AVB – A bridge to the future?9 April 2010
Last month’s ISE exhibition confirmed the groundswell of interest in the emerging AVB audio and video transmission standards through a clutch of associated product developments from Meyer Sound and a revealing panel session masterminded by AVB-endorsing industry forum the AVnu Alliance.
For anyone who has so far failed to read up on this fast-moving area of technology, audio-video bridging (AVB) is the collective name for an emerging set of standards intended to enable the high-quality delivery of audio and video streams. With AVB, the transmission of audio and video streams can be synchronised within a microsecond of each other, resulting in low delay and minimal lost data due to network congestion.
In anticipation of a comprehensive compliance and certification programme – more of which anon – Meyer Sound underlined its belief in the potential popularity of AVB by unveiling two related product developments at ISE 2010. Due for launch in December, the CAL self-powered steerable column array loudspeakers offer extensive beam-steering capabilities – the vertical beam may be angled up or down 30˚ and can be configured with vertical beam widths from 5-6o˚ – and employ AVB to achieve the necessary vertical coverage pattern and complete system monitoring.
John McMahon, executive director, digital products at Meyer Sound, tells PSNE: "CAL represents our first loudspeaker product with AVB and this feature will have the great benefit of networked audio, control and monitoring. CAL will be controlled by our intuitive control software, while audio inputs can be driven by the D-Mitri digital audio platform; our next-generation RMS remote-monitoring system will provide real-time performance information."
Accomplishing all of these tasks over a single network connection is, he says, "unprecedented", although CAL may also be configured to receive analogue audio or AES/EBU streams and operate without the network if required.
While CAL is oriented towards voice reproduction in fixed installs, D-Mitri looks set to find its way into a wider range of applications – from large-scale productions and corporate events, to houses of worship and cruise ships.
The latest stage in Meyer’s digital odyssey that has already yielded the Galileo loudspeaker management system and the Constellation electroacoustic architecture, D-Mitri is a Gigabit network-based digital audio processing and distribution platform that will provide the "future foundation" of the company’s new digital products. Encompassing network technology, a family of processing and input/output devices, a suite of signal processing firmware and control software, D-Mitri is set for full availability in June.
"The significant evolution in D-Mitri is that we are using both quad core processors and FPGAs [field-programmable gate arrays] for our signal processing. This ensures that the signal processing algorithms are able to operate as efficiently as possible," explains McMahon.
It is also an approach with one eye firmly on the future given that it will allow Meyer "to implement new features quickly on the quad core and eventually migrate them to the parallel FPGAs when the features mature".
Along with 64-bit floating-point processing resolution, D-Mitri offers real-time operation. There are particular implications here for Constellation, with McMahon noting that the electro-acoustic architecture will benefit from the "very high-definition" acoustic algorithms resulting from the new nanosecond resolution delays.
Away from the tradeshow floor – where Meyer Sound also spotlighted self-powered loudspeaker products such as the UP-4XP ultracompact loudspeaker, MM-4XPD directional miniature loudspeaker and MM-10 miniature subwoofer – McMahon participated in an AVnu Alliance session that aimed to give a concise explanation of AVB’s principles, benefits and possible future. Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Harman International, Intel Corporation, Samsung and Xilinx are among Meyer’s fellow AVnu Alliance members, with the four latest additions – Shure, Analog Devices, Pelago Corp and Barco – announced at ISE.
In addition to discussing the Alliance’s expanding scope, the session delineated a roadmap for AVB that should produce core standards and a full compliance/certification programme within the next 12-18 months. (Indeed, the first of the core standards – IEEE 802.1Qav, which defines forwarding and queuing for time-sensitive streams – was ratified and published by the IEEE in mid-January.)
In the meantime, McMahon says that the AVnu Alliance will continue to grow its member base and spread the word at trade events including Prolight + Sound, NAB and InfoComm. He also expects related product developments from "more than a handful of manufacturers" during the next year or so.
As to what all this ongoing activity means for Meyer Sound’s own product development strategy, McMahon says that the company is set on "incorporating AVB into our new product designs or, at least, providing provisions to allow an upgrade path to accommodate AVB in the future. Networked systems are an important part of our future product development plans, so the emergence of the AVB standard comes at an ideal time for Meyer Sound."