The trend in professional audio systems seems to be that audio signals are move and more moving from balanced analogue interfaces and proprietary digital interfaces to Ethernet networking. There are many good reasons for that, which I am not going through in this post, for more information on reasons for transition look my earlier postings Dante and AVB and USB and Ethernet audio.
When everything is connected to Ethernet, it does not guarantee that everything can be connected together. The reason for this is that there are different incompatible systems and standards to transfer professional audio signals over Ethernet network. To get the idea what is the situation in Ethernet nowadays and in near future, read Controlgeek blog posting AVB, Audinate Dante, and AES-67: Peering into My Crystal Ball. It gives a good overview of the current situation and gives ideas to what changes to expect in the near future. The rest of the posting is my interpretation of AVB, Audinate Dante, and AES-67: Peering into My Crystal Ball article.
There has been different standardization efforts for transferring audio signals over Ethernet. IEEE 802.1 standards effort for Audio-Video Bridging (AVB) have been in the works for a long time in the IEEE standards-making process. AVB (as part of Ethernet) operates at Layer 2. The biggest problem of AVB (besides that it is late comer to race) is that it requires those special AVB-capable switches to function properly, so without a wide array of these on the market the standard is effectively stalled out from the user’s perspective.
During these four years it took AVB to get standardized, of course, the market did not stand still; Audinate’s proprietary Dante audio network solution (Layer 3 protocol) basically took over the live sound market.
There is on the works also a new and potentially game changing standard: just ratified AES67-2013: AES standard for audio applications of networks – High-performance streaming audio-over-IP interoperability. AES67 is new Layer 3 audio transport protocol. All this means that with AES67 we now have an open-standard, Layer 3, modern way of getting high quality audio between networks.
AVB, Audinate Dante, and AES-67: Peering into My Crystal Ball article contains a nice drawing shows how the writer John Huntington sees the live sound networking world in the near future.
According to AVB, Audinate Dante, and AES-67: Peering into My Crystal Ball all manufacturers listed in the graphic have been working, actual product on the market using those networking technologies as of this writing. As you can see, the scales are tilted pretty far over towards the Dante side, so it seems that Audinate’s Dante has won the race. Those who have committed to AVB should provide AES67 inter-operability for their systems so we can use it to connect to Dante equipment. AES67 can provide the bridge between those worlds for the users.