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


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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.

 

And so we dont discourage helpful contributions.

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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

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 bu

Some info of interest here - multiple Cisco switches in series.  Page 8 ...

 

 

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I stumbled across this youtube video this morning.  

 

While it's designed for Ravenna / AES67, the building blocks of functionality that it suggests are precisely what any suitably qualified networking engineer would tell you (and I did earlier in this thread). Network segmentation, traffic marking and prioritisation and then policing if you need to send traffic over a network boundary.

In short, a cheap Cisco switch like the SG350 (a 10 port managed gigabit desktop switch for $380 at Scorptech) has all the functionality you need.

 

The video here is for a distributed switch setup, which I'd wager most of you won't have in your home, so you can lose the need for multicast and PTP in your home streaming environment.  

 

It's got some decent explanations on the various concepts too so if you're new to networking, it's not a bad primer.  If anyone wants to understand any of this more clearly, please reach out. I'd be happy to explain and give guidance as to how far you may need to go in a home environment to optimise it.

 

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unless you are streaming in UDP OR your TCP stream can't keep up with your bitrate AND  your receiving software has zero buffering then the type of switch you have , or your ethernet path length (how many switches it passes through) makes no difference.

 

 

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Interesting comments from Paul McGowan, seems to support 'low noise' ethernet cables, but switches ???

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, BugPowderDust said:

some magical reason why you need one

Given he is in the network bowels of PS Audio, I suspect his network people have convinced him of the position he has taken and also discouraged him from experimenting on the basis it would be a waste of time.  If this is the case, his company and products might benefit from employing some more open minded engineers.

 

He mentions he couldn't tell the difference between wired and wifi ethernet on his best system.  If that is the extent of his experience on this subject, I am surprised he has not been more inquisitive and not surprised of the conclusion he has reached.  I'll add that in view of the above it is unlikely his DS DAC Bridge has given any special attention to mitigating ethernet noise.  I am now on a mission to find those endpoints that do.

 

 

I also note he essentially dissed the SOtM switch which has been a benchmark for some time.

 

Well, he did say he was being controversial .. perhaps intentionally.

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On 03/09/2020 at 11:26 PM, PCOWandre said:

What's on the inside to attempt to justify four hundred and fifty pounds?

This is enlightenting ...

 

 

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11 minutes ago, dbastin said:

he has taken and also discouraged him from experimenting on the basis it would be a waste of time.  If this is the case, his company and products might benefit from employing some more open minded engineers.

hey mate, wrong thread.

 

The thread this commentary goes in is in the Great Debate section of this forum.

 

This is the thread about how a normal switch is just fine for audio.

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7 hours ago, BugPowderDust said:

hey mate, wrong thread.

Nope, I was responding to your comment .. if you read between the lines, PS Audio is saying they wont be making an audiophile switch because regular switch will suffice, which supports the topic of this thread.

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On 23/12/2019 at 4:43 AM, BigJim said:

Perhaps if you have a highly resolving system and you can hear the supposed difference an audiophile switch makes, then go for it.

and can make some sort of decent argument about how this is possible, electronically.

 

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On 28/04/2021 at 10:04 PM, dbastin said:

Interesting comments from Paul McGowan

 

He says "computers are sensitive to noise".

 

"Interesting" is being polite, I think. ;) 

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On 05/05/2021 at 3:53 PM, davewantsmoore said:

 

 

He says "computers are sensitive to noise".

 

"Interesting" is being polite, I think. ;) 

Honestly there seems to be a market for this kind of nonsense, so there will always be people willing to fleece others ...

 

Speaking of which I am selling a new range of audiophile class hard drives for storing music. 

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My second renolab switch is coming. 
This time is in black! The price has gone up abit too.  

 

5A4DF5EC-977C-4699-83E9-EA09D8A69030.jpeg

Edited by AccuMagi
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why not get a Sonore Optical Rendu and Optical Module deluxe to isolate the network noise just before your audio system?

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4 hours ago, genkifd said:

why not get a Sonore Optical Rendu and Optical Module deluxe to isolate the network noise just before your audio system?

 

what does "isolate network noise" mean ?

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2 hours ago, Dropbear67 said:

what does "isolate network noise" mean ?

 

Network Noise:

 

Is seems apparent to many people that there is something detrimental that is carried across ethernet and can therefore get into audio gear if connected to the network via wired ethernet.  This is usually referred to as 'noise' and when it is minimised the effect is lowering of the noise floor of a system, like when power conditioning is used, or grounding.

 

This noise is not something that is audible, but when it is gone sound quality typically improves.

 

Isolation:

 

Using ethernet fibre optic cabling prevents the noise being carried into the audio gear - because it uses light rather than electrical signal to transmit.  There is a range of things to consider with fibre optic which all can have an effect on sound quality (SFP modules, type of fibre, length, etc).

 

Galvanic type isolation or radio (wifi) can also be used.

 

However, even noise in ethernet switches upstream and downstream of isolation may impact sound quality, hence the use of low noise power supplies and regulators, higher quality clocks and shielding chassis in switches design for audio.

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14 minutes ago, dbastin said:

Is seems apparent to many people that there is something detrimental that is carried across ethernet and can therefore get into audio gear if connected to the network via wired ethernet.  This is usually referred to as 'noise' and when it is minimised the effect is lowering of the noise floor of a system, like when power conditioning is used, or grounding.

 

This noise is not something that is audible, but when it is gone sound quality typically improves.

 

Is there any evidence of this whatsoever or is it more "you don't have high enough resolving equipment or a good enough ear to hear it like I do" because it sounds like BS to me .. 

 

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26 minutes ago, Dropbear67 said:

it sounds like BS to me

 

It's possible that "noise" is injected into the system by connecting an ethernet cable.... so we cannot write the whole concept off as BS.

 

.... but the noise itself and the degredation in performance is causes, are also possible to measure.

 

The reason why this rarely happens, is something to ponder.

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Dropbear67 said:

Is there any evidence of this whatsoever or is it more "you don't have high enough resolving equipment or a good enough ear to hear it like I do" because it sounds like BS to me .. 

 

I don't believe in this subject there is a truth or BS, just what each individual hears and believes, which is unique to them.   I suggest the only evidence you need is what you hear and perceive, and being content with that. 

 

Beware that trying to reconcile the difference between the science, what you believe and what you hear may drive you bonkers!

Edited by dbastin
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1 hour ago, dbastin said:

Beware that trying to reconcile the difference between the science, what you believe and what you hear may drive you bonkers!

 

maybe.. but our senses and our perceptions are the worst judge out there and are easily fooled.

 

1 hour ago, davewantsmoore said:

.... but the noise itself and the degredation in performance is causes, are also possible to measure.

 

well tha'ts my question.. I'd like to see the measurements.

 

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On 23/06/2021 at 12:21 PM, dbastin said:

I don't believe in this subject there is a truth or BS, just what each individual hears and believes, which is unique to them.   I suggest the only evidence you need is what you hear and perceive, and being content with that. 


I imagine that view might possibly resonate with at least some of the readers of the Part A, companion thread.  However in this Part B thread, I'd think a high percentage of readers would be looking for some hard evidence, as distinct from mere "belief".

 

If a "souped up" ethernet switch can actually make an audible difference with streamed audio, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for some audio recordings demonstrating the difference made; and an explanation of the circumstances that would trigger the audible difference.  Is such evidence available?  I confess I haven't looked for it, partly because, if it existed, there would be no need for threads such as this one!

 

In the absence of hard evidence, we could fall prey to manufacturers putting a different case around an ethernet switch, after making a few inexpensive and inconsequential changes to the circuitry, and selling the "audio-grade switch" at 10 times the price of an ordinary switch.   Perhaps in a more genteel and ethical world no manufacturer would dream of engaging in such malpractice. On the other hand, if a small group of audiophiles are begging for an expensive audio-grade "thing", and demand no proof it makes an audible difference, the temptation for a manufacturer to satisfy that craving by putting an existing product into a fancy case, is high.

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24 minutes ago, MLXXX said:

Is such evidence available? 

I haven't seen any.  I suspect there would be a lot of debate about methodology for obtaining evidence, but I agree it would be most desirable.

 

I do wonder if there is similar evidence to demonstrate the audible difference between say different amps, or cables.

 

We have specs and measurements taken by reviewers etc, however apparently that does not cut it.  And there is probably no accepted way to achieve particular desired outcomes, if there was we'd be able to order gear custom made to suit what we wanted.

 

This is the hobby we are in, there seems little scientific proof of what can commonly be heard.  Otherwise manufacturers would not use expert panels to audition and evaluate prototypes during R&D.

 

32 minutes ago, MLXXX said:

we could fall prey to manufacturers putting a different case around an ethernet switch, after making a few inexpensive and inconsequential changes to the circuitry, and selling the "audio-grade switch" at 10 times the price of an ordinary switch

This has been done.

AQVox, Paul Pang, the Linear Solution.  And apparently Bonn8  Nuprime and English Electric are all the same main switch PCB.

 

The problem is, there will be situations where science can not (yet) explain what many people experience ... leaving us to choose consciously or not what to believe.  This can apply to many things, not just audio gear performance.

 

I'm not saying this perspective is the only valid one, just something to consider.

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1 hour ago, dbastin said:

This is the hobby we are in, there seems little scientific proof of what can commonly be heard.  Otherwise manufacturers would not use expert panels to audition and evaluate prototypes during R&D.

As this thread is not in The Great Debate of the forum, I'll try to keep my reply relatively brief.

 

There certainly are expert panels to help evaluate speaker system prototypes. Speaker systems tend to sound radically different from each other. Subjective judgments are needed to arrive at the best compromise.

 

With streamed audio, I understand that under normal conditions the data received is an uncorrupted copy of the data sent. So the role of an expert panel would be quite narrow. Presumably, once assembled, members of such a panel would listen out for a random "noise influence" of some kind for audio received through ethernet switch A .  And contrast that with a possibly different extent of random "noise influence" for audio received through ethernet switch B.   Ideally panel members wouldn't know in advance which ethernet switch was audio enhanced and which was "standard"; and wouldn't communicate with each other when making their assessments of which ethernet switch, in the individual panel member's opinion,  was letting through more "noise".

 

If I were organising such an exercise, I'd be inclined to make recordings with identical ADCs of the audio emerging from the two streaming receivers. Once a patch of audio was identified where one ethernet switch allowed a deleterious amount of "noise" to pass through with such intensity that the sound was audibly affected, and at the same time the other ethernet switch blocked the "noise", the pair of recordings of that patch of audio could serve as evidence of the deleterious effect.  The expert panel could be played that pair of recordings and asked to assess the severity of the impairment.

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8 hours ago, dbastin said:

This has been done.

AQVox, Paul Pang, the Linear Solution.  And apparently Bonn8  Nuprime and English Electric are all the same main switch PCB.

Each of the switches quoted do or may have a common aspect in respect of the PCB.  Also, there are probably others not listed.  Besides the common feature of the PCB, I expect that each switch manufacturer then adds other components to achieve what they consider to be audio performance outcome benefits.  Using different switches as I have, you find that there are different results.  More importantly and intriguingly I find that more than one switch in the chain improves the outcome.  My experience is definitely not unique.  At the moment I have six switches in the chain plus other bits such as a optical fibre link.  Wonderful outcome.

 

Why?  I have no substantive idea.  I have no interest in trying to find out why and doing recordings and or measurements.  I do not know what is required.  All I know is that for me there is enhanced listening pleasure which is what it is all about.

John

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9 hours ago, dbastin said:

 

The problem is, there will be situations where science can not (yet) explain what many people experience

Do you have some examples of this?

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9 hours ago, dbastin said:

I suspect there would be a lot of debate about methodology for obtaining evidence

 

Not really.   It's not that hard if you think about it....

 

Measurements of audio A (with switch A) .... and measurements of audio B (with switch B )

 

So.... what "measurements".   Wouldn't there be argument about "which" measurements?

 

No.   ANY measurements.   Anything.... absolutely any evidence of any difference between the signals will suffice.

 

Then .... when some difference is shown, we now know "there is a difference".   Is that difference audible?  well, that's a different debate.... but.... there is a huge body of knowlege about what to expect with audibility, so it's not like we're poking around in the dark ...... but as I said, that's a seperate thing.

 

Humans have equipment which can look inside atoms, and search for noise radiating from the beginning of the universe.   Audio signals are simple.   They have magnitude and time, and nothing more... so we can measure differences between them.

 

Now.... It sounded like I just said "it is easy".   No.    It is not trivial to investigate .... expensive t est equipment and knowledge of how to use it is required.    However - the types of people who are building these devices, will be in possession of such test equipment.

 

 

9 hours ago, dbastin said:

The problem is, there will be situations where science can not (yet) explain what many people experience

 

No - this isn't a problem at all (for what I'm talking about, at least).

 

All that needs to be done is measure the difference between the two signals.   If the signals are different the we CAN measure and show that.     If we're measuring at the wrong place in the system ..... then measure in a different place..... until a difference is shown.

 

 

At this point.... many people will shrug and say "well, maybe there's things we can't measure".

 

No... the sigal leaving my DAC, or amp, or whatever is just an electrical signal with current and voltage varying with time.    It is quite simple (relative to other things science concerns itself with).

 

Sure, most typical "measurements" of it are not detailed enough to be "proof" of anything......  but that's fine.   Use more detailed measurements - they are not unicorns.

 

------

 

Now, once we have a meaasured difference..... imagine that difference is teeny tiny.   At that point, "science would say".... that's going to be inaudible....   and at that point you could pull out "perhaps science cannot explain why this IS audible" ..... and the answer to that might be "yes, maybe".

 

 

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1 hour ago, Assisi said:

enhanced listening pleasure which is what it is all about.

 

Indeed.

 

System design 101 says that if components are being affected by "electrical noise"... or "timing problems"... or something, that is coming from the network (or whatever) .... that they should be isolated from that issue.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

Do you have some examples of this?

 

🙄

 

This could take us really well off topic, and I'd rather not spiral this thread out of control.  I am by far not an expert in that subject, so I'm just going from life experiences.  Try googling "science can't explain" ... plenty of potential examples but again the problem of determining if its truth or BS.  I came across this ... https://www.livescience.com/11345-top-ten-unexplained-phenomena.html

 

I don't wish to invoke an emotional response .. emotion is probably an example of something we all experience that science can't fully explain at this point in time.  Just a thought ... perhaps we seek evidence to quell fear of the unknown?

 

Sorry this is philosophical, these are thought provoking quotes:

 

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/unknown

https://www.awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/20-inspirational-quotes-on-the-unknown/

Edited by dbastin
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Let's leave the conversation here to the thread already in the Great Debate: 

There's no measurements published, seemingly anywhere, that empirically show any value of one, or many, ethernet switches in series on an audio stream.  All we have is  anecdotal evidence that flies somewhat in the face of deeply established communications and information theory.  

 

The other thread is for those who perceive a difference.

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29 minutes ago, dbastin said:

 

🙄

 

This could take us really well off topic, and I'd rather not spiral this thread out of control.  I am by far not an expert in that subject, so I'm just going from life experiences.  Try googling "science can't explain" ... plenty of potential examples but again the problem of determining if its truth or BS.  I came across this ... https://www.livescience.com/11345-top-ten-unexplained-phenomena.html

 

I don't wish to invoke an emotional response .. emotion is probably an example of something we all experience that science can't fully explain at this point in time.  Just a thought ... perhaps we seek evidence to quell fear of the unknown?

 

Sorry this is philosophical, these are thought provoking quotes:

 

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/unknown

https://www.awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/20-inspirational-quotes-on-the-unknown/

Oh…..I thought we were talking about audio in general and ethernet switches in particular

 

 

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Try googling "science can't explain"

1 hour ago, dbastin said:

.  Try googling "science can't explain" ...

 

No thanks, because you're no longer in the realm of rational repeatable or measurable .... I'll stick to my "noisy" $50 switch which delivers bits from A to B quite well without  affecting "midrange definition"

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2 hours ago, davewantsmoore said:

ANY measurements.   Anything.... absolutely any evidence of any difference between the signals will suffice.

 

All that needs to be done is measure the difference between the two signals.   If the signals are different the we CAN measure and show that.     If we're measuring at the wrong place in the system ..... then measure in a different place..... until a difference is shown.

 

At this point.... many people will shrug and say "well, maybe there's things we can't measure".

 

No... the sigal leaving my DAC, or amp, or whatever is just an electrical signal with current and voltage varying with time.    It is quite simple (relative to other things science concerns itself with).

 

Now, once we have a meaasured difference..... imagine that difference is teeny tiny.   At that point, "science would say".... that's going to be inaudible....   and at that point you could pull out "perhaps science cannot explain why this IS audible" ..... and the answer to that might be "yes, maybe".

Good summary Dave. Thank you.

 

My perspective is that DACs are highly sensitive to RFI and EMI.  These issues occur beyond the threshold of human hearing (in terms of both frequency and amplitude), but act at the point of conversion from D to A to alter the analog waveform produced, thus becoming audible. 

 

I am talking about the effects of jitter.  But to measure these issues fully we need our network, streamer, DAC and analog gear all connected up.  The jitter inducing spuria travel along any connection between equipment, especially through power leads and, seemingly, network connections.

 

The trap we fall into with Audio is to disregard the sensitivity and vulnerability of the DAC.  We assume it can handle the spuria thrown at it.  We assume that digital signals that measure the same and are "bit perfect" are therefore not to blame.  Which indeed they are not, but the connections along which they travel are conduits for spuria into the DAC.

 

A final area of concern is how our test equipment interacts with our spuria sometimes obscuring our results and findings.

 

So if you are measuring the effects of network switches on audio reproduction, measure at the DAC output, with a full system connected, using care to avoid a bypass loop through your measuring equipment.

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4 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

My perspective is that DACs are highly sensitive to RFI and EMI.

Yes.  Can be.

 

... but you can see this in their output.

 

You can see it in their output at frequencies you can hear.... you can see it in their output at frequencies light-years outside of what you can hear.

 

 

4 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

But to measure these issues fully we need our network, streamer, DAC and analog gear all connected up.

Yes, if you bench test a DAC in a lab, it is possible that there are other things affecting it once you put it in a system.

 

4 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

The jitter inducing spuria travel along any connection between equipment, especially through power leads and, seemingly, network connections.

It's going to depend a whole lot on the DAC as to what it makes of such things.

 

It seems super important to ruthlessly isolate sensitive circuits from this sort of thing... and keep the system a simple as possible, with as few cables as possible, etc.    I've had as many boxes as anyone in my system at times over the years (think like 15+ power cables) .... and now I am as far away from that as I can get.

 

4 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

The trap we fall into with Audio is to disregard the sensitivity and vulnerability of the DAC.  We assume it can handle the spuria thrown at it. 

I don't think anyone should disregard or assume anything.

 

4 minutes ago, Stereophilus said:

So if you are measuring the effects of network switches on audio reproduction, measure at the DAC output

1000%

3 minutes ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

As I recall, ASR measured the impact on a DAC of an uptone etherRegen thingie. 
Take a stab as to what impact it had?

I don't think the tests ASR do are necessarily enough

 

.... but, OTOH.... it's quite possible to do the needful  (guess why it isn't done)

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