RedNet - What is Networked Audio

The Way We Were

The way in which we interconnect audio equipment has hardly changed since the early days of the technology. Each audio path is represented by a single cable that runs from one piece of equipment to the next. In modern telecommunications parlance, the logical and physical paths are the same: one cable equals one channel. Signals are routed via individual copper cables, and implementing unplanned – or even planned – changes in a system, such as moving or adding channel capability, can result in extreme expense, time and effort.

Digital Networking Changes All That

The advent of digital networking means the removal of much of that time, effort and expense, by separating a system’s physical and logical connections. A single network cable carries multiple channels, thus making it possible to make infrastructure changes relatively cheaply, quickly and inexpensively, and without the requirement for major building changes and works. At one end of the network, a single connection is made to the music workstation(s) that will be used to work with the audio. At other points on the network, a single Ethernet-style Cat 5 cable connects each interface, which can provide multiple analogue and/or digital I/O wherever they are required. Multiple analogue cable runs and expensive, heavy multiway cables are things of the past as multiple channels are carried digitally between locations.

The most popular method of carrying these digital audio signals across the network is IP (Internet Protocol) over Ethernet, using standard industry switches, cabling, sockets, connectors and other hardware.

"The most important thing to understand about RedNet is the power of the Dante audio networking protocal, which in our opinion is superior to othe Ethernet based audio systems."

Oskar Skaag,
ARCADA - UNiversity of Applied Sciences, Finland

Dante: The Next Generation

Dante, developed by Australian company Audinate, is a tried and tested ultra-low-latency digital audio networking system based on Ethernet and IP technology – implementations of internationally-agreed standards. Dante networks have been used in the live sound industry for several years. Dante allows a network built using standard 100Mb/s or Gigabit Ethernet components and technology, to be used to carry hundreds of channels of bidirectional, high-definition digital audio – even if that network is already being used for ordinary data traffic. Increasingly, installation environments include Ethernet wiring, making installing a network even easier. Even when new infrastructure is required, installation costs are reduced dramatically. It also becomes possible to set up robust temporary installations, such as for live events or to record a performance in an unusual environment. Suddenly, audio can be made available anywhere it is required, capturing or relaying a live performance or distributing audio to previously hard-to-reach or prohibitively expensive locations.

Zero hassle, Zero Configuration

Setting up and configuring the network is easy too, thanks to Dante. Standard Ethernet wiring dramatically reduces physical installation cost, complexity and long-term expenditure. Interfaces are recognised automatically by the network as soon as they are plugged in; patching and routing becomes a matter of clicking matrix crosspoints on a screen.

Dante’s zero-configuration system means that almost anyone can install and update it. There’s no need for networking experts to configure the components; you don’t need to set up DHCP or DNS, or remember MAC or IP addresses – it’s all done automatically. Just plug in a device and it’s recognised and the I/O becomes available. Give descriptive labels to devices, inputs and outputs and they will stay with the device, so you can move it and reinstall it without worrying you won’t find it on the network. Overall, Dante makes signal distribution more flexible, cost-effective and user-friendly.

"There was no configuration, there was no learning timeframe; it just plugged in and worked. It did everything we hoped it would do."

Dennis Sands,
Film Scoring Mixer - Forest Gump, Good Will Hunting, Spiderman

Dante and RedNet

RedNet is Focusrite’s range of interfaces for the Dante network. Coupling the tried and tested Dante network to Focusrite’s enviable audio heritage, RedNet offers a growing number of interfaces and bridges that link analogue and digital I/O – along with additional complex audio topologies like MADI and Pro Tools – to the Dante network. No combination could offer better functionality, ease of use or audio quality.

The expanding RedNet range includes a series of analogue/digital audio interfaces operating at line level, or using Focusrite’s highest quality remote-controlled microphone preamps , allowing gain and other parameters to be adjusted on the fly from the DAW system. In addition, RedNet bridges allow multichannel MADI or AES systems to be linked inexpensively into a Dante network, or RedNet interfaces to be used seamlessly in conjunction with a range of current Pro Tools HD systems , for maximum flexibility. In addition, the RedNet PCIe card allows minimum latency connection of a Dante network to a wide range of DAW systems, while the Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS) allows any computer, even a laptop, to be used to send and receive audio from a Dante network.

The Benefits of Networked Audio Using RedNet/Dante

Using RedNet interfaces with a Dante network brings a whole string of benefits that traditional audio interconnection topologies simply can’t even approach.

Significant infrastructure savings

No more heavy, expensive copper analogue multiways

True plug-and-play technology

Self-discovering, self-configuring audio networking using standard Internet Protocol

Superb reliability

Dante has been tried and tested, initially in the live sound industry, for years. It’s known for its reliability, with complex systems not dropping even a single sample over extended periods

Simple to install

No special knowledge is required to install a complex multi-channel digital audio system covering multiple locations and activities

Multiple applications across the same network

Integrate audio networking into an existing network if required

Adding channels doesn’t add cables

Just plug an Ethernet cable into another interface

Add or remove components instantly

The network knows immediately and reconfigures

One cable, many channels

A single Ethernet cable carries many hundreds of channels of high-definition audio

Mixed sample rates and bit-depths

One network can carry any combination of digital signals irrespective of sample rates and bit depths.

Multiple sources and destinations

Record the same sources on different machines at once. Or record certain sources on one system while recording others elsewhere… all on one network

Enhanced audio quality

No more hum, ground loops or loss of quality over long cable runs. Superb-quality Focusrite interfaces ensure maximum audio quality, analogue or digital, in or out

Full Dante Interoperability

Focusrite’s RedNet components are fully-compatible with any Dante audio component or network. Mix and match as features and facilities require.

Routing and patching

Handled by software you control from your desk

Remote control via the network

As well as carrying audio, the network lets you remote-control audio interface parameters like mic pre gain

Simple to Install

Use standard, widely available IT industry hardware and cabling for lower installation and maintenance cost at every point in the chain

Sample-accurate playback synchronisation

All devices are synchronized at all times, with minimal jitter

Low Latency

Lowest latency available from any networking technology

AVB-Ready

Dante is ready for the introduction of Audio Video Bridging (AVB) , the set of IEEE technical standards for time-synchonised low-latency audio services over Ethernet