• Digital Audio Playing Nice: AES67

  • By: Stephen Hill, CTS-D, CTS-I, Technical Solutions Engineer

    For years the professional AV industry has been plagued by a seemingly unsolvable problem: Numerous digital audio* standards (or specs) that don’t communicate with each other. Designing and specifying a new audio system utilizing digital transport has become a game of roulette in which the customer (and at times the integrator) doesn’t seem to win. For example, an audio console (utilizing DANTE as an output format) might connect to a QSYS DSP (which utilizes QLAN) for processing of audio being fed to amplifiers for a house audio system. At the same time, the audio console must also send information to a broadcast truck outside of the facility (which is built around the RAVENNA platform). In this singular example, we encountered three different audio communication platforms. Historically, this would lead down a path of additional expense due to the need of multiple format converters to make this system function properly. Additionally, it created an issue for the customer in the event of peripheral or major equipment replacements. Products or even technologies could be discontinued or completely abandoned (maybe not completely abandoned, but close enough).

    The Audio Engineering Society (AES) saw this issue and developed the technical standard we now refer to as AES67. The AES67 standard ensures long-term interoperability standards among a number of previously competing manufacturers and platforms. To date, AES67 has seen widespread adoption by a number of manufacturers and has also been included as part of a new standard from SMPTE for professional video over IP. Simply put, AES67 is the digital audio super highway, and IP platforms such as DANTE, RAVENNA, LIVEWIRE, and QLAN provide the on-ramps.

    Because of AES67 interoperability, our initial example is no longer plagued by the use of three different communication platforms. Now, we have a singular standard by which various manufacturers can adhere. This reduces infrastructure cost, increases long-term system reliability, and puts us all in a position to move boldly forward, knowing our choice of technology won’t soon be abandoned.

    *For the purpose of this post, digital audio is used to describe audio over IP or audio over ethernet

    Stephen Hill, CTS-D, CTS-I, Technical Solutions Engineer
    Stephen has over 16 years of design and installation experience in the AV, broadcast and educational technology fields, along with certifications including CTS-D, DMC-E-4K, and ECP.