Audinate’s Dante Via Provides Higher Network Speed Via Software

The history of any technology typically shows a progression from its initial launch, usually with a general reach, on to more specific, often lower budget applications. Audio networking has followed this template through several incarnations, from analogue to digital, proprietary to more open systems and now limited capacity protocols such as MADI to audio over IP. In keeping with this, Audinate recently introduced a new software-only version of its Dante network with the intention of enabling a broader range of users to create networks at a lower cost and with less technical infrastructure.

Dante Via was introduced in November by Audinate, which grew out of research into audio over Ethernet transport by former Motorola Australia employees in 2003. Among them was current Audinate chief technology officer Aidan Williams, who wanted to reduce the number of connections used in digital music production, linking the sound desk to synthesisers, sound cards and MIDI interfaces on one network.

With funding from government research body the National Information and Communications Technology of Australia (NICTA), R&D continued, leading up to the launch of Dante - standing for Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet - in 2006, with Audinate established as company in its own right. The original focus of the technology was music, live performance and sound installation. As time went on Dante was adopted by a number of leading broadcast manufacturers, including Calrec Audio, Studer and Sennheiser, although it has encountered compeition in this market from the RAVENNA AoIP system.

Since the launch of the original Dante, Audinate has developed several versions and other additions to the range, including Dante HC (high channel count), the Brooklyn II module, Dante PCIe card and the Virtual Soundcard. Up to now the Ethernet/AoIP network has been implemented using a combination of hardware and software. Dante Via moves away from that model; it is wholly software-based and has been designed to connect any audio device or application to a Dante network using a computer.

This means microphones, mixing consoles, I/O units and other equipment with USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt connectivity can be networked without the need for proprietary Dante hardware. The aim is to enable systems intergrators, engineers and other users to build and expand audio installations using lower cost IT equipment in almost any location. Audinate chief executive Lee Ellison comments that the company tries to develop products that "facilitate networked convergence", with Dante Via the latest step. "It is the bridge from analogue to digital that makes networking the millions of legacy USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt devices as easy as 'drag and drop'," he says.

​Audinate senior product marketing manager Brad Price:

​Audinate senior product marketing manager Brad Price: "Dante Via makes having networked operations more widely accessible for people who want to learn about networking without making a huge investment."

Audinate's senior product marketing manager, Brad Price, further explains that the impetus to develop Via came from the idea of extending the Dante network by getting non-network products to work with it. "Our CTO had been looking at the various parts of his home studio, including USB and Thunderbolt, and thought the power of the PC could be used to make everything participate on a Dante network," he says. "The idea was to take any physically connected audio interface to send and receive aduio over a Dante-equipped computer."

Price continues that this allows devices such as USB microphone pre-amplifiers, which had been working effectively before but in isolation, to be used in a new context. "By using the Dante Virtual Soundcard you can play multitrack audio but it does not need the hardware," he says. "This software can establish the network clock needed to connect everything without any Dante hardware at all. Which expands what can be done with the gear somebody already owns."

The aim, Price explains, was originally based on extending the concept of Dante networking to software, while still delivering unique individual channels. "That's been difficult to do with the Virutal Soundcard," he acknowledges. "But now we can take a piece of media software, expose it on the network and it shows up in Dante as if it were channels of the device. This makes having networked operations more widely accessible for people who want to learn about networking without making a huge investment."

While Dante Via is aimed primarily at live and installed sound applications, with corporate facilities, hotels, bars, schools and houses of worship the main targets, Price does not entirely rule out its suitability for broadcast, albeit with some reservations. "There isn't a lot in broadcasting that uses USB or Thunderbolt," he says, "but there is some potential with microphones. You could take any USB mic and route it to other gear in a facility using the software without the need for additional conversion or elaborate switching."

Price comments that as distribution specialists such as Newtek and Quicklink now incorporate Dante the Via program could be used in ad hoc set-ups for outside broadcasts, connecting mobile computer systems or laptops to trucks or control booths.

Dante Via is available now as a download for $49.99 with a free 30-day trial from www.audinate.com/dantevia.

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