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Using AVB audio for the first time.

Connecting Hauptwerk to MIDI organs, sequencers, ...

Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby organtechnology » Fri May 05, 2017 1:23 am

While waiting on some responses from the Dante support team we decided to fire up the AVB devices we had acquired to test them out on an organ we have in production. This organ is to be in a church where the console will be in the back of the room and the speakers are about 200 feet away as the wire runs.

AVB stands for Audio Video Bridging and is an IEEE 802.1 technique to send high speed low latency digital audio over Ethernet cable (Cat5e or Cat6) and convert it to analog sound out of speakers at the end of the Ethernet cable. At this time the primary proponent of AVB seems to be MOTU with the primary computer being Apple computers using OSX 10.8 or later or a Windows 7 PC. For operation as an AVB Ethernet Audio Interface you need a Mac OS X 10.10 or later. The Cat5e cable length is 327 feet or there abouts.

Unlike Dante which is a simplistic hardware based system, the AVB system is very dependent on the MOTU software modules provided in the modules and on their website at http://www.motu.com/avb but once downloaded and configured the MOTU AVB ran flawlessly with the several organs tested.

Since we were using a PC, the first module in the console must be connected to the computer via USB or Thunderbolt. Those using the Apple Mac with OS X 10.10 can connect to the first module with Ethernet but since there is only one Ethernet connector it will be necessary to have an AVB switch to connect two or more modules. Since we had the PC we connected to the first module with USB and to the second with Cat5e. Had we wanted more modules in our network an AVB switch would have been necessary. We got all of the routing figured out pretty quickly and were able to get sound out of the console module but the one in the speaker room was not passing any audio. A quick call to the MOTU support department got us pointed at the master clock selection, which we had ignored, and once that was remedied it all responded as expected.

It appears that things like Antiphonal divisions and speakers for the choir can be handled by the addition of an AVB module and a length of Cat5e cable.
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby mdyde » Fri May 05, 2017 4:42 am

Hello Thomas,

Thanks for the write-up, which I'm sure people will find handy. To add my experiences with AVB:

organtechnology wrote:Since we were using a PC, the first module in the console must be connected to the computer via USB or Thunderbolt. Those using the Apple Mac with OS X 10.10 can connect to the first module with Ethernet but since there is only one Ethernet connector it will be necessary to have an AVB switch to connect two or more modules.


Although in principle it's possible to connect AVB interfaces directly to Macs via Ethernet, my experience (which accords with articles/reviews I've read) is that even on Macs it's still definitely best for performance reasons to connect things up as you've done, i.e. to connect the computer directly to the first AVB device via Thunderbolt or USB (not via a computer Ethernet port), and then to connect all subsequent downstream AVB interfaces/switches to the first AVB device via AVB-only Cat5e/6 cabling, avoid connecting anything other than other AVB audio interfaces or switches to the AVB network. I.e. always keep the Cat5e/6 AVB network cabled entirely separately from any standard Ethernet networking.

That works very well for me, and I can then stream 64 audio channels reliably, even with buffer sizes as small as 256 (about 6ms buffer latency) and from a relatively old (2011-model) Mac via USB. (Up to 128 audio channels should theoretically work via Thunderbolt, but I don't have a spare Thunderbolt port, or any more AVB devices, to be able to test more than 64.) My devices are MOTU 16A units, but the MOTU 24Ao units would probably be more useful for most Hauptwerk users (since they have even more outputs and cost a bit less).

My experience is that the MOTU's AVB devices are an excellent way to get very large numbers of audio channels without excessive expense, and/or streamed over long distances, and that the audio quality and performance seem to be very good too. Their only notable downsides seem to be that they're slow (taking about 15 seconds) to switch sample rates ( viewtopic.php?f=4&t=16085 ). That doesn't bother me personally, but Hauptwerk users frequently switching between 48 kHz sample sets and 44.1 kHz sample sets might find it a minor inconvenience.
Best regards,
Martin.

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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby dhm » Fri May 05, 2017 5:33 am

Thomas, two questions for clarification:
1. If using Windows, are you saying that that this will currently run on Win 7, but not Win 10?
Or just that you haven't tried it with Win 10 yet?
2. Will this work with any current MOTU interface, e.g. the Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid?
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby mdyde » Fri May 05, 2017 6:07 am

Hello Douglas,

dhm wrote:1. If using Windows, are you saying that that this will currently run on Win 7, but not Win 10?
Or just that you haven't tried it with Win 10 yet?


MOTU's AVB drivers do officially support Windows 10 (including Thunderbolt and USB), and they work fine for me on Windows 10 with my MOTU 16A units.

dhm wrote:2. Will this work with any current MOTU interface, e.g. the Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid?


Only those MOTU interfaces that are specifically designed with AVB capability: http://motu.com/products/ (not the Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid, which is FireWire/USB2-only).
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby dhm » Fri May 05, 2017 6:49 am

Thanks, Martin. Very helpful, as always.
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby organtechnology » Fri May 05, 2017 9:35 am

dhm wrote:Thomas, two questions for clarification:
1. If using Windows, are you saying that that this will currently run on Win 7, but not Win 10?
Or just that you haven't tried it with Win 10 yet?
2. Will this work with any current MOTU interface, e.g. the Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid?


1. Just that I have not tried it with Win 10 with AVB. In theory it works and I think Martin confirms that it will.
2. AVB works with the interfaces with AVB in their name and an RJ-45 Ethernet connector on the back. I think MOTU have a list of products that support AVB.

Best regards,

Thomas
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby Eric Sagmuller » Fri May 05, 2017 4:52 pm

mdyde wrote:My experience is that the MOTU's AVB devices are an excellent way to get very large numbers of audio channels without excessive expense, and/or streamed over long distances, and that the audio quality and performance seem to be very good too. Their only notable downsides seem to be that they're slow (taking about 15 seconds) to switch sample rates ( viewtopic.php?f=4&t=16085 ). That doesn't bother me personally, but Hauptwerk users frequently switching between 48 kHz sample sets and 44.1 kHz sample sets might find it a minor inconvenience.


Martin,

I believe you and Brett have used RME to a great extent. I've looked seriously into them for better sound, but have been held back by their cost. Can you give an idea how these newer MOTU units compare to RME in general for audio quality? I really like the idea of Thunderbolt and AVB. I think AVB would be similar to MADI in what it accomplishes, or maybe not.

Thanks,
Eric
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby mdyde » Sat May 06, 2017 4:09 am

Hello Eric,

Both my RME FireFace UFX and the MOTU 16A units sound very good indeed to me. However, I'm not an 'audiophile' as such, and I don't think that I would have, or feel qualified to offer, an opinion on the sonic differences between them. (Also the UFX has a high-output headphones output, whereas the 16A units don't have headphones outputs, so I can't compare them directly on headphones, which otherwise would probably be the best comparison.) I personally would be equally happy with either in terms of sound.
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby Eric Sagmuller » Sat May 06, 2017 8:28 pm

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the reply. I've heard alot of good about the RME in general, but have always gotten the impression the older MOTU were just run of the mill. Of course for the much higher price tag of the RME's, one would expect a better sounding unit. Also the fact that they are German says alot.

Doing a bit of research online however, one gets the impression that the newest MOTU are in a higher class now.

Eric
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby mdyde » Sun May 07, 2017 4:42 am

Hello Eric,

RME's reputation for quality of drivers, support (both long-term and short-term), reliability, robustness, etc. is certainly legendary and well-deserved, in my experience. I would view the construction quality of the MOTUs as very good (and sufficient for my purposes), although perhaps not quite as high as RME's.
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Re: Using AVB audio for the first time.

Postby Eric Sagmuller » Sun May 07, 2017 8:00 am

Ok Thanks, Martin.
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