Updated: Nov 24, 2021
In my last post, I touched on the essence of AOE networking but never expanded on any of the common AoIP networking solutions you might stumble upon in the audio world. As a newbie engineer, you may have heard of Dante but are unsure of its place in your studio. The following is fast and fiery breakdown of Audinate’s Dante; the most ubiquitous name in AoIP networking today.
A diagram of an AoIP Dante Star Topology
What is Dante?
As Audinate self-describes; “Dante replaces point-to-point analogue and digital connections with a standard IP network that delivers completely lossless audio, massive channel counts and near infinite signal routing flexibility”.
No surprises there, huh. But how does it work exactly?
In a nutshell, Dante wraps and segments your digital audio in Internet Protocol (IP) data ‘packets’ suitable for transmission across a standard network. These data packets contain timing info and source and destination network addresses, allowing them to be efficiently routed through your network to an end destination. Dante uses an IP synchronisation standard referred to as ‘Precision Time Protocol’ (PTP) to manage data packet transfer and in doing so, achieves sub-microsecond accuracy.
In layman’s terms: Think of your audio as a parcel out for delivery. Standard parcel delivery between two addresses may take 3-5 days but with Dante, you qualify for guaranteed same-day delivery. In other words, your audio gets to where it need to be in the fastest, most secure way possible.
All audio is 100% lossless
It operates at 16-bit, 24-bit or 32-bit depth and sample rates are supported from 44.1kHz to 192 kHz
It offers near infinite signal routing capabilities via a software called Dante Controller
Over gigabit ethernet, a single Dante connection can carry 512 channels* of bidirectional 24-bit, 48 kHz audio while coexisting on a LAN with other data.
* The quality of the audio stream will determine the limit to the number of channels. The higher the quality - the fewer channels
What does a Dante network consist of?
A Transmitter: A source or producer of a stream. For example, a Dante capable microphone.
A Receiver: The destination or consumer of a stream. For example, a Dante capable speaker. A Layer 3 Switch: A managed Ethernet switch like that found in a home office.
Ethernet cabling: Cat5e/6
Dante Controller: The software used for managing Dante devices.
Beware the Chipsets
When looking to create a Dante network, be cognizant of what Dante chipset the hardware you’re looking to use has, because the Dante chip you use determines your maximum channel count.
Chipset imagery courtesy of Audinate.com
Don’t dread the Latency…
In any AoIP network, latency is a factor. The more devices you have, the greater the latency.
In Dante, you can set your latency compensation based on the size of your network using the Dante Controller software. Dante also allows for flexibility in the latency for each node. This means you can configure the network bandwidth for time-critical paths, such as the paths to your loudspeakers.Remember though, the lower the latency, the more bandwidth is used, so the number of channels becomes constricted. The typical default latency for a Dante audio device is 1ms. Sheesh, that's pretty fast huh?
Today, 1000’s of audio products incorporate Dante technology and if you are considering a career in audio, the chances are that you will make use of Dante in some form, at some point in your career. It's good to know the jargon and it's even better to understand the benefits and limitations of the AoIP system that dominates the industry today.