SoundGrid 201 Part 1: SoundGrid System Components

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Please note: Completing the SoundGrid 101 certification course is a prerequisite to taking the SoundGrid 201 test.

Recap: What Is SoundGrid and What Is It For?

SoundGrid is a protocol for real-time audio processing and networking that uses standard Ethernet infrastructure.

The Waves SoundGrid protocol was developed by Waves Audio to serve audio networking and real-time processing needs in two areas, studio and live:

  1. In studio settings, SoundGrid is used for real-time processing while monitoring, recording and mixing, and for audio networking. SoundGrid is also used in radio, TV, streaming and various other audio use cases.
  2. In live sound, SoundGrid is used both for audio networking (passing audio from one device to another in a live sound system) and for mixing front-of-house and monitors with audio plugins in real time.

SoundGrid System Components

A basic SoundGrid network must contain the following hardware and software components:

  1. SoundGrid-compatible audio interface.
  2. SoundGrid DSP server.
  3. SoundGrid-compatible switch.

The SoundGrid platform also encompasses additional software components, such as StudioRack, the SoundGrid Driver and SoundGrid Connect, more on which below.

SoundGrid Hardware

SoundGrid Host Computer

SoundGrid Host Computer

The SoundGrid Host computer is a standard Windows or Mac computer used to control SoundGrid software and manage the SoundGrid network (device configuration and audio routing).

SoundGrid host applications run on this computer, as do plugins and preset files.

As noted, SoundGrid applications can run on standard Windows and Mac computers. Waves also offers Axis One, a computer custom-designed and optimized to run Waves software with maximum stability and performance.

SoundGrid Audio Interface

SoundGrid Audio Interface

A SoundGrid audio interface is the bridge between various audio formats. It converts whatever audio format that goes into it into the SoundGrid audio protocol. At least one SoundGrid interface needs to be connected to your SoundGrid network for any audio to pass. (An exception is when using the SoundGrid Connect feature, more on which below.)

SoundGrid interfaces range from 2-channel preamps (such as the DiGiGrid D) to multiple 128-channel audio interfaces (such as the DiGiGrid MGB/MGO MADI-to-SoundGrid I/Os).

All SoundGrid audio interfaces are connected to the SoundGrid network via Ethernet cables.

SoundGrid interfaces support sample rates of up to 96 kHz at 24 bit.

Every SoundGrid interface has a software control panel that is used to determine its clock status, control preamps, configure physical inputs, and report firmware model and hardware ID.

SoundGrid DSP Server

SoundGrid DSP Server

A SoundGrid DSP server is where SoundGrid-compatible plugins are processed. These servers are designed to process audio at super-low latency – as fast as 0.8 ms (roundtrip). The processing power of a server has a direct impact on the number of plugin instances that can run on it.

Currently, four varieties of servers are available:

SoundGrid-Compatible Ethernet Switch

SoundGrid-Compatible Ethernet Switch

The fourth component needed for any SoundGrid network is a SoundGrid-compatible 1Gb Ethernet switch. The switch links the host computer, the server, and all SoundGrid audio interfaces.

Some SoundGrid interfaces (such as the DiGiGrid IOX rack-mount unit) have more than one network port, but it’s strongly advised to use a standalone SoundGrid-compatible 1Gb ethernet switch as your main network switch.

Here is a list of switches officially approved by Waves for use in a SoundGrid system. Waves approves only switches that were tested and qualified in rigorous tests.

SoundGrid Software

SoundGrid Host Applications

SoundGrid Host Applications

SoundGrid host applications are used for managing system and device configuration, server configuration and audio routing.

The following SoundGrid software applications are available:

MultiRack SoundGrid

MultiRack SoundGrid

MultiRack is a host platform for processing audio using SoundGrid-compatible plugins, designed especially for live sound applications. It’s the software equivalent to outboard hardware processing racks, with up to 64 racks (Mono, Stereo, Surround)

There is a native version of MultiRack, where all processing of plugins happens on your computer’s CPU. In the native version, however, you are bound to the latency of your computer’s Core Audio or ASIO audio interface, which is generally significantly higher than SoundGrid’s roundtrip latency.

Here’s a basic example of a live sound setup with MultiRack SoundGrid:

MultiRack SoundGrid

eMotion LV1

eMotion LV1

eMotion LV1 is a full-blown live mixer. It provides up to 64 input channels that can be mono or stereo and outputs to 35 mix busses that are logically ordered as groups, auxiliaries, mains and matrixes.

eMotion LV1 comes in three different configuration options: 16, 32, and 64 channels, each with a slightly different set of mix buses.

eMotion LV1 supports up to 16 connected devices (I/Os / drivers)

There is no non-SoundGrid version of eMotion LV1. The mixer is SoundGrid-compatible only and requires a SoundGrid DSP server and a SoundGrid I/O at all times.

Let’s look at a basic example of a setup using the right hardware for use with eMotion LV1:

MultiRack SoundGrid
  1. Host computer running eMotion LV1
  2. SoundGrid DSP server
  3. SoundGrid I/O device
  4. SoundGrid-compatible 1Gb Ethernet switch

SoundGrid Studio

SoundGrid Studio

SoundGrid Studio is a mixer designed to be the core of the studio. It controls the SoundGrid network, integrates with most popular DAWs and enables recording and monitoring in extremely low latency with plugins using StudioRack.

StudioRack

StudioRack

StudioRack is a cross-platform plugin chainer which runs chains of up to 8 SoundGrid-compatible plugins in any supported DAW. It can operate in Local mode, in which the plugin chain is processed on the local CPU, or in SoundGrid mode, in which processing of the plugin chain takes place on a SoundGrid DSP server.

The SoundGrid Driver

The SoundGrid Driver

The SoundGrid driver is a software interface that can:

  1. Record and play back in the studio or live with any source: SoundGrid I/O device, console expansion card or computer. Run up to 128 channels on your computer.
  2. Offload plugin processing in your studio to a SoundGrid DSP server using the StudioRack plugin chainer
  3. Patch and mix from multiple computers and I/Os in the SoundGrid network, using a SoundGrid Host application to control the mix
  4. Use multiple DAWs on the same computer simultaneously: Record the same source to two DAWs on the same computer, or route audio from multiple DAWs to the SoundGrid network.
  5. Monitor in low latency while using plugins using a SoundGrid server and a SoundGrid I/O

The SoundGrid driver is automatically installed with any one of the aforementioned SoundGrid host applications. Once installed, it can be selected as the audio engine in supported DAWs, and can be used in the SoundGrid host applications to stream audio between the SoundGrid network and the host computer.

The SoundGrid driver can stream up to 128 Channels, bi-directionally.

The SoundGrid driver is supported on Mac OS by means of using a Core Audio device and a Core-MIDI device port, and on Windows using an ASIO Device and a MIDI Capture Device (both DirectMusic and Legacy).

Waves also provides WDM (Windows Driver Model) functionality built into the SoundGrid driver which allows streaming sounds from your computer to the SoundGrid driver. WDM has been popular in the past for playback and recording from media players, browsers, surround games and chat applications.

SoundGrid Connect

The last piece of SoundGrid software to discuss is SoundGrid Connect.

SoundGrid Connect is a feature of the SoundGrid driver that makes non-SoundGrid, ASIO/Core Audio interfaces, SoundGrid-compatible.

The SoundGrid driver links with the third-party audio interface driver, which will then show up as a SoundGrid-compatible interface in the SoundGrid inventory.

One should only use this feature for offloading plugin processing to a SoundGrid DSP server in the mix process, and not in time-sensitive situations, such as recording or monitoring with real-time plugin processing.

Once a non-SoundGrid interface is linked to SoundGrid Connect, it can then be used together with a SoundGrid DSP server to offload the processing of your SoundGrid-compatible plugins without changing your playback engine from your favorite audio interface. However, by linking the SoundGrid driver and your third-party interface’s driver, latency will increase due to more information being added to the driver’s data stream, and to go even further, as the interface is not a “real” SoundGrid-compatible audio interface, it doesn’t broadcast information regarding the conjugate latency of the audio interface’s driver together with SoundGrid Connect.

For optimal recording and monitoring through plugins at extreme low latency, we suggest purchasing a SoundGrid-compatible Audio Interface, so that low latency is consistent and guaranteed.

CONTINUE TO PART 2