AES67 Adoption Spurs Development

LOS ANGELES—A three-day AES PlugFest in Germany last December to test and demonstrate the interoperability of AES67 implementations with16 different networked-audio products indicated 15 were based on RAVENNA technology.

The AES67 PlugFest tested interoperability between products from ALC NetworX, Archwave, Axia Audio, Digigram, DirectOut, Georg Neumann, Lawo, Merging Technologies, SOUND4 and Telos Systems, all of which are RAVENNA partner companies. Over the past nine months, membership of the RAVENNA consortium, which was founded in 2010, has continued to expand with the addition of Calrec Audio, Orban, GatesAir, network distribution and timing equipment manufacturers ARG, Omicron, Meinberg, and Jutel, and Riedel. There are 32 partners listed on the RAVENNA web site, including some that have yet to implement the technology into their products.

“We believe that customers should be able to use the audio networking standard which suits their needs the best, whether that be RAVENNA/AES67 or AVB,” said Christian Bockskopf, head of marketing and communications for Riedel in Wuppertal, Germany. “Our Tango platform, introduced at IBC, represents the first fully network-based and standards-compliant product supporting both of these standards.” Riedel launched its first AVB solutions nearly three years ago.

GatesAir Intraplex IP-Link As Patrick Warrington, technical director for Calrec in West Yorkshire, U.K., noted, the company expects to see AoIP interconnections provide a more flexible and elegant replacement for MADI. Otherwise known as AES10, MADI is an audio communications protocol standard initially published in 1991 that has enjoyed something of a resurgence over recent years. Networking offers greater capacity, flexibility, and multicast possibilities on an infrastructure shared with other services, Warrington said.

Keyur Parikh, solutions architect, media networking products for GatesAir, a Mason, Ohio-based transmitter and audio network management company, agrees. “IP is quickly becoming the protocol of choice for transporting media, whether it is across wide area networks or within studios,” he said, also pointing to the expansion of the SMPTE 2022 standard for video. AES67, added to GatesAir’s studio and Intraplex products, provides a natural extension of the company’s core capabilities.

“Audio over networks is a powerful and relatively simple technology to implement since almost all our customers have networks up and running,” Bockskopf concurred. “The learning curve for engineers isn’t bad either, since network components, like routers and switches, are quite common.”

As the new year got underway, ALC NetworX, the Munich, Germany-based audio networking company driving the development of RAVENNA, announced that it had joined the Media Networking Alliance (MNA). The alliance, comprising 20 professional audio and broadcast technology companies, is actively promoting adoption of AES67, the high-performance streaming audio-over-IP interoperability standard that was published in 2013. Launched during the 2014 AES Convention, MNA steering committee members include Axia Audio, Bosch Communications Systems, Lawo Group, QSC Audio, and Yamaha.

“As a consequence of ALC NetworX having actively contributed to the AES X192 Task Group work on defining the AES67 standard, RAVENNA technology is already compliant to the AES67 interoperability standard—thus, joining the MNA was just a logical step,” explained Andreas Hildebrand, senior product manager, ALC NetworX.

It should come as no surprise that the Telos Alliance companies are RAVENNA partners, since Axia was early to market with its own networking protocol. “Axia introduced the idea of IP-audio to broadcasting in 2003, with Livewire,” said Marty Sacks, vice president of support, sales & marketing for Telos Alliance in Cleveland. “From the very beginning, Livewire was conceived as an ‘open’ technology—one we’ve been glad to share with partners in the broadcast industry.”

More than 70 companies are Livewire partners and, according to estimates, close to 60,000 Livewire-equipped products are in the field, according to Sacks.

“Livewire and RAVENNA represent the dominant AoIP protocols in broadcasting,” Sacks said. “Together, we have almost 90 technology partners whose devices interconnect.

Marty Sacks, Telos Alliance “The combination of Livewire, RAVENNA and AES67 is great news for TV engineers; it means that they have a clear roadmap for AoIP implementation, and a large pool of manufacturers whose products already support the AoIP standard,” Sacks continued. “Having this infrastructure already in place is a huge win for TV professionals who are ready to move to networked audio.”

Parikh thinks that having a standard based on open, interoperable protocols will encourage vendor participation and increase competition. “This will benefit broadcasters, both in radio and television, looking to network their audio within the studio or between them to build a multivendor ecosystem.”

Along with ALC NetworX, the Telos Alliance is also a co-founder of the MNA. “We both believe that the best interests of broadcasters are served by a firm commitment to interoperability, both now and in the future,” said Sacks.

“As a member of the MNA, ALC NetworX can help achieve the objectives of the MNA by contributing their technical knowledge in combination with their field experience from various high-ranking applications where interoperability between different networking technologies is typically required, such as large sport events or in large broadcast facilities,” said Hildebrand. “On the other hand, with RAVENNA, ALC NetworX is offering a license-free and open technology approach towards AES67. It will surely gain even broader attention through efforts led by the MNA.”

Hildebrand added the AES67 standard is not yet complete. “While AES67 offers a sound set of interoperability definitions and guidelines, it is lacking some important functions typically comprising a complete solution, mainly device and service discovery, but also a higher degree of flexibility in the choice of media types and formats as well as higher performance capabilities. RAVENNA offers all these required functions plus superior data format flexibility and choice of performance parameters— i.e. it offers full discovery and connection management as well as MADI-like performance over IP, etc.

“Being able to fully support the AES67 interoperability standard for data interchange with non-RAVENNA systems renders RAVENNA a future-proof technology,” Hildebrand continued. “The open technology approach ensures continuous support and evolution, independent from any single manufacturer.”

Steve Harvey began writing for Pro Sound News and Surround Professional in 2000 and is currently senior content producer for Mix and a contributor to TV Tech. He has worked in the pro audio industry—as a touring musician, in live production, installed sound, and equipment sales and marketing—since November 1980.