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If you are serious about the best network infrastructure, specially for high fidelity music and audio, I highly recommend fiber. Proper routing, switching, WAPs and AC protection/isolation are important, but having a properly designed, terminated and certified fiber core is a requirement.
We specialize in audio/video integration for custom homes, condos and yachts. We use Cisco, Cisco Meraki and Ubiquiti for routers, switches and WAPs. We like Furman AC products and sometimes use Ruckus WAPs for large estates with multiple structures. We are certified for single/multi-mode fiber and do all the installation, termination, service and support.
For the investment that some of you are making in your audio/music systems, you owe it to yourself to get the highest quality network: fiber.
You're welcome. The switch should be plug in and play, literally.
As long as your control point (e.g. Remote App) recognizes the unit it is responsible for (attached to the switch / network), you should be up and running right away. I would start with Roku as I believe it will automatically try to 'find' itself on the network.
I thought switching would be dead simple until I read this thread. Actually, I’d like to keep it simple if I can.
My husband I and are elders now, and Audio is strictly my “game” so I don’t expect a lot of bit torrent interference, to put it mildly. The most that can happen is my husband might be watching TV with no Ethernet needed at the same time I am listening to music.
That said, do I really need a managed pro switch? Can I get by with a simple unmanaged switch from Netgear? My Netgear Nighhawk router will host only two Ethernet Cat6a cables. I just need one switch at my TV room where I want to split an Ethernet Cable to two sources, a Roku and a DVD player/network streamer. Will that lone consumer grade unmanaged switch compromise my high res audio quality? I’ve got mid to high quality stereo systems where audio quality definitely matters but I’m a long way from a $100k audio system.
I’m not kidding when I say my head feels full to bursting with a ton of new technical details related to adding high res streaming to my household. I really hope to minimize that brain bulge and avoid learning how to manage managed switches! But if I need to, I want to know I really do need to.
Sorry it's been so long since I visited this one. I've actually experienced both. Not all AC power supplies are created equally. I've consistency had the best results in A/V use cases when working with networking equipment by manufacturers who have a history of designing equipment with datacenters in mind. The power may be redundant but it's often shared by hundreds or even thousands of other devices and it can get pretty foul.
When it comes to network switching, I've been supremely disappointed by the offerings from reputable A/V manufacturers like Crestron, AMX and Control4. To be perfectly candid, I have no idea why they bothered to make the attempt. They're not really any better than off the shelf brands like Netgear and Linksys. Fine for basic stuff but if you're getting into any of the interesting multicast applications that are creeping into the world of A/V, spend a few extra bucks on even a used enterprise grade switch.
Most of the A/V applications will have good enough documentation that tells you what you need to configure to get everything working. The big bonus with enterprise grade network switches come into play when you start working with QoS (Quality of Service) queuing to guarantee levels of bandwidth and priority to specific network traffic. Without it I'm sure you can well imagine how bad your knucklehead son can affect your HD video or audio stream when he launches a 5GB bittorrent download. With a little bit of tweaking you can throttle him down and make your HD streams bomb proof.
Ok now you're in my wheelhouse. I learn a ton about audio from the membership here but IP networking is what I do. I am in fact a network engineer with better than 25 years of industrial scale experience in corporate and government network environments. This is where I earn my keep. If I may toot my own horn a bit, I am an expert.
Let me first say yes to Cisco routing and switching. I work with all of the major manufacturers, Cisco, Juniper, Dell, HP, Fortinet, Palo Alto and on and on. They're all truly capable but the reason I like to steer people towards Cisco is that it's pervasive. If you have an issue, someone smarter than you has likely been there and done that and published a nice document on how to conquer the issue. The documentation available (for free) on-line cannot be beat.
Ok, that's out of the way. I'd say the choice of the best switch depends entirely on what you want to accomplish. The reason I say this is that on an increasingly complex basis, I've had to deal with what is called network convergence. The main objective of a network is to transmit computer related data, your run of the mill internet/LAN traffic, web/email/file sharing etc. Then phone traffic was added. I'm sure you've seen and heard the term VoIP. In more recent years, people have seen the transport value of adding services like DVR/AVR video security systems and even audio/visual services to the IP network.
So here's where I like "smart" managed switches like Cisco. You can create "VLAN's" or virtual LAN to segment different network traffic systems. For example you would create a data VLAN for your PC's, Mac's and Servers. A VLAN for you telephone/voice/VoIP. A VLAN for yes, you guessed it... A/V.
What's good about a top-end managed switch like a Cisco Catalyst device is that you can manage your typical broadcast AND multicast network traffic. Most unmanaged switches will pass anything but won't control network congestion. With Cisco gear you can control broadcast and multicast traffic on a per-VLAN basis. You can implement QoS (Quality of Service) queuing which basically lets you assign a priority to different traffic types. For example you would want your voice or A/V traffic to have a higher priority or even a guaranteed bandwidth above and beyond your knuckle-head son's bit torrents (God only knows what he's pirating) traffic.
In most cases you shouldn't really care about what you're doing on the network in the home in terms of streaming content as long as you have enough bandwidth. Cable/broadband is generally pretty sufficient with the buffering built in to the services that are typically needed the most. Unmanaged switches will generally pass multicast A/V traffic but with a nice managed switch, you can control broadcast and multicast storms on the network if you have a misconfigured device. AppleTV makes extensive use of multicast and I've nearly been brought to tears on numerous occasions with a poorly configured multicast network and an AppleTV in an executive conference room.
I know, this is a whole lot of technical mumbo-jumbo about corporate networking but I can assure you that it's making its way to the home. For voice, think of services like Vonage. For DVR/IVR, look at the pro-sumer grade products like Synology or QNap. AppleTV, Chromecast etc... You get into some of the higher end controllers like Crestrons, the Control4 and AMX product lines and this stuff becomes critical.
I've done extensive work with the AMX SVSi products for A/V distribution and the networking is absolutely critical to performance. Cisco networking solutions, bar none, do the best job of delivering HD quality over 1gig ethernet. I've gotten to the point where I have HD video distribution through the house with these products on a small scale working in ways that really make the usefulness of IP networking fantastically utility in terms of A/V. It's truly coming of age.
Use shielded cat-6. Do your best to avoid using dumb switches anywhere. If you must have separate switches in different locations, use "smart" or managed switches in each location. Try to segment different systems in their own isolated vlans to avoid network congestion. Use trunking (802.1Q) between your switches. Only use PoE switches where you need it. It can get noisy and hot.
There is a line of compact Cisco switches that are absolutely ideal for this kind of A/V networking. Check them out:
They have models that provide PoE, can do VLAN segmentation and trunking, Routing, Broadcast and Multicast storm control, QoS and much more. These guys offer the whole suite of enterprise level feature set of routing and switching in a small, fanless (no moving parts) chassis. They are truly miraculous and there is no better option for a smart network switch in a full featured HiFi integrated system.
They can get hot so keep ventilation in mind. There is a steep learning curve associated with Cisco networking. QoS has a tendency to be an art form as much as it is technical, but it's the difference maker if you want to distribute a full HD stream to multiple screens from a single source.
For my own system, my primary listening room is run by a Classe SSP-800 with a combo of Levinson powered L/C/R and (I've been informed they're considered vintage now) Acurus powered surrounds complimenting a beautiful Samsung 65". We push source material from the main system to the other rooms with the AMX SVSi units and a share AppleTV library over Cisco networking. These compact switches give me the network features to make it all work. I won't lie, the remote end-points aren't always perfect but overall with enough tweaking and experimenting, I am one proud Papa!
Thanks for letting me bloviate!
There are high quality SMPS but unfortunately the most of them, especially wall warts, produce a lot of switching noise. It is practically impossible to avoid them (light dimmers etc.) but noise can be filtered out. I use Furman Elite 20PFi that provides not only filtering but also very tight non-sacrificial over/under voltage protection.
I'm not sure that wall warts WILL cause an issue, but a couple of audiophiles have chased noise problems that ended up being related.
No, bandwidth will not be a problem at all, assuming you are running anything more modern than Token Ring. :D :D :D
Cheap switches are almost all universally 1 GigE. Unless you are running multiple DSD256 at the same time. :)
Thanks all. So to summarize to date, it sounds like consensus is that:
1) bandwidth is likely not to be a consideration. Seems that way to me also. Haven't had problems yet and internet download speed is typically 150 - 170 Mbps.
2) As long as CAT 6 or 6a is used for long runs, my fairly revealing 2 channel system (CAPS microZuma server, PS audio DirectStream DAC, Magtech amp, Soundlab M-1's) is unlikely to suffer audible RF problems.
3)Having non 2 channel components (pre/pro, TV, DirecTv receiver, etc) connected to the same local switch as the DAC is not likely to adversely affect SQ.
4) wall wart (low quality switched mode power supplies) powering the local (or central) switches are likely to affect SQ. Running these on a different circuit will help isolate that. Hmm.
I can do that since I put in a separate line off the electrical service entrance panel to a Torus panel and have 5 circuits off that dedicated to the HT room. The DAC will be on one of those circuits. I also left the original outlets in the room which come off the house subpanel. Local switch can be off that circuit.Problem may be that since those house circuits have a different ground path (but all grounds ultimately do tie back to the service entrance panel) there is a possibilty for different ground potentials in the two circuit systems which can then interact via the low voltage connections (in this case ethernet) between components. I know this is a real phenomenon through the work of Bill Whitlock and Jaime Fox, but not sure how big a deal it might be in this application. Sounds like using the house circuit might be the first thing to try though since it is so simple.
I suppose other options might include linear power supplies for the local switches, ethernet filters, wire to fiber then fiber to wire transitions before the DAC.....All options to occupy future cold winter days inside.
I just thought - does anyone make a non megabuck fiber switch and is using that even anything other than the deranged musings of an OCD audiophile?
The biggest issue IMHO are not the switches and data but the wall warts and the noise they might inject into the power line.
Switches at the rooms are extremely convenient, and often necessary. :-) I have 4 devices in close proximity that need Ethernet access. TV, DVD, Chromecast plus my music server. Wifi is severely congested here so wireless streaming is unreliable.
I would use local switches when necessary, but try to isolate the wall warts by putting them "outside" any power conditioning.
Your design seems very sound. In particular, I applaud your use of a POE-enabled switch and wireless access points; I truly wish more people would understand the substantial benefits from having a solid wired ethernet infrastructure that also supports commercial-grade WiFi.
I recommend one ethernet jack per audio location (or potential audio location). For a 2-channel system, typically the only thing that would require an ethernet jack is a DAC or some sort of audio data transport device (audio streamer) that would connect to a DAC.
For a home theater, get a small switch (I use HP's commercial-grade 8-port gigabit ethernet switches for this) and use this to attach all ethernet-enabled devices (Blu-Ray players, Roku/Apple TV/Amazon Fire TV/etc, audio streamers, modern HT receivers, etc) to that ethernet jack. There is more than enough bandwidth in even 1 GbE (which cat6 cabling can do easily) Typically, you're only going to be streaming music or video to one device within that system, anyway; the rest will effectively be on standby.
I also suggest ethernet jacks to every television location, as most TV's made in the past few years are network-enabled.
Ultimately the limitations in your streaming likely lie in your Internet connection. If you're using a local server, and it's on some very strong hardware, consider link aggregation to connect it to the switch, but this is very likely just overkill. (I did it because my server and main switch are located together, and I wanted to learn how to use it.)
If you use Cat 6A, you'll preserve the ability to go to 10 GbE and 40 GbE in the future, but it might be difficult to find people who are used to working with cat 6A. Realistically many cat 6 runs can do 10 GbE, although possibly not if you're pushing the 100 m max guaranteed ethernet cable length. (It will depend on the capacitance and near-end crosstalk characteristics of the cable.) But the 10 GbE and 40 GbE hardware is going to cost a pretty penny, and the 1 GbE is enough to handle multiple video streams. (I stress-tested my system by streaming video to all 3 TV's and 2 wireless laptops at the same time, and my 1 GbE network was more than able to handle this.) Streaming audio and video allows you to function relatively close to the maximum capabilities of your network, as there are relatively few packet collisions that can really start to slow networks down.
Congratulations on doing your homework with regards to computer networking, and rest assured that one network jack per audio location (with a small switch there if needed) is perfectly adequate.
"In your case Ethernet network transfers data and not music." Quite right. What I am concerned about is the data that contains the 2 channel music info as opposed to the data that carries all the other info going over the network.
"I would use dedicated shielded Ethernet cable" Roger that also. All "horizontal" cable will be Blue Jeans CAT 6 (or 6a) and kept away from AC circuits. That will help with RF (don't want my ethernet cables acting as an antenna).
I mainly was interested in insight on 2 other concerns:
1)The effect on the system and on streamed 2 channel SQ with multiple long ethernet runs vs fewer long runs with switches and patch cords at points of use.
2)any advantages, any techniques, for isolating music data stream from other data streams, especially those likely to have "noise" from power supplies
Yes, it is 1's and 0's but they have to be converted at exact time intervals to avoid additional "products" that result in overall noise. In your case Ethernet network transfers data and not music. Music is created when timing (clock) for this data is added in your DAC. You can still affect purity of internal timinig/clock by injecting noise into DAC. Because of that I would use dedicated shielded Ethernet cable where sound is the most important to you. I don't have actual experience with NAS, Roon or Tidal so I can speak only speculate.