Do I really need an " Audio Grade Network Switch "?

preston8452

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I think it's been a quite controversial topic for years, like what's the difference between normal network switch and an audio grade network switch, the price difference is certainly obvious though...
Anyway, I've done some researches, most audio reviewers say that under this " new digital streaming era " that an network switch is a must for an audio system, which is understandable for me, I mean because if I wanna play TIDAL or Qobuz or Spotify, I gotta use network so I can stream these online services, so yeah I get that if the network quality is good enough, it can possibly level up the music performance.

But anyhow, I'm new to this area, so I don't like to spend big bucks on my first purchase hahaha... there's a very wide range of the prices though, the top one is Ansuz Power Switch I think, the inner circuit and design look pretty sharp, and surely over my budget lol

So I'm choosing between Bonn N8 and SW-8, these two both got good reviews, and the prices seem so darn much friendly to me as I'm looking for an entry level switch now, do any of you have any insights to share?
or should I just go for the higher level ones?

Best,
 

drkrack

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I think it's been a quite controversial topic for years, like what's the difference between normal network switch and an audio grade network switch, the price difference is certainly obvious though...
Anyway, I've done some researches, most audio reviewers say that under this " new digital streaming era " that an network switch is a must for an audio system, which is understandable for me, I mean because if I wanna play TIDAL or Qobuz or Spotify, I gotta use network so I can stream these online services, so yeah I get that if the network quality is good enough, it can possibly level up the music performance.

But anyhow, I'm new to this area, so I don't like to spend big bucks on my first purchase hahaha... there's a very wide range of the prices though, the top one is Ansuz Power Switch I think, the inner circuit and design look pretty sharp, and surely over my budget lol

So I'm choosing between Bonn N8 and SW-8, these two both got good reviews, and the prices seem so darn much friendly to me as I'm looking for an entry level switch now, do any of you have any insights to share?
or should I just go for the higher level ones?

Best,
I haven't used any audiophile Network Switches in my setup ; one of the remarkable improvements in SQ I've got is via
1. Upgrading to Cat 7 & Cat 8 LAN Cables from Cat 5e
2. Avoiding Wireless
3. Adding LPSU (Linear PSU) to My main Router, NAS and Desktop Switch in my HT room.

In my opinion, Audiophile Network switch will be essentially same as Regular Network Switch, With A LPSU, premium gold plated Gigabyte ports, Better Quality internal materials with a Hefty Cabinet material for Rf/EMI shielding & Micro Vibration control; of course with an unavoidable audiophile price tag.

Well, you could look for "Try before you buy" if feasible, and buy only if you get substantial improvements ; these devices will be System & EAR Dependent in performance AFAIK.
 

Nikhil

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My experience has been interesting. I don't use an audiophile switch but I found a subtle nuance when I started using an LPS to power my switch. I have an HDPLEX Linear Power Supply which had a spare rail available.

The probable reason for that is that the standard power supplies that come with these switches are noise prone. Switching to a LPS cleaned up the notes on the top. Noticeable on piano and guitar i.e. wherever you have transients. I did this a few years ago but these are what I can recall from memory.

So in answer to your question - you definitely don't need to use an audiophile switch but they do offer some improvements. Some may have issues with the ridiculous pricing but check their implementation and see if they are using quality parts. Most suppliers offer a return window so if you don't like the gear you can always send it back.



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venkatcr

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I am sure I am opening a can of worms here. But now network switches are also becoming 'audiophile' grade? Wow! What else is left?

Look at how Aamir rips apart the notion of 'audiophile grade' in Bonn N8.

After all the objective tests, he moves to subjective listening and makes an interesting conclusion.

'I queued up my reference playlist in Roon and streamed them to Ethernet i. Baseline was with the Bonn N8 in the loop. I switched to just the Netgear and it sounded better! More detail. More air. Just higher fidelity. I then reversed the AB sequence, starting with the Netgear and going to Bonn N8. Same difference! More air, more analog like, etc.

What is going on? Simple: you frame of mind makes a huge difference in what you perceive. When performing comparisons, your brain gets into instrumentation mode and analyzes music differently than when you lean back and just enjoy music. In doing so, it hears more detail, air, etc. It does so even when nothing is changed in the waveform. In other words, the Ethernet switch is not changing sound. It is you that is changing.'


Of course, we will have a chorus of people saying measurements mean nothing. So be it, if that is what you believe in. If you think an additional 400$ of network switch in the last mile could clean and make perfect the sound that has already travelled through 1000 of kilometers of cables and ether that are not audiophile grade - it is what Aamir says. It is your frame of mind that is making you experience the difference.

In any case, according to audiophiles, streaming is 'all trash'. It is compressed music that is being forced upon you. The music has lost it's sanctity in the studios of Tidal and Spotify - right at the source point. So what does it matter if a bit of jitter, noise and paraphernalia is added along the way?

But then if you want to spend 450$ for a product that is capably handled by a 40$ version, who is Aamir to object?

Cheers
 

firearm12

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I am sure I am opening a can of worms here. But now network switches are also becoming 'audiophile' grade? Wow! What else is left?

Look at how Aamir rips apart the notion of 'audiophile grade' in Bonn N8.

After all the objective tests, he moves to subjective listening and makes an interesting conclusion.

'I queued up my reference playlist in Roon and streamed them to Ethernet i. Baseline was with the Bonn N8 in the loop. I switched to just the Netgear and it sounded better! More detail. More air. Just higher fidelity. I then reversed the AB sequence, starting with the Netgear and going to Bonn N8. Same difference! More air, more analog like, etc.

What is going on? Simple: you frame of mind makes a huge difference in what you perceive. When performing comparisons, your brain gets into instrumentation mode and analyzes music differently than when you lean back and just enjoy music. In doing so, it hears more detail, air, etc. It does so even when nothing is changed in the waveform. In other words, the Ethernet switch is not changing sound. It is you that is changing.'


Of course, we will have a chorus of people saying measurements mean nothing. So be it, if that is what you believe in. If you think an additional 400$ of network switch in the last mile could clean and make perfect the sound that has already travelled through 1000 of kilometers of cables and ether that are not audiophile grade - it is what Aamir says. It is your frame of mind that is making you experience the difference.

In any case, according to audiophiles, streaming is 'all trash'. It is compressed music that is being forced upon you. The music has lost it's sanctity in the studios of Tidal and Spotify - right at the source point. So what does it matter if a bit of jitter, noise and paraphernalia is added along the way?

But then if you want to spend 450$ for a product that is capably handled by a 40$ version, who is Aamir to object?

Cheers

I don't know about audiophile network switches but according to asr, he has shown to the world that power supplies do not matter in case of dacs also.

It is clear that whether you use the USB power, or the supplied switching power supply, there is absolutely no audible improvement in the output of the DAC with linear power supplies.

Based on my personal experience, either he is correct and i am deaf or he's wrong and i am not deaf. I know I am not deaf.
 
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Nikhil

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This thread reminds me of the USB / digital cable discussions a few years ago. Network protocols are logical constructs that are implemented with voltages and current down at the wire.

I have shared my experience with adding an LPS in my previous post. This is easy to do if you already have an LPS. If it doesn't make a difference then no need to proceed any further. The point being that the generic Meanwell type of SMPS that come with these switches are well known to be noisy. There are also other areas that these audiophile switches attempt to do - AC filters, case material (metal vs plastic, solid billet etc), wire material/design, etc. A generic switch is actually pretty trivial to tweak and many have attempted these in audio circles all over.

There are also variances in hardware suppliers i.e. the JCAT gear that uses Adnaco hardware is easily several notches above generic gear. Even within the standard offerings there are differences in build quality.

The only real issue is at times the prices that these audiophile grade switches are being offered at. Which brings into context at what level your audio gear is at. If we are talking about serious high end gear then the expectation is to have something that matches the level of the gear.


.
 

venkatcr

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Based on my personal experience, either he is correct and i am deaf or he's wrong and i am not deaf. I know I am not deaf.
Hearing is not a binary state - it is not I hear everything or I am deaf. There is a large range - 20-20000 hertz - that matter. As you grow older, you stop hearing beyond ~12,000 hertz.

In general, an human ear is sensitive to the 100-4000 hz frequency range. Of course if you use a specialsed environment or headphones, you can hear frequencies above and below this range. There are other species such as dogs and dolphins that can hear way beyond what the human can hear.

What we must all understand is this. Irrespective of how trained, golden, or sensitive our ears are, they cannot match the the sensitivity of a good oscilloscope. An oscilloscope can measure frequencies that the human ear cannot even discern.

In general, if you are hearing things the oscilloscope says is not there, what can it be other than you own imagination or perception? Berating measurements as being meaningless is a sheer waste of time. The value of any science is in measurements. Otherwise science will fall flat on its head. A scientific discussion is always concluded with precise measurements.

Cheers
 

Kannan

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ethernet by design is galvanically isolated, so I am not sure how much role a switch will play. That said Dante networks are popular and implemented in many devices. I have not heard them, but they have good reviews.
 

DB1989

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What we must all understand is this. Irrespective of how trained, golden, or sensitive our ears are, they cannot match the the sensitivity of a good oscilloscope. An oscilloscope can measure frequencies that the human ear cannot even discern.

In general, if you are hearing things the oscilloscope says is not there, what can it be other than you own imagination or perception? Berating measurements as being meaningless is a sheer waste of time. The value of any science is in measurements. Otherwise science will fall flat on its head. A scientific discussion is always concluded with precise measurements.

Cheers
Just wondering out loud - have we reached a stage where the aural sciences know of every single variable that is required to be measured? To put it another way, has humankind mapped out every single variable which makes a difference to our auditory perception i.e. our knowledge with respect to audio reproduction and hearing is complete?
 
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venkatcr

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Just wondering out loud - have we reached a stage where the aural sciences know of every single variable that is required to be measured? To put it another way, has humankind mapped out every single variable which makes a difference to our auditory perception i.e. our knowledge with respect to audio reproduction and hearing is complete?

Within the grasp of current scientific knowledge and capability - yes. If our auditory perception is behaving outside these known parameters, every discussion we have is meaningless.

Just remember one thing, ENT specialists operate with these known parameters to treat problems in your ears. If that itself is questioned, as I said before, we are in a perpetual quicksand.

Cheers
 

firearm12

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Hearing is not a binary state - it is not I hear everything or I am deaf. There is a large range - 20-20000 hertz - that matter. As you grow older, you stop hearing beyond ~12,000 hertz.

In general, an human ear is sensitive to the 100-4000 hz frequency range. Of course if you use a specialsed environment or headphones, you can hear frequencies above and below this range. There are other species such as dogs and dolphins that can hear way beyond what the human can hear.

What we must all understand is this. Irrespective of how trained, golden, or sensitive our ears are, they cannot match the the sensitivity of a good oscilloscope. An oscilloscope can measure frequencies that the human ear cannot even discern.

In general, if you are hearing things the oscilloscope says is not there, what can it be other than you own imagination or perception? Berating measurements as being meaningless is a sheer waste of time. The value of any science is in measurements. Otherwise science will fall flat on its head. A scientific discussion is always concluded with precise measurements.

Cheers

I am a lover of old bollywood music where nothing recorded went above 5khz. So I still fall within the frequency tolerance. We know 100 percent of how oscilloscopes work, afterall we created them. But yet science does not allow us to replace a poorly measured human year with a zillion times better measuring oscilloscope.
 

raghupb

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The OP asked a simple question :D
"Do I Really Need An Audio Grade Network Switch?"
The answer to this is: No

The non TL;DR version
Networking equipment is usually designed to work in very harsh environments, with lousy power and cheap wire.
Each layer in the stack adds some level of data integrity. Even 1GB switches can work without LPSUs.
Only in 10/25/40/100 GBps does PSU need a bit of attention.
If your home router is 100Mbps Cat 5/5E cables are 100% reliable to transfer data from point A to point B (and back).
If you truly have a gigabit+ FTTH internet connection and your home router is gigabit router (1Gbps), use Cat 6.
When using wired connections, every device has its own cable. Audio b/w requirement is very small.
Even 4K video with fancy audio needs about 20-30Mbps dedicated.
All bits are transferred from the point of entry (WAN segment on router) to device (LAN endpoint)

Edit:
It is the same router/ISP that you use to do money transfers, trade on stocks, make calls, and browse crazy stuff on this very forum.
All of them work, why not transfer of audio files or streaming.
Once it hits the DAC+Amp+Speakers, it is dark magic ;)

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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DB1989

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Within the grasp of current scientific knowledge and capability - yes. If our auditory perception is behaving outside these known parameters, every discussion we have is meaningless.
Pardon my comprehension but you seem to be implying that we know how to measure every single variable that has been scientifically proven to exist to a T.

But my question is different i.e. whether our knowledge is complete?
Just remember one thing, ENT specialists operate with these known parameters to treat problems in your ears. If that itself is questioned, as I said before, we are in a perpetual quicksand.
I agree 100%. If a thing has been proven through empirical scientific research that is well documented and peer reviewed, more often than not, it should generally be considered beyond reproach. It is neither practicable nor desirable to prove/disprove every single phenomenon (enter flat earthers).

But my question is much simpler, and since you've included ENTs into the fray - all I'm asking is, are these sciences including that which the ENT's have to deal with, in addition to the aural sciences, complete in every single respect and there is nothing else to add to these sciences? Are we at the pinnacle of human discovery and there is nothing left to theorise, much less prove the existence thereof?
 

imagineer

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The OP asked a simple question :D
"Do I Really Need An Audio Grade Network Switch?"
The answer to this is: No

The non TL;DR version
Networking equipment is usually designed to work in very harsh environments, with lousy power and cheap wire.
Each layer in the stack adds some level of data integrity. Even 1GB switches can work without LPSUs.
Only in 10/25/40/100 GBps does PSU need a bit of attention.
If your home router is 100Mbps Cat 5/5E cables are 100% reliable to transfer data from point A to point B (and back).
If you truly have a gigabit+ FTTH internet connection and your home router is gigabit router (1Gbps), use Cat 6.
When using wired connections, every device has its own cable. Audio b/w requirement is very small.
Even 4K video with fancy audio needs about 20-30Mbps dedicated.
All bits are transferred from the point of entry (WAN segment on router) to device (LAN endpoint)

Edit:
It is the same router/ISP that you use to do money transfers, trade on stocks, make calls, and browse crazy stuff on this very forum.
All of them work, why not transfer of audio files or streaming.
Once it hits the DAC+Amp+Speakers, it is dark magic ;)

Cheers,
Raghu
Fully agree. I am in this industry (N/W & Infra) for more than 20 years now. All you need to focus on errors, loops, latency and compatibility in stack (even that depends on the switching protocols being used). In a home setup, all this is mostly irrelevant. Unless someone has accidentally put the cables in incorrect ports or the couple of devices in use are really bad. In home networks, folks should just focus on better switching bandwidth, wired connectivity for immovable devices and good APs (for phones etc). Most of the times, the bottlenecks introduced are by Internet connectivity, age old NAS boxes which have slower disks (or NICs) than the network itself. n

My suggestion to preston8452, would be:
Even a good Wireless AP works as long as there are no blind spots, low interference and connection limits are honoured.
Wired connectivity should be preferred for the devices which you don't typically move. NAS, AVR, TV, Desktops and any other servers one might have etc

In my setup, I've couple of APs, one is strictly used for infra devices (the same AP also has few ethernet ports), has a separate SSID for few devices which I haven't connected to wires yet. The other AP is used for guests and few other devices.

The issues I face, are never about internal connectivity, one of the AP is some no brand WiFi device provided by ISP and still works fine for the usage. None of the devices are ever switched off and they still keep on working. No jitters, packet drops and latency issues.
 

venkatcr

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But my question is different i.e. whether our knowledge is complete?
Unless you are a Superman or an alien being with superior knowledge, you have to work within the confines of the the knowledge humans have. And, this knowledge improves every year. How? By the way of understanding and measuring using more advanced equipment. When you have better measurements, you start having a better understanding of the science.

all I'm asking is, are these sciences including that which the ENT's have to deal with, in addition to the aural sciences, complete in every single respect and there is nothing else to add to these sciences? Are we at the pinnacle of human discovery and there is nothing left to theorise, much less prove the existence thereof?

Do you have any evidence to prove something different? When you have a discussion, it must be based on some empirical evidence, something you can plonk on the table so that others in the discussion can view it, understand it, and, measure it. If not, you are just a person who wants to be a different from everyone else, but does not understand in what way.

As I said before, science is constantly improving every year. But if you start questioning the very basis of science with something vague, something you claim only you understand, there is no scope for any discussion. Scientists are constantly questioning the scope of our knowledge for the betterment of our knowledge. But unless they can prove what they theorize with solid evidence, it is just a thought process, a way of thinking. Nothing more. Good scientists never question the current standards or beliefs. And their theory has to be peer reviewed and tested repeatedly till its stays strong.

Start believing in science and measurements. Otherwise next time you are sitting on a train that is moving at a measured 60kmph, you can always ask relative to what? Are we really moving? Is it really 60kmph?

That kind of questioning and thought process can never be the way science works.

Cheers
 

firearm12

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Start believing in science and measurements. Otherwise next time you are sitting on a train that is moving at a measured 60kmph, you can always ask relative to what? Are we really moving? Is it really 60kmph?

This is exactly what Mr. Einstein thought. No one is against science and loves it to core. It's only science that has taken us so far and will continue to take us forward. Observing things and asking why why why is healthy otherwise science will be dead.
 
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