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Demo of the month: Audinate Dante Via

Paddy Baker is shown Audinate’s simple yet powerful Dante Via software, which brings Dante functionality to IT networks.

The premise of Dante Via is very simple: it brings Dante network functionality to any computer, and to any audio device connected to it and any audio applications it is running. Ahead of its release at the end of October, I went to Audinate’s office in Brighton for a demo from Kieran Walsh – EMEA regional manager, global support services.

Dante Via was first demonstrated at InfoComm 2014. As Audinate CEO Lee Ellison explained to us when we interviewed him this summer, it was decided to broaden the appeal of the software by creating a simple-to-use drag-and-drop user interface. This is available as an alternative to Dante Controller, which shows a cross-point matrix view of the system.

The software runs on Windows or Mac (the two versions have identical functionality). The user interface is simple and intuitive: the left-hand side of the screen shows audio sources, the right shows destinations. Sources appear in one of four sections: local audio devices, local applications, Via devices and Dante devices.

Via devices include sources connected to other computers running Via on the same network. These only appear once those other users have given permission for them to be accessed more widely. (On Dante Controller, connections involving these devices are marked with a ‘no entry’ symbol.)

Outputs appear under similar headings: local audio outputs (which can be built-in outputs or other software or hardware) and local applications. To connect a source to an output is simply a matter of dragging and dropping its icon on that of the desired destination.

Connecting equipment

So, while we’re talking, Walsh connects a a Digidesign Max2Pro FireWire box to his Mac via USB, and this appears, correctly named, on the source list. (For a moment I think he’s going to plug in a nearby guitar that’s sitting among all the various boxes and files piled up in the small office, but he doesn’t.)

“It’s only showing the built-in output on the receive side, because that’s all I’ve got enabled, but if I add the Mbox,” he says, while dragging and dropping, “I get those channels as well on the output side. So I’ve got complete control over what I’m sending to the network.”

He also starts Spotify, and plays a YouTube video via the Chrome browser: Spotify and Chrome appear as local applications, and appear by default on the built-in output – then he drags-and-drops them onto a connected HDMI device, which starts playing the two audio streams together. (Levels are adjusted within each device or application, rather than within Via.)

Connections can be removed by hovering the cursor over them and clicking the ‘X’ that appears. Applications that you don’t want to work with can be hidden from the GUI.

Dante Via provides the system master clock, so no Dante hardware is required at all. “Which puts us into this really cool uncharted territory, because we don’t know how big the market is. The logical assumption is that it’s huge – because it’s reasonably priced piece of software that lets you connect anything with anything and you don’t have to buy any other hardware – you can just use what you’ve got.”

Use cases

He expounds some possible use cases: setting up a breakout conference room; bridging VoIP soft clients to Skype or WebEx; mixing channels and talkback channels in a school ‘keyboard lab’ where the pupils are playing virtual instruments; an ad-hoc translation system; and creating a rich audio experience, run by non-technical staff, for virtual product showcases in high-end shops and showrooms.

So Via has potential both to reduce the amount of infrastructure within fixed installation designs – and the cost – and also to add extra functionality to existing systems, particularly when there is little or no budget. Walsh is certain that customers will come up with applications that Audinate hasn’t thought of yet.

He continues: “What this does really well is it touches installations that have never had DSP or networked audio. So for instance in the pub next door they’ve got a machine running Spotify, some kind of zone mixer, a speaker management system and a bunch of loudspeakers. With Dante Via, you could play Spotify directly into networked-attached speakers, so you could get rid of a lot of those elements. From an installation perspective, you may get the complaint that you’ve made it more complicated by putting everything into software; but from the end-user perspective, it’s hardware that frightens them more – most people are used to using computers these days.”

For Walsh, the key strength of Via is that, because it removes the need for cabling dedicated to specific hardware, it simply makes more things possible, and changes the way you work.

“Because it’s fairly transparent, once you’ve been using it for a while you start taking it for granted – which is always a nice thing about good technology. And when you go back to doing things the old way again, you think: ‘This is hard!’”