Network Switches


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Audio Bacon / Jay Luong has a brief overview of the upcoming Melco S100 Switch here:

https://audiobacon.net/2019/10/23/melcos-new-audio-specific-s100-data-switch/


Here is another one, AQ-SWITCH SE Audiophile High-End Network Switch from AQVOX. 
Dave Clark did a review on the switch with external PSU here: 

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/the-aqvox-se-switch/
I have the Netgear nighthawk stealth fighter shaped switch....heavy metal
+1 @david_ten

Appreciate intro to new class of device to consider from audio perspective.
Peace.

I would first want to upgrade the power supplies and swap low EMF nu-blu LEDs.
Attended a High End Audiophile event in the weekend here in Copenhagen, where one of the vendors had the AQ SWITCH SE in all his 3 systems (a 15K €, 30K € and 60k € system (speakers, amp, streamer, dac, power plant)). 

I must admit I do not get, if a switch replaces a wifi router or it connects to a wifi router. 
A WiFi router usually has a switch built in.  The router interfaces with the service providers network and usually doles out IP addresses to the connected devices on the home network.  An audiophile switch connects into one of the ports of the WiFi router and expands the network with higher quality ethernet ports.  Of course, the connection to the service providers network, and on to the streaming service, will always be through the standard ethernet port on the WiFi router.  That being said, the whole concept of an "audiophile" network switch is questionable at best.
I have the EtherRegen on order from UpTone.  I’ll be in the first batch delivered, and can comment hopefully in a few weeks.  
To buffer or not to buffer is the real question. If the signal path is being buffered then all that matters is did the 1's and 0's arrive or not !
Jnorris2005 and others have obviously not heard a audiophile switch in your system.
No, I have not, nor will I ever.  Having been a network technician for over 30 years I know that a network switch's job is to faithfully receive packets and transmit them to their intended target.  If it doesn't do that it will be replaced as defective.  Implying that these devices can color audio signals is patently ridiculous, but I knew at some point some one would try it and some one would buy it.
I’m curious about these “audio switches”.  I’ve been using Ubiquiti and Cisco Meraki for the last several years with success.  I have found that fiber can sound better, most likely because of isolation.

I question some of the claims, but I’ve also learned that digital can be sensitive at the source/transport.  I look forward to more feedback from all of you and will probably try a few of these myself.  The SOtM and Melco are on my radar.
@jnorris2005 Thank you for adding some much needed perspective to this discussion. I too have worked in the IT industry for the last 20 years and the idea of better sounding network switches and ethernet cables is laughable at best.
I have the SOTM Switch. Very nice sound quality improvement. My son is an IT network tech and security expert. He also heard the improvement. He is open minded and while he does not understand how or why, he knows what he heard.

I also power the SOTM Switch with a good LPS. The ethernet cable used is also important. Everything matters in our digital audio front ends. Everything folks. We are still learning more as this is a relatively young technology. We don’t have all the answers or understandings so there is much room for learning and experiencing if one’s mind is open. The earth is still flat in relation to our current knowledge on this topic and the future is exciting. 
As someone having extensive experience in digital (and analog) design, although not for audio, it is very conceivable to me that a network switch can make a difference sonically. Not because it affects the accuracy with which 1s and 0s are received; not because it affects the timing with which those bits are received; and probably not because of most of the reasons that are likely to be offered in the marketing literature of makers of audiophile-oriented switches.

The likely reason relates to differences in waveform characteristics such as signal risetimes and falltimes (i.e., the amount of time it takes for the signal to transition from its lower voltage state to its higher voltage state and vice versa); differences in noise that may be riding on the signal; and differences in distortion of the waveform that may be present. In other words, things that affect the spectral composition of the waveform.

Those differences in waveform characteristics in turn may, IMO, affect the degree to which some of the RF energy present in the signal may bypass, i.e., may find its way around, the ethernet interface circuitry in the receiving component and affect circuitry that is further downstream. Perhaps affecting timing jitter at the point of D/A conversion, and perhaps affecting analog circuitry further downstream via effects such as intermodulation or AM demodulation.

One thing that became abundantly clear to me in my experience as an electrical engineer is that signals and noise don’t necessarily just affect or entirely follow only their intended pathway. And the waveform and noise characteristics of the signal that enters a circuit can affect the degree to which RF energy present in that signal may find its way via unintended pathways to unintended circuit points "downstream" of the intended circuit. "Unintended pathways" may include things like grounds within the receiving device, parasitic capacitances, power supply circuitry, or even radiation through the air within the component.

For example, in the following thread ...

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/bricasti-m1-dac-vs-ps-audio-direct-stream-dac?page=9

... two members reported that inserting an inexpensive Netgear switch between their router and the ethernet interface in their audio system resulted in significant sonic improvement. One of those members, whose system is of exceptionally high calibre, was extremely skeptical initially, but ended up saying "I can’t believe it."

None of this is to say, though, that a given switch will provide benefits that are consistent from system to system, or that there will necessarily be much if any correlation between the cost of a switch and the benefits it may provide.

Regards,
-- Al
+1, @grannyring

Well said. Even though we have come a long way in last 4-5 years, we are still finding ways to improve the digital streaming experience. I get a good laugh from folks who can’t seem to think beyond 1’s and 0’s and bits are bits analogy. 

I am also considering the SoTM switch, did you go with base switch or the one with the internal clock? On another note, are you going to consider Phoenix USB reclocker for your Zenith MK3? 
I went with the standard SOTM Switch due to finances.  I would love the new Innuos reclocker, but it is simply out of my budget ☹️
You do realize that the signal from Tidal or Qobuz has passed through hundreds of regular old switches on its way to your router.  To think that a local switch will be able to reassemble the seemingly mangled bits into a once-again pure whole is somewhat laughable.  The claim on the SOtM website is that "your network audio system will be able to perform with more realistic textures, wider sound stage and explosive dynamics without losing the detail of the entire range".  Indeed!
If you want to spend multiple thousands of dollars because you like the looks of the device, I get it.  But don't tell me it sounds better.
@jnorris2005, I’m not sure if you read my previous post before submitting your post just above. But the risetimes, falltimes, noise characteristics, and distortion characteristics of the signal received by the audio component from the network switch or router that is immediately upstream of that component are almost exclusively a function of the network switch or router that is immediately upstream of that component. The "hundreds of regular old switches" you referred to have nothing to do with those characteristics.

Also, the explanation I stated has nothing to do with "mangled bits." For example, differences in risetimes and falltimes do not constitute "mangling," or lack thereof.  They are just differences, that may or may not have different effects on downstream circuitry.

As I said in the first paragraph of my post:

... it is very conceivable to me that a network switch can make a difference sonically. Not because it affects the accuracy with which 1s and 0s are received; not because it affects the timing with which those bits are received; and probably not because of most of the reasons that are likely to be offered in the marketing literature of makers of audiophile-oriented switches.

Regards,
-- Al

Go analyze some packets captured from Wireshark or other network sniffer and tell me there is something in there that affects sound quality. Header information, source and destination, timestamps, acknowledgements, and data. Nothing else.....

The packet either arrives there or it doesn’t or a resend is tried. A switch is not going to modify or enhance the data residing in the application layer of a packet.

I could possibly see SQ being affected on an overly chatty network. Where frames are constantly being sent out of sequence, multiple packet retransmissions are occurring, or bandwidth is insufficient. A switch is not usually the culprit of such occurances.

The packet either arrives there or it doesn’t or a resend is tried. A switch is not going to modify or enhance the data residing in the application layer of a packet.


Agreed, of course. But that has no relevance to what I have said in my previous posts. What the switch will modify are the spectral characteristics of the signal that is provided to the audio system, which may result in differing effects on ostensibly unrelated circuitry that is downstream of the system’s Ethernet interface.

I don’t know how to say that any more clearly than I already have, and I’m not sure why those who contend that a network switch cannot affect sonics keep focusing only on delivery of the data.

Regards,
-- Al


. . .  and I’m not sure why those who contend that a network switch cannot affect sonics keep focusing only on delivery of the data.

Some people are still wrestling with:  E = mc2    What they don't understand, they dismiss.   

At one time I was thinking that an Ethernet connection on a DAC was the future. I even started a thread a few years ago asking what others thought about this.

However, today I hear the talk of noise on the Ethernet line and why that may not be something to hookup directly into a DAC and pollute the DAC with noise. So I see the reason why these audiophile network switches are showing up.

Yet, is there not a different approach to this Ethernet noise issue? I have being following the Sonare SystemOptique discussions and it seems to me that using Ethernet OPTICAL from the network switch to the DAC maybe ideal (such as with the Lumin X1 DAC). The OPTICAL cable cannot carry electrical noise.

The solution that would be more practical $$ wise and also with more DAC options would be the Sonare Signiture Rendu SE Optical.

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/sonore-opticalrendu-signature-rendu-se-optical-review-part-2-...

With a Rendu it does not matter how noisy your computer is. Why spend so much time and money eliminating all that noise with custom audio servers (computers), audiophile network switches, expensive ethernet wire, etc.. when the OPTICAL wire kills all the electrical noise. The Optical Rendu uses USB for the "last mile" to the DAC.
To the people that believe an isolated switch cannot reap sonic benefits, I wonder why they are on an audiophile hobby site In the first place? The entire purpose here is to optimize one’s musical experience, be it with component upgrades, setup or tweeks. The 30 day return policy means one can see for themselves if it improves one’s system.

My cable tv signal has traveled through miles of wire and like many I have to isolate it from that system to avoid hum and there no reason to believe other forms of isolation can’t be beneficial in a high resolution system.

It’s as if we’ve returned to the days where people claimed nothing more than lamp cord was needed for speaker cabling, or the fake audio “science” crowd that uses test gear improperly to prove the gear they sell is superior.

I don’t believe that you can measure the benefit of having a black border around a projection screen but to deny that they enhance the perception of contrast is absurd.
For the few people who have an endpoint with optical input (the excellent Sonore opticalRendu comes to mind), one can “turn around” the EtherREGEN and feed that DAC-connected endpoint from the optical cage, while connecting the lone ‘B’-side port to the network. Thus ‘B’ >’A’.
 
Excerpted from the Uptone ReGen page.
@steakster thanks for the link. I was considering the following.

https://www.ui.com/unifi-switching/unifi-switch-8-150w/

I am a big fan of Ubiquiti as a company.
Well my experience with optical connections has been they simply don’t sound as good. May be time to try it again? 

That old argument of miles and miles of this and that before our system is nonsense. Just nonsense. If it were true then nothing would matter in our audio rigs. Power cords, speakers, cables, caps, resistors, power supplies, conditioners, tweaks...,none of makes a difference because of the miles and miles of stuff before our system. Nuts! The last few inches even help!
@grannyring I am not sure if you are referring to the OPTICAL connection on a DAC or the OPTICAL I am referring to which is analogous to RJ45 Ethernet cable.

https://www.ui.com/accessories/fiber-modules-cable/
Understand. One would need to run optical inside the house .....between the walls etc... to use this medium. Correct? Or is it traditional ethernet cabling into one side of the new optical ready switch and optical out of the switch? My server does not accept optical? I guess I am confused as to how optical would work in many current systems. 
@yyzsantabarbara 

I agree, Ubiquiti is wonderful networking gear.  I’ve been using them for several years with great success.  I use the Switch 8 (150watt) a lot for central and local switches.  It works great to POE their standard Switch 8 or to deploy as a local fiber switch with their XG switches.  The UniFi Controller interface is excellent.
Toslink = Optical
Network = Fiber
I should have used the terminology that @allane posted above to be clearer in my explanation.

@grannyring You can use a RJ45 switch which also has optical fiber connection. Take a look at the following product. I will buy this one for $200 and replace my current RJ45 only switch with the RJ45 + Fiber Optical switch.

https://www.ui.com/unifi-switching/unifi-switch-8-150w/

The following url should give a good description of how to get fiber into you audio system. The product listed above fits as the "existing optical Ethernet" in the SystemOptique described below.

https://www.sonore.us/systemoptique.html

If you have a Lumin X1 DAC (expensive) you can connect the Fiber optical cable directly from the Ubiquiti switch. I am not aware of any other DAC that have this fiber input. I think this could be the future for streaming DACs.

The Sonare SystemOptique is used for USB DACs and what I will buy. Most likely the Signature Rendu SE Optical. I currently own the older Sonare microRendu and it has worked flawlessly for over 3 years.
https://www.sonore.us/systemoptique.html

I just looked at the link above again and read about option 4 for Fiber Optical to an audio system.

Currently, in my office, I use my electrically noisy (or busy) computer with a microRendu. I could skip buying the new optical capable network switch mentioned in my above post by doing the following:

4. Sonore opticalModule OEM/DIY - The opticalModule has an SFP fiber optic transceiver and can be installed directly into computer server.
It makes sense that this would be an option if Fiber Optical cable eliminates all electrical noise. It would not matter if the computer is electrically noisy.

BTW - my cheapo DELL audio computer is silent (but internally busy).
Someone, somewhere, at any given time will find a way to play upon your fears, doubts...paranoias at the extremes of  ones' psyche'.

Your computer wouldn't work if the bits 'n bytes weren't 'keeping in line', so to speak.  Your reading this while likely 'multitasking' on the box; consider what's silently going on for you to do this.

Discussions of this vein frequently remind me of the ancient acronym PEBKAC

Problem exists between keyboard and chair.

How about a new one?

EAIEBLE

Esoteric audio issues exist between listener ears

'Fixing them' tends to cost a lot... ;)
@asvjerry I am a little slow so I am not sure I get the gist of your post. However, I will say that over the past 3+ years of using a mircoRendu while my computer did a few things such as, browser windows open to mostly static computer programming URLs (no video), maybe RDP into another computer, email, and not much else, I could not see a degradation in the sound of my audio system. My system seemed to be operating at a steady state of quality even with the computer having varying degrees of CPU/disk use. I attribute this nice steady state to the microRendu.

Now the OpticalRendu is promising to deliver what I did not even know I was missing by eliminating Ethernet noise from the equation.  That noise currently flows into my microRendu via RJ45 Ethernet cable (not computer noise).

So this is supposed to give some improvement to the sound of a network connected system. The fact that the Rendu's are all ROON READY is an added bonus.

I am not an expert in the Optical networking but the audio benefit seems easy to understand if the premise of an Fiber Optical cable not being able to transmit electrical noise is to be believed.
I recently got introduced to Rukus for access points and switches. They seem to have interesting and proprietary technology that may have benefits for audio. Just another thought.
I for one appreciate all the insightful answers and I have no need for people telling me that I my personal experiences are wrong. 

I bought, just for fun, a new Ethernet cable and much to my surprise the difference was clear. I do not understand why it is better, but I do know that it is. 
@soix 

Ruckus is one of the best at enterprise and campus level WiFi.  Have you used it in an audio based design?  I have worked with Ruckus gear on large scale projects, but never as an audio solution.  Just curious.
Here is one of the most useful forum threads about this topic.  I only post on Audiogon because there is no way I can keep up with all the forums and websites, but I have found this thread to be very informative:

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-computer-a...

It’s good to see more computer/network based audio solutions being discussed here on Audiogon.
It seems that if there is an audio performance benefit from network hardware, that maybe it’s because of “electrical noise” as opposed to “data bits”?  Power supplies seem to make a difference with both analog and digital designs, and most of these “audio grade” switches focus on electrical isolation.  This would explain why fiber and optical connections can benefit some systems.

Maybe instead of counting bits we should evaluate the way power is implemented?

The bits are there, but the power they are riding on could be better?

I think this also applies to USB from a computer to a DAC, which is why I’ve been testing/listening to some USB interfaces for my Apple Mac.  https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/apple-music-mac
Allane: The power is not the data being transmitted. Foolhardy purchase at best, but if your confirmation bias makes it an expensive need, then bully for you.
This is the perfect place for industry professionals to plant the seeds of "need" with buyers. Especially if it is those with a seemingly endless flow of disposable income.It is everywhere on Audiogon.
Nothing like a rebuttal full of invective and bile. Remember to always insult with your rejoinder as it aids in your position.

@allane, keep in mind that there are no 1s and 0s. Would it be so simple if the simplified, textbook explanation were true. In the real world, the 1s and 0s are electrically represented and noise is a great big factor in its distortion.

Though this link deals with USB transmission, the thinking behind it applies to all transmitted data: https://6moons.com/audioreviews2/audiocadabra/1.html

Just the first two pages are all you need to read to get an idea to work with. And, yes, you can spend too much on better gear, but you can also spend too little.

All the best,
Nonoise
While I am under no illusion that data transmission in USB, Ethernet is at all being affected in a home network given the astonishingly low bit error rates typical in a home and jitter is simply not an issue at all in any modern USB DAC and not at all in Ethernet. But, I cannot rule out, especially given I am also under no illusion that all audio products have good analog design, that noise injection through the power supply could make a difference in some circumstances. In a well designed products it should not/will not, but I cannot assume that is ever the case. The type of power supply noise generated would not be negated by high end cables. They could even make it worse by providing a lower impedance power path. Then again, some like the "airy-ness" that noise provides.


allane37 posts10-30-2019 8:32amIt seems that if there is an audio performance benefit from network hardware, that maybe it’s because of “electrical noise” as opposed to “data bits”?  Power supplies seem to make a difference with both analog and digital designs, and most of these “audio grade” switches focus on electrical isolation.  This would explain why fiber and optical connections can benefit some systems.

Maybe instead of counting bits we should evaluate the way power is implemented?

The bits are there, but the power they are riding on could be better?

I think this also applies to USB from a computer to a DAC, which is why I’ve been testing/listening to some USB interfaces for my Apple Mac.  https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/apple-music-mac

It appears that some posters here don’t know the difference between obtaining optimal sound vs any sound. Perhaps, their systems aren’t resolving enough to demonstrate improvements. Unfortunately, these posters are polluting other member’s threads with distracting noise.
It appears that some posters here don’t know the difference between optimal sound vs any sound.
I don't think that could be better said. +1

All the best,
Nonoise


I am new here and I don't find this argument/post very inviting. As opposed to inviting discussion and trying to get to the bottom of a topic that is obviously interesting to the community, it appears to be attempt to shut down discussion and force a particular view/outcome. This seems more akin to Facebook groups. I hoped to avoid that here.



 steakster858 posts10-30-2019 1:55pmIt appears that some posters here don’t know the difference between obtaining optimal sound vs any sound. Perhaps, their systems aren’t resolving enough to demonstrate improvements. Unfortunately, these posters are polluting other member’s threads with distracting noise.



This is an interesting take, going beyond just power supply noise injection, and considering signal injection. I will throw out some thoughts at you w.r.t. that. Please take them as just that, arguments, not attacks on the precept.

  • Almost exclusively, the claims are that Cat-6/7/etc. "sounds better". While that claim may not be accurate, Cat 6/7 will allow much higher signal edge speeds, which would lead to more noise injection by your proposed method.
  • Even for these custom designs, they would use off the shelf ethernet drivers to ensure compatibility and they are forced into a specific impedance. I would expect most use off the shelf ethernet transformers as well. You could edge shape with some capacitance to decrease capacitive noise transfer, but then you are likely to create more end-point jitter  (and see first argument).
  • Outside of the high frequencies, which can get in, but are also the most likely to be filtered at some point, the subharmonics which could be in the audio band or modulated down are going to be mainly a function of the data itself.

Just some more thoughts to ponder on to add to your valuable post.

 s
almarg9,123 posts10-29-2019 9:14amAs someone having extensive experience in digital (and analog) design, although not for audio, it is very conceivable to me that a network switch can make a difference sonically. Not because it affects the accuracy with which 1s and 0s are received; not because it affects the timing with which those bits are received; and probably not because of most of the reasons that are likely to be offered in the marketing literature of makers of audiophile-oriented switches.

The likely reason relates to differences in waveform characteristics such as signal risetimes and falltimes (i.e., the amount of time it takes for the signal to transition from its lower voltage state to its higher voltage state and vice versa); differences in noise that may be riding on the signal; and differences in distortion of the waveform that may be present. In other words, things that affect the spectral composition of the waveform.