With NAMM having just wrapped up in LA, there’s one new pro audio product announcement that may have flown under your radar. Yes, new consoles, mics, and speakers get all the attention, but sometimes something very small can be very important, and it’s not obvious at first glance. Audinate’s new Dante AVIO adapters fit squarely into this category.
Audinate’s Dante now totally dominates the Audio over IP (AoIP) market in a way no other product or protocol ever has, both in the live production and installation markets. From humble beginnings in Sydney’s Ultimo, it’s now a major global powerhouse, selling its tech to more than 350 brands to incorporate into more than 1250 products. When the first Dante enabled products came to market between 2008 and 2011, it was all the big-ticket, integral parts of the audio chain – top-end DSPs, consoles and amps. As the popularity of Dante has increased, you can now buy pretty much any kind of audio device with Dante enabled, at a wide range of price-points.
However, that still leaves millions of existing audio devices out of the network. Whether analogue or some other type of digital, the advantages of AoIP aren’t available to a lot of existing and new equipment. That’s where Audinate AVIO adapters come in.
The AVIO adapters take audio to and from analogue, AES3 or USB and put them onto the Dante network. They’re small, simple black boxes fitted with one RJ45 port to go to the Dante network and the relevant connections for the other end. There are six adapters in the AVIO range in total; one and two channel analogue ins or outs via XLR, bidirectional stereo AES3 on M and F-XLRs, and bidirectional stereo USB. They start at an eye-wateringly cheap MSRP of only $129 USD.
To say these are useful to an audio professional working in a Dante environment is an extreme understatement. The analogue input models with one or two F-XLRs are invaluable on any stage for line sources like synths or sub-mixers. The analogue outs make any rig with powered speakers a Dante rig, saving on cabling, or can make any installed PA with amps that’s just bought a new console and stage box system Dante all-the-way. With every significant digital mixer and stagebox system in all sizes and price-points already Dante enabled (or by option), there’s not a single part of the production market that should be without a few of these devices in their kit.
In digital land, the AES3 device gets any legacy professional playback and recording or processing device on and off your network. The USB adapter solves almost any problem in the world of installation, including soft-codec based collaboration and video conferencing. It also provides a two channel feed to record on any computer on the network. You can even connect mobile devices. Again, with every major DSP at the heart of any corporate, hospitality, or education install, all of those annoying requests for ‘Can we plug in our laptops or phones in this room to listen to music/talk to head office/send audio to the hall?’ are now solved with almost no time and money. Products that enable installers or administrators to say ‘Yes’ are always successful.
On the business side is where it gets really interesting. Up until now, Audinate’s business model has been to manufacture Dante chips, which it licenses and sells to brands to put in their products, and provides the software tools to make Dante work. There has only ever been one other hardware product on the market with the Audinate name on it – a 256 channel PCIe card – and even that is sold in a Yamaha and Focusrite version. Releasing its own brand of adapters could be seen as competing with its own licensees, some of which make similar products which are significantly more expensive.
Audinate can make and sell these adapters so cheaply because it doesn’t have to pay for its own licensing. There’s a strong rationale that Audinate may have said to its licensees that it will only be these products that it makes – these low value, problem solving adapters that need to be cheap as chips in order to sell. They probably also argued that anything that expands the Dante network and gets more devices incorporated is good for all its licensees, which is true, and also great for every audio pro working with AoIP systems!