Multiplexed Audio Options
March 2, 2011
As an alternative to audio snake multi-line cables, consider some kind of multiplexing system to reduce the number of single lines you’ll need to run.
For digital audio, there’s MADI, which can multiplex 32, 56, or 64 channels of AES-3 digital audio on one coaxial or fiber optic cable. You’ll need MADI interfaces at the send and receive ends.
To handle a greater diversity of signals, including analog audio, communications and video, consider a fiber optics system. This includes electronic interfaces for the types of signals that you’re using, the multiplexers and de-multiplexers, plus the necessary conversion to and from light.
Ethernet audio networked systems are another option. With these systems numerous audio signals are multiplexed into Ethernet packets interconnected with CAT-5 or fiber optic cable. The signals can easily be routed to stage boxes in different studios and to more than one audio mixing control console, even remote ones. In many facilities, networked audio can replace a good portion of a traditional audio routing switcher, and perhaps even the whole thing.
There’s a good selection of stand-alone fiber optic systems for broadcast use from a variety of manufacturers. Also many digital audio mixing systems offer options for MADI, networking, and network or fiber connections to studio connector panels. In addition to simplifying wiring, this can provide for remote control of signal parameters from the mixing console control surface.
Unlike cable, these options aren’t passive, and require electronics, power, rack space, and most likely, redundancy. But they are worth looking into when doing an audio systems design. In the long run, these may prove more cost-effective than running multi-line cables.