High End Ethernet Cables ....Real Deal or Snake Oil


Digital streaming and network-based storage systems are now mainstream. I have notice more and more cable companies are coming out with 'fancy' Ethernet cables ranging from $25-$2500. 

Purist Audio, Cardas, Chord, Wireworld and Stealth Audio to name a few.  I am assuming, AudioQuest is probably the first manufacturer to recognized the potential for a fancy Ethernet cable and started this trend (sorry no offense to anyone). 

Let's for a moment assume that there is a audible difference in sound quality when streaming music files from a NAS or intranet to a server. Ethernet is an error corrected transmission protocol, it is going to be bit perfect. Are these fancy cables banking on the same principles of other digital (SPDIF/XLR) cables ~ a well made cable reduces the margin of errors resulting in less requests for re-sends, and if there are less errors and subsequent re-sends, perhaps this higher performance results in less noise, fewer dropouts at the receiving end, and subsequently better sound quality?

I do not know a lot about networking so I chose an easier path to stream music in my rig. My setup involves a music server, DAC and Apple Extreme base. 

I am wondering how many of you using a high end Ethernet cable vs. a generic Ethernet cable. 

Is there a test data or device that tells us how many errors and re-sends happen in Ethernet data transmissions to justify the use of uber 'pricey' ethernet cables? 

Thank you all for your feedback! 
Abc875d5 dd7e 46b7 9d49 3e8463938063lalitk
It depends what people like to wear.
Fancy network cables are similar or just about same as fancy shoes, jeans, dress, jewelry. It serves purpose to look nice and carry the brand. The trivial t-shirt with ARMANI or PRADA letters will worth 20 times more than plain one, but purpose will remain same.

Most audiophiles I know have heard differences, but will refuse to respond to posts like this, because they are tired of having to "defend" themselves from the naysayers out there. They don't want to get into a dreaded, drawn out argument of their ability to hear a difference. The same goes for other forms of digital cables. Naysayers will try to defend their position of "bits is bits" from a technical standpoint only. Most of them refuse to actually take the time, cost and effort to try different cables in their system. If you can consistently hear a difference, then there is a difference. If you like the difference/improvement enough that the cost justifies it, buy the cable. Most of the better dealers today offer a refund policy or 30 day trial without restocking fees. Be your own judge and take the time to experiment, without letting the naysayers convince you first. Start with the reasonably priced cables, and if you like what you hear, keep on experimenting!
Most audiophiles don't know anything about electronics or science in general and are willing victims of snake oil salesmen.

I agree with : "Be your own judge and take the time to experiment, without letting the [yay- or] nay-sayers convince you first. Start with the reasonably priced cables, and if you like what you hear, keep on experimenting!" as long as you do blind testing.

You would need to do a double-blind listening test to determine if you are hearing a difference and not just falling under the spell of confirmation bias.  That is why such rigorous testing is required when it counts -- for new medicines.

There is an extnsive discussion of ethernet cables on http://www.computeraudiophile.com/

Many of the posters are electronics engineers.  Bottom-line: assure there is galvanic isolation and use good name-brand cabling, then worry about more important things like speakers and room treatments.
oh BTW - the re-send idea is a good one, but if adequate buffers are provided, it will cause no problems
Snake oil.
I've got fairly fancy AudioQuest XLRs in my system (Colorados).  But I can't swallow the idea of a fancy Ethernet cable.  Maybe I'm missing out, but I kind of doubt it.
Are these fancy cables banking on the same principles of other digital (SPDIF/XLR) cables ~ a well made cable reduces the margin of errors resulting in less requests for re-sends, and if there are less errors and subsequent re-sends, perhaps this higher performance results in less noise, fewer dropouts at the receiving end, and subsequently better sound quality?
Under typical circumstances the reason S/PDIF and AES/EBU cables can make a difference is related to timing jitter at the point of D/A conversion, which in turn can be affected by waveform degradation resulting from impedance mismatches between the cable and the components it is connecting, and by electrical noise resulting from ground loop effects and/or RFI pickup, both of which can be affected by the characteristics of the cable. Ethernet is a somewhat different story, since the timing of the signals it conveys is unrelated to the timing of D/A conversion.

I have no specific knowledge of how frequently retransmission of ethernet data occurs under typical circumstances in a home environment. I suspect, however, that what is much more likely to have audible consequences in most cases is that any cable that is conducting high speed digital signals, such as an ethernet cable, and that is located in physical proximity to the audio system (e.g., in the same room), can radiate or couple RFI into the audio system. And in addition, noise conducted into the destination component via the cable could to some degree (depending on the specific design) conceivably couple around the ethernet interface circuitry and into other circuitry within that component that is more directly involved in processing the audio. Including circuitry that may be sensitive to noise-induced jitter.

None of this necessarily means, however, that an ethernet cable costing hundreds or thousands of dollars would be any more beneficial than an upgrade to a very modestly priced cable. You may wish to consider experimenting with inexpensive shielded ethernet cables, as member Bryoncunningham described doing in this thread, with significant sonic benefit resulting. (I consider him to be a particularly astute and perceptive listener, btw, and one who is very thorough in his approaches to evaluating tweaks and optimizing his system. Unfortunately, though, he hasn’t been posting here in recent times). See the posts in that thread dated on and around 2-16-12. Inexpensive ethernet cables are commonly unshielded, but good quality shielded cables are also readily available at low prices.

Regards,
-- Al

Another excellent response Al
I have heard differences with Ethernet cables. They are not huge but are there. 
Alan
Thank you all for your feedback. I am going to try couple of cables for A/B blind test. 

Al, appreciate your detailed response and for sharing Bryon's thread. Very informative, learned a great deal.  


I would think you would need to use the same cable from your device all the way to the router or switch, not just the last couple of feet. Plus, you're still using the crappy wall plates. If it does matter, then I would run a continuous Ethernet cable from the device all the way to the router or switch and bypass the wall plate. How much would a 100' Ethernet cable cost from audioquest?
@rbstehno,  I am using a pair of Apple AirPort Extreme base stations. Since my AT@T router is 60 feet away from streamer, this setup allows me to create a wired 'dedicated' intranet for streaming.  

The ethernet cable upgrade will be between Apple routers which are located 3 feet away from my server and AT&T router. And these routers are plugged into Audience line conditioners. 

In a typical home setup, your music server is in your room, you have an Ethernet patch cable  from this server to a wall plate, then a long Ethernet cable from your room to a switch or to a router, then to a modem, then out of your home. Anytime you connect a cable to a wall plate, router, or a switch, you will be routing the signal thru cheap 22ga wire. So I really don't see a benefit using an expensive cable between multiple devices when each device uses cheap wire
Lalitk, your answer is Blue Jeans Cable.  No snake oil, only pro broadcast-standard cabling.  Here's your test data:  https://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/is-your-cat6-a-dog.htm

I went from a cheap Monoprice Cat 6 to Blue Jeans 6a and easily noticed an absence of noise.  
Post removed 

In most homes, there are outlets in various rooms for BNC (110 ohm) cable connections for TV use. There are "adaptors" out there that allow converting BNC to RJ45, of course without the need for getting a second modem set up which can be problematic for the service providers, e.g., multiple DNS, etc. I personally have not tried this option since I use WiFi but have always been curious to see is a wired connection would yield better (sonic) results.

Thanks, Kalali. A minor point: Aside from a few oddball exceptions, I believe that nearly all BNC connectors have either 50 ohm or 75 ohm impedances, not 110 ohms.

Regards,
-- Al

I once heard from professor of quantum physics that a hex nut placed in the empty drinking glass still have probability(extremely small) of jumping out of it using its own potential energy, but it isn't happening in real life.

Same thing with Ethernet wires sharing same magnitude  or 'head room' of sound quality improvement.

I have being using tektel ethernet cables for my networks for a while. The quality is good and the prices are very accesible, you should check them and as some members said, the high end cables are like luxury clothing brands they look good and cost a lot of money.
Hey Eric, I guess everybody got bored of talking about speaker cables and the more 'typical' interconnects 'twixt 'regular' equipment...now it's off on digital signal transfer quality.  I can't wait for the discussion on fibre optical cables....
*L* First post, last post, good night, y'all.  Have fun...;)
Audiophile Ethernet cables are 100% snake oil. Here is why and how I tested and also a proof of concept video here (YouTube).

In the video I test out into my ADC a 315 foot generic cable CAT5e that I made and a $330 12 foot WireWorld CAT8. Player is Jriver, server is a Windows 7 machine, playback computer is Windows 8 with an Intel CT GBit PCIe adapter. The switch is a Cisco SG 200-8 with ports 7/8 in a LAG and port 1 going back to the file server.

During capture into the ADC I’m able to swap the 315 foot generic CAT5e and the 12 foot WireWorld.

Here are the tracks for you to download and evaluate:

https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/share/5NUQOsUEqZKVgon85pYhxnlNYlAhoHhT3FF9cP0NKfr?ref_=cd_ph_share...

https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/share/bD0Z87vfscWzA3PhyE42JuVGagNXmvcKTxqWhQpLIKO?_encoding=UTF8&a...

Here is the question I would like to pose:

You can pull the Ethernet cable and playback will still continue. If my options are fancy cable, generic cable, no cable and play back continues:

1. Does my SQ increase with no cable?
2. Does my SQ decrease with fancy cable
3. Does my SQ decrease even more with 315 foot of generic CAT5e

Some other quick information:

Ping rates (*out of 500 pings) were neck and neck. Transfer rate direct connect (bypassing the switch since it slowed things down for both cables due to the LAG) was averaged at 107MBps for both cables on a 3.57GB folder transfer.

Switch stats for both cables in the 3.57 GB transfer showed 0 errors.


jinjuku,

do you think that your test involving one higher priced ethernet cable proves that they're all "snake oil"?
if they're over buck per foot, they are snake oil and that's where simple math kills all super smart science of Al.
It depends what people like to wear.
Fancy network cables are similar or just about same as fancy shoes, jeans, dress, jewelry.

Sir, thank you for a good chuckle. 
Dealer perspective. 

First we have purchased way more expensive etherenet cables then we have sold because we have heard the difference. 

We have heard differences between AQ and Wireworld cables and we have heard differences between levels of these products.

On direct system connections there absolutely are audible differences.

The thinking that some people expouse ie bits is bits isn't the case. 

We did one demo at a clients home all Naim system with an SDS server and swapped out one just one Wireworld ethernet cable and the sound stage got bigger and the overall clarity of the entire digital system improved.

The problem with the methodology of the above test gentleman with the youtube video, is I don;t hear him talking about listening I hear him using measurements. 

If you think measurements can tell you the story in terms of what you can perceive you are way off.

Pour a glass of ripple, a glass of a good $20 bottle of wine and a $1,000 bottle of Chateau Lafeitt.Roschild into a gas chromotograph and see how much difference the test gear will tell you, water, organic compounds, machines can't tell the difference you can obviously taste the difference.

Do you want to know how we test?

1: Plug streamer into router or switch with standard cable
2: Play 1 min of a track 
3: Switch cables listen to what changes

If you have a system with good resolution you can easily hear the difference.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
That last post makes a great deal of sense. Ban that person!
Very interesting thread, why not indeed believe the possibility of Ethernet cables making some difference as do all the rest of the cables in your system?
Not sure how much difference but I feel there must be some to possibly be heard.
From the start I have been using cat 7 shielded cables that we use for our industrial electronics connections as these have to be able to reliably communicate in extreme high voltage and high current enviroments.
I ran direct hard wire from my main router to a 4 port switch in my music room and patch cables from there to my vault2, Oppo and Samsung Smart tv.
Do these work better than say cat5 unshielded? No idea as these are all I have ever used right from the start tbh, but we have no issues in our industrial usage which are online and active 24/7/365.
Audioquest sell cable in bulk, reasonable if you are competent at terminating it....

the points about galvanic isolation and tge quality of connectors, integrity of shield are all quite valid...moreso in a high RFI environment...

finally, establish a relationship with dealer, borrow a few cables....and go listen...

swap em out blind if ya have any friends you trust....

lie to your spouse..

and dont drink crappy wine...
Dealer? Why? There are plenty suppliers to bypass dealers with ease as unnecessary link or place holder
+1 audiotroy for the alcohol into gas chromatograph analogy. It doesn't prove ethernet cables make an objective difference but it does remind us that the human senses are more complex than man-made measurement devices. (Although I'm confident a modern GC/MS would be able to distinguish between the three listed alcoholic beverages--but it doesn't "taste" them.) IMO no one on this forum should be unwilling or afraid to test stuff. When you do test, be brave enough to honestly say you hear no difference, you're not sure if there is a difference, or you clearly hear a difference. I can't reliably hear a difference between 16/44 and 24/96 or higher when comparing the same mastered recording in my system. Others say they can in their systems...that's okay with me. I haven't done the test with their systems. I focus on RedBook and they focus on high res files. And we both derive satisfaction from pursuing the hobby differently.