Steve Macatee, director of product development & training at Rane, answers our questions about audio networking.
How well do you think the capabilities (and limitations) of the current array of networking protocols are understood by the average AV integrator?
I'd love to have a clear definition of the 'average integrator'! I believe initially integrators do initially have a general understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the network products and applications – otherwise they would not buy and install such systems – especially from a capabilities perspective.
But rarely do I see integrators who study or understand the protocols themselves. They are looking for application solutions, and more and more networking products can easily exchange audio across manufacturers' solutions with very little cognitive friction. Good integrators understand that the only way to move their businesses and customer solutions forward is to dive into new solutions specifically so they can learn the more advanced capabilities and limitations in real systems.
Do you believe that open systems are always to be preferred over proprietary ones, or is there something to be said for proprietary solutions designed for specific needs?
Open systems are not always preferred. There is a place for both open and proprietary solutions. We offer both in our HAL System products and they solve different problems.
Do you think there will be an eventual 'winner' in the battle of networking protocols, or do you think that different approaches will always need to be taken in different vertical sectors?
This is like asking who won the automobile war, or the VHS and Beta war. Although these days they call it the DVD and Blu-ray war… no wait, maybe it's called streaming and download now?
Clearly the wheel won the war on moving heavy things around. But this doesn't mean we're done developing new tyres for bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, hovercrafts, spacecraft, etc. Similarly, network technology will continue to evolve long after we're all at the great gig in the sky.
Let's see, who won the loudspeaker war? Current winners, market perception-wise, appear to be the magical line array. I'm waiting for the return of the multi-cell horn as the next loudspeaker war.
How far away do you think we are from total multi-vendor plug-and-play interoperability?
I think we will never see, for example, Harman products becoming plug-and-play with every facet of QSC Audio products. Yet we're already seeing great cooperation among many Dante players, even beyond just exchanging network audio. Total won't happen.
Tell us about a recent installation that your company has been involved in that demonstrates its capabilities in audio transport/networking.
A recent specification that will be installed later this month is Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario. It's an American football stadium; they'll be holding thePan American and Parapan American Games there next year. This does not use an Ethernet networking transport to get audio between the three equipment closets, it uses Rane's proprietary Ethernet Layer 1 (only) transport. There are two HAL main DSP brain devices – one for the stands and one for the skyboxes etc. There are over 20 daisy-chained Rane EXP devices spread between the closets. There are 98 Rane RAD devices that transport AES3 I/O inside shielded Cat5e (or better) to local suite and broadcast/press analogue audio I/O feeds.