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What Is AVB Audio: A Guide To Audio Networking Technology

December 7, 2023 
Last Updated on December 25, 2023

AVB, or Audio Video Bridging, is a networking technology that has revolutionized the way we manage and interact with audio and video data. Developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as a suite of standards, AVB enables precise synchronization, low latency, and high-quality streaming of audio and video across Ethernet networks. By leveraging AVB technology, your professional audio and video systems can now achieve optimal performance and reliability over a single network infrastructure.

In this article, we will explore the nuances of AVB Audio, comparing it with other prevalent audio networking technologies like Dante, unraveling its unique features, and discussing what it takes to implement it into a networked system. Our aim is to demystify AVB Audio and provide you with a clear understanding of how it fits into the larger picture of audio networking.

So, let's dive into the world of AVB Audio and discover what makes it a pivotal technology in modern audio networking.

Fundamentals Of AVB

Network switches with ethernet cables and an audio waveform representing AVB.

AVB Protocols And Standards

AVB (Audio Video Bridging) is a set of technical standards that allow for real-time audio and video transmission over Ethernet networks. AVB protocols aim to provide consistent, high-quality performance by ensuring low latency and managing bandwidth effectively. The major protocols involved in AVB include IEEE 1722 and IEEE 802.1Qat.

  • IEEE 1722: This standard defines the transport protocol you use for audio and video over Ethernet. It ensures the packetization, synchronization, and transportation of time-sensitive data.
  • IEEE 802.1Qat: Also known as the Stream Reservation Protocol (SRP), this standard helps reserve network resources to guarantee the quality of service for audio and video streams.

Other supporting protocols are the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) that provides clock synchronization and IEEE 802.1AS that offers advanced timestamping methods.

The Role Of Ethernet In AVB

Ethernet, a popular networking technology, is an integral part of AVB audio networking. One of the key benefits of using Ethernet in AVB is that it enables communication across a range of devices with diverse capabilities. Thanks to standardized protocols and continuous improvements, Ethernet's functionality has been extended to cater to the audio networking requirements.

In AVB, Ethernet serves as the foundation for transmitting audio and video data. The prioritization of time-sensitive data and efficient resource allocation are crucial for ensuring optimal performance in AVB networking. Therefore, the deployment of AVB protocols over Ethernet paves the way for high-quality, reliable connections with minimal latency.

AVB Network Configuration

Setting Up An AVB Network

To set up an AVB network, you first need to ensure that you have the necessary equipment. This includes AVB-compatible devices, AVB-compatible switches, and Ethernet cables. Next, you should plan your network topology, such as how many devices and the number of hops between them.

AVB Switch Requirement: AVB networks require AVB-compatible switches for proper operation. These switches support features like Stream Reservation Protocol (SRP) for reserving bandwith for audio streams, and Precision Time Protocol (PTP) for device synchronization.

  1. Connect Devices: Using Ethernet cables, connect your AVB-compatible devices to the AVB-compatible switch.
  2. Device Configuration: Utilize AVB Configuration and Enumeration for Media over Ethernet (AVDECC) to manage and configure your devices. This protocol helps in managing the AVB traffic and device networking.
  3. Synchronization: Ensure PTP helps in the synchronization of devices, allowing for accurate audio stream playback and recording.
  4. Optimization: Be mindful of the network traffic and optimize the number of hops between devices to minimize latency and potential data loss.
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AVB Device Configuration & Routing

To configure your AVB devices, you'll need to use AVDECC, which allows you to control and monitor AVB devices on the network. With AVDECC, you can manage the connections between devices, as well as the AVB traffic being sent and received.

Another common option for making routes is using the software provided by the AVB devices. For example, multiple Biamp Tesira Fortes will make the AVB routes for you assuming you setup the design file correctly. Overall, if the network is setup right, then device configuration and routing is a breeze!

Synchronization And Timing

Two network switches with ethernet cables between them with a clock.

Clock Synchronization Mechanisms

AVB audio relies on precise synchronization between devices in a network to ensure accurate and timely delivery of audio data. One vital aspect of AVB networks is the implementation of clock synchronization mechanisms. The primary protocol used in AVB networks is the Precision Time Protocol (PTP), specifically the IEEE 802.1AS-2020 standard, also referred to as gPTP.

In gPTP, a grandmaster clock is established within the network, and all devices synchronize their local clocks with the grandmaster. This synchronization ensures that all devices share a common time reference.

Managing Timing And Latency

When it comes to managing timing within an AVB network, several elements play crucial roles:

  • Minimum latency is achieved through the use of Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms that prioritize audio data and allocate network resources accordingly.
  • Redundancy adds reliability to the network by providing alternative paths for audio data in case of link failures.
  • Precise synchronization of all devices ensures correct timing of audio streams and enables multiple devices to work in harmony.

To help understand the critical components in AVB networks, consider the following table:

ClockCentralized time reference for all devices
StreamsAudio data transmitted between devices
TimingSynchronization of data between devices
gPTPProtocol used for precise clock synchronization
GrandmasterMaster clock providing a time reference
Quality of ServiceMechanisms for prioritizing audio data
RedundancyAlternative paths to ensure reliable data transmission

Compatibility And Interoperability

Manufacturer-Specific Implementations

Each manufacturer tends to have their own unique approach to implementing Audio Video Bridging (AVB). Popular brands such as PreSonus, MOTU, and Yamaha have developed their own AVB compatible products, including networked audio systems, mixing desks, and audio interfaces. Although AVB offers a standardized set of protocols, it is crucial to ensure that your chosen AVB equipment aligns with the specific manufacturer's implementation guidelines.

Some popular manufacturer-specific AVB implementations are:

  • PreSonus: StudioLive AVB series
  • MOTU: AVB Switch and various AVB audio interfaces
  • Yamaha: AIC128-D and AIC128 cards for CL/QL series mixing consoles

Interfacing With Non-AVB Systems

There may be instances when you need to interface your AVB system with non-AVB systems using other audio over IP (AoIP) protocols, such as Dante. While AVB and Dante are both networked audio solutions, they differ in certain aspects, and integrating them might require specific solutions or compatibility devices.

For example, to connect your AVB-based PreSonus mixing desk to a Dante-based RME audio interface, you would require a bridge or a converter device that supports both protocols.

Below is a summary of some conversion options between AVB and other popular AoIP protocols:

AVBNon-AVB ProtocolsConversion Options
 DanteAudinate Avio Adapters, Biamp Tesira EX-UBT
 Livewire+ AES67Axia xNode, Ravenna Merging Technologies NADAC
 Q-LANQSC Q-SYS Core processor

Related Article: What Is Dante Audio? The Merging Of IT And Sound

Advanced Topics In AVB

Front of house at a live sound event representing a real-world use case of AVB audio.

Network Design And Scalability

When designing your AVB network, it's crucial to consider the scalability and topology of the system. Selecting the appropriate Ethernet switch ensures optimal performance and reliability, especially for real-time audio applications such as live sound.

To achieve a scalable AVB network, consider the following factors:

  • Channels: Determine the number of audio channels you need for your network, making sure to allocate enough bandwidth for all devices connected.
  • Priority: Assign priority levels to different types of data streams, ensuring your real-time audio and video data gets priority over other non-critical data.
  • Multicast: Make use of multicast techniques to efficiently distribute audio and video streams to multiple devices simultaneously.

Moreover, AVB networks require management and setup of the IT network infrastructure to ensure proper synchronization, scheduling, reservation, and traffic shaping, all of which contribute to network reliability.

AVB In Different Applications

AVB technology is versatile and can be employed in various applications. Below is a list of where AVB is commonly used.

  • Audio Recording
  • Live Sound
  • Conferencing Systems
  • Broadcasting

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the requirements for an AVB-enabled switch?

An AVB-enabled switch should support the necessary IEEE standards, such as IEEE 802.1AS for timing and synchronization, IEEE 802.1Qat for resource reservation and traffic shaping, and IEEE 802.1Qav for queue management. Additionally, it must have sufficient bandwidth and processing capabilities to handle the audio data streams and their associated control protocols.

Can AVB audio coexist with other data on a standard Ethernet network?

Yes, AVB audio can coexist with other data on a standard Ethernet network. The AVB protocol is designed to function alongside traditional Ethernet traffic, and it intelligently manages the bandwidth allocation to prevent interference. However, it is crucial to use AVB-compatible switches and endpoints to maintain proper functionality.

What is the main limitation of AVB?

The main limitation of AVB is its network infrastructure requirements. AVB requires specific hardware, namely AVB-compatible network switches, to ensure proper data transmission and synchronization. This can lead to additional costs and complexity in setting up an AVB network, especially in environments where the existing network infrastructure does not support AVB. This requirement for specialized hardware contrasts with other protocols like Dante, which can operate over standard network infrastructures.

What is the difference between Dante and AVB?

Dante is a proprietary protocol and operates on most existing networks, offering adjustable latency settings.

AVB (Audio Video Bridging) is an open standard and requires specific AVB-compatible network switches, focusing on precise synchronization.

How many channels can you have on AVB?

The number of channels that can be transmitted over an AVB network depends on several factors, including the network's bandwidth, the audio resolution (bit depth and sample rate), and the specific capabilities of the AVB-compatible devices being used. In general, AVB is capable of handling a high number of audio channels, often in the hundreds, with precise timing and synchronization. For instance, a standard Gigabit Ethernet AVB network can typically support over 500 audio channels at 48kHz/24-bit audio quality. However, the exact capacity will vary based on the specific network setup and the requirements of the audio streams.

Final Thoughts

AVB audio is an amazing technology that offers significant benefits for so many audio applications. It enables efficient and high-quality transmission of audio data over Ethernet networks. By understanding its core principles and adopting relevant standards, you can unlock its full potential in your own audio systems.

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