AoIP Dante Standards: What They Are and How They Work

Standards tie devices together, and in the AoIP environment, they are critical. The more pieces that share the same language, the easier it is for installers to add components (and more refined sounds) to their spaces.

Dante devices follow a company-specific standard. Although Dante plays well with other forms of audio standards, the company’s spin is a little unique.

What are the Dante Standards?

Ask Dante officials, and they might suggest that the company has no standard at all. For example, Audinate senior vice president of marketing and production, Joshua Rush, says this about standards: “With all these other things we bring to the table, it’s better to think of Dante as an audio networking application rather than a protocol. It’s much more than that.”

Even so, Dante devices require a common language. Otherwise, connecting and controlling them would be impossible.

The Dante standard covers the following essential topics, explains the media networking solution developer Audinate.

Connections

Dante devices work via Ethernet, connected with just one cable per device. That makes systems scalable. Users can add or remove devices quickly, and networks can be expanded, revised or reconfigured with just a few keyboard taps, rather than by adding or removing heavy analog cabling.

Function

In a Dante-enabled network, data enters and splits into small packets that can pass across an Ethernet network. Each packet contains data about timing, source and destination. Dante-enabled receivers deconstruct that data and play back the audio in one continuous stream.

Speed and quality

Dante devices have low latency (measured in microseconds rather than milliseconds). That’s accomplished by the use of one single, master clock. The Dante system ensures the clock that is the most stable and accurate becomes the clock that rules them all, and that eliminates network timing issues.

Management

Audinate offers free software that both discovers and manages devices on the network. The Dante Controller tackles routine functions, including bandwidth use, packet errors and clock health.

Integration

Dante works with both Windows and Mac devices. Users can integrate other applications, including software-based media players and Skype.

Dante standards

How Do Devices Incorporate Dante Standards?

The team at Inavate points out that more than 1,600 Dante-enabled audio devices are already available on the market. Each works a little differently, due to the flexibility inherent in the Dante standard. According to Audinate, standards are embedded within modules or hardware solutions. Product developers incorporate that hardware into their products, and they’re supported by schematics from Audinate.

Developers can tweak their designs for differentiation in the market, but Dante retains a bit of control.

“Since Dante controls the development of the module, that also means that they have retained some control of the features available to the manufacturers. This has proven valuable to them in the past as it aids in standardization and interoperability between manufacturers,” writes technology consultant Josh Srago.

Audinate can, for example, push software updates that shift how connected devices work. The company also controls how the devices communicate with non-Dante counterparts, and that could help the company stave off competition.

Dante’s Dominance is a Benefit

Any AoIP system allows installers almost infinite flexibility. If needs change, adding or changing functionality is as easy as adding or removing a piece from the network.

AoIP systems also allow for centralized control. “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,” writes Julian Rodgers, deputy editor at Pro Tools Expert.

This flexibility works best when developers have plenty of devices to choose from. If they are constrained by standards, they might be forced to choose from a small selection of speakers, microphones and other audio tools. That could leave them stranded with the promise of functionality that doesn’t quite exist.

Dante’s dominance in the AoIP market works in the company’s favor. “Within the live AV space, Dante is proven, capable and adopted by nearly every major player in the industry,” says Kari Eythorsson, product manager at Clear-Com.

That widespread adoption means it’s relatively easy to find products that work with Dante’s standards. Given the company’s commitment to accepting universal standards, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Dante standards

Dante’s Compatibility with Other Standards

AoIP systems work best when many devices are connected to the network. Universal standards could, in theory, help developers build systems made up of components from competing companies. That dream isn’t a reality yet, but could be soon.

“We’ve exited the early adoption era of AVoIP. Integrators and end users see the value. In turn, we will see manufacturers continue to integrate the highest performing standards into their products to ensure AV solutions work across all standard networks,” Rush says.

Dante is taking steps forward by ensuring their products are compatible with other AoIP standards, including AES67. This particular standard doesn’t eliminate company-specific standards, according to the Alliance for IP Media Solutions. Instead, AES67 helps companies to build bridges between their systems, so consumers can pick and choose from products that seem right for them.

Compliance with AES67 also doesn’t mean Dante systems will work in exactly the same way as a competitor’s products. “While the standard defines what protocols and functions need to be supported, it does not tell vendors precisely how to implement them. Thus, solutions differ,” writes Andreas Hildebrand, senior product manager at ALC Networx.

Dante officials continue to watch the marketplace for new standards gaining prominence. If they see a trend, they may choose to ensure that their products comply with them. Retired Audinate CEO Lee Ellison explained the company’s stance in a 2014 interview with audioXpress: “If there is momentum and if our customers want us to provide a solution, we will implement those capabilities for our customers.”

Examples of Dante Standards in Use

One of the best ways to understand Dante’s standard is to read about projects that incorporate these products. Examples are plentiful. These are a few we especially enjoy.

Virgin Hotels in San Francisco

With 12 floors, five background music systems, and multiple DJ stations, the developers of this luxury hotel had a lot of space to fill and plenty of sound inputs to share.

“Rather than treat each listening area as its own autonomous island, the goal at Virgin Hotels was to deploy a technological infrastructure that would create a fully networked audio system that can span the property and be easily configured and managed from a single, unified dashboard,” Lisa Montgomery writes for Commercial Integrator.

The team chose a Dante DSP-enabled control system to handle the work, and the installation includes products from Void Acoustics, Crestron and Xilica.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The zoo has more than 10,000 animal species and almost as many audio devices. Before construction began on this massive project, the organization had over 900 unintegrated audio points.

A Dante system with 300 speakers, 50 amplifiers and 50 wireless microphones now fills the space with sound.

“The beauty of Dante Domain Manager is that we have a core standard set of systems now that are all controlled and communicate over our existing network infrastructure. And because it’s all IP connected, we can continue to add new systems to our Dante system in a clean and simple way,” says Gregg Oosterbaan, former vice president of technology strategy at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Small Church Settings

When we share stories of Dante installations, we often focus on big spaces with plenty of challenges. While it’s true that a connected network really shines in a large space, even small venues can benefit from Dante connections.

Consider Jake Gosselin, a pastor who shares his experiences on the blog Churchfront. Dante was installed in his church, and Gosselin explains how it changed his workflows.

“Before we used Dante, we had to spend so much time on Sunday mornings connecting and setting up our complicated audio system. We were going from the USB port on the computer > audio interface > an analogue snake > our stage box > front-of-house console. Just writing it out is exhausting. But once we started using Dante, things got so much better,” he writes.

If his team needs to reconfigure setups, they can do that without running cable or digging holes. And Dante’s versatility means Gosselin can simply add components if the needs of his congregation change.

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