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USB versus FireWire 800 versus Ethernet

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I have discovered that as far as external hard drives are concerned, or at least the Lacie drives I have, Firewire 800 is better than USB, and Gigabit Ethernet is better then Firewire 800. The comparisons were done with the same audio files including both 16bit/44.1kHz and 24bit/48kHz.


The comaparisons were:

(1) One drive using Firewire 800 versus another drive having only USB 2.0. Firewire was far better.

(2) One drive using Firewire 800 versus the same drive using USB 2.0. Again Firewire distinctly superior.

(3) Gigabit Ethernet drive versus the drive in (2) using Firewire 800. Ethernet was far better.


Comparisons were all done using an Apple PowerBook G4 (10.5.4) and iTunes 7.7.1.

In Audio MIDI Setup the appropriate sample rate was set (prior to opening iTunes) with Soundflower 2ch as the "Default Ouput".

In all comparisons Airport was switched off on the PowerBook G4 which was connected to an Airport Extreme (current model) via ethernet. The Airport Extreme transmitted to an Airport Express (older model) connected via analogue cable (Audioquest Mini-5) to the amplifier.


So, same audio files but very noticeable difference in sound quality between the different connections. I'm now using my Ethernet Disk Mini a whole lot more. The sound is considerably more open and detailed.


Anyone else had any experiences in this area?



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Hi Leigh - Your findings are contrary to my experience and that of many others I talk to about this stuff. It is my opinion that data being fed to a playback application such as iTunes can come from any interface/transport method without effecting the sound in any way. I believe this has everything to do with the data transfer method being at the block level or packetized via Ethenet.


That said, I'm not questioning your opinion on gives you the best sound. Around here if it sounds good/the best to you that's all that matters. :-)


Thanks for sharing this!


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Darren - I sense some sarcasm in your post :-)





This is a laid back site. Whatever sounds good to people is cool with me. If someone likes the sound of a brass coat hanger interconnect or silver coat hanger interconnect it doesn't really matter. Suggesting they are wrong for their opinion or suggesting they are a little crazy gets old pretty quick.



Maybe I took your comment wrong. If so please let me know :-)


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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After moving my HD I had noticed that the sound seemed to change, it was less interesting for some reason. I needed a longer FW cable so I ordered a Belkin shielded cable with gold plated connectors. Problem solved. Changing the lay of the cable must have exposed it to some EMI/RFI that the sheilded cable was immune to. Every system will be different.


Shouldn't matter, I agree. But it did.


McIntosh C500T&P, MC501s, Sonus Faber Cremona M, Ayre QB-9, Oppo BDP-83 Mac Mini

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