Integrating Internet Protocols (IP) into computer hardware standards opened up a previously unknown level of communication and sharing between devices, allowing industries across the world to evolve. Companies found that they could increase productivity, improve communications and streamline many other areas by taking advantage of Ethernet and IP technology. While keen to hold on to traditional technologies – often for good reason – the world of professional audio is finally utilizing the power of Ethernet/IP technologies to make transporting and managing audio easier than it has ever been. So fasten your seat belts and read on to learn more about the newest in A/V technologies.
Traditional audio systems move the audio signal from inputs to outputs using individual analog cable. For larger systems such as in Auditoriums and Convention Centers, this has resulted in the need to have large bundles of cable running within multiple conduits throughout the facility. This can be an expensive proposition, especially for Universities or Corporations that have large campuses where rooms in separate buildings may need to interact with each other.
Networked audio provides a solution for large campuses and small facilities alike. As the technology has developed, there have been several protocols that have come to market including CobraNET, MADI, AVB and Dante. These technologies allow for the transfer of multiple channels of audio over a single data cable/building network.
While the protocol with which the audio is transported may differ, the functionality remains largely the same. The audio signal – still initiated by traditional technologies like microphones – is converted to a digital signal and delivered to the network where it can be picked up by other devices. For example, a single data cable could connect multiple conference table microphones to the audio system, reducing the size of the floor box or cable tray. In performance venues, a networked-enabled ‘stagebox’ would allow for the connections of multiple microphones to a dedicated box at the side of the stage, which is then connected to the mixing console via a single data cable reducing cable clutter. Additionally, networked-enabled amplifiers and DSP are simply connected directly to the network on which the audio signal resides. This reduces the amount of cabling and DSP required.
In existing buildings, one needs to only connect to a dedicated network switch or Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) added to existing infrastructure to have access to all of the audio residing on the network. Additionally, control data can be transmitted over the same network, eliminating the need for a separate network required in traditional analog systems.
By leveraging the power of Ethernet/IP, an audio system can not only reduce the amount of cabling and conduit traditionally required, but also streamline the installation and configuration time for the setup of these systems. Additionally, the large cache of IT professionals can now be utilized, further reducing installation, setup and maintenance costs. With audio joining the network, the systems being designed to support it are moving quickly and brightly into the digitally-connected future.