Do router and ethernet cables affect sound quality?

OM_2K19

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Quite a thought-provoking discussion.
 

nileshk82

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Quite a thought-provoking discussion.
Hi, data from the Ethernet cable / Router doesn't impact music quality if streamed locally (NAS etc). But, music quality could degrade when the files are streamed over a slow Internet connection.
 

gourav

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Pretty sure there will be a few people who believe it does. Just a few days back there was a discussion about an "audiophile" SSD and the discussion got pretty heated at times. I eventually stopped following the thread after 60-70 replies.

I'm not very technically knowledgeable, but my understanding is that till the data gets converted to analogue, the chain shouldn't affect sound quality at all. This is because as long as the data is digital, it's just 1s and 0s. There are checks and balances at every stage to ensure that these 1s and 0s are not lost during transport. So regardless of what you have in your chain, the end result is same. For video, the result can get affected because of speed, but in audio, mostly that's not an issue, most modern transport layers (except Bluetooth) are way too fast to bottleneck audio streams.

The audio quality can start getting affected from the DAC stage onwards since it's getting converted to analogue here and hereon it's voltage variance and not 1s and 0s. So there is no way for the receiving device to counter any loss in fidelity.

Of course, there are extraneous factors which have nothing to do with the data being digital. For instance, if you feel that CDs make a spinning sound while vinyl doesn't, that's got nothing to do with CD being digital and just the mechanism of how the stack operates.
 

amit11

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My experimentation says yes. I have 2 wifi routers connecting to my streamer via erhernet cable and each gives a slightly different sound.
I also tried with 2 ethernet cable cat6 vs cat8 and both sounded slightly different.

I think it is not the data which impacts, but rather the current flowing thru the cable. Each router and cable, may differ (slightly) in terms of the voltage/current and that creates the diffrrence. Ultimaltelyy the current (noise in current) will have impact to some extent to the destination equipment.
 

amrutmhatre90

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My experimentation says yes. I have 2 wifi routers connecting to my streamer via erhernet cable and each gives a slightly different sound.
I also tried with 2 ethernet cable cat6 vs cat8 and both sounded slightly different.

I think it is not the data which impacts, but rather the current flowing thru the cable. Each router and cable, may differ (slightly) in terms of the voltage/current and that creates the diffrrence. Ultimaltelyy the current (noise in current) will have impact to some extent to the destination equipment.

Sir,
What about WiFi? Have you tried that too?
 

mbhangui

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This is easy to see if the cable quality affects the output. Use a lower quality ethernet cable and open a google spreadsheet to ensure that you are reading an excel sheet over the network. Keep the chrome tab open. Then replace the ethernet cable with a better pricier cable. Open exactly the same spreadsheet in another chrome tab. Compare the two with your eyes. You may use a magnifying glass for greater resolution. The spreadsheet which shows brighter and punchier numbers and numerals, select that ethernet cable for your audio.

They say seeing is believing but hearing can be gossip
 
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alpha1

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My experimentation says yes. I have 2 wifi routers connecting to my streamer via erhernet cable and each gives a slightly different sound.
I also tried with 2 ethernet cable cat6 vs cat8 and both sounded slightly different.

I think it is not the data which impacts, but rather the current flowing thru the cable. Each router and cable, may differ (slightly) in terms of the voltage/current and that creates the diffrrence. Ultimaltelyy the current (noise in current) will have impact to some extent to the destination equipment.
Somewhat similar to how I get my pdf and excel files corrupted every time using my old TP-link router, but perfect file every time I use my new Cisco router.
?
 

amit11

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I am not surprised at people laughing at my answer, OR giving explanation about computer screen/pdf files etc.

I too was in the same boat few months ago, and I also did not belive that router / ethernet cable can affect the final sound. So at that time I had decided to experiment myself, and I was able to find some difference, thats it. If you can hear the difference fine, if you cannot then also its fine. Experiment and try and find it out yourself.

Having said that, i will try to make more clear, as it got clear to me gradually over the time.

We are talking about 2 things. First point is easy to understand and digest for many. It is the second point which most people do not focus on and miss the point.

a) Data related issue ( called as jitter, timing issue etc) --> This is easy to understand for most

b) Current / voltages related issue in the signal (also called as noise / current noise / minor fluctuations / not the perfect analog signal)

--> This point #b is i was not aware in the past, and it took some time for me to grasp its understanding.
--> This point #b is where the issue happens even if point #a is perfect.
 

venkatcr

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And my TP-Link has never failed me over the last 15 years. Not lost a single byte on any spreadsheet, word file, PDF, image, or video.

Not sure about audio files, though. Sometimes I feel Rafi has developed a bad throat. Must be the Omicron affecting the Network.

Cheers to good music.
 

mbhangui

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I am not surprised at people laughing at my answer, OR giving explanation about computer screen/pdf files etc.

I too was in the same boat few months ago, and I also did not belive that router / ethernet cable can affect the final sound. So at that time I had decided to experiment myself, and I was able to find some difference, thats it. If you can hear the difference fine, if you cannot then also its fine. Experiment and try and find it out yourself.
I can categorically say that I wasn't laughing at your answer. I believe all audio equipments get affected by noise. Ethernet cables are getting better and better and removing noise and that's why cables can so easily do 1 Gigabit per second, 10 Gigabit per sec. Few years back, noise and capacitance didn't allow you to transmit beyond a certain length of the cable. The difference between a good ethernet cable and a snake oil cable will be none and in some cases a snake oil cable should be worse. Snake oil salesmen often use terms like gold plated, oxygen free copper, some unobtainium metal used in construction of the cable. What people don't realize is silver and copper are better conductors of electricity than gold. But the difference between a good ethernet cable and another (let's say double, tripple good) cable will be so negligible that the difference that the dac will dish out will be even more neglible for a normal human being to hear.

Also psychoacoustic is real. I'm not immune to it and neither will you be. Hearing is a sense lower in ranking to vision. There are enough studies that shows that hearing gets affected by what you see and that's the reason we have blind tests. So in most cases when you know you are using better ethernet cables, better amplifier, better speakers, costlier equipment you will actually hear the audio better. Our brain will tell us that we are hearing better quaility of sound. For some better sound comes from better looking equipment, for some costlier equipment and for some better measuring equipment.

EDIT: Here is the link to the study https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04475-1. Visual queues can affect hearing as much as 20 ms which is enough to completely change the music that you are hearing. This delay causes you to resort to an artificial selection mechanism.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports looked at the effect of gaze direction on hearing, with some interesting results. They found that the brain needs to work harder to hear when we are looking away from what we are listening to. This happened even when participants were put in a dark room and asked to either direct their gaze at a speaker in front of them or look away. When they looked away the researchers found that the participant’s reaction times were slower and their brain was more active (working harder to listen for the sound).

What this says is that our eyes and ears work together more than we may realize. Looking at what you are listening to helps you hear it better. It is believed that the brain expects us to be looking at what we are listening too, and it has to work harder to fix the misalignment when we are not looking at the sound source.

For everyday listening, this means it will be easier to follow a conversation if we are looking at the people we are speaking to rather than trying to listen when they are behind us or in another room. This is especially important for people with hearing loss, where the ability to follow conversation is already compromised. Being able to see someone’s face also provides us with non verbal cues that help us determine what they are saying.

(EEG) studies in humans have shown that endogenous auditory attention can amplify event related potentials (ERPs) to sounds as early as 20 ms after stimulus onset10,11,12,13. These early attentional effects are thought to reflect a sensory selection mechanism, based on readily discriminable features such as spatial location10, 14. In addition to unisensory auditory attention, covert visual attention to the location of a sound can both amplify ERPs, as well as facilitate behavioural responses to auditory targets15,16,17, demonstrating the potential impact of visual information on auditory processing.
 
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mbhangui

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This applies to the world war 3 that we are having in our forum regarding cables, asr, measurements, digital vs analog etc.

We don’t experience our senses individually. Rather, our brain meshes with our vision and hearing to create our conscious experience of the world. What you see can influence what you hear, and likewise hearing can affect vision.

Although speech is perceived through the ears, what we see can change what we hear. In the following YouTube video, a man produces the same syllable over and over again. If you watch his mouth, you’ll hear the syllable “fah,” but if you look away you’ll hear “bah.” Although your ears hear “bah,” your eyes see “fah,” and even in speech your brain trusts vision over hearing. This phenomenon is known as the McGurk effect.
Our intuition tell us that our senses are separate streams of information. We see with our eyes, hear with our ears, feel with our skin, smell with our nose, taste with our tongue. In actuality, though, the brain uses the imperfect information from each sense to generate a virtual reality that we call consciousness. It’s our brain’s best guess as to what’s out there in the world. But that best guess isn’t always right.
 

raghupb

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I think this question was posed by an FM a few days ago.
"Do I need an audio grade router/switch?"
Short answer. No

If any of you is interested in the science of data transmission read further.
I work in the N/W industry and do know a bit of this stuff.

The 2 most common n/w protocols used for data transfer or streaming are:
- TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)
- UDP (User Datagram Protocol)
TCP is a "connection oriented" mechanism which is required for data integrity and for time insensitive transfers.
UDP is a "connection less" mechanism which is used for data transfer which is time sensitive.

Common examples of TCP being used are file transfers, web browsing, etc. Here data integrity is paramount. It is OK for the web page to load in 0.5 secs or 1.5 secs, but it should load correctly and completely. How does TCP guarantee this? Connection oriented mechanism. If there is a loss of data, re-transmission is applied until everything is delivered.

Common examples of UDP being used are audio/video transfers. Here data is time sensitive. If a chuck of audio or video data arrives late, it is useless. Re-transmission does not help. But this protocol is light weight compared to TCP hence the wide usage.

Let's talk about Audio streaming.
Streaming service (e.g Spotify/Tidal) <--> ISP <--> Your home router <--> Application/player --> DAC --> Amp --> Speakers
Networking is involved from the Streaming service to Application/player (note the bi-di arrows to highlight networking segment)
Here the service may choose to use TCP to render their collection for user browsing etc and UDP for actual audio streaming.
Why?
One cannot browse if the data integrity is compromised or incomplete.
But one can still hear songs even if a small chunk of data was lost. It will only result in a jump or a null in the song.
So does Spotify/Tidal use UDP? Actually, no. They use TCP, because TCP allows data throttling based on end user speed (read your great or lousy ISP). With TCP, streaming services can utilize available bandwidth better as compared to UDP. More and more services are switching to TCP, if not using it already.

In the Application/player, there is something called a buffer (or fifo). This is required to pre-fetch a chunk of data during playback.
Usually these buffers are determined by application or sometimes user has a bit of control.
Buffer under run is when audio problems materialize. This happens only when your ISP connection is bad (very low data rate say 1 or 2 Mbps)
Otherwise audio files will stream without any degradation or improvement over the dinky fiber/copper through the humble router and ethernet cable. Yes, even yesteryear cat 5 cable at 100Mbps. It just works for audio and even high speed video.

All of the dark magic is DAC onwards.
Say DAC is Voldemort (villain), Amp is Sauron (villain), Speakers are like Thanos (villain) and the room is like, well ... Loki (god of mischief) the entire network is a cute little Santa elf. It is a harmless little elf that keeps delivering the goods.
After all the villains in your audio chain, you will still be like "Mogambo khush hua" (For international FMs, Mogambo was a very famous Indian film villain, and his favorite line roughly translates to "Mogambo is happy")

The network will not corrupt the audio experience at minute level which can be discerned by golden ears. Only at gross level, works or not works.
If you still want to invest in audio grade router (+ LPSU) and CAT x cables, go ahead. It does not have any bearing to audio sound quality, period.
Where you hear differences are from DAC onwards only.

PS:
This slipped my mind when I was typing out the above explanation.
TCP/UDP are protocols that ride on top of IP and L2 (layer 2)
L2 has FCS (frame check sequence), IP has a checksum, TCP/UDP has checksums, application layer may have its own data integrity checks.
There is no way a 1 can become a 0 or vice versa or quasi level without being flagged as a data error followed by re-transmission if using TCP.
If data error occurs when using UDP, packet loss happens and there will be a null or gap in music.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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jls001

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I am not surprised at people laughing at my answer,
We often have the view that "digital is digital" and so passive network elements like Ethernet cables should all work the same (except for bandwidth differences inherent in the various generations of Ethernet cables). Or active network elements like routers and switches when used in audio specific networks should not produce perceptible sonic differences, etc., but the strange fact is they all produce different sonics, sometimes slight and subtle, but often very obvious.

If using Ethernet cables in the home audio network, there's a cheap experiment one can try for oneself. Assuming one is already using a bog standard Belden (or any similar) CAT 5 or 6 or 7 patch cable, replace that patch with an Amazon Basics CAT 8. Note down your observations on the noise floor and whether there is change in presentation of the music (lively, cold, sterile, warm, neutral), etc. It's a cheap and fast way to prove/disprove for oneself that digital cables sound different (or not!).

Variation on the same theme: try different S/PDIF digital coax cables.
 

sbg

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I guess, these discussions are in the wrong category, In my opinion:rolleyes:, these are better placed in in "Metaphysics" .
Including the ...SSD storage threads.
...
hmm.. on second thought , I firmly believe these should be in Metaphysics!
 

jls001

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Snake oil salesmen often use terms like gold plated, oxygen free copper, some unobtainium metal used in construction of the cable. What people don't realize is silver and copper are better conductors of electricity than gold. But the difference between a good ethernet cable and another (let's say double, tripple good) cable will be so negligible that the difference that the dac will dish out will be even more neglible for a normal human being to hear.
Gold plating for electrical connections is done out of necessity to prevent rusting of contact points, the sonic signature it imparts being a mere side effect of its presence in the electrical chain. Of course this hasn't prevented some people from making actual audio cables with gold:)

Conductivity is but one quantifiable parameter of metal. What isn't immediately quantifiable is why, for example, OCC copper or Ohno Cast Copper or soft annealed silver, sound so different when used in audio.
 

Enkay78

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This applies to the world war 3 that we are having in our forum regarding cables, asr, measurements, digital vs analog etc.

We don’t experience our senses individually. Rather, our brain meshes with our vision and hearing to create our conscious experience of the world. What you see can influence what you hear, and likewise hearing can affect vision.

Although speech is perceived through the ears, what we see can change what we hear. In the following YouTube video, a man produces the same syllable over and over again. If you watch his mouth, you’ll hear the syllable “fah,” but if you look away you’ll hear “bah.” Although your ears hear “bah,” your eyes see “fah,” and even in speech your brain trusts vision over hearing. This phenomenon is known as the McGurk effect.

I believe if many of our FMs understand that psychoacoustics play a big role in our subjective assessements, most of the difference of opinion and perspectives …..including towards measurements will disappear.

Objective….and hence measurements becomes important when we want to compare and have an idea of transparency not biased by subjective bias.
 

Analogous

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I’m about to do this. Presently my Denon CDP is connected to my E50 Topping via a basic digital coax that came free with something.
Will swap it with a Profigold coax cable I bought.
Please get someone else to swap the cables without showing or telling you which one is connected ( also not showing you which one is not connected :cool: )
Just call them cable 1 and cable 2
I definitely would be interested in your observations!
 

alpha1

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After consumption of a serving of wine, my music system suddenly sounds much more smooth/less harsh, but lower in volume.
Ergo wine must make the music sound better, albeit at the cost of lower SPL.
 

Analogous

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After consumption of a serving of wine, my music system suddenly sounds much more smooth/less harsh, but lower in volume.
Ergo wine must make the music sound better, albeit at the cost of lower SPL.
Now if you can specify the quantum and vintage of the wine it will be objectively measurable :)
 
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