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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
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Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R, Goldmund/Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox3awf + sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Furutech RTP-6 on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioner; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport, Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 80Hz active filter; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustics SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €2'000 for switch, €1'200 for two SFP modules + 3m single-mode fiber-optics cable
Pre-production switch and fiber-optic module.
Switched on; conscientiously contentious. It's an apt entry for a network switch review facing collective pushback in hifi circles. More recently we saw such on darko.audio even Vinshine Audio. The latter market my $594 Lhy Audio SW-8 switch which for me works very nicely indeed. In their video they simply make no claim that it actually improves our sound. Nor do they explain why we'd still want one then. Because the topic is contentious, they prefer not to get embroiled in arguments. They simply offer audiophile switches without noisy sales tactics. Defining what we want/need is entirely left to us. Here generalized endorsements and counter dismissals will never cover all possible scenarios. Just because something works for me—or doesn't—is no guarantee that others will have the same result.
The most current award for the firm's D10 v2.
COS Engineering of Taiwan are the makers of my H10 and D1 head/DAC and DAC/pre. Already last year I knew them to be working on improving networked audio via dedicated switch, fiber-optic module and outboard linear power supply. With specialty firms from Melco to SIlent Angel and SOtM, the ubiquitous router/modem which Big IT Corp give us with our Internet provider contract has fallen seriously afoul as a source of noise and bad sound. Like free toilet paper, contrarians hand out explanations that RJ45's mini transformers already disrupt all noise; that the Ethernet protocol is error-proof in the first place or the stock market would collapse. Those of us without deep tech knowledge hear conflicting arguments from both sides. So we join one or the other herd because their stance resonates more with our own beliefs or prior experience. Then there's that other 'heard' of f-it, let's listen for ourselves then call it. Throwing that kind of fit to stay mentally fit also is my idea of a good not bad day. So when Stephen Gong of COS hit my gong on whether I'd review their network switch, I agreed without hesitation.
"Our fiber optic module runs at 100Mbps. Sadly it didn't work with Melco switches which claim to support 1'000 and 100Mbps. Contacted them but no reply. It does work with SOtM switches but on their entry-level model we didn't think the sound that impressive yet. Didn't have their dearer stuff though. It works very well with our own switch of course. Now we find the light connection to outperform copper. As a separate module it'll price at €1.2K for two and include a 3-meter optical cable. We should send you that with our switch to test a number of different scenarios." Just as Toslink is S/PDIF's light-based transmission protocol, fiber optics are Ethernet's. Where routers and servers don't include matching socketry—certain Lumin's servers are one exception—we must bring our own adapters to convert standard Ethernet to light and back. Incidentally Bel Canto were early adopters of said protocol to transmit digital inside the home beyond generic Toslink. In commercial data distribution, optical fibers have far higher bandwidth than copper, suffer less long-distance power loss, are virtually noise free, highly resistant to electromagnetic interference and thinner and lighter. In domestic scenarios of just a few meters, many of those advantages could be moot but lack of a ground connection is still viewed as a benefit. Detractors could insist that no format/process conversion is ever zero loss. If we want to know for ourselves, it's back to trusting our own ears. We just shouldn't assume that whatever we find to be true for our situation is globally applicable.
As the name implies, the black or silver S10 packs ten ports so 8 x RJ45 copper (1'000/100/10Mbps) and 2 x optical (100Mbps). Its internal power supply is linear not switch mode. Not surprising against the above, COS now even give their multi-awarded 5-in-1 D10 v2 a fiber-optic module option which avoids the need for an external box. That active box is rather more than a passive RCA/XLR adapter plug where Ethernet would go in and light come out. If it can be included inside a component, we have one less box and power cord to deal with.
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