October 8, 2007


by Chris Randall

I was reading about the new LIQUID4PRE from Focusrite (note to those self-same guys: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL!!!) and I discovered that, despite the fact that I read Mix cover-to-cover every month, there's Yet Another Digital Audio Format out there that I knew nothing about. And I was just getting my head around MADI.

This is the first product I've heard of (but obviously far from the first) to come with something called "EtherSound," which, as the name implies, 64 channels of High Falutin' Digital Audio over a CAT5 cable, with a purported 6-sample latency. Obviously, that six samples is only the EtherSound to EtherSound communication. A/D and D/A convertors generally take a little time to do their thing, so you can go ahead and add whatever that is to the final number (the Apogee Rosetta, for example, takes 4ms for a round-trip...) plus whatever you're using to turn EtherSound in to Shit That Shows Up In Your DAW is probably gonna add a couple MS, so don't let that 1.25ms latency figure go to your head.

Anywho, while this is nifty and all, it's like Blu-Ray v. HD-DVD. I don't want to buy anything 'til I know that everything can talk to everything else. But my purpose here is merely to inform, albeit with a lot of local color, so to that end, here's the EtherSound page, and I'll go get a root canal tomorrow rather than actually read technical papers on digital audio transmission. But the general idea is: CAT5 cable, 64 channels bi-directional. Whee. Now Monster can come out with a $300 EtherSound-Ready cable. Science marches on.



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Oct.08.2007 @ 2:57 AM
I heard about this back when Gibson started putting ethernet on guitar. I hadn't seen any Real Life gear that had actually implemented the spec. I figured it was something that was mainly going to be used for live sound gear; The type of thing you would find on the back of your Venue desk that you never had anything to connect to... If I were doing live sound I would find it nice to just run some cheap CAT5 instead of some massive expensive snake, all though I bet good sounding on-stage A/D offsets the savings. Plus most acts would probably have to add power strips number 37 and 38 to the chain plugged in to the one outlet on stage.

Oct.08.2007 @ 4:38 AM
I don't recall Gibson's system for guitar being EtherSound but it was a very similar system called MaGIC:

link [www.gibson.com]">link [www.gibson.com]

Specification hasn't been updated since '03 though.

Just to lob another format into the mix: /much/ more exciting than either MaGIC or EtherSound IMHO is the ongoing effort within the IEEE Audio/Video Task Group to create an Ethernet AVB (Audio Video Bridging) standard.

The idea is to add the necessary bits to existing Ethernet standard to guarantee < 2ms latency over 7 network switch hops and coexist with "normal" Ethernet traffic on the same network - Ethernet AVB compliant switches will prioritise the AV traffic over data to meet the latency requirement.

link [www.ieee802.org]">link [www.ieee802.org]

Intended applications for Ethernet AVB range from the FOH application mentioned by giantm above up to sound distribution for stadium house PA systems and all the way down to hooking up all your consumer A/V all round your house over a Cat5 network.

If it takes off (and the amount of effort being expended upon it suggests it will) the economies of scale will be such that it will almost inevitably end up being an option for studio infrastructure.

Disclaimer: Posting contains forward-looking statements that may turn out to be bollocks.


Oct.08.2007 @ 6:06 AM
Those ethernet cables are pretty popular these days.
Roland's (i mean RSS now) digital snake also has such cables and devices, Line 6 variax, internet... and all claiming to buy their special brand, lovely world.

another name:
The REAC (Roland Ethernet Audio Communication) protocol is an industry proven, low latency, high quality 24 bit/ 96 kHz audio transport protocol used by the S-1608 and S-0816.

link [www.rssamerica.co...]">link [www.rssamerica.co...]


Oct.08.2007 @ 10:47 AM
The worry is always that they drop support for the protocol, so perhaps 2 computers from now, you'll be shit out of luck and holding the bag on what looks to be a $3500 boat anchor.

Akai has not released a Universal Binary of Aksys, leaving a lot of MPC, S6000, etc., owners screwed. Tascam creates and drops formats regularly (all in one big ass workstations compatible with nothing). The same could be true of Focusrite Liquid Mix one day, but by then I'll have gotten my $600 worth (used) and then some.

Liq Mix is great as a post-processor, but I'm not really with doing DSP on the way to the DAW like Liq Channel or Liq4PRE. Plenty of time for that later.


Oct.08.2007 @ 10:50 AM
i was looking at a liquid channel this weekend (toying with changing out my voice channel yet again), but i couldnt find out if preamp disortion is possible with all the 40 models? how about overdriving the compressor/eq section?

Oct.08.2007 @ 1:37 PM
Chris Randall
Yeah, it's like the ultra-stupid open plugin format, upon which many white papers were wasted, or M-LAN, or the ridiculous REAC, as was mentioned. What it takes to be mass-adopted, like AES/EBU, VST, or MIDI, is simplicity.

These sorts of things give me hives.



Oct.08.2007 @ 2:53 PM
This smells of another, "no let's do it this way, even though it's not really any better and it would take a sh-- ton more work and material and advertising to make it popular." What's wrong with MADI? Is 48 channels or 56 or whatever ridiculous amount on TWO conductors somehow insufficient? These people.

Someone tell Focusrite that all they have to do is stop producing inferior product with a superior label. Match the guts to the skin, as it were... and they will stop failing. Sure, they won't move AS MANY units, but at least they won't have that guilt following them around as they, ahem, smoke cigars and drive Ferraris' -- as it were.


Oct.08.2007 @ 5:43 PM
Doesn't the receptor transmit over an ethernet cable?

But open plugin format ultra-stupid? Really? Granted I'm not a developer, but it seems to me a good idea. Theoretically at least. I would think y'all would want to code to one cross-platform spec and be done with. It seems to me that with Stein holding all the cards with VST that a future of disaster is a lot more likely. Say they sell out to, oh, Gibson, who then proceeds to crack down on and squander the IP. Of couse, I see the nightmare of getting all interested parties to agree on how it would work, since the days of MIDI are long over. But in my beautiful lala land, a solid open-source plugin format that has some deep foundation money behind it sounds pretty cool.

But what do I know.


Oct.08.2007 @ 6:53 PM
MADI is really expensive to implement. There are a bunch of other ethernet audio formats. Yamaha sells something like three cards with Ethernet jacks for their digital mixers to speak different enet-based audio. Let's see, Cobranet, Smaart, HiQ Net, Sony has two (!!!) really cool ones I can't remember now, etc. I really think that ethernet-based audio is the future. I wish AES would do something other than collect checks and bless one of the winners, making it open source or whatever. Because manufacturers don't want to hop on to a standard until one is chosen (at least one's I've worked for).


Oct.08.2007 @ 7:06 PM
Chris Randall
(A) There's no "deep foundation money." It was a pipe dream initially passed around by a bunch of developers (not us) who thought that the VST and AU specs weren't complicated enough.

(B) Steinberg, MOTU, and Apple wouldn't be on board, no matter what, so any open plugin format is relegated to second (and third and fourth) tier hosts. Financially, this is stupid, for the same reason that Audio Damage doesn't release LADSPA format plugins.

(B) Steinberg won't "sell out to Gibson" because they're owned by Yamaha, a company that could buy Gibson 20 times over, and still have room left for, say, Fender.

While group hugs are nice and all, open source very rarely gets you Firefox.



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