Network Improvements and their Impact on Sound Quality

The goal of this thread is to share experiences with the Network environment associated with streamed digital music. The hypothesis is that just like other areas of audio, improvements to and optimization of the quality of the network used to stream digital music can have a very positive impact on sound quality. While the underlying principals are relatively straightforward, networking, by virtue of the huge number of variables, is a very complex field. There are many ways to set up a perfectly functioning network and a huge variety of devices that can be employed....i would hope that through this thread and the experience and experimentation of key contributors, we may be able to narrow down the number of devices that are proven to work well for audio applications and develop a few networking concepts that function particularly well for the reproduction of music.
My own personal experience in optimizing my network has led to a number of very positive surprises....
  • large improvements in sound quality do not necessarily require large financial investments...in fact, many times the opposite holds true
  • standard 16/44.1 Redbook format files can sound incredibly good and highly satisfying, musically.....jaw droppingly so
  • internet radio at 128kbps can be hugely entertaining and a brilliant source of new music
  • some of the biggest improvements lie in the most unexpected of places
  • the law of diminishing returns doesn’t seem to operate the same way as classic audio...from a network standpoint, the better and more revealing your system becomes, the greater the impact of future network improvements
  • you may really need to rethink/revise your value scales....for example buying a $500 silver/gold DC cable for a $200 router may be an entirely sound decision (s’cuse the pun)
  • the efficacy of a device is highly dependent on the environment in which it‘s used. Because a device works well in one installation doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well in all installations...there are simply too many variables
  • careful implementation of a network will often achieve superior results compared to chasing the most highly reviewed hi-fi components and installing them in an less than optimum network environment
For the above reasons, I am keen to share networking experiences...I’m looking forward to benefitting from the wealth of knowledge and expertise of this forum’s participants.
 
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Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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#21
So, in the UK we have our domestic BT router/modem in the lounge, and a seperate multi socket install from where Cat6 wiring goes to most rooms, incl the audio space upstairs.

Currently our only internet use is my mobile phone, Ra's laptop. Not using, and never likely to use, any of those hardwired Cat6 sockets, other than to the audio space.

Is that considered low or medium risk re hash in the EM æther?

So, add an LPS to domestic router I get.
Audiophile switch at that point?
Hardwire 50' of pricey ethernet cbl to bypass stock?
Or cheaper fibre?
Or go wireless?
A second switch up there?
LPS on both switches?

Is this the right thread for these Qs?
Hi Spiritofmusic,
Looks like you are already ahead of most UK internet consumers who have an ISP supplied combination modem/wireless router and no ethernet hardwiring of any description. That was exactly my situation when I decided to base my new system on audio streaming. Back then in late 2017 I had a Virgin 200mbps Superhub 3 (the only thing super about it is the name) providing a rather weak, unreliable wireless signal serving the whole house. I have basically moved from that to what I consider to be a fully optimised network but that didn’t happen overnight. The entire exercise took quite some time and was based on a lot of listening and comparisons of various hardware and topology options.

In your position i would do things one at time, starting with adding a switch in the hi-fi room....your decision whether you want something SOTA (Melco or SoTM) or perhaps a little less expensive, but still excellent like EtherRegen. Just make sure any switch has an optical capability to keep your options open. When you’re happy with how that sounds, add a high quality LPS and something like a Ghent Audio Neotech JSSG360 DC cable.
If those improvements justify their cost, you could move on to compare various methods of getting your data stream into the hi-fi room, I compared several strategies, including low quality CAT5 ethernet, high quality cat6 ethernet (Synergistic Research), Netgear’s Orbi Mesh, Google Wi-fi, ethernet over Powerline (as an interim measure) and a wireless TPLink RE650 extender/access point. Surprisingly the RE650 gave the best results, by quite a decent margin, so that’s what I implemented. I didn’t try FO due to cable routing issues but there’s no reason you shouldn’t if its easy to run a cable. Once you choose the optimum topology to get your signal into your hi-fi room, you can then start looking at optimising the balance of your network with a superior router, LPSs on all devices, specialist DC and ethernet cables, vibration control e.g Atacama Eco platforms for modem, LPSs etc. My network is now based on a TPLInk Archer AC5400 tri-band router with one 5GHz band dedicated to audio, a cable loom of Synergistic Research Atmosphere X Ref ethernet and usb cables, Sean Jacobs DC3 LPSs on all network devices including a now highly modified RE650 extender, Atacama platforms under LPSs. modem and router, Nenon’s Mundorf silver/gold DC cables. Each step moved me closer in the direction i wanted my system to evolve, namely a more believable lifelike sound.
 
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Jeffy

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Apr 27, 2014
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Orchard Lake, MI
#22
I use JRiver from my PC which has all of my music on it. I'm using a JCAT NET Card Femto in my pc with its own LPS power supply to a wireless router (Netgear AC-1200) using ethernet cable. This went to a AQVOX SE Switch, which now am going to change to the Melco S-100 switch. This goes to a Gigafoil (fiber back to ethernet) and then to my DAC. I'm using Sablon Audio LAN cable. Each item including the router has its own LPS. Big change in sound and can't wait to see what the Melco will do. The only way to know is to try.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
11,656
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E. England
#23
This is how I have setup my network and the rest of my system..

View attachment 63985

DC cables from HD Plex to network equipment is Ghent audio Canare 4S6 with Oyiade DC contacts and Neutrik XLR.

https://www.ghentaudio.com/part/dc30.html

CAT6 LAN cables is Ghent audio ET01 (dont think this is available today and replaced with ET11) exept one cable from B-side on eR.

https://www.ghentaudio.com/pc/et11.html

From etherRegen to dCS NB is a DIY CAT7A cable with Telegärtner MFP8.1 connectors.

SFP modules is from FS.com.

https://www.fs.com/products/75326.html

Fiber cable from router to eR is a Corning clear curve.
Why am I struggling to make head or tail of this? Lol.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
11,656
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#25
Lol indeed
Bob, I've edited my previous post #23. Makes (some) sense now.
My sentiment re Octaviars still applies. Why multiple routers?
 
Jan 16, 2013
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#26
Lol indeed
Bob, I've edited my previous post #23. Makes (some) sense now.
My sentiment re Octaviars still applies. Why multiple routers?
I use two routers. First router is connected to the ISP modem and has connections to "other devices". Second router (Edge router) is connected via a lan cable and from the Edge router one lan cable becomes a dedicated/non busy audio only router. I connect into a switch and then server, but I had good results also going from the Edge router directly into the Extreme.

My experience has shown me that busy routers are more harmful to the sound than "noise". I think with Verizon Fios that comes into the modem with fiber probably isn't as noisy as if the connection from the pole was copper.

Of course I don't know that electronically speaking, but I do know from off loading the Verizon Router and installing a dedicated $100 router made a significant jump in sonic performance.
 

sbo6

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May 19, 2014
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#27
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sbo6

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May 19, 2014
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Round Rock, TX
#28
If i can make a comment WRT a baseline - if we are talking improving streaming quality would it not be safe to assume that the ultimate goal would be to reach locally stored file playback with any ethernet unplugged from your music playing / streaming device?
 
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#29
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#30
If i can make a comment WRT a baseline - if we are talking improving streaming quality would it not be safe to assume that the ultimate goal would be to reach locally stored file playback with any ethernet unplugged from your music playing / streaming device?
We sort of do that now, no? Disconnect the lan and play locally stored files. I might not be understanding?

I actually am getting totally saturated and satisfied with my streaming sound. I'm at the point of forgetting about it (almost there) and just enjoying the music. Once I get to the point that I'm at then a major variable in "my" equation is having the 30 million songs at my fingertips and that requires being connected.

At times I listen to full albums straight through. Depends on my mood. Other times I flip around, discover, enjoy and I'm not thinking about the sonic quality. It's already over the top for me.

So I would not want locally stored playback even if it sounded better.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
11,656
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#31
I'm not even at CA level. Still in the Stone Age (aka Audio Asylum Lol).

So Bob, you plug a second router into the first (multi use) router?
In my case, where all we use is internet one output from router to tv, would you still advise a second router?
 
Jan 16, 2013
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#32
I'm not even at CA level. Still in the Stone Age (aka Audio Asylum Lol).

So Bob, you plug a second router into the first (multi use) router?
In my case, where all we use is internet one output from router to tv, would you still advise a second router?
Marc, Yes, I connect a $100 Edge router into the Verizon ISP supplied router.

I can't recommend anything. Romaz, Blacmorec, SBO6 or MANY guys that are not speaking up yet are very knowledgeable with the network technicalities might be able to advise more adequately.

Over the last month I have observed, those mentioned members as well as Emile and read up a bit and then got a procured a few devices and started plugging them in to see what would happen. Each time I added a device including LPSs to the two routers, BETTER sonics were definitely observed.

Not the same with the fiber or copper. They sounded different to me, not better or worse. But the added router, switch and LPSs all made a positive sonic difference. I just went from doing one, then the next.

So with my naive network network understanding, but with a little experience now if it were me, I WOULD get another router and connect it with one of the lan ports on your main router. Get it from somewhere you can return it. Try it and see. If you don't like it or can't tell a difference send it back.

I don't care really what anyone says, I know that I will only know if I like something if I connect it and listen. If I'm not sure if there is a jump in performance when I listen, then the answer is no. I pretty much have to say wow, not WOW, but wow......then it's a keeper.

WHAT I HAVE LEARD AND TAKE FROM ALL OF THIS IS THAT THE NETWORK SIDE OF THE EQUATION IN MY SYSTEM(S) HAS MADE A HUGE POSITIVE SONIC DIFFERENCE.

The network side of the equation might not make any difference or a small difference for someone else and their systems/network that's fine, I feel fortunate that I discovered it and it worked for me. Also if/when possible I enjoy helping others find what I found. It's a good thing.
 
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wil

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Jul 22, 2015
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#33
Because now your off into CA level discussions! :)
Exactly... these dense network discussions can be frustrating place for liberal arts majors (like myself)!
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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#34
I use JRiver from my PC which has all of my music on it. I'm using a JCAT NET Card Femto in my pc with its own LPS power supply to a wireless router (Netgear AC-1200) using ethernet cable. This went to a AQVOX SE Switch, which now am going to change to the Melco S-100 switch. This goes to a Gigafoil (fiber back to ethernet) and then to my DAC. I'm using Sablon Audio LAN cable. Each item including the router has its own LPS. Big change in sound and can't wait to see what the Melco will do. The only way to know is to try.
Please do post the results of your AQVoxSE to Melco S-100 switch as I’ve been wondering about a similar upgrade myself.
 
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#35
That is an awesome set up for both systems!!! Did you find that as you built up the network portions of the overall system that when you added different devices and cables that were upticks in sonic performance?
Yes I feel that I have gaind some performance in adding beter PSU, cables and etherREGEN but I would not call it major differences but still the cost is rather low so why not :)

As I use Roon and Qobuz when I start a song it is downloaded to the harddrive on my NUC so after a few seconds there are not much activity on the router as music flows from NUC via etherREGEN to my dCS. I can disconnect my fiber from router to etherREGEN during a song is played from Qobuz and it will still play that whole song.

Lol indeed
Bob, I've edited my previous post #23. Makes (some) sense now.
My sentiment re Octaviars still applies. Why multiple routers?
I dont have multiple routers. The first component is just a fiber to WAN converter (it has dual fiber in, one for internet and one for tv so they are seperated from ISP) and this WAN port goes to my router a Ubiquiti Edgerouter X SFP that supplies my local LAN network with DHCP.

I have tried to seperate them so I have one larger 24p switch that supplies the house and Wifi accespoint. Then I have the etherREGEN supplied via fiber from router as a audio only system.
 
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Sablon Audio

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May 22, 2015
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#36

Sablon Audio

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#37
Here’s a question for the advancer network diyers - most of us appreciate the big uptick from adding an lps to your router / modem however has anyone gone a step further and delved internally to bypass bucking / voltage step down circuitry and feed the correct native voltage directly?
 

matthias

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Mar 14, 2019
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#38
Here’s a question for the advancer network diyers - most of us appreciate the big uptick from adding an lps to your router / modem however has anyone gone a step further and delved internally to bypass bucking / voltage step down circuitry and feed the correct native voltage directly?
AFAIK, @Blackmorec has a modified TP-link RE650 by Sean Jacobs who send 5V directly to the device via a DC3 power supply.

Matt
 
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Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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#39
FYI, the TPLink RE650 is a dual band (2.4GHz & 5GHz bands) access point/extender that comes standard with a mains wall plug, internal 5V DC supply, 4 antennae, ability to deactivate all LEDs, and SW control via the TPLInk app Tether. As standard, the unit is plugged into a wall socket and the (cheap as chips) internal SMPS produces the 5V necessary to run the unit. Prior to deciding on using the unit as part of my network I compared its W-Fi performance to standard CAT5 and Synergistic Research Active SE Cat6 10m ethernet cables. The Wi-fi was superior. Initially I built my network based on the ISP supplied modem/router sending a wi-fi signal to the RE650 which was connected to my then Innuos Zenith SE server by a 1m SR Atmosphere X Ref ethernet cable. Further development of the network included placing network devices on Atacama platforms to minimize vibration and powering devices with Sean Jacob’s DC3s. Eventually the RE 650 was the only device still powered by its own internal SMPS.
Using the standard Tether SW, I could switch off the 2.4MHz band, switch off the 5MHz band polling, switch off the LEDs and make the hardwired Innuos the only client.
Given the success I’d had with LPSs and vibration control I decided to modify the RE650 to bring it into line. I removed the internal power supply and the wall plug and used the space to install a single mounting point. I then built an anti-vibration wall mount, using Polymethyl methacrylate, (Perspex). I glued a single button mount to the Perspex to hold the RE650 and attached nitrile o-rings to each corner. 4 cup hooks in the wall hold the o-rings which are under minimal tension and therefore transmit no vibration from the wall, while the antennae are held in the same orientation as the wall plug mount. Sean Jacobs built a connector from the RE650’s circuit board power input to a chassis mounted socket, so I can now attach any DC cable using a standard 2.1mm barrel connector. An SJ DC3 provides the required 5V and the current is carried to the RE650 over a Nenon designed Mundorf Silver/Gold JSSG DC cable. The DC3 sits on a small Atacama platform.
On the router side, I installed a 3 band TPLink Archer 5400 which I can also control via the Tether App. One of its 5GHz bands is dedicated to audio, with the RE650 as the only client. The Router is also powered by a DC3 with Mundorf Silver/Gold DC cable.
Photos show DC3s for AQVoxSE switch and RE650 access point on an Atacama mini rack; the RE650 on its anti-vibration mount, a top view of RE650 showing its single mounting pint and Nenon’s Mundorf SilverGold DC cable demonstrating its ability to hold a shape, allowing stress free mounting
 

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Last edited:
Jan 16, 2013
1,336
1,427
635
NYC
#40
FYI, the TPLink RE650 is a dual band (2.4GHz & 5GHz bands) access point/extender that comes standard with a mains wall plug, internal 5V DC supply, 4 antennae, ability to deactivate all LEDs, and SW control via the TPLInk app Tether. As standard, the unit is plugged into a wall socket and the (cheap as chips) internal SMPS produces the 5V necessary to run the unit. Prior to deciding on using the unit as part of my network I compared its W-Fi performance to standard CAT5 and Synergistic Research Active SE Cat6 10m ethernet cables. The Wi-fi was superior. Initially I built my network based on the ISP supplied modem/router sending a wi-fi signal to the RE650 which was connected to my then Innuos Zenith SE server by a 1m SR Atmosphere X Ref ethernet cable. Further development of the network included placing network devices on Atacama platforms to minimize vibration and powering devices with Sean Jacob’s DC3s. Eventually the RE 650 was the only device still powered by its own internal SMPS.
Using the standard Tether SW, I coils disable the 2.4MHz band, switch off the 5MHz band polling, switch off the LEDs and make the hardwired Innuos the only client.
Given the success I’d had with LPSs and vibration control I decided to modify the RE650 to bring it into line. I removed the internal power supply and the wall plug and used the space to install a single mounting point. I then built an anti-vibration wall mount, using Polymethyl methacrylate, (Perspex). I glued a single button mount to the Perspex to hold the RE650 and attached nitrile o-rings to each corner. 4 cup hooks in the wall hold the o-rings which are under minimal tension and therefore transmit no vibration from the wall, while the antennae are held in the same orientation as the wall plug mount. Sean Jacobs built a connector from the RE650’s circuit board power input to a chassis mounted socket, so I can now attach any DC cable using a standard 2.1mm barrel connector. An SJ DC3 provides the required 5V and the current is carried to the RE650 over a Nenon designed Mundorf Silver/Gold JSSG DC cable. The DC3 sits on a small Atacama platform.
On the router side, I installed a 3 band TPLink Archer 5400 which I can also control via the Tether App. One of its 5GHz bands is dedicated to audio, with the RE650 as the only client. The Router is also powered by a DC3 with Mundorf Silver/Gold DC cable.
Photos show DC3s for AQVoxSE switch and RE650 access point on an Atacama mini rack; the RE650 on its anti-vibration mount, a top view of RE650 showing its single mounting pint and Nenon’s Mundorf SilverGold DC cable demonstrating its ability to hold a shape
Love the meticulous set up. It looks artistic!!!

This is my next step, which is to clean up the installation. I have one more LPS coming and then I will mount everything (routers, switch, LPSs and all the cables) on Diaza platforms for vibration control.

I was thinking last night it's GREAT to see and hear about all these networks from users. It conjures up all kinds of ideas.

Thx all for sharing.
 

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