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sound quality (not reliability) of wired vs. wireless


gazes

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Hi all.

 

I'm using a sonos:connect (formerly the ZP90) to stream wirelessly to my hi-fi system. Everyone seems to agree that wired is better than wireless for reliability and freedom from interference. But in my case, I don't have any problems with reliability of the network (e.g., no dropouts, no clicks, etc.). So, as sonos promises, their wireless mesh network does seem to be pretty robust.

 

My question is: if the wireless network is not exhibiting any glitches, can I assume that there would be no improvement in sound quality if I switched to a wired connection?

 

Let me add that I am streaming Apple Lossless.

 

Thanks.

 

Stuart

 

 

 

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I am pretty sure some people would disagree with me, but for the wireless connection to work at all (considering congestion and packet delay/loss), it has to be properly buffered. So unless you actually have dropouts, the connection is fast enough and can keep the buffer filled, and the DAC just gets data out of the RAM of the sonos box.

 

Yes, there is a theoretical possibility that the sonos CPU has to work harder to deal with the wireless, and that would somehow cause audible effects, but I would not worry about it.

 

I also don't think the sonos box is smart enough to completely shut off the wireless interface to minimize RF noise when using the wired interface, so that is not a factor either.

 

If you want to be 100% sure, borrow a long ethernet cable and try wired - if you don't hear a difference, you *know* you are OK.

 

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I have not noticed any difference in sound quality between gigabit wired ethernet and 5.6 GHz 802.11n WLAN (except on our Mac Mini which has some serious interference issues with wired ethernet). But these things depend so much on the particular equipment and setup that it is impossible to generalize anything.

 

Here we have three 3.5G networks at full strength, two of which are also UMTS DualCarrier capable, so I don't worry so much about one WLAN interface if it's properly shielded internally. 3G phone can transmit at 20x power of WLAN...

 

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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I did a fair amount of testing of the wireless LAN at home using my Logitech Transporter last year before I sold the item to find out some answers to a similar question the OP is asking.

 

From what I observed, there was no issue at all in terms of the wireless link being able to provide the required bandwidth to stream Red Book and Hi-Res FLAC files.

 

IME, I found wired to sound noticeably better than wireless and came to the conclusion that the issue with wireless is its inability to shield the "in air" signal from EMI/RFI and what ever else may be floating around between point A & B.

 

I'm willing to go out on a limb here with this statement; it wouldn't surprise me if this issue were resolved by placing some kind of Opto-Isolator between the wireless antenna receiver at the DAC side which would filter out any interference the signal picked up in flight before it were processed.

 

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I bridge the house networks all over the place, using 5Ghz Airport Express units. From the AEs, I go into an appropriate switch and hardwire the equipment. This is not so much for streaming redbook, as you do with the Sonos, but more for reliably moving large files, like DVD's around on the net.

 

I cannot detect any difference in our bedroom Touch when using the Touch's wireless radio. The sure test with is to turn off the wifi with it connected to a wired port, and see if you hear any difference.

 

-Paul

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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"it wouldn't surprise me if this issue were resolved by placing some kind of Opto-Isolator between the wireless antenna receiver at the DAC side which would filter out any interference the signal picked up in flight before it were processed."

 

The problem is separating the useful signal from the noise - by definition an antenna is designed to pick up RF, and the WLAN signal is RF. The receiver circuitry already forms a very selective filter that only allows the 2.4 Ghz signal and rejects anything outside the WLAN frequencies. An optoisolator doesn't give any additional advantage - either it lets RF through, or it doesn't.

 

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I could be mistaken, but I do not believe any wireless signal does more than 16/44.1. My phone has a 24/96 DAC but I believe when I transmit bluetooth to a powered speaker, I am transmitting in 16/44.1

 

I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you any understanding – Samuel Johnson

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I could be mistaken, but I do not believe any wireless signal does more than 16/44.1. My phone has a 24/96 DAC but I believe when I transmit bluetooth to a powered speaker, I am transmitting in 16/44.1

 

Bluetooth is slow, but 802.11n WLAN is fast (300 Mbps). With WLAN you can transfer practically any audio uncompressed. 192/32/7.1 PCM is just 47 Mbps.

 

I don't know what kind of connection speed Sonos has.

 

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Wireless connection ? Wired connection.

 

Wired connection ? Wireless connection.

 

In other words, in a best-case scenario, a wireless connection will only be as good as wired. Intimately connecting a transmitter/receiver to the signal path is not going to make an improvement; removing it usually does.

 

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In other words, in a best-case scenario, a wireless connection will only be as good as wired. Intimately connecting a transmitter/receiver to the signal path is not going to make an improvement; removing it usually does.

 

It depends... If you connect 30 meters of UTP CAT-5, you have a 30-meter antenna connected to a computer... Wires are a good way to pull in all kind RF crap from air into an electronics device. Ferrite beads help, but don't solve the problem completely. (Bundled with my old Compaq laptop was CAT-5 cable equipped with ferrite bead next to the connector. E-MU 0404 USB comes with all bundled cables equipped with ferrites. Same case for Sony-Ericsson smart-phone, digital cameras etc.)

 

Well, in my case Mac Mini produces horrible interference patterns to it's analog VGA output (on mini-DVI connector) if there's network cable connected. Problem goes away by using WLAN.

 

I wouldn't want to use a laptop or tablet computer attached to wires either.

 

All my WLAN adapters shield all the RF parts in separate metal casing. Only SMA antenna connector are power feeds exit.

 

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Ah! Well, there's your problem. We only use CAT7 with our machines: double screened. And, if we're feeling paranoid, an ethernet isolator.

 

Effectively relocating the wireless card by using a short length of CAT7 and a wireless bridge is also a good way to get round this issue, we find.

 

Any network installation comes with its own peculiar location-specific problems, but it's crucial to maintain 'clean-room' conditions in the very local playback environment.

 

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Any network installation comes with its own peculiar location-specific problems, but it's crucial to maintain 'clean-room' conditions in the very local playback environment.

 

That's something we agree on. And that's why I said it's impossible to generalize that one way would be always better than the other.

 

Properly done wireless can be better than long cables.

 

We only use CAT7 with our machines: double screened. And, if we're feeling paranoid, an ethernet isolator.

 

I like optical ethernet better, no antenna problems. And distances are not issue either (unless you need more than 10-30 kilometers).

 

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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. . . although such an optical ethernet installation in a domestic environment is rather a sledgehammer to crack a nut - whereas CAT7 nails the antenna issue and is an inexpensive plug-and-play replacement for CAT5. Better connectors, too. For us, if there's a choice, local clean-room trumps antenna effects.

 

Crucially, though, what are your 'best-practice' recommendations for an optimal wireless setup? There's no doubt that wireless scores high for convenience, and most users would favour an in-the-box solution . . .

 

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"CAT7 nails the antenna issue and is an inexpensive plug-and-play replacement for CAT5"

 

CAT7 is definitely an improvement over CAT5, but only an improvement, not a magic bullet. The shielding attenuates noise, but doesn't remove it completely.

 

"what are your 'best-practice' recommendations for an optimal wireless setup?"

 

The most important one is not to have neighbors :)

 

If I do a scan here in my home office, I see 11 different networks - that is a lot of fighting for spectrum/bandwidth going on...

 

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