Networked Audio FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions

Networked A/V

Why should I care about Audio over Ethernet, again?
Take a look at our Networked A/V Overview. Spoiler alert: AoE saves a boatload of money on decreased cable, reduced labor and equipment costs, your system becomes much more flexible and extendible, the sound quality is better, installation is a lot less painful, and more and more customers are looking for networked audio experts. Best of all, there are a range of cost-effective products that make it tenable to use Networked audio even on mid-sized and small-scale venues. At the very least, it's worth taking a serious look.

Dante

Can I use Dante over WiFi?
Nope. It's half-duplex nature and packet timing inconsistencies create problems for audio transfers and system clocks resulting in anything from unwanted clicks and pops in the audio to no audio at all.

Does Dante need a whole dedicated network to itself?
No, you can have it share the pipe with a regular network. If you do share, be sure to use some kind of QoS, or segregate the audio into a virtual LAN. The two systems can absolutely co-exist on the same infrastructure, but be wise about it.

Okay, so I can just throw it onto an existing, shared network?
Well, don't just blindly merge the audio traffic into an existing data LAN, that will almost certainly end in tears. The preferred method is to set up a VLAN, keep your audio data separate, and use any available QoS settings to control the flow and prioritize data.

Is Dante the same as AVB? How are the two related?
AVB is a standard developed through the IEEE, for transmitting multimedia signals over a network. It's basically a collaboration between all of the major players in the A/V industry to come up with a single set of protocol rules for our devices, and to ensure interoperability between devices.

Audinate, the folks who invented and maintain Dante, have been active in the development and promotion of the new AVB standard. AVB is a brand new system that was only finalized recently. In the shorter term, Dante has already picked up a sizable product ecosystem that makes it more a strong successor for CobraNet.

Does CobraNet work together with Dante?
Nope.

Is there a trade-off between how many channels I can send and how much latency it creates?
Yes, more channels means more latency. The data isn't sent any less efficiently, but it will take longer for the device to actually gather those packets in capture and to unpack them for playback.

Can I manually choose how many samples are sent per packet?
No, that's automatic. But you really don't need to; you can just set the latency as needed for your specific application.

CobraNet

How far can I run a CobraNet line?
As far as you can run an Ethernet data line. So, by spec, that's 100 meters for a copper UTP. Go with fiber, and you can jack the distance up to a couple kilometers. Not too shabby. Mind you, that's just how far you can take a single run. At the end of a 100 meters, you could also throw on another switch, and voila: another 100 meters.

How's latency on CobraNet?
CobraNet systems (like all other Audio over Ethernet systems) have a non-zero delay, or latency, when they deliver an audio or video signal. This latency can be set to 1.33mS, 2.66mS, or 5.33mS, and the latency value is fixed and applies to the entire system. Any latency associated with analog to digital conversion or DSP signal processing, of course, adds to the basic transport latency. However, in almost all cases the total system delay is less than 10mS. For the vast majority of venues, from small to large, 10mS of transport latency plus processing delay is perfectly acceptable.

Can I send the signal across a WiFi network?
Nope. First, you just don't have the consistency you need with a wireless signal. But even if WiFi weren't prone to signal interference, QoS issues, and drop-outs, you'd still have the problem that it's higher latency and a half-duplex technology.

I guess I can't stream it over the Internet, then either.
No way. The Internet has way too many hops, bottlenecks and detours for it to work with truly live audio.

Think of it this way: higher-functioning protocols are like a post office, but CobraNet is like an unbridled river. The post office wants to make sure that your precious letters get to the correct address, no matter how long it takes. CobraNet is more of an unbridled river. That data is movin' just as fast as it can, and if you miss it then there's more where that came from. There's no faster way to get the audio to you, but this ride is on rails and you'll need to formally reconfigure if you want to change its destination.

Of course, you can use a mac or PC to play MP3s, video, etc., and send that live-from-the-computer audio into the network. It just so happens, we've got a USB sound card that does just that, so you can connect your computer directly to a CobraNet system.

Can I at least share the CobraNet with an existing data network?
Yes, but be careful! The key thing is to make sure that you're not losing data on the way to the receiving device. If you can swing that on an existing network, then have at it.

The most common way we see a shared setup is by setting up a VLAN that walls off the regular traffic.

As a rule, we recommend against mixing CobraNet and LAN data. The always-on demand of live A/V has a way of clogging up your pipes, and your users start getting mad when their connection slows to a crawl. Or worse, something goes awry, and now you're hearing audible blips because of dropped packets. If you have a dedicated system, that won't be a problem.

What is that OSI level-2 stuff, again?
Think "software version of a physical cable." OSI is a way of describing the complexity of an electronic communication technology. At a low level like OSI-2, it's a dedicated path defined between two points, which ensures that data doesn't get caught up in traffic during its morning commute or isn't late because it stopped for donuts. For live audio, you need that kind of dedicated path, otherwise you'll notice a delay between the lips moving and the sound coming out.

If the technology were a higher OSI level, you'd get more options for playing along with other technologies, and new ways to slice and dice your data. Higher OSI tech is more adaptable, so it can do cool things like self-configure and overcome network congestion. And, as technologies like Dante have matured, we've found ways to make sure that audio still has guaranteed on-time delivery.

Can I send video over CobraNet, too?
Yes, it's doable, but not through the audio-specific equipment that is already on the market. CobraNet is, all said and done, just a transfer protocol. So, it could carry video just as easily as it could carry audio (of course, video would take more bandwidth).

As you can imagine, video over CobraNet would be a pretty useful trick. For example, a stadium would already have its audio coursing over a network, so if you could piggyback video onto that signal, you'd have a central command center that controls everything, and no secondary lines run for the picture. There are tons of other applications that'd be helpful for, such as residential A/V, but like we said, it'd take specialized equipment.

By the way, if you're a manufacturer who's actually interested in taking a look at video over Ethernet, give us a ring. We've got the mojo to help you take your ideas and make them into reality, especially if you're talking about CobraNet.

Anything else?
Fun fact: The "cobra" part doesn't have anything to do with snakes. It's a reference to the original Shelby Cobra 289 racer, a GT-class hot-rod that tore up the international race tracks and established American engineering as the last word in muscle cars. What more do you need to know, right?