Before Aether landed, reader Michael Fanning had this: "I previously exchanged emails with Joël regarding audiophile switches. Joël uses a triple threat: an Aqvox SE which feeds an NPS 16 LAN switch from Silent Angel. That features an interesting option Joël employs. One may connect two zones in series: the signal from the router goes to Zone 1 then to Zone 2. Thus the LAN signal is clocked twice so that one may reduce jitter in two steps. The source of the clock signal is a reference TCXO clock. I own the Bonn N8, a smaller 8-port switch by Silent Angel powered by an external SMPS. The N16 LPS has a built-in linear symmetrical—both transformer and regulators—power supply with two circuits for each zone. In sum, Joël found the Aqvox SE plus NPS 16 to have a terrific effect on his system. He previously found the EtherRegen (referred to subsequently as eR) to be less musical than the single Aqvox SE. I told Joël that I would try swapping eR and N8 to see which one has the best SQ in my system. Although I do not have the NPS 16 and thus cannot comment on its efficacy, I did try swapping both N8 and eR. Ultimately I found the eR to produce better sound. It's important to note that I use the optional fiber input to the eR and believe that is one reason. Of course I have not done any serious testing unless one counts my aging 70-year old ears.
Soundaware D100Pro next to right window clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator Plus via green Sommer cables; CAT8a cable for I²S transmission over RJ45.
"About a month ago I read an interesting thread on AudiophileStyle on using an affordable external reference clock with the eR. UpTone had conveniently placed a 75Ω (50Ω on request) BNC input on the eR if one wants to bypass its internal XO clock with an external 10MHz reference. If one beats its Crystek CCHD-575 internal clock's -125/10Hz phase-noise rating, theoretically one could achieve superior sound. After combing through various threads, I stumbled on UpTone engineer John Swenson's pithy paper about how one might pursue the external clock. Armed with his advice, I found the US distributor's website for the Chinese AfterDark clocks and purchased a Project ClayX Giesemann 10MHz Reference Emperor Signature which promised a phase-noise rating of -138/10Hz. Conveniently each OCXO clock comes with its own tested phase reduction document and my unit actually reached -140/10Hz. While the distributor can be rather breathless about the efficacy of these clocks, I did find the Emperor Signature to be extraordinarily good. AfterDark—they distribute the eR in Asia and thus have a partnership of sorts with UpTone—say that improvements come in gradual increments with a 30-day final improvement which I have since passed. In short, I have an Ethernet output to a Lumin T2 on the 'B' side of the eR which is moat-protected from noise within the eR so that the Lumin's dual Sabre DACs receive exquisitely timed audio signals."
"In sum, I feel as if I have upgraded my entire streaming platform with the addition of the 10MHz reference clock. My system is totally streaming with a Roon Nucleus, Lumin T2 and the Kinki Studio EX-M7 tethered by Grimm SQM balanced cables. I know that you have been reporting on the salutary effects of reclocking in recent reviews. I doubt that AfterDark will request a review of its OCXO clocks but, trust me, this is a game changer for me and others." Whilst using clock distribution at 10MHz, Michael reports on the same topic. Rather than reclock a USB or I²S component as I would, he reclocks an Ethernet switch because his digital pipeline runs network fibre optics. If all of it seems a far cry from early digital's simplicity—load CD, press play, enjoy—blame apartheid. CD players split into transports and DACs. That birthed digital cables which revealed jitter. Then came PCfi over USB, later signal transmission via CAT5-8 and WiFi. Even CD players managed to get tweaky with green pens, blue lights, mats, weights and belt drive. But that seems as nothing compared to what cloud-based or file-storage music delivery invites.
SOtM's May Park reports that their factory reference rig "runs our 10MHz masterclock to reclock three of our network switches in series via our own CAT7 cable and Ethernet isolators before the signal sees any network streamer." Asking me to review their inline network isolators and/or CAT7 cable with hardwired isolator, I accepted only to be turned down when I described my desktop.
"We want these products reviewed under better conditions. Do you have a music server/player and built a special network environment for audio purposes? If the system is more dedicated, the results from our type product will be much more noticeable. A normal PC without dedicated network environment won't be good enough to reveal the capabilities of these products."
If one must slave three special network switches in series then reclock them with an external clock distributor on its own external power supply before pricey network cables with built-in isolators make any difference, I'm admittedly out of the game. But then we all draw a different line. I draw mine with USB bridges. That's because for serious listening, I prefer locally hosted USB media whilst enjoying large 27"/34" displays and wired keyboards/mice to access cloud-based tunes through their browser windows.
Let's add that the high bandwidth needs for 8K video and server farms has industrial CAT8a make excellent digital audio cable sold at pennies to high-end's pound so also for I²S over RJ45. On the audiophile end again one can spend £4'999 on this new Melco twin-chassis S10 network switch with outboard linear power supply. The joys of upscale streaming. Now foreplay set the stage for Aether to do its thing by reclocking two USB bridges that front our R2R D/A converters from Denafrips and Sonnet. For the occasion I ordered in two 0.5m/75Ω green Sommer clock cables from Germany's Thomann. Their €15.50 ship fee would have covered a third run.
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