[LAU] Audio over WIFI

Leonardo Gabrielli l.gabrielli at univpm.it
Mon Jan 19 16:18:03 UTC 2015

Just to bring the discussion back to its original topic, I see and know
already that audio over 802.11 is always thought of as a geek thing when
not an insanity, but at my institution we felt this as good challenge for
engineering research and I've been working on that as part of my PhD
studies in the last two years. Updates and material about the project are
reported at our research group webpage

The project, called WeMUST, i.e. wireless music studio, was started to test
current network technologies in a *studio*, but later we also addressed
live stage usage and a concert was performed last summer on the sea. In
that case we acquired signal with Debian-based ARM platforms (beagleboard
xm) and sent it to special devices from Mikrotik through Ethernet. The
Mikrotik devices have directional antennas and created 802.11a bridges from
sea to land. The networking topology allowed for monitoring and the
round-trip latency allowed by the system was 16ms at lowest (but could be
reduced with a different HW choice). The musicians could synchronize well
and all had the same latency, imposed by JACK, running on both the ARM and
the PC mixing the signal on the land.

To recap, my opinion is that 802.11 can be as good as any other wireless
technology in providing music and compared to legacy analog techniques the
quality is not compromised (unless the link is so bad that connection
breaks/packets get lost). Of course the 802.11 family of protocols is
mainly targeted at throughput and best effort delivery, this is why the
audio community must demand for amendments that allow a robust audio link,
instead of neglecting the opportunity and relegating wireless connectivity
to a marketing feature (as it is up to know, just a gimmick for product
brochures to boost sales, showing ultra-cool ipad apps for remote control
and nothing more).

With this I don't mean saying that we should replace affordable and
reliable audio cables with ultra-expensive wireless stuff. My goal, as a
researcher is to thrive into the technical and usability challenges of a
technology so widespread nowadays, show what can be done and check from the
industry or the potential users if there are new applications that are
opened by wireless and most importantly networking.

Networking is a key aspect, indeed, because a point-to-point link is not
novel, but if wireless connectivity can provide integration of
functionalities and devices at low extra cost, it is worth investigating,
IMO, at least at the academic level.

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