Studio Technologies Model 5401 Dante Master Clock
By Matt Wentz
Willow Creek Community Church started in 1975 by four friends as a high school ministry, and was originally set in a movie theater. Willow Creek was one of the first ‘contemporary’ churches, focusing on music, drama, and biblical teachings as applied to contemporary issues, to name just a few things. In 2004, we started to launch regional campuses, as well as building the new 7,200 seat worship center. We currently have eight regional locations, including a Spanish campus. Our current facility is over 800,000 square feet. Across all of our campuses, we currently have around 25,000 regular attendees, and this doesn’t take into account drop-ins and special events like Christmas and Easter.
The main mission of Willow Creek is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ. We use technology in every form; from lighting to audio, stage design to video; to ensure quality across all aspects of worship. We want to present a worship experience brought with excellence to those on the campus, as well as people attending one of our regional campuses as well. Willow Creek has always benefited from using some of the most advanced technology available to manage the campus’ complex multimedia infrastructure.
We have been running Dante in our main campus for about five years now, starting in smaller spaces and then moving into or main auditorium for a massive infrastructure upgrade a little over a year ago. We currently have 90+ Dante devices in our main auditorium. With this many Dante devices, we obviously required a way to manage and control them properly; unfortunately, with the devices we originally had at our disposal, it was difficult to properly sync audio transmissions without experiencing excessive latency delays across the network. Though every Dante device can be set up to operate as a master clock, we knew we needed a standalone device capable of handling our expansive Dante network without having issues with latency. We had to increase the latency of the devices we were using to five milliseconds in some cases, just to keep our network running properly.
Accurate clocking is very important; we needed a properly programmed master clock to ensure all network devices could synchronized to within one microsecond or less, enabling each to transmit audio with sample accuracy.
When Studio Technologies 5401 Dante Master Clock came out, we decided to try it. Its only job is to manage Dante, so we felt it could be a great solution to help us meet our needs. Studio Technologies allowed us to try out the box, and I noticed that our latency dropped drastically, from variable times that were all over the place to keeping consistent at about half a millisecond. The Dante Master Clock is absolutely rock solid, and doesn’t waver, which makes my job way easier. Studio Technologies was also very open to our input – for example, we recommended they add the ability to manually set IP addresses, and they responded with a firmware upgrade within a week. Some of the manufacturers being controlled by the Master Clock include products from Yamaha, Clear-Com, RDL, Focusrite, Symetrix and BSS. We can also route Dante through a Bel Digital 1U box that allows us to route 64 channels of audio to monitor individual channels on either a local speaker or external speakers.
Studio Technologies Model 5401 Dante Master Clock implements a high-performance IEEE® 1588 precision time protocol (PTP) server capable of providing timing needs of up to hundreds of Dante-compatible devices using audio-over-Ethernet media networking technology. The unit supports both PTP v1 (IEEE 1588-2002) compatibility required by Dante as well as PTP v2 (IEEE 1588-2008) for AES67 applications. Additionally, the device includes a word clock sync output for delivering a timing reference to external devices and a clock input connection for synchronizing with a variety of audio, video, and instrumentation reference signals.
We were very impressed with how the Model 5401 drastically improved Willow Creek’s latency issues, decreasing the delay to less than half a millisecond and integrating seamlessly with the church’s myriad of devices. The Model 5401 was a game changer for us; it’s phenomenal to have a dedicated piece of gear I can trust as our master clock. With the complexities of all the equipment in our main auditorium, it’s been invaluable to have such a great tool going to work in the background without me having to worry about it affecting the production.
MATT WENTZ IS THE AUDIO SYSTEMS ENGINEER AT WILLOW CREEK COMMUNITY CHURCH. HE HAS BEEN ON STAFF FOR 12 YEARS. HE HAS 20 YEARS OF AUDIO EXPERIENCE AND ALMOST 5 YEARS OF NETWORKED AUDIO EXPERIENCE. HE HAS HELPED BRING NETWORKED AUDIO TO THE WILLOW CAMPUS AND GROWN IT INTO AN INFRASTRUCTURE THAT SPANS 4 MAJOR VENUES AND SEVERAL SMALL CLASSROOMS