Can anyone weigh in here on whether or not there is any validity to the positive gains reported by others regarding various types of patch cables…Yes.
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Cat 6 has a one guage larger copper conductors than Cat 5. The plugs are also usually more robust. The 4 twisted pairs are seperated by a round or x shaped spacer(for x-talk)to keep the pairs spaced differently than Cat 5. The external sheath is usually more robust also. Think of a Cat 5 built to higher standards. Why Cat 6? It has a faster speed for data. Does this make a difference in Audio? I don't know, but the patch cords are not very expensive and they look nicer and stronger so why not.
Ben: we're both wondering the same thing here. that same thread @ PSA's site got me thinking as well. just ordered two new patch cables late last night to see for myself. went with the Belden 10GX CAT6 patch cables. very good/top of the line cable from what (little =)) i understand. amazon had them pretty cheap ($17 each for 7 feet) so i figured why not give them a go. am a bit skeptical myself but the cost of admission is low enough to give them a try. cheapest tweak i've every attempted and feel like there's very little to lose here...like $40. looking forward to seeing/hearing what happens. should have them tomorrow. will try to report back once i have a chance to compare.
I'll be anxious to hear what your findings are. I'm guessing that it's probably too much to hope for that they will improve sound quality. I suppose there could be other benefits (e.g.: improve streaming; i.e.: less drops...).
Of course there is the one poster who says the audible improvements are "extremely easy" to hear. Perhaps he has a line on authentic Thai Sticks (or maybe he’s just one of those golden-eared gods)!!
Keep us posted.
The following paragraph from this paper by Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio may be of interest:
LAN, Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless network.... The protocol of this network has inherent in it the flow-control and retry mechanisms that enable the optimum audio streaming scenario, as well as having the advantage of avoiding altogether the sometimes troublesome audio software stack of the computer OS. Using networked devices, either wired or wireless can be no different than sending data to a printer. The only concern is getting the data to the device intact. There is no timing information sent or implied. The data is not contiguously streamed at real-time speed as with USB, Firewire or S/PDIF interfaces. It is packetized and sent periodically in high-speed bursts over the network, whenever the network has an "opening". These packets are then collected in a buffer memory at the destination device where they can be clocked out to the D/A using a local low-jitter master clock. The fact that networked data flow incorporates flow-control and retry, and bypasses the computer audio stack makes it the superior method.Given that the timing of the data transfer has no relation to the audio that is ultimately generated, and that there will be no bit errors on a properly functioning link, there are only two ways I can envision that the cable type can impact sonics:
1)Noise or crosstalk riding on the signals arriving at the dac component's input couples around the ethernet interface circuit to the dac chip or circuit itself, causing jitter. The amount of noise or crosstalk conceivably could be cable-sensitive.
2)Differences in the cables resulting in different amounts of rfi coupling through the air from the cable to other parts of the system.
Both of these effects, were they to occur to a significant degree, would be highly system and setup dependent, with little or no predictability or consistency from system to system.
What's the thread/forum you are referring to? I'm looking into this as well, for my SB Touch. AAsylum member Soundcheck has done a lot of work on this and seems to have background in IT, and mentioned most CAT5 cables don't really meet the CAT5 standard so he recommends CAT6 not because it's needed but because they most likely meet the CAT5 standard. Now, why would this would be audible is well beyond me...but I also want to give it a try.
PS: Almarg, thanks for pointing to that paper.
Horacio: PS Audio discussion forums is where the ball started rolling for Ben and I. the thread can be found here
the guy posting seems very credible with a rather amazing background in audio.
thanks much for the reply and info Al. your thoughts and posts are always very appreciated.
ok...got around to doing some a/b comparisons with the ethernet lines( CAT5 vs CAT6). i noticed no difference in sound quality what so ever...which is what i expected. would have been shocked if it did improve the sound. maybe folks with a better gear will hear something different??. oh well...
CAT6 did however "fix" an issue i had been having with the elyric program and control of the PWD/Bridge. it seemed when ever i got overly busy skipping around songs or moving the volume around repeatedly...the music would drop out for 1-2 seconds. with the new CAT6 line...this no longer happens. also noticed a decrees in time for the music starting. maybe a second or 2 quicker. no doubt there is some kind of improvement in transmission for this to have occurred. what exactly is going on here is someone else guess. i haven't a clue.
for the money spent ($40), i would recommend anyone streaming to use high quality CAT6 patch cord. the fact that it made any difference what so ever is well worth the price in my book.