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Survey: Dante pulls ahead as networking takes over

Once again, we’ve worked with RH Consulting on a worldwide survey into audio networking – and the results indicate that major changes have taken place over the past 12 months.

Once again, we’ve worked with RH Consulting on a worldwide survey into audio networking – and the results indicate that major changes have taken place over the past 12 months. Roland Hemming reports

For a second year, Installation and its US sister title SCN, along with publications in the Middle East and Asia, asked their readers to complete an online survey on audio networking. With the ability to read year-on-year data, the trends for audio are really starting to appear.

The survey was open to all. In particular we wanted to hear from people who don’t use audio networking technology, and there was a good response from this section of the Installation readership.

Inevitably, though, the majority of responses came from people who already use this technology, so that needs to be taken into consideration when reading some of the answers.

The purpose of the survey was to try to find out how much audio networking is going on and what choices people are making. We kept most of the questions the same as last year but added a couple of important new ones.

In general we were looking at the ‘big five’ industry protocols, as well as seeing how much use there was of proprietary ones.

Project trends
One of the significant trends is the sheer number of people using audio networking technology. With two annual surveys we now have three years of data. [CLICK ON CHARTS TO ENLARGE] First of all there is a five percentage-point year-on-year decline in the number of people not using audio networking at all: only 13% don’t expect to use it in the next 12 months. More startling is that 69% expect it to be used in more than half their work – so audio networking appears to be the predominant method of audio connectivity in the next 12 months.

Protocol growth
We wanted to know about what protocols people plan to use and how many projects they would do using each protocol. First of all, use of Cobranet has fallen off a cliff, with only 30% of the use of the previous 12 months. AVB use almost doubled and RAVENNA more than doubled, albeit from a much lower starting point. And then the leader for last year, Dante, has grown nearly 300%, to be used on more than three-quarters of all networked audio projects in the survey. For the moment it’s Dante’s game to lose.

Asking why
We wanted to know what would make people switch from one protocol to another. Product choice is the key factor but reliability and interoperability were important too. Out of the eight possible answers on offer, ‘based on standards’ came sixth. While we like the idea of standards, it seems that just getting the job done reliably is more important. From their use of different protocols, we asked how easy each one was to use. Dante was the clear leader, the only one with more than 50% of respondents finding it easy or very easy.

And the non-networkers?
We put a gun to the head of the non-networkers and said, if they had to use the technology, which protocol(s) would they use? (Multiple responses were permitted.) Compared to last year Dante has consolidated its position, up from 38% to 80% of respondents. All other protocols showed a decline in interest except RAVENNA.

Are we really converging?
We asked a new question this year. We wanted to know whether people were trying to merge networked audio along with other IT services. As we suspected, around 70% of projects are running audio as a separate network. It might be fair to say that most people are not converging their systems, they are just using networking technology.

The question to ask here is why? Why are people not working with the IT teams to put the audio through the building IT network? I think this should be a point of industry discussion. Are people afraid of trying to put the audio into the IT network? Is it an education issue for IT specialists? Are there technical reasons why it won’t work?

Looking to the future
Finally we asked people to peer into their crystal balls and to predict the future for each protocol. People expected AVB to increase a little, Dante to increase a lot, RAVENNA to stay the same and the others to significantly decrease.

Last year we wrote of “a massive predicted increase in use” of digital audio networking. The figures show this to be true – and even with just two or three years’ figures we can really start to see the direction things are going in. Dante leads by every metric. Users want variety of product – currently Dante gives people that. Their user satisfaction is higher and this is a demonstration that Audinate has simply put more investment into digital audio networking than anyone else. That investment is clearly paying off. Summing up, this is the year that Cobranet and EtherSound effectively died and audio networking has overtaken analogue as the standard approach for most our respondents’ projects.

Roland Hemming is a consultant with RH Consulting.

Our thanks to Audinate for sponsoring this survey.