Network Isolation

Introduction

In another thread the topic of adding a network isolator was raised, I had been following a thread on CA and had already order some bits and so volunteered to post some impressions.

The theory, as I understand it, is to add some hardware to block unwanted noise from entering the audio part of your network. This can be achieved in two broad ways:

1. Use a network isolator. A number are available, such as those used for hospitals or those made for HiFi, including a unit by SOtM. These generally sit between two RJ45 patch cables and act as a filter; or

2. Change media, causing the data to be re-written, leaving the noise behind.

Type 1 widgets cost £200 - £350, type 2 can be bought for £12 - £500. I decided to try two approaches:

1. Media switch via RJ45 > Optical (£70 in extra PSU); and

2. Media switch via USB > RJ45 (£12).

Today I will write some initial impressions of the Optical approach.

I bought a pair of TP-Link MC110CS, a pair of SC cables (as short as I could find) and a 9V PSU. I already have one 9V IFI that I was using on the switch I have in my audio setup, I swapped this out with the original TP-Link PSU; but, as the switch is on the noisy side of the media bridge I am hoping any noise will have a minimal influence.

The Plan

NAS (CAT5e) > Audio Switch (SMPS) > MC110CS (CAT5e - SMPS) > SC-SC > MC110CS (CAT5e - IFI LPSU) > mR (Sbooster LPSU) > etc

Swapping the bridge out of the loop is a simple matter of connecting in another patch lead from the audio switch.

Before going into detail on my initial listening I want to briefly cover why I am not using the AQ Cinnamon at the moment. Having added the SBooster I found that the high frequencies had become edgy. I swapped from the Cinnamon / mR hard adapter back to the CAT5e / USB cable and this seemed to restore balance. Unfortunately this also removes a smidge of the detail / drum resonance.

Interestingly I have noticed that if my internet connection degrades so does my Quboz SQ. It should run at 50mbps+, on occasions when the SQ has deteriorated I have checked and found it had reduced to 5/6mbps.

Adding The Bridge

This has restored the detail from the Cinnamon. Actually, not like for like, there is detail here that the AQ Cinnamon didn't uncover, although some of what the Cinnamon revealed is still not here.

Mary Black - Columbus - Live at Olympia: the double bass was always there but as a large presence, it has now coalesced into a musical instrument. In fact I am able to follow the bass line with increased ease.

Neil Diamond - Melody Road - Melody Road (Quboz): again the bass is easier to follow and has a slightly increased dynamic as the player plucks the strings.

Next Steps

1. Add the AQ Cinnamon back in;

2. Live with it for a week, then bypass it;

3. Try the cheap, non-powered, USB route.

Conclusion

Well, this is a gain for me. Like adding the Sbooster I don't think this is an 'upgrade' akin to buying a better pre-amp, this will hone what is already there; worth trying.

M

 

Original Post

I have been pointed in the direction of the HTB 1100S optical converter (easily found on Amazon). It was suggested might (only might) help if it were placed between the router and the switch. Is this the same as what you are doing?

Keith

But this not about IT, it's a glorified way of changing interconnects as a  sort of tone control, and cleaning up the mains on connected equipment. I am sure the results are largely down to using cheaper consumer network equipment such as consumer grade switches, routers etc... I always say prevention is better than cure but clearly a valid approach. I would advise caution on cheap consumer grade BaseX to BaseT converters as they have the potential of simply adding to the issue or moving noise from one source to another.. Until Naim use SFPs allowing BaseX (optical) connections directly to my way of thinking a better higher quality BaseT switch is the answer unless you need to have a run above 100m. Most quality switches will have some SFP transceiver sockets anyway.

From an electrical noise point of view, I am sure it will mainly be common mode noise that is affected, and that comes from typically noisy  PSUs and noisy electronics... and is the same for analogue interconnects, mains leads, SPDIF and USB.

Real IT or network specific based noise is something quite different in my opinion and is nothing to do with 'isolators', and my dealer and I have agreed in principle to conduct some tests , measurements and listening evaluations  when diaries permit and will hopefully report back.

However glad Mr Underhill is enjoying his new sound created from his attached appliances... it's what it is all about.

Simon

 

Hi Simon,

You may well be correct. I networked my house in the mid-90s and at that time never imagined I would have four devices in my HiFi needing network connectivity! Although I use a decent CISCO switch that is next to my POP and sits in the loft, that said that uses an SMPS.

I have read a number of posts about this 'bridge', most report an uplift - but it does vary, and some report no change.

I ended up doing a late night session yesterday. I found that while I can point at small detail differences, as recorded above, the main winner was imaging - spacial cues.

Hi Keith,

Yes, except I have placed it between my cheap commercial switch, to quote Simon, in my audio system and my renderer, microRendu. My aim is to remove any noise from the signal before it enters the mR. Some commentators have placed the bridge further back towards the POP but this is normally where they have multiple renderers, easy to set up and then move.

From my reading it would appear that the optical convertor mode is inconsequential. What is important is the speed, 10/100 is a lot quieter than the 10/100/1000 ....apparently. In the case of the mR this is of added importance as a gigabyte connection can overload the mR input stack.

Either way this is a cheap mod and worth a play I think.

M

Hi Mr Underhill

I have been using a Fibre-based network into my system to good effect for over a year - like you built with TP-link media converters , a high-quality (Israeli) linear supply at the audio end, and short C-stream to the system. This was around the same time as Andrew Everard reported the benefits of a fibre link into his NDS.

My primary benefits were around untangling of the musical strands, flow, unsmearing of transients, naturalness, low-level detail resolution - which all contribute to musicality, transparency and imaging.  

I found this network a significant step above my previous Cat 6 / Netgear switch + linear Psu. One of the benefits seems to come from elimination of wifi pickup over a longer Cat6 run - the system is less sensitive to house wifi being on or off.

The TP-link media converter's internal PSU seems to be 'quieter' than a comparable switch, it has less logic to drive, some reasonably sized electrolytic capacitors. With a well spaced layout, a future "project" would be to replace this with a linear regulator chip - an inexpensive experiment.

I think it a fairly inexpensive option in comparison to expensive cabling, and definitely constrains the potential noise chain.

 

 

 

 

40 below posted:

I have been using a Fibre-based network into my system to good effect for over a year - like you built with TP-link media converters , a high-quality (Israeli) linear supply at the audio end, and short C-stream to the system. This was around the same time as Andrew Everard reported the benefits of a fibre link into his NDS.

In Andrew's article he said he had a 5-port Netgear switch between his media converter and NDS, yet still reported a clear benefit to sound quality from the optical link. You might think it would be preferable to avoid this, but seems to have worked for him.    

Hi 40 Below,

I certainly like what I am hearing too, but I am just wary of becoming too effusive, for £60 I would advise people to give this a try. I have found that there has been a variability in the SQ of my system depending on the time of day, listening with the bridge in place seems to have addressed this ....so far.

Andrew Everard does seem to be at the cutting edge in a number of ways, he was acknowledged as a source for this idea on a long running CA thread the other day; I wonder where he picked up the idea? I then saw he was also pushing the Mutec MC-3+USB that I found made a very positive difference in my system. I now visit Andrew's website regularly.

Andrew I know you do post here, if you are reading this - THANK YOU.

I have now added the AQ Cinnamon back in, I'll report back on this in due course.

M

I'd like to express grateful thanks to Andrew Everard too.  I used his approach - the same as Mr Underhill's - to replace 4 10 metre lengths of exterior grade cat 6 with a single (much thinner) optical cable.  I've used an iFi power supply on the tp-link convertor at the hifi end of the arrangement.  I'm still experimenting with various switches and wifi access points (for the Naim app on an iPad) at that end but overall the optical run seems to have cleaned up the sound nicely.  An unexpected benefit is that Netflix and the BBC iPlayer running off the optical arrangement load noticeably more quickly.  Of course this may simply demonstrate that my original cat 6 installation was not as effective as it might have been but my experience with my system is that optical gives very good results for a (relatively) modest outlay.

I fitted the AQ Cinnamon back into the chain and it improved the frequency extremes, but without tipping my system into uncomfortable territory. I have been doing extended listening and am thoroughly enjoying what I am hearing - currently ACDC - For Those About to Rock, as great as it is it in so more exciting than, for instance, Yury Martynov - Liszt tanscription of Beethoven Symphony No 7.

As I indicated above my system is playing consistently well, where I was finding it better in the evenings. I really can't recommend this more, but please bear in mind that others have reported no difference, perhaps depending on how electrically tidy your system already is, as suggested by Simon.

M

+1

Another thank you to  Andrew Everard & to Mr. Underhill

I have been enjoying listening to the DAC-V1 via a brand new optical bridge inserted between an ethernet switch and the mR (microRendu). Initially the music was 'shut in' with reduced PRaT - and though this lasted for a few hours, at some point it improved greatly. I would say the most gain is the holographic images and trailing edges that fill out the space with much improved clarity ( eventually PRaT was fully restored too).

PC>CAT 6>TP-Link 8 port switch (iFi 9V supply) >Cat 5e>TP Link MC110CS>Tripp Lite N506-01M>MC110CS>Cat 6>mR (TP 7/3 LPS)>USB DAC-V1.

It looks like a lot of hookup but it comes together nicely. I liked the iFi ps best on the switch (only have the one but may get another for the MC).

B.

 

 

I can also chip in some success I had with a network isolator, having recently installed the giso go onto my system which gave an immediate noticeable positive effect.

my setup up ndx>giso gb>qnap ts251+ Nas> NETGEAR gs108 switch> devolo power line adapter > NETGEAR gs108 switch> ee bright box 2 router

use aq cinnamon Ethernet cables down stream of the switchstuck with power line for the final connection stretch at the minute, so having read the article curious on trying the fibre link maybe after the devolo plug or the switch before the Nas 

but for time being pleased with the giso gb 

hi dozey i put my Giso GB on the last connection from my NAS to the NDX (my NAS can directly connect to my streamer and has second ethernet output to link it to my switch i.e. same as the melco)

so i suppose that would be the switch in your case (i know some peeps have also said to not use a SMPS on their switch or to have the switch earthed, but i don't know the details of that as not tried it)

 

anyhow hope that helps

Matthew Johns posted:

I can also chip in some success I had with a network isolator, having recently installed the giso go onto my system which gave an immediate noticeable positive effect.

my setup up ndx>giso gb>qnap ts251+ Nas> NETGEAR gs108 switch> devolo power line adapter > NETGEAR gs108 switch> ee bright box 2 router

use aq cinnamon Ethernet cables down stream of the switchstuck with power line for the final connection stretch at the minute, so having read the article curious on trying the fibre link maybe after the devolo plug or the switch before the Nas 

but for time being pleased with the giso gb 

Matthew Johns - if you are putting a develo power line adapter on your mains - I would worry about mains isolation and screening first before you worry about ethernet noise and so called network 'isolation'. The latter pales into insignificance compared to power line adapters which can produce horrendous amounts of RFI and unhelpful in house electromagnetic field strength.

For best SQ keep it simple and try to avoid kludges and workarounds, use ethernet. - and prevention is better than cure - especially with RFI. 

hi simon

i know been trying to find route to get a run of ethernet to the switch, is really awkward location to get to due to multi fuel stove and umpteen doors in the way of the route from switch to router, just been looking at some cat6 lay flat ethernet cable or some external ethernet cable (i.e. run it outside and around the house) or again maybe a run of fibre as easier to maybe run it than the ethernet 

know your a master of network, what would you recommend? in terms of SQ 

thinking of the GISO was to remove noise from my NAS which connects direct to my NDX 

thanks again 

Matthew Johns posted:

i know been trying to find route to get a run of ethernet to the switch, is really awkward location to get to due to multi fuel stove and umpteen doors in the way of the route from switch to router, just been looking at some cat6 lay flat ethernet cable or some external ethernet cable (i.e. run it outside and around the house) or again maybe a run of fibre as easier to maybe run it than the ethernet 

 

Last year I finally got round to networking my house, which was always going to be tricky, due to thick internal walls, etc. and I decided to do it with optical cabling. The 2.2mm duplex cable was so much easier to work with than Cat5, more flexible, and the plastic optical stuff I used is, unlike glass fibre optic, very easy to terminate as a DIY job, meaning that you don't need to drill holes big enough for bulky plugs.

I also used an optical switch so I could keep the whole network optical, with media converters to go back to Cat5 at my router, NAS and streamer. The whole thing has been pretty rock solid, and I think it cleaned up the sound a bit too, so I'd recommend it to anyone who is considering a 'wired' network. I did consider the TP Link media converters, which look OK if you just want a single cable run, but I wanted to network my whole house.

Thin cables like this are just so much easier to hide....  

Matthew Johns posted:

i know been trying to find route to get a run of ethernet to the switch, is really awkward location to get to due to multi fuel stove and umpteen doors in the way of the route from switch to router, just been looking at some cat6 lay flat ethernet cable or some external ethernet cable (i.e. run it outside and around the house) or again maybe a run of fibre as easier to maybe run it than the ethernet 

 

Hi - I have used flat BaseT cable and run under carpets.. works well. You can certainly use fibre but not so easy to lay flat under carpet etc. Also if using fibre I would use network devices that  take SFP (small form-factor pluggable) fibre transceivers directly rather than use some of these cheap consumer standalone fibre transceivers. SFPs are more unusual in consumer network stuff but are starting to appear in 'smart' switches  - but are common in professional/commercial devices. You would use an SFP with typically a  LC Duplex fibre connection - that is two fibres connected to a single plug, one for send and one for receive, and you typically would use OM1 multimode fibre in the home environment for gigabit ethernet. 

(OM is kind of like the Cat standard for twisted copper 4 pair cable but for fibre - think of OM1 like Cat5e = although the specifications are quite different)

Since writing this I have been wrestling with my system, which I will address on the 'Hugo of Streaming' thread. In order to remove SMPS's from the HiFi I decided to:

1. Replace the FMC media bridge with an EMO EN70-HD, a passive device that costs twice the price; and

2. Buy a cheap Talema LPSU to power my commercial HiFi switch.

I later moved the FMC bridge to me IT rack and used it between my CISCO switch and the HiFi switch.

I found that the EMO was marginally better than the FMC in that I heard additional detail, and with the added advantage of removing two powered devices.

Removing the cheap SMPSs allows the music to .......relax? A slight edge is removed. In fact with some music this might be seen as a boost rather than a degradation, and one that might be addressed through cabling.

I can't say I noticed any difference by using the FMC on the network cable that feeds my HiFi, but it didn't hurt - belt and braces?

Now that I have a 9V LPSU to hand I should bring it back downstairs and do a direct comparison with the EMO, but, having just got back to a system that I can enjoy without reservation (almost) I just want to relax!!

M

I am also looking at replacing my cheap plastic TP-Link switch with another brand that has sfp/ fibre connectors built into it in order to upgrade to fibre. Does anyone have any experience of which ones of this type have quiet internal power supplies? I have seen these 2 which looked good price and feature-wise, Edgecore ECS2100-10T or SMCGS10C-SMART, but there is no option to go to an aftermarket power supply with them. My current switch uses a quiet linear power supply. Thanks.

I have an (older model-not the desltop) TP-Link SG1008 that feeds a Sonore microRendu and I find that the iFi power unit  helps out. I guess an appropriate LPS would too. The mR seems sensitive to this SMPS noise, but if you have a more insensitive unit then all would be fine. The TP-Link is otherwise quite good with audio.

thought would post quick update, installed AQ ethernet cinnamon run from router to my switch also the ifi power plug on the switch, was worth the effort (much chuntering undertaken in the process) as gave immediate noticable difference when streaming music via tidal (suspect in main due to getting shot of the home network plug)

also having lived with the giso GB for a while still pleased that it has also been good in giving cleaner sound with a little more detail (connected from my NAS direct to NDX), tried it without the giso also and it didn't sound as good 

so all in all glad i made the effort on better network isolation for not too bad an outlay in £££

 

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