The Barn: Connectivity (rev 1.)

Already? Yes, already. Someone, let's call him the Noise Whisperer, put this thought in my head, "Move the switch to before the TP-Link." So I did.

I made this tiny change, moving an Ethernet cable from the Ethernet switch to the TP-Link, thus bypassing the switch, when a friend was over. He was in the listening seat when I made the change and within a few seconds we agreed my system sounded better; mainly sweeter and clearer. Yes, it was that obvious of an improvement...

I didn't actually throw out my Netgear Ethernet switch, I just put it "..before the TP-Link", effectively removing it from this (revised) picture:

The details:

  1. Furman Power Station Series PST‑8 Line Conditioner
  2. ASUS RT-AT68U Router
  3. Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i5 (running Roon Server)
  4. Synology DS412+ NAS (music library)
  5. LaCie Blade Runner 4 TB External HDD ‑ USB 3.0 (music library backup)
  6. TP-LINK MC200CM Gigabit Media Converter
  7. Tripp Lite Duplex Multimode 62.5/125 Fiber Patch Cable
  8. TP-LINK MC200CM Gigabit Media Converter
  9. AudioQuest Niagara 1000 Low-Z Power | Noise-Dissipation System
  10. Sonore microRendu with iFi iPower Outboard Supply (Roon Ready)
  11. Auralic Vega DAC
  12. Ayre AX-5 Twenty integrated amplifier
  13. DeVore Fidelity gibbon X (badass speakers)
  14. iPad mini (running Roon Remote)
  15. Eames LCW (where I go)
What this means in practical terms for me is I have to move the Ethernet cable on my system side when reviewing multiple network devices. I would say "no sweat" but these days, just thinking about moving is sweat-inducing.

To be continued...

COMMENTS
Stephen Dupont's picture

i'm confused- if it's "before the TP-Link" the switch still sits bewteen the router and the TP-Link, correct? not out of the picture entirely.

and i assume all the other network devices still connect to the switch?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...as are the sonicTransporter and NAS. The only things connected to the switch are non-audio-related components.
2_channel_ears's picture

Did your whisperer have some thoughts why this might make a difference or just something to try?

As I understand the basic function of a switch is to help isolate equipment from then general router traffic and thus decrease the load for audio related equipment. By bypassing the switch won't they see more (non-essential) traffic?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'd suggest it best to focus on the outcome, otherwise we could 'understand' ourselves into oblivion.

If you think in terms of electrical noise, a switch is also a house party of said noise, inviting everyone in without checking IDs.

2_channel_ears's picture

Ah, electrical versus traffic isolation. Think I'll go listen to some Talking Heads.

suggs's picture

Hi

I thought I'd try your recommendation of replacing my 30 metre run of cheap cat5A cable (between a Synology NAS running Roon on a SSD and my Totaldac D1-6) with the optical cable,converted by two TP link switches as per your set-up.

Once installed the Roon fails to see any audio device connected, but is fine at seeing the Totaldac once the original Cat cable is re-installed.

I have the TX/RX cables correct and have tried the TPL switch in both Auto and Force positions but nothing seems to get the signal through.

Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

suggs's picture

Sorry, that should have read between the router and the Totaldac

Stephen Dupont's picture

is connected to the router?

with NAS/sT and TP-Link all connected by ethernet, the router in effect is another switch?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
So it is also acting as a switch. And yes, the Ethernet switch is also connected to one of the these Ethernet ports on the router.
bubblewrap's picture

...or is that a slightly tarnished Golden Ear in the bucket also?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
That is a Silicone Acupuncture Ear Model I use as a paperweight. I added it to this picture for color. Thanks for noticing!
Richard D. George's picture

I have been outdone! There is an article in yesterdays Wall Street Journal about audiophiles in Japan that have dedicated electrical power poles (with dedicated transformers) placed in their yards to get purer power for their audio systems.

stevenneilsimon@mac.com's picture

Hi
Does 3 (Roon server) connect to 10 (MicroRendu)?
Many thanks
S

Michael Lavorgna's picture
They both connect directly to the router via Ethernet.
Stephen Dupont's picture

which outlets on the furman do you have each component plugged into?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
.
Stephen Dupont's picture

the furman has 4 filtered outlets, two of which are label for video and two for "digital." since we're dealing with network noise here, i wondered whether the TP-Links were plugged into one of the filtered outlets.

ednaz's picture

I get to review a lot of system and enterprise architectures, and over the last decade I've observed that the fewer the boxes on the page (representing the architecture), the greater the throughput, the cleaner the signal so the faster the compute, etc. I wonder if you could do a very thoughtful but aggressive re-think of your music architecture to see if you can eliminate layers and components, and what the effect of that might be.

In big data analytics, sometimes it's the data talking and not the world where you gathered the data. Could the sound of your system be a set of DSP-like effects from the layers of components? Is what you're hearing created by the components? I'm a big fan of listening to the sound you love, but would you find something even more striking if you cut a few layers and components?

I spent hours today slashing layers out of an HPC architecture to turn a process that takes days into one that takes hours, and suddenly it became perfectly deterministic, where before, sometimes you got different answers. Maybe I've got simplification on the brain...

Michael Lavorgna's picture
..the results?

I listen to this stuff for a living. This setup offers the best sound I've yet heard here.

While you can run Roon Server on a NAS I already own a NAS that cannot run Roon, which explains the need for the sonicTransporter. In order to get an Ethernet-based signal into my DAC, I need an Ethernet to USB device, which explains the need for the microRendu.

I also need to review network players, servers, etc. so my setup needs to able to accommodate numerous requirements.

All that being said, the important takeaway from this post, imo, is that all of these relatively inexpensive 'network' pieces, perform on par with anything I've had here.

Of course you could run Roon Server, Roon, and Roon Remote on the same device that stores your music. It just won't sound nearly as good ;-)

bobflood's picture

I get the point of this man's post but I think what is missing here is consideration of the data rates and data volume involved with audio. Normal PCM CD audio is under 1.5 Mbps and even DSD 512 is not really a strain for a home ethernet based system such as yours. That said, a simpler circuit leaves lees opportunity for corruption.

As you have said, the proof is in the listening and you proved this to yourself in that eliminating a component did sound better to you.

I once tried running everything on one PC and found it wanting. My setup now is very similar to yours except for the TP Link (I use a passive transformer based filter from the medical field).

In a way, it is not the number of devices that matters as much as the quality of the signal transfer thru the device. Does the device pass the signal cleanly and not introduce any new noise or alter the signal. These are the questions that listening can and should answer.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
in terms of determining what we prefer listening to, listening is the best test ;-)

Sometimes I think we unnecessarily over complicate things by thinking instead of listening. Seeing as listening is my job, I get to avoid that stress.

KeithFree's picture

What does the TP-Link component provide? I'm not familiar with this type of equipment, yet. Same question for the fiber patch cable, although perhaps that solves an issue with distance in the barn.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
.
Ixtayul's picture

Hi Mike,
In your previous post I asked about the 2 TP Links in a row and your answer was one transmits and one receives, KeithFree ask what do they provide, you say Optical isolation. I don't really understand either answer. Maybe if you could explain why you wouldn't just connect the microRendu to the router directly, it might clear it up for me.
Thank you.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...is to isolate my hi-fi from the electrical noise produced by all of the network gear including the router, NAS, etc. (everything inside the red line). This noise can be transmitted by Ethernet cables, enter the attached hi-fi gear, and degrade the sound.

The TP-Link takes an Ethernet input and converts it to fiber optic (Media Converter), thus providing optical isolation, i.e. fiber does not transmit this electrical noise. The second TP-Link converts the fiber run back into Ethernet so you can connect it to your audio device. In my case, the microRendu.

Connecting the microRendu directly to the router introduces all of the noise generated by the network gear directly into my hi-fi, i.e. it sounds worse ;-)

Ixtayul's picture

That explains a lot. I was thinking of getting the small green computer with the microrendu and ifi power built in but I like your setup better for the reasns you just explained.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...it took so long for me to be clear!

Cheers.

eddie v's picture

helped me decide to go with the QNAP TVS471. It makes perfect sense since I am just starting out in CA to have Roon server, music storage and back up in one box. Waiting on the Rendu and Uptone Ultracap to pull it all together. Although I use a mac and use iTunes for my phone can I still use flac as a chosen format for the NAS to my 2 channel system?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...access the library on your NAS, I'd recommend converting all of your FLAC files to AIFF using the free XLD software (XLD download). You can have iTunes convert these AIFF files to AAC when transferring them onto your phone if storage on your phone is an issue.
eddie v's picture

are aac would converting them to aiff in iTunes improve them or should I re rip to aiff in xld then batch load them to the gas? thanks

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...you should re-rip to AIFF using XLD. You can set up XLD to copy the new files directly onto your NAS.

XLD > Preferences > Output Directory: Specify

eddie v's picture

and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

DavidL's picture

Are you using the TP-Link power supply? As this is a switch-mode unit you may improve sound quality further by replacing it with a linear supply.
As the latter are very inexpensive I did this when I put optical isolation in the last ethernet link to my DAC.
Incidentally to reduce the overall number of components I'd strongly recommend this setup:
NAS (with on-board server software) > [Switch, router & Wireless access point] > (ethernet with optical isolation) > DAC with onboard renderer.

tmc41's picture

Dear Michael,
First of all, I want to thank you sincerely for this post, and other recent ones like it. This is invaluable information, and many of us out here in the world don't have another comparable source for this level of detailed network audio info.
I'm building my first digital system, and am trying to (to some degree) duplicate your setup. I have a question: Currently my router is downstairs, while my listening room is upstairs. What is the optimal way to handle this? Would you recommend that I have a cable wired into my listening room, and then move my router (and NAS) into the listening room? Or perhaps leave the router downstairs, and buy a long length of "Fiber Patch Cable," and use that as a bridge from downstairs to up? (In case this matters, my music is mostly in apple lossless on a WD home-grade NAS, router is Netgear AC1750, speakers are Wilson, amps PS audio. I think my DAC is "roon ready" -- which might mean I don't need the microRendu? -- though would gladly add it if necessary or worthwhile.)
Thank you once again for an outstanding site, and especially for posts like these.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
And thank you for the kind words.

Regarding connectivity, I would recommend leaving the router and NAS where they are and running fiber, using a media Converter, from the router to your DAC (as you suggested). If your DAC is RoonReady, then you are correct--there's no need for the microRendu.

Feel free to ask any questions! Cheers.

tmc41's picture

Honestly -- I can't tell you how helpful this is. Starting off in audio, I've found that digital audio is complex, and reliable info is hard to come by -- a bad combination. Dealers are well meaning, but obviously will only mention solutions that they happen to sell, regardless of whether better options are available. Product reviews in magazines tend to focus on single products in isolation, ignoring the "forest" of whole system building ("...in conclusion, the XYZ streamer 'punches above its weight' and deserves an audition..."). Also, it's hard to escape the sense that some may be influenced by advertising dollars.
A few more brief questions. Ignore if you don't have time -- and, I promise there is an endpoint; I won't badger you forever!
(A) I checked my NAS -- model is WD "my cloud," which I bought a year or two ago to store photos and old data, not specifically for audio. Do you think I need to upgrade -- do you think that would yield worthwhile gains? My options seem to be (1) keep WD, add sonicTransporter; (2) upgrade NAS, add sonicTransporter; or (3) upgrade to NAS that can run roon core. If you have a vote between those options, I would love to hear it.
(B) Just for completeness sake, with comparison to running fiber upstairs, is there any wireless option you think is comparable? If not, then I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to run the fiber cable through a wall.
Again, sincere appreciation from a now-and-future reader.

G-Dog's picture

Michael, your set up is interesting - thanks for taking the time to share it. I know the Roon related servers are pretty new but have you had any opportunity to compare the pros/cons of the transporter/microRendu with other Roon servers like the Exasound Playpoint?

Jorge Soares's picture

Hi Michael,
Just a quick question. I tried to use a TP-LINK MC200CM to connect my router to a microrendu and a sonic transporter i5. Both are connected through a NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108. Unfortunately Roon does not see the Sonic transporter and despite the fact that the MR shows up, I am not able to configure it.Everything works fine if I connect the MR and the ST directly to router.
To resume: router>ethernet cable>tplink>fiber>tplink>ethernet cable>netgear switch> 2x ethernet cable (MR and ST)
Any clues?
Thank you,

Jorge

Greyfossil's picture

Hopefully you got your issue resolved. I found that if I connected the TP-Link to anything other than a Gigabit interface at either ethernet end the TP-Link wouldn't synch to transmit. I also had problems linking with longer fibre cables even though they were only 4 meters long so well within specification. I solved all of those issues by buying the MC210CS version of the TP-Link and the associated yellow fibre cable to go with them. They have more powerful optical transmitters in them, use a long wave frequency rather than short wave with the added advantage that and the cable is a bit more robust if you are running through walls. All of my synching issues were resolved.

Jorge Soares's picture

Hi! Thank you for your reply. I thought it was retated to the router but not. It's a Fios gs 1100. So, it's a 'gigabyte' router. I've ordered 2 more meters of fiber to see if was a problem with the cables. Let's see before spending more money...

Jorge Soares's picture

Thank you again for your help. It was the fiber. The net set worked flawless.

suggs's picture

Hi

I thought I'd try your recommendation of replacing my 30 metre run of cheap cat5A cable (between a Synology NAS running Roon on a SSD and my Totaldac D1-6) with the optical cable,converted by two TP link switches as per your set-up.

Once installed the Roon fails to see any audio device connected, but is fine at seeing the Totaldac once the original Cat cable is re-installed.

I have the TX/RX cables correct and have tried the TPL switch in both Auto and Force positions but nothing seems to get the signal through.

Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

Sorry, that should have read between the router and the Totaldac

Read more at http://www.audiostream.com/content/barn-connectivity-rev-1#lmpMx3pzVvY2U...

Elember's picture

Hi Michael, if my dac has only 10/100 Ethernet does that mean I'm out of luck? Just got them hooked up tonight and I'm getting a network error on my Dac. My guess is it's gigiabit only and I'd have to put it through a switch to work which basically defeats the intended purpose I would surmise.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...the 10/100 TP-Link converters (Amazon).
Elember's picture

Thank you!