Audinate's Dante AoIP (audio over IP) format is fast becoming the de facto standard for large-scale multichannel audio transport in the live-sound, multi-room studio, education, and broadcast worlds, so it comes as no surprise that the latest addition to RME's Digiface range is the Digiface Dante. This ultra-compact (170 x 84 x 26mm, 0.5kg) interface accommodates an astonishing 128 channels of audio at 48kHz sample rates — in both directions — via a USB 3 connection to a computer. This extraordinary channel count comes from a combination of 64 channels of coaxial MADI (AES10) and 64 channels of Dante (or AES67). At double or quad sample rates, up to 192kHz, the S/MUX and S/MUX 4 standards allow 64 or 32 channels each way.
The front of the elegant blue and grey box features a quartet of RJ45 sockets for the primary and secondary Dante Gigabit (100Mbit/s compatible) Ethernet connections (with loop-throughs), plus input and output BNC connectors for coaxial MADI or standard word-clock connections. An internal switch provides a 75Ω input termination, if required. There's also a standard quarter-inch headphone socket fed from an internal DSP to provide latency-free source monitoring, I/O routing and mixing, all controlled via RME's familiar TotalMix FX application (which can also be accessed via the network connection).
This ultra-compact interface accommodates an astonishing 128 channels of audio at 48kHz sample rates — in both directions.
On the rear, there's just a type-B USB 3 port and a bayonet-style coaxial locking power socket, which accepts 9-15 Volts DC. An included Class-II (double-insulated or earth-free) 'line-lump' mains PSU can supply up to 2A, but the interface can normally be bus-powered via the USB 3 connection. I say 'normally', as there are exceptions — hence the inclusion of the mains line-lump supply. RME's specification says that the unit consumes around 3W, which equates to 600mA when running on 5V bus power and is well inside the USB 3 spec. However, if running all four network connections and headphone monitoring simultaneously, the current requirement can exceed 900mA, which is the theoretical limit for a standard USB 3 socket — and may even exceed the 1.5A limit for a dedicated charging port. Interestingly, the Digiface Dante can be used in a stand–alone mode without a computer (requiring it to be powered from the line-lump supply), to serve as a bi–directional Dante/MADI format converter.
Dante compatibility is guaranteed thanks to RME's adoption of Audinate's impressive Brooklyn-II module to handle all the Ethernet interfacing and data processing. Of course, firmware for RME's own supporting electronics, as well as for the Brooklyn-II module, can be updated over USB as and when required. Installing the drivers and setting the Digiface up to communicate with an existing Dante network are both straightforward and efficient, with USB 3 ASIO buffer sizes potentially down to 32 samples. System clocking options include running the Digiface as a master for the connected system, or slaving it to Dante or MADI sources — or, if MADI is not being used, an external word-clock source.
As you'd expect of RME, the Digiface just does what it's supposed to, reliably and consistently, and I found it a very elegant and effective way of accessing a test Dante network setup from my computers.