end-to-end solution, complete with audio transport, full control, and a toolset to enable exceptionally intelligent deployment and operation.

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