The CAT-5 empire as Ethernet makes it in the live music scene

The humble Ethernet cable could be the solution to the cost and complexity of cables in the live music scene

The humble blue Ethernet wiring could be the solution to the cost and complexity of cables in the live music scene, thanks to researchers from the Digital Audio Networking project at National ICT Australia (NICTA).

In the traditional live sound system, point-to-point copper cables run between a mixing desk and individual sound sources. Typical set ups involve multiple sources, such as guitars, percussion and vocals, and hence require what could very easily become a mess of copper cables.

And there is also the issue of "noise" caused by the degradation of an analog audio signal in copper. As such, cables are usually grouped in heavily shielded audio snakes, which can cost around $100 per metre.

"Copper is bulky, cumbersome and fragile," said John Judge, NICTA's senior research engineer on the project. "It's all very last century."

NICTA's design sidesteps the need for multiple cables and shielding by transporting audio signals between sound sources and the mixing desk in digital form. Audio signals are passed through analog to digital converters at the source, which convert audio samples into byte form that may be sent as network packets through a standard CAT-5 cable.

At the mixing desk, digital signals are converted back to analog form via digital to analog converters. In the future, however, researchers expect the technology to allow sounds to be mixed on a computer, thus eliminating the need for a second conversion, and further reducing costs.

Audio to digital converters have been around for some time, Judge explained, citing the microphone input of a computer's sound card as an example. So, for NICTA engineers, it was all simply a matter of utilizing existing convertors and creating the technology to interface with standard computer networks.

Besides the interface boxes that were designed as converters, all other components of the system are off-the-shelf networking hardware. As each source may be treated as a node on the network, a single Ethernet cable is able to deliver multitracked, uncompressed data to the mixing desk.

The most challenging problem the engineers had to face was network latency: slight delays in converting audio streams from analog to digital and back could put the sounds out of synchronisation with the live performance. It took two years of research for a method of getting the delay below a two-millisecond threshold to be invented.

So how did researchers overcome the delay? "We were creative," Judge said, cryptically.

The technology will soon be commercialised by a spin-off company named Audinate. So far, Judge said, "a range of companies across the professional audio spectrum" have expressed interest in the technology.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Liz Tay

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?