RME deliver affordable and reliable Audio over IP with two new boxes.
Audio over IP (AoIP) is becoming the standard way of transferring high numbers of audio channels between equipment and locations using low‑cost Ethernet cabling and infrastructure, supplanting MADI as the large multi‑channel interface of choice, particularly in the live‑sound and broadcast worlds. However, most of the advanced AoIP formats — like Dante, Q‑Lan, Livewire and Ravenna — are proprietary, and therefore inherently costly for both product manufacturers and end‑users.
The AVB format, in contrast, is essentially built upon a collection of open‑source extensions to the IEEE Ethernet standards, and that makes the format very attractive for product manufacturers and more cost‑effective for small‑scale installations. Although AVB is technically a ‘Layer‑2’ system (along with the likes of CobraNet, SoundGrid, EtherSound and ACE), it shouldn’t be thought of as inferior or the poor relation to Layer‑3 systems like Dante and Ravenna. In RME’s implementation, an AVB connection is capable of passing 128 separate audio channels in each direction; it supports standard, double and quad sample rates; and it guarantees a fixed network latency of typically just 2ms, although in smaller setups it can be configured to be as low as 0.3ms!
Recognising the growing interest in and practical attractiveness of the AVB format, RME have recently expanded their product range with a number of new AVB‑equipped interfaces. These latest AVB additions comprise the AVB Tool, the Digiface AVB, and the 12Mic preamp. The AVB Tool is a four‑channel preamp with built‑in AVB and MADI interfacing, and the ability to route signals between them. The Digiface AVB, like other Digiface units, is a simple digital interface, in this case providing a convenient means of connecting a computer to an AVB network to send and receive audio channels. It also serves as a controller to configure and manage signal routing across the network. Both of these products are reviewed here. The 12Mic is, as the name implies, a 12‑channel mic preamp which is digitally controlled and features AVB, MADI and ADAT interfacing (you can read our review of it in next month’s SOS). For completeness, RME also produce the M‑32 Pro and M‑1610 Pro multichannel A‑D and D‑A converters, which are also equipped with MADI and AVB interfaces.
The Digiface AVB sits in RME’s product range alongside the Digiface Dante and Digiface USB (ADAT) interfaces, providing neat and simple digital‑format computer audio interfacing. Mac owners might be wondering if the Digiface AVB is necessary given that Apple’s latest Mac OS has included support for the AVB format via the computer’s own Ethernet connections since El Capitan. However, there are currently some questions over this facility’s compatibility, and AVB hasn’t yet been integrated into the Windows OS. Consequently, RME’s new Digiface AVB provides a universal, reliable and convenient AVB network connection for both platforms, hooking into the computer via USB 3.0. It is compatible with Mac OS 10.11 upwards and Windows 7 onwards, and comes with RME’s legendary rock‑solid drivers as well as TotalMix low‑latency monitoring software for real‑time signal mixing and routing, and the very handy Digicheck audio analysis utility software. Usefully, TotalMix can now be remote‑controlled via any iOS device, Mac or PC on the same network, or via RME’s own ARC USB hardware remote.
Physically, the Digiface AVB’s grey and black folded‑steel case measures just 112 x 26 x 83 mm and weighs only 300g — about the size and weight of a pack of playing cards! At the rear is a ‘double‑decker’ USB 3.0 B‑type socket for connection to the computer, and this is also the only means of powering the Digiface unit, drawing up to 400mA and consuming around 1.5W of power. A suitable 1.8‑metre USB 3.0 (A‑B) cable is supplied.
The front of the unit carries a single RJ45 socket for the AVB network connection (100Mb/s or 1Gb/s), a pair of BNCs for...