I’ve been evangelising about AoIP in general and Dante in particular for a long time. I’m not anti-analogue, it’s just that for anything other than the smallest of systems the benefits simply outweigh the disadvantages. That said, I do groan every time I find myself greeted by silence when I was expecting some pristine audio to come out of my monitors or headphones. It happens with analogue and it still happens in Dante - it’s clever but it’s not that clever.
The Reason Networked Audio Sometimes Makes Me Uncomfortable
Separation of the physical from the functional
Physical and functional? If you didn’t follow that, what I mean is that in the point-to-point connections we are used to from analogue cabling, AES/EBU, s/pdif, or even MADI, the physical cabling dictates and describes the signal flow. When we want to check our routing we check the cables. While these point-to-point cables are more often than not the cause of the problems, these problems are usually easy to understand and easy to fix. In a Dante system this intrinsic link between the cables and the signal flow is broken and I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. When I’m faultfinding I’d go back to analogue cabling in a heartbeat. I’m not sure I’d think the same when ordering (and paying for) yet another D-Sub though…
As long as you have sufficient bandwith, any connection from any source to any destination can be made. In smaller systems, and for typical music or post production purposes most systems are small by Dante standards, this routing can be done without restriction. New connections don’t mean new cabling.
De-centralised Networks Of IO
This is of course a very good thing. The cabling costs are low, pre-installed network infrastructure can be used, these are well known benefits. Something which is less often said but is just as significant is the potential for de-centralising studios. We are used to the idea of having a central point from which connections radiate, be it the console, the interface or the patch panel. In the networked world we can have small groups of inputs and outputs to be distributed around the studio because our freedom of choice to use multiple IO locations isn’t constrained by physical cabling.
Sample Rate Constraints On Dante Networks
Given all this flexibility there is one thing which can constrain your choices when it comes to networking audio over Dante. You can’t mix sample rates. 90% of the issues I have when working with Dante are because I’m trying to mix sample rates. If you absolutely have to mix sample rates there is an obvious way our which is to bridge between the two networks running at different sample rates using another format, for example using analogue connections. This is of course a great pity to create a routing bottleneck using point to point connections in what was a flexible network of connections but this situation has improved recently, at least for those lucky enough to have a DAD AX32 as their Dante card allows Dante networks with different sample rates to interface with each other via the 1500x1500 routing matrix found in the DADman control software. Multiple Dante cards can be installed in an AX32, each running at a different sample rate if required. As this card has recently become available for the Avid MTRX as well the same interfacing options are now available to Pro Tools users as are available to AX32 users.