Nordost QNet network switch & QSource linear power supply

"A switch? Why do I need a switch?" That was my response to Meredith Gabor, head of marketing and PR for cable and accessories manufacturer Nordost, after she dropped the news. She had just arranged with Jim Austin for me to write a shorter, "ancillary" review of the new Nordost QNet Network Switch ($3199.99) with its optional QSource linear power supply ($2749.99) and premium QSource DC umbilical interface cables ($339.99 for 1m). Why did I need an expensive QNet switch when my router was functioning reliably? Good question.

Checking Nordost's website, I discovered that the QNet is "a layer-2 Ethernet switch"—all Ethernet switches are layer-2 devices—"with five ports designed from the ground up with high-end audio performance and an extremely low noise operation in mind. ... Most audiophile switches on the market take an existing consumer-level switch and improve parts of it, typically the power supply and the clock. While this approach certainly produces an improved performance, it doesn't come close to the results achieved by a design conceived from the drawing board to transmit and receive high speed signals."

This claim seemed plausible, at least in the abstract. Everything in a system matters. Sometimes improvements are "large," as in upgrading to a new DAC, server, amplifier, or speaker. Sometimes they're "small," as when a rack, cable, power product, or footer is replaced. I've put "large" and "small" in quotes because even small changes can have outsized importance in the impact the music makes. The cumulative sum of small incremental improvements can raise system performance from good or very good to great. What's more, occasionally a "small" change can cause a system to suddenly snap into focus; so, paradoxically, even a small change can be large.

But—as I talked to Gabor, I did have "buts." I doubted the QNet would make a difference in my unusually complicated Ethernet network, which converted Ethernet to optical and back again using three Small Green Computer/Sonore Optical Modules and an Uptone Audio EtherRegen. They, the router, Roon Nucleus+, and more all received power from HDPlex 300 four-device linear power supplies ($685/each). Gabor replied that I'd simply plug all those devices into the QNet Ethernet switch.

She also said that while the QNet would sound "really good" with its supplied switch-mode wall wart, it would sound even better with an optional QSource linear power supply (LPS).

1022no.source

The QSource, I soon learned, has four outputs fixed at 5V and two that are adjustable. Output A switches between 9V, 12V, or 19V; 9V is intended for the QNet. Output B switches between 12V, 19V, and 24V; 19V is appropriate for Roon Nucleus and Nucleus+ music servers. The QSource's fixed 5V outputs, which can provide very little power, are intended for Nordost QPoint Resonance Synchronizers, which I don't have. Those outputs can't handle 5V devices that demand significant current (footnote 1).

Gabor said that the QSource sounds best with its premium QSource umbilical LEMO interface cables, which cost far more than the aftermarket Ghent Audio Canare umbilical interface cables I use with the HDPlex 300. She was also certain that the QSource would produce better sound from the Roon Nucleus+ than the HDPlex 300 does—a bold statement from someone who, I'm guessing, has never heard the effects of an HDPlex 300.

Time to ponder. My music room router was a basic Linksys, which, when I bought it, cost $39.99. Undoubtedly, its Ethernet ports were sourced and assembled as cheaply as possible. It seemed reasonable that better conductive materials and superior noise isolation might create a better-sounding network interface. How much that would matter, I had no idea. Only by listening would I discover if the QNet and QSource made a difference significant enough to justify their cost.

More details
The QNet has five numbered Ethernet ports. Ports 1–3 are auto-negotiated 1000BASE-T (1Gbps) ports designed for routers and other "generic network devices." Ports 4 and 5 are fixed, 100BASE-TX (100Mbps) "audio" ports for audio servers, players, and external media sources. (See Sidebar on Ethernet protocols.)

1022no.net

The QNet runs comfortably warm to the touch. Its innards are illuminated with a soft, pleasing blue light that's only visible at certain angles. The QSource runs quite hot. It's quite easy to accidentally flip one of the switches, which are located on the QSource's bottom side; I did it when I placed a Wilson Pedestal under it and then pushed the QSource around. I was lucky—I didn't break anything—but it would be easy to accidentally send a component too high a voltage. If your QNet gets as hot as the QSource, disconnect immediately and check the switch.

Electrical engineer Dennis Bonotto, senior R&D engineer and international sales rep at Nordost, supplied more information. Bonotto played a key role in the engineering team that designed the QNet/QSource. "97–98% of the audiophile switches on the market are mods of less noble switches, if you will," he said. "Their different ports share some circuitry, terminations, and grounds, with soldering across and between the ports. Everything that happens on one port is heard by the other ports. Some mount their oscillator clock on a daughter board and then run a cable between them. It may be better than the switch you buy at Wal-Mart, but it kinda defeats the point.

"Our main goal was to make the QNet as transparent and 'not there' as possible. ... We really believe that by reducing or minimizing the noise that is added into every single process that happens between signal entrance and exit—by tackling every single source of noise that might affect the signal going through the QNet—we can make a better, more silent device.

"We took really good care to create five completely independent circuits, one for each physically separated port. The shielding material on the ports is one piece folded; it's not really soldered or joined. The shield on each RJ45 is independently soldered to the board; then they connect to a common ground plane. On our boards, the traces are separated and built to very high precision. The width of every trace, the distance between them, and the distance to the underlying layer was calculated to minimize noise and reflections.

"There are six linear power supplies within the QNet that feed the IC-switch engine. There are also several other parts of the intelligent circuit that need power. Every little voltage and current that the system demands is supplied by an independent power supply.

"Apart from the connection between the power input and the PCB, there are no wires; everything else is surface mount. Our superhigh-precision clock oscillator is mounted a hair from the main engine switch. All the circuits are independent. Instead of a two-layer PCB, we have six layers. The signal is very well insulated, with very minimal radiation leakage."

What's that oscillator for? "When the Ethernet signal arrives, it is undone, so to speak, and redone," Bonotto replied. "The bits (information) are transformed, encapsulated, and made into symbols so they can travel down the line in a more efficient and noise-proof way. When they arrive, everything must be de-encapsulated, as it were, and transformed back into bits. Then it gets routed and gets re-encapsulated and resent out on the other port. For this to happen, you need a clock base—a timing base. It's the oscillator that makes it possible." (footnote 2)

While you can use the QNet's supplied switch-mode power supply to operate it, such supplies are "major sources of noise that propagates all over the place," Bonotto said. "They're super-efficient, compact, and relatively cheap, but the price you pay for switching the AC input at megahertz speed and transforming it into DC output is noise. Even in larger switch-mode supplies, there's no way you can get rid of all the noise.

"Linear power supplies like the QSource are dead quiet but much less efficient. Because they require transformers, they're not cheap. Our QSource was built to minimize all potential sources of noise between input and output. You get what you pay for."

Nordost's team set out to tackle every noise source they could identify. "Beyond the choice of parts within the QSource, we paid attention to the way we arranged and connected them, and to the precision to which we built our PCBs," he said. "It's something of a miracle that we fit everything inside the case. Don't forget that the power cable you use on it also makes a difference."

Potential roadblock = opportunity
When Nordost rep Michael Marko arrived to install the switch, it would not transmit a signal from router #2 to my other components. After several emails and phone calls to Bonotto, we traced the problem to an error with my network configuration. After that was corrected and my optical network was rerouted, the QNet functioned flawlessly.

Many weeks after Marko visited, I reconfigured the optical network, eliminating two electrical/optical converters, the HDPlex 300 that powered them, and an Ethernet cable.

Let there be music
Midway through the review period, my dCS Rossini DAC, which I use with the Rossini clock, was upgraded to Rossini Apex status; this allowed me to hear more of what I'd already discovered the QNet and QSource could deliver. Other components included a D'Agostino Momentum HD preamp and Progression M550 monoblocks, Wilson Alexia 2 loudspeakers, AudioQuest Niagara 7000 and Niagara 5000 power conditioners, and a Stromtank S 1000 battery power AC regenerator. Ethernet cables were Nordost Valhalla 2 and Wireworld Platinum Starlight Cat8. Power cables were Nordost Odin 2, a single Valhalla 2, and AQ Dragon. Interconnects were Nordost Odin 2. Supports were from Wilson and Nordost, and the rack a Grand Prix Monza. And then there was the room treatment....

I approached both QNet and QSource with healthy skepticism. I was not prepared for what I heard.

Herb Reichert hinted, in his August 2022 Gramophone Dreams column, that he is under the spell of Maria Callas, one of the great opera singers, "who supercharge the air in front of them with the purest tones (footnote 3) and the most dramatic dynamics." (It's quite possible that Herb and I share the same Callas-inspired nightmare: Jim Austin, disguised as Callas playing Lady Macbeth, approaching our computers, slashing some of our favored adjectives (footnote 4), and splattering our monitors with blood. But perhaps I'm projecting.)

Like Herb, I'm also soprano-bewitched, currently, by the voice of Véronique Gens singing Guillaume Lekeu's Nocturne, from his Trois Poèmes. I cannot get it out of my head. Lekeu's marvelous song, found on Gens's recital Nuits (Qobuz 24/96 FLAC, Alpha 589), is so beautiful, so all-of-one-piece, and so perfectly accompanied by I Giardini piano quintet that I awake over and over to its melody. I'm equally haunted by the lyrics, which end (in translation), "The moon gleams like a golden clasp! / And, perfuming the happy plain, / The heather falls asleep / In the luminous shadows." Not a bad soundtrack to one's life.

The first thing I heard after I installed the QNet was that Gens's voice grew in size. Colors were more vivid. As silence filled spaces between notes, the soundstage seemed to expand in all directions. All that from a simple switch?

When I ditched QNet's switch-mode wall wart for the QSource, a touch of brightness I'd been hearing vanished and all the QNet's positive effects increased. With more silence came more beauty and detail—and with it, more light and spiritual insight. Those insights aren't always pretty—take Callas's voice as Lady Macbeth—but they inevitably get me closer to truth, whose essence can be as terrible and earth-shaking as it can be beautiful and beneficent. I can honestly say that the QNet/QSource pairing transported me closer to my ultimate goal, which is to move closer to the source of artistic creation and the artists I love.

When I disconnected the Roon Nucleus+ server/streamer from the HDPlex 300 and powered it, as well, with the QSource, I heard even more color, detail, and clarity. As another veil lifted, images again grew in size and became more believable. Yes, I compared connector cable options. The Nordost premium QSource DC cables delivered more vibrant energy and subtle dynamic/ tonal shifts than the stock cables. The premium's gauge is thicker. Big surprise (footnote 5).

Here ends the tale
Rather than listing example after musical example, I'll simply say that it is now much easier to follow each line in even the most complex passages of Mahler or Strauss and to understand, musically, the reasons behind the complexity. Thunderous organ now resonates strongly, without inappropriate boom. Tonal color inside my music room is beyond acid-rush intensity. Outside, however, it remains Pacific-Northwest gray.

It's been a long time since I ended a review with "I bought the review samples." But I did. And once I realized how vital the QNet was to my system—how a simple network switch allowed me to achieve so much more of what high-end audio is about, and how much more silent and revealing the QSource was than my other linear power supply—I bought a second QSource for my etherRegen and AfterDark clock. I didn't think a second QSource would make another huge difference, but when the soundstage suddenly expanded beyond the front and side walls, my pleasure expanded concomitantly. Don't you love when that happens?


Footnote 1: According to the specifications, the maximum power output of all four 5V outputs combined is 5W.

Footnote 2: As I soon learned, the Roon Nucleus+ server/streamer functions best with the faster ports. With 100Mbps, if Qobuz even played, it kept timing out and jumping from track to track.

Footnote 3: The multifaceted nature of those unique tones, pure or not, is a subject of endless fascination bordering on obsession. Take it from one obsessed.

Footnote 4: Also adverbs. Especially adverbs.—Jim Austin

Footnote 5: QSource cable's terminations do not insert completely into some devices, including the Roon Nucleus+. Sometimes they loosen at the slightest touch. Nordost would be wise to address this.

COMPANY INFO
Nordost Corporation
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(800) 836-2750
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
JRT's picture

I suggest that you contact and interview Kevin Gross on the subject. He is a subject matter expert with high level of breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject of digital audio in general, and especially in digital audio over an Ethernet network. He led the group that produced AES67, and my understanding is that very much of that was his direct work product. You won't find another subject matter expert who _better_ understands what does and does not have any effect. He might also point you toward a network switch and power supply and isolators and Cat.5e cables which combine to function _perfectly_ in the application for a lot less than $6K, and he may have some ideas as to why your audio playback system performance was compromised when using the cheaper network components that presumably meet network performance requirements when utilized for transferring other data without errors on the same network.

As to Nordost, I would not know if he has any monied interests in Nordost products, but you could ask him.

https://www.aes.org/aes/kevingross

https://www.aes.org/member/contact.cfm?ID=1062017258

http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingross

https://www.google.com/search?q=aes+kevin+gross

RH's picture

QUESTION FOR John Atkinson or Jim Austin:

Is there any reason we don't see measurements for these type of products.

For Jason to have heard these differences it suggests there the Nordost product is changing something measurable in the signal. (?)

Wavelength's picture

RH,

I was on the team when I was with DCA and worked with Western Digital on the 100M products. I did network routers and bridges back in my last real job before doing Wavelength Audio full time in 1994.

Testing 10/100 Ethernet requires differential probes ($$$) and a scope capable of capturing and decoding. That's pretty easy but like USB there are 3 flawed things: Computer 1 <=== Cable ===> Computer 2 which make testing a bit harder. The easy thing about 10/100 is the protocol is full duplex. There is a differential pair for both receive and transmit.
I was asked to work on 1000 back then and also USB but when they said was going to be 1/2 duplex 4 bit differential I said no thanks. Why? Testing 1000 is very difficult. It's no longer two computers and a cable. To certify anything for 1000 they test in a pretty crappy way (same with USB HS/FS/LS). You run testing software that sends out a transmit pattern on all 4 sets of differential lines into an analyzer. This stuff costs like $250K for a test set. Not that any cable company that I know tests their Ethernet or USB cables but having Stereophile pick up the tab for this would be a little bit on the long side.

I have USB (HS/FS/LS) test set and Ethernet 10/100 test sets here with my Tektronix stuff. Even that was really expensive, but required in my line of work.

Thanks,
Gordon

Habanero Monk's picture

1. If 'this stuff costs like $250K for a test set' then how did Nordost develop their switch? If they have the gear then they can publish what they solved and the rubric that others can use to replicate.

2. If the claim is the DAC analog output is modified then we have products like Delta Wave, Audio Precision, blind listener studies. I wonder if Nordost would be willing to list the consumer gear they used to help develop their switch.

Wavelength's picture

HM,

In testing both USB & Ethernet I can tell you that sonically yes you can tell the difference. If your looking for test evidence then no you can't tell from an AP or Prism test set these things.

It's like why does an application sound different? Both bit true both sending the same stream but they sound different. Well there is an answer to that for another time.

USB and Ethernet require specific testing equipment. Sure you could look at EYE patterns (a bit costly $$$), or signal quality. But you also have to consider on a product like this the number of HOST and DEVICES that can effect everything between them. Just like all USB ports are not created equally the same is true for Ethernet. One of the reasons why I have probably 20 computers here.

I am sure Nordost did extensive testing, what I am saying is to require Stereophile to pony up the money for testing equipment like this is not something they have to or should be required to do.

Thanks,
Gordon

Habanero Monk's picture

Here is a test setup that I did for the eR. It's less than 4 minutes and is a proof of concept:

https://youtu.be/6Xn3Z30zqUc

I would really like your opinion on why this would or wouldn't be acceptable. If the argument is that the simple fact of a connection (iso layer 1) then I think you see my point.

Wavelength's picture

Really you made me watch and AD for Atera? Check your link.

You can't test at an ISO level what the heck is that going to tell you?

G.

Habanero Monk's picture

https://youtu.be/u6mYM8Xy0H8

Sometimes you have to hand it to copypasta.

Wavelength's picture

Matt,

I don't see anything there that I would consider testing quality of Ethernet. As I might have said above in my last job I designed 802.1 bridges. We had our own Ethernet board that I designed back then. A bunch of us wrote back doors into the layers to grab test results. It really didn't show anything because you have to see both sides which we could do. But in general if you want the real facts you have to do that at the cable level and isolate the HOST and DEVICE so you can see both at their connector. Even then with 1000 that makes it real hard since it is half duplex.
Thanks,
Gordon

Habanero Monk's picture

The point of the video is that play back is uninterrupted with 100% no cable plugged in. So I'll talk to your first point "I don't see anything there that I would consider testing quality of Ethernet" my response is going to be: what Ethernet? It's not plugged in at points during playback.

Can you take a run at this: If we were using Tidal to feed a high quality system do you think you could tell when the network cable is plugged in/unplugged using some bog standard gear like Cisco SG series switches?

I understand you've done some work on Ethernet PHY. I'm a dual CCNP and ACEP and work for a baby Bell as a network engineer. I do route/switch and voip. Also heavy into PTP for broadcast.

Intimately familiar with Multicast, AES67, AES70, AVB, etc...

GrumpyBadger's picture

All I can say is... wow. This is an IMPRESSIVE amount of nonsense. Absolutely anyone who knows how the Ethernet system actually works will agree. Ethernet data is packetised and error checked at every stage. Each data packet arrives either wholly intact or is discarded and re-sent as many times as needed for an intact delivery. The final data assembled from packets can only be 100% perfect or is rejected entirely. So you'll have complete data dropouts or perfect data. Nothing in between whatsoever.

The need for noise immunity is simply to reduce the number of errored packets and has zero influence on final assembled data integrity.

Imagine if the pictures, text, etc. sent over Ethernet had noise induced artifacts of any kind - we would have abandoned it as a network technology immediately.

The so-called "R&D engineer" claiming this device aids audio transparency either needs to go back to school or is a straight up liar.

The so-called reviewer is either lying to us or himself about perceived audio differences.

CG's picture

Or, imagine that connected to this network there's analog circuitry not 100% immune to the effects of RFI. Y'know; common- and normal-mode noise currents.

Audio playback is a realtime process. Brains don't ignore noise like packet based data transmission does.

Now, you could certainly question the merits of the devices reviewed here. Or, raise a stink about why analog audio equipment is not robustly protected against noise currents. (And, at the same time, discuss what this extra noise immunity would cost.) Both are good arguments.

Full disclosure: I am not an audio professional. But, I do spend my working hours fretting over optimizing the performance of mixed signal transmission. Admittedly, that's at frequencies between 5 MHz and 5 GHz, but similar ideas apply to audio.

T.S. Gnu's picture

If, indeed, your conjecture is valid then it would be trivial to measure those effects at the line level output. The analyzer that Atkinson uses to measure equipment (or that Atkinson doesn’t use to measure effects of equipment like this) has extremely high sensitivity and would easily show any effects that could be attributed to what you suggest.

As Upton Sinclair avered, “ It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

CG's picture

If you want to call it conjecture, go right ahead.

Your point about the Audio Precision equipment is well taken, assuming it's used properly. (Not an accusation - just a statement of the obvious.) However, I personally have never ever seen a system level measurement made of a home audio system and the results published. I've certainly seen lots of literature about similar tests for instrumentation and other relatively low frequency and low signal level systems. High frequency, too. But, not home audio. (Note: I would be very pleased if someone could and would point me to that kind of measurement.)

These days, there are MUCH lower cost test solutions that would allow someone to do as you propose. But, here's the thing - Who would be motivated to do so? A hobbyist would take endless abuse if he or she published results that deviated from the existing dogma. So, what would the hobbyist stand to gain by exposing any test results? I can't and won't speak for or about any professionals...

T.S. Gnu's picture

…of numerous measurements carried out using equipment with excellent performance, both inexpensive (as you have mentioned) such as the E1DA Cosmos ADC (http://archimago.blogspot.com/2021/09/early-look-e1da-cosmos-adc-affordable.html) and APU (http://archimago.blogspot.com/2022/05/early-look-cosmos-apu-high-performance.html) as well as the industry standard (Audio Precision and Klippel) may be found at Archimago’s Musings (http://archimago.blogspot.com/) and ASR (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/Reviews/).

While both of these may be deemed as hobbyist, the exactitude and clearly disclosed protocols allow for replication by anyone who chooses to do so. As far as professional chops go, Majidimehr’s bonafides are a tad as credible (if not more so) from an engineering standpoint than just about any contributor here (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/a-bit-about-your-host.1906/). While both have their idiosyncrasies, they do however provide rational perspectives on audio REproduction, which is a field steeped in science and engineering more than in art (which finds its due place of primacy in audio production).

The last link should answer the questions in your final paragraph from the perspective of one of the examples provided. As for the other, many of the entries are peppered with comments that would answer the same. And, yes, there is a wee bit o’ pushback, but it’s harder to stand firm on arguments from authority in the face of easily reproducible measurement protocols and results.

PS: I did not intend the use of the word “conjecture“ to be derogatory in any way; it’s just that there are ample line level measurements showing AC filters, and power conditioners (e.g. PS Audio) etc etc having absolutely no advantageous effect at the output jacks of equipment with well designed power supplies (although sometimes there can be measurable deleterious effect, which may be audibly pleasing to some listeners…and that’s OK, too). I merely viewed putting forth the permise of noise making it out there as a conjecture…perhaps a better word might have been “premise.”

CG's picture

I appreciate the links and have read them. Which ones showed actual system performance?

(BTW, here is one that clearly demonstrates systemic issues, but it's not for a complete system. I'll be a jerk here and point out how the author's measurements and conclusions tend to disagree with some more famous measurers... Sorry for not figuring out how to embed a clickable link.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-d10s-e1da-cosmos-adc-as-a-measuring-system.34723/)

My knowledge of most of the folks who have commented on this thread is almost nil, but at least a couple have technical experience at least equal to Amir's. There's no question he has a lot of management and software experience (and the resultant stock options!), but most of his career has not been at the pointy end of an oscilloscope probe. That's not a criticism of him - he might be the greatest mind in all of audio for all I know - but I certainly wouldn't judge the people who comment here. But, that's just me.

T.S. Gnu's picture

I’m not sure what measurements/conclusions you are referring to that are in disagreement. Links would be appreciated. The device in that thread is used for diagnostics. It has been used as an affordable piece of kit. The rest of the thread addresses issues one has to work around re: impedance.

More to the point there are NO measurements of the effects of tweaks devices (e.g. power conditioners, linear power supplies etc on the devices plugged into them vis-a-vis plugging them into a wall socket (or even a known measurably noisy power source) or the effects of any other so-called low-noise accessories) in this publication or mainstream audio magazines. Paul Miller published ‘eye diagrams’ of USB cables, but never the actual signal at the output jacks in HFNR.

The only such measurements that are out there are by people who have no skin in the game, and they show no effects on well-designed gear operating within specs. The diagnostic equipment we have these days that allows us to measure down to -140dB and tease out any changes in either the frequency or time domain (or both) would pretty much show effects that are well below what even the best ears could perceive. I restrict this to line level because once we are at power amp output levels, the complications due to amplifier-speaker and speaker-room interactions pretty much swamp any subtleties that exist below -110dB.

IF (double) blind testing, something anathema to many subjectivists, does reveal the existence of what is claimed to be heard contrary to what we can detect with the most sensitive equipment then, yes, there would be further discussions to be had. Until then, most designers of Hifi equipment will stand by their products, and some (Pass, Manley, Linn, for example) will explicitly state ancillaries that will allow their equipment to perform at its best and sometimes explicitly discourage the use of the same.

CG's picture

I am clearly having a bad communications day. Or week. That's on me, not you, so I'll make this brief and stop there.

~~

The measurements Pavel (aka PMA) posted in that thread referenced earlier show that there's often lots of undesirable ground and other noise currents floating about in an actual system. His solution for that particular problem was to use a USB isolator. You know - one of those gadgets that so many experts have proven don't work. Like power conditioners and so on.

As you suggested, audio devices are usually not measured in a system, but that's how they're used. I don't have any insight why this is so.

~~

The system he showed was almost as simple as you can make it. Imagine what a more complicated system, like we might have in our living room with all sorts of AC mains connections and other interconnections, could be like.

Now, add in an additional variable like an Ethernet connection that runs from who knows where in a house to the audio streaming device, with overlapping current loops through the AC mains. That certainly isn't going to improve the system immunity to common- and differential-mode currents that you don't want.

~~

I have no idea at all whether the items reviewed here solve the problem or whether they are worth the money (that's probably up to the individual customer), but I do know that noise currents aren't just some theoretical concept that can't possibly affect system performance. Lots of researchers and practitioners have written extensively about the subject for over a century now. Few people in the consumer audio world seem to care about this much. I don't have any insight why this is so, either.

T.S. Gnu's picture

I see what you are referring to, and what is causing the confusion. To quote Pavel:
“To measure power amplifiers, I have built input dividers to protect E1DA ADC input, I do not want to use the tiny TRRS 2.5mm connector, also for the reason of possible short when moving the connector.“
"The SE divider + 2.7V EDA setting adds 13x attenuation, so the max. input is 35.1V." I can’t format here, but that is THIRTY SEVEN Volts!

Furthermore, in post 16 (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-d10s-e1da-cosmos-adc-as-a-measuring-system.34723/post-1213083), where someone proposes what you are referring to, he clearly says WHY the ground loop arises in this particular measuring rig.

To quote: "[pkane said: This does look more like a ground loop/power supply noise leaking into it. Try using a laptop running on batteries to drive the ADC if you can. Or, put in a USB isolator.]
I really do not think so. If he runs both devices from the same PC, then there is no other loop than via USB cables (and then analog cable of course). Both devices Topping D10s and E1DA Cosmos are powered from USB ports, no other tracks to ground. The PC may be even grounded or not, there is no difference. The loop goes this way: USB1 > Topping D10s > analog link cable > E1DA ADC > USB2. USB1 has same ground as USB2, so here is the loop and here the loop has to be interrupted by the USB isolator. Nowhere else. I really do know what I speak about."

What he is saying really is that noise currents are absolutely a concept that can't possibly affect system performance IN PROPERLY DESIGNED HARDWARE. The loop that you are referring to is going from USB1–>stuff—>USB2. This is definitely NOT the circuit topology in any listening setup.

Many, if not all, people in the consumer audio world (Classé, Linn, and RME to my first hand knowledge having dealt with extensive beta testing for the first two brands and speaking directly with design going back to 2010) DO care about this VERY much, and it is precisely because of this that this is not an issue for the consumer, because this has been dealt with in design. Seriously, if there are grounding issues, there is a problem with your equipment or your electric spur powering it, and in the case of the latter, there are well established solutions (just ask Bill Whitlock of Jensen); in the case of the former it’s advisable to simply avoid it. Hope this clarifies and allays some of your concerns. Expectation bias and the placebo effect is really not our friend in this case.

CG's picture

Oh, brother!

If all the equipment was "PROPERLY DESIGNED" and perfect, everything would be, well, perfect. We've heard that for decades. But, it's not. People have observed that for a long time, but have often been scoffed at. Sometimes, there was good reason to doubt their observations. Other times, it has been a question of doctrines clashing. More modern testing and analysis have provided better insight into the various phenomena.

But, here's the thing. I am generally happy to let people believe whatever they want, at least as long as it doesn't hurt others. Whether the expectation bias is "Oh! I don't believe that can work, so therefore it doesn't!" or "Hey! This costs a lot, so it MUST be great!". It works both ways.

However, I do have empathy for consumers and potential consumers who get tangled up with sorting through various dogma when all they want is to make their home audio system sound better to them. So, I occasionally try to point people to measurements and literature so that they can educate themselves and draw their own conclusions. It's usually best to point to information where there is no commercial interest behind what's being presented, but that's not always possible.

Clearly, that is a bad idea on my part.

I'm truly amazed how software and IT guys have now become the go-to experts when it comes to most everything. Those stupid hardware engineers and physicists apparently haven't a clue about hardware and physics.

(BTW, Kirchoff's circuit laws apply to all circuit connections, not just USB to USB...)

JHL's picture

What a great review. Those of us who still use audio for listening will immediately recognize many points in the report as familiar, both cause and effect. I can't count the number of times But It's $%#* Impossible! has become reliably, vividly audible right down to the same shared experiences and almost identical descriptions.

Then, like clockwork, one by one But It's $%#* Impossible! become mainstream technologies because those shared experiences become incontrovertible patterns of evidence. Over and over.

Most interestingly this happens in digital's Perfect Sound Forever, [snort] right down to the power supplies, connections, and contacts. All audible. This is of no consequence to curs who use fine audio to barge in and make messes on your floors but as alluded, time vindicates.

Great review. Continue to stand in the breach (with your mop and pail) and have the courage and conviction to report it as it sounds, regardless. The alternative is the dismal sound of $99 hifi.

GrumpyBadger's picture

Please provide an example of "But It's $%#* Impossible! become mainstream technologies"

Then read IEEE Standard 802.3 and please do tell us exactly where the non-absolute alteration of transmitted data occurs. The burden of proof lies upon you.

I really, really look forward to your response.

JHL's picture

First, despite minor outbreaks of hair shirt objectivists denying them their experience, among audiophiles audio is positively littered with exceptionally well-received tech disdained by technologist gainsayers. This is because audiophiles listen and generally don't degrade audio into a conflict.

The whole point to the din and racket from the contrary ilk is that a tech must be approved a priori if not to be disallowed on face, sound unheard. In that church approved tech is either sanctified by clergy or excommunicated. This review is an example.

You could have just declined to buy the product. But you didn't.

Second and pursuant that, in this context I don't give a damn what the IEEE has standardized because I'm making a philosophical point. Like the reviewer, I care about what the things IEEE may or may not have standardized sound like, and how to arrange dozens of them in combination and succession to musical effect.

Putative objectivists still seem to think this is a theological battle to be waged in place of the listener's experience and narrative: Using audio not for its purpose but to assert about it, commit fallacy, claim fraud, and leap into anonymous arguments on the internet with civil types.

You could have just declined to buy the product. But you didn't.

Archimago's picture

"Putative objectivists still seem to think this is a theological battle to be waged in place of the listener's experience and narrative: Using audio not for its purpose but to assert about it, commit fallacy, claim fraud, and leap into anonymous arguments on the internet with civil types."

Ahem. I don't think objectivists are the camp who would make "theological" claims about this stuff whatsoever. The only pseudo-theology here is the faith of the pure subjective folks who put their trust in company reps and and engineers who are of course biased to promote a product for financial gain as if these comments actually made any sense or that they have in fact done what they claim.

For example:
"We really believe that by reducing or minimizing the noise that is added into every single process that happens between signal entrance and exit—by tackling every single source of noise that might affect the signal going through the QNet—we can make a better, more silent device."

Perhaps they can show us where and what kind of "silence" they've achieved compared to a typical reasonably priced $50-100 5-port gigabit switch? Maybe show us a single instance where noise might be different coming out of the 100Mbps vs. 1Gb ports?

A modern 1 gigabit switch is mature technology these days, utilizing low power and the higher end models can also be managed with functions like QoS which an audiophile might want to take advantage of if they have busy networks. So far the claims of this $3200 Nordost switch appears to be words and testimony of those who sell and those who believe - isn't that what "theology" is about?

JHL's picture

...if we understand your premise. Condensing it in the order of your objections we see 1) a tacit but apparently automatic doubt regarding capital gain, 2) an incumbent seller bias, presumably complicit in some sort of unstated ethical problem, and 3) the sum leading to a broadbrushed slight against the product's stated rationale. From this is summed up an analog to how switches work elsewhere from which you magically derive an automatic damnation of the whole ball of wax you've constructed over here.

Is that close? I ask because before blowing the broader related construct apart on epistemological grounds and showing it for the religious belief system it is I want to know just what work you're standing pat on.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Your second point “an incumbent seller bias, presumably complicit in some sort of unstated ethical problem” appears to indicate you have some misunderstanding.

There is no unstated ethical problem. Archimago, actually CLEARLY stated what the effects of network switches are and are not. Linn, who made the very first network streaming player (and make a rather pricey one today flat out state that the networking equipment has no effect on the output signal as long as the switches/cables are built to spec. They still, to this day, stick to that viewpoint because that was the fundamental advantage of network streaming by packet transport. They also were the first audio manufacturer to take a public stance against MQA. You can figure out the ethical problems existing in that BS* saga if you want as well.
*Bob Stuart

JHL's picture

That there *is* an incumbent seller bias, presumably complicit in some sort of unstated ethical problem, is the obviously, plainly prevalent charge leveled against the perceived audio high end. Or if you prefer, in this very thread it's made directly as an allegation of incompetence or fraud or whichever.

At that point it's obviously not unstated. It's your choice here; I was being magnanimous. This or something aligned with this is fairly said to be the lifeblood of alt-Measurist dogma, and it has appeared for decades in this tributary or that of shabbier audio journalism. It is virtually the stated purpose; the slogan and M.O.

It is as plain as the absolutely perfected bits in your cheapest chifi that the aim of these cohorts of mechanical, reflexive joy-killers is the targeted impairment of the audio high end, and in service of that aim, apparently they shall or must see all of it as a coordinated apparatus to fleece good people of their cash and smile on the way to the Caymans.

So. While this is not a defense of any form or type of marketing deception and profiteering, I'm also not opining on what may or may not actually be such. That's partly my point. What I *said* is first a personal observation and second a widely shared one, it perceiving a commonly-held reality not exactly defused by Stereophile comments thread drive-by snipers, including in this one.

In interrupting it I believe you just interpreted an individual and quoted a company missive.

To honor its very definition, the nature of real science is to be upended, revised, and even discarded in places and at times. I'm simply stating a valid opinion, not lobbying a science into place. Neither have you lobbied a science into place. Presumably in service of a belief system it wasn't reasoned into, maybe Measurism is just disagreeable for its own sake.

That is anything but clarity, T.S. Gnu, either here or as you use the word in your other remark down the thread. Interpretations drawn to hasty conclusions and appeals to authority are not that and do not support the contrary position.

T.S. Gnu's picture

A alternate response to, “You could have just declined to buy the product. But you didn't.“ that you might find useful to internalize would be, “You could have just declined to prevent some trusting individual from blowing their hard-earned money on what is, essentially, bollocks. But you didn’t.” In fact it might even be gracious to append that with a note of thanks.

Another question you may consider addressing is: You could have chosen to ignore the comment. But you didn’t.” The answer might be interesting.

JHL's picture

...that *somebody's* anointed job is to, as you put it, prevent some trusting individual from blowing their hard-earned money on what is, essentially, bollocks.

That being the case, the rest of your remarks come into focus. This *is* as suspected by us normals; a mission on the part of at least one armchair Measurist to read from the text and go and save the world.

Hard as I try, T.S. Gnu, I find this observation only adds to my confirmed understanding of Measurism. And that, to answer your last question, is quite irresistible. I could have chosen to ignore it but I didn't.

The Tinkerer's picture

... so many comments are making theory-based statements of "unpossibility!". Yet, none of them have heard the devices under review. Is this undergrad debate 101 or just more wine tasting, minus the wine?

Keep up the great work, JVS. THIS full AES member, and retired audio professional, finds the review (and topic) very interesting.

Archimago's picture

Asking $3200 for a 5-port ethernet switch is pricing at orders of magnitude higher than needed for home ethernet installations.

Must we try all kinds of expensive snake oil to see if they "work" when logic and engineering principles of how digital data is transmitted across networks indicate that the benefit is far and away negligible from a machine like this?

Or do we start by taking a cautious stance, and wait for the company to provide some evidence this does anything special for 3-grand of after-tax dollars? JVS' testimony is interesting I suppose but there have been instances where I think some of us know not to trust the claims completely.

The Tinkerer's picture

... when you do NOT, seems more risky to me than what you proposed.

Seems this isn't being marketed towards you. Rather than virtue signaling by attempting to "save" others from certain calamity, you could just NOT PURCHASE IT and omit the whole crusading part. You COULD do that. It's permitted.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Would be to jump off a tall building and attempt to fly because, no matter what others say about falling to a calamitous fate because they do not have first-hand knowledge and are only pretending to do so when they warn you. It is best, before making such arguments, to ensure that one is not engaging in any widely known and studies fellatious fallacies.

The Tinkerer's picture

That's adorable. More wine tasting, minus the wine.

Archimago's picture

and skepticism around likely false claims "virtue signaling"?

It's not about "saving" others from calamity as it is calling out dishonest schemes and reasonably expecting that a good company will honour questions and show evidence for their claims.

I have plenty of "first-hand knowledge" about ethernet routers, and switches, and cables. Why do I need "first-hand knowledge" about this or other sketchy product though?

The company produces no reason to consider this ethernet switch any differently other than mere testimony about noise and such. Isn't it quicker to just show us the data on how it impacts digital audio reproduction?

It's not a matter of "small" vs. "large" difference as JVS writes, but the question of any difference at all!

ChrisS's picture

...an honest discussion about this product!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A05dZmziC1E

Show us the data!

The Tinkerer's picture

Archimago, You are entitled to your skepticism. You are not entitled to project that onto others and then attempt to castigate them as frauds when they don't rise to your "standards" of "evidence".

How many people have to be delusional liars in order for you to be correct in your world view? What's your number? How many first hand observations ("/mere testimony/")are you willing to dismiss in order to "be right"?

If you worked for any automotive magazine, you would be promptly fired for cause and possibly sued.... for attempting to propagate opinions about physical products with which you have ZERO actual experience.

Your lack of scope to personally and correctly evaluate equipment is not a blank check for you to turn into the National Enquirer for audio. You're permitted to simply close your mouth until you've actually had the ability to evaluate things yourself.

I, too, have extensive experience with ethernet routers, switches, and cables. I refuse to accept your conclusions. And thus we cancel eachother out.

CG's picture

Is this a question of the pricing, which is absolutely much higher than some alternatives, or whether there may be a scientific/engineering reason why there might be merit to a product like this? Two different questions, at least to me.

RH's picture

... so many comments are making theory-based statements of "unpossibility!". Yet, none of them have heard the devices under review.

Hey, I have a specially minted coin that, if you tape it to the top of your wrist, will allow you to step off the ledge of a tall building, and instead of falling to your death, you will hover in the air and float down gently to the ground.

What? You're skeptical? My "zero experience alarm" is going off. You can't really have an informed opinion about the likelihood this will work, without trying it just as I described. Right?

Except we both know you don't think that at all. You don't REALLY have to go personally trying every claim anyone ever throws out in order to have an opinion. If you have some knowledge about a claim, you can rate the plausibility quite well.

If I claim to a physicist that my friend has created a Perpetual Motion Machine in his garage they don't have to go "experience it for themselves" because they have sound knowledge about physics and know the likelihood is around O such a device is even possible.

This is how we go through life making rational, informed decisions about which type of propositions are plausible or not, whether to waste time, or not.

The people here objecting to the claims about this switch are doing so on the basis of some knowledge about how these things actually work, and hence the implausibility of the claims made for the device. If you can put forth some technical argument/evidence that would support the product's claim why not present it (and not just "I heard a difference" since people easily imagine differences)?

Otherwise, skepticism based on the technical claims remains justified.

JHL's picture

...on my list of prognostications dated over a century ago, a magic gas that when injected into a bladder shall levitate you and it above the earth. I have a bolt of cloth and these sticks and with my plans you'll fly like a bird. I have a distilled fluid derived from deep in the soil that with my mechanical carriage will perambulate you to your office.

Your examples, RH, prove the point you're arguing against, and what you're doing is not skepticism. The authentic skeptic simply doesn't lay out money for any of these examples. He never climbs aboard. The *subjective gainsayer* insists a phenomenon or action may not occur because of his own beliefs - despite airplanes and cars - and then goes to irrational lengths to argue the point strictly by the lights of varying subjective disbelief.

The Tinkerer's picture

And yet zero actual experience. What a waste.

Wine tasting, minus the wine.

RH's picture

So I presume you won't address the point made in all those words?

If the words were "wasted" on you, well that's up to you.

But others are reading these threads, so not all is "wasted" ;-)

The Tinkerer's picture

Oh no I just don't respond to word salad. I'm full from lunch.

You have zero experience with any item under review. The end.

RH's picture

So can I interest you in a special coin I've made that, placed on your amps, will VASTLY improve the sound?

It's only $40! You could send me money via paypal!

You're an audiophile. You care about improving the sound of your system right? And for a mere $40?

The only reason you would not go for this is that you are skeptical of the claim.

Except you have no basis for skepticism because, after all, you've had "zero experience" listening with this special coin.

Does all this appeal to "you haven't tried, so you can't have a reasonable opinion" sound like nonsense to you?

Welcome to the club ;-)

The Tinkerer's picture

You debate like a 3rd grader.

Apples to axe handles.

You've committed the famed 'Illicit Major' type of categorical syllogism.

Oh and I don't require you to curate my hypothetical behavior. It's both incorrect and rude.

RH's picture

You've committed the famed 'Illicit Major' type of categorical syllogism.

Ah..no I haven't. (I enjoy philosophy, so recognize your false claim).

First, 'Illicit Major' is a formal fallacy. I was making an informal argument. You should have recognized it as an informal reductio ad absurdum based on YOUR claim

"so many comments are making theory-based statements of "unpossibility!". Yet, none of them have heard the devices under review. "

Which clearly suggested that it's unreasonable to be skeptical about a claim, even by appeal to theory, without having personally tested the claim oneself.

THAT is the principle I have been deconstructing via reductio ad absurdum - this principle leads to absurdities like not being able to justify skepticism towards any claim anyone makes "unless you've got first hand experience with the item."

Hence: special coin and perpetual motion machine analogies.

Now the likely reflex is to say "but that's silly, it's disanalogous because, you see, the NORDOST product claims aren't outrageous, like the ones you made for coins and perpetual motion machines. It's much more plausible!"

Which would be missing the point. Worse, that simply begs the question because the very plausibility of the Nordost device ARE what is under dispute! So to avoid Special Pleading you would have to actually demonstrate why the Nordost device IS actually plausibly altering the signal, or better yet produce actual evidence it DOES change the signal.

And no it's not "rude" to point out that we both know you don't find my claims about the Special Coin to be compelling or plausible.

Of course, please correct me if I'm wrong on that and I'll send you my paypal info so you can make your purchase ;-)

The Tinkerer's picture

You're wrong. You've been exposed as expressing an informed opinion about a device for which you have zero knowledge. You made abundant theory-based proclamations. Then you attempted to construct additional ad-hominem attacks against me just as you have against JVS and Nordost.

Next, I don't need you to curate what I say. I didn't suggest anything. I said what I said. Res Ipsa Loquitor. Kindly refrain from putting words in my mouth.

Lastly, you are EMPHATICALLY incorrect as you have 100% constructed a Formal Fallacy. I cannot understand this fact on your behalf. Just as I do not need you to attempt to curate, or reframe MY statements, you do not need to do so for yours, either. Your statements speak for themselves, as it were.

Your lack of understanding of the structural underpinnings of your fallacious statements leads me to doubt, greatly, your passion for philosophy.

RH's picture

You've been exposed as expressing an informed opinion about a device for which you have zero knowledge.

You seem to be either hallucinating this, or more likely, mixing me up with some other member in this thread. I haven't made explicit claims to technical knowledge (mentioned others are doing so), and you have not exposed a single thing about my "knowledge" regarding electronics as it relates to the Nordost switcher. Again, to be charitable, I have to presume you are mixing me up with someone else.

"I didn't suggest anything. I said what I said."

So...your just produced a series of words with no implications? That's weird. Why would you do that? (And, yes, your statement did have the implications I suggested, and you kept repeating the same "point.).

Virtually your entire response is pure assertion and I frankly get the impression you don't really grasp, or care about, the nature of "assertion" vs "argument" or how arguments actually work. (Since you aren't producing any - except for assertions the implications of which you will then disavow and not support).

So, yes, this will be fruitless.

S'long.

The Tinkerer's picture

You're a flat-earth hack. If you didn't put words in my mouth, you wouldn't have any words at all.

I'm sure I'll see you the next time you attempt to peddle reductionist objectivist drivel in the comment section, for equipment that you do not own and neither with which do you have any experience. Or when you attempt to gate-keep audio on behalf of "Ze Zience, YAH! *boot stomp in unison*, *salute*".

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good bye.

JHL's picture

I blew it apart. It was and remains a preposterous, wildly obvious strawman.

AudioBang's picture

Uptone Audio sold over 3200 units of their [EtherRegen] switch, published a technical white paper on the issues that the product addressed, hosted a forum for user and engineering-based questions/comments, a user feedback forum with over 1400 positive user comments, and offered a money-back guaranty if you were not fully satisfied. I recall their return rate being extremely small. Yet, muckraking Audio Science testifies to not measure or hear a difference and files the product under "Quackery". I have three of them timed off a Mutec Ref10 SE120 and powered by a hybrid LPS/SMPS supply. I have no doubt about the reviewer's findings.
I surrender....Delegate me to the Nut House.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I have a soft spot for organic cashews. How about you?

jason

AudioBang's picture

Nothing like a bag of ALDIS organic cashews with sea salt over recently expanded holography and improved system resolution. I've got to be mindful though to not eat the entire bag in one listening session.
I've offered for people to visit and listen but turns out when they cling to what they know, their real intention is getting me to hand over a bigger club to try to beat me with :)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Too much can lead to a bloated midrange.

teched58's picture

. . .enhance your reputation as a serious reviewer.

AudioBang's picture

:)

T.S. Gnu's picture

…there were more than 3200 people who fell for the likes of Bernie Madoff, a few more who lost a lot of money in the bitcoin pump, and several vulnerable people (some of whom have committed suicide over their financial losses) who fall prey to scams originating from Cambodia, Vietnam and India. So…the number of units sold is not really an indicator of anything other than people hoping for some improvement touted.

Positive reviews cannot eliminate the expectation bias that we are all susceptible to. While the measurements at ASR (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/uptone-lps-1-linear-power-supply-review-and-measurements.1849/) clearly indicate what the item ACTUALLY does in situ, until you (or Uptone) provide evidence to the contrary that supports their view, using words like “muckraking” is a bit unfounded. Having no doubt in a reviewer’s findings is simply a statement of faith and belief which is a very human and doesn’t predicate delegation to the Nut House. However, as humans we are extremely fallible and while you may be content to ignore that, taking offence at others pointing out the pitfalls that our species is capable of being susceptible to is non-productive, if not counter-productive.

JHL's picture

By now we're not just familiar with the enfeebled trajectory that began at High Fidelity with Hirsch's analysis by graph paper, extended through the imperious Azcel regime with the dead-ended (but exquisitely named) The Audio Critic, and now sees flower, at least for a replacement band of reductionist internet reactionaries, with the ironically named Audio Sciences Review; but we all know how, and especially why the latter is headed at the same end as the former.

Because fine audio marches on anyway.

Plainly and evidently the measurements have as much capacity to 'show clearly what something is doing' as it seems does your rhetoric about what amounts to Measurist faith, as risible as it's always been. We know the Hallowed Measurement is *actually* an indicator of an abstract manifestation of some behavior. That, in fact, is what science itself allows it. There's no more clarity in it than there is in a random electrocardiogram posted in the subway, or probably more pertinently, engine codes and air/fuel maps pasted up on the side of your favorite tofu and twigs fondue popup.

They too are absolutely necessary ... and generally completely inapplicable to street-level Measurist crystal ball gazing.

Which leads us to the core fallacy in Measurist cant and dogma. Among them we find the inscribed tenets of I Can't Be Trusted To See My Stereo, and I'm Just Way Too Suggestible For Reviewer Opinion, and We Monkeys Can't Actually Hear HiFi or whatever the latest hairshirt *objective* religion says on things it can't afford, won't hear, and therefore mustn't allow. (And I'll add, by extension and by its very own lights shall absolutely therefore never report upon the sound of.)

That really is the baseline, isn't it? Approximately that relationship between pew and clergy?

Whether this product does what the Reviewer reports it does, he presumably both an honest and experienced enthusiast in pursuit of the enjoyment of realistic, authentic musical playback, is beside the point for a moment. What's pertinent in the yawningly predictable, feeble pushback against it is the fervent belief system that says a phenomenon mayn't exist except by permission. Which demands proofs but only by Illuminated Texts.

And that would be the central fallacy of this known stripe of self-appointed audio scientist. That by way of that appointment, science in its valid definition actually ends up being the furthest thing from his mind. Your first paragraph is an insult to logic and your second to reason. None of it even purports to serve, much less actually does serve, the betterment of excellent sound. It doesn't even know what it is.

ChrisS's picture

Shut up!

Try these things out, or don't...

https://www.stereophile.com/content/quackery-gullibility-and-open-mindedness

teched58's picture

This review is both funny and sad at the same time.

ok's picture

hitler and krishnamurti shared some 99.999 of human genome; one wonders why were they not the same person in the first place.

Anton's picture

Maybe it was Krishnamurti in the bunker.

————-

Do we really always need to try something before we have an idea about it?

Thread drift: You know why banjo songs have different names?

So we can tell them apart.

ok's picture

..reveal differences that measurements conceal; sometimes the opposite is the case; and sometimes seemingly indistinguishable individuals (e.g. identical twins) prove themselves totally different when one gets to know them in person. It's a shame that our need for picking sides prevails over a holistic worldview.

T.S. Gnu's picture

…also reveal differences that do not exist. We are complicated creatures, and as Richard Feynman said, and lived by, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” A lot of the anecdotes presented in the comments may be explained by this pithy, yet very accurate, summation.

PeterPani's picture

Yesterday I streamed classical music in 24/96 quality from a wav-file I stored on my www-homepage before starting a listening session: OSM Chamber Soloists, Schubert Octet in F Major, D. 803
Streamed through a common router-network on my Samsung laptop into my Nagra DAC.
And next I played the file from my laptop directly into the Nagra DAC.
No sound difference at all to my ears.

But, I am pretty bad with digital music. I got many DAC's over the years - cheap and expensive ones. They all sound nearly the same to me. All I can hear is a difference between 16/44.1 and 24/96. All the noise coming from other sources. I don't know, I cannot hear differences when switching off influencing devices. (very different to playing from analog source - there I can hear differences)

michelesurdi's picture

wouldn't it be quicker to let the head of marketing write the blurb himself?after all it's in his job description.

teched58's picture

...it's essentially indistinguishable from branded content.

[EDIT:] BTW, as a piece of branded content, I would give this a very high rating. Jason is an excellent writer.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

:-) and ;-)

David Harper's picture

This kind of nonsense is finally being called out. So many have wasted so much money on this kind of snake oil that TAS and Stereophile have made a living off of them. The reviewers either imagine what they hear or they are simply lying. "there's a sucker born every minute".

ChrisS's picture

...TAS?

As well as Stereophile?

Hahahahahahahaha!!

What a way to torture yourself!

Hahahahahahahahaha!!

barrows's picture

People, before you go on saying its "impossible" do you really think it is your place to comment on such that you have no experience of? Many things have been though to be "impossible" in audio before (perfect sound forever comes to mind) only to be found to be in error.
BTW, most, if not all, Nordost dealers will allow for an in home trial of products like this with no financial risk-perhaps those who are skeptical should try it, you just might eat your words and enjoy improved sound quality.

CG's picture

You don't even need to experience these products.

There are scholarly papers and books authored by people like Bill Whitlock, Ralph Morrison, and Henry Ott that describe what often takes place with regard to noise currents in actual systems. Not just audio systems, either.

Whether the reviewed products solve these problems, I haven't a clue. Whether they are worth the money is another question still.

Here's a question... If Ethernet and other signaling systems are completely immune to noise effects and are otherwise perfect, why are there so many error correction techniques associated with them?

Why anything associated with audio gets shamed and labeled as impossible is something I've never understood. Where's a sociologist when you need one?

Full disclosure: My day job has nothing to with audio, but does encounter systemic noise issues all the time. I also don't use any Nordost products, so I've not got a horse in that race, either.

georgehifi's picture

Correct, just how much of these expensive addon's are needed in the streaming/downloading chain to make them "try to" sound as good as CD transports can do with early uncompressed issues (<2000) of a CD, and yet still not sound as good!!! Because most stuff streamed or downloaded is later (>2000) compressed versions.

https://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list/1/dr/asc?artist=Elton%20John&alb...

Cheers George

barrows's picture

My home computer based playback set up performs much better than any CD transport in fair fight playing the same master CD vs. an error checked rip of the CD on the computer based system. In addition, my Computer based set up allows me to take advantage of the far superior oversampling algorithms of HQPlayer which gives even further sound quality benefits. For example, I use a Bricasti M3 DAC which features a discrete true single bit DSD converter for DSD input, which does no onboard data manipulation of any kind (for DSD input). I oversample/remodulate everything to DSD 256 in the computer using HQPlayer, and send the now native DSD 256 over optical Ethernet to my Renderer in the audio system, which then converts the optical Ethernet stream to USB input for the DAC. Far superior sound to any spinning disc player results, or just about any DAC with (far more simplistic) onboard oversampling.

Whether or not one "needs" a better switch is certainly debatable, I consider Network optimization such as this to offer meaningful improvements, but not to be "needed" to achieve better audible SQ than a lowly CD transport! BTW, I work in audio hardware development, building, and servicing.

MatthewT's picture

Where I'd like to know where it's made and how much Nordost makes on each one.

barrows's picture

IDK where this switch is made, but virtually all Nordost products are US made. I suspect you can find out at their website. As far as their margins go, good luck with that, they are a dealer based company though, so If one walks in to a dealer for purchase the dealer is going to able to bargain on price, and I suspect discounts would be available, but not likely to be publicized. In any case, the vast majority of the cost of a product like this goes towards the development cost, rather than the cost of the parts and building of it. A commercial switch such as Cisco or Netgear, will sell millions of units making the development cost a non-issue as far as the selling price goes. An audiophile switch like this which will sell in thousands of units has to cost substantially more in order to cover the development cost.

T.S. Gnu's picture

…what is this “development” you speak of as pertaining to this network switch, albeit dressed up in fine marketechture. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

barrows's picture

What do you think it takes to design a very low noise Network switch? Do you have any experience of doing so? This Nordost product is a ground up design developed from scratch, not a standard Network switch PCB from some other company put in a chassis.

T.S. Gnu's picture

What part of the term “marketechture” do you have a problem understanding? The majority of network switches are low-noise (as per spec). The Ethernet protocol requires the ports on devices to be galvanically isolated. And since you’re “just asking,”
Do you have ANY idea about the TCP/IP network stack and protocol?
Do you know the hardware spec for cables, switches, and send/receive devices?

Your statement about the product is one of faith. While it may not be a standard Network switch PCB from some other company put in a chassis (a la the Bryson streamer or the Lexicon spinner), there is a strict limit on what it takes to build a network switch to spec; this is intentionally by design. There IS no “ground up” design (unless you mean they have made mincemeat of the IEEE specs…which by your tone, I assume you do not).

To answer your question, no…there is no latitude in the design of a network switch. It’s just that simple; try to keep up. There are shortcuts in engineering/manufacturing/production and SOMETIMES may end up in the production of a sub-standard product. I am referring to any switch that makes spec. We deal with low noise equipment in the lab that is FAR more sensitive to perturbation, and if you want the most extreme example, the look no further than LIGO or neutrino detection labs — they can’t even handle cosmic rays.

georgehifi's picture

Yes that 1 bit (Delta Sigma) dac will do better with DSD/SACD than it can with PCM Redbook. R2R dacs convert PCM "bit perfect", Delta Sigma dac can only give a facsimile of it.

Cheers George

carter-nyc's picture

Truly ludicrous. This is not analog technology. Do the ones sound more one-y when they transit this switch? You can't fool all of the people all of the time, but you can definitely fool Jim Austin.

T.S. Gnu's picture

That’s an interesting comment, because although it may come across as being insulting it is a charitable take on things. The alternate take on on it might be, “You can’t fool all the people all of the time, but Jim Austin sure tries hard.” Now that one would not only not be insulting but be high praise, yet far from charitable. It’s debatable what the preferable reality happens to be.

barrows's picture

Respectfully, you are missing the point. No one is claiming that there is any problem with the data itself, the problem is that noise coming over the Network connection can get into the DAC, and mess with the signal, both by putting noise on the DAC's ground plane(s) and noise getting to the analog circuitry of the DAC. Anyone who has played around with noise reduction (by various means) of network based noise can easily hear the differences. Things in audio reproduction are not really as simple as they may seem.

T.S. Gnu's picture

I am not. I addressed it. Pls see comment above.

Also, you might find it useful to peruse: https://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Introduction_To_DS_Concepts
Also the first sentence at: https://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Why_Linn_DS_is_the_best_way_to_play_CDs
where they are effectively saying, bits are bits…. They have staked the ground and stated their position. This is what happens when a company is driven by engineering and design. They also had (have?) a recording label, so they are well aware of what it takes to both produce and REproduce audio.

The requirements listed at: https://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Linn_DS/DSM_Network_requirements
are all well-established standards with no wiggle-room or latitude and are at the heart of all network streaming. The page also indicated how configurations may lead to sub-optimal results.

This page: https://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Network_Components
Has a list of all products they have tried and found perfectly cromulent.

I hope that addresses some of your questions, if not all.

barrows's picture

A couple of things: If you think the tiny transformers inside the Ethernet jacks actually provide sufficient isolation to actually block all noise, ummm... Yeah right. There is capacitive coupling, to mention just single mode by which noise can still propagate across the isolation.
Additionally as far as design and development goes, there are thousands of choices an engineer can make while remaining within the spec. Just PCB layout considerations alone account for much of this. Then there is the design/implementation of the power supply domains, etc. Suggesting that there is no development when designing a switch is just nonsense.

T.S. Gnu's picture

If you speak with Bill Whitlock (from Jensen) who has seen more transformers than just about anyone on this planet he would tell you that tiny transformers are all that’s needed for tiny signals (noise). You’ve got a bigger problem if you think that’s an issue. The fact is, if there is an audible change with a network switches and streamer combination, then either one (or both) are poorly designed and should not be used.

Everything you say in the second paragraph is irrelevant in packet transport. Really, it is. Do read the links in my reply above if you wish to get credible information from professionals who actually DO design the streamers (purportedly some of the best as per this very august publication: https://www.stereophile.com/content/linn-klimax-ds-network-da-processor-measurements)

Also, if you are that paranoid about noise making it through wires, why the heck not just use a Wifi to Ethernet adapter and why doesn’t Nordost design one? It’s a lot more elegant a solution to the supposed problem.

Joe Whip's picture

That I can stream live 4K sports content to my 83” OLED via You Tube TV from my network using 15 feet of Amazon Ethernet cable and get no drop outs and perfect picture and sound but somehow audio is improved using products like the one reviewed here. Color me skeptical.

Habanero Monk's picture

Video as well as audio uses DACs. The improvement can't be discriminate between audio and video due to the fact that Nordost had to implement to IEEE 802.3 standards.

Even worse is that the Nordost product features 100Mbit ports. Go with 10GBe SFP+ fiber transceivers and you'll get much better jitter performance.

Why mess around with 11.25MB/s when you can get 1125MB/s and transfer an entire album of 16/44.1 PCM data in .5 of a second to some local buffer.

Nordost created a product that actually does the worst things:

1. Keeps the Tx lines active longer
2. Loses the galvonic isolation that a fiber connection can provide you.

For $210 I picked up a Cisco 2960 48P copper, 4 SFP+ (SFP is 1G, + is 10G), Dell R620 SFP+ daughter card, Solar Flare PCIe Dual SFP NIC, and FS.COM transceivers and MM cabling.

I'd bet you a good sum it will wipe the floor with the Nordost switch in every imaginable metric.

dumbo's picture

I wonder if the reviewer opened this thing up and took a look inside? I see they do this on some products but not all.

For the price of it, I expect to see Ceramic boards, full Gold traces everywhere and at least rechargeable LiFePO4 battery power.

But, even if they did do all of those things, it still shouldn't change how the audio sounds passing thru it. If it does, and you enjoy it, then this is no different then what Tube lovers rave about.

It may sound different, it may even sound better to you but it shouldn't be confused with being accurate or true to the source.

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