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The first time I worked on a computer that was part of a network I have to admit to thinking it was something akin to magic and that’s probably why the wonder was soon tainted by a dose of suspicion. The suspicion centred around the security of my machine from others on the network all of which were connected by thin cables the most undistinguished and delicate-looking plugs, at least for someone who appreciated the value on an XLR. Networking in the home and office environment is now taken for granted or not appreciated at all, mostly because not every one even knows that they are networked. It’s become part of the fabric of society – new-build homes I hear are sometimes even prewired for it.
Networking in the office (and the home) is a classic example of technology being adopted widely without any push from front-line marketing and baloney; it’s take up has been steady and without resistance simply because it’s just such a good idea and, anyway, why wouldn’t you?
This is why it is so strange that the professional audio universe has taken so long to develop and adopt a smart and slick version for its own purposes. Even a lightly supercharged version of the domestic equivalent at least in the beginning would have been smart but instead we created a series of islands. Energy was applied to methods of fast point-to-point interconnect that enable vast channel counts to fly around or it was funnelled into brand-specific solutions that encouraged the building of bridges between those islands.
It remains a peculiar fact that the level of interoperability that is common in the office is lacking from most music recording setups despite the pivotal use of computers in that world. If this suggests anything it’s that workarounds remain an important part of the job description – something broadcasters know all about.
Often it’s the benefits in convenience and transparency to the working process that is majored on for selling networking but there are also massive savings to be had from it. At the core of all the networking initiatives -- and what keeps minds focused on the definitive goal of an open ‘standard’ -- is the prospect of a technology that unlocks system creativity while at the same time saving a packet on not duplicating hardware. Planned properly and implemented sensibly and safely, a heavy-duty broadcast network for an event or a facility will operate as one but not necessarily with all the hardware in the same place. Once that element of distance is introduced we very quickly approach the elusive and ultimate goal of remote working. Audio networking is the key to our future.
Zenon Schoepe, Executive Editor