Dante is a new system for transmitting 64-channels of audio over standard CAT5 ethernet networks, even through GigaBit or 100bT switchers and routers. Pro Audio companies are starting to implement this format, replacing expensive protocol like MADI and AES/EBU.
Dante is a protocol designed by Audinate for transmission over standard ethernet networks. Several companies have sent digital audio over CAT5 – Sony, CobraNet, and Aviom are three examples. However, they used their own proprietary protocols that didn’t work with standard networks. Dante audio can be sent through a $60 GigaBit switch from Office Depot, giving it a huge advantage.
You don’t even need an audio interface for Dante, software called Dante Virtual Soundcard sends 64-channels of uncompressed audio over your built-in network hardware. You can run audio from a remote mic pre – or several connected through a router – to your computer 100 meters away. Its currently limited to 32-bit operating systems, but you can purchase a copy from their website now, or a 7-day trial to test for $7. It connects to ASIO (Windows) or Core Audio (Mac OS X) applications, which means every pro app should work. Supported sample rates are listed as 48k and 96k, though they have a hardware card that goes from 44.1k to 192k so maybe that is old information. A free app called Dante Controller oversees your audio routing on the network.
Some of the products that will connect to Dante today are Yamaha Digital Consoles, interfaces from Focusrite, Media Matrix and lab.Gruppen (TC). More are available from JoeCo, Allen and Heath, and EV, and their list of licensees includes almost every pro audio manufacturer. The first products are aimed at installation – CAT5 has been used for years for audio installs in stadiums and airports – but there’s no reason this can’t replace AES/EBU, ADAT, and MADI. With MIDI HD moving to Ethernet as well, and 10Gb ethernet around the corner, it looks like audio over ethernet is finally here.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Will it work on your busted old PowerBook running Logic and 10 virtual instruments? We’ll be testing this out as soon as we can.