Network Improvements and their Impact on Sound Quality

The goal of this thread is to share experiences with the Network environment associated with streamed digital music. The hypothesis is that just like other areas of audio, improvements to and optimization of the quality of the network used to stream digital music can have a very positive impact on sound quality. While the underlying principals are relatively straightforward, networking, by virtue of the huge number of variables, is a very complex field. There are many ways to set up a perfectly functioning network and a huge variety of devices that can be employed....i would hope that through this thread and the experience and experimentation of key contributors, we may be able to narrow down the number of devices that are proven to work well for audio applications and develop a few networking concepts that function particularly well for the reproduction of music.
My own personal experience in optimizing my network has led to a number of very positive surprises....
  • large improvements in sound quality do not necessarily require large financial investments...in fact, many times the opposite holds true
  • standard 16/44.1 Redbook format files can sound incredibly good and highly satisfying, musically.....jaw droppingly so
  • internet radio at 128kbps can be hugely entertaining and a brilliant source of new music
  • some of the biggest improvements lie in the most unexpected of places
  • the law of diminishing returns doesn’t seem to operate the same way as classic audio...from a network standpoint, the better and more revealing your system becomes, the greater the impact of future network improvements
  • you may really need to rethink/revise your value scales....for example buying a $500 silver/gold DC cable for a $200 router may be an entirely sound decision (s’cuse the pun)
  • the efficacy of a device is highly dependent on the environment in which it‘s used. Because a device works well in one installation doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well in all installations...there are simply too many variables
  • careful implementation of a network will often achieve superior results compared to chasing the most highly reviewed hi-fi components and installing them in an less than optimum network environment
For the above reasons, I am keen to share networking experiences...I’m looking forward to benefitting from the wealth of knowledge and expertise of this forum’s participants.
 
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wil

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Jul 22, 2015
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Radio Swiss might be a good source for mining well recorded classical music to listened to later at higher resolution. It sounds as if they go to some effort to curate their playlist re sonic quality.
 
Likes: christoph

kswanson27

Active Member
Nov 22, 2018
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Gentlemen

Can you tell us what app you are streaming Radio Swiss Classic with?

Thanks
I use my venerable Squeezebox Touch running to my DAC. Only downside is I have to keep the DAC remote handy to switch inputs. I probably should investigate how to get it on Roon if that's even possible.
 
Apr 20, 2018
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I stream a handful+ classical stations, some of which are higher res than Swiss Radio But Swiss Radio is my regular go to due to both the music selections and overall sound quality. I source through a modded Sonos with Emperical LPS/SMS to Berkeley DAC.
I listen to Swiss Radio about 10:1 over other good classical radio sources.
 

kswanson27

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Nov 22, 2018
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For those of you Rooning go to Live Radio>Music>Classical and Radio Swiss is there along with dozens of other classical stations. So I can put my DAC remote away now.
 
Likes: christoph
Jan 16, 2013
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I agree completely with Rhapsody’s reply and
would like to give feedback on my own experience.

Let’s start with Radio Swiss Classic. This is MP3 based 128kbps internet radio.....typically something you’d use to warm up a system without serious listening. But not anymore. The music they transmit are careful selections of joyously uplifting pieces by composers I’m often not familiar with....things like oboe, bassoon or flute concertoes that i wouldn’t normally gravitate to. Beautifully performed by master musicians the recordings are generally extremely well Made. Like Rhapsody I started using the station as a warm up and found that it became increasingly engaging, getting to the point it becomes a real act of will to switch off, even though the higher resolution formats do sound better. Frankly, Swiss Radio Classics may be the closest I’ve ever come to the true sound of a concert hall, where instruments are beautifully located in space without being artificially highlighted or spotlighted....no doubt the output of a few, highly skilled recording engineers.
But these are not bad recordings.....they are great recordings transmitted at a low resolution, that when processed properly sound magnificent.

On the other hand, poor recordings are still poor recordings.....for example when all musicians share the same crowded centre stage, all sounds emanating from the exact same spot, which in real life is of course physically impossible....recordings without bloom or ambience, cold, sterile and without warmth and beauty. These recordings are fairly rare, less than 5% probably but no amount of system or network improvement can help such recordings, other than to let you understand why they’re so unpleasant. But where the true gems lie are in really good recordings that’s you may not have fully appreciated that suddenly bloom to generate a sense of amazement and wonder....where the true talent of the artist is revealed in subtle details of timing, rhythmic interplay, note shape and micro-dynamics. When that happens you know you’ve made a truly fundamental upgrade of your system’s performance.
It's funny, one of my customers, who happens to be 87 turned me on to RSC about 2 years ago. I could not figure why he was buying a few hundred $K system and all he seemed to care about would it integrate with the Sonos system all home system and could he hear RSC through this new system too. AND control it with his iPhone. Love him and his wife.

Not audiophiles at all. Music Lovers.

Now I understand.
 
Jan 16, 2013
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Radio Swiss might be a good source for mining well recorded classical music to listened to later at higher resolution. It sounds as if they go to some effort to curate their playlist re sonic quality.
I enjoy RSC more than anything else regarding audio. It's special.

I have the RadioSwissClassic open in my browser, and when there is a great performance, I search for it on my browser. 8 out of 10 times I find the exact album. Then I search for it in Roon and save it.

I never listen to the albums that I save:) Because I'm always listening to RSC.
 
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ALF

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Mar 15, 2012
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I enjoy RSC more than anything else regarding audio. It's special.

I have the RadioSwissClassic open in my browser, and when there is a great performance, I search for it on my browser. 8 out of 10 times I find the exact album. Then I search for it on Roon and save it.

I never listen to the albums that I save:) Because I'm always listening to RSC.
:):):)
 
Likes: Rhapsody

gds7368

Well-Known Member
Jan 9, 2015
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I substantially increased sound quality by relocating the modem on the other side of the wall from the music room, it just required 45’ of coaxial.

I do run separates; modem, router and grounded etherREGEN switch all connected with Audioquest Diamond to Gigafoil v4 to Aurender.

All Keces P8 linear power supplies, Oyaide cabled on DC and Audioquest Dragon on AC. Mechanical isolation on Adona platforms.

ADDPWR gives it a boost.

Results are so good, streaming is very close to files, and I bet most can’t tell the difference.
I’m tempted to get a Keces 8 to try on my Roon Nucleus Plus. Where did you buy yours? The Keces website says no returns, and I want to demo the LPS to hear the potential difference so I can return if not impressed.
 

RGMD11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
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I’m tempted to get a Keces 8 to try on my Roon Nucleus Plus. Where did you buy yours? The Keces website says no returns, and I want to demo the LPS to hear the potential difference so I can return if not impressed.
I just bought (Amazon Germany) a Keces P3 for my Router and Switch, it made a big improvement in SQ in my system

http://www.kecesaudio.com/

Best wishes
 
Apr 16, 2019
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One other switch to consider is the Melco S100 as reported on by @hols and @CKKeung and others. This is the final switch I have been interested in auditioning and I have it now:




This switch actually belongs to @seeteeyou and is the same switch that @hols, @austinpop, @nenon, and perhaps others have evaluated and so this switch is well traveled from Japan to Hong Kong, Chicago, Austin (Texas), and now the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California. This switch can tell some stories, lol.



I actually have a second Melco switch (a Buffalo that uses the exact same board as the Melco that was modded by @nenon) that was sent to me courtesy of @austinpop which has allowed me to evaluate the impact of 2 of these switches. While there are subtle differences between the 2, for my practical purposes, I find them to be equivalent and so I will refer to them as one in this report.

I also presently have a Sonore opticalModule on loan:



I decided to also try an alternative SFP, this time a wide-temperature 10G model from Finisar to compare against the MGB-TLX SFP from planetechusa.com that has been my reference since early February:



I currently have 6 switches on hand in addition to the EdgeRouter and SB8200 modem (and so 8 network devices). Powering each one properly was a challenge but I managed to apply either an SR7 or SR4 rail to each device. In each instance, a better power supply made a significant difference, much larger than differences between Ethernet cabling.

As for the impact of 6 network switches, through repeated addition and subtraction of each switch, it was easy to hear each switch's individual impact. Much has been said about applying your best switch last (closest to your server) but to my ears, the impact of the 1st switch is no less than the impact of the last switch. It's as if the character imposed by the switch on the signal is forever embedded into the signature and this signature can be modulated in some way by subsequent switches but not removed. I'm confident that if I had 10 or 20 switches in series, they would each contribute something. In my case, combining all 6 switches did not provide a net positive.

Is the contribution of a good switch just "isolation?" I'm not so sure. I think each switch is probably offering some isolation but then also imprinting its own noise signature that can either be positive or negative and this new signature becomes embedded to the new signal. With the etherRegen, for example, there is this famous moat that is advertised but once you cross the moat, the output stage of this switch will have its own signature based on the properties of the chipset, clock, resistors, capacitors, PCB traces, dielectric coefficient of the PCB, etc. It turns out network equipment is also prone to considerable EMI emissions that if not properly contained, can significantly impact surrounding components (i.e. other switches and worse, your DAC). As a proof of concept, I entered the "B" side of the eR so as to utilize its moat. I then connected the SFP side of the eR to the SFP side of the Melco. If the eR's moat already is providing supreme isolation, then why is the Melco altering the sound further (and for the better)? This is why I say each switch must be imprinting its own signature and that if you decide to place even 100 switches in your chain, each switch will continue to alter the sound.

I presently do not have the M12 Gold in my possession but I will have it again soon. That switch is just too good not to own and I really miss it. Presently, I have the equivalent of 2 Melco S100s, 2 SOtM sNH-10Gs, an etherRegen, and an oM. To my ears, it almost doesn't matter what order you have them in. If I have the sNH-10G in the first position or the last, I can hear it's qualities quite easily. It offers the best depth of any of the switches I have heard but it also imparts a certain thinness. This thinness was never a problem with my previous servers but it is not a quality I can accept with the Extreme and so I will be moving on from it. For some time now, the etherRegen has been functioning as an FMC in my system as I do not prefer its "B" side with the Extreme. I believe many Extreme owners feel the same way. The eR provides nice body and when powered well, excellent dynamics and liveliness, especially with the MGB-TLX SFPs from planetechusa.com. The oM performs similarly, maybe slightly better and for less money but ultimately, what either the eR or oM offers pale in comparison to what the Melco S100 offers and do not offer the resolution of the Melco. The Melco S100 is very obviously the superior switch to my ears and while this is mostly likely system dependent, dual Melco S100s are even better and so I see my final network configuration finally starting to take shape.

What the Melco S100 offers that no other switch can offer to the same degree is sound staging, dynamics, and fullness. While I do not presently have the M12 Gold in my possession, there is no doubt in my mind it cannot compete with the Melco when it comes to these qualities. With 2 of them in series and when powered by SR7 rails, even at low listening volumes, the dynamics and fullness of the midbass and midrange are just incredible. They are behaving literally like active gain stages but in the digital domain. Moreover, it's not "one note" bass, it's very well defined bass with excellent bass texture that is especially appreciated when listening to a solo cello or double bass. The sound stage and air is also beyond any switch I have heard. With complex large orchestral music, you really get a better sense of the dimensions of the venue. The SOtM comes close and provides better depth and detail delicacy but again sounds thin. In comparison, the eR and oM sound flat and add nothing to what the S100 already brings. My eR will now be retired as well.

Based on the balance of qualities I seek, for now, my anticipated network will look as follows:

SB8200 modem > copper > EdgeRouter > copper > Melco/Buffalo > copper > M12 Gold > copper > Melco/Buffalo > fiber > Extreme.

For my preferences, fiber needs to be somewhere and I prefer it straight to the Extreme and yes, the quality of copper Ethernet cabling still makes a significant difference. As for the SFPs, the more expensive Finisars did not sound as good as the MBG-TLX from planetechusa.com.

Consider the above as one person's perspective. Obviously, YMMV.

Hello from Athens.
As soon as everything adds up, then why not going the opposite way?
Having read all this, I decided to go the simpler way possible:

Router (DHCP) > copper > NAS (FreeNAS 11.3 with bridged net interfaces) > copper > Music server (Euphony with bridged net interfaces) > copper > Audio Endpoint (Pink Faun I2s) > DAC (TDA1540)

I really can't see any point of adding switches in between each component...
The connected machines are in series. Not interested in streaming but only playing local files.

Can somebody please explain me what exactly I will benefit of, in case I add so much hardware in between?

Thanks a lot!
 
Likes: sbo6

sbo6

Well-Known Member
May 19, 2014
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Hello from Athens.
As soon as everything adds up, then why not going the opposite way?
Having read all this, I decided to go the simpler way possible:

Router (DHCP) > copper > NAS (FreeNAS 11.3 with bridged net interfaces) > copper > Music server (Euphony with bridged net interfaces) > copper > Audio Endpoint (Pink Faun I2s) > DAC (TDA1540)

I really can't see any point of adding switches in between each component...
The connected machines are in series. Not interested in streaming but only playing local files.

Can somebody please explain me what exactly I will benefit of, in case I add so much hardware in between?

Thanks a lot!
My point pretty much above. Why add extra costly components, switches with expensive PSUs and cables when if done well direct connect is simpler, cheaper and arguably should be better. But few seem to want to go this route.
 
Apr 16, 2019
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My point pretty much above. Why add extra costly components, switches with expensive PSUs and cables when if done well direct connect is simpler, cheaper and arguably should be better. But few seem to want to go this route.
It has not only to do with simplicity, fewer components and cost cutting. It has to do with logic. Common sense. It is ridiculous to add 2 switches each time to isolate what? Noise? LoL! If adding one more switch leads to better sound that means each unit transmits at least 100.0001% of sound. It's this ever possible to happen?

I have not seen any response here. What should I benefit from, by adding switches in between my components. Nobody responds... Still waiting...
 
Likes: sbo6
Aug 14, 2019
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It has not only to do with simplicity, fewer components and cost cutting. It has to do with logic. Common sense. It is ridiculous to add 2 switches each time to isolate what? Noise? LoL! If adding one more switch leads to better sound that means each unit transmits at least 100.0001% of sound. It's this ever possible to happen?

I have not seen any response here. What should I benefit from, by adding switches in between my components. Nobody responds... Still waiting...
See post #163 in this thread.
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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It has not only to do with simplicity, fewer components and cost cutting. It has to do with logic. Common sense. It is ridiculous to add 2 switches each time to isolate what? Noise? LoL! If adding one more switch leads to better sound that means each unit transmits at least 100.0001% of sound. It's this ever possible to happen?

I have not seen any response here. What should I benefit from, by adding switches in between my components. Nobody responds... Still waiting...
There are literally hundreds of posts on this forum and on Audiophile Style, including evaluations of all the most popular switches and their effect on sound quality.
if you are interested in researching the subject there‘s enough information on these 2 sites to keep you busy for weeks. What do switches do? They clean up your audio stream of HF noise and jitter essentially by resynthesizing the data stream. In addition, depending on the format used they may provide isolation from other network traffic and/or galvanic isolation from the network’s hardware borne noise. The cleaner the incoming stream the more accurate the resynthesis so chaining these devices is essentially a series refinement process. The people posting about these switches are mainly reporting the results of their implementation, so most of the reports have a before and after format. A few expert posters have actually compared a variety of different switches and evaluated their efficacy both alone and in various combinations, so their reports are particularly helpful in knowing what to expect from a given unit. Of course you can set up a digital chain with no clean up devices, but then miss out on one of digital‘s biggest advantages over analog...namely the ability to purify and recondition the data stream.
 
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wil

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Jul 22, 2015
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I tried both, Matt, and they each have something to offer.

Through the 1Gbps ports, the signature is a bit more forward and direct. There is better control and sounds start and stop more precisely. Decay is shorter but not in an unnatural way. Instrument lines are easier to discern as transients are expressed with greater clarity but surprisingly, dynamic drive is very good both ways. Some might say this presentation is more accurate, especially for orchestral music.

Through the 100Mbps ports, the signature has a velvety smooth and supple presentation but still highly resolved. It is a more idealized sound but still very natural sounding. It is less dry and more ethereal in the treble. Sounds float in air and linger longer. The presentation is less fatiguing. As above, while there is a softness, dynamics is still very good. I could easily see some people preferring this presentation, especially for harsh recordings or when you're just looking to relax or listen for hours.

There is no right or wrong and both presentations have the ability to bring goosebumps. I for one appreciate the option of both presentations.
Are Melco's 100Mbps and Gigabit ports isolated from one another?

So, if I use the Gig ports to connect via copper to my music server
and, I use the 100Mbps port to connect copper to my general purpose computer...

.... will the noise from the general purpose computer be isolated from the copper ethernet to the music server?

Or, instead of copper, if I went fiber from the Melco sfp > Music Server, would that provide total isolation from the general purpose computer?
 
Jan 16, 2013
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My point pretty much above. Why add extra costly components, switches with expensive PSUs and cables when if done well direct connect is simpler, cheaper and arguably should be better. But few seem to want to go this route.
You can go which ever route you choose. No one is suggesting other wise. In this thread no one is saying do this or do that. We are sharing our experiences so that others that would like to experiment might have some sign posts from those who have gone before.

Enjoy whichever route you might choose. Do what works for you and allows you to enjoy your music. But please don't disparage all of us who have found wonders of upticks in performance on the network side of the equation and especially from this thread.
 
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It has not only to do with simplicity, fewer components and cost cutting. It has to do with logic. Common sense. It is ridiculous to add 2 switches each time to isolate what? Noise? LoL! If adding one more switch leads to better sound that means each unit transmits at least 100.0001% of sound. It's this ever possible to happen?

I have not seen any response here. What should I benefit from, by adding switches in between my components. Nobody responds... Still waiting...
You all should start a thread on attacking the network side of the equation the simplest and least expensive way possible. Then you would be able to work together and come up with the best solutions taking that route.

This thread was started to enhance the sound as much as possible through network enhancements. We have had SO many people on this thread that have personally experienced upticks in sonic performance by taking the route that we chose.

There is no right or wrong way to proceed, just which route you choose to follow. And no one here is saying that your route is wrong. Enjoy it and embrace it.
 
Likes: Thuan

joaovieira

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Feb 16, 2013
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Bob, I ended with the EdgeRouter and fyber from it to a converter close to the internet company router about 15m away.
I have both fyber and copper on that path and it is easy to choose one to test.
I am like you on your first findings. What is that???? Amazing results.
From the ER to SGM EVO I am using the Sablon Ethernet cable.
 

Superdad

Well-Known Member
Apr 22, 2015
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Are Melco's 100Mbps and Gigabit ports isolated from one another?
No more so than any of its ports are from each other. They use the same Gigabit magnetics transformer modules on all 8 ports, and there is just the one main switch chip. Making half the ports 100Mbps-only is done just in flash programming of the switch chip.
Someone posted this pic (comparing the S100 to the Buffalo-brand equivalent):
Melco S100 and Buffalo equiv.jpg
 

Marcin_gps

VIP Donor/Industry Expert
Jun 24, 2015
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It has not only to do with simplicity, fewer components and cost cutting. It has to do with logic. Common sense. It is ridiculous to add 2 switches each time to isolate what? Noise? LoL! If adding one more switch leads to better sound that means each unit transmits at least 100.0001% of sound. It's this ever possible to happen?

I have not seen any response here. What should I benefit from, by adding switches in between my components. Nobody responds... Still waiting...
Peter, if you did a test and listen what the m12 switch gold does in a system that plays local files, you wouldn't be posting this. The advantage is clear after 5 seconds.

And I came all the way from direct Ethernet connection in JPLAY dual PC mode since in was introduced in 2012, through developing the NET Card FEMTO and improving Ethernet cables.

Sure, direct Ethernet connection, without the switch, sounds nice. But as soon as you connect the switch, you realize the sound you were gettning before was flat.
 

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