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    SOtM sNH-10G Network Switch Review

    Editor's Note: From time to time we publish reviews of controversial products. Audiophile network switches fall into this category without question. We welcome all comments in the comment section below the review as long as they are respectful and not personal. - Chris

     

     

     

    Do network switches make an audible improvement?

     


    Key Features

    • Designed for high end network audio
    • Specially designed Ethernet noise filter
    • Support 10, 100, 1G ethernet
    • 8 x RJ-45 ports
    • 2 x SFP ports
    • LED indicator on/off function
    • sCLK-EX High End clock module
    • 10MHz master clock input
    • Wide range of power input (6.5v ~ 12v)

     

     

     

    sNH-10G_1.jpg

     

     

    Pricing starts at $800 for the plain Jane model, $1500 with sCLK-EX clock board and the full blown $1700 with sCLK-EX clock board and master clock input with your choice of 50 Ohm or 75 Ohm connector.  The difference between the sms-200 and sms-200 Ultra is the addition of the sCLK-EX board.  The sNH-10G tested here included this sCLK-EX board, maybe this should be called the sNH-10G Ultra?  I did not have the plain Jane model to compare.

     

    The fit and finish of the switch is top notch.  It is apparent that a lot of design work went into the aesthetics of the unit (such as the melodious grill work on the top plate), after all a $800+ product should look like it’s worth $800+.  The design and manufacture of the unit was all done in house.  This is not just a modified consumer switch with added clock and filters.  My unit arrived with an sPS-500 power supply and DC cable along with a dCBL-CAT7 ethernet cable.

     

    I am a believer that every component can potentially impact the sound quality for good  or bad.  On hand I have an older Linksys EG008W 8 port consumer switch powered by an LH Labs LPS-1 and an Aqvox Switch-8 powered by an iFi 9 V power supply.  The differences in price and performance was readily apparent. 

     

     


    Q&A with May Park from SoTM

     

    sNH-10G_5.jpgQ : When was the development started and completed?
    A : It was started at the end of 2017 and completed around Sep of  2018.

     

    Q : How was it invented? Even though there are many routers and switches already available?
    A : Because we’ve experienced sound quality differences by the different network devices but there was nothing to fulfill the quality of sound, so we started development for audio equipment. 

     

    Q : What is the benefit of using sNH-10G into the system?
    A : As for the audio equipment, the most important factor is sound quality. Also it has the optical ports and LED on/off feature.

     

    Q :What is the technical background of sNH-10G?
    A : All SOtM products have their own unique technical points. The sNH-10G is for the network audio device, every LAN port has filtering technology, which improves sound quality dramatically and this filtering technology has also been applied to the iSO-CAT6. 


    The noise coming from the Ethernet signal has a very wide frequency band. In order to eliminate this wide frequency band, we've created various parts corresponding to the noise of each frequency and then combining them to became the broadband noise filter. This filter is already applied to iSO-CAT6 and is also used in sNH-10G.


    Also, ultra low noise regulator, active noise canceller for clock and selectable audio components are used, and all such combination is well synergized to make better sound quality in the audio system.  All SOtM products have their own unique technical points. The sNH-10G is for all network audio devices, every LAN port has filtering technology, which improves sound quality dramatically and this filtering technology has also been applied to the iSO-CAT6. 


    The noise coming from the Ethernet signal have a very wide frequency band. In order to eliminate this wide frequency band noise, we've selected various parts corresponding to the noise frequency band  and then combined them to become the wide band noise filter.


    Also,  ultra low noise regulator, active noise canceller for clock and specially selected audio grade components are used, and all such combination is well synergized to make much better sound quality in the audio system. 


    Q : What is difference between the other network ethernet switch in the market and the sNH-10G?
    A: The difference is about the sound quality and it’s very real factor which is why the sNH-10G has been developed even though other vendors are also developing network switches. 

     

    Q : How to use the optical ports? What is the benefits of the ports?
    A : The SFP ports on sNH-10G can also bring benefits from the filtering feature which were explained on above. But we recommend using RJ45 ports with the good quality network cable like dCBL-CAT7 & iSO-CAT6 combination over using the optical ports, because the connection with RJ45 and dCBL-CAT7&iSO-CAT6 could bring the better sound quality than SFP ports.

     

    Q : What is the switch on the back panel?
    A : There are 3 steps of the switch, it controls the LED power on/off. When it is positioned to be up, the led is on and power is on. When it is in the middle, the unit will be off, when it is in down, the LED is off but still the unit works. 

     

    Q : Why recommend using the dCBL-CAT7 and iSO-CAT6 even though the sNH-10G is used already?
    A : There would be no single product which removes noise completely, but they can help reduce noise and improve sound quality, so even though the sNH-10G and iSO-CAT6 have good quality filtering technology on their own, if they can be used together , the synergy is better than using only one filter and brings better results. There is no single product which removes noise completely, even though the product are good at reducing noise so it improves sound quality, it doesn’t mean that the products remove noise completely. But well designed audio products like sNH-10G and SOtM’s other products reduce noise and help to improve sound quality.

     

     

    sNH-10G_3.jpg

     


    Set Up

     

    My music network is very flat and simple.
    TELUS ISP Fiber Modem
    SoTM sNH-10G
    Netgear Duo V2
    (WD Red 4 TB RAID 0)
    Asus Vivobook (Anker Unibody USB Ethernet USB Hub)
    (Windows10 Pro, Fidelizer 8.2, AudiophileOptimizer, Bridged Ethernet Ports)
    SoTM sms-200 Ultra SE
    LH Labs Pulse X Infinity
    (LPS4)
    Reference Line Preeminence 1B Passive
    Sonic Frontiers Power 2
    Totem Mani-2 
    Fostex TX-00 Purplehearts

     

     

    Listening  

    The recommended burn in time for the sNH-10G is 50 hours but after initially setting up the unit, I could tell something special was going on.  The noise filtering technology really does what SoTM claims.  The device was powered with SoTM’s SPS-500 SMPS power supply.


    I did not have access to any fiber networking connections.  May Park from SoTM recommended I test with RJ45 cable which is what I did.

     

    On the back, you will notice a small 3 position switch.  Its function is an LED ON/OFF switch with the middle position powering off the switch.  Under close listening there is a slight improvement in sound quality with LED off.  The difference is very slight and at first I needed headphones to discern the small improvement.

     

    First up I connected the Aqvox Switch-8 listened to each track and then switched to the sNM-10G and made comparisons.  

     

     

    Here are my listening notes.

     

     

     

    godfather.jpgNino Rota | The Godfather Soundtrack Love Theme Released 1972 (24/192 FLAC)


    This is a very natural folk recording with traditional Italian roots.  Sweeping and romantic with a touch of bite.  The most apparent difference here is the microdynamics and detail resolution.  Instruments suddenly became more interesting and the music became more involving, at the same time more relaxed with an ease and flow which made the music more natural.

     

     

     

    q@2x.png  Listen via Qobuz (24/96) 

    T.png Listen via Tidal (16/44.1) 

    H.png Purchase via HDtracks (24/96 or 24/192)

     

     

     

     

     

    bc-Meghan-Andrews_Im-On-Fire_Cover.jpgMeghan Andrews | I’m on Fire (Single) 2018 Blue Coast Music (DSD128)| 


    Bruce Springsteen’s classic cover by Meghan Andrews.  This is a single available on Blue Coast Music.  You can download this in various formats, FLAC, DSD and WAV for your own comparison.  I used the DSD128 version.  A very spare acoustic voice and guitar recording.  Most apparent here is the guitar seemed to have more wood and body as compared to more strings with the Aqvox.  The voice had slightly more chest as compared to more throat.

     

     

    bc-logo.jpg  Purchase from Blue Coast (multiple formats)

     

     

     

     

     

    mad.jpg

    Mad Season | River of Deceit Above 1995 (24/44)


    This test produced more interesting textures.  Layne Staley’s voice more falsetto.  Better bass texture and articulation and a slightly wider soundstage.

     

     

     

     

    q@2x.png  Listen via Qobuz (24/96) 

    T.png Listen via Tidal (16/44.1) 

    H.png Purchase via HDtracks (24/44.1)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Metallica_black.jpgMetallica | Black Album Wherever I May Roam 1992 (24/96 FLAC)


    Using sitar- like guitar playing, the change brought about a more visceral and robust feel to James Hetfield's vocals yet at the same time the highs were more relaxed with a greater sense of ease to the flow of the song.  The same character as with earlier listening bringing about more interesting sustain to instruments and more decay in percussion.

     

     

     

    M@2x.png  Purchase from Metallica (24/48)

     

     

     

     

     

    vm.jpgVan Morrison | Poetic Champions Compose Spanish Steps 1987 16/44


    This is one of my desert island recordings.  I thought I would include a standard redbook recording. The difference here is more air.  The soundstage created slightly more image height.  Each instrument having more decay and sustain.  Already quite beautiful through the Aqvox, everything was just more there with the SoTM.

     

     

     

    q@2x.png  Listen via Qobuz (24/96) 

    T.png Listen via Tidal (16/44.1) 

     

     

     

     

     

    pm.jpg
    Pat Metheny | What It’s All About Betcha By Golly Wow 2011 24/96


    Another cover, this time Pat Metheny’s version of the Stylistics classic.  Here it was very close.  I have a redbook version of this recording and I can hardly tell the difference.  I had to use Fostex TX-00 Purpleheart headphones to detect just a slight bit more wood in the guitar and sustain in the notes.

     

     

    q@2x.png  Listen via Qobuz (24/96) 

    T.png Listen via Tidal (Lossy MQA) 

    H.png Purchase via HDtracks (24/96)

     

     


    Conclusion


    sNH-10G_2.jpgI have to declare that SoTM’s design goals of producing a good sounding switch by reducing noise has been a resounding success.  Musical textures are more interesting notes have more air and decay.  In some cases more image height and slightly deeper soundstage.  For fun I put in my old Netgear consumer switch.  I immediately had to take it out.  So here we have some careful considerations to make.  I can’t speak to the $1000 plain Jane sNH-10G but this upgraded version with the upgraded clock sounds much better than the 398 Euro (around $456 USD at time of writing) Aqvox Switch 8 which in turn sounds much better than a consumer Linksys switch.  Is it $1200 better?  That is hard to say.  Myself, I think this is a special product and worthy of consideration.

     

     

     

    Sneak preview

     

    double-switch.jpegMay Park just sent me a note.  Having done some internal testing they found that under this parallel  configuration there was a dramatic sonic improvement.

     

     

     


    Stay tuned.

     

    Ken

     

     

     

     

     

    Additional Information:

     

    Manufacturer: SOtM

    Product: sNH-10G Network Switch ($800+)

     

    Where to Buy:

     

    US Customers - Crux Audio / SOtM USA

    International Customers - SOtM

     

     




    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    42 minutes ago, incus said:

    Good question. Ask SOtM if they have any. They must base their designs on something, right? Not just throwing diodes at a board...

     

    But I'm curious what you need to see that would make you at least entertain the possibility of an uptick in listening pleasure coming from such tech? In other words, what exactly would you be asking some theoretical device to measure? It can't just be frequency and jitter. Clearly there is more going on here. Why don't you explain to us all why different switches sound different from one another. And if you tell me they don't, then we will have to stop this discussion because it means you have not tried any of the products detailed herein.

    It can't just be frequency and jitter. Clearly there is more going on here

     

    "Clearly" to whom? 

     

    No need to be chasing unicorns. Reducing jitter and phase noise goes a long way to explain the difference among switches. 

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    3 hours ago, LowMidHigh said:

    It can't just be frequency and jitter. Clearly there is more going on here

     

    "Clearly" to whom? 

     

    No need to be chasing unicorns. Reducing jitter and phase noise goes a long way to explain the difference among switches. 

    You are an external master-clocker, I see. So you know what this can bring. Obviously lower jitter, lower phase noise, shunting of high frequency incursions, etc. all have their impact. But I personally believe in unicorns. That there are effects inherent to certain designs that create more pleasure and the experience of musical "rightness" that aren't entirely attributable to the quantifiable data of that design. Along the lines of synergy within a given audio system. I believe, also, that one day measurements will catch up with our subjective experiences of streaming audio the way measurements can now explain our different experiences of early USB DACs. Think how far USB receiver chips and FPGAs have come in the last 5 years alone - Gordon Rankin started asking questions a while ago about the hows and whys of better sound through USB. That lead to us measuring things we never thought to measure and building things we never thought to build before. I truly believe streaming audio is at that frontier poised before an explosive exponential growth curve. Anyway...

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    46 minutes ago, incus said:

    You are an external master-clocker, I see. So you know what this can bring. Obviously lower jitter, lower phase noise, shunting of high frequency incursions, etc. all have their impact.

     

    I dare you to answer this one simple question:

     

    What happens to all of what you posted when the Ethernet cable is pulled and the music plays on?

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    25 minutes ago, plissken said:

     

    I dare you to answer this one simple question:

     

    What happens to all of what you posted when the Ethernet cable is pulled and the music plays on?

     

    When I stream using Airplay, the music stops. 

     

    In general, the internet orange light flashes repeatedly, so network traffic is ongoing. 

     

    Does that help you understand? 

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    10 hours ago, LowMidHigh said:

     

    When I stream using Airplay, the music stops. 

     

    In general, the internet orange light flashes repeatedly, so network traffic is ongoing. 

     

    Does that help you understand? 

     

    The 'review' mentioned Tidal explicitly.  Tidal will cache the entire track locally.

     

    So AGAIN, when using this SoTM switch, using Tidal (which was what was used, try and keep up here, reading skills are important), you pull the plug and the music still plays what do you think happens to the sound quality?

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    10 hours ago, thyname said:

     

    ‘You keep repeating the same thing over and over again, for years, in hundreds of forums and threads. Eureka!


    What's even funnier is that over the years the subjectivist won't answer it because the know that their position on Ethernet cable and switches won't hold up.

     

     

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    2 minutes ago, plissken said:


    What's even funnier is that over the years the subjectivist won't answer it because the know that their position on Ethernet cable and switches won't hold up.

     

     

     

    What's even funnier is that you got pretty elaborate replies, with numbers, data, rationale, and everything many times in the past, and yet, you choose to disregard and ignore any of them.

     

    It goes like this:

     

    Other people: X cable, Y switch, makes a difference for me.

     

    You: BS! you must be hallucinating. Pull the Ethernet cable out! Does the sound continue? Yeah!

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    1 minute ago, thyname said:

     

    What's even funnier is that you got pretty elaborate replies, with numbers, data, rationale, and everything many times in the past, and yet, you choose to disregard and ignore any of them.

     

    It goes like this:

     

    Other people: X cable, Y switch, makes a difference for me.

     

    You: BS! you must be hallucinating. Pull the Ethernet cable out! Does the sound continue? Yeah!

     

    Links to your unicorn post's of 'What's even funnier is that you got pretty elaborate replies, with numbers, data, rationale, and everything'

     

    Cause what you just said certainly hasn't happened.

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    16 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    My guess is the data has already traversed the noisy switch and unplugging just to listen to one track isn’t practical. Thus, keeping a source of noise connected all the time is a requirement. 

     

    You should be able to tell WHEN the cable is removed because the sound should improve. A cable that is unplugged during playback can just as easily be plugged back in during playback.

     

    If you can't tell which is which you have a quandary as a subjectivist:

     

    Let's walk through the guess you presented:

     

    'data has already traversed the noisy switch'

     

    Using that we can say that the ultimate fidelity at that point and time is when you unplug the Ethernet cable. That that portion of the playback chain can not be improved upon.

     

    So if you have a $90 switch feeding your playback stack, and you have someone randomly unplug and plug the Ethernet cable and you can't tell when that was, then logic dictates that a $1500 switch, or two of them, can't improve your outcome.

     

    I've offered before to setup a multi-homed playback computer. I can even do multiple switches and do a HSRP configuration up stream. This will allow full on comparison of a $1800 setup ($1500 switch and $300 cable) and and $100 setup ($90 switch and $10 cable) in real time.

     

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    3 minutes ago, plissken said:

     

    You should be able to tell WHEN the cable is removed because the sound should improve. A cable that is unplugged during playback can just as easily be plugged back in during playback.

     

    If you can't tell which is which you have a quandary as a subjectivist:

     

    Let's walk through the guess you presented:

     

    'data has already traversed the noisy switch'

     

    Using that we can say that the ultimate fidelity at that point and time is when you unplug the Ethernet cable. That that portion of the playback chain can not be improved upon.

     

    So if you have a $90 switch feeding your playback stack, and you have someone randomly unplug and plug the Ethernet cable and you can't tell when that was, then logic dictates that a $1500 switch, or two of them, can't improve your outcome.

     

    I've offered before to setup a multi-homed playback computer. I can even do multiple switches and do a HSRP configuration up stream. This will allow full on comparison of a $1800 setup ($1500 switch and $300 cable) and and $100 setup ($90 switch and $10 cable) in real time.

     

     

    LOL!! two people already just told you:

     

    20 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    My guess is the data has already traversed the noisy switch

     

    20 minutes ago, charlesphoto said:

    This question never made sense: if the ethernet cable has transmitted ‘noise’ or jitter, etc to the streamer/DAC, and then the dac/streamer plays that in it’s buffer, won’t it have the same ‘sound’ as the just pulled cable if the buffer continues to play? Alwasy seemed like a straw argument to me...

     

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    17 minutes ago, charlesphoto said:

     

    This question never made sense: if the ethernet cable has transmitted ‘noise’ or jitter, etc to the streamer/DAC,

     

    Ethernet cables transfer data. They don't transfer jitter. They can carry noise.

     

     

    17 minutes ago, charlesphoto said:

    and then the dac/streamer plays that in it’s buffer, won’t it have the same ‘sound’ as the just pulled cable if the buffer continues to play? Alwasy seemed like a straw argument to me...

     

    It only seems like a straw argument until it's realized that buffers only store data. They can't store jitter, they can't store noise.

     

    17 minutes ago, charlesphoto said:

     

    Anyway, just go get a used Cisco 2960 Catalyst (fanless 8, 12.or 16 port models) for anywhere from $25-$200, and have lots of $ left over for gear that will make a bigger difference like amp, speakers, etc. The switch ‘sounds’ better than any consumer ones I used, and with a decent built in SMPS no worrying over power supplies. 

     

    I have at the moment: 8 2960, 4 3750V2, 2 4000 Nexus, 2 3725, some Fortinet, Kemp, and Palo Alto gear sitting here.

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    3 minutes ago, thyname said:

     

    LOL!! two people already just told you:

     

     

     

    The question remains unanswered:

     

    What happens to the SQ when the cable is pulled. It's a simple question that yet remains unanswered.

     

    Those responses are conjecture. I'm asking what actually happens WHEN they do it.

     

    It's why I offer $2000 to someones $500 for this to be done in a controlled environment.

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    59 minutes ago, plissken said:

    Ethernet cables transfer data. They don't transfer jitter. They can carry noise.

    This is something we should look at more. 

     

    Ethernet cables transfer whatever is in the packets. For IP telephony jitter is a huge issue because the tolerances are so much worse than audio. It seems like there is plenty of jitter involved with Ethernet.

     

    I'm not following you about Ethernet not transferring jitter. Can you provide more details?

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    58 minutes ago, plissken said:

    They don't transfer jitter. They can carry noise.

     

    Yes, exactly.  What happens if/when the noise gets into the DAC chip and clock?  (I recall at least one ESS white paper with info on this.)  It can cause jitter.  And/or it can get into the analog side of the system through ground.  Now I'm just speaking conceptually, and not about whether the levels of this stuff would be audible.

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    1 hour ago, plissken said:

    You should be able to tell WHEN the cable is removed because the sound should improve

    That's a very good point. If one cause of sonic change is noise and that noise is coming from upstream of the DAC Ethernet interface, one should be able to notice when the cable is unplugged. 

     

    The funny thing is, I have a friend who has always unplugged his Ethernet for playback because he hates the sound when it's plugged in. This person has no idea how any of this works, he just uses his ears. 

     

    I've also heard about measurements with and without Ethernet cables plugged into a DAC and being able to see differences on the analog output. I need to dig further into this to see if these differences matter and what they actually show.

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    Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I'm not following you about Ethernet not transferring jitter. Can you provide more details?

     

    Timing of the bits through an Ethernet or USB cable (to an async input) shouldn't matter because they go into a buffer.  Conceptually, you could be typing ones and zeroes with totally inconsistent timing, and as long as they went into a buffer somewhere and were clocked out accurately, no worries.  There are two aspects of noise that I believe could conceptually make a difference regarding jitter: (1) The DAC chip compares signal to ground in order to determine the timing of changes from 1 to 0 or vice versa.  If there's noise on ground, the timing changes - jitter.  (2) Noise getting to sensitive clock circuitry could make the clock less accurate.

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    3 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    Timing of the bits through an Ethernet or USB cable (to an async input) shouldn't matter because they go into a buffer.  Conceptually, you could be typing ones and zeroes with totally inconsistent timing, and as long as they went into a buffer somewhere and were clocked out accurately, no worries.  There are two aspects of noise that I believe could conceptually make a difference regarding jitter: (1) The DAC chip compares signal to ground in order to determine the timing of changes from 1 to 0 or vice versa.  If there's noise on ground, the timing changes - jitter.  (2) Noise getting to sensitive clock circuitry could make the clock less accurate.

    I struggling to understand how these buffers actually help rather than conceptually should help. Doesn't the receiving end just buffer exactly what has been delivered? Ive used many IP phones that have huge jitter issues. A buffer should've solved the issue? A reclocker sounds more appropriate. 

     

    I honestly don't know, so I'm just asking.

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    15 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Doesn't the receiving end just buffer exactly what has been delivered?

     

    Then there'd be little reason to have a buffer in a local file playback situation (as opposed to streaming).  At least my conceptual understanding is that the bits in the buffer are values in a location that stores those values but doesn't store arrival times.  So the only thing controlling the timing (jitter) of the bits as they come out of the buffer in a DAC with async input is the local DAC clock.

     

    Edit: Ever fly Southwest Airlines?

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    18 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    This is something we should look at more. 

     

    Ethernet cables transfer whatever is in the packets. For IP telephony jitter is a huge issue because the tolerances are so much worse than audio. It seems like there is plenty of jitter involved with Ethernet.

     

    I'm not following you about Ethernet not transferring jitter. Can you provide more details?

     

    Jitter is simply this: Take a signal with a certain specified clock rate like 125Mhz and and allow that rate to +/- a bit (skew). That is a form of jitter.

     

    For one thing a certain amount is allowed. For a second we have input and output buffers and most sit between clock domain boundaries. Buffers eliminate jitter 100% guaranteed.

     

    The packets remain unaffected by jitter once they've hit a buffer. The final one being in the DAC where the audio clock rate is applied.

     

    Pulling the Ethernet cable, technically, introduces the worst kind of jitter imaginable. Many high end streamers have enough buffer to hold 30-240 seconds of audio (format dependent).

     

    Jitter is never stored, It's never part of the data.

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    26 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    Yes, exactly.  What happens if/when the noise gets into the DAC chip and clock?

     

    Then a dipshit designed the DAC.

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    Just now, plissken said:

     

    Then a dipshit designed the DAC.

     

    Noise is always going to be present, the only question is how much (how effectively the design protects against that noise).  Lots of methods of isolation from transmitted noise are noisy themselves, so complete isolation isn't the complete answer either.

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    29 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    Yes, exactly.  What happens if/when the noise gets into the DAC chip and clock?  (I recall at least one ESS white paper with info on this.)  It can cause jitter.  And/or it can get into the analog side of the system through ground.  Now I'm just speaking conceptually, and not about whether the levels of this stuff would be audible.

     

    You will see 60hz mains noise creep it's way over Ethernet cables, even making it past the magnetic isolation transformers. This is why I'm a proponent of WiFi over either copper or optical Ethernet.

     

    If you must go wired and you are wanting quality components: Get a used Cisco Catalyst 2960 8T for $30 and an Intel Server NIC for $20 if using a computer.

     

    WiFi is the defacto, highest fidelity, connection available to the audiophile.

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