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Lab X has come to the forefront of the Avnu Alliance recently. Company president Lee Minich talks to Andrew Low about the company’s contribution to the IEEE 802.1 AV revolution…

he name Lab X has been popping up in the pro audio sector quite regularly in the past year and a half, aided by the growth of the AVNU Alliance and its acceptance by pro audio heavyweights such as Avid and Yamaha. Lab X president Lee Minich has also emerged from the shadows at many recent trade shows, including PLASA 2010, to help promote the burgeoning IEEE 802.1 AV networking standard. Despite its recent emergence in pro audio PR and magazines, the company is not a newcomer to the business. In fact, it has been providing engineering design services to manufacturers since the mid 90s. “We have been doing this for almost 15 years, so we have had long standing relationships in the industry,” Minich explains. “From an outside perspective it looks like we are just now coming out in to the mix, but we have been working on connectivity since 2000 with other protocols such as Cobranet, Ethersound, Aviom, Anet, Dante and Madi.” Lab X recently announced it had issued a production license

“Much of the work on AVB is driven by the pro community, which has the most stringent requirements,” Minich continues, “A large majority of those involved in the standards effort come from the pro space. As we have been working on that we have always kept low latency, high bandwidth, high channel count capabilities in mind,” Minich states.

Collective connections T

to Avid for use of its Madi IP in its MADIXTM unit, for use with the Venue line of live digital mixing consoles. Lab X’s strong relationships with major players such as Avid has served to solidify its position as the ‘go-to guys’ for connectivity. “Basically, if somebody has an Ethernet jack and needs digital audio distribution, we are the we are the people to go to for that type of technology,” says Minich. “Sometimes they will just license our IP solution and drop it into an FPGA, but more recently, since 2007, we have been very active pioneering AVB efforts. When we engage with a manufacturer interested in AVB, it is typically a combination of both licensing our AVB implementation and helping them out on the design. “The formation of the AVNU Alliance has helped solidify things, but there has been a lot of work going on in the IEEE that the industry wasn’t aware of. There is still a lot of education that needs to be disseminated in the industry and, as such, Lab X has been involved in presentations at key trade shows to do just that by presenting the technology with members of the AVNU Alliance.

Many sound engineers who have only recently made the switch to digital hold sound quality as the determining factor when new technologies are introduced. Minich assures that AVB will maintain audio quality from the source to the end of the chain. “AVB and other transports don’t actually affect the quality of the audio,” he says. “It really comes down to manufacturers differentiating themselves by the quality of their preamps. The only other thing that is potentially relevant are issues with clock jitter, so there are some digital domain characteristics that can effect audio reconstruction. AVB deals with this by incorporating time distribution into the network fabric itself. As long as you can get a high quality stable clock, the digital transport of it becomes transparent. It really comes down to how good your analog to digital conversion is. “Also, AVB does not introduce any compression into the audio signal. You can pull a console’s preamps out of the box and put AVB in the middle, and as far as the sonic quality is concerned, it won’t change at all. But you have the flexibility of putting mic pres on the stage and various other facilities. “We see the evolution of digital audio networking as huge and very enabling, and it will surely grow the market. Our role is two fold: to engage with manufacturers to help them participate in this evolving marketplace and generally to educate the industry as a whole as to the advantages it offers. “There are a number of people who are just starting to migrate from analog. About a year ago someone said that only six per cent of commercial installs in the world are networked. So this whole connectivity thing, while we have been focused on it for the past ten years, it is really just in its infancy. As an industry, the more people know about it and can embrace it, the more opportunity there is for the market to grow.” >

You can pull a console’s

preamps out of the box and put AVB in the

middle. The sonic quality won’t change at all. Lee Minich Lab X

” audioPRO December/January 2010/11 21

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