What is the best AV tech of the past 20 years?

Inavate asks integrators and consultants to pick their favourite, industry-disrupting technology of the past 20 years.

As ISE celebrates its 20th anniversary, we invite AV professionals to reflect on the technological evolution that has shaped the industry. We ask a range of experienced people working in the sector to identify the most influential technology of the past two decades. Read on to explore the pivotal moments that define the last 20 years in AV technology.

Jon Tozer, Holovis

Lightware HDMI-TPX-TX106 and HDMI-TPX-RX106

In answering this thought-provoking question, my mind immediately defaulted to a technology rather than a product. I’m therefore going to choose a product that represents this technology and a brand that excels at it.

The Lightware HDMI-TPX-TX106 and HDMI-TPX-RX106 can support 18Gbps worth of HDMI 4K video (RGB, 4:4:4, 60Hz) along a single Cat6a cable point to point at stunningly low latency. I’m just over a decade in the industry, so I saw the last days of RGBHV video distribution and the adoption of over video transmission using dual Cat5e lines and then eventually HDBaseT.

Fitting 4K down a single pipe at good distances with no compromises using category cable still isn’t all that easy. There aren’t many products on the market that will do it robustly, but I always have maximum faith in Lightware. I’ve loved their products for many years, and I believe they’ve truly been one of the pioneering

companies in video transmission. Transmitting video over distance and the advancements we’ve gone through is amazing. The bandwidths, the speeds and shrinking latency, and the possibilities unlocked by network infrastructure has come on such a long way. The technology never manages to quite keep up with Holovis’ needs or desires, but it’s not far behind and I always champion Lightware to be a company that we can rely on to give us the very best of what is available without costing the entire project budget! And at the moment, I think the HDMI-TPX-TX106 and its receiving counterpart encapsulates that notion.

Faye Bennett – Faye Bennett Consultancy Services 

Remote monitoring and management systems 

Remote monitoring and management systems are in my opinion the most influential AV products to have emerged in the past 20 years. However, for some product sets and applications such as outdoor LED for Digital Out of Home, it’s nothing new.

 Monitoring health status of outdoor assets, flagging issues that will directly affect content, and monitoring critical power supplies, fans and light sensors has always been a priority. But for mainstream AV, these remote solutions have dramatically changed the way we manage AV equipment, providing a level of visibility and control that has previously been unattainable.

The USPs of these systems are three-fold. One is their ability to provide a real-time view of the functionality and health of AV assets without having a physical presence onsite. Second is the ability to remotely intervene to triage or resolve issues to avoid costly and timely field service visits and maximise room availability and uptime.

Thirdly, these systems offer valuable data on which end-users can make strategic decisions including which AV products to invest in (based on reliability and utilisation data).

Remote monitoring and management systems have been particularly impactful in the wake of the pandemic and may well have changed how we deliver service, support and on-going value to end users forever. For my part, I’m excited to see how these evolve and how use cases start to emerge of truly excellent implementations and operational success stories. For my part, I’m excited to see how these evolve.

Hadewig Both – First Impression 

LED technology 

In the last 20 years we’ve seen a lot of developments in the AV world and specifically the digital signage industry. If we focus on a specific hardware solution, I think that LED technology in the broadest sense has changed the industry the most.

Since the focus of First Impression is mainly in the field of digital signage and therefore display communication, LED gives us unprecedented possibilities in terms of digital canvasses on which we showcase our impactful, creative ideas due to the endless size and mounting options. Over the last 10 years, LED displays have literally been eye-catchers in our field.

The unlimited creations turned out the best introduction to our field of work for people outside the industry.

In addition to hardware, software has also become an increasingly important part of the possibilities that our solutions have to offer. CMS platforms in combination with a connected network of media players are the driving force behind filling displays (including LED displays) with the most beautiful, creative and, above all, dynamic and therefore relevant content.

Sercan Atkas – Redmouse 

IP-based AV systems 

 I believe the adoption of IP-based AV systems has been the most impactful AV technology in the last 20 years. AV systems that rely on IP technology emerged as the  driving force for significant transformations in AV. The impact of this technology on connectivity, adaptability, collaboration and innovation has fundamentally transformed the essence of AV experiences.

The fundamental characteristics of IP technology enabled scalability in AV systems. Integration of AV with IT now effortlessly merges with current network infrastructures, enabling centralised control, management and distribution of AV signals.

Systems now transcend physical constraints and function inside a vast and flexible network infrastructure. This scalability allows for the effortless extension or reconfiguration of AV systems to satisfy changing requirements.

The capacity to remotely control and oversee AV equipment has also had a transformative impact. IP based systems enable administrators to remotely manage and optimise AV setups from any location, simplifying maintenance, troubleshooting and system updates. Significantly, in conjunction with these progressions, strong data security protocols have arisen, fundamentally strengthening the overall systems of AV technology. The AV industry's dedication to protecting data integrity and confidentiality is also maintained with encryption, authentication, network segmentation and data compliance.

Rutger van Djik - Semmika 


I think the biggest change is the rise of smartphones. But whether this also makes it the most influential AV product, I think it is difficult to determine. I think this has changed the world and therefore the AV and ICT world. Everyone is always online and has all their data at hand. This is combined with the fact that many influential AV devices now have smartphone pairings. 

We obviously have the arrival of LED/Laser projectors, LED walls and Direct LED displays, new(er) protocols such as Dante and other streaming audio, sACN and, for example, HDBaseT, but also the transition from AV to a more ICT  environment with more software than hardware solutions. And then we also have the experiences themselves which have expanded a lot due to new technologies but also new interfaces like VR headsets and glasses etc. And then I overlook Bluetooth and USB-C as revolutions in standardised technologies.

I don't know exactly if the turnaround of all this was around 20 years ago or if it was earlier, but a lot has happened in the AV world in the last few decades. From analogue to digital, from local to network, from its own discipline to an ICT part!

Mirza Mohibulla Baig – Samir Group 

Video and audio switchers 

Video and audio switchers have been playing [a key role] for the last 20 years. Switchers have been influencing the way audio and video signals are managed and distributed in various applications which truly brings out the wow factor in the design of a system.

Switchers provide the flexibility to manage and route signals between various sources and destinations with improved compatibility to various signal types being it analogue or digital. This critical function enhances the users experience in various scenarios such as meeting/conference rooms.

Switchers enable the users to seamlessly switch between presentations, video conferencing and other content sources thereby boosting collaboration and communication in a professional manner. 

Additionally, many modern video and audio switchers are designed to integrate with control systems, allowing for centralised management and automation. This simplifies operation and enhances the overall user experience.

Extron, Crestron and AMX are some of the brands of switchers which I have utilised in my projects to give the end-user what they envision and more for their AV requirements. There have been scenarios where I have provided either a video or an audio solution to an end user, without the other, but there hasn’t been a case where a switcher was not used to complete the setup.

Compatibility with a wide range of devices, seamless switching between inputs and outputs and automation/control integration for centralised management and automation of AV setups have solidified switchers’ role in the AV industry for many years to come. You cannot have a true AV solution without a switcher.

Ray Sappal - Visual Systems

Dante by Audinate

Over the last two decades, one of the most influential products in the professional AV industry has been Dante audio networking technology. Developed by Audinate, Dante has fundamentally transformed the way audio is distributed, managed, and integrated in various professional applications, making it a cornerstone technology in the world of professional AV.

Dante's influence is rooted in its ability to simplify and enhance audio connectivity and

distribution in complex AV systems. It operates on standard Ethernet networks, allowing audio signals to be transmitted digitally over the same infrastructure that supports data and other AV signals. This has reinvented how audio is handled in professional settings, offering unprecedented flexibility and scalability.

One key reason for Dante's influence is its plug-and-play simplicity. Traditionally, setting up audio systems required extensive cabling, routing, and manual configuration. Dante eliminates much of this complexity by providing a straightforward, IT-friendly solution. Devices equipped with Dante-enabled components can be easily connected to the network, and the system can automatically recognise and route audio signals. 

This streamlined setup process has saved considerable time and resources in installations across various pro AV applications. Scalability is a crucial aspect of Dante's influence. Whether in large-scale concert venues, broadcasting studios, conference centres, or educational institutions, Dante's network-based approach allows for the seamless expansion of audio channels. As the number of audio devices increases, Dante can effortlessly scale to accommodate the growing demands, offering a level of flexibility and futureproofing that traditional analogue systems struggle to match.

Dante's low latency is a critical factor in its success. On top of this it’s become an industry standard, so offers interoperability and it incorporates robust security protocols so is secure and reliable.

Jilesh Kumaran – Oxford Integration 

Dante by Audinate 

I believe that the most influential AV technology in the past 20 years is Dante by Audinate. As an integrator, we have specific needs from technology. The product must not fail; most of the AV systems are used for mission-critical scenarios.

These are electronic devices, so we look for the least failures, and redundancy. Dante works on the network, and we can completely get rid of issues like connectors not working, someone tripping on the cable and so on. Secondly, Dante is more of a plug-and-play technology. Over 500 brands use Dante now, so what more does an integrator require than flexibility and scalability? We always see that the systems we provide are future-proof and we also see that we are not restricted by one brand or proprietary issues. Dante provides us with the luxury of choice. We always see that the system is easy to install; that doesn’t mean easy work, but reduced costs to clients, fewer cables, and civil work. These days, network infrastructure exists everywhere, and that’s what Dante needs.

Finally, the technology is easy to use. Dante allows us to choose various products due to the brand choices. We often get into the maintenance of our projects, and Dante makes it so easy. We can discover products, configure, control, and maintain all the audio and video devices in a single place. There are various other AV technologies out that have made and are making a huge impact, but in my view, in the past 20 years, Dante made AV integrators’ lives easy and made our clients feel glad!

Andrew Liebrand – Design Integration 

Dante by Audinate 

In my opinion, the one piece of technology that has changed the way AV is implemented in various spaces in the last twenty years, has been Dante. It took the existing technology of audio over IP, improved it dramatically and brought it to the masses in various fields within the AV industry. Starting with success in the live events space it has been very successfully incorporated into the commercial space with most major manufacturers embracing the technology.

From our perspective, as an integrator, the technology has allowed us to approach our design and integration very differently and has opened possibilities that were previously very difficult and expensive to implement. The speed at which Dante can be implemented has meant that it is easy to set up temporary or additional equipment with very few connections.

With extremely low latency audio possible over an IP network, centralising systems and using the new or existing structured network of a building has allowed for easy integration without the additional costly need to run independent cabling and supporting hardware for an audio system. It has allowed the expansion of a system to be smooth and relatively low cost, with only the hardware cost needing to be considered in most circumstances. The simple matrix software implementation has allowed for ease of commissioning, less time spent on site which in turn gives our clients and end users a better experience with minimal disruption.

The ability to integrate legacy or existing equipment via a range of adapters has also allowed us to re-use suitable existing equipment where possible. Dante gives us the opportunity to easily build redundancy into an audio system, and with everything considered allows for a robust reliable system which is definitely the end goal. Ultimately, it allows high quality audio to be implemented into spaces where it previously would possibly not have been considered.

Sanjit Shah – Diversified 

Immersive experiences  

One of the most influential AV products for me personally, has to be an immersive experience. The perception of being surrounded by and being a part of a different environment is mind blowing and takes us away from our everyday normality.

There is also a growth in technology helping to facilitate these experiences e.g., VR- Virtual reality, AR- Augmented reality, helping to enhance such experiences even more.

Recently my nine-year-old asked me for some VR Goggles for her Christmas present, explaining to me how she would like to access the Metaverse! This demonstrates how much of an impact technology is having on the younger generations and one day this will be their everyday normality.

I have participated in many incredible immersive experiences to date, including The London Dungeon, Secret Cinema, War of the Worlds and Tomb Raider.

My first immersive experience was at the age of 12 when I visited the London Dungeon with my family. I remember my senses igniting to the sound, smell, audio, and visuals within that experience. There were moments when I was intrigued and scared seeing some of the visuals that looked horrifying and learning all about Jack the Ripper and his awful crimes.

It felt astonishing after being a part of that experience, I was back into the outside of the building and returning to my normality. This fascinated me, that my mind for about an hour took me on a journey, and all I was doing was walking through a building, it shows you the impact and power of technology.

The unique selling points for Immersive experiences in my opinion, is allowing individuals to acquire knowledge and skills through simulations and interactive immersive activities, rather than just reading and listening. This will help with improving knowledge retention.

It is a great way for people to interact in person and people often find the experience profound, conjuring up emotions and memories within that Individual, which creates more of an impact for them.

The experience is transportive, leading viewers into another reality or imaginative space through extended reality, which again creates more of an impact and deeper connection for that individual. 

I love that fact that I am a part of such a great industry where talent and expertise is bought together, creating such dazzling and amazing projects. Maybe another 12-year-old will be touched by such an experience that it leads them into a career in AV for the near future!

Banan Masri – Makabitech 

AVoIP chips

AV-over-IP chips have been a game-changer in the industry, transforming how AV content is distributed and managed. These chips enable the transmission of audio and video signals over standard data networks, providing a scalable and flexible solution for AV integration. Traditional AV setups often involve complex and expensive cabling infrastructure, limiting scalability and flexibility. AV-over-IP chips, however, leverage existing network infrastructure, allowing for the seamless integration of AV systems over a standard IP network. We can easily expand or reconfigure our clients’ AV setups without the need for extensive rewiring.

One standout feature is the ability to transmit high-quality audio and video signals with low latency over long distances. Scalability is another significant advantage. AV-over-IP chips allow for the distribution of content to an unlimited number of endpoints.

They are also cost-effective by reducing the need for proprietary hardware and minimising installation time. MaktabiTech observed a notable increase in efficiency and a decrease in total cost of ownership for our clients adopting AV-over-IP solutions.

In conclusion, AV-over-IP chips stand out as the most influential AV product over the last two decades. Their ability to revolutionise the way audiovisual content is distributed, along with their scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness, has positioned them as a cornerstone in our commitment to delivering cutting-edge and future-proof AV solutions for our clients.

Main photo credit: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock.com

Article Categories

Most Viewed