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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nenon

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Jan 29, 2020
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Thanks Nenon
What is the difference between creating a separate VLAN for audio and creating a separate subnet? Any advantages of the second option?
I use both of these terms for the same thing in the context of a home network. It's creating an isolated broadcast domain. With the Ubiquiti router, I guess "creating a separate subnet" is the proper terminology. I will start using that going forward, not to confuse people.
 
Aug 8, 2020
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Hi Nenon, i am looking for upgrading solutions for my current Roon Nucleus + and AQVOX SE connecting to My Vivaldi One plus Clock and Cybershaft OP21. Just want to ask do you sell your DIY music server and switch? If yes, how could they will improve from my current one?
 

nenon

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Jan 29, 2020
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Hi Nenon, i am looking for upgrading solutions for my current Roon Nucleus + and AQVOX SE connecting to My Vivaldi One plus Clock and Cybershaft OP21. Just want to ask do you sell your DIY music server and switch? If yes, how could they will improve from my current one?
I made a decision to stop building custom servers for other people in the beginning of this year. Here is why.
This is my hobby, and I never did this for profit. In fact, if I was to charge my normal rate for the things I did, they would be insanely expensive. So, I never did this for profit. I did it for one of two reasons:
1. To expand my experiments without necessarily buying all the hardware myself. My closet is full of hardware I have bought to try and moved on to something else. They cost a small fortune. If there was a project I was really interested to experiment with, I would do it for the experiment. And if someone wanted to provide the hardware, it was a win-win situation. On several occasions, I tried something for someone else and ended up getting it for me. In fact, that's exactly how I ended up with the switch I posted about.
2. To see the jaw dropping face and the excitement of the person the first time he plugs the server to his system, usually for friends of mine. Those moments are priceless :).

There was a moment when the servers I was playing with were better than anything else on the market. But thanks to Emile that changed :). There is so much catching up we need to do in the DIY server build community to reach the level of the Extreme that I decided it's not worth. Instead, I built myself a server that has a lot of similarities to the Extreme.

Warranty and support is another issue. If you are spending $10K on a server (or even less than that) you better get it from an actual company that can provide warranty and proper support. Software support can take up a lot of time. There are many other issues, but I'll keep the list short. The point is I decided not to do this for other people. Instead, I have posted most of my experiments in DIY forums, so people can try building similar builds themselves.

Having said that, I dare to say that every server I have built was much better than a Roon Nucleus. No exceptions. They were more expensive too. Even the experiments I considered a failure sounded better. I do have one of my servers collecting dust that I have been considering to put for sale one day but I have been lazy to make a couple small modifications and list it somewhere. As usual, there is no motivation to do this, because there is nothing I can learn from that work :). And money is obviously not the driving factor. It has a $3K+ LPS built inside, over $1000 worth of Mundorf silver/gold wire, and many other top components, so it won't be cheap.

As for the switch I modded for myself, it was a cost no object mod that's not cheap by any means - the switch was $400, the clock is €1250, the DC4 LPS is £3700, there are $300 worth in capacitors inside, $200 for feet, $200 for wire, etc. It sounds really really good, and I am super excited about it. And this is my honest unbiased opinion. I am not trying to sell anything, just sharing my experiments.

My plan is to make one more of those switches and see what two switches can do. Then compare with the M12 Gold switch. And finally try all 3 of them at the same time. I know some people tried as many as 4 Buffalo switches and really liked the results. I've tried that too (I tried even 6 Buffalos at some point), but in my system that one Buffalo switch with upgraded clock had bigger impact than 4 Buffalos with stock clocks or even 6 of them.

P.S. to the OP - sorry for the offtopic part of my message. I tried to stay on topic in the last two paragraphs.
 
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Aug 8, 2020
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Dear Nenon, i am using Vivaldi One as an Endpoint of Nucleus, why i need another layer in between to make the whole system sound better?
In my opinion, Switch, Dac, Clock, cables could improve SQ. That’s make sense.
Music server is for storing more data internally. In my case, i am using almost Tidal or Qobuz for streaming. Adding a Music Server in order to improve my Vivaldi One does not make any sense!
 

nenon

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Jan 29, 2020
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Dear Nenon, i am using Vivaldi One as an Endpoint of Nucleus, why i need another layer in between to make the whole system sound better?
In my opinion, Switch, Dac, Clock, cables could improve SQ. That’s make sense.
Music server is for storing more data internally. In my case, i am using almost Tidal or Qobuz for streaming. Adding a Music Server in order to improve my Vivaldi One does not make any sense!
This is completely offtopic, so let's not dive much deeper here. I assumed that your Roon Nucleus is running Roon (Core) and streaming to your Vivaldi One. If that's the case, it absolutely makes a difference. If that's not the case, then I have misunderstood.
 
Aug 8, 2020
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You are right. My Roon Nucleus is running Roon (Core). It connects to my AQVOX SE switch. Then from switch i am using another Ethernet cable to connect to my Ethernet port of my Vivaldi One (not using USB from Nucleus to stream to Vivaldi One). In this case, Nucleus will act as an interface to control my music playlist from Tidal and Qobuz. My Vivaldi One will act as an Endpoint of Roon signal path to stream music from internet thru AQVox switch and convert it to analog signal. (Am i right?)

So in this case, my question is why do i need to add another music server to do Digital to Digital task for my Vivaldi One. And if it DOES improves SQ then Vivaldi One D-to-D function is not as good as even your DIY music server? It does not make sense to me.
 
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nenon

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Jan 29, 2020
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You are right. My Roon Nucleus is running Roon (Core). It connects to my AQVOX SE switch. Then from switch i am using another Ethernet cable to connect to my Ethernet port of my Vivaldi One (not using USB from Nucleus to stream to Vivaldi One). In this case, Nucleus will act as an interface to control my music playlist from Tidal and Qobuz. Am i right?
It's more than just an interface to control the music. The music goes from its original source (i.e. Tidal, Qobuz, local file, etc) to the Roon Core. And the Roon Core streams it to the Vivaldi One. Everything in that path matters and that includes your home network (i.e. cable modem, router, etc.), your Roon Core server (the Nucleus in your case), and the network between your Roon Core and the Vivaldi One. In other words, the bits you are playing pass through your Roon Nucleus and the quality of this server matters.

DAC manufacturers like to say that everything is galvanically isolated, re-clocked, and the source does not matter. This is absolutely not true. I have never heard a DAC where the source does not make a difference. Some people think that the more expensive DACs are designed better and probably not impacted by the source. The reality is that every DAC benefits from a better source and the more expensive the DAC / the better it's designed, the more resolving your system becomes; and it's even easier to hear source changes with those expensive / state of the art DACs.

DCS in particular is as good as it gets in trying to eliminate the effects of the source. What I mean by that is that the source makes less difference on DCS products. But it still makes a difference. In your case, upgrading both the Nucleus and the AQVOX SE switch would make a difference. Upgrading your home network would also make a difference. @2ndLiner can confirm that as the changes he recently made had a pretty significant improvement to his DCS stack.

Have you considered replacing the AQVOX SE switch with the M12 Gold switch? I think that might be a significant improvement in your system. And after that you can look at some of the inexpensive home network tweaks that we have been discussing here.
To be honest, that Buffalo switch would look quite ugly next to your Vivaldi One. To me sound quality takes priority over the looks, and I can live with it :).
 
Aug 8, 2020
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Dear Nenon, i find your explanation is quite clear. I am really appreciated. Thank for your time.
Again, you are right. I did tried to use DCS app to play my tidal playlist directly in order to bypass Roon Nucleus. SQ is almost the same.
SQ improves when:
1/ I replaced basic switch by AQVOX SE
2/ Added Gigafoil V4 in between AQVOX SE and Vivaldi One.
3/ Added Cybershaft master clock to Vivaldi master clock. This made the most significant improvement in my system SQ.

I did try to add EtherREGEN switch but this changed nothing so I decided to put this switch away. Quite disappointed!!!
I will consider your recommendation on M12 and try to replace my current Nordost Heimdall Ethernet cable from Gigafoil to Vivaldi One by Dalby Meda Carbon Gold Ethernet as well as adding LPS to my Gigafoil.
 

kswanson27

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Nov 22, 2018
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The wallwart the Gigafoil comes with is a LPS so I wouldn't bother. I tried it briefly with one of my SBoosters and heard absolutely no difference.
 
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Thuan

New Member
Apr 20, 2020
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It is not accessable
Here it is in text format:

Internet --> Comcast compatible modem (SB8200) --> Acousence GISO --> pfSense firewall --> 1/ audio grade switch --> a/ wifi access point
b/ FMC --> FMC --> dual audio switch --> controlPC
2/ FMC --> FMC --> wifi access point --> home PCs
3/ SmartTV
4/ Sony PS3

AudioPC is connected directly to controlPC, JCAT NET FEMTO on each PC. LPSUs used on each and every component in audio chain (#1). IFi audio iPowers used on #2's FMC and Wifi access point.
 

Thuan

New Member
Apr 20, 2020
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Just learned that the network isolator would be most effective between Wifi and whatever upstream, so I've move the GISO to be located between audio switch and wifi AP. Ideally, a JCAT NET isolator and or a GIGA Foil would be added.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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I was really amazed at the uptick in SQ at Blue58 today with his Extreme/Aqua Formula XHD, going from one brand of FMCs to another, and moving the LPSs for these and his router to away from his audio grid.

With the original FMCs and LPSs in line, the Extreme shone just a bit too brightly for me, with a strong metallic tinge to proceedings. Moving to the new brand of FMCs, and LPSs off line, this hint of aggressiveness is as good as gone, and the Extreme presents much more natural warmth, and elastic bass.
 
May 12, 2018
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Do you know what brand FMC it was before and after?
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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E. England
Startech > Finisar, I believe.
 

Blue58

Well-Known Member
Jan 20, 2013
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London, UK
Startech > Finisar, I believe.
Correct on the transceivers.

I had similar noise issues (grunge) when using a WiFi extender plugged into the audio circuit but never expected a FMC with LPS to behave similarly. Can’t imagine the house circuits being quieter than the audio circuits
 
Nov 27, 2019
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Correct on the transceivers.

I had similar noise issues (grunge) when using a WiFi extender plugged into the audio circuit but never expected a FMC with LPS to behave similarly. Can’t imagine the house circuits being quieter than the audio circuits
Can you post the link from where you bought FMC and LPSs?
 

Blue58

Well-Known Member
Jan 20, 2013
607
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310
London, UK
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