Which ethernet cable?

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ThisIsJimmy

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Nov 11, 2020
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There have been a number of positive reviews of cables and switches from the HI-Fi press, including “What Hi-Fi”, owner of this forum over the years.

However, where they state a positive recommendation for an expensive cable or switch, how did they come to this conclusion.
The problem I have here is not that they recommend it because it makes an improvement, but what are they benchmarking against to begin with? What is the environment like in the house or testing environment? Where is the router/switch going to be located they are patching into? What's equipment/devices are around the switch or cable? Where does the cable need to travel between and what is the distance? What is the end device they are testing this with? What is the testing applications suite? Browsing through a bunch of reviews, I cannot find an example of where this is all provided.

A decent Ethernet cable manufacturer usually has a load of blurb on their cable which may look similar to the attached patch lead image which gives a very good indication about whether or not you are using the right cable in the correct environment.

If the benchmark a reviewer is testing against is an unbranded, unshielded CAT5 cable, that for example, travels near an amplifier, and they are testing using a UDP stream application, then the result of the performance comparison from what we have already discussed shoud be self explanatory and should not need a listening test to know which will be better.

Comparing the Excel Cable I have pictured against an Audiophile cable I just jumped onto future shop and picked out a random cable: https://www.futureshop.co.uk/audioquest-cat6-pearl-rj-e-ethernet-cable-custom

The initial statement falls in line with the CAT6 cabling standard - 10Gb to 55m
From the descriptions and specifications provided it suggests the outer sheaf is shielded, but doesn't not mention any shielding on the copper twisted pairs, so looks like a form of S/UTP cable (Shielded with unshielded twisted pair).
The silliest statement I found was that this is a "directional cable" and that "The correct direction is determined by listening to every batch of metal conductors"... From the videos I have already posted above about how computer communication works, i'll let you come to your own conclusions about that. As for the price, £17.50 vs £8.50 I found for the excel F/FTP (Foiled with Foiled twisted pairs) cable.

If you know what you are looking for here for starters, narrowing down any ethernet cable choice becomes much easier and would make any comparable review directly comparable, relative and informative.

If the switch makes that much of a difference, to me it really says something about an issue with the environment it is located in. What is around it? Sticking it on top of an amplifier of subwoofer is silly. Likewise near christmas tree lights or your microwave isn't a smart place either or near to cordless home telephone. If you router is performing badly or making a weird noise get your ISP to replace it. Finally, where is the UDP streaming source as this protocol is where the difference would be notable on any comparison.

If you know your are working an an EM heavy environment, then hardened industrial switch's are available, though like AV switches these too are very expensive as they are built for a purpose.
 

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ThisIsJimmy

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Nov 11, 2020
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No doubt the original XLRs were made with identical cable on both the left and right channels Jimmy.
So how could (working) cables have been the cause of any imbalance?
I think in this case it's not necessarilly the cable, but i'm wondering if the performance is because this isn't a pre-manufactured XLR-XLR cable, but made up cable order from ebay. The cabling these cables was made from, the Mogami Neglex 2534 which looks to be a popular cable. Is it worth getting these sent off to be reterminated?

Objectively in hindsight the only thing I haven't done is tried swapping the existing cables round.

Initially I wondered if:

1) It was my ears - I've always had issues with my right ear. Ruled this out when listening through my Impact Universal which is digitally channel balanced
2) It's also not headphone related because of the above
3) I wondered if it was the Volume POT on the Topping A90 - this is a rather common complaint about this Amplifier. Topping having just rolled out the A90 Discrete with full channel balancing, and this did have me wondering if it would be any better or not, or whether I should swap my XLR Interconnects out before making the plunge. I'm glad i did the latter. Even if it turns out now that this is the POT on the amplifier, it's not noticeable now with my new QED Reference XLR 40 2 XLR to 2 XLR Audio Cable Pair.
 

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Gray

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I wondered if it was the Volume POT on the Topping A90
That seems more likely, though as you're suggesting, it wouldn't explain why the new XLR leads cured it.

I doubt there's anything wrong the e-bay seller's construction but, if you've got one, you could just use a multimeter's continuity check to confirm input to output pin 1 to 1, 2 to 2 and 3 to 3 on each of those original XLR leads.
 
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RobGardner

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Jul 22, 2008
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The stream over your Ethernet system will only be as good as the weakest link, so changing a single cable will probably make little difference. Even running a single upgraded cable directly between your router and streamer will likely not make much difference unless other factors are accounted for.
In a complex Ethernet system with switches, changing a few cables in key locations can improve audio quality (Just) But I have found that much more is needed to get significant gains in audio quality.. The good news is that if the whole system is optimised the benefits can be shared over more than one device and while not cheap as chips, with careful sourcing it needn’t cost a large ( in hifi terms) amount of your hard earned cash.
I have done the following with excellent results, but it was only once everything was in place that the audio and audio visual quality really took off to another level.

1 - Good quality Ethernet cables, I chose uGreen cat8 for the significant emi/ Rfi shielding and quality construction. I initially used these everywhere but now I use these mainly for the long runs. At key points I now have home made cat8 Ethernet cables using DH Labs reunion cable with Telegartner connectors. I would like more of these cables but can’t get hold of the cable off of the reel anymore and while they do bring improvements it’s not night and day.. I have tried various other high end ethernet cables and while there is sometimes a sound quality uplift, generally, it’s not worth the considerable amount of money for the tiny incremental gain in audio quality. With a sub optimal Ethernet loom I would expect even less uplift.

2 - Good quality switches, I have one Chord English electric audio switch and a home tweaked Netgear switch In my network. The tweaking only consists of applying Dynamat sound deadening foil to the inside of the switch. This tweak lifted the audio visual signal, presumably a combination of resonance control and some additional shielding afforded by the bitumin and aluminium foil. The difference was clearly audible. Initially I was very impressed with the Chord audio switch vs my tweaked switch but I now wonder if the main improvement was in the Teddy Pardoe power supply I used with the Chord. I would like to audition a super high end switch but I am getting such great results I don’t need to scratch that itch for the moment.
3 Excellent quality linear regulated power supplies for both the switches and router. I purchased a used dual output 12v regulated linear power supply on eBay and use this to power my Virgin Media router and the tweaked switch. As mentioned, I have a Teddy Pardoe 5v supply into my Chord switch.

With careful purchasing and using second hand parts, it has probably cost about £600 to do all of this, (including the new Chord switch) but the uplift in quality has been tremendous. If I now remove any single part of the network and replace with bog standard parts the whole system suffers. Interestingly, changing the home made Ethernet cables for the Ugreen cables has the least impact.
I recently borrowed Network Acoustics Muon Ethernet filter and cable. Used together from the Chord switch into my Devialet amp they really brought everything together, but the improvement was much much less than getting the network “right”. I might save up for a Muon, but it’s a lot of money to improve just one aspect of my system. I don’t want to be constantly moving it from my amp to av system as the need arises.

What I am saying in summary, is that I support that old noughties hifi cliché that you need to consider the whole wiring loom, in this case, of your Ethernet network to really sort things. If you are patient and can wait to buy kit at the right price it needn’t cost a fortune and the results are cumulative. In my experience just changing a single cable has negligible impact and you might be better off exploring other options.
 

djh1697

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Nov 27, 2008
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Teddy Pardo does not have a dealer network, I emailed him to ask him about this, his reply was "dealers do not work for nothing" which is entirely correct. He offers a full refund if you are not happy, less p&p of course.
 

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