NAMM 2016 has shown the emergence of a trend we've been keen to see on the blog - smaller audio over IP products. On the podcast recently we discussed the need to decentralise hardware in the studio if Audio over IP products are to become more widely accepted. So far we have seen a proliferation of products which offer multichannel A/D and D/A which allow audio on and off a network. Products designed to replace or at least do a similar job to an HD I/O in a Pro Tools system. The networking technology has been used to distribute audio between a live and a control room or between studios. The idea of sending audio from place to place has largely been seem in terms of the larger scale.
Obvious points where the need for smaller units, offering fewer channels of I/O are VO or vocal booths where installing 8 channels of I/O is wasting a lot of channels for a single mic and a pair of cans. The example of the Focusrite AM2, currently being shown at NAMM shows that manufacturers also realise that as well as seeing rooms or entire studios as nodes on the network, the people within each space can just as easily be seen as potential nodes on the network, with individual, network attached hardware.
The example which occurs to me is one of a typical office network. The connection to each user is a network connection. The change in format from network to "non-network" happens at each workstation. Putting a multichannel network attached I/O in a studio space is like everyone in the office connecting to a central, network attached workstation and each having individual KVM connections to that central workstation (it's a bit of an iffy metaphor but I'm going with it). That's not what we do in computer networks, why do it on audio networks?
This node per user model has been being used for years in personal monitoring systems like the Hearback systems from Hear Technologies. These systems even use Cat5e cables but using a proprietary Layer 1 solution which isn't IP. Waves might well have nailed this approach with their new Digigrid for Desktop range which offers small, single user networkable I/O.
DiGiGrid For Desktop
- DiGiGrid M - A combined I/O with a Mic/Line input, a second HiZ/Line input and headphone monitoring
- DiGiGrid Q - A single channel headphone amplifier, fed via Cat5, analogue or bluetooth
- DiGiGrid S - A power supply, feeding power to up to 4 units via Power over Ethernet (PoE)
- DiGiGrid D - A 4 in 6 out, Digigrid-based desktop audio interface
Being based on the same DigiGrid technology as the rest of Waves' DigiGrid range, a system using DigiGrid can start with a single unit and grow with the needs of the user. Cross network compatibility is suggested by reference to Dante compatibility in the DiGiGrid S and if Dante is supported I would imagine AES67 could be used to stream audio between differing networks.
RedNet AM2 is a Dante-compatible stereo monitoring unit combining headphone and line outputs of signals sourced from the Dante network. The RedNet AM2 includes a two-channel Dante receiver based around the latest “Ultimo” hardware and features a quarter-inch front-panel headphone socket plus a pair of balanced line outputs with male XLR connectors mounted on the rear panel, which may be used for loudspeaker monitoring and other applications.
The RedNet AM2 may be powered either via PoE (Power over Ethernet) or via the 12V DC input barrel connector. Dual etherCON connectors are included to connect the network and to daisy-chain to additional network devices and is planned to ship spring 2016.
Add to these announcements the Delec units that Mike highlighted recently and Audio over IP continues to become more accessible and I look forward to seeing more attention being paid to the desktop market as the distinction between Pro and Desktop is increasingly meaningless. I want to try some of these!