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dbastin

Ethernet Routers for Audio

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This thread is complimentry to others I created ...

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

Ethernet cables for audio - Part C :  use of fibre optical cables, SFPs, media convertors, etc

 

This thread is where people can share their views about which routers give best performance for audio purposes.

 

You will see there is posts claiming routers won't make much if any difference to audio.  These are valid, however there may be possibilities to be explored to demonstrate otherwise,

 

At page 6 I have suggested development of a specification for routers that would be optimal for audio purposes with the intent of breaking away from circular debates of weather or not routers make a difference.

 

I suspect routers with SFP for fibre will arise because fibre provides good isolation and is low cost per metre to achieve an ethernet connection that doesnt collect noise en-route.

 

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

 

created this thread (and others about ethernet for audio) with a hope to create resources for members to benefit, and improve their enjoyment.  Ultimately, once we explorre routers, I have in mind creating a thread 'Ethernet Systems for Audio: Putting it all together' with a view to creating a resource to help understand what components to use where, to balance their impact and bang for buck.  To help novices navigate this rabbit hole which is more of a rabbit warren (aka, network).

 

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

Edited by dbastin
Clarified scopeoc thread

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I'm going to kick off this thread with suggestions made recently on another thread by @rmpfyf.  Namely these routers:

 

CRS112-8G-4S-IN

CRS305-1G-4S+IN (probably the pick of them, AUD$230 or so, can be DC powered in a range most LPS exist)

CRS112-8P-4S-IN

Here is some info about those routers.

 

https://mikrotik.com/product/CRS106-1C-5S

https://mikrotik.com/product/CRS112-8G-4S-IN

https://mikrotik.com/product/CRS212-1G-10S-1SplusIN

 

I'm a bit puzzled by those which are referred to as being both switch and router.

 

I am keen to use fibre as the backbone to my network.

Edited by dbastin

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20 minutes ago, dbastin said:

I'm a bit puzzled by those which are referred to as being both switch and router.

They have a one or more switch chips, allowing ports to be configured as switches that don't traverse the CPU and have a bridge interface to the kernel. So you only get a CPU workload on routed packets, not switched frames. 

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46 minutes ago, dbastin said:

I'm going to kick off this thread with suggestions made recently on another thread by @rmpfyf.  Namely these routers:

 

And easy there Tigger, I mentioned in the same breath that these wouldn't be my last choice for an 'audio' rig :P 

(Before @recur and others rightly point out I should know better!)

 

This said for $230 for something new with a warranty and support it's not a bad first step, not at all. They were even cheaper pre the dollar tanking a little.

Edited by rmpfyf

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@rmpfyf I’ve lost interest in discussions about Ethernet, cables, switches and routers around here.  Please leave me out.
 

There are way too many people on here with a deep seated belief that spending excessive money on something that has been standardised and tested to death (Ethernet, tcp/IP) in much more high pressure environments (Eg HFT, content delivery networks etc) will yield a better audio outcome.
 

Most don’t understand that the delivery of the audio stream is asynchronous to the underlying transport, that buffers handle most of the transmission issues comfortably. 
 

All I hear is anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias. Spend your money but I’d wager 100:1 that if the same money was spent on room treatment you’d get a much better outcome.

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I’m looking at getting a mesh wifi router for my house.  Looking at something like this:

 

https://www.asus.com/au/Networking/ZenWiFi-AX-XT8/

 

I chose this one as it has QoS.

 

My question is, would this be any worse for audio, compared to say a purely Ethernet router, like a Ubiquiti Edge?

 

I plan to use it connected directly to the NBN modem, and then using a ethernet from one of the LAN ports to the music room.  The mesh wifi is for everything else in the house.

 

Any thoughts?

 

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Leaving the audio story aside, mesh wifi should be a last resort if you can't run cable to dedicated access points. 

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9 minutes ago, recur said:

@rmpfyf I’ve lost interest in discussions about Ethernet, cables, switches and routers around here.  Please leave me out.
 

There are way too many people on here with a deep seated belief that spending excessive money on something that has been standardised and tested to death (Ethernet, tcp/IP) in much more high pressure environments (Eg HFT, content delivery networks etc) will yield a better audio outcome.
 

Most don’t understand that the delivery of the audio stream is asynchronous to the underlying transport, that buffers handle most of the transmission issues comfortably. 
 

All I hear is anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias. Spend your money but I’d wager 100:1 that if the same money was spent on room treatment you’d get a much better outcome.

 

I respect your position. When I've time I'll link back to your explanations on why carrier grade switchgear, which I think were spot on.

 

I'll maintain that whilst all the above is correct there's an effect on (in a broad sense) OS jitter which may be palpable depending your playback though good design downstream can take care of this. This said standards again rule supreme here - AES67 implementing IEEE 1588 basically kills the jitter argument for good. Nanosecond perfect, if you want it, all over standard network cabling. As in that's the end of special cabling anything having any merit whatsoever. 

 

I think everyone here is well-intended though the amount of money spent in some cases is crazy for a problem that can be solved easily.

 

Whilst (IEEE 1588) compliant switches are light on the ground they're growing in number and hopefully the audio community takes heed. AES67 is an excellent standard.

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15 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

I’m looking at getting a mesh wifi router for my house.  Looking at something like this:

 

https://www.asus.com/au/Networking/ZenWiFi-AX-XT8/

 

I chose this one as it has QoS.

 

My question is, would this be any worse for audio, compared to say a purely Ethernet router, like a Ubiquiti Edge?

 

I plan to use it connected directly to the NBN modem, and then using a ethernet from one of the LAN ports to the music room.  The mesh wifi is for everything else in the house.

 

Any thoughts?

 

 

I'm with @PCOWandre on this one... can you have cables run instead?

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40 minutes ago, rmpfyf said:

 

I'm with @PCOWandre on this one... can you have cables run instead?

I have cat 6 Ethernet wired through the house.

 

However, it is a big house, and even with 3 cheap wifi routers in sync (not meshed), there are weak signal areas.

 

My theory would be to wire the slave router to the master at opposite ends of the house, and free up the backhaul bandwidth to improve the overall wifi quality.

 

Is there something about mesh wifi that would otherwise be a concern?

Edited by Stereophilus

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If you have cable in place, look at deploying Unifi access points (or something similar from your favourite vendor). I don't generally see much point in the overpriced consumer product that always seems to introduce limitations and problems. Let access points be access points. Real wifi solutions will help your devices roam from AP to AP. 

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27 minutes ago, PCOWandre said:

If you have cable in place, look at deploying Unifi access points (or something similar from your favourite vendor). I don't generally see much point in the overpriced consumer product that always seems to introduce limitations and problems. Let access points be access points. Real wifi solutions will help your devices roam from AP to AP. 

So I use 3x cheap APs currently.  Fairly happy, except for some weak signal areas and I want to get wifi 6 speeds because we mostly use wireless devices around the house.  I take the point about cost of the XT8, but I figured it would provide better coverage and faster speeds, justifying the cost.  Thanks for the input.

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54 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

I have cat 6 Ethernet wired through the house.

 

However, it is a big house, and even with 3 cheap wifi routers in sync (not meshed), there are weak signal areas.

 

My theory would be to wire the slave router to the master at opposite ends of the house, and free up the backhaul bandwidth to improve the overall wifi quality.

 

Is there something about mesh wifi that would otherwise be a concern?

 

2-3x WAP's will solve. One big network (or as many as they like). Done.

 

I use these. https://shop.duxtel.com.au/product_info.php?cPath=30&products_id=417. Rock solid. 

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I just wouldn't bet on removing access points and replacing them with another device to actually improve the situation, compared to just deploying an additional AP in your weak signal area. Have you conducted a site survey with signal measurements, made sure you don't have overlapping channels, the usual wifi rigmarole?

 

 

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I think another WAP will work, I just thought I’d upgrade the other 3 WAPs at the same time... so price compared to the XT8 became a lot closer.

 

Aside from this, and back onto something closer to the topic, does separating wireless routing duties from the wired router offer any benefit (audio specific or otherwise)?  Or is it ok to have 1 device doing all the routing?

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11 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

I think another WAP will work, I just thought I’d upgrade the other 3 WAPs at the same time... so price compared to the XT8 became a lot closer.

 

A mate on 6 acres and a 60sq home does fine on three of the devices mentioned turned down to 50% radio strength, and only one of the devices is actually installed in the home. Choose wisely, study where they go and you'll be fine.

 

11 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

Aside from this, and back onto something closer to the topic, does separating wireless routing duties from the wired router offer any benefit (audio specific or otherwise)?  Or is it ok to have 1 device doing all the routing?

 

 

Fine to have one device doing the routing, particularly if you can keep regular decisioning at switch level. 

 

What's important is how things are routed, and that the intent/functionality is supported on whatever is doing your switching. 

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On 13/09/2020 at 2:16 PM, rmpfyf said:

these wouldn't be my last choice for an 'audio' rig :P 

So what would you suggest as next best in terms of performance for audio?

Edited by dbastin

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45 minutes ago, dbastin said:

So what would you suggest as next best in terms of performance for audio?

 

AES67 is a dream for now (no time to implement), I'd get something carrier-grade with SFP for starters, a good-quality fibre cable and a good fibre card in the PC.

 

If you wanted to hack it you could. But starting with something not CPU-bound is a good start. It won't be $230 new though :D 

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Actual carrier-grade is a bit much. Enterprise-grade is more reasonable. 3750G should be cheap enough second-hand and won't run out of steam. 

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The AES discussion as been interesting (BTW, its on another thread). And for most people its probably not accessible or practical.

 

My endpoint is not a PC.  And even the Antipodes server is unlikely to be able to accommodate a fibre NIC.  I will probably use EtherRegen as a Media Convertor, and the wired ethernet from Side B.

 

How would cariier grade be more beneficial than enterprise grade in terms of use for short runs (eg. household scale) with the aim of maximising audio quaiy?

 

What brands are carrier grade?

How do I decipher if it is not CPU bound, and why would that be better (lower electrical noise, heat?).

 

Cheers

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7 minutes ago, PCOWandre said:

3750G

Thanks.  Do Cisco have routers with less wired ports and more SFPs than 3750?

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9 minutes ago, PCOWandre said:

Actual carrier-grade is a bit much. Enterprise-grade is more reasonable. 3750G should be cheap enough second-hand and won't run out of steam. 

That's a fair call. My lingo is out. 'Professional stuff that isn't CPU-bound' is the step beyond the Mikrotik/Ubiquiti's of the world, and they are a step beyond consumer stuff.

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There's so much random Cisco hardware out there, you'll have no trouble stitching it all together. 

 

Hang on -- how much do you want to plug in? If you're trying to keep noise out, you only need fibre to the bits you're trying to keep noise away from. You don't need to put everything on fibre.

Edited by PCOWandre

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4 minutes ago, dbastin said:

The AES discussion as been interesting (BTW, its on another thread). And for most people its probably not accessible or practical.

 

My endpoint is not a PC.  And even the Antipodes server is unlikely to be able to accommodate a fibre NIC.  I will probably use EtherRegen as a Media Convertor, and the wired ethernet from Side B.

 

But you see there's the rub - many audio solutions are ultimately limited by convenience. 

 

You could have mega-FIFO buffers everywhere with kickass clocks and implementations, though that'd be somewhere around the $1k mark retail all onit's own and most audiophiles would rather pay for the latest thingy blah blah and wouldn't stomach a half second or more delay on playback.

 

You could have fibre at the endpoint but most audiophiles would rather not stomach the $500 or so it'd add to every product offering a good implementation, because so few would that the price ends up being >>$500 because there's no scale. 

 

This said the market for high end gear is a little disgusting here IMHO - most makes will happily slug punters for Bling They Know How To Make - witness music servers running $500 costing in excess of $2k, power supplies with audio-quality caps, etc - but won't get into Stuff That Makes A Difference That They'd Need To Stretch For. 

 

There are a few people on this forum that are fortunate enough to play at the bleeding end, right where it's expensive. And I think these people have great motivations, the share their findings with us all and we all gain a little through their travels. 

 

But whoever sells to them needs a touch up. 

 

We get into these recursive discussions around solutions and down rabbit holes of ever-more-rarefied solutions, the discussion moves so quickly beyond definitions of problems that we've a complete industry of solutions of ever-increasing resolution that are fairly iffy in terms of their actual accuracy towards solving problems. 

 

When you've paid as much for four-figure cables, super-spec routers and the like then it's fair to suggest you can take a step back and realise you can afford a solution including fibre, or AES67, or whatever else that actually deals with problems in a more structured and diligent manner. This or one admits they've accepted some inherent compromises in their rig and faces a comfort level in what they'll spend to indulge it. 

 

The EtherREGEN is one of the best engineered band-aids I've ever seen. It's a band-aid as in 'you're trying to get packets to land in a structured way without using a means of sending them with any consideration for timing' and 'you want min noise to the device along the cable but you're using copper' (or silver, see 'rarefied solutions' above). I like the device. It attempts to deal with many things you might face, and makes an honest fist of solving for all of them.  It is not a last-word solution for any of them. 

 

I would stress that many solutions are compromised not just in the network implementations but how they handle data at an endpoint once they have it. As @PCOWandre has detailed, there are some very reasoned approaches to getting last-word jitter performance, but you're not going to get it through Roon. 

 

If I didn't have the PC and I used canned media server software and I wasn't prepared to change either - which is fine, it's not a criticism, just an observation - then a good switch, fibre to an EtherREGEN, a high-quality cable (likely UTP) to the device as short as reasonably possible would be the go. I'd play with network settings on the upstream switch to limit traffic and up priority on the audio route. If you were worried about conducted s*** between the EtherREGEN and the endpoint, a fibre Ethernet isolator could work (yes, GigaFOIL is the best of them) though it's a tradeoff - you're changing the waveform that you paid a nice router to make - IMHO a (very) short Ethernet cable would be a smarter choice. 

 

My 2c.

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18 minutes ago, dbastin said:

cariier grade be more beneficial than enterprise grade

Actual carrier-grade equipment is so big, power-hungry and noisy (think four classic Krells stacked on top of each other with 32 fans blowing on them) that you'd never, ever hear any noise because you couldn't hear it over the giant stack of equipment roaring. OH&S guidelines recommend hearing protection in network sites. 

 

I feel like these threads are going around and around in circles a little. I always recommend looking at IT problems as IT problems - heading in with a business requirement or fault to be remediated, identify the root cause, design a solution, review that solution and implement with a set of success/fail criteria

 

Now, I do understand a requirement of "bored and want to make things nicer", at which point I'm going to recommend mapping out your entire network and looking at what can be made nicer without wheeling in a 19" rack full of hardware. And I say this as someone who used to have two 19" racks of hardware running at home.

 

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