DANTE: Introduction and Overview
By Nicholas Clarke – Senior Director, Global Engineering, Harman Luxury Audio Group
What is DANTE?
For many people, this is likely to be their first question – DANTE (or Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet) is a multi-channel, low latency method of transporting multiple channels of audio digitally over a standard Ethernet network.
What is it doing on a JBL Synthesis AVR?
DANTE is more normally used to transmit audio over long distances, typically in large auditoriums so what is it doing on an AVR? As channel counts in AVRs have gone up this has resulted in an increase in the number of analogue connections that are required between an AV pre-pro and the associated power amps. Not only is this time-consuming and expensive, but adds to the chance of a faulty cable resulting in a service call. By adding DANTE, it is possible to take a single Ethernet cable from the AVR to a switch and then to as many power amps as is required for the number of channels.
Aside from the requirement for multiple channels of digital audio, there were several key reasons for settling on DANTE:
- Compatibility with standard Ethernet equipment and co-existence with other network traffic
- Native Gigabit Ethernet support
- Low latency (minimum 150uS)
- Easily configured and managed using controller application of PC or Mac
- As a third-party standard, it has been well adopted by multiple manufacturers, allowing for flexibility for installers
How does it actually send audio?
The multiple channels of digital audio data are sent within IP packets and transmitted over the Ethernet network. These packets also contain timing information as well as source and destination IPs, to ensure correct routing. The receiving device then takes these packets and builds them back into the correct digital audio stream which, in the case of the JBL Synthesis SDA-7120 & SDA-2200 amplifiers, is then fed into an ESS Sabre DAC to get analogue audio. These analogue signals are then amplified with the class G amplifiers contained within those products to ensure maximum possible quality and fidelity.
A key element of the system is the exceptionally low latency (which can be as low as 150uS), especially critical in AV systems. This is achieved by the presence of a single master clock, which provides the synchronisation information for all devices in the network. The DANTE system automatically ensures that the device with the most stable and accurate clock becomes the master, with all other devices locking to that device.
This all sounds great — how do I set it up?
First, connect the audio devices to the network from the DANTE ports. Next, download and install the DANTE controller application from Audinate.com.
It is then simply a case of detecting all the devices and routing the source channels to the receive channels through a straightforward matrix. After configuration, it is possible to remove the configuring computer as it is no longer required for day-to-day operation. Though if required, the network can be monitored in real time, including device-level latency and clock stability information, which helps quickly diagnose any issues.
All JBL Synthesis products feature two DANTE network ports, so there will be a temptation to “daisy chain” from one product to the next. This, however, should be avoided. The primary reason for the dual ports is to provide a complete backup network and should be connected as such in a “star” configuration (each product connected to the network switch), so in the event of primary network failure, the audio path is not interrupted. This also reduces the number of hops that the data has to pass through as well as avoiding the situation where the failure of a single device causes the entire system to fail.
As a widely adopted system, there is a wealth of information on configuring and maintaining DANTE audio network systems both on the Audinate website as well as the wider community. In addition, the Harman Luxury Audio group will be creating support materials specific to DANTE, so please watch this space…