Audiophile Ethernet cables snake oil

I have earlier posted about Audio trends and snake oil. What annoyed then and still today in marketing and media that too often today then talking on hi-fi, science is replaced by bizarre belief structures and marketing fluff. It seems that there too many snake oil rubbish products marketed in the name of hifi. It is irritating to watch the stupid people in the world be fooled with things like exotic materials, directional cables, thousand dollar IEC power cables, and all that rubbish. “If you pay ridiculous money for these cable you will hear a difference, but don’t expect your friends to”

I can agree that in analogue interconnect cables there are few cases where better cables can result in cleaner sound. And there are very many cases where there is no objectively noticeable difference.

In digital interconnect cables story is different than on those analogue interconnect cables. Generally in digital interconnect cables the communication either works, does not work or sometimes work unreliably. The digital cable either gets the bits to the other end or not, it does not magically alter the sound that goes through the cable.

But this digital interconnect cables characteristics has not stopped hifi marketers to make very expensive cable products that are marketed with unbelievable claims. Ethernet has come to audio world, so there are hifi audiophile Ethernet cables that do not make sense to me. With Ethernet the data either gets through the cable without any changes to it, or it does not get through at all. Ethernet has checksum on every data packets to detect for any errors (which are rare) in the transmission and all the packets that have data changed in any any way are discarded. So Ethernet cable can not not magically slightly alter the digital sound that goes through the cable.

Here are links to two articles on such expensive audiophile Ethernet cables:
Is streaming cable more or less expensive than $1000 audiophile snake-oil ethernet cable ?
https://audiobacon.net/2019/11/02/the-jcat-signature-lan-a-1000-ethernet-cable/

Gallery: We tear apart a $340 audiophile Ethernet cable and look inside
https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/07/gallery-we-tear-apart-a-340-audiophile-ethernet-cable-and-look-inside/

Apart from the absurdly high price tag and more mechanically robust connectors, I see nothing special on those cables for carrying the data signal. I suppose those does look quite attractive to some users and this makes them willing to pay the high price.

Despite the fact that some people desperately want there to be audiophile Ethernet cables, there simply is no such thing. The IEEE standards do not include a superset of specifications that make a regular Cat-7 cable into an “audiophile” Cat-7 cable. If you still believe those “audiophile Ethernet” cables sounding better, please inform yourself how an Ethernet and Ethernet cable works.

jasonfilley_Network_Cable

138 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    sNI-1G
    Ethernet card for high-end audio.
    https://sotm-audio.com/sotm_shop/index.php?id_product=105&rewrite=sni-1g&controller=product&id_lang=1

    There are already a number of network audio devices on the market, but it would be fair to say that none of them yet have Ethernet ports designed for audio purpose.

    When USB audio devices were available on the market more than 10 years ago, there were many questions about the practicality of audio purpose USB cables or like the USB host card products. It’s probably because people thought that the digital interface only transmits data represented by 0 and 1. However, these audio purpose USB products are now the basis of digital audio systems, and the audio-purpose network card, sNI-1G, will also play an indispensable and important role in digital audio devices.

    There are high-frequency noise flowing from the network port, and it can be beyond our imagination. Since it is noise of very high frequency components, it passes through various devices and parts to the DAC’s circuit, and results in deterioration of sound quality. Without understanding this process, it will be difficult to find out why you should use the network card for audio purpose.

    Although noise from AC power line is commonly known, the noise from Ethernet port is different from that of AC power, so careful technical review is required for Ethernet port.

    This carefully reviewed network port, sNI-1G, provides a complete transmission of network audio streaming, as well as a very clear improvement in medium-to-low transparency and the instrument’s texture and wide-to-deep stage expression, enabling you to experience a completely new level of sound.

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The speed of light in vacuum is 2.998 × 108 m/s, which is approximately equal to 1 ft/ns. In most coaxial cable and many twisted pair wires, the speed of an electrical signal is about 2/3 of this.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    “Warmth” = distortion I like.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PVC is very lossy compared to Teflon or Polyethilene

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Do Audio Cables Make a Difference? They certainly can, but it’s important to note that cables don’t “improve” your sound. Their purpose is to translate sound from the source as transparently as possible.

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Do expensive audio cables make a difference?
    An expensive cable might sound worse on your system than cheap cable. … The important thing to remember is that even if it does sound better, it’s such a minuscule improvement that pretty much anything else you can do will have a greater effect on the sound.
    https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-cheap-and-expensive-audio-cables

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sorry to say, WAV is the best because every pressure level is a number, 41,000 times a second or whatever the sample rate is which dictates the accuracy, the noise floor is consistently low, you can’t get any better

    Vinyl had its unique sound because it’s analog, it sounds nice yes, but it’s got its setbacks because of physical limits it’s plagued with, some that require some level of audio processing to overcome or “hide” from the listeners ear.

    In reality, the most truely accurate analog audio media is reel to reel 4 track tape, but that format is not cheap, was never cheap, and it’s not convenient to use.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A well engineered vinyl record, that is in good condition, is really amazing, when you consider whats going on… A wavy groove, mechanically driving a stylus to create an analogue signal… Same principle as edison’s cylinders… Yes they sound good, but a well engineered piece of music done digitally is just as amazing and with a “background” of silence…….

    Some people are a bit of a fan of “old school”.
    But digital is really amazing when all “elements” are done right

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    For some people:
    The “sounds better ” is distortion

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    All comes down to the transfer of the original tapes. Some CDs are better than vinyl, and some vinyl is better than CD.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Just learn how to play CD & Hi-Res . Better sound, then Vinyl 75db dynamic range

    Regardless of the cartridge/stylus/turntable everytime a vinyl record is played it’s sound quality declines. CD’s are virtually bullet proof.

    CDs also break down over time, the plastic warps and destroys the data with it. I’ve lost quite a few unfortunately.

    I have used all, nothing is perfect. Its what sounds good to you and what you are willing to accept, compromise and afford.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Dubious $4,349 audiophile network switch runs at slow 100 Mbps for ‘lower operating noise’ — Innuos Phoenix switch ignores reality
    https://www.tomshardware.com/networking/dubious-dollar4349-audiophile-network-switch-runs-at-slow-100-mbps-for-lower-operating-noise-innuos-phoenix-switch-ignores-reality?utm_medium=social&utm_content=tomsguide&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=socialflow&fbclid=IwAR2HwP31qXfyCrW0nNIBGACBbl37bhBcWzYBMGFOxaEEakIPhBhhL_Tmb6I

    An audiophile and his money are soon parted.

    A new three-port network switch designed for audiophiles has become available to purchase. Priced at an astronomical $4,349, the Innuos PhoenixNET comes with a multitude of eyebrow-raising audio quality claims about signal purity, low noise, better instrument separation, and enhanced realism. However, adding insult to our already injured intelligence, this premium-priced switch offers paltry 100 Mbps performance, as it the company claims that older / slower technology “results in lower operating noise floor compared to Gigabit.”

    Innuos indicates the audiophile PhoenixNET design resulted from its focus on four network switch technology areas: minimizing network switch noise, increasing clocking precision and stability, providing pristine power to components, and minimizing component vibration. To fulfill these objectives it has chosen to do things like limit the switch electronics to 100 Mbps, for the aforementioned audio fidelity improvements.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Can someone explain to me the concept of the “Burn in”?
    Says you can pay extra to “Burn in” the cable.
    24hrs 48 hrs 72hrs etc
    https://www.futureshop.co.uk/audioquest-diamond-rj-e-ethernet-cable?fbclid=IwAR3dTFjA_kzlGImkqqM4mc1N3ky7yP5ro_CFkp5NTFuAsbqBB45B8pb4g4o

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    For most audio cables the signal propagation speed is around 200 million m/s. That gives a delay of roughly 5 ns per metre of cable.

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    You can’t believe everything you read on the internet….. But I found a post from a retired McIntosh sales guys about audiophiles and cables…. Basically the cable companies came out with these fancy cables and need to market them, McIntosh and other companies had to start using them or the customers didn’t believe they were getting the best… Apparently McIntosh did blind tests and nobody could tell the difference.

    You can’t believe everything you read on the internet….. But I found a post from a retired McIntosh sales guys about audiophiles and cables…. Basically the cable companies came out with these fancy cables and need to market them, McIntosh and other companies had to start using them or the customers didn’t believe they were getting the best… Apparently McIntosh did blind tests and nobody could tell the difference.

    I remember seeing an article doing a blind test of multi thousand dollar speaker cables to stripped wire coat hangers.

    No one could tell a difference.

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Stack Audio SmoothLAN network filter
    https://youtu.be/sDiHFYHKij4?si=QJxuA_SEr_tTc7tt

    Reading between the lines, a waste of time then.

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Crosstalk is usually caused by undesired capacitive, inductive, or conductive coupling from one circuit or channel to another.

    Crosstalk is a significant issue in structured cabling, audio electronics, integrated circuit design, wireless communication and other communications systems.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosstalk

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    No one in pro audio would use those. The top cables in pro audio are Hosa, Mogami, Neutrix, and Shure. For longer cables and custom rigs they use Whirlwind, Seismic, and GLS.

    Michael Gruver actually you maybe a little behind on current pro audio cabling. I’ll bring you up to date :

    https://soundtools.com/cables-page-scs.html

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Few cases where isolators could help:
    1. You have a ground loop caused by shielded Ethernet cable
    2. Your Ethernet devices are poorly designed so that they let a lot of noise in and out
    3. Safety standard needs you to use an approved isolator (some systems in medical facilities)

    For 1 using unshielded cables helps.
    For 2 get properly designer gear.

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    “Yup… The O and 1 are more “round” after the filter… ”

    Actually the shape of bits get slightly rounder and weaker after going through the signal isolation transformer. Bits get also rounder and weaker with longer cable runs. Bits will no any better with rounding and attenuation, but as long as they are still good enough, the data goes through without any changes. And when bits get to too bad shape, and the data starts to change, the checksums in audio protocols will catch those errors before you hear sound change (either get loss of sound or there will be packet retransmission that gets right data to playback device in time).

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Based on on-line reviews:
    When you open up these supposed magic Ethernet switches it’s just the bottom of the barrel oem shit thrown in a different case. Always amusing to see the depth of the con in this world.

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lossless Audio Does Not Sound Better Than MP3
    Audiophiles swear lossless music sounds richer than MP3, but most people don’t hear a difference at all
    https://gizmodo.com/lossless-audio-does-not-sound-better-than-mp3-1851341155

    Reply
  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    All the extra length to allow it to go round a curve. Ludicrous.
    The longer the cable, the lower the damping factor, or the amplifier’s ability to control the driver’s movement.

    Easy. Place power amp directly behind speaker, almost touching. Use the thickest diameter ofc copper possible, with the shortest length.

    Better still, put the amplifier (s) in the same box.as the the speaker and use an active crossover.

    Reply
  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Stelios Kirkalas most switches perform very well in those aspect when they are lightly loaded. When you are pushing near the full capacity,

    John Cunningham Since you mention packet loss, I’m going to bring up some related topics and leave them here:

    1. Packet loss and retransmission is part of data rate regulation in the TCP protocol. Bufferbloat results from naively allowing clients to saturate oversized buffers while starving others (often because of a policy of a avoiding packet loss at all costs). The problem isn’t confined to TCP. Bufferbloat prevention typically requires some form of active queue management (see the “fq_codel” and “cake” algorithms and the research of Jim Gettys and Dave Taht.)

    2. In addition to Dante, there is a standards-based protocol suite known as AVB (audio-video bridging). Like Dante, it addresses a lot of concerns that arise in all but the most lightly-loaded of networking environments, and even more so than Dante, it requires switching hardware that provides support for certain required network protocols that are not yet common in commodity network hardware.

    Audiophiles interested in networked audio would do well to be well-versed in the fundamentals of active queue management (and what happens without it), Dante, and AVB. In addition to being worthy subjects unto themselves, knowledge of them goes far to inoculate one against marketing-speak designed to snare audiophools.

    Reply
  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Stelios Kirkalas most switches perform very well in those aspect when they are lightly loaded. When you are pushing near the full capacity, differences start to show up. I have designed products with ethernet switch and firewall functionality and done testing of performance. My application field has been industrial automation with real time needs. Multicast fearures is thing that is different between switches, what standard are supported and how well they work.

    Reply
  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Stelios Kirkalas it’s being packetized and reclocked on the the other end no matter what the latency. No streaming does one sample per frame, so it’s not jitter in the traditional sense.

    There is always some audible latency as soon as you hit a router or firewall. You’ll never see a ping of <1ms over the internet. “Real time” streaming still has a slight delay, even in the broadcast field.

    Stelios Kirkalas in real time time pro audio where latency needs to be minimize things different than audiophile using some streaming protocol.

    Reply

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