EtherSound, the open standard for networking digital audio using off-the-shelf Ethernet components, will increase its performance in 2006 by releasing a major technology update, which will take advantage of the entire bandwidth of Gigabit networks.

Digigram, owner and supplier of the EtherSound technology, revealed at the AES convention in New York the specifications of Gigabit-EtherSound that will include 512 audio channels over a single cable (256 channels in each direction) as well as a bandwidth of 100Mbit/s for control and IP data transport, while maintaining all current EtherSound features including the ultra-low latency of only 125 microseconds.

Digigram will be showcasing the technology for the first time at the next Systems Integration Expo (former NSCA) and Prolight+Sound trade shows in March 2006. A technology upgrade will then be made available to all EtherSound licensees in the second quarter of 2006.

"We are thrilled about the possibilities that Gigabit-EtherSound will offer,” comments EtherSound business development manager Jimmy Kawalek. “Imagine how quickly you'll be able to connect the stage and monitor mixers to FOH even in the largest live events, how easy it will be to route the audio; think of the huge cost savings by replacing large, heavy, expensive multi-core audio cables with a single high-quality Ethernet cable. This is the point where EtherSound's strategy to be compliant with IEEE's 802.3 Ethernet enforces all its value. We will be able to leverage the billions of dollars the IT industry has spent to develop Gigabit networks for the benefit of the pro audio industry."

EtherSound in its current stage is configured for 100 Mbit/s networks and offers a maximum channel count of 128 channels of 24-bit/48 kHz linear audio (64 channels in each direction) as well as a control data throughput of 768 Kbit/s maximum.

Beyond the obvious advantages of a quadrupled audio channel count, Gigabit-EtherSound will also enhance the capabilities to control connected devices and to use the EtherSound network to transmit other data, for example IP control or media streaming. Not only will Gigabit-EtherSound multiply the available data bandwidth by 130 to typically 100 Mbit/s, but this non-audio-data will travel on the same cable using a dedicated data path, which means that every IP/Ethernet data can be routed through a Gigabit-EtherSound network.

Moreover, Gigabit-EtherSound will enable fault-tolerant ring topologies. Gigabit-EtherSound will build on EtherSound’s daisy-chain capability to connect the "last" device of a daisy-chain to the "first" device. In case of a cable or device failure, which interrupts the signal flow in the ring, the system will automatically determine the new first device of the daisy-chain, which then maintains the virtual bus and thereby signal path integrity throughout the network. The system will automatically return to its normal operation mode as the ring is restored.

Other technology evolutions announced include direct node-to-node data communication between any two devices in a network and freedom to connect one or multiple control devices anywhere on the network.

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