Wired versus WiFi

I have been running my Atom/Iotas via WiFi for a couple of months as the router is several rooms away.  I have been very happy with the sound (some (now resolved) room/acoustics issues notwithstanding), but I have been intrigued as to what different there would be if I connected the Atom directly to the router.

To find out I bought a 30m CAT6 network cable, which I traipsed around the house (much to the 'amusement' of my wife) and this morning plugged it into the Atom.

Well, there was a definite difference.  For a start speed.  With WiFi I tapped a track on the iPad and a few seconds later (sometimes quite a few seconds later) it would start to play.  With the wire it is instant, no delay - I like it.

But also the sound is quite different, more so than I thought it would be.  This might seem odd but the soundstage seemed tighter, more compact - and not necessarily in a good way.  It was also quieter - I know that Norah Jones' 'Sinkin' Soon' needs to be on 48, but now it needs to be on 55).  However, the performance was more solid, stable.  If the trombone was just 'there', it stayed just 'there' and it was very clear that it was 'there', nothing vague about it (there is probably a HiFi term for that).  The clarity also seemed better and despite the whole performance seeming to lose scale, it was punchier and had more rhythm.  It was more enjoyable.

The reason I am confident that these differences are real is that I have been playing around with set up a lot in the past few weeks and I have been using the same 15 or so tracks and so I have developed a good sense of what they should sound like or have previously have sounded.

I did intend to give it a 15 or 20 minute blast just to see if there were any really obvious differences as I had other things to do today.  However, I was listening for 2 hours - which I think is a good sign.

I still need to do some experimentation, but I think having a wired connection is definitely a good thing, which I guess is logical, but WiFi also works well.

Original Post

The wireless performance of the new streamers is certainly a big improvement on the old ones, which were pretty much incapable of performing reliably via their built in WiFi. If you have the chance to go wired, though, I would do so. The cables are inexpensive, but people sre obviously put off by the disruption of installing them.

 If you stream from a NAS, you can always put it relatively close to the Atom so that they have a wired connection via a switch. Then just use WiFi to connect back to your router for web streaming, iRadio etc.  

 I have used both wired and wifi over the years. On the Atom I did a number of tests and could not hear any difference between local usb, WiFi and ethernet. As its easier to use WiFi and less clutter I use it now and very happy. Having bought a decent dedicated  wireless AP and not use the routers wifi has helped make it rock solid.

I have spent another couple of hours exploring Tidal/Atom with and without a cable and I am convinced that with the cable is hugely better.  It still feels wider and more airy with WiFi but I think that must be a lack of control/focus, or something, maybe the acoustics again in my long thin room. 

When I play the same track back to back, as I have done a lot this afternoon, the with cable options is so much better it sounds like I have spent decent money on an upgrade.  It's funny that the differences are not always on the first few bars, sometimes it takes few switches to realise what is going on. 

Actually I am not surprised, WiFi must be more lossy than a decent cable, but the difference is sufficiently large that the floors are going to have to come up.

With Wifi, it’s very much down to the implementation of the access points... having a single access point on a home broadband router in the corner of a room is far from ideal. Try and arrange overlapping access points where your streamer is, and ensure the access points are connected via wired connection to a switch.. you might be pleasantly surprised how good it sounds, and effectively as reliable as wired even with hidef, and depending on protocol used can have a greater throughput than a Fast Ethernet wired connection. Wifi is ideal for the typical home type hosts where there is not a very high density of hosts or devices.... but as I say needs to be implemented properly. Wifi obviously bypasses all the issues of some Ethernet cables.

The Naim streamers use different TCP and App buffering parameters between LAN and WLAN. 

These will be the Wifi access protocols such as 802.11n/g/ac    etc.. the latter offering the highest throughput and supported by the latest Naim streamers.... if your AE can work with ac mode that will best... and even better if it can work in ad-hoc mode with another AE or dedicated accesspoint in the setup you describe. Ad-hoc wireless connections are designed to be point to point... effectively operate like an Ethernet patch lead.

however  best performance may be obtained with two overlapping access points such as Ubiquiti devices directly accessing your NDX wireless connection.

Good question, it simply is for load balancing with the APs... so it adds increased load tolerance to those using Wifi in your listening room area..and if your streamer is using it this is sensible to help avoid drop outs etc. if there are some heavy users on your Wifi.

Typically you set this up as an ESSID which means your AP management layer ensures they are the same WLAN network with the same SSID and authentication, but the APs will steer to the appropriate non contending channel frequencies.

Yes you will need a cable for best effect, but I use a power over Ethernet for my APs... so only one cable is required and no separate powersupply.

Simon why use a switch to plug in the AP and not direct in the router.? My Netgear R8000 has 4 ports which my NAS and media servers connect directly into as does the Unifi AP. What advantage would this bring? I had it in a switch for a while but it did not make any difference so I removed it to free up space.


Your comments on overlapping APs interest me. I currently have a single Ubiquiti router connected to my router which gives reasonable Wi-fi to most but not of all of the house. I am not able to provide Ethernet cabling between the router, switch, Nova, Nas etc without considerable cost and disruption but, if I understand you correctly it is possible for me to buy several smaller Ubiquiti or similar APs and connect them via power over mains to my router. I thought power over mains for direct connections between the router/switch and streamer, Nas etc was frowned upon but if I read you correctly then it is ok if I use it to deliver the Wi-fi? If so that is certainly good news for me. 


Power over mains? I was referring Power ober Ethernet... that is you power  connected network devices via the Ethernet cable.

i was not advocating so called data  over mains home plug devices.. as compared to Ethernet they are intrinsically unreliable, somewhat inefficient and creators of significant amounts of radio frequency interference and noise throughout your house and even outside it.

The AP would need a reliable layer 2 (within the same subnet) access with each other to allow their management protocols to work effectively. 

if you are really stuck with the physical locations you can use try mesh appliances, but you do need to ensure you have multiple dispersed connections between your mesh and your Ethernet and you typically would needsevereal  overlapping mesh devices to be effective  .. I have not used mesh at home.

typically would needsevereal  overlapping mesh devices to be effective  .. I have not used mesh at home.

FWIW, I use the Linksys Velop mesh system.

I have 3 of the little white towers (one on each floor) and I find this system works superbly, especially as my ISP’s router is necessarily in a corner of the basement. The first Velop must be physically connected to the router, and the other 2 connect to that first via WIFI.

In due course, I plan to physically connect all the Velop towers to the router via CAT6 which now runs very liberally throughout the house and I am expecting even better WIFI performance then - if that is possible.

Hi your suggestion above although is a kind of mesh, is not how meshes are really optimally designed to work. In your scenario you should a wired connection at the top and bottom of your house.. otherwise you have wlan bottleneck, and other than getting some sort of daisy chained coverage there is no ability to load balance which was my key advantage I was suggesting.

To daisy chain one can use Ubiquiti devices as well, but clearly there is a health warning about throughput.

Hi Simon,

AFAIK, we don’t currently encounter any bottleneck issues - this is a crude assessment based on response times and that the Velops provide internet access for smartphones / tablets only. The TVs and other home automation devices are all on a different WIFI network.

When I hardwire the Velops via the CAT6, presumably that will eliminate any WLAN bottleneck issues that may exist with the mesh anyway?


Hi, you will this more if say a couple are streaming video and somebody else streaming audio, or Apple screen syncing.. you will simply run out of bandwidth, as there is nothing to load balance with. If it’s light usage or predominately single user high load usage then it might well be fine.i like to keep my  multiple WLANs sharing the same APs so that they can keep the radio channels can be optimally managed. Successful WLANs appear to be about sensible cooperation between APs.

I was working with Huawei some months ago and they had some interesting models on optimum mesh setup for throughput.

Yes when you connect your multiple  APs to Ethernet you APs should be able to more successfully load balance and increase the performance of your WLAN assuming good mesh overlaps.

Atom/Iota/Kan Stands posted:

To find out I bought a 30m CAT6 network cable, which I traipsed around the house (much to the 'amusement' of my wife) and this morning plugged it into the Atom.

I did much the same - and it's the best thing I did.  Gone were all the drop-outs and the sound performance was much better.  Syncing and control were much faster too.

Admittedly the wireless solution I originally tried (Airport Express) was not the best, nor the ill-advised powerline experiment.  But hard-wiring also beat the wireless capabilities of my Uniti 2, although my house is very noisy in terms of wireless activity (3 x wireless networks, cordless phones etc).

Not a bad rule, I would add laptops into your mobile list... indeed in some of my large managed contracts we use the term ‘mobility’ for WLAN connected devices, and in office space WLAN connections can often outnumber active Ethernet connections sometimes by quite a margin.... and there are often certain advantages in using WLAN in these environments for user access.

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