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Digital Audio vs Analog - what's your take, and why?

#96 by ThomasM
February 18th, 2010, 8:42 am
Hi All,

You certainly know: in addition to the classic analog signal inputs, Powersoft supports digital audio as well. Once equipped with the KAESOP Ethernet board, Powersoft's K Series and the new Duecanali offer AES3 digital audio inputs, forwarding, and repeating, inside the amplifiers. Transport happens over the 2 unused wire pairs in the same Cat-5e cable, it's 2 AES3 streams (equivalent to 4 analog signal channels), independent, not over Ethernet, and with AES3 a very common, stable streaming format. One has to admit, if anything deserves the title "industry standard", then it's AES3: lots of other gear comes with AES3 free on board, too!
So, it's not "Audio over Ethernet", but "Audio over Cat-5e", side-by-side with Ethernet in the same cable. Especially if the amps have DSP included, 4 discrete signals are often more than needed, it's easy to set up (Armonía! ;)), it's very reliable and cost-effective.

But fear not, this is not a commercial broadcast for AES3!

Because then there are a couple dozen other formats with fewer or more audio channels, many over Ethernet, others sporting an "island solution" in form of their own custom protocol, plus a few "transport/distribution" mediums. If it's not a war, it's confusing, at the very least. You see more or less vehemently fighting camps of fans arguing, e.g. "Audio over Ethernet - subfraction CobraNet" vs "Streamers". And "Analog" against everyone else...

Naturally, with digital audio we can do numerous things that are limited, or at least expensive, with analog: signal distribution over large distances and large systems with many nodes, system monitoring/control functions over the same bus, etc etc. So, if for nothing else than practical reasons, digital audio has a good right to exist; I bet we agree.

But what's right, what's wrong? Which format/protocol/technology?
As technology, data management, and compression algorithms develop - mostly driven by the IT and/or consumer electronics industries - every now and then new contenders show up, claiming to be the newest, safest, and best. The question remains: is "newer" always also "better"? Anything can, nothing must...

To name only a few other than AES3, e.g. CobraNet and EtherSound are a long time around, e.g. Optocore and Riedel are established "transporters", and e.g. Dante and AVB are two of the fairly new kids on the block.

Here's the question to you:

Which camp do you belong to? And why - or why not?

Please provide your answer here above, and post below which digital audio format you use or fancy (if any) and why, or why you keep using analog!