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Audio networking: ‘difficult for installers to know all protocols’

Craig Lovell, owner of MADI product manufacturer 4hm, answers our questions the plethora of audio networking protocols currently available.

Craig Lovell, a consultant and also director of MADI product manufacturer 4hm, answers our questions the plethora of audio networking protocols currently available.

How well do you think the capabilities (and limitations) of the current array of networking protocols are understood by the average AV integrator? 

My view on this is that there’s such a range of network-based protocols available at the moment that it is difficult for integrators to have in depth knowledge of them all. Historically, it was on the whole influenced by regional trends (such as the use of CobraNet or Ethersound) but as time has progressed manufacturers have developed their own proprietary protocols, while third party solutions such as Audinate’s Dante, AVB and ALC Networx’ Ravenna have come to the fore; plus we now have the ‘all-encompassing’ AES67. This probably makes it difficult for any one installer to have a thorough knowledge of them all.

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?

If you would have asked me that question a decade ago I would have said that there was definitely a place for proprietary network solutions. However with the advance in technology (bandwidth, processing capacity etc.), the current crop of audio networking solutions are very powerful. They are being used not only in AV installations, but in high-end live events, fixed installations and in broadcast facilities throughout the world. Operational resilience is critical in some of these fields, so the implementation of these network protocols has to a certain extent been proven.

The only problem is interoperability of equipment sourced from manufacturers that have adopted different protocols. Hopefully the advent of AES67 will help address this over time, enabling at least some of the current crop of audio networking protocols to ‘talk’ to each other.

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?

There is always a winner, but the question is ‘for how long?’ I do believe that AES67 could well become the ‘standard’ (although I use this word with caution as such things generally come down to interpretation!).

How far away do you think we are from total multi-vendor plug-and-play interoperability?

We’ve been talking about this ‘utopia’ for years, but never say never. However it will be longer than you think!