It’s certainly not news to say that audio networking is changing the way that sound systems are installed and how they operate. But the world was full of audio before networking—thus, any practical user of audio networking will wish to adapt perfectly good, non-networked gear to work in this new technical reality. Further, audio networking itself is not homogeneous. So, that same practicality creates a need for sensible, reliable solutions that span network technologies.
At Audinate, we’ve taken this notion to heart for a very long time. Dante is the most widely used audio networking technology by a large margin, and that means that Dante is used in an incredibly wide range of applications that demand proper interfacing with all types of signal presentation, whether they are analog, AES/EBU, MADI, USB, HDMI, SDI, ADAT—or even other audio networks.
Our engineers have considered the many meanings of interoperability with different products, and Audinate has worked with countless partners to make this a reality. Many variations were considered along the way. Let’s look at the different meanings of interoperability and how they affect practical choices in audio installations.
Interoperability job 1 is building a common platform: A cornerstone to this philosophy is to foster seamless interoperability between multiple vendors of audio products. A flexible technology foundation like IP networking allows for nearly endless variations of non-interoperable audio transport while still adhering to standards. Thus, common agreement is key. By providing manufacturers with a high-quality, turnkey thirdparty solution that is complete from end to end, Dante provides a common platform that allows vendors complete design flexibility without breaking the ability to work with all other Dante-enabled products.
Interoperability from within: As mentioned above, network standards allow for many types of non-interoperable audio networks. They may employ tantalizingly similar ideas and technology, but without specific agreement there is no practical way to bridge those gaps. The solution must reside at the network layer. In the time that Dante has been on the market, several other standards-driven audio networking technologies have evolved. AES67 has enjoyed wide use in broadcast and serves as the basis for some popular network solutions in that area and others. Audinate felt it was impor-tant and practical to add AES67 to Dante itself, allowing many Dante-enabled products to be seamlessly connected with AES67 products using Dante-native tools.
Interoperability from without: When Dante was first developed, the audio world was and still is–filled with many transport mechanisms. Some, like analog, will never vanish as mechanical microphones and loudspeakers are still needed to capture and generate sound. Others were variations on digital technologies from the 1980s and forward.
Audinate worked with many different manufacturers who recognized the value of audio networking, and these OEMs in turn developed a large array of Dante-enabled convertors that handle an incredibly wide range of formats, channel counts and more. Dante itself required no modifica-tion at all.
The result is a robust ecosystem of convertors that allows endusers to pick and choose from among products that may or may not be “network natives.” If a producer really loves a set of microphone pre-amps that only offer ADAT or AES/EBU outputs, there is no reason not to keep using those products, even if one is fully committed to a networked system.
Indeed, many networked audio installations include various nonnetworked devices connected via convertors. And all of these devices can stay in perfect sync.
Cost-effective interoperability: Audinate’s own approach to this includes the AVIO series of Dante adapters – simple “dongles” made of durable plastic that provide Dante interoperability for low channel-count devices.
Available in 1 or 2 channel analog input, 1 or 2 channel analog output, 2×2 USB, and 2×2 AES/EBU, AVIO brought practical interoperability to countless legacy mixers, microphone preamps, amplifiers and powered speakers, allowing them to participate with Dante audio networks
Audinate started because one engineer saw the possibility of IP networking getting everything audio done in one single cable, from hundreds of channels of throughput, to control, monitoring and security for every device. By making it as easy as possible to integrate with products new and old, the dream of real, practical interoperability really is coming true.