(Searching for an Audiophile Grade Ethernet Switch)
By Robert Witrak, President & Chief Engineer, HDTT
We have been using Merging Technologies ADCs and DACs for years now, in conjunction with the Ravenna network, which Merging implements to distribute the signals via ethernet (RJ45). It is a very reliable system with great bandwidth for the highest sampling rates.
The one component that has been evading me for a few years is an audiophile-grade ethernet switch. As high-resolution playback has increased in popularity in the last 10 to 15 years, component manufacturers have seen the advantage of using ethernet cable (RJ45) as a great way to distribute the audio signals, especially for pro audio studios. Such cable has the speed and the ability to connect multiple computers, DACs, NAS drives, etc., to one network.
An ethernet switch is a small computer with its own memory, processing chip, etc. As audiophiles know, computers tend to generate noise which in turn can put a haze over the music you are hearing. I have personally taken noise readings when using a normal switch, and it was very high. As a result, it has been a priority for me to find a way to avoid this negative aspect resulting from this particular weak link in the chain.
Along came Synergistic Research, which announced a new Audiophile Switch, which immediately caught my interest. As audiophiles know, Synergistic makes some of the best cables, power conditioners and other components in the industry. I immediately got in touch with David over at Synergistic, and they graciously let me try their new switch and also included some of their fantastic ethernet cables and power cords. The construction of a router is critical in high-resolution file playback, and as you can read below from the Synergistic product description, it looks like they put the work in:
“Over the years, we’ve developed technologies that redefined what we can expect from our audio systems. Products like the original PowerCell with its patented EM Cell set the bar as the world's first noncurrent limiting AC power conditioner. We then adapted its EM Cell technology to our Tranquility Base isolation platforms that condition signal while still in a component and power cords with Active EM Cells built-in to function as inline power conditioners. We’ve even applied EM Cells to bias system ground in our Active Ground Block ground conditioners and to our FEQ and Atmosphere ULF Field Generators that control room acoustics without the need for massive traditional room treatments. We’ve continued this decade-long adaption of EM Cell technology to condition the digital signal in an Ethernet Switch for perhaps our most transformational product since the original PowerCell line conditioner. It is no secret that digital sound quality has taken monumental strides forward since the days of “Perfect Sound Forever.” It’s also no secret that many audiophiles, including our Lead Designer, find much to love about the sound of analog playback from LPs and Tapes.”
And how does it sound?
It makes a huge stride forward in making digital sound closer to an analog ideal, with a lower noise floor and a much cleaner signal. Honestly, after using the new switch, I wouldn’t want to be without it. This improvement really solidified our mastering chain, and if you utilize an Ethernet Switch, we highly recommend the Synergistic Ethernet Switch together with their excellent cables.