Intelligent CIO Middle East Issue 34 - Page 91

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Digitally Networked Audio: Converging IT with Audio Visual With IT becoming indispensable to enterprises across a range of verticals, the broadcasting industry is no exception. Digitally networked audio is a shining example of how technology can replace outdated systems, eliminating a large amount of cabling and offering cost savings and quicker installation. F ed up with running troublesome analogue cables and battling against the associated big, bulky boxes? The good news is with a networked audio setup, physical conne ctions become irrelevant since they are replaced by software controls. Ryan Burr, Head of Technical Sales and Application Engineering, System Solutions at Sennheiser Middle East, tells us about the benefits of Digitally Networked Audio. Traditional vs digital One of the most promising trends in the audio sector in recent years has been the emergence of digital audio networking. Traditional analogue distribution systems are plagued by an inherent complexity i.e. the logical and physical connections are one in the same. This has meant that building complex and flexible audio distribution systems is expensive and difficult, raising complications such as requiring large amounts of copper cabling, separate conduits for signals of differing voltages and other complexities. No matter how you do the math, running analogue cable is just plain troublesome. Today IT is indespensible to any organisation and connectivity is as much of a basic amenity as running water. Businesses already have robust network cabling infrastructures in place which are being leveraged for their communication, data transfer, control and security requirements. In this modern environment, it is no wonder then that the topic of digitally networked audio is generating such attention. This innovative approach lets you build flexible audio installations by offering utilising industry standard CAT-5 networking equipment instead of far more expensive and typically error-prone analogue cables. Not just this, networked audio helps eliminate the challenges of having to plan the audio cabling around existing utility structures and architectural hurdles as it allows for the utilisation of the network that is already in place. It’s all about the money Besides the immediate cost reductions brought about by the elimination of a large amount of cabling (even shielded cabling can be swapped out for its cheaper unshielded counterpart), labour and expensive analogue signal processing equipment, there are also long term operational savings brought about by networked AV. As there is no longer a need for big, bulky boxes, which are hard to move and constantly in danger of being damaged and accidentally reconfigured, the cost of ownership drops. INDUSTRY WATCH This approach calls for significantly less cabling, fewer connectors and simplified system design which in turn translates to fewer points of failure and shorter installation timeframes. And with the availability of Power over Ethernet (PoE) equipment, even the hassle of having to wire the system to a power outlet is eliminated. Rapid expansion In a networked audio setup, the physical connections become irrelevant since by using software controls, audio inputs can be dynamically routed from any input device to any output system, so long as they are both connected on the network. With a networked audio solution, you can disconnect, reconnect, route and reroute connections via software, meaning all modifications can be done without even touching a single cable. And while expansions might call for a new switch or two to be added, its still far more straightforward than running new analogue connections. Factors promoting adoption So with all the evident benefits, is networked audio right for you or your customer? Well, as with any audio installation, the solution still needs to be dictated by system requirements rather than by industry buzzwords. Ease of installation This approach will no doubt favour some organisations more than others, but one of the main reasons why digitally networked audio hasn’t yet completely overtaken analogue is the cost. Today however, the price difference has begun to erode due to the standardisation of protocols which has introduced more choice into the market. Equipment can be swapped out far more easily thus protecting long terms investments and safe-guarding against vendor lock-in. With networked audio, you can get rid of a number of concerns that plague analogue implementations. Installers can swap their soldering irons, metal connectors and testing equipments for far more simple RJ-45 clips and network cable crimping tools. Digitally networked audio is what customers are now asking for. They have already invested in IT cabling infrastructure and their confidence in the security and reliability of these networks has encouraged them to ask why audio too can’t be a part of this. n INTELLIGENTCIO 91