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AVB and What Else?

Aug 13, 2012 3:11 PM, By Bruce Borgerson

Forecasting the Future of Audio Networking


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After years of gestation in IEEE meetings and papers, Audio Video Bridging (AVB) is making the transition from engineering consensus to hardware reality. This standards-based specification for synchronized, low-latency networked transmission of streaming media has been hailed as the Holy Grail—or, perhaps more appropriately, the Rosetta Stone—of AV networking. Incorporating additional Layer 2 timing and routing protocols for improved synchronization, AVB also promises interoperability of devices from multiple manufacturers without relying on prepackaged networking solutions from third-party suppliers.

The long-term outlook indeed looks promising. AVB has garnered broad support through the efforts of the AVnu Alliance, an umbrella entity that supports the AVB standards and supervises certification of interoperability among devices from various manufacturers. The AVnu Alliance currently lists 45 companies onboard, representing not only professional AV suppliers but also IT heavyweights like Cisco, Intel, and Texas Instruments.

But what does this mean for consultants and systems integrators already looking at networking solutions five or even 10 years down the road? Will AVB-compliant solutions dominate the industry? Or will proven proprietary solutions still hold large shares of the market with guaranteed interoperability and one-source support?

Frankly, the crystal ball is foggy. To gain a measure of clarity, Sound & Video Contractor queried some major players among audio manufacturers, since these hardware makers will determine in large part what options will be available. Participants are Matt Czyzewski, executive vice president of operations at Biamp Systems; John McMahon, executive director of digital products at Meyer Sound; Klas Dalbjorn, product research manager at Lab.gruppen /Lake (part of the TC Group); Richard Zwiebel, vice president systems strategy at QSC Audio; and Steve Seable, systems design engineer at Yamaha. Lee Minich, president of Lab X Technologies, was invited to comment on behalf of AVnu, where he serves as marketing work group chair. All companies except QSC have signed on to the AVnu Alliance.

AVB: A HARDWARE REALITY

At least one thing is clear: AVB has arrived, with the first wave of products now in operation.

“In May we started shipping our Tesira product, which uses AVB as the audio transport protocol,” says Biamp Systems’ Czyzewski. “We have extensive plans for the future, with a road map for Tesira that goes out at least five years and spans a wide range of AV applications.”

Meyer Sound is currently offering its AVB-enabled D-Mitri digital audio platform and CAL column array loudspeakers, according to John McMahon. “We plan on rolling out AVB across our entire product line in a structured fashion, with a focus on the installation market first, and then touring,” he says.

And the future looks promising, as more companies support the technology and debut AVB-enabled products. “There’s a momentum established from having not just AV product manufacturers but also chip manufacturers come on board,” Czyzewski says. “They get interested when they see a wider marketplace developing.”

Klas Dalbjorn of Lab.gruppen acknowledges the long-term potential. “In a five-year perspective, the cost of adding AVB to a product will be low enough to incorporate it into products that do not now offer networking.”

Not surprisingly, AVnu spokesperson Lee Minich agrees with that assessment and predicts it will lead to AVB dominance well within a short span. “If I had to look into my crystal ball, I’d say that AVB will have 70 to 80 percent of the audio market in five years. That’s primarily because the number of networked systems will grow exponentially in that time frame.”



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