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Ethernet switches for audio - Part B: why a regular switch will suffice.


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This thread is complimentry to another I created ...

Ethernet switches for audio - Part A: List of switches, related info & experiences

This Part B  is where people can share their views about why ethernet switches specfically made for audio should not make any difference to sound quality, and also the other side, why they should and do.

 

This thread is a place for these debates to occur and therefore minimise these debates cluttering up other threads, such as Part A.

 

Posts in this discussion may suggest or recommend particular switches, and discuss pro/cons of upgraded power supplies, power cables, grounding, optimised settings, tweaks, modifications, etc - but not ethernet cables. (there's another thread discussion about cables).

 

If you have compared with a switch listed in Part A, please share your experiences.

 

This has been restored from the Great Debate sub forum and its close monitoring by moderators. It was put there due to an incident some time ago, but we've been well behaved since then.

 

Please be civil - so this doesn't go back to the Great Debate, or shut down.

Edited by dbastin
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Firstly, a preamble.  My system is definitely serious.  It is now significantly reliant on Ethernet for connectivity for the 2 X NASs, Roon Core, DSP Box and a network player before anything reaches t

I’m just baffled at how many people really don’t get that a switch is typically sending audio to a device with a significant buffer for playback. The traffic traversing the switch is not “real time” a

I don't think they have the right knowledge in what they are trying to apply to because anybody who knows how network and switching works will know that no matter how fancy the ethernet cable is, it w

Because ultimately the only thing a nice switch can do, if you assume the data is all getting there, is not being any crap into the PC and have the interrupts generate packets nicely in a periodic way, or in another way that doesn't ass about with music playback.

 

Optical Ethernet handles the first point if it's a super issue (or decent isolation).

 

The latter can be made better by moving Ethernet interrupt and music playback to different CPU cores where resources exist, or using a good or tuned NIC. A mega switch is just a band-aid here.

 

And proper buffering and reclocking at playback makes all irrelevant where it exists.

 

This all assumes Ethernet during playback is needed - where we can do without, solutions are simple :)

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SO, what is the "audiophiliac" assumption here - that switch data transfer can be slower than the DAC processing speed? A better PSU - sure - OK - another 5V or 12 V linear PSU will not hurt anyone but even that - how will that exactly influence audio processing downstream? That is not even taking into account capabilities of modern FPGA chips with sizable DSP trickery on their disposal. 

 

And yes, I have read quite a bit about AQ-SWITCH SE and I just do not buy into their pseudo-scientific bedtime story. I put it on the same shelf as my shakti stones and quantum fart purifiers. Unless....they sell it with a blue laser LED light - then I will spend $1000. 

Edited by Decky
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15 minutes ago, Decky said:

SO, what is the "audiophiliac" assumption here - that switch data transfer can be slower than the DAC processing speed? A better PSU - sure - OK - another 5V or 12 V linear PSU will not hurt anyone but even that - how will that exactly influence audio processing downstream? That is not even taking into account capabilities of modern FPGA chips with sizable DSP trickery on their disposal. 

 

And yes, I have read quite a bit about AQ-SWITCH SE and I just do not buy into their pseudo-scientific bedtime story. I put it on the same shelf as my shakti stones and quantum fart purifiers. Unless....they sell it with a blue laser LED light - then I will spend $1000. 

 

Don't, just dont :)

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2 hours ago, TDK said:

OSI model. That's all I'm saying fellas.

 

If you assume the data gets there - which is completely reasonable to assume - the rest is timing at the output.

 

Ethernet just does it's thing IMHO. Everything audiophile to these ends is a band-aid for a deficiency upstream. Some nicer and more effective than others, but band-aids nonetheless.

 

4 hours ago, Decky said:

SO, what is the "audiophiliac" assumption here - that switch data transfer can be slower than the DAC processing speed? 

 

No.

 

Though your coda had me remembering times when the cool kids would spend $100 getting their Nokia's outfitted with blue LEDs. Good times.

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Part B: why a regular switch will suffice: Perhaps if you have a highly resolving system and you can hear the supposed difference an audiophile switch makes, then go for it. My streamer cost around $500, I doubt a switch that costs more than that is going to make a difference to my old ears. There's always going to be something better, newer and more shiny. I'd rather enjoy some more music.

 

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A switch physically itself won't affect the sound quality at all. This is down to the physics of how switches work at a logical software level and that you're transmitting digital data 0's and 1's. If the packet fails the transmission it gets re-transmitted. If anything the only way I can see it may improve delays etc. is setting up your own QoS and traffic rules on a managed switch. This is why I group Ethernet cables into the same category, they don't do anything besides assisting the above. The only way a switch is going to make a difference is if the designer incorporates there own set of protocols of how digital network transmission works - which nobody in the audio industry has the knowledge to.

Edited by F18
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I think there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what in the telecoms world is called network synchronisation.  ie. all oscillators in the network are synced to a master oscillator.

 

In the context we are talking about for a home network I don't think it really matters that much in regards to network transmission, but what is important is having a digital to analog converter that is electrically isolated and has a stable and accurate oscillator.

 

Are there any DAC's that can take an external clock input?

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8 minutes ago, Brett1968 said:

Are there any DAC's that can take an external clock input?

Plenty, but what has that got to do with ethernet? The timing on ethernet switches is wildly different to anything used on the DAC.

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1 minute ago, Ittaku said:

Plenty, but what has that got to do with ethernet? The timing on ethernet switches is wildly different to anything used on the DAC.

Insisting on this repeatedly doesn't make it a universal truth.

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24 minutes ago, rmpfyf said:

Insisting on this repeatedly doesn't make it a universal truth.

Insisting it's not also does not.

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Just now, Ittaku said:

Insisting it's not also does not.

 

I see what you did there though I don't insist. If you can pull a cable and hear no difference, any amount of Ethernet upgrades won't yada yada. My refrain here is consistent and not insistent as you suggest.

 

Plenty of people here suggest they hear differences. I err on the side of respecting as much. 

 

Understanding how Ethernet can affect SQ involves more than simply understanding Ethernet.

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1 minute ago, rmpfyf said:

 

I see what you did there though I don't insist. If you can pull a cable and hear no difference, any amount of Ethernet upgrades won't yada yada. My refrain here is consistent and not insistent as you suggest.

 

Plenty of people here suggest they hear differences. I err on the side of respecting as much. 

 

Understanding how Ethernet can affect SQ involves more than simply understanding Ethernet.

But you are talking about something completely different. You are saying that the ethernet has an influence on the sound quality. Where did I dispute that in what I said about timing?

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11 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

But you are talking about something completely different. You are saying that the ethernet has an influence on the sound quality. Where did I dispute that in what I said about timing?

 

43 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

Plenty, but what has that got to do with ethernet? The timing on ethernet switches is wildly different to anything used on the DAC.

 

 

Wildly different, but not unrelated.

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2 minutes ago, rmpfyf said:

Wildly different, but not unrelated.

The question I was answering was whether DACs take external clocks. I hate to get this pedantic... I knew I shouldn't have even chimed in on this thread. I even tried to steer clear of making reference to sound quality effects...

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3 hours ago, Ittaku said:

The question I was answering was whether DACs take external clocks. I hate to get this pedantic... I knew I shouldn't have even chimed in on this thread. I even tried to steer clear of making reference to sound quality effects...

 

Suggesting that your answer were so specific would be being very economical with truth :)

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4 hours ago, Ittaku said:

The timing on ethernet switches is wildly different to anything used on the DAC.

How Is it different?  Aren't they both oscillators that should run at a stable know frequency?

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On 23/12/2019 at 4:34 AM, F18 said:

The only way a switch is going to make a difference is if the designer incorporates there own set of protocols of how digital network transmission works - which nobody in the audio industry has the knowledge to.

I'd speculate that some companies making switches for optimal audio have or obtain the expertise to achieve that objective.

 

Take Melco/Buffalo for instance ... check out what they're in to ... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melco

 

I would think, aside from tweaking existing switches, development of a switch optimised for audio would involve experts in all its aspects.

Edited by dbastin
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37 minutes ago, dbastin said:

I'd speculate that some companies making switches for optimal audio have or obtain the expertise to achieve that objective.

 

Take Melco/Buffalo for instance ... check out what they're in to ... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melco

 

I would think, aside from tweaking existing switches, development of a switch optimised for audio would involve experts its all aspects.

 

Would think the next stage is a NIC for audiophile purposes. 

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1 hour ago, rmpfyf said:

Suggesting that your answer were so specific would be being very economical with truth :)

You almost seem smug in your attempt to make me spell out what I believe, when what I said was just a string of facts - ethernet clocks are unrelated to DAC clocks and one never drives the other. You know how I feel about ethernet and hifi and are intent on trying to extract it from me here based on that comment, but I have no interest in being dragged down into that debate. Stick to what I said, and try to find any science or evidence that ethernet clocks have anything to do with DAC clocks instead.

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If there is a problem, it needs to be clearly defined first before any answer should be attempted.

 

It is an almost impossible task to answer this broad question in order to convince - it is even futile as it is required of the to-be-convinced to understand the OSI model and relevant network protocols first.

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22 hours ago, rmpfyf said:

Ethernet just does it's thing IMHO. Everything audiophile to these ends is a band-aid for a deficiency upstream. Some nicer and more effective than others, but band-aids nonetheless.

 

 

What ethernet does is not down to opinion I'm afraid!

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11 minutes ago, TDK said:

What ethernet does is not down to opinion I'm afraid!

Not arguing with you on that one. Ethernet is robust, data certainly gets to the NIC and audio isn't a bandwidth-critical application generally. 

 

That doesn't define the ability for Ethernet to affect SQ. Just means that any differences therein aren't a function of data getting there or not.

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6 hours ago, Ittaku said:

You almost seem smug in your attempt to make me spell out what I believe, when what I said was just a string of facts - ethernet clocks are unrelated to DAC clocks and one never drives the other. You know how I feel about ethernet and hifi and are intent on trying to extract it from me here based on that comment, but I have no interest in being dragged down into that debate. 

 

Somewhat misplaced in that no one here actually suggested that whatever clocks an Ethernet network drives a DAC IC... and you came down like a ton of bricks when an easier interpretation might have just been 'yes, plenty of DACs take an external clock signal'. 

 

If we know how you feel about Ethernet and hifi then... why are you here?

 

On 22/12/2019 at 2:29 AM, dbastin said:

This is where people can share their views about why ethernet switches specfically made for audio should not make any difference to sound quality, and also the other side, why they should and do.

 

This thread is a place for these debates to occur and therefore minimse these debates cluttering up other threads.

 

Posts in this discussion may suggest or recommend particular switches, and discuss pro/cons of upgraded power supplies, power cables, grounding, etc

 

I'm kinda hoping we get something out of this thread, and that your experience there's room to disagree and allow for possibility too. 

 

2 hours ago, Ittaku said:

Stick to what I said, and try to find any science or evidence that ethernet clocks have anything to do with DAC clocks instead.


Interesting use of pronouns both stated and implied. 

 

Have plenty of science and evidence to these ends though wouldn't think this qualifies me in any way. How does the above comment make this a place to share?

 

Anyone wanting to talk down to the great unwashed that hear differences in cables/switches/etc / theorise how that could be so / etc can head over to ASR where lines of thought such as 'I don't get how that could work' can morph into 'anyone that disagrees is an idiot' and like minds can spend endless pages of rant high-fiving each other ad nauseam. I'm glad we're not that. 

 

That Ethernet anything does anything to my SQ frankly drives me up wall. Can't deny it though. Have a spare router here with SFP and some spare OXCOs of the right frequency. When I've some spare time, who knows. I'm here to learn and share. If useless keen to avoid the time spend. Would think I'm not the only tightwad here interested in a ghetto way to make better. 

 

At any rate would like to think all turned up with better intentions than telling others they're not hearing things. 

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3 hours ago, gonefishing999 said:

Maybe putting these under a switch will help.

Cardas Golden Cuboids Myrtle Wood Blocks

 

In a listening session with my 'golden-eared team', a few years ago, I put 3 of the Cardas Myrtle blocks under my miniDSP unit (instead of relying on the small rubber feet).

 

We heard an improvement - so they are still there.  :)

 

Andy

 

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Just discovered this ... Comparison of 7 switches, in Dutch, but use translator and see diagrams.

 

Tested were:

 

standard Netgear (baseline)

Fidelizer EtherStream (€399)

Ansus switch (€1999)

Fiber (€250)

Netgear standard (€149)

Bonn N8 (€ 395)

SoTM - basic model (€999)

Cisco Meraki enterprise 8 port with fiber and PoE (€799)

 

Concludes top 3 being:

- Cisco Meraki

- SoTM

- Silent Angel Bonn 8


https://www.alpha-audio.nl/review/zeven-switches-voor-streaming-audio-getest-blind/

 

Take a look at the methodology, I note:

- all switches used with their supplied power supplies.

- Short term listening. 

- Changing switches may not have enabled proper warm up.

 

Interesting they didnt include the Aqvox from their region.

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On 22/12/2019 at 5:48 AM, LogicprObe said:

Well, you really want as little delay as possible for audio.

Want as little delay as possible?

 

- move to a place that has NBN FTTP rather than ADSL or FTTN/VDSL. That's ~30ms down to ~2ms.

 

- find a switch that does cut-through forwarding (vs. the usual store-and-forward which buffers). Likely you want a device that does both switching and L3 routing so your NBN connection plugs/terminates directly into it.

 

- set up QoS / DSCP / TOS to prioritise packets to and from your streamer.

 

- if your streamer is a PC, find a NIC from the Mellanox ConnectX adapter family. Let's you tune IRQ Affinity and pin to specific CPU cores.

 

- if your streamer is a PC, also tune the TCP stack for low latency.

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Oh also, switch to a business grade Internet connection and with a reputable ISP that won't route your traffic all over the country before making it's way out via International transit links (in order to reduce cost).

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On 23/12/2019 at 5:47 PM, dbastin said:

I'd speculate that some companies making switches for optimal audio have or obtain the expertise to achieve that objective.

 

Take Melco/Buffalo for instance ... check out what they're in to ... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melco

 

I would think, aside from tweaking existing switches, development of a switch optimised for audio would involve experts its all aspects.

 

I don't think they have the right knowledge in what they are trying to apply to because anybody who knows how network and switching works will know that no matter how fancy the ethernet cable is, it will not make a lick of difference as long as its built right to the standards set and used for the past 30 years. Digital data transmission be it at a layer 2 or layer 3 switching/routing level doesn't care about the metallurgy or laser medium it is travelling on as long as its there. There are protocols implemented and programmed into the device to re-transmit lost packets, fragments of packets which carry fixed sized blocks of data. Analogue cables operate more differently and can be affected by length, capacitance, resistance, inductance, RFI/EMI design etc. 3 of the mentioned does not affect digital transmission.

 

If these so called companies had experts with knowledge that stood out of the crowd they would be putting in a white paper design for approval by IEEE/ICNP because everybody would be benefiting from it.

 

As a qualified EE and Network Engineer, it is an insult to me to see people over pay for crappy products that don't make a difference or work. Why weren't these so called audio switches released 10 years ago? Switches have been around for decades, 10 years ago we had network streamers and network DAP's. The answer to this is because it is a money grabbing opportunity because it is more popular nowadays. 

 

Also I'd avoid buying any of the Pang jitter modified switch. Overpriced, poorly built and does nothing, if you must need a low jitter clock attachment to a generic $50 switch for whatever reason one can be made with $20 worth of parts on a protoboard.

Edited by F18
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I'm always amazed that people think audio is a difficult thing to send on a data network.  The issues with getting traffic reliably and without error between two endpoints were solved many moons ago. The data centres that feed your gaming, social media, streaming and the like shunts more traffic than you could imagine, at extremely low loss rates and have done for decades.

 

With gigabit interfaces and appropriate network segmentation (this is even questionable in a home environment), LAN transmission is a doddle for low bandwidth (see Audio) applications. Moving to a WAN brings it's own challenges, but that's not the problem these audiophile switches are solving. 

 

If we can solve the issues of high frequency trading, delivering audio isn't an issue. Extreme latency, jitter and packet loss performance metrics and the like can be delivered reliably using TCP/IP over quality ethernet switches by someone with a cursory knowledge of networking. 

 

If you are really hell bent on spending your $ on a top shelf switch, the brands to look at are Cisco, Arista or any of the Broadcomm based chip set switches that run the Cumulus OS (or similar). 

 

If you're routing traffic on a software based, CPU bound switch you're potentially doing more damage than good.  

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1 hour ago, recur said:

I'm always amazed that people think audio is a difficult thing to send on a data network.  The issues with getting traffic reliably and without error between two endpoints were solved many moons ago. The data centres that feed your gaming, social media, streaming and the like shunts more traffic than you could imagine, at extremely low loss rates and have done for decades.

 

With gigabit interfaces and appropriate network segmentation (this is even questionable in a home environment), LAN transmission is a doddle for low bandwidth (see Audio) applications. Moving to a WAN brings it's own challenges, but that's not the problem these audiophile switches are solving. 

 

If we can solve the issues of high frequency trading, delivering audio isn't an issue. Extreme latency, jitter and packet loss performance metrics and the like can be delivered reliably using TCP/IP over quality ethernet switches by someone with a cursory knowledge of networking. 

 

If you are really hell bent on spending your $ on a top shelf switch, the brands to look at are Cisco, Arista or any of the Broadcomm based chip set switches that run the Cumulus OS (or similar). 

 

If you're routing traffic on a software based, CPU bound switch you're potentially doing more damage than good.  

 

And again, that's not the point. An 'audiophile' switch is at best a band aid. The problems solved are not in TCP/IP. No one here running half speed logic would assume theres any issue in getting data to an endpoint where audio is concerned. 

 

Whilst appreciating your dig at software-based switches, most audio rigs owned by most here cost less than a Cisco running Cumulus. 

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Would the people here advising against audiophile switches also conclude that Ethernet-optical converters placed upstream of the Hifi server/streamer make no difference to the sound quality?

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On 06/01/2020 at 2:05 PM, rmpfyf said:

Whilst appreciating your dig at software-based switches, most audio rigs owned by most here cost less than a Cisco running Cumulus. 

um, no Cisco switches run Cumulus.

You could easily get a 24 or 48 port gigabit Cisco switch (refurbed) for circa $500 though. That's less than most people here spend on a DAC or cables and it's utilitarian, being able to be used to speedily connect a house, as well as provide wire speed inter vlan routing to isolate clients.

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ha, I just looked on gumtree: https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/st-james/other-electronics-computers/cisco-catalyst-3750g-switch-24-port/1236308272 

 

So for $100, you get a switch that new would have been circa $15k and would have demonstrably better stats on every front than any of these audiophile switches could hope for.  

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