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Change Agent: AVB And Its Potential Impact On Sound Design

The era of fractured, proprietary networking formats will soon be a thing of the past

By Ellen Juhlin November 14, 2012

Live sound system designers are faced with many choices, and designing a system with digital audio networking often makes those decisions even more complex.

The open AVB standards created by the IEEE have the potential to simplify these choices by removing the transport mechanism from the equation when it comes to choosing equipment.

The AVnu Alliance is taking things one step further by providing a certification program and logo for devices that support the AVB standards. Let’s take a look at how these will change distribution for live sound, not just in the design phase, but in installation and troubleshooting, as well.

The first major change is the addition of a clear indication that an audio device correctly supports the AVB standards, [in the form of] the AVnu “N” logo. This logo shows not only that the manufacturer has implemented the AVB standards in that device, along with some additional AVnu-specific requirements to ensure interoperability with other AVnu-certified devices, but also that the device has been tested and certified at a neutral third-party test facility.

This represents a significant development in an industry that currently has very few standards certification programs, outside of electrical and safety standards required by federal law. While cinema sound has THX certification for both products and venues, and many live sound products already implement a number of relevant standards (including those created by standards organizations, as well as less formal “industry standards”), the AVnu Alliance is the first to create a formal certification program.

So, if we’ve gone this long without it, why do we need certification now? As anyone who’s worked in product design knows, simplicity on the surface often comes at the expense of complexity and advanced automation under the hood. And as networks and computerized systems become more complex, it becomes more likely that a stated requirement could be interpreted differently, or implemented in two different products in such a way that makes them mutually incompatible.

In order for professionals and consumers alike to benefit instantly from successful AVB networks, it’s vital that each product is compatible with other manufacturers’ products on the market, along with future products that haven’t even been invented yet. Certification provides an extra layer of verification to keep everyone on the same page.

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