Digital Audio Networking: The New Alphabet Soup

Audio networking platforms have proliferated considerably in recent years, underscoring the shift in signal transport from copper to fiber. Their arrival offers orders of magnitude more channel counts and the virtual elimination of latency, but their diversity of types and features, plus the added complexity of their IT-based foundations converging with the AV-based traditional ecosphere of the broadcast plant, remote ops and sports venues is making for a complicated transition. Here are the major players in the audio networking sector at the moment.

AES67 — is a standard for audio over IP interoperability. The standard was developed by the AES 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.

Audinate Dante — Dante is an uncompressed, multi-channel digital media networking technology, with near-zero latency and synchronization. The company passed the 200-licensee mark earlier this year.

Cobranet — owned by Cirrus Logic, is a combination of software, hardware, and network protocols designed to deliver uncompressed, multi-channel, low-latency digital audio over a standard Ethernet network. Developed in the 1990s, CobraNet 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 EtherSound is compliant with IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standards, and has been developed as both ES-100 (for use on dedicated 100 Megabit Ethernet networks or within a Gigabit network as a VLAN) and ES-Giga (for use on dedicated Gigabit Ethernet networks).

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

Utilizing 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 wide area network links and production facilities. Ravenna has seen its biggest traction in the European markets.