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Understanding the Implications of AES67 and Livewire+ AES67 on the AoIP Market

Posted by Dave Sarkies on Jul 25, 2017 4:46:53 PM

As the use of Audio over IP (AoIP) began to grow and evolve, the Audio Engineering Society recognized the need for interoperability and standardization between professional AoIP devices using different networking protocols. The Telos Alliance was a charter member of the AES X.192 Working Group and collaborated with other member companies to help define the AES67 standard in 2013. 

During that process, the Telos Alliance freely made available parts of its patented technology to help speed development of the standard. Much of the company’s current Livewire+ AES67 protocol is the basis for AES67, and you might say that AES67 has Livewire+ in its DNA. Since then, this standard has been widely adopted among AoIP equipment manufacturers and is helping engineers develop and implement new AoIP-based systems and solutions.

On its own, the AES67 standard allows AoIP devices to work together if they are AES67 compatible. This stands in contrast to full AES67 compliance, which means a device must meet every aspect of the standard and, accordingly, provides the highest possible functionality.

The easiest path to interoperability is simply picking solutions from one AoIP manufacturer and creating a system entirely of their products. However, few AoIP manufacturers make all of the elements and unique solutions required for an entire broadcast audio system. The AES67 standard makes it possible for engineers to connect every part of their AoIP network regardless of who manufactured each component and has proven its robustness, reliability, and ability to deliver high quality audio in real-world broadcast applications around the world.

The AES67 standard outlines certain technical specifications to ensure some degree of product interoperability. For example, while a variety of sample frequencies, resolutions, and latency values are permitted, a device must minimally support linear PCM audio with a sample frequency of 48kHz, a resolution of 24 bits, and packet latency of 1 millisecond.

Capabilities and features such as device discovery or an over-arching control protocol are not part of the AES67 standard, a deliberate choice. Rather, these components were intentionally left to other AES working groups so as to retain focus on the crucial aspect of audio transport interoperability. Fortunately, a variety of control and discovery applications are now available with more on the horizon for standalone AoIP solutions.

Though AES67 is a good start toward interoperability, the specification is actually a subset of the many functions the Telos Alliance created in the early 2000’s.  Livewire (and later Livewire+) protocols were created simply because a full standard did not yet exist. For example, it was the Telos Alliance who developed a way to make GPIO logic “ride along” with the audio streams, creating a way for available sources to “advertise” their availability to all networked devices.

The Telos Alliance also recruited technology partner companies whose products are respected and widely used in the radio industry and shared Livewire with them. This allowed station engineers to connect as many audio devices as possible directly to their audio network which increased flexibility and reduced total system costs.

The initial goal was to make every piece of studio audio gear a networked device that could share its audio with other devices on the network, but along with shared audio came a whole world of other functionality that broadcasters have since come to expect.  Device start/stop functions, monitor mutes, on-air tallies, the ability to control peripherals from the console, knowing when an audio source is live and ready for air, and the ability for playout systems to control fader on/off functions are now standard fare. These are all functions that AES67 alone doesn’t provide but Livewire+ AES67 does. With more than 70,000 compatible Livewire+ AES67 devices already deployed in over 7,000 studios worldwide, broadcasters can implement better AoIP solutions with integrated control.

The wide implementation of the AES67 protocol and now Livewire+ AES67 is a smart business choice for customers and has brought manufacturers together to create networkable solutions across multiple brands.  AoIP has long been embraced by radio broadcasters and is quickly becoming more widely implemented in production and television environments through protocols such as Dante, Livewire, Q-Lan, and Ravenna. All promise Livewire+ AES67 compatibility, proving that networked audio can deliver on the promise of large-scale interoperability between a multitude of networked devices.  

Having a broad AoIP solution like Livewire+ AES67 also provides a great opportunity for manufacturers to create audio solutions that add unique value. The ability to “mix and match” products is a boon to vendors, integrators, and end users alike. Every audio system has specific requirements, and the Livewire+ AES67 protocol ensures that every device essential to building and operating a particular system will seamlessly work together to satisfy each customer’s needs.

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