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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



    1 minute ago, plissken said:

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

     

    How noisy is the WiFi receiver circuitry?  🙂

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    Just now, plissken said:

     

    .... This is why I'm a proponent of WiFi over either copper or optical Ethernet.

     

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

     

    Hmmm.... great idea in theory, but in practice, the receiving end (streamer, etc) does it not have a Wi-Fi receptor or antenna to convert the internet signal, with its own issues & problems?

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    30 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    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.

     

    That's all I'm proposing here. If you start Tidal and playback your favorite track and have someone randomly disconnect/connect the cable and you can't tell any difference there is literally no amount of money you can spend on the portion of your playback chain to improve things.

     

    $1500 for a 'audiophile' switch is just insanity.

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    35 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    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.

     

    That is certainly possible. You could even take a switch, desolder the the isolation transformer, zip up the traces together and hear all manner of shit. But the bottom line is that the isolation devices available already do a killer job:

     

    Their job is to block noise and they do a good job of it already in equipment measured in the $10's of dollars. Not the $1000's when it comes to networking equipment.

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    6 minutes ago, plissken said:

     

    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.

    I like optical because one gets the reliability of wired and the isolation of wireless. 

     

     

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    12 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    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.

     

    More is better than less Jud. WiFi certainly eliminates AC hum/ground loop.

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    1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I like optical because one gets the reliability of wired and the isolation of wireless. 

     

    Optical is a lovely idea.  But just like any other isolation method, the question is what level of noise the isolation method itself creates (in the case of optical, the receiver circuitry to convert the optical signal back to an electrical one).

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    2 minutes ago, plissken said:

     

    More is better than less Jud. WiFi certainly eliminates AC hum/ground loop.

     

    It does, which is great.  The point is that you're not done then.  And it could conceivably be the case that a well designed wired connection might result in less noise getting into the DAC parts than at least some optical or WiFi connections.  It's always implementation (i.e., "the devil is in the details").

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    2 minutes ago, Jud said:

     

    Optical is a lovely idea.  But just like any other isolation method, the question is what level of noise the isolation method itself creates (in the case of optical, the receiver circuitry to convert the optical signal back to an electrical one).

    I had a white paper at one point comparing the power supply rail characteristics and optical was something like 10^3 better in consumption than WiFi. So that's a win.

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    Just now, plissken said:

    I had a white paper at one point comparing the power supply rail characteristics and optical was something like 10^3 better in consumption. So that's a win.

     

    I know I've read that at least some opto-isolators are electrically noisy.

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    1) I still don't understand the experiment you are asking us to do. Where in the chain am I meant to pull the ethernet cable? I have ethernet cables connecting a lot of different components right now. In other words, which device are you imagining is going the buffering? The server? The DAC? That matters a lot as there are many steps in my digital playback chain. You would need to tell me where this is meant to be happening before I consider the logic of what you are saying.

     

    2) Any device that receives, transmits and/or buffers a digital signal is re-clocking that signal before it sends it along. So the phase noise, leakage current, and ground plane issues of that device all get introduced at that juncture.  There is also a growing body of inquiry on these forums that believe that phase noise, leakage currents, and ground plane issues still make it through from  previous reclocking devices. It is my understanding that no current device can eliminate everything from upstream.

     

    So you want each juncture from modem to DAC to have the most accurate and quietly powered clock possible as well as the best possible noise isolation and/or filtering. So if you pull an ethernet cable from some random place in the chain -- assuming there is some random component buffering the signal -- and there is no change - doesn't that simply mean that the component doing the buffering is no worse than anything that came before it? Which is good, right? If you pulled the cable and the sound got worse, you would want to look at the device doing the buffering with an eye to upgrade. If the sound gets better, then you may want to look at your upstream re-clocking components.

     

    To me, the modem itself is the tricky part - the actual place of entry of the signal from outside the home. Someone needs to make a purpose built modem along the lines of what SOtM and Uptone are doing with switches so the first reclocking into the home is the best it can possibly be. Then you can add and remove anything down stream of that to see their effects. Anyway...

     

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    1 minute ago, incus said:

    2) Any device that receives, transmits and/or buffers a digital signal is re-clocking that signal before it sends it along.

    I believe this is false.

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    11 minutes ago, incus said:

    1) I still don't understand the experiment you are asking us to do. Where in the chain am I meant to pull the ethernet cable?

     

    In the context of this review using a Windows 10 Computer and Tidal with the switch upstream of the computer, where would you think?

    11 minutes ago, incus said:

     

     It is my understanding that no current device can eliminate everything from upstream.

     

    WiFi and Optical most certainly can.

    11 minutes ago, incus said:

     

    So you want each juncture from modem to DAC to have the most accurate and quietly powered clock possible as well as the best possible noise isolation and/or filtering. So if you pull an ethernet cable from some random place in the chain -- assuming there is some random component buffering the signal -- and there is no change - doesn't that simply mean that the component doing the buffering is no worse than anything that came before it?

     

    You'll do well to ponder some more on what I said: If you start playback of music, in this case Win10 and Tidal, and you pull the Ethernet cable and SQ doesn't change....

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    16 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I believe this is false.

    Actually it's true.

     

    In order to read off of a buffer some form of clocking needs to be present to read it out in an ordered fashion.

     

    Keep in mind that one thing buffers do is enable linkage between two clock domain boundaries.

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    2 minutes ago, plissken said:

    Actually it's true.

     

    In order to read off of a buffer some form of clocking needs to be present to read it out in an ordered fashion.

     

    Keep in mind that one thing buffers do is enable linkage between two clock domain boundaries.

    Not true with all digital signals. Ethernet sure, but a USB to AES converter doesn't reclock the data.

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    9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Not true with all digital signals. Ethernet sure, but a USB to AES converter doesn't reclock the data.

    But AES isn't mentioned in the article and we are talking about a specific implementation.

    If there is no buffering involved in your example I could see the point.

     

    A quick glance at the Wiki for AES-EBU does show a clock and it's not the same clock on the USB bus (8Khz?).

     

    So something is going on unless you mean something else.

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    45 minutes ago, plissken said:

    But AES isn't mentioned in the article and we are talking about a specific implementation.

    If there is no buffering involved in your example I could see the point.

     

    A quick glance at the Wiki for AES-EBU does show a clock and it's not the same clock on the USB bus (8Khz?).

     

    So something is going on unless you mean something else.

    His statement said all digital signals, so I wanted to make sure to correct that.

     

    I've talked to the device designers about reclocking and they say their devices don't reclock. Perhaps a discussion for another topic.

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    His statement said all digital signals, so I wanted to make sure to correct that.

     

    I've talked to the device designers about reclocking and they say their devices don't reclock. Perhaps a discussion for another topic.

    Sorry - I meant within the context of ethernet streaming

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    2 hours ago, Advieira said:

    Best configuration ever.

     

     

    bestconfig.jpg

    This is what SOtM now suggests in response to this thread.

     

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    There is another factor to consider with switches in general and that is that most switches blast the signal out a power level needed for 100 meters of wire per the spec. Jussi of HQP advocates using switches with a power saver mode that adjust output for the actual wire length on a given port.

     

    To test this for myself, I picked up a Netgear Nighthawk switch (which has a power saver mode) on a Black Friday special for $60. I tested it against my old $20 Netgear 1 gig switch. Both were powered by  the same linear power supply. When using the Nighthawk as a straight switch, I could not tell any repeatable difference. But, when I engaged the power saver mode, there was a noticeable improvement over the old Netgear switch.

     

    I don't know why for sure but I suspect that some gear is susceptible to being overloaded at the input and/or that reducing the power output from the switch also reduces electrical noise on the line.

     

    It is clear that electrical noise is always a detriment to audio and reducing it is the proper thing to do.

     

    My point is that there are ways to do this that don't have to be overly expensive.

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    he must mean upstream of the device in question

     

    optical/WiFi could conceivably introduce some noise, just as any device does, but there is no reason to suppose it to be anything like the noise of a wired device (not claiming wired Ethernet is noisy tho...)

     

    there ARE ways to be sure...

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