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The rise and rise of AoIP

Part of the problem in making sense of the networked audio revolution over the past couple of years has been its seemingly diffuse nature. An abundance of technologies, initiatives and industry consortia have given the impression of considerable activity taking place, but haven’t exactly lent themselves to clarity among integrators and end users.

In this regard, 2014 may be seen in retrospect as a highly significant year for networked audio thanks to the arrival of the AES67 standard. Published in September 2013, AES67 gained traction throughout last year, with leading technology providers ALC NetworX (developer of Ravenna) and Audinate (the company behind Dante) confirming their intentions to adopt the standard.

Refreshingly in a segment of the market that is no stranger to confusion, the objective of AES67 is fairly easily explained. A Layer 3-based protocol suite based on existing standards, AES67 is not a solution in its own right; rather, it allows interoperability between various existing IP-based audio networking systems. It’s still early days, of course, but with multiple leading manufacturers able to support the standard the result should be increased momentum behind AoIP in general.

Further exciting developments are expected in 2015, too, with the AES currently working on a control standard for AoIP networks. Referred to in its developmental phase as AES-X210, the projected standard will specify a scalable control protocol architecture for professional media networks. Providing the foundation of this work is the Open Control Architecture (OCA), spearheaded by the OCA Alliance. Doubtless the Alliance will provide further updates to visitors to its ISE stand, but AES standards manager Mark Yonge recently told me that he hoped the complete standard would be published around Easter time.

AVB still highly relevant
All these developments around Layer 3-based networking shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the recent upsurge in activity relating to the Layer 2-oriented AVB (Audio/Video Bridging). Questions over the availability and higher costs of AVB switches certainly haven’t gone away, but AVB-promoting consortium the AVnu Alliance has strengthened its case in recent months with several significant announcements. In December, the Alliance released details of the first AVnu-certified AVB audio endpoint reference platform, which will allow customers to quickly build a wide range of AVB-enabled audio products – ranging from single speakers to complex mixing consoles. Simultaneously, the impression of AVB reaching new markets beyond its pro-audio core was underlined by the introduction of a fresh AVnu segment, Industrial, and a trio of new members.

Biamp – whose Tesira platform makes use of AVB to deliver audio signals between Tesira devices – will be among the ISE 2015 exhibitors showcasing their AVB support. Elsewhere on the showfloor, Barix and Harman will be discussing their latest developments geared towards user-friendly audio networking, while BroaMan will be highlighting the ability of its fibre-based platform to meet a host of professional video, audio, and data transport and routing requirements.

The reality is that it might be another 12 months before the long-term market implications of recent developments become clear, although it’s a fairly safe bet that Dante – which currently has more than 180 licensees and whose developer, Audinate, is also exhibiting at ISE 2015 – will remain a dominant player.
More generally, the best recent news is that audio manufacturers and consortia have sharpened up their pitches and begun to explain the benefits of networked audio in a way that is more easily comprehensible. The next hurdle will be to translate this accessible language to the discussion of real-world applications, but the impression is that many of the key players are poised and ready for the challenge.