Digital Routing and Mixing

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Here's what to consider in making the TDM vs. AoIP decision.

So with the economy turning around, and the immediate future looking (at least somewhat) brighter, perhaps the time is right to plan that studio rehab project, or perhaps that completely new facility that has been in the offing. When it comes to specifying and buying new consoles, what are the choices?

Going with analog consoles is still an option (AudioArts, Arrakis, Radio Systems, Mackie and others come to mind) but this time we'll consider the digital types.

Twenty years ago the state-of-the-art radio station not only used analog consoles, but analog routers as well. They were located in a separate room - typically called master control or some variant - and these routers took the place of rack upon rack of distribution amps, multiple-input-by-stereo output mechanical switches, and perhaps even patchbays.

Having a router system in place gave you the obvious advantage of quick and easy audio routing around the facility, and usually simplified the initial construction wiring as well.

After digital audio sources made their appearance around radio stations, digital routers soon followed. Even the analog inputs were digitized, though, and the router designs had changed drastically. It was no longer necessary for the console to actually contain the audio; all the switching/routing/mixing could be done inside the router itself. The console became no more than a user-interface, with a form-factor familiar to air talents. A PC attached to the system could control all the same functions as a console. Systems such as this appeared in the late 1990s.

As we all know, during the 1990s, computer networking around the offices and studios of a radio station became commonplace; Ethernet became practically ubiquitous. It should be of no surprise then that Ethernet later became an alternative to TDM (Time Division Multiplex) communications between nodes of a digital routing system (such as previously described). The audio-over-IP (AoIP) type system was born. This occurred in the mid 2000s.

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