Posh switch - another cause of Audiophilia nervosa?

There have been various threads recently about posh Ethernet cables and mention has been made a few times that plugging them into an el cheapo consumer switch like my little Netgear might not be getting the best from them. 

The idea of a pro switch was a bit scary as I'm something of a numpty and want plug and play. Then I discovered that pro switches could be used very simply if required. 

SiS has mentioned the Cisco catalyst 2960 as being very good indeed, but at a price of course, like over £300. However you can pick up used ones for much less and my eBay purchase arrived today. It has a proper mains lead rather than wall wart, and amazingly after a minute or two it just worked. I was rather astonished by that, as computer stuff rarely runs smoothly in my house....

It's been warming up for a few hours and it will be interesting to see how it does and whether there is a difference. It's certainly built like a brick outhouse and the post leads go in with a reassuring thunk. 

Let's see. 

Original Post

Good on you for trying something a bit different, HH. (OK, not so different at all for someone who works in the industry, but for the rest of us, these things can seem like a blind leap into the unknown). A few months ago I wanted to network my house, and discovered that you could do it with optical cables instead of Cat5. It wasn't overly expensive, but I had no idea if it would work, or what I'd do if it didn't. As it happens, it worked really well, and possibly even improved the sound a bit too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.....  

RICHYH posted:

I would advise a specialist audio switch like the Paul Pang with good power supply is the way to go, I have tried 5 or 6 set ups over the last year and it is way ahead, more musical and dynamic.

I have tried the Paul Pang switch and it did bring a small uplift. Then added a IFI Power Supply to it and again another small uplift.

HH, yes I wait with baited breath...

Thete isn't really anything such as an audio specialist switch in the context we have here, however quality switches tend to have better clocks with less jitter on the Ethernet PHY interface  and better back planing, as well being able to set priorities on ports. I heard improvements with 2960 over other consumer switch ports I had. Sound tends to be more musical/natural with the 2960. Transport jitter is somewhat of a curse whether it be on USB, SPDIF or Ethernet... those intermods get everywhere....

The Paul Pang switch looks like a regular consumer switch but  with a better clock for the PHY layer.. it should sound better than some general consumer devices because of this.

For the record, I have found decoupling the DAC from the streamer tends to make some of these enhancements less noticeable... even FLAC vs WAV differences are significantly reduced.

 

greekspec2 posted:

Have you tried just a deticated modem direct into your N272 

If by modem you mean wireless hub (?)   then yes.      272 (NDX in my case) > wireless hub > NAS.     Adding my little £20 cheap dumb Netgear ProSafe GS improved the SQ significantly.   That was some time back,  I've since tried it again,  this time with a different wireless hub that has a much higher & smarter spec & has all gigabit ports,  although not so different this time, the better SQ especially with 24/96 & higher data rates,  is via the switch.         

A couple of observations. In terms of use, the Qnap seems to take longer to wake up with the Cisco compared to with the Netgear. I expect there is a setting somewhere that could address that. But once the Qnap is awake everything is about the same speed as before. 

In terms of sound, I think it's improved quite a lot. But is it my inagination, or some sort of optimism bias? I don't think so. To me, the music seems more solid and stable, and to flow better. The soundstage is a bit clearer and somehow it sounds bigger. Overall it's just more natural, and nicer to listen to. I'm listening to a John Holloway Biber recording on ECM and the sound is quite extraordinary. The album has violin, organ and harpsichord, and the way you are drawn in to the interplay between the three musicians is quite beguiling, and more so than  I've heard it before, and it's a record I know really well.

Maybe it is all imagination, but if £49 can deliver this size placebo effect I'm not going to complain. I know that Dave M is trying one of these switches at the same time and it would be interesting to hear from him. I'd put this off for a long time but I'm glad I've now done it. In a world where a £300 Ethernet cable is now fairly common - that's what mine cost anyway - and where you can spend £1,500 or so on a 1m cable if you go really posh, a decent switch to plug them into seems quite sensible really. 

Hungryhalibut posted:
greekspec2 posted:

Have you tried just a deticated modem direct into your N272 

I don't understand that. Can you explain?

Not sure in the UK but in the States our internet service comes into the house via DSL or coax cable then it is feed into a modem that converts it, most modems have one to four ethernet ports which you then feed to a wireless router and then that feeds a switch

We have cable internet that connects to a modem (a Virgin Media cable modem/router set to modem mode). This connects to an airport express, which connects to a switch for the Hifi. It's accepted best practice to use a switch, to keep the streaming data away from the wifi and other internet traffic. My son does online gaming and the way we have it set up isolates the music from his stuff. Connecting to the modem/router would be a backward step and I can't think why I'd do it after all the effort to set things up in an optimal way. 

greekspec2 posted:

Not sure in the UK but in the States our internet service comes into the house via DSL or coax cable then it is feed into a modem that converts it, most modems have one to four ethernet ports which you then feed to a wireless router and then that feeds a switch

In UK the internet service come in over regular 2 core twisted pair wire with the telephone service,  one service provider also uses coax,  in some cases it can be fiber.  But whatever its combined phone & broadband.   In most homes the basic minimum is the service provider supplies a one box combined wireless/modem/router which also have 4 or 5 ethernet ports & can be used as a switch.    After that basic set up people are free to add extra features such as wireless extenders or replace the ISP device with something a little more sophisticated.

I use the ISP's own wireless hub & that provides all the wireless comms to laptops, tablets & smart phones.   Its ethernet ports connect to my hifi system network switch  & another feed goes to another switch that connects TV & office.

Hungryhalibut posted:

 

Maybe it is all imagination, but if £49 can deliver this size placebo effect I'm not going to complain. I know that Dave M is trying one of these switches at the same time and it would be interesting to hear from him. I'd put this off for a long time but I'm glad I've now done it. In a world where a £300 Ethernet cable is now fairly common - that's what mine cost anyway - and where you can spend £1,500 or so on a 1m cable if you go really posh, a decent switch to plug them into seems quite sensible really. 

I was thinking along the same lines as Nigel, insofar as, having done the (semi) posh cable thing I might as well be plugging them into something a step up from the basic Netgear switch, so did the fleabay thing, and bought a Cisco switch, (WS - C2960 - 48 TC -L).

I've not had the chance to sit down for an extended listen yet, so it's too early to say whether it has made any difference.

Normally, I leave new cables in situ for a week or so, before reverting to the original, at which point any improvement, or not, usually becomes clear.

For an outlay of twenty of Her Majesty's finest folding, certainly worth a try. 

 

Nigel, in the early days I wondered too if it was my mind playing with me because at that time I had seen no mention of this anywhere.... I had some favourite tracks, and I let someone swap the leads between switches without me knowing... I did indeed notice it, and the attributes were not so different to what you describe.

Now if you get curious and want to use some of the functional benefits of this managed switch, you will need to get a bit low level to configure it... which may or may not be an option for you.. you need some basic IT skills. Examples are improved performance from multicast discovery, and faster port activation such as waking up from sleep are examples. Incidentally the reason almost certainly the wakeup is taking longer is the switch goes through various loop protection checks before enabling the port (which you can turn off) ... in commercial/industrial networks blindly activating a port can be catatostrophic, in the home it usually doesn't matter.

PS I think your 8 port is optimal as they are silent, low power, compact and fanless... the larger 2960 switches have fans which means care needs to be taken where to place them because of noise.. as such often the smaller 8 ports paradoxically command slightly higher used prices...

 

This is completely bonkers....................or it's all in my imagination, whatever.

Been listening this afternoon, and the music seems to acquired a previously unheard sense of scale, more "authority", if you like.

So, it looks as if I'm following Nigel down the yellow brick road, firstly with (semi) posh ethernet cables, and now with an upmarket switch.

I'll still restore the original Netgear switch in a week or so, just to be sure I'm not deluded, but then, going back a few years, "what possible difference can mains cables make?"

It's all good, if a little puzzling. 

Hi, looking at the 2960, 8 port, you can have a used gigabit version (2960G) for 152 £ or a 100 bit version for 50 £, is the additonal 100 extra good value for money???. Are all 2960 8 port switches, with a build in powersupply, or is there a need for an external PS??

Will use it with 272/555 and 300dr, with a synology NAS and US

 

 

 

 

Tread carefully, I have not evaluated the gagibit versions from a SQ performance. The PHY sub architecture may well be different on the 1000 BaseT ports compared to the 100BaseT, even though the Naim streamer will be identified as 100BaseT by the switch. This may or may not affect the PHY clock jitter...(certainly 1000BaseT operates differently to 100BaseT at the physical layer), either way it would be unwise to assume a 1000BaseT capable port sounds the same as a 100BaseT port so should be compared and evaluated first.

Switch configuration and functionality, which is not the main motivation here for SQ, will however be the same.

All the 2960 switches have inbuilt powersupllies apart from one of the 8 port PoE variants which can be PoE powered or powered by an external DC supply. I use one of these with its DC supply.

Bandwagon jumped on to : yesterday I fleabayed a 2960 8TC-L for £52. Arrives Monday. Will report back. Interestingly, we had some of our oldest friends staying with us yesterday. He's an IT specialist by trade, ex BT and manages various Corporate clients for their IT needs. Like many pro's, he believes that digital signals can't be corrupted because everything can be resampled several times until the data packet is perfect etc, etc, but he DOES believe that switches can make a difference and my multi point Zyxel into which my music system switches is not the best and could be an issue. He still doesn't really believe it will make a difference, but does say " it certainly can't do any harm and the Cisco switches are reliable and well designed. An IEC power switch could also remove the possibility of an SMPS causing noise issues" 

if the benefits are as described above : Scale, Authority, Ease, Flow then these are things I value very highly. Perhaps too often we audiophiles look for more detail as sign of an improvement, but that doesn't always guarantee better music in my experience.

anyway, as HH says, for the money it's worth a try.

 

kevin J Carden posted:

 

..... An IEC power switch could also remove the possibility of an SMPS causing noise issues

Who said the internal Cisco PS is not a SMPS    ???  Only asking -- honest.   But as the halibut says,  its worth a try at 50 squids a pop.      

No probs Kevin,  it's all too easy with this network stuff.       If it sounds better, no matter what the reason, with or without a SMPS, even one on a rope, it's worth the squids. My problem is I've tried a few switches & with the exception of a poor sounding 10/100 switch,  there was little or nothing to choose between the Gigabit types.

Mike-B posted:
kevin J Carden posted:

 

..... An IEC power switch could also remove the possibility of an SMPS causing noise issues

Who said the internal Cisco PS is not a SMPS    ???  Only asking -- honest.   But as the halibut says,  its worth a try at 50 squids a pop.      

The 2960s with inbuilt power supplies, definitely have a screened SMPS built into the device.

As i said a few months ago - i really don't think is anything to do with SMPS 'noise' at this level - but the PHY layer clock. This clock is critical and can be a cheap low precision oscillator or a precision crystal controlled clock with good regulation. This transport clock jitter (approx centred at 30MHz for 100BaseT)  will most likely cause intermod frequencies in connected devices. Most digital equipment doesn't care - however audio does as these alien intermodulated frequencies can modulate PCM sample clocks and delicate analogue stage power supplies. This is similar to the effect of  transport jitter on a SPDIF framing signal.

I also posted a TI engineering white paper on this forum the other week that discussed some of these issues

S

The switch has been running for a few days now, and it's interesting to reflect on the change once the initial 'is it better or isn't it?' phase has passed. 

I'd say that yes, it's definitely better, but not in a Hifi bass and treble way. There is greater drive, and the music seems to flow better. It's just more real, more immersive, more head nodding, with more groove. The system sounds bigger and more solid. It's hard to describe without sounding bonkers, but that's what the difference means to me. 

Another question I've been asking myself: how does it compare with the posh cables? I've recently bought two AQ Vodka cables, worth £500, and now the secondhand Cisco. From memory, I'd say that the switch makes at least as big a difference, but bearing in mind that the switch built on the cables, which came first. I don't know if the difference would have been as big if the switch had come first, and lest anyone ask, I'm not going to try the expreriment. 

What I can say though, is that it's been more than worth the effort, and the system is sounding better than ever. 

I'm particularly grateful to Simon, not just for going on about the benefits, but for giving me the confidence to try it for myself. Thanks!!

Harry - I'm not going to bother. Even if there is no difference, the fact that I think there is, and that the music is more enjoyable, is good enough. In this instance, the heart is ruling the head. I changed my speaker cables, and didn't bother to revert to the old ones. The same for the din to XLR, and the same for the Vodkas, so I'll do the same for the switch. 

Anyway, with my head injury, every time I put my head on one side everything spins and I feel awful. Installing the new switch entailed lying on the floor on my side and fumbling around under the sideboard, and I have no desire whatsoever to repeat the process!!

Good to hear its been a success & hope it continues HH,  dare I mention "burn in"   

If I had the space in my NAS cabinet I would definitely go for one,  for 50 squids, what's to lose.  My problem is I am space limited with my existing switch location & whilst I'm always open to every/anything that adds to better SQ,  I'm not prepared to change furniture and/or system layout,   but I'm always on the lookout for a mini "Catalyst" eq performance switch.  

I have a Cisco SG-300 28 port switch as the main distribution point, but drop fibre to a dedicated media converter and Netgear GS-105, both running off a bespoke linear power supply that only connects to my NDS. One day I may drop a cat-6 cable down as well to do an A/B comparison, but for now just enjoy the music. My rationale was to have the simplest possible 'clean' network dedicated to the HiFi, galvanically isolated from all the other consumer grade stuff. 

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×