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Technical Performance Assessment of the Ableton Link Protocol Over Wi-Fi

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To date, Ableton Link is the most widely adopted synchronization protocol for musical applications based on Wi-Fi networks. However the limitations of Link over Wi-Fi in terms of scalability are not known, an understanding that may be useful to designers of musical ecosystems involving many nodes to be synchronized. In this paper we present four experiments aiming to investigate how the protocol performance is affected by the number of connected devices, kind of Wi-Fi access point utilized, and connection or disconnection of nodes. Results showed the reliability of the protocol only for a limited number of nodes, which was 22 for a consumer-grade portable router and 41 for a mesh network created by two high-end access points. The protocol performances were found to decrease with the number of devices and when nodes connected or disconnected. Furthermore, the performances of Link are tightly bounded to that of Wi-Fi, which can vary significantly from day to day depending on network load and interferences. Taken together, our findings indicate that Link over Wi-Fi is not suitable for ensuring synchronization in ecosystems with a high number of nodes, and we call for new wireless technologies suitable for large scale synchronizations in co-located settings.

JAES Volume 69 Issue 10 pp. 748-756; October 2021
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AES - Audio Engineering Society