The effects of technology are everywhere. Along with all the benefits it brings us come specific challenges. How these challenges are addressed is what makes technology evolve. A recent change in live audio is the shift towards networked digital audio. You won’t actually hear the change since it doesn’t affect the final output. What will change is how sound makes its way to the amplifiers and speakers. With networked audio, “analog-to-digital conversion [takes] place at the stage box, with the audio signal staying digital until it hits an amplifier on the way to a speaker.” For live event producers, networked digital audio brings new waves in integrating sound with other digital elements. It also brings challenges in terms of design and installation.
Challenges of Networked Audio Systems
In sports arenas, stadiums and auditoriums worldwide, digital audio is spreading fast by sending and receiving audio signals over computer networks. This results in clear and crisp audio quality without the web of crawling wires and cables. Another benefit of networked digital audio is that it allows the local IT team to resolve issues without the help of the sound system provider. However, the world of networked audio has thrown open the doors to a new set of challenges.
Limited cable bandwidth. One of the hurdles in setting up networked audio systems is limited cable bandwidth. High-fidelity digital audio signals are reached through analog to digital and digital to analog conversion processes. The fidelity of these conversions is largely influenced by three principal factors: Clock integrity, bit depth, and sample rate. Digital sound is significantly enhanced by increasing the bit depth and sample rate. Increasing these factors require individual cables to carry additional data. But each cable comes with a fixed bandwidth that can’t be increased.
Complexity of hybrid networks. Most networked audio projects today use hybrid networks where audio is routed through multiple digital lanes. Plus, the audio needs to be converged with other digital elements such as IPTV. Configuring multiple networks highlights the complexity of this technology.
Challenges of shared LANs. Audio needs to be operated through dedicated VLANs and on shared LANs. However, the audio becomes more difficult to run on these shared LANs.
Despite these challenges, networked audio provides exceptional benefits, which is why it’s expected to become the standard for sports venues, stadiums, and auditoriums.
What Makes Networked Audio a Popular Choice?
Networked audio can distribute PA system audio to places in a venue, such as the thick-glassed luxury boxes, where live sound may not otherwise reach. The audio can be set up, monitored, and problems resolved by the venue’s own IT team. In more complex issues, venue managers don’t have to wait for specific system providers to come to the site. AV managers can fix problems from anywhere.
Networked audio uses fiber, a better and more cost-effective alternative to expensive analog cables. This lowers the hardware costs for the end users and saves a significant amount of time and effort
Digital audio is the best way to receive clarity in sound quality and the wave of the future for large venues. As long as all the challenges are met, this technology will continue to grow and evolve.Photo Credit: villapark2011 via Compfight cc