Recently, a friend asked me to give him five advantages that IP-Audio (or AoIP, if you prefer) has over other, older technologies. Just five?! I had to do some head scratching and significant paring-down, but was eventually able to come up with a manageable list. So here they are, in no particular order:
- Cost. AoIP systems typically cost significantly less than their analog or TDM counterparts. One reason for this is that analog systems are full-custom in nature, and TDM systems are semi-custom, using proprietary hardware designs. AoIP uses off-the-shelf Ethernet switches as a router backbone, significantly decreasing out-of-pocket costs. Newer AoIP consoles from Axia even have the network switch built-in, saving even more money.
- Easy expandability. Since AoIP runs over Ethernet, it's naturally scalable -- like Ethernet. With TDM, once you run out of inputs or room in the card cage, you have to purchase another cage with more input cards. If you run out of room with analog, you need to pull more cables, crimp more connectors and add more punch-blocks. Both of these routes can be very pricey.
- Native interface with computer audio systems. Computers have network cards to send data over Ethernet. Audio is data in an AoIP network. So computers can stream audio, control and PAD, all combined in a single stream, directly out their NIC to AoIP networks. The pro sound cards other systems rely on are expensive, and can't embed logic and data with the audio stream.
- Signal density. A CAT-6 using Gigabit can carry 250 bi-directional stereo signals per link. 'Nuff said.
- De-centralized networks. TDM is typically a star-shaped system. Audio at the far end needs home runs to get to the card cage, and then back out to the studios. That's a big central point of failure. Analog systems are often a big bowl of spaghetti - wires running everywhere, usually with little to no documentation as changes are made over the course of time. AoIP systems, on the other hand, can be assembled in any Ethernet topology - star, ring, combo - with redundant links that allow the network to be self-healing, minimizing choke points and failure possibilities.