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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



    52 minutes ago, Superdad said:

     

    You’re calling @PeterSt ignorant?

    What a sweet guy you are.  No wonder you are so well liked... 

    ¬¬

    In what way is my challenging his POV about the operations that involve keeping a network connection up/up and the the 'noise' it generates

     

    VS

     

    all the other caching operations that go on even on a newly installed OS and optimized is incorrect.

     

    Either it's ignorance or it's deception. Which is it?

     

    Because it is certainly isn't correct. And it's already been proven.

     

    Here you go and you are most welcome to debunk if you can...

     

    cacheops.JPG

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    42 minutes ago, incus said:

    But what experiments have you done to say you can't hear that noise? There is a growing body of listening impressions on that big topic listing that shows different sounds to different processors throttled in different ways, lower latency software, RAM booted software, etc. Isn't this presumably reducing the audible effects of those processes? There is ignorance from inexperience that is forgiven with enlightenment and then there is willful ignorance despite enlightenment which is unforgivable.

     

    You let me know when you want to put on the blindfold.

     

    If you can't trust your ears neither can anyone else.

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    3 minutes ago, incus said:

    Let me know when you want to take it off.

     

    I'm quite comfortable in literally trusting my ears. What's your excuse?

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    8 hours ago, incus said:

    if all the packets inside the DAC's receiver chip have already passed through the network to get there - no matter when or where it was buffered before - and IF there is any kind of phase noise influence (positive of negative) and/or electrical noise that carries over from the upstream network - then that would ALREADY be there in the signal now being taken in by the DAC.

     

    You do understand digital, do you ?

    Oh, wait ...

    :)

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    7 hours ago, plissken said:

    In what way is my challenging his POV about the operations that involve keeping a network connection up/up and the the 'noise' it generates

     

    VS

     

    all the other caching operations that go on even on a newly installed OS and optimized is incorrect.

     

    In all ways. Just because you are so keen to leave out the proper context.

     

    7 hours ago, plissken said:

    Here you go and you are most welcome to debunk if you can...

     

    Maybe @Superdadcan't (you were asking him) but I can do that on behalf of him;

    If you are so good with Process Monitor you might just as well look at a somewhat rougher level and count the task switches. For an optimized system (like with AO) this comes to 46 million switches per second during audio playback (over USB). Allow me to be 50% off for your system. Now ignorant me comes along; In that same system with 46M task switches as by miracle it becomes 680,000. *)

    Now you are of course going to show me that figure because you can do that too. But that is only step one. Step two would be that you now in *that* context again present your whatever caching and again would say that "these few more" surely won't make any difference.

     

    Moral: Everything makes a difference but one has to apply first everything in order to detect its relative effect. Be that a technical matter like a PMI Counter or be that audible effect. Of course, if I'd like to present that an electrical difference of 10mV of noise really won't matter on 500mV of noise (think power supply) then everybody will think that is correct. But if that 10mV is superimposed on 10uV the story becomes a bit different. That, in order to get there, I first had to eliminate a 100 other sources of noise is something else, but crucial context.

     

    Someone was talking about that this is not about winning or losing. But you lose.

     

    *) IIRC this was for a W8 system and by now 6-7 years ago. Today's W10 will be very different, and varying per Build. Also my own software regarding this evolved quite a bit (focusing W10).

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    14 hours ago, PeterSt said:

    Hmm ... Is "not that I know of" anything for an answer ?

    Peter it sounds like you don't believe the stuff that Alex and John Swenson describe ... upstream phase noise fingerprint affecting downstream components and getting past many kinds of isolation techniques?  Am I misinterpreting what you're saying?

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    2 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

     

    In all ways. Just because you are so keen to leave out the proper context.

     

     

    Maybe @Superdadcan't (you were asking him) but I can do that on behalf of him;

    If you are so good with Process Monitor you might just as well look at a somewhat rougher level and count the task switches. For an optimized system (like with AO) this comes to 46 million switches per second during audio playback (over USB). Allow me to be 50% off for your system. Now ignorant me comes along; In that same system with 46M task switches as by miracle it becomes 680,000. *)

    Now you are of course going to show me that figure because you can do that too. But that is only step one. Step two would be that you now in *that* context again present your whatever caching and again would say that "these few more" surely won't make any difference.

     

    What I'm saying is you can't tell the difference and we can easily present different load for the OS to run.

     

    Let me know when you are up for some blind testing. We can setup an Intel box with Prime 95. I can control it from remote, run it headless, and you tell me during playback when the system is under increased load.

    2 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

    *) IIRC this was for a W8 system and by now 6-7 years ago. Today's W10 will be very different, and varying per build. Also my own software regarding this evolved quite a bit (focusing W10).

     

    If you are talking about my screenshot it was Win10Pro X64. I forget the build #.

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    7 hours ago, rickca said:

    Peter it sounds like you don't believe the stuff that Alex and John Swenson describe ... upstream phase noise fingerprint affecting downstream components and getting past many kinds of isolation techniques?  Am I misinterpreting what you're saying?

     

    My impression (I could be wrong) is that though this is what they believe to be happening, they have not yet had a chance to measure and see whether or not it is definitely the case.

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    7 hours ago, plissken said:

     

    What I'm saying is you can't tell the difference and we can easily present different load for the OS to run.

     

    Let me know when you are up for some blind testing. We can setup an Intel box with Prime 95. I can control it from remote, run it headless, and you tell me during playback when the system is under increased load.

     

    If you are talking about my screenshot it was Win10Pro X64. I forget the build #.

     

    Way back near the dawn of digital, people like Ed Meitner were already discussing “logic induced modulation,” and right up to the present day folks like ESS talk in white papers about lowering noise getting into the chip.  It’s a situation where the level of noise may not be quite so important as even small changes in it (changes in noise on ground = jitter at the clock), so at least theoretically you don’t want things in the playback chain to be changing noise characteristics while engaging in playback.

     

    To what extent this or anything to do with jitter may be audible has always been a subject of some discussion and controversy.

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    I love these subjective vs. objective based threads like this one.  I am 100% sure I hear differences in cables, switches, etc. - I think.

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    23 minutes ago, EdmontonCanuck said:

    The thing that seems all "flat earth" to me is that some people believe that "noise" gets stored with a digital stream when it's buffered and is transmitted along the chain to other digital devices to eventually manifest itself when it undergoes analog conversion.

    You got the reference backwards. Flat earth is  old dogma - which in this case is that bits are bits. Round earth is new discoveries of ways in which phase noise from prior clocking may indeed seem to show up later. Not to mention electrical noise traveling with the signal (not stored in it) from server, switch, endpoint, whatever does the buffering, through all their power supplies, etc. All apparently brought to the USB receiver chip to deal with unless it's mitigated along the way. Obviously a great clock at the USB chip with great isolation characteristics would do a lot to mitigate all this. Seems to me Master Clock connections on USB receiver chips would be something we should see more widely adopted (I know they already exist) now that all these other kinds of master clocking have cropped up and there seems to be some consensus about their benefits.

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    12 minutes ago, Superdad said:

     

    Seems a good place to reprint a post of @JohnSwenson's from October 2017:

     

    The hypothesis goes thusly:

    ALL crystal oscillators exhibit frequency change with power supply voltage change. This is known and well measured. A cyclical change in voltage causes a cyclical change in frequency which shows up in phase noise plots. For example if you apply a 100Hz signal to the power supply of the oscillator you will see a 100Hz spur in the phase noise plot. 

     

    A circuit that has a digital stream running through it will will generate noise on the power and ground planes of the PCB just from the transistors turning on and off that are processing that stream. This effect is very well known and measured. Combine this with the previous paragraph and you have jitter on the incoming data stream producing varying noise on the PG planes that modulates the clock increasing its jitter.

     

    The above has been measured.

     

    But shouldn't ground plane isolation and reclockers fix this? At first glance you would think so, but look carefully at what is happening. What is a reclocker? A flip flop. The incoming data with a particular phase noise profile goes through transistors inside the flip flop. Those transistors switching create noise on its internal PG traces, wires in the package and traces on the board. This noise is directly related to the phase noise profile of the incoming data. This PG noise changes the thresholds of the transistors that are clocking the data out thus overlaying the phase noise profile of the local clock with that of the clock used to generate the stream that is being reclocked. This process is hard to see, so I am working on a test setup that generates a "marker" in the phase noise of the incoming clock so it becomes easy to see this phase noise overlaying process.

     

    This process has always been there but has been masked by the phase noise of the local clock itself. Now that we are using much lower phase noise local clocks this overlying is a significantly larger percentage of the total phase noise from the local clock.

     

    Digital isolators used in ground plane isolation schemes don't help this. Jitter on the input to the isolator still shows up on the output, with added jitter from the isolators. This combination of original phase noise and that added by the isolator is what goes into the reclocking flip flop, increasing the jitter in the local clock. Some great strides have been made in the digital isolator space, significantly decreasing the added phase noise which over all helps, but now the phase noise from the input is a larger percentage, so changes to it are more obvious.

     

    The result is that even digital isolators and reclocking don't completely block the phase noise contribution of the incoming data stream. It can help, but it doesn't get rid of it.

     

    For USB (and Ethernet) it gets more complicated since the data is not a continuous stream, it comes in packets, thus this PG noise comes in bursts. This makes analysis of this in real systems much more difficult since most of the time it is not there. Thus any affects to an audio stream come and go. Thus just looking at a scope is not going to show anything since any distortion caused by this only happens when the data over the bus actually comes in. To look at anything with a scope will take synchronizing to the packet arrivals. Things like FFTs get problematic as well since what you are trying to measure is not constant . It will probably take something like wavelet analysis to see what is really happening.

     

    The next step in my ongoing saga is to actually measure these effects on a DAC output. Again I have to build my own test equipment. The primary tool is going to be an ADC with a clock with lower phase noise than the changes which occur from the above. AND it needs to be 24 bits or so resolution. You just can't go out and buy these, they don't exist. So I build it myself.

     

    I have done the design and have the boards and parts, but haven't had time to get them assembled yet. Then there is a ton of software to make this all work. Fortunately a large part already exists, designed to work with other systems but I can re-purpose it for this.

     

    So it's not going to be right away, but hopefully not too off in the future I should be able to get to actually testing the end to end path of clock interactions all the way to DAC output.

     

    John S.

    ===========

     

    FYI, his elaborate clock test set up--we call it the Golden Gate Bridge--has been through a couple of iterations and John has been working ever more actively on it--even this very day.  But mostly in-between product development work. 9_9

    Thank you.

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    23 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

    well, same for output resistance & Temperature variation

     

    but the key is "how much"...

     

    Not only.

     

     The key is how rapid the variation is, as much as or more than absolute level.  Something that varies over minutes or hours may as well take a glacial age with respect to causing jitter.

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    25 minutes ago, incus said:

    Thank you.

     

    But notice: The measurement hasn’t happened yet.  And even after that, we’re left to ponder the question of how significant/audible it might be.

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    19 hours ago, PeterSt said:

    No wait, ... but it was the stance that pulling that cable/Switch would change sound ?

    YES. Because in real-time the noise influence (Phase Noise if you want) signature is changing. The digital data stays the same (0's and 1's don't interpret differently). So envision that nice analogue very low level test signal, think 30uV), and when the cable is pulled that noise becomes 25uV. This really isn't hard to imagine, I'd say. This is because this is analogue noise and it may come along with the connection to the Switch and be gone when that connection is pulled.

    Now, did that change anything to the digital data ?

     

    PS: It is not allowed to claim that 5uV is not audible because it is about the principle. The analogue signal has changed and thus that could be audible. And now I didn't even talk about jitter, which actually is ahead of that analogue output signal, and where the noise in the digital signal (which in the end is electrical analogue) influences jitter. Peaks and valleys (1's and 0's) don't trigger at the same time when noise is added (a peak of noise triggers early). So pulling the Switch will lower jitter.

    And the recorded data (or data in the buffer) will still be 100% equal in both pulled and not-pulled situations.

     

    More clear now ?

     

     

    The pulling the plug thing is what actually got me looking into this.

     

    A while back I had a prototype of one the streamers on the bench feeding a little inexpensive DAC ($110) feeding some inexpensive Senheiser headphones($69) when I accidentally unplugged the Ethernet cable and the increase in sound quality blew me away. There was about 1 minute of music stored in the streamer so I got 1 minute of REALLY good sounding music.

     

    So yep, pulling the plug DID make a big difference, but it wasn't a "test", there was no expectation involved.

     

    John S.

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    Just now, JohnSwenson said:

    the increase in sound quality blew me away

    Yeah, right. Did your wife in the kitchen notice it too?

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    1 minute ago, JohnSwenson said:

    The pulling the plug thing is what actually got me looking into this.

     

    A while back I had a prototype of one the streamers on the bench feeding a little inexpensive DAC ($110) feeding some inexpensive Senheiser headphones($69) when I accidentally unplugged the Ethernet cable and the increase in sound quality blew me away. There was about 1 minute of music stored in the streamer so I got 1 minute of REALLY good sounding music.

     

    So yep, pulling the plug DID make a big difference, but it wasn't a "test", there was no expectation involved.

     

    John S.

     

    ‘So please hurry up and take those measurements so that we can “prove” it to these pseudoscience a*holes!

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    1 minute ago, mansr said:

    How many years has it been?

    It's been over two years now.

     

    I actually had everything all built, FPGA code written and started trying it out about two months ago and found out the system as a whole did not work. The system consisted of 7 boards tied together with a forest of coax and board to board connectors. I deliberately made the system highly modular so many different tests could be performed.

     

    Well that was a BAD idea! All those connectors proved very problematic, I could never get the whole system to be working together at the same time. Some connector or other was always working poorly, I just could not get it all working together.

     

    So back to the drawing board. I replaced 5 of the boards into one board, getting rid of almost all the connections, did the highest quality connections I could come up with on the board etc. I just finished the layout of this board a few minutes ago, so now its get the board fabricated and solder all these parts on. Then I try again.

     

    John S.

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