Focusrite's Simon Short: RedNet Q & A

Focusrite's Simon Short: RedNet | S3 Q & A

Apr 07, 2020 - 10:49

Q. What issues in sound engineering were on the minds of Focusrite engineers when they came up with the idea for the RedNet range?

A. We started working on the RedNet product line back in 2009. At the time, it was clear that there would be a shift in audio transport within facilities. The concept of using Ethernet for audio transport was already established but the solutions available had drawbacks such as being difficult to setup or having variable latency. Audio-over-IP, as opposed to merely using Ethernet transport, was relatively new, but it was clear that it would provide a scalable system, reliant on standard network hardware that would be low latency and easy to deploy. Dante was the only technology available at the time to license. By licensing it, we were free to focus on the most important aspect of any of our products: the audio quality.

So specifically, we wanted to deliver a scalable system, with low latency, easy setup, rock solid dependency, based on low cost and widely available hardware and cables, with a superb level of audio quality.

Q. How does the RedNet range meet the challenges that Focusrite engineers were focused on?

A. RedNet products achieve this in various ways. Firstly, Dante is hugely scalable with no real limit on channel counts. For example one Gigabit network cable can carry around 1,000 channels of audio. Latency is deterministic, with network latencies of approximately 250µs. However that’s only part of the latency story. We worked hard to find a good pairing of A-D and D-A converters that would deliver on the latency front. Once those chips were selected we put huge effort into the analogue design of the converter stages to get every ounce of dynamic range possible. Early product testing focused on reliability. We would frequently run 24 hour tests analysing every single sample traversing the network to ensure not a single one was dropped. RedNet featured a new mic pre design. We set out with our traditional ethos in mic pre design: flat frequency response across as wide a band as possible. The major difference this time was that the mic pre had to be fully remote controllable. The result is a mic pre that has received accolades everywhere it has been used.

Q. What are your favourite products in the RedNet range?

A. Definitely the mic pres. It’s one thing to read the specs on paper, and to listen to a single channel in isolation, however the experience that truly shocked me was when recording Goldie and the Heritage Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. We had 98 channels of RedNet MP8R yet when all channels were faded up, there was little-to-no discernible noise.

Q. How does the RedNet range complement the Focusrite range of products?

A. RedNet returns Focusrite to the professional and commercial end of the audio market. The last ten years has seen Focusrite concentrate on low-cost Firewire and USB interfaces for home-recording and project users.

Q. What's the feedback that you're getting from those who have purchased from the range?

A. The feedback has been phenomenal. From glowing praise of the converters and favourable comparisons of the mic pres to others, to a love of the simplicity of control and routing. But the best feedback has to be repeat customers who start their system with just one or two units and grow it into one comprising nearly 50 units!

Q. What role do you see for dealers like Mediaspec in helping to support RedNet's goals?

A. Mediaspec have a long standing reputation in the industry as expert solution providers. The RedNet range is such a versatile and expandable system, and the team at Mediaspec have the experience and expertise which allows them to offer unique and fresh ideas. This combined with their excellent focus on getting to know their customers and their needs makes them a very desirable contact for designing RedNet systems.

Q. With regard to future developments, how do you see the RedNet range developing?

A. The current lineup of products covers a very wide range of workflows. Recent additions to the product line, such as RedNet AM2, have come about as a direct result of customer feedback. In addition to that, recent developments from Audinate have allowed us to make lower cost lower I/O interfaces such as AM2. Future products will also be based heavily on customer feedback and will seek to compliment our existing line of products enabling more workflows and deployment in a wider range of environments.

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