Ethernet Cables


Audioquest advertises a series of Ethernet cables they tout as improving sound quality. I have a BDP-1 digital transport that connects to the router via Ethernet cable.

Has anyone had experience with the effect, if any, of alleged higher quality Ethernet cables on sound quality in audio rigs where these cables are required, e.g., with streamers, digital ttansports, etc.? I am skeptical, but I was about power cables too but that disappeared soon enough.

Neal
nglazer
Here is a pretty decent review. Make sure you read all the comments below the article.

http://www.audiostream.com/content/audioquest-vodka-ethernet-cable-and-diamond-ethernet-cable
Even if they do, it's no point to pay 100...1000 x price vs. generic ones to get itsy-bitsy-tiny-shiny-microscopic improvement. The whole idea beyond that is to capture rich dad's foolish son typo market.
I was using a cheap Belkin 25 ft UTP CAT-5 cable to connect my PerfectWave to my router. I then bought a cheap SSTP CAT-7 cable to see if it made any difference. I swapped them back and forth several times and my impression was that the CAT-5 was a little more laid back and the CAT-7 a little more detailed. The time it takes to swap them is a factor though as the PerfectWave and router lose their DLNA connection each time so I have to do a reset on the DAC. I do believe there are likely differences between cables but in similarly constructed cables probably not enough to discern ... and I find it hard to believe that different metals alone create any differences assuming all are premium quality metals. The difference I thought I detected may be due to the shielded/unshielded difference between the 2 cables. The CAT-7 cable does have a different type of connector also that is shielded and uses gold-plated conductors, and seems to seat better.
There's a "sucka" born every minute...save your hard-earned dough unless you're independently wealthy and $ is no worry.
Ethernet cable might affect sound indirectly by capacitive or electromagnetic coupling of electrical noise to audio system. Other than that Ethernet cable transfers data and not the music. Data is transferred in packets (not in the real time). Timing for the DAC is recreated on the other side of the Ethernet Bridge. Cable cannot directly affect that.
I agree with all of the previous responses.

Assuming nothing is defective, and the ethernet link functions reliably, the only conceivable way in which the cable could affect what is heard is by coupling of noise to other parts of the system, including the D/A converter circuit where it might affect jitter, as well as analog circuitry.

You might find this thread to be worth reading, starting at the post at which the link opens. Member Bryoncunningham, in whose sonic perceptions I would have total confidence, reported a significant improvement going from unshielded cat5 or 5e to shielded cat6. The garden variety shielded cat6 he purchased I believe cost him something like one-half of one percent of the price of the top of the line AQ Diamond for a similar length (which, according to the link Mofi provided, would have been $5495 for the approximately 8 meters Bryon required).

Also, you don't say whether the connection from the router to the system is wired or wireless, but if it is wired, and depending on the cable lengths and the physical locations of the components, my instinct would be to be more concerned with the connection from the router to the system than the connection from the BDP-1 to the router.

The bottom line, IMO: If your present ethernet cable(s) are unshielded, and they are located near and/or are physically connected to the system, an upgrade could very well result in significant sonic improvement. But I don't see any reason to expect that the very expensive AQ cables would produce any more improvement than alternatives costing a miniscule fraction of their price.

Regards,
-- Al
Interesting discussion. I have an unusual wired setup. The router is in the basement, and I use a Netgear Powerline adaptor to "continue" the wired Internet setup to the LR where my stereo rig is. I plug an Powerline adaptor in the wall near my rig, and run an Ethernet cable from the adaptor to the Bryston BDP-1 digital transport. I have to check whether it is CAT 5, 6 or 7 Ethernet cable. It works fine, whatever it is.

Before I go spending the $$ trying the AQ Ethernet cable, I will try moving up the CAT ladder and see if that makes an audible difference. And if I do go the AQ route, it will have to be from a Seller with a generous return policy.

Thanks to y'all.

Neal
I suspect if there were any performance gains to be had via cable choice, gamers would have figured it out long ago.
06-17-14: Lindisfarne
There's a "sucka" born every minute...save your hard-earned dough unless you're independently wealthy and $ is no worry.
Lindisfarne (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Someone called? Yep, I'm a "sucka" with $$ to burn.

I replaced generic ethernet cable with AQ and heard a nice improvement. Sound is more coherent and less dark.

Improvements were not as dramatic as going wireless to hard wired or new computer with faster CPU, memory ...
New computer with faster CPU and memory can do more harm than good with Ethernet connection, often producing more electrical noise. Speed doesn't make any difference as long as it is adequate (pretty much any computer) since timing is irrelevant with Ethernet.
06-18-14: Kijanki
New computer with faster CPU and memory can do more harm than good with Ethernet connection, often producing more electrical noise. Speed doesn't make any difference as long as it is adequate (pretty much any computer) since timing is irrelevant with Ethernet.
The key word is, CAN. All I can say is new computer sounds MUCH MUCH better. Most obvious improvement is sound more continuous ... appears old computer doesn't have enough cpu to keep up.

BTW, I also hard wired my computer for audio to router.
I agree with Kijanki's statement, and I also agree with Joe's emphasis on the word "can." There are countless unknown, unpredictable, and complex design-dependent effects going on inside of a computer which can affect the amount of noise coupled onto its ethernet interface. And in addition to "how much" noise is present, the susceptibility of the audio system to its effects will be dependent, in unpredictable ways, on its frequency spectrum.

One of those many factors, btw, is whether the computer or the router or other device it is connected to is old enough to be using 100 megabits per second ethernet, as opposed to gigabit ethernet. Although I would not want to speculate as to which ethernet speed is likely to be more problematical for an audio system, if in fact there is any difference.

So I don't think any generalizations can or should be drawn as to whether an older or newer computer is likely to be more suitable for use as an audio source. And if a difference is perceived when comparing results using an older and a newer computer, I don't think there is likely to be a good basis upon which to attribute that difference to a particular aspect of their designs, such as CPU speed.

Regards,
-- Al
Joecasey, you're right - one computer CAN sound better than the other but it is not related to speed (or amount of RAM) but to amount of electrical noise produced. Whether computer can or cannot keep up does not change the sound because timing is not involved. If it is too slow (not likely) you will hear dropouts rather than change in sound quality.

Your upgrade to AQ cable worked because you replaced unshielded cable with shielded one. Chances are that you would get exactly the same improvement from generic inexpensive shielded cable.
I truly have a hard time believing that these "special" ethernet cables make a difference. I've NEVER seen a single packet error (out of countless millions sent -- just type 'ifconfig' on a Unix-based system and it will show you the number of packets transmitted/received successfully, and the number with errors) on my Cat 6-based home network. Ethernet is designed as an interference-rejecting connection, and higher-level network protocols (TCP) have error detecting capabilities built-in.

Regular ethernet cables are acceptable for large data centers that need flawless, rapid communications. Why do we expect/think that adding some additional fancy shielding makes a significant sonic difference for our audio applications? Even gigabit ethernet (well within the capabilities of Cat 6 cable) is overkill for CD-type audio streaming. More fancy ethernet cables, such as Cat 6A or 7 allow for higher frequencies and can do 10Gbps+, that's true.

But to believe that an expensive, custom ethernet cable makes a difference for a short, packet-based digital transmission system over a short distance is quite a stretch.

OK, time to raise shields for the onslaught of the people who will criticize me for not being a "true believer".

Michael
06-19-14: Kijanki
Joecasey, you're right - one computer CAN sound better than the other but it is not related to speed (or amount of RAM) but to amount of electrical noise produced. Whether computer can or cannot keep up does not change the sound because timing is not involved. If it is too slow (not likely) you will hear dropouts rather than change in sound quality.
I think you're right. My old computer has 2 GB of RAM and it runs out memory running some applications. All these managed code app has LARGE footprint. It doesn't matter how I set the paging size. App just hangs and pop up a out of memory msg. Probably a bug in the error msg ... should say hanging due to electrical noise.

If apps don't hang, disk is thrashing ... very efficient. Probably due to electrical noise.

There are many degrees of dropouts. Like I said earlier, sound from new computer is more continous so old computer is probably dropping out. My guess is not due to CPU but electrical noise.

I still have my 1st computer ever bought in the basement. Runs Win95, I think 250MB of RAM ... should be fantastic! Slow CPU has less electrical noise, ram and CPU not a factor.

Your upgrade to AQ cable worked because you replaced unshielded cable with shielded one. Chances are that you would get exactly the same improvement from generic inexpensive shielded cable.
WHO said I replaced unshielded cable? It's a Belden shielded cable.

The improvement is similar to replacing a stock with an after market PC. Stock PC sounds dark and no resolution/detail.

06-19-14: Sufentanil
OK, time to raise shields for the onslaught of the people who will criticize me for not being a "true believer".
Buy what sounds the best to you. Nobody cares, well I don't anyways.

So how do you explain 2 high current PCs use on a low current demanding DAC sounding different? How about digital cables? How about any cable but NOT ethernet cable. LOL!
Kijanki,
Seriously, I would agree with you if, say my server application requires 4GB of RAM, old computer has 8GB and new has 16GB. Also old computer has enough CPU to stream data faster than DAC requires. But this was not my case.

As far as cables, I don't worry WHY any longer but just use sounds best.

I do believe in noise. Try some RCA and XLR caps for all your unused digital and analog outputs and inputs. Probably the best ROI in all my years in this hobby.
Joecasey, perhaps shielding on you AQ is better.

How about digital cables?

Transmission over S/Pdif is sensitive to jitter while Ethernet is not.
Kijanki,
My 2 previous posts got posted in wrong order :-)

Joecasey, perhaps shielding on you AQ is better.
Possible. I'm open minded, adventurous and enjoy experimenting.
I retired from the IT field myself.....all the way from old school telecom using coax to 10/100 ethernet. I really don't care what I've learned or what should be or shouldn't be. I've always kept an open mind to the unexplainable. There have been the exact same types of arguments over the years regarding analog and digital IC's, speaker cable, power cables, DAC chips, USB cables, capacitors, resistors, wall outlets....you name it....and now ethernet cables. Errors or no errors, packets or no packets....I'm not ever going to tell someone something is impossible.
Dragon1952 - nobody says it is impossible. We're just trying to be intelligent about it and find the reason.

Believing any nonsense can bring such things like better highs upstairs or better bass in the basement. I've read serious gear review that found "soft" bass "obviously" because of soft rubber feet under the amp. Is it impossible - who knows, but reasoning was idiotic for sure.
Possible. I'm open minded, adventurous and enjoy experimenting

Great attitude - hobby should be fun.
06-20-14: Dragon1952
I retired from the IT field myself.....all the way from old school telecom using coax to 10/100 ethernet. I really don't care what I've learned or what should be or shouldn't be. I've always kept an open mind to the unexplainable. There have been the exact same types of arguments over the years regarding analog and digital IC's, speaker cable, power cables, DAC chips, USB cables, capacitors, resistors, wall outlets....you name it....and now ethernet cables. Errors or no errors, packets or no packets....I'm not ever going to tell someone something is impossible.
Dragon1952 (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
+1

On top of that, drawing conclusions and disputing one's results WITHOUT any details on the components and situation.
I have just experimented my setup by replacing my two audioquest diamond ethernet cables with cheap stock cables. The cables run from by router to the NAS and the d/a processor. It is very certain in the first note that both upper and lower octaves are largely compressed. The clarity of the whole picture is reduced significantly.

There is no doubt high quality ethernet cables are vital to high quality sound in high end equipment. BTW my d/a processor is dCS.