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2) Networked audio systems

This chapter presents a modular networked audio system as a reference for the rest of this white paper. A collection of 12 modules are introduced as building blocks of a system. The described system processes audio in acoustic, analogue and networked formats.

Audio System
A collection of components connected together to process audio signals in order to increase a system’s sound quality.

The following pages will elaborate further on audio processes, formats and components.

2.1 Audio processes

A system’s audio processing can include:

table 201: audio processing types

function description
conversion format conversion of audio signals
transport transport of signals, eg. through cables
storage storage for editing, transport and playback using audio media, eg. tape, hard disk, CD
mixing mixing multiple inputs to multiple outputs
change equalising, compression, amplification etc

The audio system can be mechanical - eg. two empty cans with a tensioned string in-between, or a mechanical gramophone player. But since the invention of the carbon microphone in 1887-1888 individually by Edison and Berliner, most audio systems use electrical circuits. Since the early 1980’s many parts of audio systems gradually became digital, leaving only head amps, A/D and D/A conversion and power amplification remaining as electronic circuits, and microphones and loudspeakers as electroacoustic components. At this moment, digital point-to-point audio protocols such as AES10 (MADI) are being replaced by network protocols such as Dante, EtherSound.

In this white paper, the terms ‘networked audio system’ and ‘digital audio system’ are applied loosely, as many of the concepts presented concern both. When an issue is presented to apply to networked audio systems, the issue does not apply to digital audio systems. When an issue is presented to apply to digital audio systems, it also applies for networked audio systems.

>>2.2 Audio formats

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